Decemebr 25, 2012

Xmas in Palestine

EDITOR: Christmas news…

For those who, like me, had to puke over Netanyahu’s Christmas speech, the piece below is doubly poignant. All over Israel, the only Jewish democracy in the Middle East, special forces are seeking and destroying Christmas trees, and Silvester parties have made illegal. I may be wrong, but this has still not happened in the Iranian Islamic Republic…

Forbidden to celebrate: Israel’s war on Christmas continues despite Netanyahu’s claim of tolerance: Electronic Intifada

Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Tue, 12/25/2012 – 18:09

Palestinian children play outside Deir Latin church in Gaza City on Christmas Eve 2012.

(Ezz Al-Zanoon /APA images)

In his Christmas greeting video, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted of Israel’s supposed religious tolerance.

“Today Christian communities around the Middle East are shrinking and in danger. This is of course not true in Israel. Here there’s a strong, growing Christian community that participates fully in the life of our country,” Netanyahu said.

Vowing to “continue to protect freedom of religion and thought,” Netanyahu also promised “to safeguard Christian places of worship throughout our country” and not to “tolerate any acts of violence or discrimination against any place of worship.”

Making a pitch for Christian Zionist tourism he urged listeners to “Come see our ancient land with your own eyes. Visit Nazareth and Bethlehem, wade in the Jordan River, stand on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and next year come visit our eternal capital, Jerusalem.”

His inclusion of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, as well as the banks of the Jordan River, can be taken as another affirmation that Israel, despite its rhetoric, has no interest in a “two-state solution” and intends to absorb all of historic Palestine as an exclusively “Jewish state.”

Disappearing Christmas trees

Netanyahu’s professions of tolerance would have come as news to Palestinian Christian students at Safad Academic College in the Galilee. There, students who could not get home for the holidays bought a Christmas tree and set it up outside their dorm.

But in the evening when they got back from class, they found the tree was gone, Israel’s Walla! News reported.

“This is the saddest Christmas,” said Gabriel Mansour, 24, a third-year political science student, identified by Walla! as a representative of Arab students. “All we wanted to do was provide some good cheer for all the students who remained alone in the dorms, and who were unable to go home to their families.”

When Mansour investigated, he was told by college officials that the tree had been hidden lest it spark riots among the Jewish students.

“I was angry to hear this,” said Mansour of the claim that the tree might spark riots among Jewish students and residents of Safad. “Unfortunately they don’t respect our holidays. We fully respect all Israeli holidays. Why can no one respect our traditions? Why can’t we put up a Christmas tree?”

“I do not think Christmas should be marked with such ostentation,” Walla! quoted an unnamed Jewish student saying. “The college has a distinctly Jewish character. It’s not healthy for anyone to be able to do whatever he wants.”

State rabbis order bans on Christmas

The ban on Christmas at Safad college is no isolated incident. For several years, Shimon Gapso, the notoriously racist mayor of the Israeli settlement of “Upper Nazareth” in the Galilee, has banned Christmas trees, calling them a provocation. “Nazareth Illit [Upper Nazareth] is a Jewish city and it will not happen – not this year and not next year, so long as I am a mayor,” Gapso said.

According to journalist Jonathan Cook in Nazareth, such bans continue and are widespread this year with Israel’s state-financed rabbis warning hotels and restaurants that they will lose their kosher certifications if they put up trees or other Christmas decorations or hold Christmas events.

“In other words,” Cook says, “the rabbinate has been quietly terrorising Israeli hotel owners into ignoring Christmas by threatening to use its powers to put them out of business. Denying a hotel its kashrut (kosher) certificate would lose it most of its Israeli and foreign Jewish clientele.”

Hatred of Christianity inherent in Israel’s “Law of Return”

Israel claims to be a “Jewish state.” Its blatantly discriminatory “Law of Return” grants the automatic right to those it recognizes as Jews from anywhere in the world to emigrate and receive citizenship even if they have no connection to the country. At the same time, Israel prevents indigenous Palestinian refugees, including those born there, from returning home just because they are not Jews.

But according to the US State Department in its 2011 report on religious freedom around the world, Israel specifically applies a blatantly anti-Christian test in applying this bigoted law:

The question of whether one believes Jesus is the Jewish Messiah has been used to determine whether a Jew was qualified to immigrate. The [Israeli] Supreme Court repeatedly has upheld the right, however, of Israeli Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah to retain their citizenship. The immigration exclusion was routinely applied only against Messianic Jews, whereas Jews who were atheists were accepted, and Jews who chose to believe in other religions, including Hindus and Buddhists, were not screened out.

In other words a “Jew” can be an atheist, Hindu, or Buddhist – anything at all – and be granted citizenship by Israeli authorities. It is only a belief in Jesus that disqualifies them.

As for Netanyahu’s promise that Christian holy sites would be protected, he failed to mention that in recent months, Israeli settlers, acting with the collusion of Israeli authorities, have stepped up so-called “price tag” attacks on Christian holy sites.

Meanwhile, Christmas celebrations proceeded in Gaza and in Iran, two Muslim-majority places Israeli propaganda likes to paint as particularly hostile to minority religious groups.

Few countries live up to their own claims about religious freedom and tolerance and many must do better. But selling Israel in particular, whose whole raison d’être is to privilege Jews qua Jews over the indigenous Palestinian population of any religion, as a paragon of tolerance and pluralism is patently absurd.

Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2012

Israel’s Invasion of US Justice, By Miko Peled: Miko Peled blog


In an interview on Sixty Minutes with Bob Simon, Israel’s ambassador to the US Michael Oren made a chilling remark, the significance of which must not be overlooked. The interview was shown at the end of a report by Bob Simon on the situation of Christians in the Holy Land.  Apparently when the ambassador heard about the report being made he called the Chairman of CBS and complained that his sources told him the report was going to be a “hatchet job.” At the end of the report Simon said to the Ambassador that he had never had anyone react to a story before it was even aired and before anyone had a chance to view it. The Israeli ambassador seemed taken aback for a second or two, but then he collected himself, and replied: “Well Bob, there’s a first time for everything.”

Israeli influence over America is not new and it has been well documented.  From American politics to economic issues, to issues of foreign policy and national security Israel’s influence has shown its marks everywhere. Now, Israel’s influence has infiltrated the “holy of holies” of American democracy, the judicial system. As the ambassador said, “There is a first time for everything.”
The case of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) in which five Palestinian American Muslims were convicted and sentenced in a US court to decades behind bars based on questionable testimony by two anonymous Israeli intelligence officers, demonstrates the invasive nature of Israeli influence in American courts.  There is an abundance of information about this case so we won’t get into too many details here, only to say that HLF, at one time the largest Muslim charity in the US was accused of providing “material support to Hamas.” It is a bewildering accusation to say the least. HLF provided much needed charity to Palestinians by raising modest funds for orphans and widows that had to qualify in order to receive these funds, and contributed to libraries and hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israeli authorities began a campaign against HLF in 1996. They closed down the HLF office in Jerusalem and arrested the local director, a Palestinian from Jerusalem.  He was interrogated by the Israeli police, and the internal security service (Shabak). He was asked repeatedly if the organization has ties to Hamas and if moneys were given particularly to orphans whose fathers were members of Hamas who became Shahids, either through suicide attacks or because they were killed by Israel.  He repeatedly claimed that HLF was not affiliated to Hamas, and that all recipients had to go through the same screening process by social workers who determined if they qualified for aid. He showed that HLF did not in any way favor the orphans of Hamas “Shahids.” Still he was charged, convicted and had spent several years in an Israeli prison.
Israel skillfully manipulated the anti Arab and anti Muslim hysteria that took hold over America post 9/11 to pursue its campaign against HLF in the US.  And indeed in 2002 the WSJ quoted Presidnet George Bush, who gladly served Israeli interests in this regard saying:
“The facts are clear,” Mr. Bush declared. “The terrorists benefit from the Holy Land Foundation, and we’re not going to allow it. … Money raised by the Holy Land Foundation is used by Hamas to support schools and indoctrinate children to grow up into suicide bombers [and] to recruit suicide bombers and support their families.”
None of the things Bush said constitute clear facts, nor were they true.
Still, the Holy Land Foundation offices were placed under watch by the FBI, its main officers’ phones were tapped, their meetings recorded and a case was built against them. In 2007 a trial took place ending in an acquittal on most counts but the jury remained hung on a few charges. The judge declared a mistrial and a year later, in 2008, convictions with unprecedented long sentenced were meted out to the defendants.  One juror said: “If they had been a Christian or Jewish group, I don’t think [prosecutors] would have brought charges against them.”
The justice department congratulated itself on a job well done in a piece on the FBI website declaring that this was the largest terrorism financing prosecution in US history.

The Israeli Internal Security Service, the Shabak, posted on its website that one of two Israelis that testified in the HLF trial that brought town a terror financing organization, was an employee of the Shabak and that his testimony played a crucial role in the bringing convictions.

In 2009 officers and volunteers of HLF, who became known as the HLF 5 were given unprecedented sentences for “funneling $12 million to Hamas.” $12 million is a laughable amount that only serves to demonstrate the absurdity of the accusations and the modesty of the HLF operations. In a discussion I had in Jerusalem where I described the jail sentences the HLF 5 received I got looks of disbelief.  One Muslim leader who was present and was familiar with the HLF and with Hamas finally commented: “HLF was so small, how can anyone think it had any impact on Hamas?” Indeed.

In an affidavit  by Israeli attorney Lea Tsemel it was made clear that Israeli security officers regularly lie in court in order to get convictions. In an interview to Israeli press, retired chief interrogator of the Shabak admitted this too. “The security officers know that an Israeli judge will always believe their testimony over that of an Arab.” he said. Now this is true of judges in the US as well. As the ambassador said: “There is a first time for everything.”

After being found guilty in the second trial, Mufid Aabdulkader, Shukri Abu Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mohammad El Mezaine and Abdulrahman Odeh were immediately sent to Federal prison in Seagoville, Texas (this was November 24, 2008).  Judge Jorge A. Solis who  presided would not let them stay out until sentencing.  He told all defendants they had 5 minutes to say goodbye to their families.  ”The judge said we would have to choose 3 people from each family to say goodbye, because there were too many people.  I let my three daughters say goodbye, so I did not even get to tell Mufid goodbye.  It would not have taken that long if the judge had let us all say goodbye, perhaps 10 minutes.” Diana Abdukader, Mufid’s wife told me.

Sentencing took place on May 27, 2009.  The prosecution tried to have the five men moved immediately to CMUs, but the families fought to have them stay at Seagoville where they could be close to their families.  They were successful at keeping them there until April 22, 2010, when all but one were moved to the CMUs.  Abdulrahman Odeh, went to general population at FCI Victorville in Adelanto, CA.  Mufid and Ghassan were sent to Marion CMU, while Mohammad El-Mezzeine and Shukri Abu Baker were sent to the CMU in Terre Haute Indianna.
The following was written by Mufid Abdulkader, describing their transfer to the CMUs.  Mufid is one of three defendants with whom I have been in touch for close to a year now via email and phone. All three had given me permission to publish what they had written to me. This is the first of several articles I mean to publish with material written by the HLF defendants.
“Dear brothers & Sisters, our trip to USP Marion started way before Thursday April 24, 2010, the day we were moved from Seagoville to USP Marion in Illinois.  The trip went from Seagoville to Texarkana Texas to Oklahoma City to Philadelphia to Ohio to St. Louis, Missouri & finally ended when we were bussed (3 hours trip) from St. Louis to USP Marion in Marion Illinois.  It was 6 days of pain, extreme discomfort, racist treatment by guards, we were singled out to be screamed at, it was a show of disrespect and racist behavior on many different levels.
On Wednesday March 31, I was suddenly called by the guard & told to see the Counselor.  Once I saw the counselor, he immediately told me that he has received orders to handcuff me & move me to the Special Management Unit (SMU) at Seagoville.  He said it was orders from way above (meaning the Warden) & he does not know why, he just followed orders.  So one by one, El-Mezain, Shukri, Ghassan & I, were taken and placed in the SMU.  The condition at the SMU are terrible. In the SMU you are held for 23 hours in a solitary confinement in a small cell.  You are allowed 1 hour outside the cell (called recreation).  It means literally to be taken out of your cell in handcuffs & placed in a cage closed from all sides including the top.”
“This only happens only Monday – Friday.  On weekends you are kept in your cell for 24 hours.  You are handcuffed thru a bean hole in the cell’s door prior to you going out of the cell, whether to go for the 1 hour recreation, see a doctor (very rare) or visit your family or get a hair cut.  Getting a hair cut while handcuffed is a very painful experience.  If the doctor needs to x-ray anything, you stay handcuffed & it is your responsibility to get in the position to take the x-ray for any part of your body (hand, leg, arm, ..etc) & suffer the pain caused by the handcuffs.”
“When you go see your family it is only thru thick glass windows.  Hand cuffs are only taken after you are placed in the 4X5 feet room with thick glass and a phone.  After you enter the room they open the bean hole & you extend your handcuffed hands (in extreme pain) to be removed.  After the visit is over, again they open the bean hole & handcuff you again before they open the door to take you back to your cell.  You cannot touch your family & only talk to them thru the one phone & they take turns to talk to you.”
“After 21 days they moved us to another cell.  Then came the day we were expecting: Around 10 AM, 3 guards came & asked us if we want to go to outside recreation (the 1 hour outside) and we said yes.  A few minutes later they came & they handcuffed us and and we were thinking that we were going to the outside cages for the one hour recreation & instead they took us to R&D (Receive and Discharge) Dept.  This is the department where they receive inmates & ship them out.  Now we realized that they were shipping us out of Seagoville & that was it!!!  Ghassan & Shukri left their medical eye glasses in their cells & they asked the guards to get them & that is when the guard started screaming at Shukri & Ghassan.”
“They put a big handcuff around each leg with heavy chains and then handcuffed the hands from the front with heavy chains and tied the handcuffs from the legs and the hands together.  This was done for all inmates but for us they had a special treatment.  They used what is called the black box.  The black box is a box that tighten your hands handcuffs & legs chains together make it extremely difficult to move your hands even to touch your face.  It was very difficult to move especially when the handcuffs were very tight to start with.  After that they walk us very slowly to the bus waiting outside.  We walk and El-mezain was barely able to walk because they forced him to walk without his cane.  He almost fell down several times.  It took around 5 minutes to walk about 20 feet (6 meters) to the bus.”
This was only the beginning. Mufid’s account doesn’t ends here, there are pages and pages of descriptions of the horrors that these five men had to endure on their way to the CMU and at the CMU. And, as long as people on the outside sit quiet instead of crying for justice, they will continue to suffer.
Israel is on a mission to destroy Palestine and its people, and as part of that mission Israel holds thousands of Palestinian political prisoners in its jails.  This is not new nor should it come as any surprise to anyone. But the Israeli invasion of US politics, media, national security and foreign policy all started at a point when someone said, “There is a first time for everything.”
Miko Peled


December 20, 2012

EDITOR: The true nature of Israeli ‘democracy’

As the elections get nearer, the full impact of Israel’s fast descent into fascism is becoming clearer. The disqualification and banning of MK Hanin Zuabi, and issue is now going to reach the High Court of Justice, which may overturn the decision. Even if that takes place, the fact remains – Israel’s elected Jewish MKs have decided, by a large majority, to disqualify a Palestinian MK for racist reasons – she is not Jewish, and not a Zionist, and does not support Israel’s criminal wars. Whatever the decision of the High Court of Justice, the road to full apartheid is now open. It is simply a matter of time before all the Palestinian MKs will be disqualified from standing – it is indeed the very clear result of the Jewish Democracy called Israel. A Jewish democracy is a democracy for Jews, and for Jews only. It is the well known model of herrenvolk democracy which has now taken over the Israeli polis, and the removal of those rights that Palestinian citizens of Israel still enjoy is a matter of time. With their history of rabid racism and centuries of slavery, USA and EU are not flinching from continuing to support the only herrenvolk democracy in the Middle East

Such terrifying developments can only hasten the return of hostilities between the two sides, and the return of armed resistance, as Palestinians are realising there is nothing for them to wait for, as long as Israel is allowed to continue with its escalating crimes, and remove any semblance of legality from their measures towards the elimination of the Palestinians from their homeland.

This is bound to fail, of course. This is not 1948, and the Palestinians know damn well that once they are out of Palestine, they will never be allowed back in, whatever the pretenses of the ‘international community’, mow standing immobile for decades as crimes continue to erode life in Palestine, not to mention Human Rights. It will fail, nonetheless, because millions around the globe now understand the Israeli agenda and are committed to resist it. Palestine shall be free! And when it shall be free, the Jews of Israel will also be free – free of Apartheid, of the inhuman and dehumanising occupation, of their racist privileges.

Let us just hope that Israel is stopped before it can kill the many thousands which it is well capable of doing, and which it did time and again. This depends on all of us, of course.

Israel election committee disqualifies MK Hanin Zuabi from running for Knesset: Haaretz

High Court of Justice is likely however to overturn decision; committee also votes not to disqualify Arab parties Balad and United Arab List-Ta’al.

By  | Dec.19, 2012 | 5:30 PM |  25
MK Hanin Zuabi - Michal Fattal - March 23, 2011.

MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad) speaking in the Israeli Knesset, Jerusalem, March 23, 2011. Photo by Michal Fattal

Israel’s Central Elections Committee decided on Wednesday not to disqualify Arab parties Balad and the United Arab List (Ra’am)-Ta’al from running for the 19th Knesset.

However, the committee voted to disqualify MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad). The decision was based chiefly on her involvement in the Gaza Freedom Flotillain May 2010.

The committee has yet to decide on petitions to ban the far right-wing party Otzma Leyisrael (‏Strength for Israel‏), headed by Michael Ben Ari and Aryeh Eldad, on the grounds it rejects the concept of Israel as both a Jewish and democratic state; and the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism on the grounds they bar women from running.

As the meeting got under way, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) presented his petition to bar Zuabi from running: “To say that a member of Knesset was aboard the Mavi Marmara does not constitute the critical mass equaling support for a terrorist organization reflects a lack of understanding of what happened aboard that ship.”

MK Aryeh Eldad (Otzma Leyisrael) said: “I am a doctor and believe in preventive medicine. You don’t have to wait for people to be caught spying or committing treason before barring them from running.”

In a heated moment during the debate, MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) sharply criticized the committee members and its head, Judge Elyakim Rubinstein. “This is a political committee partly comprised of decent people – I am here because of you,” Tibi told Rubinstein. “But it is made up of third-rate politicians and frustrated lawyers looking to make headlines at our expense.”

Rubinstein struggled to contain the members’ angry response to Tibi’s statements. “Shut up for a minute, for God’s sake, you are talking as if you are in the market,” Rubinstein said. “You’re offended? Fine, I’m offended too. Enough!”

Rubinstein protested Tibi’s refusal to apologize, adding that “every person here is first-rate. “He then temporarily adjourned the meeting to let the sides calm down.

Zuabi said in response to the vote that “the decision is a result of political vengeance and a pathetic attempt to harm the representation of the Arab public.” She added that she is convinced that “the struggle for full equality is the only way possible toward a democracy.”

According to Zuabi, “the members of the elections committee blatantly ignored the unequivocal advice of the Attorney General, which said there is no legal basis for the disqualification.”

“It is now clear that the elections committee is a political body meant to harm the representatives of the Arab public, and has nothing to do with democracy,” she said. “Instead of holding a public debate, they wish to silence me and with me a whole demographic, and we will not cooperate with such silencing.”

Minutes before the meeting started, Balad members held a press conference in which chairman Jamal Zahalka announced: “If Zuabi is disqualified, I will not run in this election and will advise the party to boycott it.” Zuabi herself responded:

“Disqualifying me means disqualifying an entire generation of young Arabs.”
Balad representatives announced on Wednesday that they would not appear before the committee, and that their attorneys would present the party’s position in their stead.

Balad members are also saying they have no intention of letting right-wing parties make political hay at the expense of duly elected representatives of the Arab public.

Affidavits submitted to the committee asserted that the petitions were not based on any evidence whatsoever and are part of a racially tainted process of delegitimization the current coalition is leading against Arab citizens.

“The petitions are based on isolated and inaccurate quotations published on various websites and therefore do not justify a serious debate,” said the attorneys representing Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

Representatives of the UAL-Ta’al have decided to appear before the committee to present the party’s position. A party spokesperson said they would appear to fight the groundless accusations and ensure their position was documented before the High Court of Justice takes the matter up.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein earlier this week expressed his opposition to all petitions submitted on the subject on grounds of there being insufficient basis for proving the accusations raised.

Prior to the previous elections in 2009, the committee also voted to ban Balad and the United Arab List (Ra’am)-Ta’al. In the election for the 16th Knesset in 2003, the committee disqualified MKs Tibi and Azmi Bishara.

But the High Court of Justice has time and again overturned such decisions. Of the ten decisions made by the Central Elections Committee to disqualify parties or individuals from the election process, the High Court of Justice upheld only three: The Socialist Party was banned in 1964 and Kach and Kahana Chai were banned in 1988 and 1992.

Shas and United Torah Judaism on Tuesday aroused the ire of the political establishment after they submitted their responses to the petitions seeking to bar their running. “The parties operate on the basis of Jewish religious law, which mandates a clear separation between men and women on the grounds of modesty. Men have one role and women another. This division of labor does not represent marginalization of women, discrimination against women, or a belief that women are inferior to men,” read the statement submitted by the parties’ legal counsel. It went on to say: “A great number of women voters will refuse to vote for our parties should our slates include women.”

Yael German, the mayor of Herzliya and number three on the Yesh Atid slate, condemned the two parties. “The exclusion of women from politics by the ultra-Orthodox parties reflects a thoroughly backward, unenlightened position and is a grave risk to Israeli society,” said German, and added: “The state has the responsibility to prevent the phenomenon of excluding women from rearing its ugly head. This is precisely the reason Yesh Atid will make sure that the exclusion of women becomes a criminal offense.”

Labor and Meretz announced they would not support any petition to disqualify a party. Before the Central Elections Committee convened its meeting, MK Isaac Herzog (Labor faction whip) said:

“We view freedom of expression and freedom of opinion as the very lifeblood of Israel’s democracy and we firmly believe in this principle. Any disqualification, whether from the left or the right, is a slippery slope, especially at a time when we must stand firm to ensure the existence of democracy, despite our disgust with many of the statements and positions expressed by various parties and Knesset members whose banning is under discussion. They may be very far from our own philosophy but barring them would be a dangerous mistake.”

UC Berkeley’s new chancellor endorses the falsehood: criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic: IOA

By Nadia Abu El-Haj, Lila Abu-Lughod, Gil Anidjar, Rashid Khalidi, Brinkley Messick, James Schamus
Jadaliyya – 19 Dec 2012

The following statement was issued on 19 December 2012 by a group of Columbia University professors in response to recent comments by the newly appointed chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, Nicholas Dirks, wherein he equated the criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

A recent interview conducted by UC Berkeley’s Public Relations office and timed with the appointment of the new university Chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, begins, “Floating around the Internet is a claim that at some point in your past… you signed a petition for Columbia to divest in all things Israel.” The interviewer asks the Chancellor-designate to clarify his role. But let us be clear: this is not a question. It is a demand. We live in political climate in which robust and critical speech about the policies of the Israeli state is becoming ever more difficult. Its proponents are subjected to myriad forms of harassment in an effort to shut down such speech. If one wants to be a powerful public figure, the interviewer is effectively saying to Dirks, distance yourself from that petition.

Unfortunately, Dirks responds by doing precisely what is demanded of him. He does not clarify that the Columbia University petition did not call for divestment from “all things Israel,” but instead from companies that manufacture or sell arms or other military hardware utilized by Israel, in violation of US law, against the civilian populations of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. He does not say that he did sign the petition, but, as he might have argued, that once he became an administrator he recognized he had to play a different role, one that protects all political speech on campus, regardless of his own personal convictions, and thus that he chose to withdraw his signature. Instead, he declares that somehow his name appeared on the petition and that he asked for it to be removed.

That is not all: Dirks goes much further. He offers a description of Columbia in 2002 as a time in which broader “controversies” over the question of Israel and Palestine developed. He narrates those controversies in the voice of the off-campus Jewish neo-conservative groups (Campus Watch, the David Project, to name the main provocateurs) who spearheaded a sustained attack against his own colleagues, who were faculty members in the Middle East field. The David Project produced a film, Columbia Unbecoming, that instigated Columbia’s supposedly “internal” investigation. Parroting their perspective in his interview, Dirks notes that it was a climate in which “it seemed very difficult for some [Jewish] students to find safe spaces in which to talk about Israel where they didn’t feel that the basic context in which they found themselves wasn’t hugely not just anti-Israel, but by implication, anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic.” His is a brilliant rhetorical move, an account of how some Jewish students supposedly “felt.” In providing no other perspective on the “controversy,” however, Dirks allows the contention that criticism of Israel’s policies is, “by implication, anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic” to stand as a simple matter of fact.

In purveying this false account, Dirks rewrites the history of the conflict at Columbia. The reality, in contrast, was one in which most members of the faculty and many students argued that baseless accusations of anti-Semitism were being wielded in an effort to curtail academic freedom and free speech. Moreover, Dirks rewrites the “conclusion” to that so-called controversy. No action was taken against any professors precisely because 1) the Committee that he himself appointed, and that he speaks of in the interview, found no evidence that any members of the faculty had ever done or said anything that could be reasonably construed as anti-Semitic, and 2) the Columbia faculty stood overwhelmingly behind the principles of academic freedom that were threatened by these malicious accusations.

Dirks’ response is disturbing not just for how it distorts the past. It is perhaps even more alarming for what it portends for the future. The new Chancellor of UC Berkeley is walking into a situation in which the California State Assembly has passed a non binding resolution that equates defense of Palestinian rights and criticism of the policies of the state of Israel with anti-Semitism (Resolution HR 35). He is walking into an institutional context in which his boss, the president of the University of California system, was apparently involved in commenting on and drafting that very same bill [see Center for Constitutional Rights letter to UC President Yudof]. He is walking into a political reality in which several Title VI cases are pending against schools in the UC system, accusing them of fostering a “hostile” learning environment for Jewish students. He is taking charge of a campus in which Arab, Muslim and other students advocating for Palestinian rights are being targeted by specific Zionist activist groups for creating a “campus climate” that is “anti-Semitic and hostile to Jewish students” (see CCR letter to UC President Yudof).

This was a moment for the incoming Chancellor of UC Berkeley to stand on principle. Criticizing the policies of the state of Israel that violate Palestinian human and political rights, or advocating in favor of a boycott and divestment campaign, he might have said, is political speech, not hate speech. Dirks could have risen to the occasion and said that even if he is personally opposed to the divestment campaign it is nevertheless a matter that we must be able to discuss. For that matter, he could have said that even if he, as the incoming Chancellor of Berkeley, disagrees with critics of Israel’s policies, their speech is nevertheless legitimate, even necessary speech. Dirks should have said that what is at stake are fundamental democratic principles—not just academic freedom but free speech itself.

Nadia Abu El-Haj
Lila Abu-Lughod
Gil Anidjar
Rashid Khalidi
Brinkley Messick
James Schamus

December 18, 2012

EDITOR: The racist party is in full swing

As the election gets nearer, more more racism is exposed in the campaign, and in the daily life which pass for normality in Israel. The racism freely entertained against the black migrants, is but the outer appearance of the racism against Palestinians; the herrenvolk just cannot stand the other, and just seeing him/her seems to unleash the full force of the xenophobia always lurking under the shiny Israeli surface. In this, like vis Palestine, there seems to be no difference between ‘right’ and ‘left’. Zionism is united against the other, along the Serbian model, or even more worrying ones, which, if mentioned, will raise the bile of left-wing Zionists…

It is totally clear now that all the Zionist parties, whatever bizarre name they may be traveling under, are united around the core ideology of Zionism: continuing and intensifying the occupation, Apartheid Wall, settlements and the myriad inhuman illegalities concerned; Continued attacks on Gaza and Lebanon; An attack on Iran; Continued support for untrammeled capitalism of the worst kind, and the deep inequalities involved; denial of Palestinian return; avoidance of a just peace in Palestine by all means, and few other inanities.

Apart from this, they are supposedly all very different. It is a total nonsense – the differences are all window-dressing, mascara, simply a mask – they agree on all the issues which count. For Jews who are supporters of Palestinian freedom and just peace, there is only one party, BALAD, which they can vote for – an anti-Zionist party. How many of them will choose this option? Maybe all of the 500 extant activists… This affords us the ‘new’ face of Israel: The only Jewish Democracy for Jews, the only Apartheid state by Jews, the vilest Jewish capitalist state, and the only Jewish democracy involved in daily war-crimes. Go for it!

Far-right party’s campaign ad banned for racism: Just the tip of the iceberg: +972


If a campaign ad inciting against Arab citizens of Israel is deemed illegitimate, then why not the party responsible for it, or any of the myriad Knesset members who have also engaged in similar forms of incitement as well, whether against Africans, Palestinians, the LGBT community or Israeli leftists?

Israel’s Central Election Committee disqualified an ad campaign last week by a new party called Otzma Leyisrael (Strength to Israel), citing that it singles out and incites against the Arab sector in Israel and is therefore racist. The campaign ads, posted on buses and billboards across Israel, included the word “loyalty” in Arabic, with a Hebrew caption underneath that reads: “Because without duties there are no rights.”

The decision by committee chairman Judge Elyakim Rubinstein was made after a group of civil rights activists, including Meretz MK Mossi Raz, filed a complaint with the committee. One of the petitioners, Ela Greenberg, told me, “none of us did this as an organization or with organizational backing. We are just private citizens and this was for me an exercise in realizing that we do have some power and influence and we need to use it.”

The ad is not surprising when you consider the people behind it. This new party is comprised of violent, hyper-nationalist, xenophobic, Jewish supremacist settlers. Its members are the ones behind the periodic anti-African rallies in south Tel Aviv, theanti-Arab rallies in Umm al Fahm and are responsible for countless incidents ofincitement against Palestinians, asylum seekers and Israeli leftists. If anyone is interested in their latest hate speech, here is a video of an anti-African “Hannukah rally” they held last week in Levinsky Park:

Party chairman, Ayreh Eldad, who lives in the settlement Kfar Adumim (close to theE-1 area), made his policy on asylum seekers clear last summer when he said, “Anyone that penetrates Israel’s border should be shot, a Swedish tourist, Sudanese from Eritrea, Eritreans from Sudan, Asians from Sinai. Whoever touches Israel’s border – shot.”

The party’s number two, Michael Ben-Ari, is a former member of Meir Kahane’s outlawed Kach party (banned in 1988 for incitement to racism) and has become well-known for acts such as defiling a New Testament all MKs were given a gift, as well as calling on the IDF to shoot border infiltrators in the head.

The number three in the party is Baruch Marzel, an American-born settler from Hebron, who I have seen assault Israeli left-wing activists with my own eyes (never been tried) and who is an equal-opportunity bigot, having expressed contempt not only for Arabs, Africans and Israeli leftists, but for the LGBT community as well.  The party list also includes Aryeh King, one of the primary operatives behind the Judaization of East Jerusalem, who runs the Israel Land Fund.

Once you understand who these men are (to the best of my knowledge there is no woman on their ticket), what they have done in the past and what they are capable of, the banned ad campaign targeting Arabs looks like a relatively moderate speck in a much more fundamental and ominous problem. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) issued a statement following the banning of the campaign arguing that “isolated disqualification” is not the solution because “racist speech that severely harms minorities has been legitimized in the current mainstream political discourse.”

Indeed, what could be more evident proof of the institutionalization and normalization of bigotry and fascism in Israel the presence of such a party, some of whose members already have an office in Israel’s Knesset? And It doesn’t stop with this party. MKs from Likud, Kadima and Shas have all gone on record making racist and incendiary statements against either Africans or Israeli leftists, or both.

And let’s not forget about (former) Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his party, Yisrael Beiteinu. Otzma LeYisrael was not the first to propose conditioning the rights of Arab citizens of Israels on the  notion of “loyalty” to the Jewish state. After the campaign was banned last week, MKs Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben Arinoted  that it could not possibly be racist, as Yisrael Beiteinu’s campaign slogan in the previous election, crafted by Lieberman himself, had pretty much the same message: “No loyalty, no citizenship.” Israel’s Knesset even approved the “citizenship law” in March 2011, proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu, which gives the Supreme Court the power to revoke citizenship from citizens convicted of treason, espionage and terrorism. At the time, even Israel’s Shabak (General Security Service) warned there was no need for the law, and that its purpose appeared to be the delegitimization of Arab citizens.

So the question remains: If this ad campaign is deemed illegitimate, then why not the Otzma LeYisrael party as well (which is essentially the reincarnation of the outlawed Kach party)? Why not Yisrael Beiteinu’s platform and the bill they pushed through Knesset? And why not all the MKs from various parties who have engaged in incitement or slander?

Gaza diary: From one war to another: Haaretz

M.’s family fled the fighting in Syria, only to end up in the Gaza Strip one month before Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense. ‘Man can never escape his destiny,’ says M.’s wife.

By  | Dec.18, 2012

A Palestinian girl stands next to a relative's house after it was destroyed

A Palestinian girl stands next to a relative’s house after it was destroyed in what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip, Nov. 20, 2012. Photo by Reuters

When they fled the overwhelming violence in Syria, the family didn’t know that they were putting themselves straight into another bitter, life-threatening offensive.

M., who preferred to be identified by his initial and refused to be photographed for security reasons, arrived at the Hamas-run enclave of the Gaza  Strip in June 2012, to visit his sister, when the “uprising” in Syria ratcheted up to a higher volume of aggression. By October, he found himself forced to move his wife and two children from Syria to the Gaza Strip.

“In the beginning, my children used to phone from Syria and beg me to come back home, but later they asked me to bring them here,” he noted. M. never dreamed he would be bringing his family to another dangerous zone. He was thinking only of how he could reunite with them.

He noted that the only difference between the two “wars” is that the fighting between Gaza and Israel in November was understandable. “At least here, I know who my enemy is, unlike in Syria. I left my home in Syria and my neighbors told me that it was broken into and robbed. I don’t know who did it but this isn’t a war – it’s chaos.”

The 4-year-old, A., said he was so happy when he first came here. “Gaza is so beautiful, but then it became so much like Syria,” he said while watching TV. A. now goes to a local kindergarten where he’s meeting new friends and interacting with them. “I love my kindergarten so much, it’s so beautiful and has so many toys,” he said, adding “but I couldn’t go there for a while because of the bombings.” He was referring to the Israel Defense Forces’ bombing of Gaza during Operation Pillar of Defense.

When A. went with his dad and his uncle to take a look around Gaza after the Israeli offensive was over, he wasn’t surprised by what he saw. Basically, it was the same scenes he used to see in Syria. “I saw a damaged mosque, I saw so many destroyed houses and ruins everywhere,” A. said.

M.’s daughter, S., was more afraid than his son. She said that when she came to Gaza she was expecting to sleep the whole night through, without any bombing outside, but she was very shocked with what she found.

“It’s scarier than Syria. In Syria there were only tanks that weren’t close to my home, but in Gaza the warplanes were circling the skies over my head 24/7,” S. said.

During the offensive, while everyone in Gaza was following the local news of the Israeli-Palestinian fighting, the Syrian mother was waiting for them to go sleep so she could watch a bit of the Syrian news broadcasts. “I’m so worried about my family in Syria,” she said. “I know Gaza is not such a safe place, but I never expected anything like this, at least now.”

Meanwhile, her husband was following the news on both Syria and Gaza, and trying to make a connection between them, especially when the cease-fire was reached on November 22. “I followed the Syrian media to find them blaming the Palestinian resistance for not acknowledging the Syrian role in supporting it,” he elaborated.

While it was really dangerous in Gaza, he said he doesn’t regret coming here. “At least I’m in my country now, and if I die, I’ll die for something. But in Syria, I’m a guest and I don’t want to die there,” he said.

M. expressed his satisfaction with the way the war ended; he believed that the Palestinian resistance managed to surprise Israel. “Netanyahu wanted to promote himself before [Israel’s January] elections, but  he ended up destroying himself by himself,” said M., suggesting that the offensive had failed to stop Palestinian rocket fire.

The violence in Syria began in March 2011 with demonstrations against President Bashar Assad’s regime, but it soon turned into a fierce civil war between the regime and its opponents. In Gaza, the IDF operation started on November 14 when Israel assassinated senior Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari after an escalation in rocket fire emerging from the Strip, and an attack on an Israeli military jeep on the Israel-Gaza border.

While M.’s wife has felt relatively safe since the cease-fire was reached, she wishes she could go back to her homeland in Syria. “Now I know that man can never escape his destiny.”

Video showing Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi being beaten by Israeli authorities in court today: youTube

This is Israeli justice! An innocent man, on hunger strike, is not safe even in the courtroom, where he is beaten up in front of the soldiers and policemen, all with perfect immunity. A Nazi courtroom would be safer for Jews during 1933-1939. After that, they hardly bothered with courts…

And another disturbing clip from the many now circulating freely on the web – pure hatred and racism rule Israeli public space:

 The Portico Quartet agrees to pull out of the Red Sea Jazz Festival!:Facebook

Given the recent action of the government of Israel and in particular the proposed building of 3000 new homes in the E1 corridor we feel we can no longer perform at the red sea jazz festival.

Whilst we recognise that the citizens of a country are different from their government we feel that as the festival is directly funded by the state we cannot accept the offer to play.

We urge other artists to join the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

We apologise to anyone who bought tickets or anyone who was looking forward to seeing us and we hope to see you again at some point under different circumstances.


Palestinians flee to Lebanon after jet bombs Syria’s largest refugee camp: Guardian

PLO officials say Assad regime’s attack marks ‘historic moment’ with former ally as 50,000 Palestinians expected from Yarmouk

Sabra-Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, which is bracing for an influx of Palestinians fleeing Yarmouk

The Sabra-Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, which is bracing for an influx of Syrian-based Palestinians fleeing heavy fighting in Yarmouk camp, Damascus. Photograph: Sam Tarling

Thousands of Palestinians in Syria are fleeing Damascus after an attack on the country’s largest refugee camp, according to survivors who have reached Lebanon.

Some of those who have made it to the relative safety of Beirut claim the attack marks a “historical moment” in the Syrian war that has shattered the regime’s claim to be a patron of resistance against Israel.

The fallout from the attack on the Yarmouk refugee camp in south-west Damascus on Sunday night is now reaching beyond Syria’s borders, with Lebanon and Jordan braced for a fresh refugee crisis.

About 1,000 Palestinians had reached Lebanon less than 48 hours after a Syrian jet bombed a mosque and a school inside Yarmouk camp, the first time the large, sprawling section of the capital had been targeted from the air and only the second time it had been struck since the civil war began. The air strike is believed to have killed about 25 people and wounded several dozen more.

The new arrivals say they fear that authority in the Syrian capital is starting to crumble. They are now openly hostile towards a regime that had long portrayed itself as the protector of the 500,000 Palestinians living in Syria, most of whom had called Yarmouk home until now.

“No Palestinian will trust them anymore after what they did on Sunday,” said Abu Khalil, a father of three who has taken refuge in the infamous Beirut refugee camp Sabra-Shatila. “All of us accept that blood has been drawn between us and the regime. There is a debt to settle. It will never be like it was.”

Abu Khalil and his extended family of 15, now refugees for a second time in a lifetime, say the attack has repulsed Palestinians who had enjoyed the patronage of the Assad regime for more than 40 years but had increasingly been expected to openly align with them.

Abu Khalil offered an account of what took place on Sunday in the hours before the attack and in the frenetic aftermath, which has led to unprecedented criticism of the regime from most Palestinian factions.

“Since the summer, the two intelligence bases in the camp, air force intelligence and political security, were opened as recruitment centres for anyone who wanted to join Ahmed Jibril,” he said. “Anyone who did was given a gun.”

Ahmed Jibril runs the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command, a faction that has remained loyal to the Assad regime and is hostile to the main Palestinian organisational body, the PLO.

“There had been no fighting inside the camp at all until Sunday,” he said. “There were clashes on the outskirts, but the Free Syria Army had not entered the camp at all. They only came in after the air strike.”

About 3,000 members of the Free Syria Army and the al-Qaida-aligned Jabhat al-Nusra are now inside the camp, Abu Khalil said. He claimed only 500 residents remain, with most having sought refuge in homes, schools and mosques elsewhere in Damascus.

Jibril had about 1,000 armed men but only 150 of them were fighting with him on Sunday,” he said. “They fled after a few hours.

“Some of the rebels who came in after the attack spoke with strange dialects. Others had beards, like jihadists. They were all telling us not to worry. It was the first time we had seen any opposition member in Yarmouk.”

Abu Khalil’s mother, who called herself Um Hassan, said warnings broadcast from mosques in Yarmouk early on Sunday had given residents two hours to leave.

Many had done just that, she said. However, others had sought refuge in a mosque and remained behind. Syrians who had fled from battlezones elsewhere in Syria were staying in a nearby school. They also chose to stay. Both groups were hit by bombs dropped from jets.

“We left at 7am on Monday and got to Sabra-Shatila at 3.30am [on Tuesday],” said Abu Khalil. “It was the biggest humiliation I have ever felt. We left with only the clothes on our backs.

“Three weeks ago we watched the ugly scenes as the Israelis bombed Gaza. We know what to expect with them. But I can’t describe the feeling of Muslims attacking Muslims. It was a historical moment.”

Palestinian leaders in Lebanon say they are bracing for the arrival of 50,000 refugees from Yarmouk, an influx that would seriously strain resources inside the country’s 12 established camps. Such numbers could also potentially upset the delicate sectarian balance in the still-brittle country, where sect numbers are bitterly contested and often used as political tools.

Unlike in Lebanon, Syria’s Palestinians had largely enjoyed equal rights as citizens, with access to homes, healthcare and other trappings of state.

Their treatment has often been showcased by regime officials as a sign of Syria’s support for a people who have remained at odds with their sworn enemy, Israel. The regime’s far-reaching support for Hezbollah has been the second dimension of its resistance credentials.

The Yarmouk attack is also being seen as a turning point by senior Palestinian officials in Lebanon. Qassem Hassan, the general secretary of the PLO in Sabra-Shatila, said: “We sense a very bad smell to this. Why this is happening, we can’t understand. The PLO had taken a position not to support the regime or the other side.

“We did not interfere in the affairs of Syria and they shouldn’t have interfered in ours. A volcano has erupted here. Is this part of a plan to reorganise the Middle East? We don’t know. But it is a very big event.”


December 16, 2012

EDITOR: Ubu Roi rules OK…

In the hysteria taking Israel over before the elections, everything is possible, as long as nothing really changes… Anyone can join just about anyone to form yet another ridiculous and feckless party, as long as they all agree on everything which counts. As long as they are all Zionists, as long as they all accept the inequalities of Israeli capitalism, as long as they embrace the occupation, support the mindless and criminal wars, as long as they agree that Palestine shall never be free – they can have all the arguments in the world. After all, they live in the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’, don’t they?

And so the band wagon of Israeli blindness shoots ahead, with all having a good time, making sure no one wakes up. Ubu will still be king in January, and his sidekick, the stocky bouncer will still call the shots, and they will make sure nothing important changes, either in Jerusalem or in Washington. Isn’t democracy fun?

In the meantime, they can kill, maim, destroy and have total immunity. Democracy is fun.

International criminal court is a lever for Palestinians on Israeli settlements: Guardian

The UN vote for Palestinian statehood puts ICC action in the frame. Israel’s fear of prosecution may help Obama restart talks

Palestinians celebrate in Ramallah after UN vote

Palestinians celebrate in Ramallah after UN vote Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images

When Israel‘s routine hostility toward Gaza once again flared into full-on battle last month, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic party leader in the US Congress, sent out a tweet:

That was pretty much the sentiment of just about everyone in the US political establishment, from the president to the unanimous support in both houses of Congress for a resolution giving unconditional backing for Israel’s bombing of Gaza.

So, it was with the solid opposition to the Palestinian request for recognition of a state at the United NationsSusan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, may have looked isolated in casting the only vote by a major power against Palestinian statehood, but Washington’s political establishment was fully behind her.

On one issue, however, America’s vehemently pro-Israel politicians are much more muted – and it may reveal to Palestinians a chink in Israel’s armour in the US. The prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, decided to punish the Palestinians for the UN vote by announcing the expansion of existing Jewish settlements and advancing a plan, known as E1, to link Jerusalem with one of the biggest Israeli colonies in the West Bank, Maale Adumim. That would eat significantly into any Palestinian state and, more importantly, further seal off occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, as part of the long term Israeli strategy to claim the entire city.

Netanyahu argued that the Palestinians going to the UN was a threat to peace. Almost everyone else regarded the settlement announcement as a far bigger blow to an agreement to end the conflict.

The White House finally spoke up: Barack Obama criticised the E1 plan as “especially damaging”. Congress did not rush to condemn him. Even the pro-Israel lobby, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) did not thrust itself to the forefront of defending Israel. And Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, last year called the settlements “illegitimate”.

Now, the Palestinians are floating the prospect of going to theInternational Criminal Court (ICC) over the settlements. It would be a smart move – if they can resist the inevitable pressure from the west not to do it.

In all the wrangling over recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN, there was much hand-wringing in western capitals over the Palestinians gaining access to the ICC. And the Israelis are more fearful of the court than they let on publicly.

The US and the British tried to get the Palestinians to renounce the right to accede to the ICC, on the grounds it would complicate a nonexistent peace process. However, it is hard to imagine that Washington and London were not also worried about the implications if the court moved on from accusing African despots and warlords to charging soldiers and officials of a close ally, armed by the west, with war crimes in Gaza.

But now, the Palestinians have raised the prospect of a different ICC action, over the settlements, following the E1 announcement. The Palestinian foreign minister, Riad Malki, said this week that if Israel pushes ahead with the settlement construction, his government will look to the court for redress.

“Then we would be able to prosecute Israel for all the war crimes it perpetrated against our people in the past, especially the construction of settlements,” he told Voice of Palestine radio. “It all depends on whether Israel would continue with its settlement plan.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said much the same during a visit to Turkey. Israel’s colonies in the West Bank are a clear breach ofinternational law under Article 49 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which bans on an occupying power from moving its civilian population onto occupied territory – a clause included, in large part, because of Nazi attempts to colonise areas of occupied Poland by planting Germans there.

Israel’s defence is that the West Bank is not strictly occupied territory because it does not belong to another state. But the UN vote has arguably changed that. Israel has also tried to say the settlements fall under the conventions’ allowance of construction as a military necessity. But it’s hard to make a case for defence when the Israeli government’s policy is to funnel Jewish immigrant families into the settlements and to give tax breaks to encourage people to move to them.

In any case, the United Nations security council, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Court of Justice and the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions all say the Israeli colonies are a breach of Article 49. No government other than Israel, not even the US, regards the settlements as legal.

The Israelis are nervous about legal action. They call it “lawfare”. It is potentially effective because taking on the Jewish settlements does not threaten Israel’s right to exist. It is not violent. It is not terrorism. And there’s not many governments going to rush to Israel’s defence.

A legal fight at the ICC would lay bare the annexation and dispossession behind Israel’s settlement strategy – the theft of land from Palestinians, the practice which sees Jewish colonies enjoy unlimited cheap water, while nearby Arab villages are subject to rationing and higher charges, the policy that says a Jewish immigrant from Russia has a greater claim to the land than a Palestinian born on it. And that’s without even getting into the broader scheme to claim as much territory as possible for Israel and leave a rump Palestinian state.

Israel’s settlement policy has been to act piecemeal and count on the rest of the world not having the stamina for a fight – successfully, as it turns out. What it does not want to have to do is defend the settlements in their entirety before an international court, with the risk of being ruled a rogue state in breach of the laws of war.

There’s also a domestic concern. An ICC case might even prompt a more robust debate in Israel where opinion polls show there is no great support for the settlements. If the ICC were to declare the settlements illegal, it would raise other interesting possibilities for Palestinian legal action. Would foreign banks still be prepared to transfer the millions of dollars donated by Americans to settlement construction, or to buy property in the occupied territories, if they knew it was a breach of international law?

Europe is already moving in that direction. European Union foreign ministers said this week that agreements with Israel do not apply to Jewish settlements in the occupied territories – a move Israel fears is laying the groundwork for economic measures, such as the labelling of exports originating in the colonies. The EU said all of its agreements with Israel “must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 – namely, the Golan Heights; the West Bank, including east Jerusalem; and the Gaza Strip.”

The EU is also talking about banning violent settlers, responsible for a string of attacks on Palestinians, who are not prosecuted by the Israeli authorities, from within its borders.

An ICC ruling in favour of the Palestinians might have another effect. When Obama first came to power four years ago, he attempted to strong-arm Netanyahu into taking an agreement with the Palestinians seriously. The president began by demanding a total freeze on settlement construction. The Israeli prime minister out-manoeuvred and humiliated Obama, and carried on as before.

If the US president wants to revisit the fight now he’s been re-elected, it would not do any harm to have the ICC hovering in the background.

Demanding equality – how is that illegal?: Al Jazeera English

Ronnie Barkan
Ronnie Barkan 
Ronnie Barkan is an Israeli human rights activist, conscientious objector and co-founder of Boycott from Within, a group of Israeli citizens and residents which supports the Palestinian call for BDS.
If the anti-boycott law is ever put to the test, the first cases may provide an even greater boost to the BDS movement.
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2012 10:17

A number of European countries are expressing outrage with Israel’s latest decision to build a new settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories in the politically and geographically sensitive E-1 area [EPA]
Israeli NGOs have appealed to the Supreme Court of Israel to strike down the July 2011 law for its violations of freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, political expression and the right to organise. The hearing in the West Jerusalem court took place last Wednesday, on December 5, and the court’s decision will be published in the coming days. There is lot of skepticism regarding a sensible outcome among boycott activists.From the moral perspective, the Israeli Supreme Court is a significant vehicle of Israeli occupation and apartheid. It is this court which consistently refuses to deal with Israeli violations of international law while at the same time allowing for the continuation of the ethnic cleansing process both within the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel proper.This process of driving away the native people of the land, which started by sheer force during the creation of the state, is nowadays being carried out by legal means and under the guise of the law. Such is the situation in occupied East Jerusalem and in the unrecognised villages of the Naqab (Negev) desert.The court has also repeatedly defended the illegal siege of Gaza and the criminal policies which are responsible for counting the caloric intake of the civilians of Gaza, and the fact that 95 per cent of Gaza’s water is not fit for human consumption.Consequently, appealing to a court that has legalised torture and euphemisms in the past – making Israel the only country in the world to have legalised the practice – is not to be taken lightly.On the practical level, the appeal may very well have the opposite effect than the one intended. As has happened in the past, the court may invalidate certain clauses of the law while reaffirming the rest; therefore stamping a revised version of the law with a seal of approval.

Affected by Israeli policies

Most importantly, speaking as an Israeli-Jewish boycott activist who is working to end Israeli apartheid, the law actually serves our struggle. There is a long list of discriminatory laws against non-Jews in Israel or those affected by Israeli policies.

Follow the latest developments in the ongoing conflict 

Many of these laws were passed during the early days of the state following the forced ethnic cleansing that was meant to create an artificial Jewish majority on that land. Such racist laws were put in place to maintain, as well as institutionalise, that crime.

Then came the military occupation of 1967 which introduced a whole slew of repressive military laws aimed specifically against the Palestinians under occupation. Military tribunals, with a whopping 99.7 per cent conviction rate, still stand to this day.

In that sense, the anti-boycott law is nothing out of the ordinary. It is only different in one respect – that the target audience includes the privileged group under Israeli apartheid.

That is why the anti-boycott law received such a backlash when it was legislated last year, with harsh criticism coming from even staunch Israel defenders like AIPAC. That day, Boycott from Within, a group of Israeli citizens which endorses and supports the Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) call, issued a statement titled “We Will Not Be Silent”.

In the statement, we reiterate our commitment to the struggle for the three fundamental rights of the Palestinians – right of return, equal rights within Israel and freedom from occupation – as well as to holding Israel accountable for its actions.

The law is in fact a sign of success showing the effectiveness of the BDS movement, a Palestinian-led campaign which has managed to gain worldwide recognition and has become a global awareness movement, taking inspiration from the successful global anti-apartheid struggle directed against the South African regime.

Such acts of legislation by the Israeli regime only serve to expose the true face of the “Jewish-Democratic” state while garnering support from the global community as well as from world-renowned figures.

Rather than detail the technicalities of the anti-boycott law, it is far better to clarify the character of the state that legislates such laws. It is not an “anti-democratic” or an “anti-constitutional” law as many would like us to believe, for the simple reason that the state is not a democracy and has no constitution.

The state, in fact, at its very core, is opposed to democratic values such as equality and the rights of minorities. A constitution would not serve as it opposes respecting the rights of all. For that purpose, the state defines me as belonging to the “Jewish” nationality, seeking to give privileges to a select ethnic group over those disenfranchised. If there existed an “Israeli” nationality it would, in theory, not be possible to legally differentiate between citizens.

Given Israeli violations of international law, the absolute disrespect of universally recognised human rights and the public outcry against such violations from people all over the world, the question emerges of how governments can carry on with business as usual toward Israel.

Israeli anti-boycott legislation

The Israeli anti-boycott legislation, which is meant to stifle any attempt to hold it accountable for its violations of international law, is a serious matter. Consequently, it is worrisome that several European governments have recently attempted to protect Israel from holding it legally accountable by conditioning their vote at the UN on denying recourse for Palestinians in front of the International Criminal Court, where they may have access to the protection of international law.

“Rather than detail the technicalities of the anti-boycott law, it is far better to clarify the character of the state that legislates such laws.”

Since then, however, we are now hearing new voices emerging from a number of European countries. They are expressing outrage with Israel’s latest decision to build a new settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories in the politically and geographically sensitive E-1 area.

Such voices, which may be the first signs of change, threaten to recall ambassadors in Israel and even mention the possibility of sanctioning or freezing previous trade agreements with Israel.

Such policy actions would mean more than mere criticism of Israeli expansionism. One example of the ongoing complicity of all EU member states can be found in the EU-Israel Association Agreement itself, which carries a binding clause, article 2 of the agreement, stating that: “Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, …and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement”.

The legally binding nature of this clause is thoroughly explained in a report by Professor Takis Tridimas claiming that the European governments are obligated to freeze the agreement according to EC laws and regulations, in addition to their other obligations imposed by international law.

Roger Waters, who acted on the jury of the fourth Russell Tribunal on Palestine, recently addressed the UN General Assembly to discuss the findings of the tribunal which concluded that Israel is guilty of a long list of violations of international law, including that of the crime of apartheid.

Waters also discussed the necessity of a change taking place among international bodies, including the UN itself, in order for such organisations to maintain their legitimacy and be able to sincerely represent the will of the people.

If the anti-boycott law is ever put to the test, the first cases may provide an even greater boost to the BDS movement. It will then be incumbent upon the governments of the world to realise what many of their citizens long ago understood – that it is not only legitimate to get on board the BDS train, but it is also expected of them to stand shoulder to shoulder with those of us who are struggling for equality, freedom and justice for all.

Ronnie Barkan is an Israeli human rights activist, conscientious objector and co-founder of Boycott from Within, a group of Israeli citizens and residents which supports the Palestinian call for BDS. In 2010, he represented the Palestinian Popular Struggle Coordination Committee at the European Parliament, promoting the rights of human rights defenders as well as stressing the importance of holding Israel accountable for its actions. 

Follow him on Twitter: @ronnie_barkan

Continue reading December 16, 2012

December 6, 2012

EDITOR: After the big bang at the UN, Israel returns to normal – theatre of the absurd…

It supplied much excitement for few days, and many photo opportunities for Netanyahu and Lieberman – very useful in their preparations for the January elections and the final takeover of Israel by the extreme right, if the polls are anything to go by. Now is the time to go back to the normality of extending the occupation to the point that even Europe and the US will have no choice but to admit that their mantra of the Two State ‘solution’ is not even funny. Now is the time to deepen the oppression in the West Bank to Abbas, and create contradiction with Hamas, so as to make the rift between them impossible to heal… This is an art form the Israelis have perfected for decades. As long as Palestinians fight each other, they have less energy to fight the occupation effectively.

Israel never sleeps. Never relaxes, never stops to rethink. It is always right. And it is always brutal. As long as it has the US and EU on its side, it can afford to be. So, onward with the destructive work, onward with the apartheid wall, onwards with destroying the olive groves, the fields, the villages, onwards with cutting up the West Bank, and with killing in Gaza, onwards with burning mosques. We have returned to the normality of military occupation and settlement activity.

This relaxed atmosphere of military control allows Israel to play the new game of political frenzy, of musical chairs changing bottoms at high speed, of a Jerusalem Waltz of bizarre nature. New parties are formed daily, with names such as “Independence’ , ‘The Movement”, “Likud is our Home” – it all reminds us of a post-Soviet Asian republic, with the corruption rife, and with the differences between parties being in the colour of posters. This is not just the post-ideological age, it is also the post-political age – it is the age of pure power, with all sides sharing in the agreement over continuing the military occupation and the attacks on Gaza, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, and then Iran. It is a party to end all parties, the bar at the end of the world. Even the dance of vampires in the cemetery at midnight is a more lively affair than Israeli politics right now, with the odour of political corpses spreading, and attracting the young vultures of the J14 ‘movement’ – already well-ready to share in the corruption and the spoils. The results of this danse macabre can only be the victory of Israeli fascism. All combinations are fine – Lieberman and Netanyahu, Yachimovich and Peretz, J14 with Likud; what next? Rabbi Ovadia and Yossi Sarid will set up shop as the Jewish Heart Party? Shulamit Aloni will join Danny Ayalon in the Second Chance Party? Likud Beitenu will amalgamate with Degel Hatorah in the Big Party Party? Nothing is impossible, the sky is the limit, or rather, the gutter is the limit. Watch this space for more theatre of the absurd performances.

Below, some of the writers in Haaretz chronicle the fall. They are all good Zionists, of course… They still cannot see that the problem is deeper than this group of war criminals now running Israel.

Now you show up, Europe?: Haaretz

Good morning, Europe, you’re late once again: too little and too late.

By  | Dec.06, 2012

Good morning, Europe. The sleeping beauty, the enlightened white continent, is “rebuking” Israel for its intention to build in the forbidden E-1 region. The ambassadors are duly rebuked, and the rebukers feel satisfied: They’ve made a contribution to peace. It’s classic Europe in the best tradition: a dance of hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness. Why, what happened, Europe? Now you’re showing up? Now you’re rebuking? Where were you before?

Europe is rebuking Israel because this time, America permits it. Before, America forbade it; hence the self-restraint. While public opinion in Europe has been raging against the occupation for years, European governments have continued to be its greatest collaborators: They finance the virtual Palestinian Authority and give Israel carte blanche to rampage and settle to its heart’s content. It’s the shadow of the past, you understand.

Just two or three weeks ago, Europe was still supporting yet another unnecessary Israeli military operation in Gaza, just as it threw off all constraints in supporting Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, complete with all its war crimes, four years earlier. Now, all this has seemingly ended. But only seemingly. Another day or two and the “rebukes ” will be forgotten, and Europe will once against support Israel’s next violent caprice. Israel, which in any case never paid any heed to Europe, can stop worrying. Nothing happened. And it could be nothing ever will happen.

As with the “illegal outposts,” which are neither morally nor legally different than the “legal settlement blocs,” here, too, Europe (and the United States ) has invented a bogeyman for itself in the form of a ridiculous red line: E-1. If Israel dares to build there, that will spell the end of the two-state solution. Some 500,000 settlers are fine; it’s just this minor detail, E-1, that disturbs Europe’s peace.

Back in the summer of 2005, when Aluf Benn reported in Haaretz about Israel’s intention to build a police station in E-1, the world also raised an outcry, and America (with Europe following right behind ) “expressed concern.” So great was this concern that it gave birth to the magnificent building housing the headquarters of the Judea and Samaria District Police in the heart of E-1. Then, too, everyone knew that this was merely the appetizer, in whose wake 3,000 homes would arise, and nevertheless, they restrained themselves. Just as they did with the settlement of Har Homa in its day, which was also intended to slice and dice: The world felt “concern” – and Israel built. All the rest is irreversible history and geography.

Let’s say that this time, Israel does pay heed to the world’s rebuke and postpone its plan to build in E-1. What will happen then? Peace? Justice? An end to the occupation? Two states? This ability to set a marginal, ridiculous goal and do battle over it, but only over it, while ignoring everything else is no more than a grotesque costume party to ease the troubled European conscience.

After 45 years of brutal occupation, Europe has remembered to rebuke Israel. And even this rebuke is no more than a dance step: The British foreign minister has already hastened to promise that economic sanctions aren’t on the agenda; even recalling the ambassador was merely “considered.” But why, really? Is the occupation not harsh enough? Is the violation of international law not blatant enough? Is the European interest in resolving the Palestinian problem, which helps nourish global terror, not clear enough? Has European public opinion not made itself clear?

But all this is dwarfed in Europe by two excuses: the past and America. Both haunt the continent. Yet both are dubious excuses: Precisely because of the past, Europe should now mobilize to save Israel from itself and its occupations. And precisely because the United States, with its blind support for Israel, is playing such a destructive role in resolving the conflict, Europe is obligated to provide an independent voice.

It’s not clear why, in the reality of the 21st century, Europe continues to be a pale, subjugated shadow of the United States in the Middle East. And it’s impossible to explain what connection there is between the horrors of the past and support for the occupation. Good morning, Europe, you’re late once again: too little and too late.

Netanyahu is leading Israel into an abyss: Haaretz

Netanyahu keeps behaving in a way that profoundly contradicts the values of the club of the Free World, of which he wants to be a valued member: His disregard for international law and individual human rights of Palestinians simply doesn’t square with the standards of the Free World.

By  | Dec.05, 2012

PM Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on the Palestinians' UN bid, Nov. 29, 2012

PM Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on the Palestinians’ UN bid, Nov. 29, 2012, on a backdrop of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and former Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Photo by AP
Carlo Strenger

Europe’s reaction to Netanyahu’s decision to build in area E-1 has been swift, but ended up being lighter than originally expected. France and Britain considered recalling their ambassadors from Israel, but haven’t done so at this point. Israel’s ambassadors in Europe were summoned by various governments to hear that Europe is no longer willing to put up with Israel’s expansion of the occupation – and there were rumors that European governments would consider rescinding trade agreements with Israel.

Bibi will hear hard words from Angela Merkel on Wednesday, but in the end he’ll be happy to point out that it wasn’t that bad. European ambassadors haven’t been recalled yet, and the EU can only rescind trade agreements by unanimous vote – and the Czech Republic will, for the time being, prevent any punitive measures against Israel.

Ergo, Bibi will argue, he’s shown, once again, what a master he is at eating his cake by extending the occupation, and having it too by retaining the West’s support.

He’ll say that things are under control, that he is successfully continuing the policies of the last four years. Netanyahu thinks he has manipulated the world into dropping the Palestinian issue by turning Iran into the number one problem the international community has to deal with. And, he will conclude, the West will always stand behind Israel, because it is the Free World’s outpost in the Middle East.

Netanyahu is certainly right on one account: Israel is located in one of the world’s more volatile corners. Nobody can predict the results of the Arab world’s upheavals, and Israel’s survival will indeed depend on the support and loyalty of the Free World. But he is completely wrong in believing that his double-crossing Israel’s allies for years will leave the alliance with the Free World intact in the long run.

Anger in Britain, France, Germany and Spain, all formerly staunch allies of Israel, is now palpable. They see Netanyahu’s commitment to building in area E-1 as proof that he is actively trying to destroy the two-state solution to which he is officially committed.

Netanyahu’s lectures to the world about how Israel is the Middle East’s only democracy are far less effective than he thinks. Israel’s friends in the Free World have come to the conclusion that Netanyahu is unreliable, and that he cannot be believed or trusted. They think that he has been trying to lull the world with the speech he gave at Bar Ilan University in 2009 endorsing the two-state solution, while continuing Israel’s colonization of the West Bank.

Netanyahu keeps behaving in a way that profoundly contradicts the values of the club of the Free World, of which he wants to be a valued member: His disregard for international law and individual human rights of Palestinians simply doesn’t square with the standards of the Free World.

In the long run, the price of double-crossing Israel’s allies is bound to be very high indeed. Public opinion in Europe is turning ever more strongly against Israel, and Netanyahu doesn’t see that the moment will come when European governments will align policy with their electorates’ views.

Moreover, Netanyahu’s general worldview is incredibly shortsighted. Long-term alliances can be based either on common interest or true friendship, and commonality of values. He doesn’t see that in the long run the Free World, including the U.S. and Europe will have few common interests with Israel. They are not interested in deepening the conflict with the Islamic world, and their support of Israel is exacting an increasing price: the Arab world sees the West as being unfair because it supports an Israel that behaves like a colonial power.

This leaves friendship and closeness based on common values. Netanyahu’s lectures to the world about Israel’s democracy are contradicted by settlement expansion and the erosion of the two-state solution, and by the illiberal laws that Netanyahu’s allies promote.

I keep speaking to many genuine friends of Israel who feel that the country is changing beyond recognition. In the 1960s and 1970s Israel was, for many of them, a heroic attempt to create a model of social justice. They simply don’t understand where this country has disappeared.

The right is a danger to Israel: Haaretz

An Israel that insists on national pride but that is harming national security and eroding national fortitude in a dangerous way.

By  | Dec.06, 2012

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman shaking hands

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman shaking hands. Photo by Reuters

Let’s set aside values. Are we indeed prepared to reinforce our status as an occupying state that controls another people for a prolonged period? Let’s set aside justice and morals. Are we indeed prepared to turn Zionism into an apartheid movement that denies millions of residents their basic rights? Let’s set aside identity. Are we indeed prepared to exchange a Jewish democratic state for a state of ultra-nationalist zealotry that tramples on its minorities?

Let’s set aside universal values, and Jewish values, and what Israel once aspired to be. In terms of national security, the political map that seems to be shaping up arouses aversion. The sharp right turn that the ruling party and its partners have taken is endangering the Jewish state’s diplomatic, security and economic interests. It is likely to lead to a situation in which, very soon, Israel loses the last few bases of support it has left in the West and becomes a state that weakens itself to death.

Iran? Iran. The government that Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman and Zeev Elkin can set up will have the most limited ability to deal with the Iranian nuclear challenge. Since it will be conceived of in the West as an irrational government, no one will want to listen to its rational claims on the irrationality of Tehran. Since it will be conceived of as an illegitimate government of a country that is gradually becoming illegitimate, it will not have the necessary legitimacy to curb Iran, either diplomatically or militarily. An Israel that is controlled by “ultra-nationalism-is-our-home” parties will be an Israel that is isolated and weakened, whose ability to prevent the nuclearization of Iran is slim.

Deterrence? Deterrence. A government whose values are those of Likud MK Yariv Levin will be conceived of in the international community as if it were a government of Afrikaners. The Afrikaners do not have the right to self-determination and self-defense. Since they do not recognize the natural rights of others, their natural rights too are undermined. That being the case, the ability of the Israeli Afrikaners to use force against Hamas and Hezbollah will be close to nil. Any justifiable act of defense on their part will be seen as a war crime. Any wild settlement project will take them to the international court in The Hague. A Netanyahu painted in the hues of Levin will not enjoy the same umbrella of sympathy and forgiveness that Shimon Peres enjoyed with the Oslo Accords, or Ariel Sharon with the “road map,” or Ehud Olmert with the Annapolis talks. With a backward kind of logic, precisely this ultra-nationalist leadership that strives to be strong will be the weak leadership of a weak country whose strategic situation is in dire straits.

Economics? Economics. The bitter herbs that the European Union is dishing out to us this week are merely the first course. Let’s not get things wrong: Everything was planned in advance and known in advance. While the prime minister and foreign minister were busy celebrating the fact that they had prevented the diplomatic tsunami of 2011, the Palestinians, Europeans and Americans were working diligently to prepare the diplomatic tsunami of 2012 and 2013. All they were waiting for was the reelection of Barack Obama as America’s president. Now, when the Democratic regime in the United States is stable and sure, there is no Sheldon Adelson in the world who can hold back a coalition of progressive forces in the West with zero tolerance for a continuation of the occupation and settlements.

If the wild construction in the territories continues, the diplomatic protest gestures will soon become legal and commercial protest gestures that will badly harm the Israeli economy. Supporters of the Likud will learn the hard way that there is a price tag to electing Moshe Feiglin, and the citizens of Israel will learn the hard way that there is a price tag to electing Feiglin’s devoted supporters.

Thin out your stock portfolio, dear readers. The Israel of Likud Beitenu is an Israel that is going to crash into the wall. In another month and a half, Israelis will go to the polls. To our great regret, they won’t find in the voting booths a worthy and high-quality alternative in the center-left bloc. But whoever votes for the extremist slates of the new right-wing bloc must know exactly what he is voting for – a weak Israel. An Israel that insists on national pride but that is harming national security and eroding national fortitude in a dangerous way.

These friends of Israel now begin to feel that Netanyahu’s commitment and that of his allies to the Free World’s core values is iffy, to say the least. His actions show that behind the polished facade, Netanyahu’s polished English only provides a cosmetic cover-up of him as a believer in brute force.

Netanyahu’s behavior is about to erode many genuine friendships. His belief that you can lie to all of your friends most of the time and retain their friendship is completely unrealistic. Once the Free World will no longer accept Israel as a genuine member, we will have to pay a price much higher than the summoning of ambassadors. Netanyahu still doesn’t see that he is leading Israel into an abyss.

Continue reading December 6, 2012

December 4, 2012

EDITOR: An odd mood is now spreading across Europe!

In the last few days more mention is made of the Two State solution as in the last few years! The dead and buried ‘solution’ is virtually and ceremoniously revived, as it has been so many times before, on the occasion of Israel dealing it yet another ‘almost fatal blow’ as expressed by Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General. How many ‘almost fatal blows’ will become fatal in the minds of those mouthing the mindless mantra of the Two State solution? This has become the perfect cover for Israel’s continued aggression and increasing colonisation of the West Bank. Instead of facing the fact that they have assisted Israeli crimes, people like Ban Ki Moon are redoubling their efforts of reviving the corpse of the ‘solution’ which is blocking any real and just solution in Palestine. Calling in the Israeli ambassadors to ‘slap their hands’ as reported below, is a useless formalistic theatrical act, making sure Israel can continue with immunity, rather than acting politically against the occupation. Old habits die hard – the EU has been acting in this empty ritualistic manner since 1967, and 45 years are a long time. As far as the EU is concerned, Israel is total immune of international law, and it is European protection which makes it so.

Europe, Israel’s mainstay after the US, and its largest trading partner, has continued to pretend it is intent on a solution, while supporting Israel to the rafters, having just accorded to it almost full membership only months ago, despite the clear evidence – the EU buys 15 times more from the Israeli Illegal settlements than it does from Palestine – the EU continues to argue in public against the settlements.  In the wake of the UN GA vote on Palestine, and the Israeli retribution through building even more illegal settlements in the West Bank, totally cutting of East Jerusalem from the West Bank, as well as cutting it in two, a number of EU prominent political figures have argued (The Guardian, ‘A Message to Israel’, December 4th) for the urgent need for EU wide legislation to clearly mark Products from the Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. While this of clarity is most welcome, and will help consumers to make intelligent and informed decisions, I would like to point out the basic and deep contradiction which lies at the heart of the argument made by Mary Robinson and Martti Ahtisaari. The need for such legislation arises, in the first place, from Israel’s long-term policy of denying the facts of the occupation and obfuscation the differences between Israel and its settlements in the occupied territories, either those illegally annexed, such as around Jerusalem, or those annexed de facto, elsewhere in the West Bank.

By separating out for boycott only the products of the settlements, such an initiative acts against the people in these settlements, but allows the political leadership of Israel, which initiates and finances each of the settlements to get off unscathed! It is the government of Israel, and its Jewish population, who willingly and openly support the occupation with their taxes, their reserve service, and their effective silence over the many iniquities involved, who are responsible for the illegal settlements, not just the settlers themselves. In order to act effectively and morally against the Israeli occupation, of which the settlements are but one of the many illegal aspects, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions should be really applied to ALL Israeli products, as was the case during the struggle against the Apartheid regime in South Africa; Any other position is just pandering to and supporting Israeli continuing aggression, and assists in making a just solution ever so remote a possibility.

UN tells Israel to let in nuclear inspectors: Guardian

As nuclear peace talks are cancelled, overwhelming vote by general assembly calls for Israel to join nonproliferation treaty

A vote by the United Nations has called on Israel to open its nuclear programme to inspectors

A vote by the United Nations general assembly has called on Israel to open its nuclear programme to weapons inspectors. Photograph: Chip East/Reuters

The UN general assembly has overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on Israel to open its nuclear programme for inspection.

The resolution, approved by a vote of 174 to six with six abstentions, calls on Israel to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) “without further delay” and open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Those voting against were Israel, the US, Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.

Resolutions adopted by the 193-member general assembly are not legally binding but they do reflect world opinion and carry moral and political weight. And the resolution adds to pressure on Israel as it facescriticism over plans to increase settlement in the West Bank, a move seen as retaliation for the assembly recognising Palestinian statehood.

Israel refuses to confirm or deny possessing nuclear bombs though it is widely believed to have them. It has refused to join the non-proliferation treaty along with three nuclear weapon states: India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Israel insists there must first be a Middle East peace agreement before the establishment of a proposed regional zone free of weapons of mass destruction. Its rivals in the region argue that Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal presents the greatest threat to peace in the region.

While the US voted against the resolution, it voted in favour of two paragraphs in it that were put to separate votes. Both support universal adherence to the NPT and call on those countries that aren’t parties to ratify it “at the earliest date”. The only no votes on those paragraphs were Israel and India.

The vote came as a sequel to the cancellation of a high-level conference aimed at banning nuclear weapons from the Middle East. All the Arab nations and Iran had planned to attend the summit in mid-December in Helsinki, Finland, but the US announced on 23 November that it would not take place, citing political turmoil in the region and Iran’s defiant stance on non-proliferation. Iran and some Arab nations countered that the real reason for the cancellation was Israel’s refusal to attend.

Just before Monday’s vote, the Iranian diplomat Khodadad Seifi told the assembly “the truth is that the Israeli regime is the only party which rejected to conditions for a conference”. He called for “strong pressure on that regime to participate in the conference without any preconditions”.

Israeli diplomat Isi Yanouka told the general assembly his country had continuously pointed to the danger of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, singling out Iran and Syria by name. “All these cases challenge Israel’s security and cast a dark shadow at the prospect of embarking on a meaningful regional security process,” he said.

“The fact that the sponsors include in this anti-Israeli resolution language referring to the 2012 conference proves above all the ill intent of the Arab states with regard to this conference.”

The Syrian diplomat Abdullah Hallak told the assembly his government was angry the conference was not going to take place because of “the whim of just one party, a party with nuclear warheads”.

“We call on the international community to put pressure on Israel to accept the NPT, get rid of its arsenal and delivery systems, in order to allow for peace and stability in our region,” he said.

The conference’s main sponsors are the US, Russia and Britain. The British foreign office minister Alistair Burt has said it is being postponed, not cancelled.

Middle East conflict: it’s time for Europe to suggest its own path to peace: Guardian

Israel’s behaviour is seen as retaliation for the UN vote recognising Palestine as a member state. But it is more than that

Jewish settlement

The West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem. Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters

Israel‘s ambassadors to Britain and France must have spent an uncomfortable few minutes on Monday as they were called in to hear of official displeasure in London and Paris at their government’s decision to expand settlements in a key area of the occupied West Bank.

Sweden, Denmark and Spain also summoned Israeli envoys for a slap on the wrist. Even Germany, often cautious about criticism of Israel, issued a public protest.

Israel’s behaviour is seen as retaliation for last week’s landmark UN vote recognising Palestine as a member state. But it is more than that: authorising illegal settlements in the area known as E1 is plainly provocative. It is, as the UN’s Ban ki-Moon put it, a near-fatal blow to the fading hopes for a two-state solution. Britain’s foreign secretary, Wiliam Hague, made the same point starkly.

Swift and concerted diplomatic protests across Europe were certainly headline-grabbing. But what counts is whether they will be followed by more united and robust action. Even more important, what will be the response of the US, the only member of the security council to vote no to Palestine last week? And what effect will all this have on the Palestinians, divided between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and between the PLO and the Islamists of Hamas after the latest blood-letting in the border enclave?

Protests by Britain, France and Germany represented an effectively coordinated position by Europe’s big three powers. But the EU as a whole has spent years aspiring to be a bigger player on the world stage.

Its 27 member states comprise 400 million people. Even so, 14 of them backed UN membership while 12 others, including Britain, abstained. The Czech Republic opposed the decision.

It should be no surprise then that what the EU says about the world’s most intractable conflict has so little effect. Israelis tend to sneer at the collective power of Brussels. If the EU is united it is usually by saying what it will not do — for example shunning Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

“The feeling in Israel is that Europe will never act against it for historical reasons,” argues Yossi Mekelberg, a fellow at Chatham House in London. “The argument is that Europeans were either perpetrators in the Holocaust or failed to do enough to stop it. The Israeli government is always quick to press that button.”

But, 67 years after the end of the second world war, things could be different. The EU is Israel’s biggest trading partner and the largest provider of development assistance to the Palestinians. It is often criticised for being a “payer but not a player” especially after millions of euros worth of aid have gone up in smoke in Israeli attacks.

Europe was ahead of the curve in 1980 when the Venice declaration recognised the Palestinians’ right to self-determination at a time when the PLO was beyond the pale.

But occasional talk of punishing Israel – for example by suspending its valued 1995 association agreement with the EU or other co-operation programmes – has remained that, just talk.

Chris Patten, EU external relations commissioner when Israel reoccupied the West Bank after suicide bombings in 2002, used to attack the US as the “Washington branch of the Likud”. Still, European divisions have had a persistent life of their own. Change has been patchy. Individual member states have required that consumer produce from Israeli settlements, which all regard as illegal, be clearly labelled. But overall the EU still imports 15 times more from them than from Palestinians — an obvious inconsistency.

Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator who now works for the European Council for Foreign Relations, said that an EU rethink is required urgently but does not expect it to happen quickly. “When you are so deep in a policy that essentially accords impunity to Israeli actions you can’t spin on a dime,” he argued. “It requires a whole different approach that isn’t going to happen overnight.”

It was in 2001 that the then French foreign minister, Hubert Vedrine, defined the challenge. “The EU should make the US recognise that it is legitimate for Europe to take its own approach to peace,” he said.

“If the union really wishes to play a role, it must escape from the situation where defining a common position comes down to seeking the lowest common denominator in platitudinous declarations or ritualised diplomatic tours.”

That advice remains relevant to this day.

Israel-Palestine: concreting over the solution: Guardian Editorial

If this is punishment for the crime of going to the UN, how does Netanyahu hope to persuade Palestinians back to talks?

Supporting a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict feels increasingly like clinging onto a cliff edge while someone with heavy boots stamps on your fingers. The boots were Israeli on Monday. Having spun the line that European governments had misunderstood Israel‘s plan to create a settlement that would cut the West Bank in two and separate it from East Jerusalem, the prime minister’s office vowed that nothing would alter their decision. The European diplomatic protest was, by its meek standards, unprecedented. Israeli ambassadors were summoned in Britain, France, Sweden and Spain but none of the four threatened any concrete measures to punish Israel. They should have.

From their inception, the West Bank settlements have been a cumulative study in opportunism. It matters not whether the horrified US secretary of state is a Republican or a Democrat. Condoleezza Rice said in 2007 that Har Homa should not be built. Five years later it is a fact on the ground, “the last brick in the wall of Jerusalem”, and never be surrendered. The same is about to happen to an area of land called E1, which lies between another egregious act of occupation, Ma’aleh Adumim, and Jerusalem.

The Israeli NGO B’Tselem says the plan dates back to 1999. Every US administration since has condemned it, because it would sever the Palestinian state from its capital in East Jerusalem. Although European diplomats call it a red line, it should have surprised no one that it is now to be crossed. Each piece in the jigsaw of settlement planning had been laid by previous Israeli administrations. Sealing the West Bank off from Jerusalem had been their purpose from the start.

The decision was intended as a punishment for Palestinians having the temerity to seek observer status from the same body, the United Nations of which Israel is already a full member. Israel hoped to rally between 20 and 30 countries to oppose the Palestinian request. In the event only eight countries, among them four tiny Pacific island nations, complied. Instead of isolating Palestinians, the UN vote showed how much support Israel lost in the place it values most – Europe. Only Czech Republic supported them.

If this decision is the punishment for the crime of going to the UN, how does Binyamin Netanyahu hope to persuade the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, now that he has just blocked their route off physically? Unless of course he, too, believes a two-state solution is a convenient fiction. One thing is clear. He continues to act with impunity. Until the US callibrates its relationship with Israel, until its leaders feel there is a price to pay for settlements, the plan for a two-state solution will remain a pipedream.

Continue reading December 4, 2012

December 2, 2012

EDITOR: So now starts the punishment!

Not only is the Israeli leadership criminally cruel and illegally aggressive towards the Palestinians, especially in Gaza, but is ready at a minute’s notice to take other illegal steps in order to punish their victims. Below you can read about another vindictive move – the illegal confiscation of PA funds, as a reaction to the UN vote, which has raised Israel’s ire beyond belief. The message is: “You don’t mess with us!” – especially not in the UN…Following closely on the heels of the decision to build 3000 illegal homes in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, this is piling more crimes on a very crowded record sheet. Israel will never forgive any Palestinian for trying to make the Two States solution work! It must never be a workable proposition – Israel has spent five decades making it impossible, yet the PA seems to not have noticed… In a report below, you can read the hypocritical position taken by Hilary Clinton of the US, the main guarantor of Israeli occupation and oppression of the Palestinians. The US has never done anything whatsoever to stop or reverse Israeli settlement activity.

So it seems that Hamas comes off as a much wiser agency of Palestinian politics, a fact widely recognised in the support it continues to garner. They both refuse to act as an agent of Israel’s security, the job done by Abbas, and dabble in corrupt deals with Israel and the US. The message sent to the Palestinians is clear: There is nothing to come out of dealing with Israel diplomatically. There is nothing to expect from the US, EU and the other partners in Israel’s crimes. The only support to be had is what you could do yourself, and that of the wider, civil society across the globe, whose support Palestine increasingly attracts. It is much better to act through BDS and resistance to the occupation, than to lunch with your oppressors – both morally, and politically, and it produces much more tangible results. This way, the Israeli crimes will produce their own punishment for Zionism, admittedly a long-term one. This means we all have to redouble our efforts to bring it about.

This also means that the Israeli society, not just its government, can be seen clearly to be the apartheid colonial society that it is. Israel is Jewish democracy – what researchers have called a herrenvolk democracy –  democracy of the master race – and hence its government is truly representative – it represents the Jewish majority within the state quite accurately – more than 90% of this ethnicity has supported the criminal bombing of Gaza, both in 2008/9 and earlier in November 2012. This gives the lie to the liberal supporters of Israel, who try to tell us that the real representatives of Israel are the triumvirate of Oz, Yehosua and Grossman, who are its cultural ambbassadors abroad. Indeed, they may be right this time, as the trio has kept quiet, joining the 90% of the Jewish population in its acquiescence and supine obedience of its military and political elite’s crimes. This does mean that this great majority of Israeli Jews share fully in the responsibility to the war crimes, and that the BDS campaign is more than justified – there is NO liberal, humane and law-abiding Israel to speak of, on the issue of Palestine and just peace.

Israel confiscates NIS 460 million in Palestinian Authority tax funds: Haaretz

The money, which Israel collects for the Palestinians, was slated to pay the salaries of PA officials; Netanyahu, Steinitz decide to use money to offset the PA’s debt to Israel’s Electric Corporation.

By  | Dec.02, 2012

Yuval Steinitz, left, and Benjamin Netanyahu

Yuval Steinitz, left, and Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz decided Sunday to confiscate the tax revenues that Israel collected for the Palestinian Authority during the month of November, and use it to offset the PA’s debt to Israel’s Electric Corporation.

The move comes in response to Thursday’s upgrade of Palestine at the United Nations to nonmember observer state, following a vote of 138 to 9. Following the upgrade, Israel announced on Friday that it intends on building 3,000 new homes in settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The confiscation of funds, which total NIS 460 million and are intended for the salaries of PA officials, comes after Israel warned of the move ahead of the UN vote. On November 11, Steinitz warned: “If the Palestinians continue to advance their unilateral move they should not expect bilateral cooperation. We will not collect their taxes for them and we will not transfer their tax revenues.”

However, as the Israeli government weighed the legal implications following last week’s UN General Assembly vote, it was not expected to rescind the economic accords that govern relations with the Palestinian Authority or do anything that would bring about its collapse.

In the weekly meeting on Sunday, Israel’s cabinet unanimously decided to reject the UN decision to upgrade Palestine’s status. In the decision, it was written that the West Bank is a “contested area” over which the “Jewish people have a natural right.”

Moreover, the cabinet decision also stated that the UNGA decision “will not serve as the basis to future negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and it cannot advance a peaceful solution.”

Netanyahu also compared the recent UN General Assembly decision to recognize Palestine as a nonmember state with observer status to the 1975 UNGA decision that equated Zionism with racism. During the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu read out the cabinet decision from 1975 in which then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said that in response to the UN decision, Israel will accelerate plans to settle in various parts of the country, as well as in West Bank settlements.

Ahead of the PA’s expected upgrade at the UN, Israeli officials had weighed a number of retaliatory steps, such as reconsidering the provisions of the Oslo Accords, including the 1994 Paris Protocol.

The protocol regulates economic ties between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, tasking the former with collecting taxes and customs duties on the latter’s behalf, amounting to around $100 million a month on goods imported into the Palestinian territories

Israel has previously frozen payments to the Palestinian government during times of heightened security and diplomatic tensions, provoking strong international criticism.

In 2011, Israel froze November’s transfer of October’s $100 million in tax funds to punish the Palestinians for their efforts to win UN recognition of their independence. The Israeli decision came after the Palestinians were accepted to the UN cultural agency UNESCO as part of a broader effort for admission as a full member state at the United Nations.

On November 30 that year, Israel announced that it would release the funds owed to the Palestinian Authority, ending a standoff that the Palestinians said had caused grave damage to their fragile economy.

The tax funds from customs duties and other fees are needed by the Palestinian government, the largest single employer in the Palestinian territories, to pay tens of thousands of workers, as well as security forces, which have won praise for their cooperation in halting militant attacks on Israelis.

The move followed heavy pressure from the United States, United Nations and Europe on Israel to free the money.

In response to UN vote, Israel to build 3,000 new homes in settlements: Haaretz

Netanyahu orders thousands of new housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank; controversial plans for new construction in the E1 area near Jerusalem will be advanced, contrary to commitments made to the Obama administration.

By  | Nov.30, 2012

A Palestinian works at a construction site in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim

A Palestinian works at a construction site in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, Sunday, March, 13, 2011. Photo by AP

Israel plans to build some 3,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem and West Bank settlements in response to the Palestinians’ successful bid for recognition at the UN General Assembly this week, a senior diplomatic source told Haaretz on Friday.

According to the source, Israel also plans to advance long-frozen plans for the E1 area, which covers an area that links the city of Jerusalem with the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim.

If built, the controversial plan would prevent territorial contiguity between the northern and southern West Bank, making it difficult for a future Palestinian state to function.

In the beginning of his term, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the Obama administration a commitment that Israel would not build in the area. Both of his predecessors, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, also promised the U.S. administration that Israel would not build in E1.

The source said Israel would advance building plans for another several thousand housing units in settlement blocs in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, while weighing additional measures.

He added that the construction would be carried out according to the map of Israel’s strategic interests.

In a historic session of the United Nations in New York Thursday, exactly 65 years after passing the Partition Plan for Palestine, the General Assembly voted by a huge majority to recognize Palestine within the 1967 borders as a non-member state with observer status in the organization. Some 138 countries voted in favor of the resolution, 41 abstained and 9 voted against: Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, U.S., Panama, The Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru, and Micronesia.

Following the vote, U.S. UN envoy Susan Rice said the resolution does not establish Palestine as state, that it prejudges the outcome of negotiations, and ignores questions of security.

Disappearing Palestine: the statistics

Clinton and Hague attack Israel decision to build new settlements: Observer

US and UK react to Binyamin Netanyahu’s approval of plans for 3,000 new homes on occupied territory in the West Bank

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sp

Hillary Clinton said Israeli plans to build new settlements on occupied territory would ‘set back the cause of a negotiated peace’. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and British foreign secretary,William Hague, have launched attacks on an Israeli decision to build fresh settlements on occupied territory in the West Bank.

The Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu‘s decision to approve the construction of 3,000 new homes is widely seen as a response to theUnited Nations vote earlier this week that recognised a Palestinian bid to be a “non-member observer state”.

The US, with Israel, strongly opposed that move, while Britain abstained in the vote. But now both countries have criticised the Israeli settlement decision, saying it hurts the chances of a two-state solution and the search for peace in the troubled region.

“Let me reiterate that this administration, like previous administrations, has been very clear with Israel that these activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace,” Clinton said, in remarks delivered at the Saban Center think tank in Washington on Friday.

Hague said he was “extremely concerned” at the plans, which have been reported in the Israeli press as including a four-square-mile area just east of Jerusalem that is seen as vital to keeping open a viable land corridor between the city and any future Palestinian state.

Hague asked Israel to reverse the decision and said the prospect of a successful two solution was receding. “Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and undermine trust between the parties,” he said in comments Saturday. “If implemented, these plans would alter the situation on the ground on a scale that makes the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly difficult to achieve.”

Hague added: “They would undermine Israel’s international reputation and create doubts about its stated commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians.”

Israel had strongly opposed the Palestinian bid for improved recognition at the UN, saying that the tactic was a blow for peace negotiations. It had secured strong and vocal support from the US, its traditional ally, and a handful of other nations, but was unable to derail the move which was celebrated wildly on the streets of the West Bank.

Palestinian politicians reacted to the new settlement decision with dismay. “This would be the last nail in the coffin of the peace process,” the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, told Sky News.

The firm US and British line on the Israeli decision is unlikely to mark any real shift in allegiances or policy. Clinton backed up her criticism of Israel with another strong admonition of the Palestinians and said that they had acted wrongly and unilaterally in gaining improved recognition at the UN.

“Palestinian leaders need to ask themselves what unilateral action can really accomplish for their people. President [Mahmoud] Abbas took a step in the wrong direction this week, to say the least. We opposed his resolution,” Clinton said.

The fresh spat over settlements comes at a time when all sides appear to regard the prospect of a peace settlement in the region as a distant dream. Any future Palestinian state remains deeply divided between the more moderate and secular rule of Abbas in the West Bank and the militant Islamic group Hamas, which governs in the tiny and isolated Gaza Strip.

In Friday’s address, the US secretary of state said Hamas had “condemned those it rules to violence and misery” and now faced a choice.

“Hamas knows what it needs to do. If it wishes to reunite the Palestinians and join the international community it must reject violence, honor past agreements with Israel and recognize Israel’s right to exist,” Clinton said, adding: “America has showed that it is willing to work with Islamists who reject violence and work towards real democracy, but we will never work with terrorists.”

Despite the criticism over settlement building, Clinton reiterated American support for its traditional Middle East ally.

“Americans honor Israel as a homeland dreamed of for generations and finally achieved by pioneering men and women in my lifetime,” she said. “What threatens Israel threatens America. What strengthens Israel strengthens us.”

Israel agreed to freeze settlement construction under the Roadmap For Peace plan in 2002. But it has failed to comply with that commitment despite repeated and widespread international condemnation.

Fresh trouble continues to break out in Gaza, after Hamas and Israel spent eight days trading rocket and missile fire earlier this month.

That conflict ended with an Egyptian-brokered truce but there have been repeated flare-ups since. On Saturday a Palestinian who was shot and wounded by Israeli troops on Friday, while protesting at the Gaza Strip boundary fence, died in hospital. Five others were also wounded in the incident.

EDITOR: Even Olmert cannot accept the stupidity of Israel’s actions…

He may be corrupt politician and a war criminal criminal (remember the carnage in Gaza in 2008/9?…) but he is not as stupid to buy the Israeli story. In that, he seems more intelligent than most of the Israeli population, including its famous ‘elites’. He at least knows that Abbas represents the Israeli interests better than Netanyahu…

Olmert: Settlement construction in Area E-1 is ‘slap in the face’ of Obama: Haaretz

Former PM says Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is the best partner Israel has had for peace, yet failed to accept the ‘most far-reaching and daring plan ever proposed.’

By  | Dec.02, 2012

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and former prime minister Ehud Olmert

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Photo by Natasha Mozgovaya

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert criticized Saturday the decision to go forward with construction plans in Area E-1, which connects Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim, describing it as a “slap in the face” of U.S. President Barack Obama.

Speaking at the Saban Forum 2012 at the Willard InterContinental in Washington D.C., Olmert said Israel must avoid taking measures that prevent a two-state solution, and that “declaring 3,000 building units is the worst slap in the face of a U.S. president” who supports the Jewish state.

On Friday, the forum of nine senior cabinet ministers approved initial retaliatory measures to the UN General Assembly’s vote to upgradePalestine’s status to non-member observer state in the body. The forum, from which Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor were absent, decided to go forward with construction plans in Area E-1, which connects Ma’aleh Adumim to Jerusalem.

Four thousand new homes are planned for the new settlement, to be called Mevasseret Adumim. The project was halted early on in the design approval process a few years ago, despite pressure on Netanyahu from settlers. There is still a long way to go before the bulldozers move in, but the ministers’ decision starts the ball rolling.

The forum also approved the immediate start of the construction to 3,000 homes in East Jerusalem and in settlement blocs in the West Bank, primarily in Ariel, Efrat and Ma’aleh Adumim. A senior Israeli foreign-policy figure said the construction will proceed in accordance with Israel’s strategic interest.

Olmert said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was a genuine partner for peace unlike former Palestinian president Yasser Arafat. But despite praising Abbas as the “best partner we have had,” Olmert said the Palestinians have “failed every opportunity” for reaching a peace agreement with Israel.

“I gave a map to Abu Mazen, and he said he needs to do fine tuning with map experts,” recalled Olmert. “The fact is that the Palestinians rejected the most far-reaching and daring plan ever proposed to them. They should have answered right away, but he failed to do it. In a matter of three months we could have concluded the deal.”

“The deal doesn’t have to be perfect, but has to be signed by Palestinian representative elected in Democratic elections recognized by an international community,” he said. “I don’t need Abu Mazen or anyone else to recognize Israel as Jewish state – if it has defined borders it will automatically be a Jewish state and will be recognized by the whole world as such.”

Despite criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for giving the go-ahead to planning and construction in Area E-1, Olmert commended him on the recent eight-day Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip. Olmert said that he “entirely supported” the prime minister’s decision to assassinate Ahmed Jabari.


If, as Netanyahu said, UN recognition of Palestine has no practical effect, we need to take measures that would render this virtual recognition a tangible reality. These measures must be Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). Real international sanctions would cause Netanyahu to eat his words in a jiffy and give formal recognition of the Palestinian state a tangible reality. However, this requires a powerful citizen mobilization to force the hand of Holland, Merkel and others to stop their hypocritical policy, by which with one hand they give the Palestinians recognition, and the other they enhance EU relations with Israel.




BDS can bridge the virtual with reality (Illustration: Solidarity) 

“Let’s not make a big deal, this resolution has no practical effect” stated Benjamin Netanyahu after the overwhelming vote of the United Nations General Assembly to recognise Palestine as a “non-member state.” No big deal, perhaps, but can we be indifferent to the fact that Israel once again finds itself isolated, with only the United States, Canada and the Czech Republic voting with Israel against the resolution? I forgot: the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau also supported the Israeli position.

Highly significant was the European position. Led by France (for once we can acknowledge François Hollande and Laurent Fabius), Spain, Italy, Greece, Sweden and Belgium voted in favour of the recognition and Germany, Britain, Bulgaria and Romania, which had initially announced they would vote against the admission, finally abstained. “We lost Europe” a senior official of Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry stated immediately following the vote.

Israel has never been so isolated in the international arena. Israel’s colonial arrogance and bloody atrocities of its far-right government has even managed to push away states that not so long ago were considered friends of the Jewish state.

That said, it is good to dampen the enthusiasm of President Abbas. The Israeli prime minister was not entirely wrong when he stated that the resolution has no practical effect. Did not these same European states vote in favour of the recent enhancement of relations between the European Union and the State of Israel?

Recognition of Palestine as non-member state remains about the virtual. Yet in the  occupied Palestinian territory which has now been recognized as a state, what is real is the centrally planned and methodically implemented colonial plans that Israel created long ago. In this process of colonization, the frontier between Israel and the West Bank (the so-called Green Line) is a small little piece of land, leaving less space for the state that the UN has recognised.

If, as Netanyahu said, recognition has no practical effect, we need to take measures that would render this virtual recognition a tangible reality. These measures must be  Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). Real international sanctions would cause Netanyahu to eat his words in a jiffy and give formal recognition of the Palestinian state a tangible reality. However, this requires a powerful citizen mobilization to force the hand of Holland, Merkel and others to stop their hypocritical policy, by which with one hand they give the Palestinians recognition, and the other they enhance EU relations with Israel.

Following UN vote on Palestine, Israel may now find itself at The Hague: Haaretz

Since 1967, Israel has attempted to cement its occupation of the territories while evading international culpability. The Palestinians’ successful statehood bid may change that, but it is far from a sure thing.

By  | Dec.02, 2012 | 3:31 PM |  6

Abbas addresses the UN

PA President Mahmoud Abbas addressing the UN General Assembly in New York, November 29, 2012.Photo by Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to build more housing units in the settlements, coming hot on the heels of the United Nations General Assembly’s declaration of Palestine as a non-member observer state, could put Israel on a collision course with the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Following the UN’s decision last Thursday, Palestine may contact the court’s prosecutor once again, asking for a hearing on the crimes that are being committed in its territory. The court’s prosecutor may well rule that in light of Palestine’s recognition as a state, the court has authority to hear the case.

If Palestine should complain to the court, Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the court’s statute may be at the center of the case. This article states, in part: “The transfer, directly or indirectly, by an occupying power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” is a war crime.

This statute is the continuation of a rule in the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel’s past claims that the rule did not apply in the territories may be rejected: The International Court of Justice, also in The Hague, settles legal disputes between countries and gives advisory opinions. When this court gave its advisory opinion over the separation barrier, it ruled that contrary to Israel’s position, the Fourth Geneva Convention applied in the territories, including the prohibition against building settlements in occupied territory. This ruling has even greater force now that Palestine has been recognized as a state.

Israel’s claim that the provision applies only to the forced transfer of a population from an occupying country to the occupied territories, and not to a voluntary move, is likely to be rejected both in light of Israel’s large investment in the settlements and the active establishment of new settlements, and also because the court’s statute includes the phrase “direct or indirect” in its prohibition against such a transfer.

It should be noted that the crime being discussed is the “transfer,” not the “move” of those moving. The ones to be accused are not the settlers themselves, but those responsible for building the settlements. Some believe that the prosecutor and the court will not want to deal with the matter because it does not involve grave war crimes such as the killing of civilians. However, the clause was included in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court over Israel’s objections, with full awareness, and the court cannot ignore it.

It is also possible that the prosecutor and the court will opine that the settlements, no less than the killing of civilians, are at the heart of the occupation regime, the dispossession, the discrimination and the negation of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, and that the case therefore deserves to be heard. It is also a relatively easy case from a legal perspective: In cases of complaints against the killing of civilians, complicated questions may arise regarding the interpretation of the principles of complementarity and proportionality.

According to the principle of complementarity, the court will not hear the case if the relevant country has carried out a genuine investigation of its own. Israel may claim that it has done so.

According to the principle of proportionality, if civilians were killed during an attack on a legitimate military target, it is a crime only if the killing of the civilians was not proportional to the anticipated military advantage. Israel may claim it meets that principle.

As far as the settlements are concerned, the principle of complementarity is not relevant, and no questions of proportionality can be raised. Incidentally, Israel’s High Court of Justice has never ruled on the question of the settlements’ legality.

The Levy Committee’s report on the outposts’ legality, which was published in July 2012, stated that if there were any truth to the approach that the territories were occupied according to the definitions of international law, and the Geneva Convention’s provisions forbidding the settlements applied to them, the committee would have to rule that it could recommend no way to legalize the status of the outposts. Rather, the committee would have to recommend that the outposts be removed.

Instead, the committee chose to rule that Israel was not a “military occupier” of the territories at all. The government was hesitant to adopt this conclusion, which would have been tantamount to defying the entire world, and has maintained its stance that the territories were occupied for some purposes, while arguing that the prohibition against settlements did not apply. Even as far back as 1967, Israel had sought to gain the authority over the territories that an army has over occupied territory, while denying the prohibition of building settlements on such territory.

The recent idea to partially adopt the Levy Committee’s report – legalizing the outposts, without stating that there is no occupation – will only make Israel’s position seem that much more absurd.

From the conclusion that there is no occupation, it must follow that the settlements are indeed illegal under international law.

It will take many stages, together with legal and political decisions, for the International Criminal Court to find Israeli leaders guilty of this crime, and there are many reasons to believe that the political circumstances will keep that from happening. The Palestinians may also not be interested in recognizing the court’s authority for fear that they, too, will be accused of war crimes against Israel, such as firing rockets at civilians.

On the other hand, Israel’s isolation to the point where only nine countries out of the UN’s 193 member states voted in its favor last week shows this scenario is now far from being science fiction.

EDITOR: Apartheid in action – see for yourself

Like in segregated USA, Palestinians are now not allowed onto Israeli buses. The next stage – they will not be allowed to sit on park benches. We know what follows! This item is only for the deluded, who think Israel is democracy. All other can avoid the pain of watching this disgusting evidence to the daily existence of apartheid.

Apartheid in action: YouTube


Mahmoud Abbas’ real “accomplishment” was not the UN vote on Palestine: Al Jazeera English

 By Ali Abunimah
The Palestinian president has accomplished more for Israel than he has for Palestine.

Early last month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seemingly renounced any claim to a right of return [AP]
A day after the UN voted to admit “Palestine” as a non-member state, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly praised the Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Mahmoud Abbas for its collaboration with the Israeli occupation army.Speaking at a Zionist think tank in Washington on Friday, Clinton defended the PA from criticism by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. According to Ha’aretz Clinton said, “With very little money, and no natural resources, they [the PA] have accomplished quite a bit, building a security force that works every single day with the IDF (Israel Defence Forces). They have entrepreneurial successes. They are nationalistic – but largely secular. Israel should support them.”This is the same “IDF” that just a few days ago was massacring entire Palestinian families in Gaza and shooting dead West Bank Palestinians who dared to protest those crimes.

And during and after its latest attack on Gaza, the same Israeli army embarked on a rampage of arrests in the West Bank, detaining hundreds of people for expressing their views. In light of Clinton’s comments, it is legitimate to ask how much the PA participated in these acts of rage and vengeance by Israel for its failure in Gaza.

Clinton could have added that daily collaboration with the occupation was not the only notable “accomplishment” of the Abbas-led US-backed PA. For years, the PA has been equipped and trained under US supervision to act as an auxiliary for Israeli occupation forces to suppress any and all forms of Palestinian resistance, to beat and suppress Palestinians expressing their views and to arrest and harrass journalists who dare to criticise it.

This is exactly the kind of repressive client regime the United States has always supported in Arab countries, and why Clinton commended the PA to her Israeli partner.

Inside Story
Palestine: The meaning of a status upgrade

A shameful record

The Abbas PA’s record of collaboration with Israel, against the interests of the Palestinian people is long, shameful and well documented. It includes plotting secretly with Israel, the US and the former Mubarak regime in Egypt to overthrow the elected Hamas-led Palestinian Authority after 2006,colluding with Israel to bury the Goldstone report into Israel’s war crimes in Gaza in 2008-2009, begging Israel not to release Palestinian prisoners so as not to give credit to Hamas, and more recently Abbas’ public renunciation of the Palestinian right of return, a reflection of his longstanding position in negotiations.

These harsh realities should bring into focus the misguided celebrations over the UN vote, which as I explained on Al Jazeera is at best no more significant than winning an international football match, and at worst, as Joseph Massad argued in The Guardianratifies a racist status quo.

Bait and switch

Quite a few people nonetheless tried to market the UN vote as a great victory, answering scepticism about it by saying it would give Palestinians access to the International Criminal Court (ICC), to hold Israeli war criminals accountable. Can anyone seriously believe that the Abbas-led PA that has done all this, and which Clinton praises for its close collaboration with the the occupation army, will do anything to bring Israeli war criminals to justice?

Already, the bait-and-switch has happened. Just a day after the UN vote, Abbas poured cold water on any such hope. “We now have the right to appeal the ICC, but we are not going to do it now and will not do it except in the case of Israeli aggression,” Abbas told reporters. While Palestinians in Gaza still mourn, and those in the West Bank struggle to retain their land as Israel and its settlers steal it, the ostensible Palestinian leader sees no Israeli “aggression”.

A hollow strategy

The emptiness of the UN vote could not have been more clearly illustrated than by what has happened – or not happened – since.

On Thursday, the UN General Assembly voted to admit “Palestine” as a non-member state. On Friday, Israel announced its intention to build thousands more settler housing units on the territory of this supposed state. What now will be the international response in the wake of the UN vote?

Other than ritual condemnations, will there be real, specific action – including sanctions – by the 138 countries that voted for “Palestine” to force Israel to halt, and begin to reverse its illegal colonisation of the 1967 occupied territories? Sadly, that is unlikely, an indication that the UN vote was nothing more than a hollow gesture and a substitute for effective action to halt Israel’s crimes.

It is also a reminder that there is no “two-state solution”. There is one geopolitical entity in historic Palestine. Israel must not be allowed to continue to entrench its apartheid, racist and colonial rule throughout that land.

What ought to give us hope are not more empty gestures at the UN, but the growing Palestinian-led grassroots solidarity movement, pushing to hold Israel accountable. This movement scored a significant milestone this week when international music legend Stevie Wonder pulled out of a benefit gig for the Israeli army after an activist campaign.

Actions like this by prominent cultural figures indicate that the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, modelled on the one that helped end apartheid in South Africa, is gaining strength and legitimacy. It is a movement based not on trading Palestinian rights for a West Bank mini-state under a dictatorial US-backed regime, but on restoring the rights of all Palestinians everywhere.

Ali Abunimah is author of One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. He is a co-founder of the online publication The Electronic Intifada and a policy adviser with Al-Shabaka.

Follow on Twitter him at: @AliAbunimah