Anat Kamm

May 24, 2010


BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS!

EDITOR: Nuclear Apartheid!

Two states were born illegally in 1948. First cam the South African Apartheid state, then cam the Israeli state built of the forced exiling of 80% of the Palestinians from their homes. Ever since their inception, the two states had obvious mutual appreciation, and have exchanged many commodities, especially military hardware and knowhow – both had similar problems, and used similar ‘solutions’. For many years it was known that Israel has supplied SA with nuclear knowledge, and some have argued that the great unexplained explosion in the early 1980s off the coast of Africa was indeed a nuclear test carried out by Israel and South Africa, but until today proof was lacking.

The opening of the archives in SA, despite Israel’s pressure on the SA government, has finally provided this proof. Israel and South Africa, two renegade, pariah regimes based on racism and oppression, have collaborated on nuclear arms which could have brought an untold destruction in Africa and elsewhere. It is clear that the secret services of the leading countries in the west were aware of this illicit and immoral relationship, which places such governments in the dock, together with the two main culprits. And what do those countries do right now? They try to stop Iran, which does not have a bomb, from producing nuclear fuel for peaceful uses, to satisfy the demands made by Israel, a country with over 300 nuclear devices, more than France and the UK put together, more than China! It seems that this time, the issue of Israeli nuclear weapons will not go away!

Some of you may well be wondering – why so little from the Israeli and US press? Well, you may well ask. They mostly pretend this is not happening, avoiding the topic altogether. Also, do not ask me about the BBC – they never heard about it – apparently nobody there reads the Guardian. Do not help them to bury bad news – spread it far and wide!

Israel’s nuclear capability and policy of strategic ambiguity: The guardian

Formally, Israel says it will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East

The nuclear plant at Dimona, in the Negev desert, was built for civilian use. Photograph: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

Israel is an undeclared nuclear power: it has a nuclear plant in the southern city of Dimona, in the Negev desert, and is believed to have a formidable nuclear arsenal, but the government has always maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity”. Israel – like India, Pakistan and North Korea – is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The main atomic reactor in Dimona, officially for civilian use, was built with French help and became operational in the early 1960s.
Within a few years the CIA concluded Israel was producing nuclear weapons at the plant, but it was not until 1986, when Mordechai Vanunu, a technician at Dimona, spoke to the Sunday Times that the extent of Israel’s nuclear arsenal became clear.

Four years ago Israel’s then prime minister, Ehud Olmert, accidentally acknowledged Israel’s nuclear capability when he told German television: “Iran, openly, explicitly and publicly, threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel and Russia?” Formally, Israel says it will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East and has led calls for a hardline policy to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The current prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has said a nuclear-armed Iran is the greatest security threat facing his country.

Revealed: how Israel offered to sell South Africa nuclear weapons: The Guardian

Exclusive: Secret apartheid-era papers give first official evidence of Israeli nuclear weapons
Chris McGreal in Washington
Monday 24 May 2010

The secret military agreement signed by Shimon Peres, now president of Israel, and P W Botha of South Africa. Photograph: Guardian

Secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime, providing the first official documentary evidence of the state’s possession of nuclear weapons.
The “top secret” minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975 show that South Africa’s defence minister, PW Botha, asked for the warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel’s defence minister and now its president, responded by offering them “in three sizes”. The two men also signed a broad-ranging agreement governing military ties between the two countries that included a clause declaring that “the very existence of this agreement” was to remain secret.

The documents, uncovered by an American academic, Sasha Polakow-Suransky, in research for a book on the close relationship between the two countries, provide evidence that Israel has nuclear weapons despite its policy of “ambiguity” in neither confirming nor denying their existence.

The Israeli authorities tried to stop South Africa’s post-apartheid government declassifying the documents at Polakow-Suransky’s request and the revelations will be an embarrassment, particularly as this week’s nuclear non-proliferation talks in New York focus on the Middle East.

They will also undermine Israel’s attempts to suggest that, if it has nuclear weapons, it is a “responsible” power that would not misuse them, whereas countries such as Iran cannot be trusted.

A spokeswoman for Peres today said the report was baseless and there were “never any negotiations” between the two countries. She did not comment on the authenticity of the documents.

South African documents show that the apartheid-era military wanted the missiles as a deterrent and for potential strikes against neighbouring states.

The documents show both sides met on 31 March 1975. Polakow-Suransky writes in his book published in the US this week, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s secret alliance with apartheid South Africa. At the talks Israeli officials “formally offered to sell South Africa some of the nuclear-capable Jericho missiles in its arsenal”.

Among those attending the meeting was the South African military chief of staff, Lieutenant General RF Armstrong. He immediately drew up a memo in which he laid out the benefits of South Africa obtaining the Jericho missiles but only if they were fitted with nuclear weapons.

The memo, marked “top secret” and dated the same day as the meeting with the Israelis, has previously been revealed but its context was not fully understood because it was not known to be directly linked to the Israeli offer on the same day and that it was the basis for a direct request to Israel. In it, Armstrong writes: “In considering the merits of a weapon system such as the one being offered, certain assumptions have been made: a) That the missiles will be armed with nuclear warheads manufactured in RSA (Republic of South Africa) or acquired elsewhere.”

But South Africa was years from being able to build atomic weapons. A little more than two months later, on 4 June, Peres and Botha met in Zurich. By then the Jericho project had the codename Chalet.

The top secret minutes of the meeting record that: “Minister Botha expressed interest in a limited number of units of Chalet subject to the correct payload being available.” The document then records: “Minister Peres said the correct payload was available in three sizes. Minister Botha expressed his appreciation and said that he would ask for advice.” The “three sizes” are believed to refer to the conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons.

The use of a euphemism, the “correct payload”, reflects Israeli sensitivity over the nuclear issue and would not have been used had it been referring to conventional weapons. It can also only have meant nuclear warheads as Armstrong’s memorandum makes clear South Africa was interested in the Jericho missiles solely as a means of delivering nuclear weapons.

In addition, the only payload the South Africans would have needed to obtain from Israel was nuclear. The South Africans were capable of putting together other warheads.

Botha did not go ahead with the deal in part because of the cost. In addition, any deal would have to have had final approval by Israel’s prime minister and it is uncertain it would have been forthcoming.

South Africa eventually built its own nuclear bombs, albeit possibly with Israeli assistance. But the collaboration on military technology only grew over the following years. South Africa also provided much of the yellowcake uranium that Israel required to develop its weapons.

The documents confirm accounts by a former South African naval commander, Dieter Gerhardt – jailed in 1983 for spying for the Soviet Union. After his release with the collapse of apartheid, Gerhardt said there was an agreement between Israel and South Africa called Chalet which involved an offer by the Jewish state to arm eight Jericho missiles with “special warheads”. Gerhardt said these were atomic bombs. But until now there has been no documentary evidence of the offer.

Some weeks before Peres made his offer of nuclear warheads to Botha, the two defence ministers signed a covert agreement governing the military alliance known as Secment. It was so secret that it included a denial of its own existence: “It is hereby expressly agreed that the very existence of this agreement… shall be secret and shall not be disclosed by either party”.

The agreement also said that neither party could unilaterally renounce it.

The existence of Israel’s nuclear weapons programme was revealed by Mordechai Vanunu to the Sunday Times in 1986. He provided photographs taken inside the Dimona nuclear site and gave detailed descriptions of the processes involved in producing part of the nuclear material but provided no written documentation.

Documents seized by Iranian students from the US embassy in Tehran after the 1979 revolution revealed the Shah expressed an interest to Israel in developing nuclear arms. But the South African documents offer confirmation Israel was in a position to arm Jericho missiles with nuclear warheads.

Israel pressured the present South African government not to declassify documents obtained by Polakow-Suransky. “The Israeli defence ministry tried to block my access to the Secment agreement on the grounds it was sensitive material, especially the signature and the date,” he said. “The South Africans didn’t seem to care; they blacked out a few lines and handed it over to me. The ANC government is not so worried about protecting the dirty laundry of the apartheid regime’s old allies.”

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May 9, 2010

HEY ELTON

by John Greyson

HEY ELTON from John Greyson on Vimeo.

Palestinian civil society has called on Elton John to respect its boycott call and cancel his June 17th concert in Tel Aviv. If he does so, he’ll be joining Santana and Gil-Scott Heron, who recently cancelled their spring concerts in Israel. This video suggests six reasons why Elton should join the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement.

For more info, please visit:

bdsmovement.net

BNC (Palestinian BDS National Commitee)

pacbi.org

PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel)

bricup.org.uk

BRICUP (British Committee for Universities for Palestine)

quaia.org

QUAIA (Queers Against Israeli Apartheid)

EDITOR: New Heights of Israeli Chuzpah

After refusing to meet with the Elected (and unelected) representatives of Palestine for over a decade, Israel now discovered that indirect talks, that US invention on which they counted to delay a resolution forever, may not be successful after all, and the pressure may be too much for them to bear. So now they demand what they vetoed all along – direct talks. You couldn’t make it up!
The next demand will be that the talks be held in Yiddish, no doubt.

When the direct talks will fail, then Netanyahu can demand a return to indirect talks, and the cycle can start again.

Netanyahu: Mideast peace deal impossible without direct talks: Haaretz

PM echoes U.S. call to see proximity negotiations lead to direct contacts as soon as possible.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel expected the upcoming indirect negotiations with the Palestinians to lead to direct talks.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. envoy George Mitchell and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are preparing to enter indirect Middle East negotiations.
Senior U.S. officials have told their Palestinian counterparts that Washington also believes direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians must begin as soon as possible.

The Obama administration has informed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that it will not unveil mediation proposals or a Middle East peace plan before the start of direct, substantive talks between the two sides on final-status issues, a high-level Israeli official said.

On Saturday, the PLO Executive Committee announced that it had given the green light to Abbas to begin indirect negotiations with Israel. Abbas also met with U.S. special envoy George Mitchell to discuss the manner in which the so-called proximity talks would be conducted.
The United States welcomed the PLO’s decision as an important step in the peace process. “It is an important and welcome step,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. Mitchell will meet with Abbas again Sunday in Ramallah before returning to Washington.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Saturday after a meeting in Ramallah between Abbas and Mitchell that the discussions would be held over the four months allotted to address final-status issues such as borders and security arrangements. “The issues of Jerusalem and the settlements are part of the 1967 borders, so they will be discussed and negotiated,” Erekat said.

Erekat said that during their meeting, Abbas gave Mitchell a letter outlining the Palestinian Authority’s position on proximity talks and the issues it wants to discuss. Abbas would head the Palestinian negotiating team himself, Erekat said, adding that the Palestinians view the talks as aimed at “The end of the occupation and creation of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel along the 1967 borders.”

The talks appear to represent a U.S.-brokered compromise that meets both the Palestinian demand to address the issue of borders, and Israel’s condition to discuss security arrangements. Both Palestinian and Israeli negotiators recognize that the two issues are intimately linked, and that any proposal or statement on either matter is likely to significantly influence any resolution on the other.

Israel welcomes PLO decision
Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed the decision to resume peace talks, urging that they be held unconditionally and lead swiftly to direct negotiations between the two sides.

A statement from Netanyahu spokesman Nir Hefetz said the prime minister “welcomes the resumption of peace talks.”
Quoting Netanyahu, Hefetz added that “Israel’s position was and remains that the talks ought to be conducted without preconditions and should quickly lead to direct negotiations.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the U.S. administration expects Israel to do its part in facilitating U.S. efforts to advance the stalled peace process. “An essential condition for improving relations with the U.S. is taking steps that prove Israel is seriously committed to making decisions on the Palestinian issue once they reach the negotiating table,” Barak said at a conference at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot.

“That will be judged by deeds, not by how much we smile at the White House. A comprehensive peace plan is needed, one that Israel stands behind. I’m not sure that that is possible with the current government,” Barak said.

“Without an agreement, we will be subject to international isolation, and we will suffer a fate similar to that of Belfast or Bosnia, or a gradual transition from a paradigm of two states for two peoples to one of one state for two peoples, and some people will try to label us as similar to South Africa. That’s why we must act,” Barak said. If both sides are willing to make brave decisions, he said, “it will be possible to get to direct negotiations and a breakthrough toward an agreement.”

In talks last week with Netanyahu and Barak, Mitchell asked that Israel make confidence-building measures over the next few weeks, both to build up PA institutions and encourage the Palestinians to shift more quickly to direct talks.

A senior official in Jerusalem said Israel would take such steps in the coming weeks, probably including the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, the removal of additional checkpoints and the transfer of certain West Bank areas to PA security control.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the PLO Executive Committee and veteran peace negotiator, said the Palestinians had received assurances from the U.S. concerning “settlement activities and the necessity to halt them.” He said the Obama administration had also promised to be tough in the event of “any provocations,” and guaranteed that all core issues would be put on the table.

The PLO decision came despite warnings from the rival Palestinian group Hamas, which said Friday that the move would only legitimize Israel’s occupation, Palestinian media reported.

“Absurd proximity talks” would only “give the Israeli occupation an umbrella to commit more crimes against the Palestinians,” Hamas reportedly said. “Hamas calls on the PLO to stop selling illusions to the Palestinian people and announce the failure of their gambling on absurd talks.”

Mid-East indirect peace talks ‘under way': BBC

Indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have begun, the Palestinian chief negotiator has said.
Saeb Erekat spoke after a meeting between US Middle East envoy George Mitchell and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Mr Mitchell will mediate in the talks between the two sides.
The start of so-called “proximity talks” in March was halted after a row over the building of new Israeli homes in East Jerusalem.
Palestinians broke off direct peace talks after Israel launched a military offensive on Gaza in late 2008.
“The proximity talks have started,” Mr Erakat said in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The talks went ahead a day after receiving the backing of leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
The PLO’s Executive Committee decided to back the talks after a three-hour meeting in the West Bank.

Has the IDF become an army of settlers?: Haaretz

When the time comes for disengagement, perhaps the state may decide to temporarily redeploy regular troops to the Border Police. It is doubtful whether it will be possible once again to rely on the IDF for that job.
By Amos Harel
Israel’s left may have already missed the opportunity to reach a permanent agreement with the Palestinians. A considerable part of the blame for the failure falls with the Palestinians, but during the missed years – the critical years since the Oslo Accords – something important happened on the Israeli side: The Israel Defense Forces underwent a change.

The army plays a critical role in carrying out an agreement (in withdrawing from territory and evacuating settlers ), but also in ensuring security stability after the agreement is reached. The trouble is that the IDF of 1993 is not the IDF of 2010. Here is what happened in the officers’ course for the infantry corps, the spearhead of the combat units, during that period: In 1990, 2 percent of the cadets enrolled in the course were religious; by 2007, that figure had shot up to 30 percent. And this is how the intermediate generation of combat officers looks today: six out of seven lieutenant colonels in the Golani Brigade are religious and, beginning in the summer, the brigade commander will be as well. In the Kfir Brigade, three out of seven lieutenant colonels wear skullcaps, and in the Givati Brigade and the paratroopers, two out of six. In some of the infantry brigades, the number of religious company commanders has passed the 50 percent mark – more than three times the percentage of the national religious community in the overall population.

This is a generation of commanders committed to its missions, the IDF and the state. It simply has roots in different areas than previous generations. If you glanced at the lists in the company commanders’ offices 20 years ago, you could have seen considerable numbers of fighters from the greater Tel Aviv area and coastal plain. This is of course a generalization that unfairly overlooks the exceptions, but the number of such soldiers today is negligible. A few years ago, a Golani battalion commander found that only one of his soldiers was a resident of Tel Aviv. Today, in a different capacity, a number of Tel Aviv residents serve with him – but all of them live “south of the Dolphinarium line,” referring to the city’s lower-income neighborhoods.

In terms of manpower, long-term processes have been set in motion. The decision by left-wingers and members of kibbutzim to abandon Training Base 1 (where officers’ courses take place ) in the wake of the first Lebanon war and the first intifada can be felt today among the brigadier generals, who are knocking at the doors of the General Staff in 2010. Many complain about how colorless the senior brass is today, something that can be partially explained by the fact that in the mid-1980s many recruits with potential waived their assignation to officers’ courses.

It is an open secret that in the IDF a certain sector of the population is divided mainly between Unit 8200 of Military Intelligence, the pilots’ course, the reconnaissance units and sometimes – with a world of difference – those who get a psychiatric exemption from service. These people will hardly ever go to Golani or Kfir. The abandonment of the combat infantry units will also be noticeable in the next 15 years in the General Staff.

The IDF has made mistakes in the territories and continues to do so, especially in the silent assistance it has given the illegal outposts over the years. But describing it as an army of occupation troops is foolish and overlooks the truth. The secular left-wing fell asleep on the job. The empty ranks it left in its wake have been filled by others. Even those who believe there is no choice other than a massive evacuation of the settlements should know that it will be extremely difficult to do this after the disengagement from Gush Katif.

In 2005, the evacuation was carried out because Ariel Sharon did not bat an eyelid and the military acted accordingly. The battalion commanders, for the most part, will obey orders next time as well, but it is hard to see how the company commanders who come from the settlements of Tapuah and Kedumim will answer the call to remove Jews from their homes. It is no surprise that the top IDF brass is so fearful of such a scenario.

When the time comes for disengagement, perhaps the state may decide to temporarily redeploy regular troops to the Border Police. It is doubtful whether it will be possible once again to rely on the IDF for that job.

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May 5, 2010

Obama and Iran, by Carlos Latuff

EDITOR: The Success of the BDS campaign is getting to Israel’s guts!

The following hysterical article is evidence not just of the state of irrationality that Israeli society and its elites are now in, but also very clear evidence of the success of the campaign, and all those who tols us for years that it cannot succeed (including our great friend Chomsky) should now seriously rethink their positions and join the BDS camp!

Break the Palestinian boycott: Haaretz

By Karni Eldad
The Mishor Adumim industrial zone in the West Bank is home to a cosmetics plant that sells 70 percent of its products to Palestinians. Recently, however, there has been a slight turnaround in relations between the factory and its customers. The Palestinian Authority ruled − in a presidential order, not the small-scale campaign of a few − to stop buying Israeli products manufactured east of the Green Line.

How is such an order enforced? Simple. The life of the factory sales manager is threatened, and he is then given an offer he can’t refuse: sell the factory at a ludicrous price, and we’ll transfer it to PA control, because we won’t be buying your products in any case.
Those who silently stood by as Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad burned Israeli goods made in the West Bank simply accepted the presidential decree. Moreover, the PA recently established a “National Honor Fund” to finance its boycott activities, to which it injects $150,000 a month. Whence the money? International donations meant to support political institutions.

Israel remained silent last month when the so-called “committee against distributing settlement goods” confiscated and destroyed 7.5 tons of watermelons grown in West Bank fields. Israel stays mum when the Arabs work to impose an economic embargo on settlement products, and when the PA imposes the same on Israeli mobile phone companies, which are not centered in the West Bank. It is indeed remarkable that the cellular boycott has been put in place exactly when the son of a high-ranking PA official is launching a company that will distribute the same services.

Amid the presidential order on settlement-made goods, Palestinians have been forbidden to work in the factories producing these goods or in construction in settlements. For now, the order applies only to new workers, but veteran employees have been offered one month’s pay from the PA as an incentive to quit.

In the wake of the accursed Oslo Accords, the 1994 Paris Protocol was signed, establishing interim economic ties between Israel and the PA. The boycott against settlement merchandise is a clear violation of this agreement, by which both sides pledged not to undermine the other’s economy.

The same agreement also determined customs and tax issues between Israel and the Palestinians. When a Palestinian individual or company imports merchandise from abroad, Israel collects customs taxes and transfers them to PA coffers. In total, more than $1 billion is collected annually. Reason dictates that in the case of such a flagrant violation of the Paris Protocol by the Palestinians, we should collect the money lost by Israeli companies due to the boycott by recouping it from customs money we transferred to the Palestinians. Such a move requires no law, only a modicum of national honor − and it’s a step that could bring the economic embargo to an immediate end. At a recent meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee, Manufacturers Association President Shraga Brosh − hardly viewed as a staunch rightist − proposed another solution: barring the export of Palestinian goods from Israeli ports.

With Israeli manufacturers facing closure in the face of a Palestinian presidential order, I would expect to hear an outcry from lawmakers from every hue of the political spectrum. The Palestinians’ blatant violation of the Paris Protocol is an affront, but silence in the face of it is a crime.

UK ‘blocking’ Mossad return to London: The Guardian

Official reportedly prevented from taking up embassy post after Israel refuses to commit itself not to misuse British passports

The father of Palestinian militant Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was assassinated in Dubai, with his photograph. Israel has never admitted any role in the killing Photograph: Hatem Moussa/AP

Britain has refused to allow Israel’s Mossad secret service to send a representative back to the country’s London embassy following the row over the killing of a Hamas operative by agents using forged UK passports.

Israel’s Yediot Aharonot newspaper reported yesterday that the Foreign Office is digging in its heels because Israel is refusing to commit itself not to misuse British passports in future clandestine operations.

Neither Britain nor Israel gave any details of the embassy official who was ordered to leave the country in March after an investigation by the Serious Organised Crime Agency showed that the Mossad was behind the passport theft.

But the official was understood to be an intelligence officer who was known to the UK authorities and worked as official liaison with Britain’s MI6. There was no suggestion the officer was personally involved in the passports affair.

Israel has never admitted any role in February’s Dubai assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was described as a key figure in smuggling Iranian weapons into the Gaza Strip on behalf of the Palestinian Islamist movement. It has abstained from signing any material that might be construed as a confession.

Britain had made clear in public statements and private meetings with the Israelis that it expected formal guarantees that there would be no repeat of the passport cloning. The real documents belonged to Britons living in Israel.

Forged or stolen Irish, Australian, French and German passports were also used by the hit squad, whose operation – including the use of elaborate disguises – was extensively recorded by CCTV cameras in the emirate.

Israel conspicuously refrained from retaliating for the expulsion of the Mossad officer, apparently accepting that it was no more than a slap on the wrist before a return to business as usual.

The Mossad and MI6 are known to have a close working relationship especially over terrorism – despite political differences over the peace process, settlements and the Palestinians between the UK and Israeli governments. Iran’s nuclear programme is likely to be another high-priority issue of common concern.

Yediot reported that Israeli security officials were concerned about the breakdown in relations between the two agencies. “It is estimated that the affair will only be resolved, if at all, after this week’s UK general elections,” the paper said.

The Foreign Office said it had not been approached by the Israelis about a replacement for the expelled official. “However we look to Israel to rebuild the trust we believe is required for the full and open relationship we would like,” said a spokesman. “We have asked for specific assurances from Israel, which would clearly be a positive step towards rebuilding that trust. Any Israeli request for the diplomat to be replaced would be considered against the context of these UK requests.”

Israel yet to replace diplomat expelled in passport row: BBC

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed in his hotel room in Dubai on 19 January
Israel is yet to replace a diplomat expelled after forged British passports were used in the killing of a Hamas leader, it has emerged.
The Foreign Office said no request had been made to replace the official, but added that “specific assurances” would be sought from Israel if one was made.
The Israeli Embassy in London refused to comment on the situation.
Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed in Dubai in January, allegedly by Israeli agents using forged foreign passports.
It is believed the fake passports – 12 of them British – were used in the plot to murder Mr Mabhouh, the founder of Hamas’s military wing, in his hotel room in Dubai on 19 January.
Dubai officials said they were “99% certain” that agents from Mossad, the Israeli secret service, were behind the killing.

We look to Israel to rebuild the trust we believe is required for the full and open relationship we would like
Foreign Office
The names and details on the UK passports used by eight of the 12 suspects belonged to British-Israeli citizens living in Israel – all of whom have denied involvement in Mr Mabhouh’s murder.
Their passports had been copied and new photographs inserted.
During the ensuing diplomatic row, in March, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said there were “compelling reasons” to believe Israel was responsible for the forgeries.
He said the misuse of British passports was “intolerable”.
Israel’s ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, said he was “disappointed”, but Israel confirmed there would be no tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsion.
Israel has previously said there is no proof it was behind the killing at a Dubai hotel.
The name of the expelled diplomat has not been released.
‘Specific assurances’
Several newspapers have reported that the person expelled was a Mossad representative and claimed that UK authorities are now preventing Israel from replacing the individual until it agrees not to use British passports in the same way again.
The Foreign Office said: “We have had no approach from the Israelis about a replacement. However we look to Israel to rebuild the trust we believe is required for the full and open relationship we would like.
“We have asked for specific assurances from Israel, which would clearly be a positive step towards rebuilding that trust. Any Israeli request for the diplomat to be replaced would be considered against the context of these UK requests.”
Dubai police said forensic tests showed Mabhouh was drugged with a quick-acting muscle relaxant and then suffocated.
Earlier reports had said he may have been strangled or killed by a massive electric shock.

US envoy George Mitchell meets Israel PM Netanyahu: BBC

“Proximity talks” were meant to have begun, but the start has been delayed
US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the start of indirect talks with the Palestinians.
The three-hour meeting in Jerusalem was described as “good and productive” by the US state department.
But no announcements were made and Israeli officials have said the two are to meet again on Thursday.
Mr Mitchell is due to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday in Ramallah.
The meeting with Mr Netanyahu had been planned as the start of “proximity talks” but the Palestine Liberation Organisation has still to agree to them.
The PLO said it would meet on Saturday to finally decide if talks can proceed.
Mr Abbas has said the talks need to immediately grapple with the toughest issues at the heart of the conflict.
He said first on the agenda should be the borders of a future Palestinian state.
But the issue, connected to the building of Jewish-only neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, has been a stumbling block.
The talks were delayed in March by a row which strained Israeli-US relations.
The Palestinians pulled out after an announcement that Israel had approved plans for new homes in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo during a visit to Israel by US Vice-President Joe Biden.
Earlier Obama administration adviser David Axelrod said the issue of Jerusalem would come at the end of the programme for talks.
Israel has occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 1967. It insists Jerusalem will remain its undivided capital, although Palestinians want to establish their capital in the east of the city.
Nearly half a million Jews live in more than 100 settlements in the West Bank, among a Palestinian population of about 2.5 million.
The settlements are illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

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May 3, 2010

EDITOR: The Pot Calling the Kettle Black…

The report below speaks of the amazing pervasiveness of abuse of Israeli soldiers by their officers. I tend to believe this report, and one can only wonder how much more pervasive is the abuse and torture of the Palestinian population, who do not have an Ombudsman to go to, and whose complaints are, as a matter of course, always dismissed. An army, a country, a culture based on abuse, torture, theft and barbarity.

IDF report reveals serious abuse of soldiers by commanding officers: Haaretz

Annual report of the IDF Ombudsman reveals the army received 6,100 complaints from soldiers, 60% of which were justified.
The annual report of the IDF Ombudsman, which was served to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, has revealed serious cases of mistreatment of soldiers inside the Israel Defense Forces.

The report included cases of abuse and humiliation of IDF soldiers by their commanders and inadequate medical treatment in IDF medical clinics.
The Ombudsman report revealed that 6,100 complaints were lodged by soldiers against their commanders in 2009, a decrease of 400 complaints from 2008. Of the 6,100 complaints lodged, 60 percent of the complaints were found to have merit by the IDF Ombudsman

In one incident cited in the report, a commander in one of the IDF’s combat units attacked a soldier who wasn’t feeling well by forcefully kicking him in the chest. The IDF Ombudsman found that the battalion commander knew of the incident but responded apathetically and only chose to investigate the incident two months after the fact, following inquiries by the IDF Ombudsman.

“Unfortunately, the regiment commander did not take any steps to correct the situation until the office of the Ombudsman intervened. This type of response shows his soldiers weakness and disinterest, and surely isn’t conducive to trusting relations between soldiers and their commanders,” the report read.

Another case revealed a suicidal soldier who told the deputy commander of his company that he was having a hard time in his post, and threatened to harm himself if he wasn’t transferred to a different post. The deputy commander then handed him a knife and said: “Come on, let’s see if you are able to hurt yourself.” The soldier then proceeded to cut his hand with the knife. The Ombudsman condemned the mistreatment of the soldier and said that several other similar incidents occurred.

The report also revealed defective medical services offered to soldiers.  “Unfortunately, the reality on the ground shows that soldiers are made to wait for lengthy periods of time for general and expert doctor appointments,” the report read.

The report found that soldiers typically waited between two to three weeks for a routine checkup, and in cases of emergency, soldiers would wait for many hours.

One combat soldier with a viral infection had to wait three months to see a doctor and four months to receive medication for his infection.

In another incident, a soldier was brought to the military clinic after getting bitten by a yellow scorpion. Even though orders obligate the doctor to refer the patient to the nearest hospital, the doctor instructed the paramedic to give the soldier an infusion and painkillers because the doctor was sleeping and didn’t want to get out of bed.

An IDF spokesperson said in a response that the IDF had received the report and is committed to studying its contents carefully, learning the necessary lessons and to making up for wrongdoings.

Closed Zone: New Animation film

Despite declarations that it has “disengaged” from the Gaza Strip, Israel maintains control of the Strip’s overland border crossings, territorial waters, and air space. This includes substantial, albeit indirect, control of the Rafah Crossing.

During the past 18 months, Israel tightened its closure of Gaza, almost completely restricting the passage of goods and people both to and from the Strip.

These policies punish innocent civilians with the goal of exerting pressure on the Hamas government, violating the rights of 1.5 million people who seek only to live ordinary lives – to be reunited with family, to pursue higher education, to receive quality medical treatment, and to earn a living.

The effects of the closure were particularly harsh during the military operation of Dec. 2008 – Jan. 2009. For three weeks, Gaza residents had nowhere to flee to escape the bombing.

Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement calls on the State of Israel to fully open Gaza’s crossings and to allow the real victims of the closure – 1.5 million human beings – the freedom of movement necessary to realize their dreams and aspirations.

EDITOR: Haaretz and JCall

I have reported few days ago here about JCall, and it is interesting to read Haaretz enthusiastic reception of their call. This is even more interesting in the light of the unstinting support many of those signatories have given Israel over many decades… that many now relaise that the Occupation game is up, and that it is their civic duty to say so, is a measure of the crisis Israel is finding itself in, though it hardly seems to realise this fully.

A welcome Jewish voice: Haaretz Editorial

Like the members of the American Jewish lobby J Street, the people behind JCall don’t believe that automatic support of Israeli policy serves Israel’s true interests.
JCall, a new leftist European Jewish group, released over the weekend a petition signed by more than 3,000 Jews calling for an end to the occupation and Israeli expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The signatories, including important French philosophers Bernard-Henri Levy and Alain Finkielkraut, say the settlement policy undermines prospects for peace with the Palestinians based on a two-state solution. They express fear for the future of Israel as a Jewish, democratic and ethical state and are concerned by the global delegitimization campaign against Israel.

Like the members of the American Jewish lobby J Street, the people behind JCall don’t believe that automatic support of Israeli policy – which advocates, for instance, Jewish construction in East Jerusalem – serves Israel’s true interests.
Just as there was criticism of J Street in the United States, the veteran Jewish organizations in Europe have borne down on the new initiative, arguing that the petition will serve Israel’s enemies. And just as Israel’s Information and Diaspora Ministry expects Israeli tourists to defend the government’s settlement policy on their trips abroad, the critics are demanding that intellectuals and ethical people in the Diaspora should be disingenuous.

It is to be hoped that the Israeli government does not join the attack on JCall. During the latest crisis with the U.S. administration, Prime Minister Benjamim Netanyahu spared no effort in getting Jewish public figures like Elie Wiesel to join the battle against pressure for a construction freeze in East Jerusalem.

Those who recruit Jews from the right to support their policies must honor the right of the Jewish left to express its views. The contribution of Jewish peace activists in Europe is a suitable response to the damage that members of the Netanyahu government, mainly Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, are doing to Israel’s interests there.

The violent conflict between Israel and its neighbors and the suspension of peace talks have contributed to Diaspora Jewish communities’ increasing alienation from Israel. That trend is particularly noticeable among the youth.

The fact that thousands of Jews around the world, including prominent intellectuals, are advocating an end to nearly 43 years of malignant occupation is welcome news. Let’s hope that the voices of Israel’s friends in Paris, London and Brussels will be heard in Jerusalem.

Strenger than Fiction / Jewish liberals from all nations, unite: Haaretz

Diaspora Jews around the world are realizing the time has come to reject the right’s dictate that being pro-Israel means that you need to support the policies of Israeli governments, no matter what they do.
By Carlo Strenger
The failure of the Camp David summit in 2000 and the onset of the Second Intifada have in stages swung the pendulum of Israeli politics to the right to the current government that includes Avigdor Lieberman – one of the most anti-democratic ministers Israel has ever had, who is moving Israel ever closer to the brink of total international isolation – and the Shas Party whose main impact is to push construction in East Jerusalem and the settlements.

This has been reflected in an amazing distortion in the Jewish voice from the Diaspora, primarily the U.S., in the last decade. Judging from the media presence, you might think that most Jews are right-leaning and support Israel’s settlement policy and foot-dragging over ending the occupation. But this has never been true: most Diaspora Jews, including most of American Jewry, is committed to liberalism.

Now the pendulum is swinging back. Diaspora Jews around the world are beginning to realize that the time has come to reject the right’s dictate that being pro-Israel means that you need to support the policies of Israeli governments, no matter what they do; that the Jewish right represents a small minority of the Jewish people. Caring about friends and family doesn’t mean that we do not criticize them, when we believe that they are harming themselves. In caring for somebody’s wellbeing, we are often required to make clear that they are going the wrong way. Hence Liberal Jews in the Diaspora firmly stand by Israel while trenchantly criticizing the occupation and settlements.

This week a delegation of J Street representatives visited Israel. They were hosted by President Shimon Peres, and they heard from central Israeli politicians like Labor MK Matan Vilnai and from opposition leader Tzipi Livni that ending the occupation is Israel’s most urgent task to safeguard it as the democratic state of the Jewish people. The Netanyahu government’s attempt to brand J Street as outside the legitimate Jewish discourse has failed, and finally, after refusing to attend J Street’s first convention, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren met them a few weeks ago.

The movement initiated by J Street is now joined by the European JCall, which includes leading Jewish intellectuals like Bernard-Henri Levy and Alain Finkielkraut, and which will present its message to the European Parliament today. Their name is short for the Jewish European Call to Reason. This development is doubly important: first, because it gives a voice to the majority of European Jews, who, while caring for Israel, are liberal in orientation. Second: because its leaders are severely critical of Europe’s anti-Israeli left, as shown in Bernard-Henri Levy’s Left in Dark Times and Alain Finkielkraut’s The Defeat of Reason.

There are those on the European (and sometimes on the American) left that have moved into a simplistic, black-and-white worldview governed by what I call SLES, short for “Standard Left Explanatory System.” SLES is a remainder of the guilt that many Europeans feel about their colonial past. Its algorithm is very simple: always support the underdog, particularly if non-Western. If the underdog behaves immorally (9/11; 7/7; Hamas hiding weaponry and fighters in civilian buildings), always accuse the West, and preferably Jews, for having pushed them to do this. Never demand non-Western groups to take responsibility for their actions, but instead masochistically look for ways to make the West responsible.

The new Jewish Liberal voice refuses to give in to the pressures of the Jewish right to support Israel’s actions when if they are wrong-headed, immoral and destructive. It is critical of Israel’s continuing occupation of Palestinians territories after 43 years, and condemns the ongoing settlement construction.

At the same time it refuses, adamantly, to cave in to the masochistic tendency of SLES to look for Western culprits only, and systematically exposes anti-Semitic undercurrents in some of the anti-Israeli rhetoric. It strongly supports Palestinians’ right to a state of their own in which they can live in dignity and freedom, but it doesn’t let them off the hook for their dreadful mistakes, starting with the rejection of the UN partition agreement in 1947 and ending with electing the explicitly anti-Semitic Hamas into power in 2005.

It firmly believes that respecting Palestinians means to hold them responsible for their actions and consistently unmasks the tendency of the Arab world to accuse Israel of its own shortcomings and backwardness; and it never loses sight of the dangers in radical Islam, while seeking cooperation with moderate and progressive Arabs and Muslims.

The new Jewish Liberals are characterized by what philosopher Susan Neiman, in a wonderful book has called Moral Clarity: a combination of moral principles that are not to be compromised combined with insistence that reason rather than religious belief or dogmatic ideology must be the guide in making up our minds on questions of fact.

I predict the new Jewish liberal voice will become the predominant presence in Jewish discourse and politics of the Diaspora. Having suffered from irrational and evil persecution, prejudice and hatred, we Jews know how important the principles of Liberalism are, and it is time for us to apply them everywhere, and of course, first and foremost, in Israel.

It is now time for Israel’s liberals, who all but disappeared politically and have left public space except for a few enclaves to the right, to pick up the lead of the Diaspora, to make our voices forcefully heard. While being intransigent in opposing Israel’s occupation, the expansion of settlement and the disenfranchisement of Israeli Arabs, we must not fall into the trap of SLES. We must make clear to the electorate, that we do not just see Palestinians as victims, but as partners to be held responsible for their actions.

We must no longer let the likes of Avigdor Lieberman, whose worldview is illiberal, be the face of our country to the world. While holding the memory of the Holocaust sacred, we must refuse its politicization by Lieberman and Benjamin Netanyahu. While not blinding ourselves to the dangers of Islamic radicalism and Iran’s striving for hegemony, we must reject the fear-mongering of the right that has no positive message and no vision for Israel’s future.

Netanyahu has said to his Likud Party that they are supposed to be liberal and democratic. We must hold him to his word and demand that he drop his illiberal coalition partners, and form a government truly committed to liberal principles, with Kadima and Labor as his main partners. And we must demand of the Labor party to finally live up to its values, and pressure Netanyahu to move Israel towards moral clarity that is at the core of the Jewish Liberal vision.

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