Dubai murder

August 15, 2010

IDF razes wall dividing Jewish and Arab areas of East Jerusalem: Haaretz

Work starts to remove concrete barrier at Gilo built in 2002, later becoming one of the enduring symbols of the Second Intifada.

Work began in East Jerusalem Monday morning to remove one of the city’s enduring symbols of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, a two-meter-high concrete barrier built to separate the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo from the Arab district of Beit Jalla.

A section of the concrete barrier separaing Gilo from Bait Jalla Photo by: Alex Livak

The army’s home front command began the demolition at the request of Jerusalem’s municipality, after security checks suggested that the wall, designed to protect Gilo residents from sniper fire, was no longer needed.

Gilo was sealed off from Beit Jalla eight years ago, when the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising saw violence flare across the West Bank. In response, the Israel Defense Forces launch Operation Defensive Shield, the largest military deployment in the Palestinian territories since 1967.

“The wall was built at the time of Defensive Shield and right now we don’t see a problem in getting rid of it,” said Lt. Col. Hezi Ravivo, a military engineer in charge of the demolition.

During the two years between the start of the intifada in 2000 and the construction of the wall two years later, Gilo was hit regular sniper and machine gun fire, with one attack seriously wounding a Border Guard.

Today Gilo is quieter. “I don’t expect the gunfire to resume,” Ravivo said.

“If the need arises we can put it up again,” he said, adding that in the current security climate, it would even be safe for Israeli tour guides and groups to enter Bethlehem, a major Palestinian city that lies just south of Jerusalem.

But the demolition has angered local residents, who say the army has left them exposed.

“It gave us a certain feeling of security,” said Aviva Klein, who lives nearby. “I didn’t feel the wall was shutting me in – I felt safe.”

The army said in a statement: “The IDF will continue to protect the citizens of the State of Israel continuing to assess the changing security climate.”

EDITOR: BDS takes off in a big way

The next stage of the BDS campaign is here, and no one in particular is responsible for it! Groups form all over Europe, totally independently, and add their particular campaign to the struggle against Israel’s atrocities. The BDS campaign has become a chain-reaction, each new act starting other in its wake!

150 Irish artists announce Israel cultural boycott: Haaretz

Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign signs artists to pledge saying they will refrain from performing in Israel as long as it abuses Palestinian human rights.
More than 150 Irish artists and intellectuals have declared Saturday a boycott of Israel, saying they would not perform or exhibit in Israel until Israel ceases what they call its abuse of Palestinian human rights.

The artists signed a statement, pledging that they refrain from engaging in cultural activity with Israel “until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights”.

Speaking to the Irish Times, the head of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), Raymond Dean, said that artists that perform in Israel are backing it whether they like it or not.”

“You can’t really pin this down…at least an end of the occupation of Palestine; dismantling or at least stopping the settlements; and Israel negotiating in good faith with the Palestinians,” Dean said.

The statement comes as more and more artists scheduled to perform in Israel, such Elvis Costello, The Pixies, Jill Scott Heron, Santana, The Klaxons and the Gorillaz Sound System, have canceled their shows, in what appeared to be a response to Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last May, which resulted in the death of 9 flotilla activists.

Only last month, British electronica duo Leftfield announced that they would be canceling their scheduled performance in Israel on August 31st due what they referred to as production problems.

“Unfortunately Leftfield will not be able to perform at the Heineken Music Conference on the 31st August due to unforeseen production problems,” the duo wrote on the Facebook fan page dedicated to their current tour.

Meanwhile, on the duo’s official Facebook page they published a letter sent to them by the organization Boycott Israel calling for them to “postpone your planned concert in Israel this summer, indefinitely.”

The letter, scanned and posted on their page, stated that in light of Israel’s deadly raid on the Gaza flotilla in May, they urged the musicians to take a stand and protest Israel’s actions by canceling the show.

“Performing in Israel today means crossing an international picket line,” the letter said, adding that, “your visit here will be construed as a vote of confidence in Israel’s oppressive policies.”

In their cancellation statement the group made no reference to the letter, despite the fact that they had made it public by posting it on their Facebook page.

Leftfiled joined a growing list of artists and musicians who have recently canceled their shows in Israel due to political reasons, among others.

Top ministers: Israel will reject any Quartet preconditions for direct talks: Haaretz

Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators expected to announce resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, call for Palestinian state within two years.

Israel will reject any preconditions set forth by the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators in regard to scheduled resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a forum of seven senior cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, decided Sunday evening.

The Quartet – the U.S., the United Nations, the European Union and Russia – was expected to make an announcement regarding the resumption of direct talks on Monday.

U.S. sources said Sunday that the Quartet would call for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders within a year or two.

A senior government source said Sunday that “the Quartet announcement could serve as camouflage for Palestinian preconditions, and that is unacceptable.”

He added that the U.S. administration will issue another announcement later in the week, defining the terms of the negotiations and serving as a compromise between the Israeli and the Palestinian viewpoints.

Meanwhile Sunday, a senior official in the Obama administration told Haaretz that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would announce the start of direct peace talks in only “a matter of days.”

A number of minor details still need to be clarified with Abbas and Netanyahu that will open the way for direct talks, the official added.

Hamas, 10 other groups reject all forms of compromise with Israel: Haaretz

Joint statement comes ahead of a possible round of direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Eleven militant Palestinian groups based in Syria warned on Sunday against a “concession and compromise” policy ahead of a possible round of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The message from the groups, which include Gaza rulers Hamas as well as the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine factions, appeared directed at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas is under pressure to enter direct negotiations with Israel, after months of U.S.-brokered proximity talks between the two sides.

Damascus-based Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal said Sunday that the factions’ representatives issued the statement after discussions held at his house in the Syrian capital and that they rejected all forms of compromise with Israel.

The U.S. and the “Zionists,” the statement said, were “aiming to wipe out the national rights of the Palestinians and to cover up the practices of the occupation, settlement expansion and Judaizing the land.”

Abbas has said he will not agree to direct talks with Israel without a complete halt to settlement building, agreement on final borders and a timetable for a deal.

Netanyahu approves building new classrooms in settlements: Haaretz

Despite settlement construction freeze and Defense Ministry opposition, 23 new structures to be erected in violation of law to meet settlers’ educational needs.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday approved the erection of 23 mobile classrooms in West Bank settlements, even though there is no official construction plan that would allow this move.

Netanyahu declared a 10-month freeze on construction in West Bank settlements in November of last year in efforts to relaunch stalled peace talks with the Palestinians. The Palestinian leadership has demanded a complete halt to Israeli construction on land slated for a future Palestinian state.

The prime minister’s decision comes in the wake of an aggressive debate between the Ministry of Justice and the Defense and Education ministries.

The Education Ministry has announced that there is a need for 23 new buildings, in 12 different West Bank settlements, to cater to the needs of the local education authorities. The Defense Ministry has confirmed these needs, but the deputy attorney general ultimately rejected the request due to the absence of proper construction authorization. He explained that even the most dire of educational needs mustn’t circumvent the law.

Consequently, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar approached the prime minister in his office on Saturday in a meeting with Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, and the three decided that 23 caravans will be dispatched to the settlements and that the prime minister will simultaneously push for legal authorization.

The Defense Ministry opposed the erection of the classrooms, saying that the educational needs of the settlers could not trump the law. Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s stance was taken into consideration, as it was decided that in the smaller illegal outposts no classrooms would by built, regardless of the education needs of the settlers there.

The heads of the Eretz Yisrael lobby, MKs Ze’ev Elkin and Aryeh Eldad, lauded the prime minister for “stepping in to solve the problem.” In a statement they released, the lobby wrote that “we’re glad that common sense overpowered bureaucracy and dullness and the students of Judea and Samaria will get to study under the same conditions as the rest of Israel’s students.”

Arab nations urge U.S. to end support of Israel’s nuclear secrecy: Haaretz

Ignoring U.S. warning, Arab League pushes for international inspections of Israel’s nuclear program.

Ignoring a U.S. warning, Arab nations are urging Washington and other powers to end support of Israel’s nuclear secrecy and to push for international inspections of Israel’s nuclear program, diplomats told The Associated Press Sunday.

Islamic nations have long called for Israel – which is widely believed to have nuclear arms – to open its program. But the fact that the Arab League has directly approached Washington and other Israeli allies for support at the September meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency is significant, considering that U.S. President Barack Obama last month warned against using that forum to single out Israel.

Obama then suggested that such a move would likely kill hopes of breakthrough talks on a Mideast nuclear-free zone, as proposed by the United Nations’ 189-member Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty conference three months ago.

Over Israeli objections, the planned 2012 talks were backed by the U.S. and other nuclear powers for the first time since Arab nations pushed for such a gathering 15 years ago.

The Arab appeal to pressure Israel to open its nuclear program to inspectors also threatens to deflect attention from Iran, which Washington and its allies now consider a grave nuclear proliferation threat, even though Tehran insists it is not developing nuclear weapons.

The Arab appeal is contained in an Aug. 8 letter signed by Arab League chief Amr Moussa. It asks for backing of a resolution that Arab nations will submit to the September assembly of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

A draft of the resolution expresses concern about Israel’s nuclear program and urges it to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and to open its atomic activities to outside inspection. A cover note asks the Belgian Embassy in Cairo to transmit the letter and the draft to Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere, who now holds the rotating European Union presidency.

Diplomats accredited to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency and familiar with the issue told the AP that the letter was also sent to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the foreign ministers of Russia, China, Britain and France – the four other permanent UN Security Council members.

All the diplomats who agreed to discuss the issue with the AP asked for anonymity because of the confidentiality of their information.

Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed in a statement last month to work together to oppose efforts to single out Israel at the 150-nation International Atomic Energy Agency conference.

On the proposed Mideast nuclear-free zone talks, their statement warned that any efforts to single out Israel will make the prospects of convening such a conference unlikely.

But the Arab letter argues that singling out Israel is not the aim: “Singling out a state assumes that there are a number of states in the same position and only one state was singled out,” the letter says. Referring to the Nonproliferation Treaty, it says: “The fact is that all the states in the region have acceded to the NPT except Israel.”

Israel is commonly assumed to have nuclear weapons but refuses to confirm or deny the assumption.

The latest pressure puts Israel in an uncomfortable position. It wants the international community to take stern action to prevent Iran from obtaining atomic weapons but at the same time brushes off calls to come clean about its own nuclear capabilities.

Passions have grown since September when the International Atomic Energy Agency assembly overrode Western objections to pass a resolution directly criticizing Israel and its atomic program for the first time in 18 years.

The result was a setback not only for Israel but also for the United States and other supporters of Israel.

Because the resolution passed by only a four-vote margin, lobbying by both sides has intensified ahead of next month’s meeting.

Three diplomats from International Atomic Energy Agency member nations said the EU and the U.S. were meeting or planning to meet with possible undecided nations to seek their support of Israel, even as the Arab bloc continues pushing for support for its resolution.

The U.S. and its allies consider Iran the region’s greatest proliferation threat, fearing that Tehran is trying to achieve the capacity to make nuclear weapons despite its assertion that it is only building a civilian program to generate power.

They also say Syria – which, like Iran is under International Atomic Energy Agency investigation – ran a clandestine nuclear program, at least until Israeli warplanes destroyed what they describe as a nearly finished plutonium-producing reactor two years ago. Syria denies these allegations.

But Islamic nations insist that Israel is the true danger in the Middle East, saying they fear its nuclear weapons capacity.

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August 14, 2010

EDITOR: Another victory of Israeli war crimes

As suggested some time ago on this site, the Germans were not up to justice, when Israel is concerned, and managed to release the Mossad operative who has taken part in the Dubai murder, almost before he had a chance to have breakfast… How surprising… and how disgusting. Neither Europe, nor the US, are prepared to confront Israeli crimes, and therefor are also implicated in them.

UAE concerned over German release of suspected Mossad agent: Haaretz

Uri Brodsky extradited from Poland in relation with Hamas leader Mabhouh’s assassination in Dubai in January; released due to lack of evidence.
The United Arab Emirates voiced concern on Saturday over Germany’s release of a suspected Israeli spy on bail in a case over a falsified passport linked to the killing of a Hamas leader in Dubai.

On Friday, German authorities released Uri Brodsky, pending a decision on whether he was involved in the falsification of the German passport linked to the killing.

Abdurahim al-Awadhi, a top UAE Foreign Ministry official, “expressed concern that Brodsky has been released on bail and granted the freedom to return to Israel while the case against him continues”, the state news agency WAM said.

“The UAE seeks assurances that Brodsky is in no way connected with the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai,” Awadhi said in a statement cited by the agency.

A spokesman for state prosecutors in Cologne said on Friday that Brodsky would not have to stand trial in Germany. The court had a range of options it could pursue against Brodsky and that the most likely option was a fine, he said.

Brodsky was extradited from Poland on Thursday on suspicion of fraudulently obtaining a German passport believed to have been used by a member of the hit squad that Dubai says killed Mabhouh in a hotel room in January.

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.

Germany frees Israeli ‘agent’ suspected in Hamas murder: BBC

Uri Brodsky is suspected of espionage but can only be charged with illegally procuring a passport
A German court has released on bail a suspected Israeli agent arrested in connection with the killing of a Hamas commander in Dubai.

German prosecutors said Uri Brodsky was free to travel while judicial proceedings in Germany continued.

He is accused of helping procure the German passport allegedly used in the January murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouth.

The UAE believes Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, was involved, though Israel insists there is no proof.

Dubai killing shines unwelcome spotlight on Mossad
Uri Brodsky, an Israeli citizen, was arrested in Poland in June on a warrant issued by Germany and extradited on Thursday.

After a closed hearing on Friday, a German judge decided he would not be detained while the case against him continues.

“He can return to Israel today if he wants to,” said Rainer Wolf, a spokesman for Cologne’s prosecutors’ office.

The warrant that he was arrested under accused him of espionage, though the court that granted the extradition said he could only be prosecuted for illegally procuring a German passport believed to have been used by one of the assassins.

Formal charges have not yet been filed against him.

Dubai police have said they are 99% sure that members of Mossad were involved in the killing of Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas’s military wing, who was found dead in a Dubai hotel on 20 January.

Forged passports from several Western countries were used by the 30 suspects identified, leading to a series of diplomatic rows with Israel.

The UK, Irish Republic and Australia have all expelled Israeli diplomats.

Did Ben Gurion sell his soul to Satan?: Shraga Elam

Original Hebrew from 5 August 2010
What else is there to hide about the kidnapping of Eichmann?
Isser Harel’s revolt against the nuclear “Old Man”
According to Tom Segev (Haaretz 28 Jul. 2010), one of the subjects for which the classified status of the relevant documents has been extended to seventy years is the kidnapping of Eichmann.
This appears strange on the face of it, for what secrets could still remain about an event that took place half a century ago and which has been the subject of an ocean of books, articles, films and so much more?

But if we take into account the fact that the German intelligence agency BND is also struggling with clenched teeth to conserve the classified status of over 3,500 Eichmann documents, then Segev’s claim takes on an additional dimension and it is reasonable to assume that the issues are related. According to the BND the aforementioned documents, which are in its possession and not in the Federal Archives, will be declassified in 2017 at the earliest, or 2025 at the latest.
A ruling by the German Federal Administrative Court (the full decision in German) stated that some of the classified documents contain the secrets of “a foreign public authority,” most likely Israeli, but apparently not received from it officially. At least some of the documents are supposed to be disclosed at the end of August by order of the court, but we can already draw some conclusions about the nature of the secrets.
The German journalist Gaby Weber, who submitted the appeal for the declassification of the documents, believes that there was nuclear cooperation between West Germany, Israel and Argentina in the 1960s, and allegedly because Adolf Eichmann was hampering the German project in Argentina, he was handed over to Israel by the Germans and not in fact kidnapped by an Israeli secret service as the official Israeli story would have it.
While Weber’s theory about the kidnapping seems completely fantastical, illogical and lacking serious grounding in facts, she has nevertheless succeeded in raising a very interesting matter: the fact that there are indeed in the public domain German and Argentine documents that indicate the existence of such a German-Israeli-Argentinian nuclear triangle. Uranium was sent to Israel from Argentina and from Germany Israel apparently received important technology, and especially financing for the Israeli project in the amount of at least 500 million deutschemarks.
And whereas much of the history of the Israeli nuclear project is indeed known, the question of the financing of such an expensive undertaking has not been solved and to all intents and purposes has not been investigated.
There is a link between Germany’s support for the project and the kidnapping of Eichmann, but it appears to be completely different from what Weber fantasizes.
On 14 March 1960 West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer and Israeli prime minister David Ben Gurion met in New York. German documents show that at that meeting Adenauer promised to pay Israel the sum of 200 million deutschemarks a year over 10 years, including at least 500 million for the nuclear project.
Two months later, on 11 May 1960, Eichmann was kidnapped in Argentina and on 23 May Ben Gurion announced that the Nazi criminal was already in Israel.
Is it possible that the two incidents were linked?
There is no doubt that the kidnapping of Eichmann put a strain on the agreement between Adenauer and Ben Gurion: the German Chancellor was furious and suspended the first payment until the end of Eichmann’s trial. He also sent a representative to Israel who received a personal promise from Ben Gurion that there would be no “campaign of incitement” against West Germany, and an Israeli representative in Germany further promised the chancellor that Israel would not pursue the 2,000 criminals who were mentioned in the Ludwigsburg Archives.
And indeed Ben Gurion is known to have intervened in at least two matters under deliberation in court. In the words of the historian Prof. Yechiam Weitz:
“On two occasions Ben Gurion intervened in trials relating to the same subject: our relations with West Germany. The first time he requested that the prosecution not raise in court the matter of Hans Globke, a close advisor to Chancellor Adenauer who had been involved in the passing of the ‘Nuremberg Laws’ during the Nazi period. The second time it was at the initiative of Hausner. In a measure that was characterized as ‘an irregular procedure’ he sent him the draft of the opening speech and Ben Gurion raised a single point: the question of Germany. He requested that the word ‘Nazi’ be added after the word ‘Germany’ [in Hebrew the adjective follows the substantive it modifies – trans.] in order to distinguish between Nazi Germany and the new Germany, which in his eyes was ‘different.’ ” (Haaretz, 23 Jan. 2009)
Ben Gurion knew very well that Globke was a Nazi criminal who obviously was connected to Eichmann and also that the German establishment at that time was swarming with Nazi criminals like him. In other words, at that time it was certainly too early to speak of a “different” Germany.
In her book on the Eichmann trial, Prof. Hanna Yablonka entitles the chapter that deals with the then prime minister “Ben Gurion, an enigma.” The historian points to some of Ben Gurion’s contradictory behaviour but she does not resolve the contradiction.
The most logical explanation, which is supported by additional facts, is that the kidnapping of Eichmann should be seen as a mutiny by the head of the intelligence services, Isser Harel, against Ben Gurion. That is, the “head” attempted to sabotage Israel’s rapprochement with West Germany. According to this analysis the kidnapping of Eichmann was a maneuver against Ben Gurion, who was then forced to walk between raindrops in order to control the damage that had been done to his policy towards Germany.
Without going into all the facts that support this theory, we would do well to point out that not only is it clear that there was no formal discussion within the government to authorize the kidnapping and even Ben Gurion looked surprised. Indeed in 1966 Uri Paz, a journalist who was close to Isser Harel, published a fascinating novel that constitutes an indictment of Ben Gurion for his relations with Germany. “Demoncracy – the rule of Satan” is the title of the novel (The “demon” can be read in Hebrew also as Dimona, the place in the Negev desert where the nuclear reactor was built), which combines fiction with provable facts. “Satan” is Ben Gurion, who was willing to decree Nazi vermin to be whitewashed and to permit Germany to develop a nuclear bomb program of its own in return for aid in the amount of 500 million deutschemarks and German technicians for Dimona.
My findings so far in the German archives do indeed corroborate the claims about financial assistance, and an interview with a German nuclear scientist who was sent to Israel during the 1960s strengthens the suspicion that the Israel availed itself of the expertise of German physicists who had worked on the Nazi nuclear project.
Even if there if only a part of the theory that has been proposed here is true, not only does that put the Eichmann trial in a different light, but it could also explain why both Israel and Germany are keeping documents on the kidnapping of Eichmann secret.
Below is a link to a conversation I had on the subject on Moshe Timor’s program “Shishi Ishi” [personal Friday – trans.] on Israeli state radio’s Station 2 on 7 August 2010: (in Hebrew)

http://www.esnips.com/doc/52f1d5be-43b6-4030-ae11-567e210ef008/se-eichmann-timor

Peace summit or the height of folly?: The Guardian CoF

Can an activists’ peace summit at the top of Mont Blanc help bridge the abyss of Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Peace activists from Israel’s University of Haifa on the summit of Mont Blanc. Photograph: AP
With Israel-Palestine diplomacy leading nowhere and the situation steadily worsening in recent years, even the most optimistic doves have had their wings clipped by the hawks who prey on every fledgling initiative, often before it has had a chance to hatch.

Against the backdrop of this political vacuum, a group of young Israelis and Palestinians (all of whom are citizens of Israel) have quite literally held their own peace summit – at the top of Mont Blanc.

Backed by the Swiss NGO Coexistences, the eight young men and women scaled Europe’s highest mountain after months of rigorous training as part of an initiative called Breaking the Ice, which seeks to thaw relations between ordinary Palestinians and Israelis. According to the organisers, mountaineering was chosen because it is an activity that requires a lot of trust and co-operation. Mountains, being imposing and seemingly insurmountable edifices, are also highly symbolic. This is not the first time Palestinians and Israelis have joined forces: for example, a similar group journeyed all the way to Antarctica in 2003 – but their gesture has largely been lost in the wilderness of conflict.

Drawing on an all together different set of symbols, sceptics may wonder whether such small-scale stunts aren’t slightly futile. Do those intrepid activists have their heads so high in the clouds that they’ve lost sight of the conflict grinding on relentlessly in the valley below?

At this point, it may be worth asking what the young people involved took from their experience. Well, some were sceptical too, to begin with. “I used to think this sort of programme romanticised the reality, and the reality is not good,” admits Lobna Agbaria, a Palestinian-Israeli law student. “But I live in this reality; this is the situation, so what can I do to help improve [it]?” The experience of such intimate proximity also helped to reshape their perspectives. “This project actually changed my political opinion,” acknowledges Tomer Ketter, an Israeli postgraduate student of geophysics. “Now that I have real friends who are Arabs, I think it opens an entire other world to me.”

Herein lies the most valuable contributions of such efforts. What critics fail to grasp is that those initiatives do not pretend to entertain grand objectives; they are not about waving a wand to magically bring peace to the Holy Land. In a world where Israelis, Palestinians and Arabs rarely meet, any effort to build a modicum of understanding and empathy is welcome. In this regard, the idea behind a group like Combatants for Peace is doubly poignant. It not only brings together Israelis and Palestinians in a common cause, its members are all ex-fighters who have laid down their arms and reject violence, thereby dispelling two common stereotypes: that the other side only understands the language of violence, and that they cannot work with one another.

Some do find that dialogue and co-operation for their own sake are not enough. “I think most efforts [like these] are to be praised,” says Labeeb Baransi, a Palestinian who left his native land to study in the UK and now runs an ICT company in Jordan. “If they carried out the joint effort to support a two-state solution I do feel they have just wasted a tremendous amount of energy. They would have gained a great deal more if they spent it on promoting the one state solution.” Baransi advocates a single secular state for all Israelis and Palestinians, and founded a Facebook group which counts Palestinians, Israelis, Arabs, Jews and other supporters as members.

With top-level talks consistently proving to be dismal failures, direct contact between Israelis and Palestinians can establish grassroots dialogue and trust. Diplomacy has failed to deliver partly because of the disparity in power between the two sides and the absence of visionary and honest leadership, but also because of the almost complete lack of understanding between people. That is why I have, over the years, become convinced that Israelis and Palestinians need to start a bottom-up peace movement based on dialogue and civil rights issues: both sides are increasingly finding common cause over civil rights questions, as evidenced during regular joint protests held in Bil’in.

Although I am in favour of a bi-national, secular state eventually emerging, I do not hold out much hope of any final resolution – one or two states – occurring any time soon. For the time being, the most we can hope for is to help Palestinians and Israelis learn to walk together. As Heskel Nathaniel, who led the 2003 Antarctica expedition, put it: “We want people to see that even enemies can find a way to do great things if they decide to take on the challenge together.”

UNRWA calls Israeli TV portrayal of Palestinian refugees a ‘stack of lies': Haaretz

UN relief agency lashes out at Israel Broadcasting Authority for airing on national TV what it branded a dishonest portrayal of the organization.

The United Nations’ relief agency for Palestinian refugees, lashed out Tuesday at the Israel Broadcasting Authority for airing what it called a a dishonest portrayal of the organization on Saturday in “Ro’im Olam” on Channel 1 television.

The news magazine’s anchor and the journalist behind the segment have fired back.
Right-wing journalist David Bedein’s “For the Nakba”, UNRWA said, contains numerous inaccuracies about its operations in Palestinian refugee camps and educational institutions. It depicts large graffiti that lionize Palestinian suicide bombers and includes an interview with Palestinian children who profess a desire to become “martyrs.”

“Ro’im Olam” presenter Yaakov Ahimeir sought comment from UNRWA’s Christopher Gunness, who watched the segment before it aired. Gunness said he warned of numerous inaccuracies, which were never corrected.

In a letter written prior to the airing, Gunness said UNRWA schools do not contain murals of suicide bombers, and that the textbooks shown are for use by 12th graders, while UNRWA schools do not go beyond ninth grade.

Gunness said students making derogatory statements about Israel are not enrolled at UNRWA schools, whose pupils are identifiable by their school uniforms. The spokesperson added that UNRWA does not sanction events that officially mark the Nakba, as the segment suggested. Gunness denied the film’s assertion that a student in an agency-run school was an 18-year-old suicide bomber.

Gunness accused Channel 1 of airing “a stack of lies,” and said editing the errors was “a matter of integrity.”

In response, Ahimeir said: “Chris Gunness viewed the film before the broadcast, and his response was broadcast in full.” After he sent me additional material, Ahimeir said, “This was also read on the air by me as UNRWA’s response.”

Bedein denied Gunness’ claims. Palestinian kids, he said, study the materials from the textbooks at a young age, and the mural of the suicide bomber was seen at the entrance of the UNRWA school at the Deheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem.

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August 13, 2010

Ramadan on zero: Al Ahram Weekly

While some extra goods are now available to people in Gaza, few have the money to buy them, writes Saleh Al-Naami
Click to view caption
One of Gaza markets filled with Ramadan goods
Mohamed Nassar, 49, was astounded and at a loss as he walked through Al-Zawya market in the heart of Gaza City. He was amazed at the large variety of products on sale, and confused because with little money he was unsure what he could afford from the shopping list his wife gave him in preparation for Ramadan. Nassar, father of four, is a repairman who works on refrigerators and air conditioners with an income of about 1,500 shekels ($400) a month.

He pays $150 in rent and told Al-Ahram Weekly, “To be honest, I only have 600 shekels, which needs to last until the end of the month. I am thinking of buying some Ramadan goods, such as cheese and canned food, with a third of this money. The market is very tempting this year and has many new products.” He quickly adds, “This month will be especially hard because expenses are usually high and it is followed by Eid [the Islamic holiday after Ramadan]. I hope charities will be more attentive to the needs of low-income families because we cannot afford this.”

When you stroll through the markets of Gaza in the last week of Shaaban, a few days before the fasting month begins, one sees a variety of foods, such as dairy products, household items, and other Ramadan specials. What is surprising is how competitive everyone is about buying these goods, especially that many of these items were banned from entering for many years, as part of the siege on Gaza.

Merchants and shop owners have been working for two months to meet the demands of the people of Gaza who have craved many foods over the past few years. Ramadan decorations have even gone up, raising the spirits of the people.

“This year, merchants have prepared well for Ramadan,” Abu Youssef Al-Darqotni, 55, a grocer in Gaza City told the Weekly. “They have prepared themselves and brought goods which they haven’t seen since the beginning of the blockade. The shops are ready to sell everything you need for Ramadan.” But Al-Darqotni also expressed his fears that people will not be able to afford the products brought in for Ramadan. He stated that people’s purchasing power remains weak, “despite the slight easing” of the siege after world pressure mounted in the wake of the Israeli massacre on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship that was part of the Free Gaza Flotilla.

In Al-Sheikh Radwan district, north of Gaza City, a group of children are standing outside a shop selling Ramadan toys, looking at the goods, especially the Ramadan lanterns. Some of them bargain with the shop owner over the prices, which have already dropped considerably. The children are hoping that their parents will buy these lanterns for them at the beginning of the holy month, so they can play and have fun like other children.

Hassan Zeineddin, a toy vendor, stated that Israel allowed large volumes of toys to enter Gaza and which have flooded the markets and caused prices to drop. “During the worst years of the siege, trade was almost at a standstill because good quality products were not allowed through, and all that was available were poor quality goods smuggled through the tunnels,” stated Zeineddin. “We expect more of this during Ramadan.”

FASTING WITHOUT ELECTRICITY: Gaza residents fear that power shortages will continue during Ramadan. “Ramadan will be very difficult if blackouts continue,” asserted Nader Qonita, 35, who lives in Al-Tifah district in Gaza City. “Will we break our fast in candlelight? Will we be able to bear fasting in the heat of summer without air conditioning? If this continues, then fasting will be very tough.”

He added that despite the surge in goods on the market, “we are worried to buy anything because it will spoil without refrigerators because of the lack of electricity. We hope that officials will keep that in mind, so that we can welcome the month of Ramadan with joy, as we always do.” Qonita told the Weekly that his family is ready to begin the holy month, and he is focussing on buying canned food that will not spoil if there is a power outage.

Despite all the goods being sold in Gaza, financial and economic conditions for most families are poor because of extensive unemployment resulting from Israel’s blockade on Gaza imposed since Hamas won legislative elections four years ago.

Nahed Afana, 38, told the Weekly that conditions at border crossings have improved, but people’s lives have not because the blockade has rendered many jobless, and now they live on aid from relief agencies, charities and the government. Afana, who is in the low-income bracket, stated that many people are disheartened when they go shopping, especially during Ramadan, because they cannot afford any of the goods.

“We are worried that this season will be a loss to us, especially since the people’s economic situations have not yet improved,” said Mazen Al-Dalu, a grocer at Al-Zawya market. “These days, sales are low, but acceptable. We fear, however, that sales will not pick up, even during the first days of Ramadan.” Al-Dalu noted that the siege was only partially lifted, and mainly focused on foodstuffs that do not offer work opportunities for most workers, unlike if raw materials had been allowed in. Had the occupation allowed the passage of raw materials two months ago, he explained, the volume of trade would have been much greater.

“Ramadan is one of the best seasons for the sale of food products,” economist Omar Shaaban explained to the Weekly. “But because of Israel’s blockade and economic conditions, sales may not be as high as they used to be before the siege.” Shaaban continued that the Gaza Strip “needs to import more products, especially raw materials for factories to provide employment for many, in order for the people and merchants to be happier.”

He called on vendors to keep in mind that customers are cash strapped, and recommended they drop prices, especially in Ramadan. Shaaban expected that Ramadan sales this year would be no different from previous years because of the siege, unemployment and the drop in income.

RAMADAN ASSISTANCE: Many Palestinians rely on handouts from charities in the Gaza Strip, especially after unemployment levels went through the roof. Several charities have sponsored Ramadan assistance projects, including food baskets, food stamps and purchasing stamps, which target poor and needy families in the Gaza Strip.

“This aid meets an urgent need as the holy month of Ramadan approaches, especially that economic conditions continue to deteriorate for the residents of Gaza as a result of Israel’s unjust siege of our people for more than four years,” Nassim Al-Zaaneen, a member of Gaza Gives Society which is sponsoring the “Ramadan Kheir” campaign for poor and needy families, told the Weekly. Al-Zaaneen continued that charities are making a huge effort to carry out transparent and accurate surveys, to ensure that assistance reaches those who deserve it.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Social Affairs in Gaza announced a relief campaign that will provide assistance to some 70,000 families in Gaza by giving them $50 each. “So far, we have given money to nearly 45,000 families, and the campaign will continue until this reaches all the targeted families during the holy month,” Minister of Social Affairs Ahmed Al-Kurd told the Weekly. Al-Kurd stated that the money is being distributed in coordination with tens of charities working in the Gaza Strip, to ensure that assistance reaches all segments of society.

He added that the Ramadan charity campaign has the full support of the Palestinian government in Gaza, and revealed that his ministry intends to distribute financial aid during Ramadan to families that are suffering the most, as well as the unemployed who lost their jobs because of the blockade.

It seems that Ramadan this year will not be very different from those in the past three years. The Palestinians will continue to live in need under crushing conditions of deprivation.

Palestinian on Hunger Strike in Berlin for Family Rights in East Jerusalem: The Only Democracy?

August 12th, 2010, by Jesse Bacon
From the Palestinian rights group Al Haq.
(Ed’s note: As many of us celebrate the ruling supporting marriage equality in the case of California, it bears remembering how Palestinians still face discrimination based on who they choose to wed.)
12 August 2010
As a Palestinian NGO committed to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Al-Haq is deeply concerned about Firas Al-Maraghi’s hunger strike that he has been holding since 26 July 2010 opposite the Israeli embassy in Berlin, Germany. Firas, a Palestinian resident of occupied East Jerusalem who is married to a German national, is protesting a decision which was taken by the Israeli embassy to ban the couple’s new-born daughter from being registered as a Jerusalem resident. This decision breaches Firas’s right to live in Jerusalem with his family.
Firas was born and raised in the neighbourhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem to a Palestinian family with deep roots in the city. In 2007, Firas temporarily moved to Berlin to be with his wife, who is completing her doctoral thesis there. Since then, Firas has regularly revisited Jerusalem. Knowing that they would return to Jerusalem after the completion of his wife’s PhD, Firas refuses to apply for any other passport or travel document that might strip away his right to hold the laissez-passer, a travel document issued by Israel to Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.
Firas has been on hunger strike for 18 days, drinking only water, refusing to end his strike until the Israeli embassy in Berlin revokes its denial of registering Firas’s daughter as Jerusalem resident.
Israel’s refusal to allow family unification is not an isolated case. Since 1967, Israel has engaged in a deliberate policy of reducing the number of Palestinians residing in East Jerusalem while facilitating the increase of the Jewish population in the city. To this end, Israel has used various legal and administrative means aimed at preventing the unification of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem with non-resident spouses and children.
In the past, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem were able to apply to the Israeli Ministry of Interior for family unification for their spouses and children in order to legally reside in East Jerusalem and Israel with their families (a requirement that does not apply to Jewish citizens and immigrants).
In 2000, Israel de facto suspended all family unification procedures, impacting tens of thousands of Palestinians and their foreign spouses. Moreover, since 2003, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) has regularly extended the discriminatory “Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law of 2003” (most recently on 21 July 2010). This law formally denies family unification of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem with their spouses and children from other parts of the OPT or abroad. Consequently, these families are prevented from living together in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem, resulting in the separation and forced relocation of such families.
In its recent concluding observations, the Human Rights Committee has asked for the “Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law of 2003” law, which is ostensibly a temporary provision, to be revoked. The Human Rights Committee’s concern with regards to this issue stems from the fact that Israel’s ban on family unification is in blatant violation of international law, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 23(1) of ICCPR states that, “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”  Israel, as the Occupying Power in the OPT, must respect Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that, “protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights.”
Israel uses a fundamentally flawed security rationale to justify its illegal policy. While international law recognises Israel’s right to protect its citizens, Israel remains obligated to act in accordance with the principle of proportionality. Israel’s total ban on family unification for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem is not only inherently discriminatory but also disproportionate. Israel’s security rationale is further undermined by the government’s clear statements with regard to ensuring the demographic superiority of the Jewish people within illegally annexed East Jerusalem. Israel’s policy of denying Palestinians the right to family unification hinders the prospects of a two-state solution where East Jerusalem is the capital of a future Palestinian state.

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August 12, 2010

EDITOR: Interesting times ahead…

Now that the Israeli Mossad agent involved in the murder in Dubai has been extradited to Germany, it will be fascinating to see how the German government will wriggle in order to NOT take action. I am sure that they will terrified of the Israeli propaganda machine pumping antisemitism message at full volume! Let us see how Europe measures up to the Middle Eastern Bully…

Poland extradites alleged Mossad spy to Germany over Dubai hit: Haaretz

Polish police said the suspect known as Uri Brodsky was handed over to face charges over forged passport used in killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.
Polish authorities on Thursday extradited a suspected Mossad agent to Germany, where he faces charges over a passport that was used in the assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai earlier this year.
The suspect known as Uri Brodsky was handed over to German police at Warsaw’s international airport, police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski said.
An Associated Press photographer saw a man at the airport wearing a hooded jacket pulled over his face to hide his identity as he was escorted by masked anti-terror police.

Brodsky appeared that way during several appearances at courts in Warsaw.

German prosecutors accuse him of illegally helping to procure a passport used in connection with the Jan. 19 slaying of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh at a hotel in Dubai.

Prosecutors in Cologne, who are handling the case against Brodsky, were not immediately available for comment.

But a German official who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue said Brodsky was to arrive with a police helicopter at Cologne-Bonn airport in the afternoon.

Brodsky is expected to appear Friday morning before a judge, who will read out the warrant against him and decide at a closed-doors appearance whether Brodsky must remain in custody pending the filing of formal charges and a possible trial.

Brodsky was arrested June 4 at Warsaw airport on a European arrest warrant issued by Germany, which accused him of espionage and helping to falsely obtain a German passport.

However, Brodsky won’t face spying charges in Germany. The Polish court that granted the extradition request said he could only be sent to face prosecution for his alleged involvement in faking an identity.

Israel’s suspected forgery of European passports allegedly used by members of a hit squad who took part in the killing of the Hamas leader in Dubai in January annoyed several European countries, including Britain, which expelled an Israeli diplomat over the matter in March.

Police in the United Arab Emirates said the elaborate hit squad linked to the Jan. 19 slaying of Mabhouh – one of the founders of Hamas’ military wing – involved some 25 suspects, most of them carrying fake passports from European nations and Australia.

Among the faked passports, according to Dubai police, was one issued in 2009 by authorities in Cologne with Brodsky’s alleged involvement. The passport was issued to a man named Michael Bodenheimer, who allegedly was part of the hit squad.

International Emmy nominees include Sky News, Channel 4 and al-Jazeera: The Guardian

Dispatches and Sky News special series from Pakistan on shortlists, along with al-Jazeera English’s Gaza coverage
Sky News, a Channel 4 Dispatches programme and al-Jazeera English are among the nominees for the International Emmy news and current affairs awards.

Sky News was nominated in the news category for a series of special programmes, Pakistan: Terror’s Frontline, reporting on the growing threat from terrorists and the Taliban from within Pakistan in March last year.

The al-Jazeera English news channel was also nominated for the news prize, for its coverage of Israel’s three-week war against Hamas in Gaza and its reports of an Israeli ground offensive in the territory on 5 January 2009.

The nominated episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches, made by independent producer October Films, looked at how Pakistan’s radical Islamists were bringing violence to the cities of Pakistan and beyond. The programme, Pakistan’s Taliban Generation, was nominated for the current affairs prize.

Also nominated for the news prize are the Russian broadcaster RT Channel’s coverage of Barack Obama’s visit to Russia in July 2009, and TV Globo’s reports on a massive power cut in Brazil in November last year, while broadcasters in China, Canada and Argentina are in the running for the current affairs prize.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in New York on 27 September.

EDITOR: Not for Jews!

The Shin Bet has been breaking the law and mistreating and torturing Palestinian suspects for as long as one can remember, and nobody thought there was much wrong with that… Now that the same methods are applied to Jews, there is shock and surprise all around…

Fight terror legally: Haaretz Editorial

The Shin Bet cannot deny murder suspects basic human rights.
A court decided yesterday to release the right-wing activist Chaim Pearlman to house arrest, about a month after he was first taken into custody. When he was arrested, the Shin Bet security service announced with much fanfare that he was suspected of having murdered four Arabs 12 years ago. He was denied basic rights under interrogation. For 10 days the Shin Bet prevented Pearlman from seeing his lawyer, and he was allowed to do so only after the Supreme Court intervened.

Justice Edmond Levy harshly criticized the Shin Bet for not bringing Pearlman to a hearing. According to his lawyer, the Shin Bet also tortured Pearlman, shackling his hands and feet to a chair for 16 consecutive hours, humiliating him and denying him sleep.

The Shin Bet is charged with the task of preventing terrorist attacks, whether initiated by Palestinians or Jews, and bringing to justice those responsible for the attacks. When it comes to Jewish terrorism, the Shin Bet’s performance leaves much to be desired. Twelve years passed until the suspect in the serial killings was arrested. The Shin Bet must make a greater effort to uproot Jewish terrorism, but the end cannot justify any means.

The serious allegations leveled at Pearlman, which were apparently based solely on his boasts to a Shin Bet informer, with no additional evidence, raise important questions about the Shin Bet’s judgment. Before making and publicizing such accusations, it would be best to check if the evidence justifies them.

The Shin Bet’s response to the decision to release Pearlman – that he remains a prime suspect – doesn’t mean much now. On the other hand, the Shin Bet’s assertion that the investigation had legal sanction requires the state prosecution to turn its scrutiny on itself and on its sometimes automatic support of the Shin Bet.

The Shin Bet must mend its ways. Pearlman is not the only suspect in recent months who was arrested on the basis of serious allegations that quickly turned out to be false. He was preceded by several Israeli Arab detainees; in those cases, a raft of allegations produced little. Before the Shin Bet arrests people and makes false accusations, it should investigate carefully. It should remember that not everything is permitted in interrogations, and that torture – whether psychological or physical – is always unacceptable, no matter the case or the suspect. Even the war against terror must be conducted using legal means.

Hiroshima, Israel and nuclear tests: Letter to the Editor – Guardian

I visited the exhibition on images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Face to Faith, 7 August) at the Quaker Friends House in London on Hiroshima commemoration day (6 August) after attending a moving ceremony that included speeches from a survivor of the city’s atomic immolation, former London mayor Ken Livingstone, Labour peace activist MP Jeremy Corbyn, and the CND chair, Dr Kate Hudson. Rowena Loverance is right to draw attention to the searing shock of the trauma represented in the photos as well as the poignancy in the objects recovered from the atomic aftermath. However, I did notice one odd thing in the Quaker exhibition, which also told of the atomic age from the first test explosion, at Socorro in the New Mexico desert in July 1945, to today: it lists Israel as a one of nine nations that have tested nuclear weapons.

It is now accepted that Israel has around 200 nuclear warheads, although Tel Aviv declines to confirm its atomic weapons status. But, despite the fact that Israel has undoubtedly received considerable atomic assistance from the US, as is told in detail in Seymour Hersh’s excellent 1991 expose, The Samson Option, there are no published details of Israel actually testing a nuclear device.

The only possibility I have come across is that Israeli nuclear scientists were present at France’s atmospheric tests in Reganne in Algeria in the early 1960s, or else the post-test calibration data were shared with Israel by France. I wonder if anyone else knows more details?

Dr David Lowry

Former director, European Proliferation Information Center (EPIC)

EDITOR: Pretending not to know?

See Prof. Moshe Machover’s answer to the letter in the Guardian, below:

I am astonished that Dr David Lowry, former director of the European Proliferation Information Center is unaware of  Israel’s nuclear tests (Hiroshima, Israel and nuclear tests, Letters, 11 August).

According to the Farr Report on Israel’s nuclear weapons, published by the US Air Force in September 1999

http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/israel/nuke/farr.htm,

“A bright flash in the south Indian Ocean, observed by an American satellite on 22 September 1979, is widely believed to be a South Africa–Israel joint nuclear test. It was, according to some, the third test of a neutron bomb. The first two were hidden in clouds to fool the satellite and the third was an accident—the weather cleared. Experts differ on these possible tests.
Several writers report that the scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory believed it to have been a nuclear explosion while a presidential panel decided otherwise. President Carter was just entering the Iran hostage nightmare and may have easily decided not to alter 30 years of looking the other way. The explosion was almost certainly an Israeli bomb, tested at the invitation of the South Africans. It was more advanced than the ‘gun type’ bombs developed by the South Africans. One report claims it was a test of a nuclear artillery shell. A 1997 Israeli newspaper quoted South African deputy foreign minister, Aziz Pahad, as confirming it was an Israeli test with South African logistical support.”

Professor (emeritus) Moshé Machover

Palestinians ‘adamant about continuing boycott on settlement goods’: Haaretz

PA economy minister says after meeting with Ben-Eliezer that Israel’s request to end the campaign proves that it is working.
Palestinian Authority Economy Minister Hassan Abu Libda said Thursday that Palestinians would continue to boycott settlement goods despite Israel’s requests.
Abu Libda made his comments after a meeting with Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer.
Ben Eliezer had asked the PA minister in the past to put an end to the boycott, which calls on Palestinians not to buy goods from companies such as Shamir Salads, Kobi Burekas, Ramat Hagolan Dairies, Jerusalem Granola, Bagel Bagel, Mei Eden, Soda Club, Barkan Wineries, Ramat Hagolan Wineries, Rav-Bariach and Ahava Products.

Abu Libda said that the fact that Israel has continued to request an end to the boycott proved that it was successful and has influenced the struggle to diminish the settlement’s economic power.

In May, 3,000 Palestinian volunteers, conscripted by the government of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad through a group set up by the Palestinian Finance Ministry, went from door to door in West Bank communities explaining the reasons they should boycott settlement products.

Each household received a pamphlet listing dozens of Israeli products that the PA has identified as being manufactured in the West Bank and Golan Heights, and explaining that purchasing them bolsters the settlements and undermines the Palestinian struggle.

The volunteers also warned that anyone trading in such items would risk being punished.

Many of the volunteers in the campaign are university and high school students. On the T-shirts they were given is a campaign logo: a finger pointing at the viewer, similar to U.S. Army recruiting posters during the World Wars.

The list of items is quite long, and the pamphlet includes photographs in order to make them clear to the Palestinians.

The Manufacturers Association asked the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry for compensation for its members who have been hurt by the Palestinian boycott against goods produced in the West Bank.

Ministry officials have already approached their Palestinian counterparts and international bodies to ask them to act to cancel the boycott, which they say violates international trade rules and policies.

Ben-Eliezer said he views the Palestinian decision seriously, and in light of the renewal of talks between the sides, “the boycott must be lifted immediately because of the fact that many businesses in Judea and Samaria employ a large number of Palestinians,” he said.

Besieging Israel’s siege: The Guardian CoF

Omar Barghouti

In just a few years the Palestinian campaign to boycott Israeli goods has become truly global
Despite Israel’s siege of Gaza, and the escalating displacement in the Negev and East Jerusalem, Palestinians have some reason to celebrate. In Washington a food co-op has passed a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli products, confirming that the boycott movement – five years old last month – has finally crossed the Atlantic. Support for the move came from prominent figures including Nobel peace laureates Desmond Tutu and Máiread Maguire, and Richard Falk, the UN’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories.

The movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel was launched in 2005, a year after the international court of justice had found Israel’s wall and colonies built on occupied Palestinian territory illegal. Over 170 Palestinian political parties, unions, mass movements and NGOs endorsed the movement, which is led by the BNC, a coalition of civil society organisations.

Rooted in a century of Palestinian civil resistance, and inspired by the anti-apartheid struggle, the campaign crowned earlier, partial boycotts to present a comprehensive approach to realising Palestinian self-determination: unifying Palestinians inside historic Palestine and in exile in the face of accelerating fragmentation.

BDS avoids the prescription of any particular political formula and insists, instead, on realising the basic, UN-sanctioned rights that correspond to the three main segments of the Palestinian people: ending Israel’s occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands occupied since 1967; ending racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens; and recognising the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Created and guided by Palestinians, BDS opposes all forms of racism, including antisemitism, and is anchored in the universal principles of freedom, justice and equal rights that motivated the anti-apartheid and US civil rights struggles.

Characterising Israel’s legalised system of discrimination as apartheid – as was done by Tutu, Jimmy Carter and even a former Israeli attorney general – does not equate Israel with South Africa. No two oppressive regimes are identical. Rather, it asserts that Israel’s bestowal of rights and privileges according to ethnic and religious criteria fits the UN-adopted definition of apartheid.

BDS has seen unprecedented growth after the war of aggression on Gaza and the flotilla attack. People of conscience round the world seem to have crossed a threshold, resorting to pressure, not appeasement or “constructive engagement”, to end Israel’s impunity and western collusion in maintaining its status as a state above the law.

“Besiege your siege” – the cry of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish – acquires a new meaning in this context. Since convincing a colonial power to heed moral pleas for justice is, at best, delusional, many now understand the need to “besiege” Israel though boycotts, raising the price of its oppression.

BDS campaigners have successfully lobbied financial institutions in Scandinavia, Germany and elsewhere to divest from companies that are complicit in Israel’s violations of international law. Several international trade unions have endorsed the boycott. Following the attack on the flotilla, dockworkers’ unions in Sweden, India, Turkey and the US heeded an appeal by Palestinian unions to block offloading Israeli ships.

Endorsements of BDS by cultural figures such as John Berger, Naomi Klein, Iain Banks and Alice Walker, and the spate of cancellations of events in Israel by artists including Meg Ryan, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron and the Pixies have raised the movement’s international profile, bringing it closer to the western mainstream. Scepticism about its potential has been put to rest.

Boycott from Within, a significant protest movement in Israel today, was formed in 2009 adopting the Palestinian BDS call.

A bill that would impose heavy fines on Israelis who initiate or incite boycotts against Israel has recently passed an initial reading at the Knesset. This underlines Israel’s fears of the global reach and impact of BDS as a non-violent, morally consistent campaign for justice. In many ways, it confirms that the Palestinian “South Africa moment” has arrived.

Turkey sets up own Gaza flotilla inquiry: Haaretz

Probe will work under the office of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and present findings to UN, AFP news agency reports.
Turkey has set up its own inquiry into Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid convoy that left none Turkish citizens dead, the AFP news agency reported on Thursday.

The probe will work under the office of Prime Minister’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and will “investigate the attack and the treatment the activists faced” before reporting on its findings, the ministry said in a statement.
Turkey said it plans to present its findings to another inquiry set up by the United Nations. Early this month, Israel agreed to participate in the UN probe, as well as setting up its own investigation, which this week heard teastimony from the Israeli prime minister, defense minister and army chief of staff.

Turkey’s commission will include officials from the foreign, justice, interior and transport ministries as well as from the country’s maritime agency.

Israel’s May 31 raid on the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish-flagged lead ship in the flotilla, plunged relations between the erstwhile allies into deep crisis.

On Tuesday Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Tuesday that Israel should admit sole responsibility for the deaths aboard the Mavi Marmara.

“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.

On Eve of Ramadan: Police Demolished Bedouin Village for Third Time: AIC

Tuesday, 10 August 2010 11:40
This morning police forces demolished the village of el Araqib for the third time in two weeks. The village residents, however, who remain on the eve of Ramadan without water and shelter under the blazing sun, began rebuilding the shelters from wood even before the police left the area. Left-wing activist Gadi Elgazi was detained.

Tens of left-wing activists, Jews and Arabs, slept in the village and are assisting the residents to rebuild; one activist was detained.

The demolitions began at 5.30 a.m. Two bulldozers were accompanied by 100 police officers, mounted police and trucks. The forces removed water containers and the remains of shelters that were constructed since the last demolition, in order to prevent reuse of these materials. Families, including infants and the elderly, were forcibly removed from their shelters. Tens of left-wing activists from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beer Sheva were present during the demolitions, having slept in the village to express solidarity with the residents. The residents and volunteers resisted in a non-violent manner. Activists in the village report that the demolitions were accompanied by violence toward the villagers and activists. Professor Gadi Elgazi from the Tarabut movement was beaten and injured in his nose. He was detained whilst speaking with the police, asking them to refrain from demolishing.

Residents with the assistance of volunteers are now busy rebuilding their shelters. A resident of the village expressed his anger and rage that the demolitions occurred on the eve of the month of Ramadan, holy to Muslims. “They have no God,” he said, adding that “we will continue to cling to the land of our forefathers and rebuild the village until our right to live there will be recognized by the world.”

The Israeli Land Administration is determined to destroy the village, and the Jewish National Fund plans to plant trees in the area in order to prevent the residents from returning. This is despite the fact that ownership over the land has not yet been established, and is currently being deliberated in the Beer Sheva Regional Court.

The village of el Araqib has been located in the area between Beer Sheva and Rahat already since the 19th century. Residents of the village, the Aturi family, worked the land at the beginning of the 20th century and as both Turkish and British documents testify, they also paid taxes on their land. The village even has an ancient cemetery of the resident family. The residents were removed by state authorities in 1951, and were promised this was a temporary move for military training and that they could return to their village in six months. However, since then they were never allowed back on their land. In the decades since, the residents returned to work their land, and in the 1990’s returned to live there.  Their ownership over the land is currently being discussed in a long and complex court case in the Beer Sheva regional court, and academic researchers have already testified on behalf of the residents’ ownership over the land.

Interview with “Salt of This Sea” star before nationwide premiere in NYC: The Electronic Intifada

Nora Barrows-Friedman, 11 August 2010

Suheir Hammad in Salt of This Sea

Salt of This Sea (2008), Annemarie Jacir’s groundbreaking feature film, premieres in the US this week after two years on the road and winning over 20 awards in countless international film festivals. An intimate portrayal of the complexity of Palestinian identity, from the exiled diaspora to the ghettos of the West Bank, Salt of This Sea continues to make waves across the world since its debut at Cannes in 2008 — where it was featured as an Official Selection/Un Certain Regard. The challenges and dangers of making the film mirrored many of the realities it tried to portray — settlers tried to run actors over, and the Israeli army drove in with real tanks as a scene with a prop tank was being filmed.

Award-winning Palestinian-American poet Suheir Hammad plays Soraya, a woman who comes to Palestine for the first time in her life, curious about her roots and determined to redeem the ghosts that have haunted her family for three generations. Born in Brooklyn to a working-class Palestinian family exiled from Jaffa, Soraya discovers that her grandfather’s savings were frozen from his bank account during the Nakba — the expulsion of the Palestinians — in 1948, and the money was eventually absorbed by Israeli financial institutions.

Soraya meets Emad (played by Saleh Bakri) in Ramallah, a waiter aching to leave the confines of occupied Palestine completely. Interweaving their conflicting dreams based on finding their individual freedoms, together they compose a daring plan — a bank robbery — to recover the savings in an emblematic act of redemption.

From this point, the pair and another friend make their way across checkpoints into what is now Israel, to Soraya’s grandfather’s home in Jaffa — which like the property of hundreds of thousands of other expelled Palestinians is now in the hands of an Israeli family — and eventually to the land of Dawayima, Emad’s ancestral village which lies today in ruins. Part road movie and adventure, the physical journey mirrors the characters’ struggle to find their places in a forbidding and unwelcoming landscape.

In her director’s notes, Jacir explains that Salt of This Sea “is a story about young people trying to shake off the restraints that control them — of military occupation, of borders, of a corrupt government and of a social system that rejects them. Is it the story of a new generation wanting to live and knowing that sometimes, in order to do this, one has to take things in their own hands.”

This Friday, 13 August, Salt of This Sea opens in New York City and will be shown in independent theaters across the country. Hammad was interviewed by her longtime friend, journalist Nora Barrows-Friedman for The Electronic Intifada.

Electronic Intifada: I was staying with you in Ramallah when the film was being made in 2007. You were saying then that the fundamental process of filming was undoubtedly a reflection of the chaos that envelops every waking moment in occupied Palestine. Say a little more about what you meant.

Suheir Hammad: It was probably too dangerous in some ways, but wouldn’t have been made if Annemarie (Jacir) especially didn’t charge ahead. There were settlers who tried to run me over in their cars while we were filming in the street. There was the night the Israelis brought a tank into Ramallah deep at night, while we filmed a scene with a prop tank.

EI: You’re a poet. And this was your first acting role on film. Even though you perform in public often, and have for many years now, how much of a challenge was it to cross over from verbal to visual representation of an entire character — a role on film?

SH: It was trial by fire. And I think now, a few years later, of the patience we all needed from one another in such a situation. My first day of filming was on a hot day in the middle of a busy Ramallah street. My friends know I play tricks on myself when onstage to forget that I’m being looked at. You can’t do that when hundreds of people are stopped and watching a film being shot. I had to learn to “look through the camera.”

EI: Some reviewers in the US, who aren’t familiar with the political nuances of Palestinian diasporic identity have characterized Soraya as stubborn, naive, angry, or full of misplaced aggression. I think many miss the point of her time in Palestine, and many miss the tenderness and impassioned bond that she makes between Emad, her friends, her sense of place, and her history. How do you fit all of the angles of Palestinian identity into one character, and what for you was the most important way to show all of the overlapping emotions Soraya had?

SH: Well, I had to break myself. Soraya’s language, heart, and in many ways her dreams, are broken. I can relate to this.

EI: There are so many ways in which the West has unfairly — to put it mildly — portrayed Arab women on film. You have a strong current running through your own work as a poet challenging those entrenched racist and sexist stereotypes. Which features of Soraya’s character, her own ferocity, her own determination and individuality, spoke to you the most, and why?

SH: You know, given the economic reality so many working women face in the US, I feel more like Soraya today than I did yesterday. The character was created by Annemarie and shaped by us both, but I think every woman we’ve ever met has been reflected in her.

EI: There is a scene in which Soraya confronts the Jewish-Israeli peace activist-artist living in the house that was built by her (Soraya’s) grandfather in Jaffa. It is a very visceral and painful scene, because it embodies the core reason for Soraya’s circumstances — why she was born outside of Palestine, why she decided to come back, and why the house remains “off-limits” to the indigenous inhabitants. I’ve watched people bristle while talking about that scene. People have said that the Israeli woman was also a victim of her circumstance, and it was hard to sympathize with Soraya’s directed anger. But this scene, for me, is one of the most important scenes on film about Palestine ever made. Tell us about your process in this scene, and what it represents.

SH: Soraya could have really gotten angry, and she didn’t. And I think audiences have responded in a spectrum to that scene. I always think it’s interesting that it takes place in the kitchen. For two women to talk in any kitchen, given the historical roles in the home, is interesting and layered — the kitchen as home and hearth.

EI: The film opens up in theaters across the US, at a time of deepening political and humanitarian despair in Palestine. What are you hoping that Americans understand from Salt of This Sea?

SH: A movie won’t make any of us kinder, fairer people. But for over an hour, in the dark, the audience is invited to listen to the sounds of Palestine’s streets, and view her landscape through the eyes of Soraya, who loves a place she’s never been to. Instead of the the steady toxic imagery we are used to coming to represent the Palestinian people, they get to represent themselves.

EI: Could the political story of Palestine be its own character in the film?

SH: I always say, Palestine, the land, sea, the nature of the place, is the star of the movie.

EI: You’ve won awards for your role as Soraya. Would you consider acting again?

SH: I think now all artists should try all art. That said, most of what is produced and consumed as art, poem or film, doesn’t fit my unique definition. I will keep working on my craft.

Nora Barrows-Friedman is an award-winning independent journalist, writing for The Electronic Intifada, Inter Press Service, Truthout and other outlets. She regularly reports from Palestine, where she also runs media workshops for youth in the Dheisheh refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.

Lebanon PM: UN must probe claims of Israeli complicity in Hariri murder: Haaretz

Saad Hariri suggests evidence presented by Hezbollah could point to Israeli involvement in the assassination of his father in 2005, Lebanese paper reports.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has called on the UN to probe claims by Hezbollah militants that Israel was behind the murder of his father in 2005, according to local press reports Thursday.

Harari said evidence presented earlier this week by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah implicating Israel in the assassination of Hariri’s father Rafik was “important and very sensitive”, Lebanese daily as-Safir reported.
“I personally am in favor of a deep discussion of the details, because it is very important to me to find out the truth both as prime minister and as [Rafik] Hariri’s son,” Saad Hariri said.
Rafik Hariri, a former prime minister of Lebanon, was killed in a massive bomb blast in Beirut in 2005 and a UN tribunal was established two years later to investigate the assassination.

At first, Hariri’s allies accused Syria and its followers in Lebanon of being behind the murder, a charge Damascus has repeatedly denied.

In 2009, however, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported that there was evidence linking Hezbollah to the killing. And last month, Nasrallah said that he had been informed that the UN tribunal would indict some Hezbollah members for the murder.

On Monday, Nasrallah held a press conference during which he attempted to shift the blame to Israel, citing an audio recording of an alleged Israeli agent and intercepted Israeli aerial drone footage.

Saad Hariri reportedly told associates that the maximum amount of time and effort should be invested to check the information presented by Nasrallah.

According to the as-Safir report, the Lebanese prime minister said that the UN tribunal should consider the information presented by Nasrallah, since Nasrallah’s words reflected the views of many in Lebanon.

The head of the UN tribunal Daniel Bellmer has reportedly received the contents of Nasrallah’s presentation and has asked to receive more details of the documents and films presented by Nasrallah.

The US Arms Bonanza in the Middle East: Counterpunch

Israel and Saudi Arabia to Buy Advanced War Planes
By JONATHAN COOK
Counterpunch, August 11, 2010

Two of the United States’ closest allies in the Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia, are on the brink of signing large arms deals with the US in a move designed to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, according to defence analysts.

America has agreed to sell Saudi Arabia 84 of the latest model of the F-15 jet and dozens of Black Hawk helicopters. The deal also includes refurbishing many of the kingdom’s older F-15s, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Israel is believed to have opposed the $30 billion deal. However, in a concession to Israel, the new F-15s, made by the Boeing Company, will not be equipped with the latest weapons and avionics systems available to the US military.

The last such major arms sale by the US to Saudi Arabia was in 1992, when the kingdom received 72 F-15s. On that occasion, Israel tried to block the $9bn deal by lobbying the US Congress, straining relations with the White House of George H W Bush.

Meanwhile, the US is preparing to provide Israel’s air force with the F-35, the latest jet fighter made by Lockheed Martin, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported last week.

The F-35’s stealth technology, which allows it to evade radar detection and anti-aircraft missiles, comes with a hefty price tag of up to $150 million a plane — a cost that Israel had been balking at.

But, according to the reports, the US has offered Israeli firms defence contracts worth $4bn to supply parts for the F-35 — a deal some Israeli analysts believe is designed to buy Israel’s silence over the Saudi deal and ensure it gets through the US Congress.

It is one of the largest such deals in Israel’s history and it would offset much of the cost to Israel of buying its first batch of F-35s.

The aircraft is not expected to enter service until 2014. If Israel signs up for a single squadron of 20 F-35s, as expected in the next few weeks, it would be the first country outside the US to secure the jet. Israel has been given an option to buy 55 more.

Last year Israel had threatened to abandon negotiations over the F-35 and opt instead to buy the advanced F-15. Saudi Arabia’s reported purchase of that jet appears to make such a scenario less likely.

The Obama administration has faced heavy lobbying from Israel to prevent the sale of the F-15s to Saudi Arabia.

“Today these planes are against Iran, tomorrow they might turn against us,” Haaretz quoted an unnamed security official as saying last month.

Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, told the Washington Post last month that the US administration was committed to making sure Israel was not left in an “inferior situation” and was “doing a lot to support Israel’s qualitative military edge”.

The Saudis have become one of the largest purchasers of US-made arms since they bought the first AWACS surveillance planes in the 1980s. According to a recent Congressional report, the Gulf kingdom spent $36 billion world-wide on arms in the seven years to 2008.

Today, Saudi Arabia has the third largest air force in the Middle East behind Israel and Iran. The Royal Saudi Air Force has 280 “combat capable” aircraft, according to data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, compared to Israel’s 424 and Iran’s 312.

The Wall Street Journal did not specify the model of F-15 being bought by Riyadh, but experts widely assumed it to be the upgraded Strike Eagle. The jet, designed for precision air-to-surface attacks, was the main one used by the US in destroying Iraq’s radar and missile systems during the 2003 invasion.

Analysts said the joint strengthening of the Saudi Arabian and Israeli militaries was seen as a key regional interest for the US, given the belief in Washington that Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear warhead and is rapidly amassing a large arsenal of missiles.

If, as Iran reportedly claimed last week, it is in possession of Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, the F-35 stealth technology would give Israel an important advantage in an attack.

However, some analysts have questioned the wisdom of the US arms sales.

Trita Parsi, an analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington and an expert on Israeli-Iranian relations, said it was a “misguided policy” aimed at keeping Tehran “isolated and subdued”.

“All that is achieved by heavily arming Arab states and Israel is to increase Iran’s sense of insecurity and therefore make the region less secure,” he said.

Stephen Zunes, a US-based Middle East policy analyst, accused Washington of setting the stage for another “arms race” in the region.

“This is a pattern we’ve seen before. The US offers Arab states expensive modern armaments, and then turns around to Israel and tells it it needs to have even better weapons to stay ahead in the race. Then the pressure again mounts on the Arab states. It’s a racket that has been a bonanza for US arms manufacturers,” he said.

Israel receives $3bn annually in US military aid, more than any other country and covering about a quarter of Israel’s defence expenditure. Unlike other recipients, Israel is allowed to spend 26 per cent of the aid on the development and production of its own weapons systems.

However, Israeli officials are reported to fear that a combined squeeze on the country’s defence budget and a massive outlay on buying a large number of F-35s would leave the military without money to replenish its stocks of ammunition and bombs.

Last month Washington agreed to an additional military subsidy of $420 million to help Israel develop its “missile shield” programmes, designed to intercept short-, mid- and long-range missiles.

Israel has been concerned by the growing stockpiles of rockets and missiles that Hamas and Hizbullah have accumulated close to its borders as well as the more advanced arsenals of Iran and Syria.

In addition to the question of the price of the F-35, Israel and the US have been at loggerheads over whether Israel should be allowed to install its own avionics and weapons systems. So far the US has refused, and last month denied Israel a test aircraft.

In the past, Tel Aviv and Washington have fallen out over Israel copying and selling on American systems to other regimes.

A shorter version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.

Israeli military chief defends Gaza flotilla raid: BBC

Lt Gen Gabi Ashkenazi said troops did not expect violence when they boarded the Gaza aid flotilla
The head of Israel’s military has defended its troops’ use of live ammunition during a deadly raid on an aid flotilla sailing to Gaza in May.

But Lt Gen Gabi Ashkenazi told an Israeli inquiry they underestimated the threat and should have used more force to subdue activists before boarding.

Nine people were killed on board the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, as it tried to breach an Israeli naval blockade.

Meanwhile, there is disagreement over a separate UN inquiry into the incident.

Israel has agreed it will co-operate only if its soldiers do not have to give evidence to investigators, who have begun work in New York. However, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has denied making such a deal.

There was widespread international criticism of Israel’s actions, which severely strained relations with its long-time Muslim ally, Turkey.

We should have ensured sterile conditions in order to dispatch the forces in a minimum amount of time”

‘Conflict was inevitable’

Testifying before the Turkel Commission in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Gen Ashkenazi said he took full responsibility for the army operation and was “proud” of the commandos who took part.

He said they had not prepared to meet violent resistance on board the ships, and that live fire was used only after the troops were fired on by pro-Palestinian activists and attacked with knives, clubs and metal rods.

But the general said “accurate weapons”, rather than stun grenades, should have been employed to incapacitate people on the deck of the ship before the commandos rappelled onto it.

“We should have ensured sterile conditions in order to dispatch the forces in a minimum amount of time,” he said. “It would have lowered the risk to our soldiers but it would not have prevented the tension… Once the decision was made to stop the ship, the conflict was inevitable.”

Those on board the Mavi Mamara, where the activists were killed, say the commandos opened fire as soon as they boarded the vessel, which was in international waters at the time.

The ship, Mavi Marmara, taking part in what activists called the “Freedom Flotilla” heading to Gaza
The BBC’s Paul Wood in Jerusalem says Gen Ashkenazi’s remarks can be seen as part of the internal blame-game being played out between Israel’s military and political leadership.

His testimony follows that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who suggested that the army – rather than the “political echelon” – was responsible for the way in which the raid had gone wrong.

On Monday, Mr Netanyahu insisted Israel had acted legally and that every diplomatic effort had been exerted to have the ships turn back or dock elsewhere.

He also accused the Turkish government of looking to gain from the high-profile confrontation.

Turkey has denied the claim and described the raid as “tantamount to banditry and piracy” and the killings as “state-sponsored terrorism”.

Multiple inquiries

The Turkel Commission, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Jacob Turkel and including two foreign observers, was set up by the Israeli government following the incident to consider whether international law was broken.

But some critics say its remit is too narrow. Other investigations are expected to be more analytical and critical of Israeli policy in the Gaza Strip. Turkey has begun its own investigation.

Last week, Mr Ban named the panel for a UN inquiry, which included representatives from Israel and Turkey.

He has insisted there was no “agreement behind the scene” with Israel that its soldiers would not be questioned.

However, an Israeli spokesman, Nir Hefetz, said it “would not co-operate with any commission that would ask to question soldiers”, and could instead rely on reports published last month by an internal military inquiry.

The inquiry found the commandos were under-prepared and that mistakes were made at a senior level.

But it also praised those involved and found the use of force had been the only way to stop the flotilla.

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

The blockade has been imposed on the coastal territory by Israel and Egypt since the Islamist militant group, Hamas, seized control in 2007.

The Israelis say it is intended to stop militants from obtaining rockets to attack them.

The restrictions have been widely described as a collective punishment of the population of Gaza.

The morning after the attack on Iran: Haaretz

How will the international community respond the next day?
By Ze’ev Maoz
One of the less discussed aspects of a possible Israeli attack on Iran is the international community’s response. A plausible scenario that should be taken into account is the possibility of massive international pressure on Israel. This would consist of American pressure (assuming the attack is carried out without the United States’ agreement ) for disarming from the nuclear weapons Israel supposedly has, or to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and subject its nuclear facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s supervision.

This scenario becomes less imaginary in view of the decision made by the treaty’s review conference in June regarding Israel, and especially the change in the United States’ position on the global nuclear arms issue. An attack launched by a state believed to possess nuclear weapons outside the NPT on another, even if the latter aspires to obtain nuclear weapons, will be comprehensively and totally condemned.
Even those few researchers of Israel’s defense policy who think, as I do, that Israel must reach an agreement to disarm the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction deem this scenario undesirable, to put it mildly. If Israel withstands the pressure, it could find itself in isolation, possibly including an embargo on weapons, materiel and equipment for both military and civilian uses. If Israel succumbs to the pressure, it will be forced to give up a strategic bargaining chip that could lead to a regional defense regimen, including a reliable nuclear demilitarization (with regional supervision and monitoring systems with higher credibility standards that IAEA’s ).

Yet again it transpires that Israel’s nuclear policy is fundamentally erroneous. There is no proof this policy has achieved even one of its declared goals. It did not prevent attacks on populated areas in the Gulf War, the Second Lebanon War or from Gaza. A nuclear threat cannot be used to quash an intifada. The peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, in which Israel’s nuclear capability played no role, significantly reduced the conventional threat on Israel. And most importantly, every time someone in the Middle East begins developing nuclear weapons, we stop believing in nuclear deterrence and set out to destroy the Arab/Iranian potential.

There is considerable evidence attesting that Israel’s nuclear capability constituted both an incentive and a model for the attempts of several states in the region to develop nuclear weapons, and accelerated the chemical and biological capabilities of Syria, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and even Egypt. If the Israeli offensive fails, or if Israel is “persuaded” to refrain from attacking and Iran obtains a nuclear capability, other states in the region could follow in its footsteps.

The reality of a nuclear Middle East is becoming increasingly likely. The dilemma Israel faces in the longer run is between a nuclear Middle East and a demilitarized one. Either everyone in the region has nuclear weapons or no state has.

The growing likelihood of tomorrow’s scenario also requires a reexamination of nuclear policy. An Israeli initiative for a complete demilitarization of the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction should be considered. Israel could lead a move that would create a defense regimen on its own terms – instead of unilateral disarmament following international pressure. The nuclear horizon is not so distant. It is time to consider what lies beyond it.

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August 11, 2010

EDITOR: You do not have to be an anti-Zionist to realise what is going on…

Even a devout Zionist like Yossi Sarid has noticed that the Israeli regime is somewhat odd… His call for its replacement is a call to save Zionism from itself, and is likely to go unheeded, but is interesting nonetheless.

Yossi Sarid / Dear citizens: you have been abandoned: Haaretz

It is a matter of life and death to get rid of this government. Don’t ask who the alternative is. If these bunglers have no replacement, the situation is very grave indeed.

After only two days of main testimony, we can already sum up: There is no longer any doubt that it was a failure, clearly the Israel Defense Forces is to blame. The Turkel Committee can begin formulating its conclusions.

It is also clear now why IDF commanders and soldiers are not allowed to give their version of events to the committee. First they duped us into believing that the leaders would protect them with leader-like chivalry. But now the picture is clearer: Netanyahu and Barak will point a finger at the army, while the army will be unable to respond and protect itself. Only the top soldier will have his say today, one against two, and try to extricate himself from the trap they set.

It is finally clear why the minister is so hell-bent on getting rid of the chief of staff. The person who shamed the government and presented it as an empty vessel full of disgrace must go home. The committee is also invited to help push Ashkenazi out. The scapegoat is ready, stewed in the milk of his superiors.

Was it not the IDF that was praised for its heroism and resourcefulness right after the flotilla, with people taking to the streets in its support? Was it not Ashkenazi who rehabilitated the bad old IDF that was defeated in Lebanon? Was not Defense Minister Barak plucked from his business only because he is an expert, as opposed to that total layman Amir Peretz? Suddenly, in two days of open doors and closed doors, once again our army is revealed in its powerlessness and poor judgment. Just ask Netanyahu and Barak.

The Turkel Committee, which was formed to investigate the flotilla, is actually investigating the situation. Here you have the two leaders, the first to jump ship. The only difference between them is that one looks frightened and tense, and the other haughty and self-assured.

At any moment he might sink his audience in a sea of details. I myself have been present on many such occasions. And he is ready at any given moment to pounce on the next adventure.

These were two days of neck-and-neck competition: Who will take more responsibility, while simultaneously fobbing it off on others. But responsibility is like respect – the more you run after it, the more it runs away. It will apparently catch up only with Ashkenazi, as it caught up with the chief of staff of the Yom Kippur War, David Elazar.

“I am responsible,” means I am a minister. But when was the last time a prime minister or a minister took responsibility, instead of just taking its name in vain?

The day after the flotilla, the title of this column was “Seven idiots in the cabinet.” Some people said we had exaggerated. Today, based on what has already been revealed, we may conclude that we have not been able to exaggerate for some time.

Caricatures of forum of seven senior ministers, From left: Benny Begin, Avigdor Lieberman, Moshe Ya’alon, Eli Yishai, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Dan Meridor

Photo by: Amos Biderman
The flotilla opening a small allegorical window, illuminating the situation in general: Dear citizens: you have been abandoned. If that is the way of the flotilla, just a flotilla, imagine true tests of peace and war, life and death.

It is a matter of life and death to get rid of this government. Don’t ask who the alternative is. If these bunglers have no replacement, the situation is very grave indeed.

EDITOR: Not surprising, but important and useful information

For those dear readers who were in doubt about Israeli war crimes in Gaza… the Guardian has started to collect information about this some time ago, and in the article this evidence is reinforced by three video reports. To view those use the link below.

A soldier’s word: Haaretz

Nighttime raids, pointed guns, arrests often accompanied by beatings, kicks, curses and painful and extended handcuffing. The ordinary behavior of Israeli children in uniform.
By Amira Hass
Children in the West Bank throw stones at army vehicles and Israeli cars, mainly those belonging to settlers. That is the undeniable truth. Throwing stones is the classic way of telling the occupier, who is armed from head to toe, that he has forced himself on the occupied. Sometimes it’s part of a sweeping resistance movement, sometimes it’s a ceremonial remnant of such a movement, not devoid of braggadocio and adolescent boredom, while also a reminder to adults not to adapt.

The armed occupier bellows that this is violence, an offense just a step away from firearms. The violence of the occupier is the norm that no one questions, so much so that it becomes invisible. Only the response to that norm is presented and perceived as criminal, and the occupying nation wallows pleasurably in its eternal victimhood to justify its violent actions.

The army, especially the military justice system, has abundant means to deter young people from taking part in those ceremonies to ward off adjustment. Nighttime raids, pointed guns, arrests often accompanied by beatings, kicks, curses and painful and extended handcuffing. The ordinary behavior of Israeli children in uniform, completely normative. From the frightening conditions of such arrests, Palestinian children are taken straight to interrogation. This, too, involves intimidation, threats and sometimes a blow, sometimes temptation: Admit that you threw stones and we’ll let you go. Because detention until the end of legal proceedings might be longer than the sentence itself, sometimes it’s preferable to admit to something you did not do.

Eight 16-year-old students at the El-Arub agricultural school refused to be part of the statistic of confessions under pressure in the so-called military justice system. Three soldiers who arrested them in October 2008 testified to the police that their detainees had thrown stones on Route 60, and the soldiers caught them on the road after chasing them. The indictments were tailored to the soldiers’ account of events.

But the truth was that the teens were pulled out of their classrooms by soldiers who drove into the school compound. The police did not bother to question the principal and his teachers, the prosecution did not append corroborating evidence to the “stone-throwing incident” (such as documentation of the incident by the police or an army war room ). And still, the military judge extended the remand of the eight teens until the end of the proceedings. A soldier’s word against the word of a Palestinian boy.

The appeals judge was somewhat discomfitted by the vague testimony the soldiers gave the police and ordered the boys released on very high bail. The military prosecution tried, as usual, to get the defense attorney (from the Ad-Damir human rights group ), to sign a plea bargain (you confess, we’ll ask for a suspended sentence and a fine ), to save everyone’s time, especially the court’s. The boys were adamant in their refusal. The three soldiers, therefore, had to testify in court after they were warned to tell the truth, and they were very unconvincing.

On July 12, after almost two years of “wasting the court’s time,” the prosecution asked that the indictments be dropped. According to the IDF Spokesman’s Office, “there was no determination by a court of law that the soldiers lied in their testimony,” which is true, and that “in agreeing to drop the indictment there is no implication regarding the credibility of the soldiers’ testimony.” Sure.

Indeed, the soldiers acted the way many had acted before them. What they did is not devoid of the adolescent braggadocio that their society accepts affectionately and leniently. In particular, they are obeying unwritten orders to deter potential activists against the occupation. Blows, twisting the truth and intimidation are all part of the system they did not invent.

Guardian investigation uncovers evidence of alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza: The Guardian

Palestinians claim children were used as human shields and hospitals targeted during 23-day conflict

The Guardian has compiled detailed evidence of alleged war crimes committed by Israel during the 23-day offensive in the Gaza Strip earlier this year, involving the use of Palestinian children as human shields and the targeting of medics and hospitals.

A month-long investigation also obtained evidence of civilians being hit by fire from unmanned drone aircraft said to be so accurate that their operators can tell the colour of the clothes worn by a target.

The testimonies form the basis of three Guardian films which add weight to calls this week for a full inquiry into the events surrounding Operation Cast Lead, which was aimed at Hamas but left about 1,400 Palestinians dead, including more than 300 children.

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) refused to respond directly to the allegations made against its troops, but issued statements denying the charges and insisted international law had been observed.

The latest disclosures follow soldiers’ evidence published in the Israeli press about the killing of Palestinian civilians and complaints by soldiers involved in the military operation that the rules of engagement were too lax.

Amnesty International has said Hamas should be investigated for executing at least two dozen Palestinian men in an apparent bout of score-settling with rivals and alleged collaborators while Operation Cast Lead was under way.

Human rights groups say the vast majority of offences were committed by Israel, and that the Gaza offensive was a disproportionate response to Hamas rocket attacks. Since 2002, there have been 21 Israeli deaths by Hamas rockets fired from Gaza, and during Operation Cast Lead there were three Israeli civilian deaths, six Israeli soldiers killed by Palestinian fire and four killed by friendly fire.

“Only an investigation mandated by the UN security council can ensure Israel’s co-operation, and it’s the only body that can secure some kind of prosecution,” said Amnesty’s Donatella Rovera, who spent two weeks in Gaza investigating war crime allegations. “Without a proper investigation there is no deterrent. The message remains the same: ‘It’s OK to do these things, there won’t be any real consequences’.”

Some of the most dramatic testimony gathered by the Guardian came from three teenage brothers in the al-Attar family. They describe how they were taken from home at gunpoint, made to kneel in front of Israeli tanks to deter Hamas fighters from firing, and sent by Israeli soldiers into Palestinian houses to clear them. “They would make us go first so if any fighters shot at them the bullets would hit us, not them,” 14-year-old Al’a al-Attar said.

Medics and ambulance drivers said they were targeted when they tried to tend to the wounded; sixteen were killed. According to the World Health Organisation, more than half of Gaza’s 27 hospitals and 44 clinics were damaged by Israeli bombs.
In a report released today, a medical human rights group said there was “certainty” that Israel violated international humanitarian law during the war, with attacks on medics, damage to medical buildings, indiscriminate attacks on civilians and delays in medical treatment for the injured.

“We have noticed a stark decline in IDF morals concerning the Palestinian population of Gaza, which in reality amounts to a contempt for Palestinian lives,” said Dani Filc, chairman of Physicians for Human Rights Israel. The Guardian gathered testimony on missile attacks by Israeli drones against clearly distinguishable civilian targets. In one case a family of six was killed when a missile hit the courtyard of their house. Israel has not admitted using drones but experts say their optical equipment is good enough to identify individual items of clothing worn by targets. The Geneva convention makes it clear medical staff and hospitals are not legitimate targets and forbids involuntary human shields.
The army responded to the claims. “The IDF operated in accordance with rules of war and did the utmost to minimise harm to civilians uninvolved in combat. The IDF’s use of weapons conforms to international law,” it said. The IDF said an investigation was under way into allegations hospitals were targeted. It said Israeli soldiers were under orders to avoid harming medics, but: “However, in light of the difficult reality of warfare in the Gaza Strip carried out in urban and densely populated areas, medics who operate in the area take the risk upon themselves.”

Use of human shields was outlawed by Israel’s supreme court in 2005 after a string of incidents. The IDF said only Hamas used human shields by launching attacks from civilian areas. An Israeli embassy spokesman said any claims were suspect because of Hamas pressure on witnesses. “Anyone who understands the realities of Gaza will know these people are not free to speak the truth. Those that wish to speak out cannot for fear of beatings, torture or execution at the hands of Hamas,” the spokesman said in a written statement.

However, the accounts gathered by the Guardian are supported by the findings of human rights organisations and soldiers’ testimony published in the Israeli press.

An IDF squad leader is quoted in the daily newspaper Ha’aretz as saying his soldiers interpreted the rules to mean “we should kill everyone there [in the centre of Gaza]. Everyone there is a terrorist.”

• This article was updated on Tuesday March 24 2009 to reflect changes made for the first edition of the Guardian newspaper.

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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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August 3, 2010

Academic Boycott against Israel? Umberto Eco misses the point: PACBI

This opinion piece has a story behind it. When Umberto Eco’s harsh opinion piece against the cultural boycott of Israel appeared in the Italian newspaper L’espresso [1], PACBI decided that a rebuttal was in order. Two PACBI members contacted the newspaper through an Italian colleague to ask that a rebuttal be published in the newspaper. After much negotiation and many emails exchanged with one of the editors, the rebuttal was pared down to a bare minimum, and the newspaper agreed to publish it on 2 July 2010 in the letters section of the paper [2]. However, it transpired that the published version had been further cut down, and that the identities of the authors had not been included. This is indeed a sad commentary on the state of press freedom in Italy, where influential figures are allowed freedom to defend Israel and its criminal acts while those with opposing views are not accorded the space to express their opposition to these views.

[1] http://espresso.repubblica.it/dettaglio/boicottiamo-i-latinisti-israeliani/2127031
[2] http://espresso.repubblica.it/dettaglio/per-posta-per-email/2130083

*********
On 14 May 2010, on the pages of L’espresso [1], Umberto Eco attacked the growing efforts in Italy in support of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), arguing that “any political position, any polemic against a government, should not involve a whole people and an entire culture.” We agree. But how is that relevant to the debate on the merits of an academic boycott against Israel? Our campaign has consistently targeted Israel and its complicit institutions, not individuals.

One of the most important lessons learned from the global struggle against apartheid South Africa is that refusing to deal on a business-as-usual basis with institutions that are complicit in grave and persistent human rights violations is not only justified; it is an ethical duty for conscientious intellectuals the world over. By colluding in policies that are contrary to international law and infringe fundamental rights, institutions become responsible and therefore accountable. All Israeli academic institutions, without exception, fall into this category, making a call to boycott them imperative in the struggle for upholding Palestinian rights and ending Israel’s occupation and system of racial discrimination that fits the definition of apartheid in the UN Convention for the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.

At a time when Israel is flouting international law with utter impunity, attacking civilian ships carrying humanitarian relief to 1.5 million Palestinians suffering under years of an illegal Israeli siege, killing and injuring scores of unarmed aid workers and other activists, the silence of the Israeli academy is louder than ever. This is quite predictable, though. At no time in their history have Israeli academic institutions, professional associations, or unions of academics condemned the occupation. They never voiced any opposition to repeated Israeli military closures of Palestinian universities, sometimes for four consecutive years, let alone to the denial of the UN-sanctioned rights of the Palestinian refugees. When Palestinian students were detained during the first intifada (1987-92) for carrying textbooks or lecturers arrested for conducting “clandestine” classes, the Israeli academy remained shamefully silent, and Israeli academics for the most part continued propagating a deceptive image of Israel as an enlightened “democracy.”

Israel has, in fact, imposed a strict siege upon Palestinian institutions of higher education for the past three decades. That these institutions have survived and are flourishing is a testimony to their determination and perseverance to resist in their own way an oppressive military regime bent on silencing the voice of the Palestinian academy. In Gaza, Israel imposes a blanket academic boycott, among other forms of siege, preventing almost all scholars from entering or leaving the Strip. The latest manifestation of the siege on Palestinian universities—boycott, in fact– was the disdainful and arrogant Israeli act of denying entry to renowned scholar Noam Chomsky to speak at Birzeit University.

Understanding the entrenched collusion of the Israeli academy with the structures of oppression in that country, prominent Israeli historian Ilan Pappe stated as early as 2005 that “the boycott reached academia because academia in Israel chose to be official.” [2] Citing research by a fellow Israeli academic that revealed that “out of 9,000 members of academia in Israel, only 30-40 are actively engaged in reading significant criticism, and a smaller number, just three or four, are teaching their students in a critical manner about Zionism and so on,” Pappe concludes, “academia has chosen to be the official Israeli propaganda. … Academia is Israel’s most important ambassador in making the claim that we are the only democracy in the Middle East.”

During Israel’s war of aggression on Gaza in 2008-2009, when more than 1400 people, predominantly civilians, were killed; thousands of homes were destroyed along with tens of schools and UN shelters, hospitals and clinics were targeted and the largest Palestinian university was bombed by F-16s, the Israeli academy was not just a “neutral observer.” Several universities contributed actively to the war crimes committed against Palestinians.

For instance, Tel Aviv University (TAU) directly collaborated in developing weapons and military doctrines that were used in Israel’s massive aggression against Gaza, a war that was condemned by the Goldstone Report and the UN General Assembly as constituting war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. [3]

Other universities in Israel fared no better. A study [4] commissioned by the Israeli Alternative Information Center (AIC) documents myriad facets of academic complicity in Israel. Ariel College is built on occupied Palestinian territory, making it an illegal “academic” colony. So is one of the two campuses of the Hebrew University, built in occupied East Jerusalem, in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Technion plays a key role in developing weapons systems used against Palestinian civilians. In fact, institutional complicity with Israel’s security and military establishment is the norm in the entire academy, which takes pride, openly, in this partnership.

Even speaking out for the most basic demands of academic freedom for Palestinians is opposed by an overwhelming majority of Israeli academics. Expressing “great concern regarding the ongoing deterioration of the system of higher education in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” four Jewish-Israeli academics in 2008 drafted a petition [5] calling on their government to “allow students and lecturers free access to all the campuses in the Territories ….” Although the petition was sent to all 9,000 plus Israeli academics, only 407 signed it – slightly over 4%.

Despite this widespread complicity, PACBI has consistently made a clear distinction between targeting institutions and individual academics; we rejected the latter, focusing all our energies on an institutional boycott. This stems from our opposition, on principle, to political tests or “black-listing.”

Inspired by the South African struggle for freedom, PACBI and the increasing number of academic boycott campaigns around the world believe that the Israeli academy should not be automatically exempted from the boycott, especially when its role in whitewashing and perpetuating war crimes is beyond doubt.

[1] http://espresso.repubblica.it/dettaglio/boicottiamo-i-latinisti-israeliani/2127031
[2] Meron Rapoport, “Alone on the Barricades” (interview with Ilan Pappe), Haaretz. 6 May 2005
[3] http://www.electronicintifada.net/downloads/pdf/090708-soas-palestine-society.pdf
[4] http://alternativenews.org/images/stories/downloads/Economy_of_the_occupation_23-24.pdf
[5] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=792&key=407

Boycott of Israel 2, by Carlos Latuff

Editor: Preparations for another war?

It is customary for Israel to destroy South Lebanon and Beirut every couple of years, as we all know. The last time it was done for Summer 2006, so it is high time for the next madness to begin. The activities which led to this latest incident may well be part of the preparation for the next war.

Four die as Lebanon and Israel clash: The Independent

Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Toops exchanged fire on the border today in a battle which started over the trimming of a tree

Four people died when Lebanese and Israeli troops exchanged fire on the border today in a battle which started over the trimming of a tree.

It was the most serious clashes in four years, the victims included two Lebanese soldiers and an Israeli army officer.
The violence apparently erupted after Israeli soldiers went to cut down a tree along the fence dividing the two countries, a sign of the level of tensions in an area where Israel fought a war in 2006 with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

The UN urged “maximum restraint” and said it was working with both sides to restore calm. After an initial clash of about five minutes, intermittent shelling and gunfire went on for several hours until the fighting stopped by mid-afternoon.

A Lebanese army officer said the battle started when Israeli troops tried to remove a tree from the Lebanese side of the border.

“It was over the fence but still within Israeli territory,” a military spokesman said.

Ronith Daher, 32, a Lebanese journalist who was at the scene, said she saw a UN peacekeeper ask Israel not to allow the Israeli soldier to cross the fence and warned them the Lebanese troops would open fire. The Israelis proceeded, however, and Lebanese soldiers fired into the air. She said the Israelis fired back directly at the Lebanese soldiers.

The Israeli military’s northern commander, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, however, accused Lebanese forces of shooting toward forces inside Israeli territory without any provocation.” He said that while soldiers were removing bushes by the fence, Lebanese military snipers shot two officers who were more than 300 yards away from the fence.

The military announced that a 45-year-old battalion commander was killed and a captain was critically wounded.

A spokesman said Israel responded with infantry, tanks and artillery fire, and later sent helicopters and artillery fire at a Lebanese army base and command centre.

Residents near the Fatima Gate, a one-time border crossing with Israel, briefly blocked a road as UN peacekeepers tried to pass, shouting: “Are you here to protect us or are you here to run away?”

Many in the area view the international force with mistrust, and there have been skirmishes between residents and the peacekeepers in the past.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman denounced the fighting and urged the army commander to “confront any Israeli aggression whatever the sacrifices.”

A Lebanese officer said one of the Israeli shells hit a house in the Lebanese border town of Adeisseh. One civilian was wounded in the shelling, he said. A security official also said a Lebanese journalist working for the daily Al-Akhbar newspaper, Assaf Abu Rahhal, was killed when an Israeli shell landed next to him in Adeisseh.

The border has been relatively quiet since the summer 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war that left 1,200 Lebanese and about 160 Israelis dead.

EDITOR: Academic Freedom Israeli style

Academics can say anything they wish, in Israel – it is of course a Jewish democracy – a democracy for Jews only – but even Jews are to be targeted if they speak; They will still be able to say whay they wish, for the time being, but will lose their livelihood. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Head of Israeli University Demands Ouster of Professors Who Support Boycott: PACBI

The president of Bar-Ilan University has called for Israeli professors who support an academic boycott of their country to quit or be fired.

The statement comes as Israel’s parliament debates legislation that would allow lawsuits against academics and others who support various boycotts of the Jewish state. The bill is not expected to become law, but it is generating questions about the role of scholars at public universities in Israel.

Bar-Ilan’s Moshe Kaveh, a former chairman of Israel’s Committee of University Presidents, is the first leader of an Israeli university to back the dismissal of the handful of Israeli professors who publicly expressed support for a boycott. Last year the president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev had no kind words for Neve Gordon, a professor of politics and government, for advocating an international academic boycott, but did not fire him.

“It’s easy to be brave when criticizing, but someone who has the courage to criticize the institution where he works should also have the courage to quit—and, if not, I as president will make it happen,” Mr. Kaveh told a Jewish education-and-culture festival on Thursday during a panel discussion with the education minister, Gideon Sa’ar, on the nature of Jewish identity.

“How can it be that a faculty member can stand in class and say to his students, ‘Boycott the State of Israel?’ Someone who criticizes the place where he works is ethically obliged to resign,” said Mr. Kaveh.

His remarks were greeted with warm applause from the audience and from the education minister, Israel Army Radio reported.

“When you call for an academic boycott of Israel, you don’t just do harm to the institution that pays your salary. You also harm academic freedom,” Mr. Sa’ar responded.

Menachem Klein, a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan who is firmly opposed to a boycott, said nonetheless that Mr. Kaveh “disregards the fundamental element of academic research.”

“I wish to remind Professor Kaveh.” he said, “that university researchers’ primary responsibility and loyalty are to universal-humanistic values that direct their scientific research, not to their employer.”

http://chronicle.com/article/Head-of-Israeli-University/123679/

Israeli officer killed in clash on Israel-Lebanon border: Haaretz

3 Lebanese soldiers, one journalist killed as Israeli and Lebanese soldiers exchange fire at border; second Israeli officer seriously wounded.
One Israeli officer was killed during clashes between Israel and the Lebanese army along the border on Tuesday. 45-year-old Lt. Col. Dov Harari, from Netanya, was a reserves battalion commander in the engineering corps.
Another Israeli officer sustained severe wounds and has been admitted to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. He is in stable condition.

Lebanese and Israeli troops exchanged fire on the border Tuesday in the most serious clashes since a fierce war four years ago, and Lebanon said at least three of its soldiers and a journalist were killed in shelling.

The violence apparently erupted over a move by Israeli soldiers to trim some hedges along the border, a sign of the level of tensions at the frontier where Israel fought a war in 2006 with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Harari, father of four, was killed by sniper fire directed at his post. The other officer at the post was captain Ezra Lakia, who was seriously wounded. The two were situated some 300 meters from the border within Israel in a position to oversee the trimming of the bushes along the border fence.

Israel Defense Forces GOC Northern Command Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot announced Tuesday that the two Israeli officers had been very seriously hit during the exchange of fire. Eizenkot said that the incident had been a “deliberate ambush.”

Eizenkot told Israeli media that “a routine operation was carried out during the afternoon near Misgav Am – an operation whose purpose was to trim some bushes near the border, in our [Israeli] territory. It was on both sides of the border but still within [Israeli] territory. Officers oversaw the operation from a permanent position. Sniper fire was directed at the officers, and two of them were wounded as a result.”

The GOC Northern Command stressed that “this was a pre-planned event, aggression by the Lebanese army who shot at soldiers inside Israeli territory without any provocation. We view this as a very severe incident.”

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August 1, 2010

Boycott Israel 1 by Carlos Latuff

Robert Fisk: Israel has crept into the EU without anyone noticing: The Independent

Saturday, 31 July 2010
There was a Nato-Israeli exercise in progress. Well, that’s OK then. Now imagine the death of five Hamas fighters in a helicopter crash in Romania this week. We’d still be investigating this extraordinary phenomenon. Now mark you, I’m not comparing Israel and Hamas. Israel is the country that justifiably slaughtered more than 1,300 Palestinians in Gaza 19 months ago – more than 300 of them children – while the vicious, blood-sucking and terrorist Hamas killed 13 Israelis (three of them soldiers who actually shot each other by mistake).

But there is one parallel. Judge Richard Goldstone, the eminent Jewish South African judge, decided in his 575-page UN inquiry into the Gaza bloodbath that both sides had committed war crimes – he was, of course, quite rightly called “evil” by all kinds of justifiably outraged supporters of Israel in the US, his excellent report rejected by seven EU governments – and so a question presents itself. What is Nato doing when it plays war games with an army accused of war crimes?

Or, more to the point, what on earth is the EU doing when it cosies up to the Israelis? In a remarkable, detailed – if slightly over-infuriated – book to be published in November, the indefatigable David Cronin is going to present a microscopic analysis of “our” relations with Israel. I have just finished reading the manuscript. It leaves me breathless. As he says in his preface, “Israel has developed such strong political and economic ties to the EU over the past decade that it has become a member state of the union in all but name.” Indeed, it was Javier Solana, the grubby top dog of the EU’s foreign policy (formerly Nato secretary general), who actually said last year that “Israel, allow me to say, is a member of the European Union without being a member of the institution”.

Pardon me? Did we know this? Did we vote for this? Who allowed this to happen? Does David Cameron – now so forcefully marketing Turkish entry to the EU – agree with this? Probably yes, since he goes on calling himself a “friend of Israel” after that country produced an excellent set of forged British passports for its murderers in Dubai. As Cronin says, “the EU’s cowardice towards Israel is in stark contrast to the robust position it has taken when major atrocities have occurred in other conflicts”. After the Russia-Georgia war in 2008, for example, the EU tasked an independent mission to find out if international law had been flouted, and demanded an international inquiry into human rights abuses after Sri Lanka’s war against the Tamil Tigers. Cronin does not duck Europe’s responsibility for the Jewish Holocaust and agrees that there will always be a “moral duty” on our governments to ensure it never happens again – though I did notice that Cameron forgot to mention the 1915 Armenian Holocaust when he was sucking up to the Turks this week.

But that’s not quite the point. In 1999, Britain’s arms sales to Israel – a country occupying the West Bank (and Gaza, too) and building illegal colonies for Jews and Jews only on Arab land – were worth £11.5m; within two years, this had almost doubled to £22.5m. This included small arms, grenade-making kits and equipment for fighter jets and tanks. There were a few refusals after Israel used modified Centurion tanks against the Palestinians in 2002, but in 2006, the year in which Israel slaughtered another 1,300 Lebanese, almost all of them civilians, in another crusade against Hizbollah’s “world terror”, Britain granted over 200 weapons licences.

Some British equipment, of course, heads for Israel via the US. In 2002, Britain gave “head-up displays” manufactured by BAE Systems for Lockheed Martin which promptly installed them in F-16 fighter-bombers destined for Israel. The EU did not object. In the same year, it should be added, the British admitted to training 13 members of the Israeli military. US planes transporting weapons to Israel at the time of the 2006 Lebanon war were refuelled at British airports (and, alas, it appears at Irish airports too). In the first three months of 2008, we gave licenses for another £20m of weapons for Israel – just in time for Israel’s onslaught on Gaza. Apache helicopters used against Palestinians, says Cronin, contain parts made by SPS Aerostructures in Nottinghamshire, Smiths Industries in Cheltenham, Page Aerospace in Middlesex and Meggit Avionics in Hampshire.

Need I go on? Israel, by the way, has been praised for its “logistics” help to Nato in Afghanistan – where we are annually killing even more Afghans than the Israelis usually kill Palestinians – which is not surprising since Israel military boss Gabi Ashkenazi has visited Nato headquarters in Brussels to argue for closer ties with Nato. And Cronin convincingly argues an extraordinary – almost obscenely beautiful – financial arrangement in “Palestine”. The EU funds millions of pounds’ worth of projects in Gaza. These are regularly destroyed by Israel’s American-made weaponry. So it goes like this. European taxpayers fork out for the projects. US taxpayers fork out for the weapons which Israel uses to destroy them. Then EU taxpayers fork out for the whole lot to be rebuilt. And then US taxpayers… Well, you’ve got the point. Israel, by the way, already has an “individual co-operation programme” with Nato, locking Israel into Nato’s computer networks.

All in all, it’s good to have such a stout ally as Israel on our side, even if its army is a rabble and some of its men war criminals. Come to that, why don’t we ask Hizbollah to join Nato as well – just imagine how its guerrilla tactics would benefit our chaps in Helmand. And since Israel’s Apache helicopters often kill Lebanese civilians – a whole ambulance of women and children in 1996, for example, blown to pieces by a Boeing Hellfire AGM 114C air-to-ground missile – let’s hope the Lebanese can still send a friendly greeting to the people of Nottinghamshire, Middlesex, Hampshire and, of course, Cheltenham.

Erekat to Haaretz: New proposal more generous than deal we offered Olmert: Haaretz

Chief PA negotiator says peace proposal is more generous to Israel than the demands presented by Mahmoud Abbas to former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
The Palestinian Authority has submitted a far-reaching peace proposal to the Obama administration that is more generous to Israel than the demands presented by Mahmoud Abbas to former prime minister Ehud Olmert, the chief PA negotiator told Haaretz on Saturday.
“I presented Senator George Mitchell with a series of official documents,” Erekat said, referring to the special U.S. envoy to the Middle East. “We gave him maps and papers that clearly state our positions on all the final-status issues: borders, Jerusalem, refugees, water and security. Thus far we have not received any answer from the Israeli side.”

When asked if the Palestinian positions were similar to those presented during talks with Olmert, Erekat replied: “It’s more than that. I cannot go into details on what exactly was proposed, but Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] offered more in these documents than what he proposed to Olmert in the past. Abu Mazen took bigger steps to reach peace.”

Earlier this year Erekat distributed a document to European diplomats saying the PA had offered Olmert a swap that would let Israel annex 1.9 percent of the West Bank. The document also claimed that the PA had expressed a willingness to accept an Israeli proposal to allow 15,000 Palestinian refugees to return to the country every year over 10 years.

International media outlets reported earlier this year that the PA had agreed to land swaps equaling 2.3 percent, while another report said it had accepted a swap of 3.8 percent. Erekat confirmed to Haaretz that the Palestinians have become more flexible on this issue.

He denied reports in the Arab media over the weekend that the Obama administration had threatened sanctions against the PA – perhaps even the severing of ties – if Abbas did not agree to enter direct talks with Israel over a final-status agreement.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian lawmaker and a member of the PLO central committee, told the pan-Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi that Washington “applied tremendous pressures on the Palestinian Authority so that it would move to direct talks.”

Ashrawi said the United States threatened to downgrade or even sever ties with Ramallah.

Another Arab language newspaper, Al-Hayat, reported that Obama had sent a special communique to Abbas last month that said Washington would not work to extend the Israeli construction freeze in West Bank settlements if the Palestinian leader continued to oppose direct negotiations. According to the report, Obama made clear to Abbas that the United States would reject any Palestinian efforts to appeal to the Security Council in lieu of direct talks with Israel.

During an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Thursday, Abbas said he had been subject to intense pressure to agree to direct talks. Erekat confirmed that many Arab leaders sought to persuade the Palestinian leader to reconsider his position, but he denied any suggestions that Washington had threatened the PA.

“[The communique] stated that if the Palestinians do not enter direct discussions, reaching a two-state solution will be even more difficult and the Americans’ ability to help in that regard will be even more limited,” Erekat said. “There were no threats.”

Erekat also denied a report by Israel Radio that Haim Ramon, a former minister and lawmaker from the opposition Kadima party, had urged the PA not to enter into direct negotiations with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I am astounded at times to see how low these stories can go,” Erekat said. “Ramon didn’t tell me to enter direct talks or not to enter them. Such a thing never happened, and no Israeli will tell us anything along those lines.”

Erekat also denied that Ramon had been sent at the behest of President Shimon Peres. “Do not drag us into your internal politics,” he added.

“Shimon himself tells me every time we meet, ‘Go into direct talks,'” Erekat said. “I meet with many Israelis but I do not accept instructions from them or from Ramon.”

Peres is scheduled to depart for Cairo Sunday for a meeting with President Hosni Mubarak. The two leaders will discuss the latest efforts to renew direct talks between Israel and the PA.

Peres is expected to urge Mubarak to continue to press Abbas to begin direct discussions with Israel. He is expected to say Israel is serious in its intentions to advance the peace process.

Israeli air strikes on Gaza kill Hamas commander: The Guardian

Eleven others wounded as warplanes target five sites across terrirory in biggest attack since three-week offensive in 2009

A man carries a wounded young Palestinian to al-Shifa hospital after Israeli air strikes in Gaza City. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images
Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip have killed a Hamas commander and wounded 11 other people.

Warplanes fired missiles at five targets across Gaza, including Gaza City, last night for the first time since Israel’s three-week offensive in the territory ended 18 months ago.

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the territory, said the man killed was Issa Batran, 42, a commander of its military wing in central Gaza and a rocket maker. Eight of its supporters and three civilians were also injured.

The air raids came after a Palestinian rocket attack struck the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon on Friday, causing no casualties but damaging buildings and cars in the city.

The city’s mayor said the attack was the most serious since the end of Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli offensive that left around 1,400 Palestinians dead, in January last year. Renegade militant groups have fired dozens of rockets and mortars into southern Israel since then, although most of those attack have been ineffective, with rockets mostly landing in open fields.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, earlier said he took the rocket attack on Ashkelon, which lies seven miles north of Gaza, “very seriously”. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The cross-border violence has raised concerns of further escalation.

A Hamas spokesman said the group would avenge Batran’s killing.

“Hamas will not be quiet over the blood of its martyrs,” said Hamad al-Rakabi. “Israel is opening all the gates of fire. This blood will cascade into rage and fire.”

The targets hit in last night’s air strike included a military training camp in Gaza City, smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border and Batran’s shack, on the outskirts of the Nusseirat refugee camp, according to Hamas security officials.

Lieberman for prime minister: Haaretz

With Lieberman as prime minister, extremism would no longer need to hide. The right would be a genuine right – fascist, racist, supporting the transfer of Arabs and giving the peace process no chance.
By Zvi Bar’el
As long as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did not agree to hold direct talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s situation was excellent. The refusenik was on the other side, as usual. The fact that Israel has refused to commit to the 1967 borders and agree to extend the freeze on settlement construction, while continuing to build in East Jerusalem, did not change Abbas’ status as a refusenik.

But Abbas is not refusing to hold direct talks, he is only refusing to accept what Netanyahu told Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos: Continuing the settlement freeze after September 26 is impossible from a political point of view and will break up the government, as will Abbas’ other demands, which Netanyahu described as “unrealistic.” So with whom exactly does Netanyahu want Abbas to hold direct talks? With a phantom prime minister? With the man afraid of his own coalition’s shadow?

On Thursday the Arab League’s Monitoring Committee decided to “permit” Abbas to hold direct negotiations. Everything, of course, based on terms Abbas has set. Nothing has changed in principle – neither the position of the Arab League nor of Abbas. What has changed is the commitment that Abbas received from Washington, the kind that will let the Arab League give a green light to direct negotiations.

The result is that the negotiations with the Palestinians are being conducted over Netanyahu’s head, on the Washington-Ramallah-Cairo-Riyadh axis. While Netanyahu is promising not to extend the settlement freeze as he approves the continued “Judaization” of Jerusalem, someone is holding genuine negotiations. While Netanyahu is dealing with the details of the show – direct or indirect negotiations – Washington and its allies are dealing with the content.

When the prime minister finds it hard to comprehend the change in the position of Abbas and the Arab League, when he says he can’t meet the conditions because of coalition problems, we can question why this government should continue. Why not go to elections and try to establish a new Israeli leadership that can really lead?

The answer so oft repeated is that elections will produce an extreme right-wing government and halt the peace process. Really? And what kind of government is currently in power? Is it really the coalition that is threatening to bring down the government if its head makes a move toward the Palestinians? Isn’t it the people furthest to the right, the more nationalist, who are setting this government’s character and policy?

Anyone who believes in Netanyahu’s good intentions cannot ignore that he has become a front – not to say a cartoon – that the extreme right is hiding behind. This impressive man, who speaks English so well, is at the receiving end of blows, not the real warmongers. Anyone who does not believe Netanyahu believes that it’s a show and that there is no difference between Lieberman’s right-wing and Bibi’s right-wing. In both cases, this prime minister cannot achieve peace and will not advance the negotiations, and because of him relations between Israel and the United States may collapse.

And what if Lieberman wins the elections? First of all we will be rid of his bluffing, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. With Lieberman as prime minister, the process could turn out faster. Pressure from the United States would be less hesitant, and the public response less ambivalent. With Lieberman as prime minister, extremism would no longer need to hide. The right would be a genuine right – fascist, racist, supporting the transfer of Arabs and giving the peace process no chance.

But then the left will somehow be able to revive, because anyone who is not from Habayit Hayehudi or Yisrael Beiteinu will be able to set up his own hostel and not be a guest at the shack set up by the right. People today in the center will not be shy about embracing their leftist leanings.

Anyone who fears elections wants to continue living a lie in which the extreme right does not dictate policy, in which Abbas, Haim Ramon or Shimon Peres are the enemies of peace, and in which salvation is possible only with direct talks. Idiocy. Until we have leaders who understand how dangerous the slope is on which Israel is racing, the slope will not disappear. Sometimes, when it’s impossible to stop the fall, it’s best to speed it up.

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