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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Palestine's Holocaust museum

Palestine's Holocaust museum

By Dania Yousef in Ni'lin, occupied West Bank

Musa says Palestinians feel sorrow for the Holocaust, but question why they are being punished

In a small anonymous home in the West Bank, a Palestinian academic has set up a project which is almost unheard of in the Occupied Territories.

Hassan Musa is the curator of a museum exhibition dedicated to the Jewish Holocaust in Europe.

The cracked white walls of this makeshift museum in the village of Ni'lin are covered from floor to ceiling with images of people forced out of their homes, tortured, imprisoned, starved and murdered.

In addition to the pictures depicting the Nazi brutality against Jews in Europe, there are also images of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the violence in Palestine since.

On one wall, there is a picture of a scared Jewish boy holding up his hands as Nazi soldiers look on; the caption reads: "Make your final account with Hitler and the Nazi Germans, not with the Palestinians."

On an adjacent wall there are photos of dead children, demolished homes and women screaming during the Israeli war on Gaza in January.

Musa, who is also a member of Ni'lin's Popular Committee Against the Wall, says pictures of the atrocities committed against both peoples were strategically placed side-by-side to not only reflect the suffering of both and help Israelis and Palestinians better understand each other, but also to demonstrate how victims of one conflict can become the harbinger of another.

"The Palestinians have no connection to the Holocaust in Europe, but unfortunately we are paying the price of a misdeed we did not commit," he said.

'Paying' for the holocaust

In the main room, a large banner sends a direct message to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, a message: "Why should we Palestinians continue to pay for the Holocaust?"

Musa believes this question is the impetus behind the exhibit, hoping it will challenge the international community on what is happening between Israelis and Palestinians.

"The world is shamefully silent about what is happening in Palestine as a way of expressing their sorrow for the death of six million Jews, but in the meantime, they are supporting the state of occupation," he said.

Ni'lin has become synonymous with violent weekly clashes between Israeli soldiers and activists protesting against the construction of the 'Separation Wall'.

The current path of the Wall will annex 10,000 acres of Ni'lin land to Israel, leaving its residents with 30,000 acres; this is a fraction of the 228,000 acres that constituted the village in 1948.

Since then, Ni'lin residents have lost more than 85 per cent of their land to confiscation and illegal settlement building.

People in the village also accused the Israeli military of killing four Ni'lin residents since protests against land confiscation began in May 2008.

Among those was Musa's 10-year-old nephew, Ahmad, who died on July 29, 2008 from a bullet wound to the head; a number of residents and activists have also been injured in the protests.

In March, Tristan Anderson, a 38-year-old American activist acting as an observer with the International Solidarity Movement, was shot in the head with a high-velocity tear gas canister, leaving him in critical condition.

Understanding the occupier

It is these events that make the location of the museum all the more significant, Musa says.

In a place where Palestinians struggle to fend off occupation, Musa now offers them an opportunity to empathise with and further understand their occupier.

Israeli, Palestinian and international visitors continue to trickle into the museum, though they are fewer in number than the crowds that gather for the protests.

Remaining optimistic, Musa hopes this endeavour will encourage Israelis to pressure their government to halt the occupation.

"Our message to the Jewish people all over the world is that having been victims of such a brutal genocide, we expect you to be messengers of all the principles of justice, mercy and humanity," he told Al Jazeera.

According to Musa, reaction from Palestinians, especially those in the village, has been positive; the exhibits are, in many instances, the first images they have ever seen of the Holocaust.

Musa says some Palestinian visitors leave the exhibit feeling sorrow for the Jewish people, but also with the same question posed in the messages plastered across the walls: "Why are they punishing us?"

"I lost my nephew and I know how painful it is for me," Musa says, "that's why I don't want anyone else living on this land to lose their loved ones."

Posted by Karin at 9:01 PM

Sayyed Nasrallah to Deliver Speech Friday 17:30 GMT

Sayyed Nasrallah to Deliver Speech Friday 17:30 GMT
Readers Number : 282

30/04/2009 Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah is scheduled to deliver a speech on Friday at 20:30 PM Beirut Time (17:30 GMT).

Sayyed Nasrallah is set to tackle during his speech the latest developments in Lebanon and the region.

His eminence would focus on the release of the four Generals detained without charges since 2005 over the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the crisis between the Resistance party and the Egyptian regime as well as the Israeli upcoming maneuvers.

Sayyed: They Followed Wrong Trail, Reached Wrong Conclusions

Sayyed: They Followed Wrong Trail, Reached Wrong Conclusions
Mohamad Shmaysani Readers Number : 142

30/04/2009 Former General Security chief General Jamil Sayyed said that “those responsible for our detention are those who sought to force the establishment of political accusations based on fixed notions. If they had done the right thing from the very beginning, they would have found the truth. "They followed the wrong trail and came up with the wrong conclusions,” he said.
Speaking to the Lebanese ‘elnashra’ news website, General Sayyed stressed those who did wrong should be held accountable, “and they should also resign, Only then I gain my right back.”
Shortly after his release from jail Wednesday, Sayyed lashed out at judges Elias Eid and his successor Sakr Sakr.
He said he felt especially bitter toward Lebanon's judicial system which, he added, had allowed itself to be politically manipulated in the case. "Our detention was politically motivated and was exploited for four years by the majority," he told AFP, referring to the March 14 alliance. "So it is perfectly normal that the tables are turned now."

Sayyed also accused Future Movement chief MP Saad Hariri of having pressured Lebanese judges to keep him and the three other generals behind bars. "The judges would tell us 'we have nothing against you, but if we free you Mr. Hariri will cut off our heads'," he said.

He added he would wait for their (judges) resignation or dismissal, but if that does not happen, he and the others may eventually bring a lawsuit against those responsible for his detention.
"I do not seek revenge. ... But at the same time, I like accountability," he said.

Sources told the ‘elnashra’ website that the Higher Judicial Council will convene next Tuesday to discuss judicial issues amid information about the possibility that some judges tender their resignations to save and lift the judicial system from the quagmire created by the release of the four officers through an international judicial authority but not the Lebanese judiciary.

Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar confirmed the Higher Judicial Council might convene next week “to take a stand from accusations against the judicial body”, however he added that information about resignations were baseless.

Gates: Military strike won't halt Iran nuke program


"...Gates told Senate appropriators that a military attack on Iran would merely send the country's nuclear program further underground. Instead, he said that the United States and its allies must convince Tehran that its nuclear ambitions would spark an arms race that would leave the country less secure. .."

Posted by G, Z, & or B at 4:17 PM

Bombing Iran may not be the 'best solution' ... let's monitor their missiles!

Haaretz, here

"I'm not sure that bombing the nuclear facilities is the best solution. You know, the moment there are centrifuges, you can destroy the centrifuges. You cannot destroy the know-how to create centrifuges. You can postpone," he told Channel 10.Asked whether Israel could accept a nuclear Iran, the president said: "Attacking the nuclear sites is not the only option. The West has other options. First of all we can tell the Iranians 'If you launch a nuclear attack, it doesn't matter against whom, it will illicit a nuclear response.' Secondly, we can monitor their missiles. It is easier to monitor launching devices. If, like they say, they are not interested in developing nuclear weapons, why do they need launchers?"..."

Posted by G, Z, & or B at 5:52 PM

Saudi Slams US Claim of King Talks with Israel's Peres

Saudi Slams US Claim of King Talks with Israel's Peres
Readers Number : 121

30/04/2009 Saudi Arabia on Thursday denied a US claim that King Abdullah met with Israeli President Shimon Peres late last year and demanded clarifications from Washington.

An unnamed Saudi official, quoted by the state-run SPA news agency, said that the claim made by US Under Secretary for Political
Affairs William Burns is "completely false and fabricated."
The US State Department must "deny the claim and provide clarification for the reasons behind such fabrication that does not serve the relations between the two friendly countries."
The official said that the allegations were carried by some media which quoted Burns as saying that King Abdullah spoke with Peres on the sidelines of an inter-faith dialogue conference hosted in November by the United Nations.

An online video posted on a Saudi opposition website showed Burns praising King Abdullah's drive to promote inter-faith dialogue, during a meeting on US-Saudi relations earlier this week in Washington.
"King Abdullah has advanced an inter-faith dialogue initiative focused on promoting tolerance and understanding among world religions," Burns said.
"On the margins of an inter-faith dialogue session last fall, the king spoke with Israeli President Shimon Peres -- the first such exchange between Saudi and Israeli leaders," he said.
"King Abdullah is also the first Saudi leader to meet the Pope," he added.

Saudi Arabia does not have ties with Israel, but since 2002 it has been promoting an Arab peace initiative which offers Israel full diplomatic ties in return for a total withdrawal from occupied Arab land.
Last November's conference was held at the initiative of Saudi
Arabia as a follow-up to efforts at promoting inter-faith dialogue in the "World Conference on Dialogue" held last July in Madrid.
At the time UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had invited both King Abdullah and Peres to attend a dinner of heads of state and government from more than a dozen countries.

Hamas: Any government not approved by the PLC is illegitimate

Hamas: Any government not approved by the PLC is illegitimate

[ 30/04/2009 - 11:53 AM ]

GAZA, (PIC)- The Hamas Movement stated that any government not approved by the PLC would be unconstitutional and illegitimate, and thus it would not deal with this government.

Commenting on news reports saying that Abbas intends to form a new government within 10 days, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that this is reproduction of what already exists, adding that such a step would deepen the rift in the Palestinian arena.

A Palestinian source had reported that Abbas plans to form a new government in the coming days before his scheduled visit to the White House.

Meanwhile the Donkey from Yankeevil preyed:
Third Intifadah!!!
In Gaza??
Or in WB??
Against whom!!!!
Against Haneyah In Gaza???
Or against the Traitors of Ramallah??
My ASS you now that IOF and PA thugs cracked Hamas in WB
My ass Hamas shall never accept a Coverment controlled by Ramullah Traitors.
Keep preying

Israeli Apartheid is not Fiction!

Cancel the special tribute to Israel in the London Sci-Fi Festival!

Open letter to the organizers and attendees of Sci-Fi-London International Festival 2009

Ramallah, 29 April 2009

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is writing to the organizers of the Sci-Fi-London International Festival of Science Fiction and Fantasy Film to urge you to cancel the special “Focus on: Israel” in your festival in London from 29 April – 4 May. We also urge the attendees of this festival, if its organizers insist on the special tribute to Israel, to protest the inclusion of this session and to boycott the focus on Israel. Honoring Israel in any field right after its massacre in Gaza shows either apathetic disregard for the lives and rights of the Palestinian people or, worse, complicity in Israel’s grave violations of international law and human rights principles.

We understand that the focus on Israel is organized in cooperation with the British Council of Arts in Israel as part of the British Israeli Arts Training Scheme, BI-ARTS, which is funded by Israel’s Ministry of Science, Culture and Sports and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The latter, it is worth noting, is currently headed by the ultra-right racist Israeli politician, Avigdor Lieberman, who in response to the struggle of Palestinian citizens of Israel for equality and full citizenship rights has continuously advocated their ethnic cleansing, notoriously stating that “minorities are the biggest problem in the world.” By organizing this session celebrating Israel’s contributions to the field, you will be effectively welcoming into your highly esteemed international forum a state that maintains the world’s longest regime of occupation and colonization as well as the only surviving apartheid.

On the festival’s website it states that the focus on Israel aims to examine the sci-fi “what if’s” being explored in other countries. Yet, we wonder if you are aware of Israel’s over 60-year old colonial history of brutally subjugating the Palestinian people. Israel’s recent war on Gaza is the latest chapter in this history of colonial oppression. In this brutal military campaign, Israel killed over 1,440 Palestinians, of whom 431 were children, and injured another 5380 [1]. Israel subjected the besieged population of Gaza to three weeks of unrelenting state terror. Israeli warplanes targeted and bombed densely populated civilian areas, using illegal munitions, such as white phosphorous, and reduced whole neighbourhoods and vital civilian infrastructure to rubble, not to mention its wilful mass destruction of agricultural land. In addition to this, Israel also partially destroyed Gaza’s leading university and scores of schools, including several run by the UN and used as civilian shelters during the war of aggression. The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory has described the Israeli attack on Gaza as “a war crime of the gravest magnitude under international law.”

Israel’s war on Gaza was not an anomaly but an integral part of the systematic policies of ethnic cleansing and colonial oppression that Israel has carried out against the Palestinian people. The state of Israel was established in 1948 by forcibly expelling the overwhelming majority of Palestine’s indigenous Arab population. For 60 years now, Israel has continued to deny the millions of displaced Palestinian refugees their UN-sanctioned rights to return to their homes of origin. For the last 41 years, Israel has maintained a repressive military occupation over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, violating Palestinians’ most fundamental human rights with impunity. Israel extra-judicially kills Palestinian activists and leaders; subjects Palestinians to daily military violence; routinely demolishes Palestinian homes and illegally confiscates Palestinian land. Israeli continues to expand illegal Jewish colonies on occupied Palestinian land, linking them to an apartheid system of Jewish-only roads, and the Wall that was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. Israel’s policies of repression systematically target all aspects of Palestinian life and are designed to crush the Palestinian will, creativity and human spirit. Since the early 1970’s Israel has targeted and routinely closed Palestinian universities and cultural centres in the West Bank and Gaza, and imposed a repressive system of censorship, banning scores of books – effectively imposing a stranglehold designed to prevent Palestinian cultural expression. From 1979 to 1992, Birzeit University was closed 60% of the time by Israeli military orders [2].

The injustice and the violent suppression of the Palestinian struggle for freedom have lasted too long. To bring an end to this oppression, Palestinian civil society has called on people of conscience throughout the world to take a stand and support our struggle for freedom by adopting boycott, divestments and sanctions, BDS, against Israel until it fully complies with international law and recognizes our inalienable rights [3]. This BDS call has received resounding international support, and has been endorsed by a number of prominent international cultural figures and Israeli artists, including Aharon Shabtai, John Berger, Ken Loach, Arundhati Roy, Roger Waters, John Williams and others. Other high profile artists have also heeded our call by cancelling gigs in Israel; these included Bono, Bjork, Snoop Dogg and Jean Luc Goddard.

In calling on artists to support the cultural boycott of Israel, John Berger urged artists to adopt the boycott as a mechanism of protest and a means to end the silence surrounding the impunity with which Israel violates international law and denies Palestinian their basic human rights [4]. In endorsing the boycott, the prominent Israeli poet, Aharon Shabtai, said:

“A State which maintains an occupation and commits daily crimes against civilians does not deserve to be invited to whichever cultural week. We cannot accept to be part of that. Israel is not a democratic State but an apartheid State. We cannot support that State at all” [5].

To claim the cultural field is “neutral” in the face of systematic and persistent injustice is to effectively side with the oppressor. International solidarity and support for the boycott of South African played a pivotal role in helping bring down the apartheid regime. Similarly, we sincerely hope you will take a moral stand and cancel your tribute to Israel, until it meets its obligations under international law and recognizes the Palestinian people’s right to live in freedom and equality in their homeland.

Yours truly,

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


Posted on 29-04-2009

Posted by Levi9909 @ 8:23 PM

"Inevitably, there will be political consequences... an opposite political impact."


AP, here

"Inevitably, there will be political consequences," al-Sayyed told The Associated Press in an interview. "It was only natural that when the tribunal took a decision that goes against the politically motivated detention, there would be an opposite political impact."

The tribunal's decision was a setback for Lebanon's pro-Western political bloc headed by Hariri's son Saad. The alliance, which holds a majority in parliament, was struggling to contain the political damage heading into crucial elections in June against a Hezbollah-led faction.....

"What happened yesterday amounts to the downfall of the Lebanese judiciary at the hands of the international justice," he said. He said he would consider himself compensated "if the judges who erred, the officers and the journalists who fed the false witnesses with information, resign as a result of the court's decision."

He said he would wait for their resignation or dismissal, but if that does not happen, he and the others may eventually bring a lawsuit against those responsible for his detention..."

Posted by G, Z, & or B at 11:48 AM

Professor's Comparison of Israelis to Nazis Stirs Furor



The UC Santa Barbara sociologist, who is Jewish, sent images from the Holocaust and from Israel's Gaza offensive to students in his class. He has drawn denunciation and support.

Controversy has erupted at UC Santa Barbara over a professor's decision to send his students an e-mail in which he compared graphic images of Jews in the Holocaust to pictures of Palestinians caught up in Israel's recent Gaza offensive.

The e-mail by tenured sociology professor William I. Robinson has triggered a campus investigation and drawn accusations of anti-Semitism from two national Jewish groups, even as many students and faculty members have voiced support for him.

The uproar began in January when Robinson sent his message -- titled "parallel images of Nazis and Israelis" -- to the 80 students in his sociology of globalization class.

The e-mail contained more than two dozen photographs of Jewish victims of the Nazis, including those of dead children, juxtaposed with nearly identical images from the Gaza Strip. It also included an article critical of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and a note from Robinson.

"Gaza is Israel's Warsaw -- a vast concentration camp that confined and blockaded Palestinians," the professor wrote. "We are witness to a slow-motion process of genocide."

Two Jewish students dropped the class, saying they felt intimidated by the professor's message. They contacted the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which advised them to file formal complaints with the university.

In their letters, senior Rebecca Joseph and junior Tova Hausman accused Robinson of violating the campus' faculty code of conduct by disseminating personal, political material unrelated to his course.

"I was shocked," said Joseph, 22. "He overstepped his boundaries as a professor. He has his own freedom of speech, but he doesn't have the freedom to send his students his own opinion that is so strong."

Robinson, 50, who is Jewish, called the accusations and the campus investigation an attack on academic freedom. He said his former students, the Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League had all confused his criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism.

"That's like saying if I condemn the U.S. government for the invasion of Iraq, I'm anti-American," he said. "It's the most absurd, baseless argument."

Robinson said he regularly sends his students voluntary reading material about current events for the global affairs course, and that no one raised questions when he subsequently discussed his e-mail.

"The whole nature of academic freedom is to introduce students to controversial material, to provoke students to think and make students uncomfortable," said Robinson, a UC Santa Barbara professor for nine years.

As the dispute over his e-mail plays out, UC Santa Barbara has become the most recent U.S. university to confront campus unrest over issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In recent years, Jewish and Muslim groups have quarreled repeatedly at UC Irvine about the Holocaust and Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. Professors and students at Columbia University have also argued over issues of intimidation and academic freedom amid debates on the Mideast.

In Robinson's case, reaction has been strong -- on both sides.

Shortly after hearing from the two students in January, the Wiesenthal Center produced a YouTube video titled "Jewish Students Under Siege from Professor at UC Santa Barbara." The clip shows one of Robinson's former students, her face obscured to protect her identity, reading from his e-mail.

The head of the ADL's Santa Barbara region sent Robinson a letter in February calling on him to repudiate his statements about Israel. Last month, the ADL's national director, Abraham Foxman, in a meeting with faculty members at the campus, urged the university to conduct an investigation into Robinson. He was told that an inquiry was already underway.

"You can criticize Israel; you can criticize the war in Gaza," Foxman said. "But to compare what the Israelis are doing in defense of their citizens to what the Nazis did to the Jews is clearly anti-Semitism."

Robinson's supporters say the professor is being maligned for exercising his right to challenge his students to think critically about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Students on campus have formed a group, the Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB, which is chronicling the saga on its website.

Letters of support also have arrived from academics across the country, including one from California Scholars for Academic Freedom, which says it represents 100 professors at 20 college campuses. The group argues that the allegations have been raised against Robinson to "silence criticism of Israeli policies and practices."

Some UC Santa Barbara faculty members also are speaking up for Robinson. History professor Harold Marcuse, who attended the March meeting with the ADL's Foxman, said the pictures e-mailed by Robinson were "well within the bounds of appropriateness on campus. It's something I could have used in a course."

Marcuse, who is Jewish and teaches about the Holocaust in his world history and German history classes, said he would not have injected his own views into such a message to students, but added: "I don't think Bill Robinson's e-mail is anti-Semitic in any way. I think criticism of Israel is OK."

One UC Santa Barbara official has already looked into the allegations against Robinson, and a faculty committee is being formed to decide whether to forward the case to UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry Yang. A university spokesman declined to comment on the case.

Robinson has hired an attorney, and the student committee supporting him has scheduled a May 14 campus forum on the matter. Joseph and Hausman, the students who filed the original complaints, said they plan to attend. So do Hausman's parents from Los Angeles and Rabbi Aron Hier, director of campus outreach for the Wiesenthal Center.

"I just want to bring awareness," said Hausman, 20. "I want people to know that educators shouldn't be sending out something that is so disturbing."


Tony Blair and the full measure of justice

Joy Ellison writing from Hebron, occupied West Bank, Live from Palestine, 30 April 2009

Quartet envoy Tony Blair visits al-Tuwani near Hebron, occupied West Bank, 19 March 2009. (Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages)

An elderly Palestinian woman grabbed my hand and held it over her chest. "Feel my heartbeat," she said. "We are really afraid of the settlers." Only half an hour before she took my hand, a group of 20 settlers from Maon settlement entered the village of Juwwiya and shot at her and her family as they grazed their sheep. As she clasped my hand and I looked into her face, the reality for Palestinians living in the south Hebron hills became starkly clear to me once again: a lasting peace is difficult to imagine as illegal settlements and outposts remain in the area.

On 19 March, 17 days before Israeli settlers shot at the shepherds of Juwwiya, the south Hebron hills played host to Tony Blair. As the representative of the "Quartet" (comprised of the US, EU, UN, and Russia) for Middle East peace, Blair toured the village of al-Tuwani and focused his attention on the dire humanitarian situation in the area. "It is very hard for Palestinians to enjoy the standard of living that they should enjoy and be able to develop their land as they should be able to develop in freedom," said Blair.

When asked what he would do about this situation, Blair answered, "It's got to be stopped, hasn't it?" But Blair was vague about what exactly should be stopped. "The whole way this area is looked at and administered is changed to make it fair," he said. At no point did Blair specifically mention the Maon settlement or any other of the settlements and outposts that make life in the south Hebron hills so difficult. He made no commitment to pressure the Israeli government to arrest settlers who destroy Palestinian property or attack Palestinian adults and children. He did not ask the Israeli government to follow through on the commitment it made three years ago to dismantle the Havot Maon outpost. Neither the words "military occupation" nor "international law" left his lips.

Palestinians in the south Hebron hills are enduring much more than a poor "standard of living." Since Blair's visit, Israeli settlers have shot at Palestinian shepherds in the village of Juwwiya on two different occasions. On 5 April, soldiers abducted three Palestinian shepherds, ages 10, 11, and 14, took them to Maon settlement and handed them over to six masked settlers who beat them. It's clear that for these children, changing the "way this area is looked at and administered is changed to make it fair" will not be enough to ensure their safety.

When I look the eyes of a frightened elderly Palestinian woman, I can see that only the full measure of justice will be enough.

Joy Ellison is an American activist with Christian Peacemaker Teams, an organization that supports Palestinian nonviolent resistance. She lives in al-Tuwani, a small village in the south Hebron hills which is nonviolently resisting settlement expansion and violence. She writes about her experiences on her blog, "I Saw it in Palestine" at

The Palestinian Authority's authoritarian turn

Ben White, The Electronic Intifada, 30 April 2009

Appointed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at the opening ceremony of the Presidential Guards College in the West Bank city of Jericho, March 2009. (Mustafa Abu Dayeh/MaanImages)

Last week, less than two weeks after I had talked with him in his an-Najah University faculty office, Abdel Sattar Qassem was arrested by the Palestinian Preventive Security forces in Nablus, occupied West Bank.

Qassem is a 60-year-old professor of political science, and has been at an-Najah University since 1980. Imprisoned several times by the Israeli occupation, he is the author of dozens of books and papers, as well as hundreds of articles, on Palestinian politics and Islamic thought. But Qassem is also an eloquent and prominent critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and he has been arrested, and targeted by politically-motivated attacks, on a number of previous occasions.

The most recent of these was in January of this year, when his car was set alight. According to a news report from the Palestinian news agency, Ma'an, claim of responsibility was circulated by an unknown group who accused Qassem of being a "mouthpiece for the Iranian and the Syrian regimes." As reported by Asharq al-Awsat, Qassem pointed out how the statement was a "hoax," and thus a cover for individuals who did not want to openly identify themselves. The attack was condemned by a variety of public figures "in the harshest possible words," according to Ma'an.

This time, the official line is that his arrest was a civil, criminal case, the result of litigation proceedings against Qassem by two figures within the PA's security forces. The Palestinian Information Center reports that Qassem, who according to his family was arrested hours after he gave an interview to al-Aqsa TV to discuss the shooting of West Bank Hamas leader Hamid al-Bitawi, insists that the charges are groundless and politically motivated. Speaking to me on the telephone after his release, Qassem noted:

"It was evident that they didn't want to arrest me on a political basis, so they decided to fabricate something against me. Last Thursday, in court, there were many lawyers trying to represent me, because they feel like this is a national issue. They see that this is intimidation, not a genuine civil case."

The attempts to intimidate a critic of the Palestinian Authority into silence is disturbing, but is only one incident in a growing trend. The Ramallah-based political leadership, dominated by Fatah, and the PA security forces, are becoming increasingly authoritarian, encouraging a culture of militarized policing and a lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law. Now, nonviolent resistance leaders against the Israeli occupation like Sami Awad, based in Bethlehem, are saying that they "have to be ready to face any injustice even if caused by our own people, within the PA."

One aspect of this phenomenon is an assault on the freedom of the press. Back in December of last year, the Ma'an news agency carried out an investigation into what it described as "an unprecedented campaign of censorship and intimidation against West Bank and Gaza Strip journalists," carried out by the Palestinian Authority.

The report detailed how independent news agencies had become targets for "President Mahmoud Abbas's security establishment, particularly the PA's Office of the Attorney General." The same month as Ma'an's investigation, the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate demanded that the PA release journalists from West Bank prisons, noting that "some journalists had been in prison for more than three months."

Criticizing the PA, or even affording Hamas coverage, now seems enough to get on the blacklist, or become a target for the PA's security apparatus. In fact, a Nablus-based journalist "found himself in a prison cell" in January for reporting the torching of Professor Qassem's car, according to The Jerusalem Post. In February, the Post reported that "the PA's crackdown on the local media was aimed at intimidating Palestinian reporters and stopping them from reporting about financial corruption and human rights violations by Abbas's security forces."

Another worrying trend in the PA-administered areas is an increasing militarization of civilian policing. During my recent visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, one of the first things several of my friends told me about was an energetic campaign by the PA to clamp down on car-related crime. There were now impromptu checkpoints thrown up on the main roads where drivers' licenses were checked and the special permission required to drive Israeli yellow-plated cars was requested.

Nobody minded, in theory, increased efficiency in law enforcement; what was troubling was the way the PA forces were going about it. It can seem like a small thing, a friend told me, but "it's this militarization, this way of asserting a kind of domination over the people." Many complained of the disrespectful behavior of the gun-toting men checking the cars.

This focus on "law and order" has become a repeated theme in the last few years, particularly in cities like Nablus and Jenin. Just recently, in a fairly typical episode, Ma'an news agency reported that PA forces conducted a "sweep" in a village three kilometers from Nablus, arresting apparent "fugitives" and checking the registration of some 250 cars.

Consistent, genuine complaints about lawlessness and corruption in Nablus had already emerged in 2004-05, but it wasn't until the end of 2007 that the current campaign was launched by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, appointed by Mahmoud Abbas, whose official term as PA president expired in January. Beginning in Nablus, the law and order drive was replicated in Jenin in the summer of 2008. Residents have undoubtedly welcomed the increased security, but the nature of the campaign -- and the context -- is not so straightforward.

For example, the PA's infrastructure (largely destroyed by Israel in 2001-02) is completely ill-equipped. In April 2008 in Nablus, for example, Reuters reported that only 13 percent of the prison's inmates had actually been convicted; the restrictions of occupation and the inadequacy of the PA's legal system mean that many face a long wait before their guilt or innocence can be determined in a court of law.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military continues to invade PA-controlled areas, particularly at night, an arrangement which was actually a joint Palestinian-Israeli agreement. Moreover, while a weary Palestinian population is grateful for small economic upturns in their occupied cities, they are well aware that the PA's law and order focus is a welcome part of Israel's strategy in the West Bank; the BBC noted in December last year how the Israeli army was pleased with the "good job" Palestinian forces were doing.

One of the reasons for Israel's complimentary report card is the extent to which PA forces have been arresting members of groups who oppose the official "peace process," and in particular, detaining those who are either openly, or simply suspected, members and supporters of Hamas. According to the International Middle East Media Center, estimates give the number of detainees in Palestinian security forces' custody at between 500 to 600, many of whom have had no trial.

The secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Saadat, himself a prisoner in an Israeli jail, noted just last week in a public statement that it was "impossible" for the PA "to demand freeing the detainees [from Israeli prisons] while the Palestinian prisons are full of prisoners jailed for resistance background or internal disputes."

On 4 December of last year, Reuters reported on the claims being made of torture at the hands of Mahmoud Abbas' Preventive Security forces and General Intelligence. The article cited Ghandi Rabei, a lawyer from the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) in Hebron, who told the news agency that "hundreds of civilians have been transferred to military courts without legal procedures in breach of Palestinian law and international norms." The ICHR's annual report for 2008 recorded 111 complaints of torture or mistreatment in detention in the West Bank, according to Agence France-Presse.

On 31 January, the British Daily Mail ran a story under the dramatic headline: "Financed by the British taxpayer, brutal torturers of the West Bank." The paper reported how the British government's Department for International Development had given 76 million British pounds in 2008 to the PA for what it called "security sector reform." Once the figure is broken down, 3 million pounds went directly to the PA police, while "17 million [pounds] pays the salaries of the PA's array of security organizations -- including the Presidential Guard intelligence service and the feared Preventive Security Organization."

One of the most important factors shaping these developments is the US strategy as directed on the ground by Lieutenant General Keith Dayton. Dayton started work with the Palestinian security forces at the end of 2005. While ostensibly charged with general reform of the PA security forces, it became apparent that the US was intent on building up Abbas-loyal PA forces in order to directly confront Hamas should the need arise.

Dayton's plan involved giving the PA forces an increase in funding, manpower, training and weaponry. In October 2006, The New York Times reported that the US intended to expand Abbas' Presidential Guard at a cost of $26 million. At the time, it was clear that any such plan -- which also included "the transfer of thousands of guns from Egypt" to the Presidential Guard -- would only go ahead with a "positive response from Israel," according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, this "systematic effort to bolster Abbas and his Fatah loyalists to counter the political success of Hamas" suffered an embarrassing setback, of course, when Hamas forces easily triumphed over Fatah in the Gaza Strip in June 2007 and thus "inherited thousands of guns, equipment and vehicles supplied by the United States."

The only lesson learned, however, seems to have been that the US, Israel and the PA could ill-afford a similar debacle in the West Bank -- and therefore Dayton's work was to be intensified, rather than reconsidered. This, then, is what has been happening with increasing fervor in the West Bank in recent months.

On 27 February 2009, The New York Times' Ethan Bronner wrote about the 1,600 Palestinians who "have been through American-financed courses in Jordan." Dayton, the article said, "hopes to have a well-trained battalion based in each of eight West Bank cities" (plans to expand the program were also reported by Reuters this week). The Israelis, needless to say, are content to cooperate: an Israeli officer "inaugurated the firing range" at one of the US-funded Palestinian training camps.

Whether it is the "top brass" training provided by the US for Palestinian security officials in Ramallah, or the special "SWAT" team organized by Dayton, Salam Fayyad and the Jordanians, it is clear that the primary purpose of these forces is not neighborhood crime-busting. As the World Tribune reported in the case of the SWAT team, the "elite" forces can be used against "Hamas squads" and help "protect the PA." As one critic put it, the PA's security agencies in the West Bank are trained to "persecute resistance elements and provide Israel with intelligence with which to arrest or assassinate resistance leaders."

Shawan Jabarin, general director of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, agrees that these training programs are more about internal suppression than "law and order":

"If the senior officers who train them taught a respect for the rule of law, I'm sure we would feel that -- but our feeling is completely different. I'm not saying they are training them how to torture people, but they don't put any mechanism in place for monitoring these things. For political reasons, the Palestinians are trying to show that they are strong, that they are doing exactly what the others are asking them to do -- this happened during [Yasser] Arafat's time, and it's also [happening] these days."

If there was any doubt about the real purpose of these forces, one just needs to listen to Dayton himself. Dayton stressed to The Jerusalem Post in December that "the trainees are taught over and again that 'you are not here to learn how to fight against the Israeli occupation.'" That's why Dayton could affirm that he, the Israeli Ministry of Defense and his "IDF [Israeli army] colleagues" are of one mind: "something new is out there" and "it's worth encouraging."

It may not be new -- one only has to go back to the mid-1990s to find something similar happening -- but PA forces are certainly being encouraged to suppress dissent. While Israel was attacking Gaza in January, The Jerusalem Post described how the PA's crackdown on the opposition in the West Bank was "being carried out in coordination with the IDF and under the supervision of US security experts."

These were the very same police officers who had "received special training in Jordan and the West Bank as part of a security plan engineered by the US," and were apparently reporting directly to Salam Fayyad. Israeli "security officials" "praised" Mahmoud Abbas' "iron-fist policy" in the West Bank, reported The Jerusalem Post and "expressed satisfaction with the coordination between the PA security forces and the IDF and Shin Bet [Israel's internal intelligence agency]." Sometimes, "Hamas members were detained by the IDF only hours after they were released from PA detention centers."

So why have key elements within Fatah and the PA decided to go down this path? It seems like the Ramallah-based political and intelligence elite are primarily driven by fear; fear of losing their power and privileges, and fear of Hamas. More specifically, there is a real sense that Hamas' popularity has not suffered any kind of significant fall since 2006, and if anything, has been consolidated or increased.

At the same time as Hamas has emerged intact and uncompromising from Israel's recent Gaza onslaught, the Fatah-dominated PA has nothing to show for its strategy of softly-softly negotiations; just an entrenched, apartheid-like Israeli occupation. The "peace process" has brought Israel a degree of peace, but left the Palestinians trapped between Israel's colonies and wall. The PA's only card is that it continues to pay the salaries of thousands of desperate Palestinians -- money that is only forthcoming from the international community with strings attached.

Meanwhile in Nablus, Professor Qassem, who is considering a run for president in the future as an independent, feels like the PA "is reflecting its inner crisis against the population":

"So instead of going back to their own people they are trying to punish their own people. Why? Because there is Dayton, and the money of the donor countries, which they cannot sacrifice. If they want to go back to their own people, they will lose their salaries, and the situation in the West Bank will be similar to that in Gaza."

This is a deal that was made many years ago, but it has meant that there is a class of political leaders in the PA who are seemingly eternally wedded to the idea that the international community is directing the peace process in good faith. For reasons of self-interest, they are desperate to keep the PA, and all the assumptions of Oslo, alive -- even while sometimes admitting that in terms of obtaining basic Palestinian rights, there is, and will continue to be, nothing to show for meeting the "benchmarks" and "roadmaps."

If the US/Jordanian-trained PA security forces are the "stick" in the West Bank, then the manipulation of foreign aid is the "carrot." This is beyond the scope of this article, but it is worth mentioning in passing two recent Reuters reports on how "ventures backed by President Abbas's allies have received loan guarantees, grants and agricultural assistance."

At a critical moment for the Palestinian people, and the prospects for the region as a whole, it is arresting that many in the Palestinian leadership can sound like they are reading from Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman's speech notes, when he said that "the path forward" lay in "security" for Israel, an "improved economy" for the Palestinians, and "stability for both," as reported by The Jerusalem Post. As Shawan Jabarin said to me, "for political reasons you make a compromise and sacrifice human rights. This is what is going on these days."

These are dangerous developments, something that Professor Qassem was quick to highlight in an interview with the Palestinian Information Center after his recent arrest: "Freedom of speech and expression is a paramount issue over which there can be no compromise ... If we tolerate violations of our human rights and civil liberties, then we will be jeopardizing our future as a people."

Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer whose articles have appeared in the Guardian's 'Comment is free', The Electronic Intifada, the New Statesman, and many others. His book, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide (Pluto Press), will be published this summer. He can be contacted at ben A T benwhite D O T org D O T uk.

Obama and "Two States" - Seamless Continuity From Bush Time



A false claim is wafting through the press: Obama is hanging tough with Benjamin Netanyahu, he’s going to “twist Israel’s arm” and at long last force the Jewish state into a two-state agreement, settling the Israel-Palestine question for good. There’s even talk that Obama backs the Arab League’s 2002 peace initiative, complete with its main demand: Israel’s withdrawal to its 1967 borders.

There’s no proof for any of this. Obama has said nothing about when, where, and with what boundaries a Palestinian state might be established. Neither did George Bush. The slide from one regime to the next has been seamless on the score of Israel and Palestine as on much else.

In regard to a critical document invoked by Obama in his first policy speech about the region last January -- the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative -- Obama has not changed an iota, at least publicly. He gave the speech before State Department employees last January, announcing George Mitchell as his Middle East envoy. Most important, the speech delineated the clear outlines of Obama’s Middle East doctrine, as I described in my “The Problem Isn’t Avigdor Lieberman

Obama’s reference to the Arab Peace Initiative was crucial for what it omitted -- the proposal’s first part, the precondition for everything that follows: “Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.” Only after these preconditions have been laid out does the document continue: “Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following….” In “Consequently,” the intent is unmistakable: Once Israel fulfills the crucial condition requiring Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 lines, the Arab countries will do x, y, and z. One of the corollaries following the “Consequently” clause reads: “Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace [emphasis mine]”. Nothing could be clearer. Moreover, the Arab League’s request of Israel, “the context,” expresses the international consensus for the past 30 years, routinely blocked by the US and Israel.

Obama deliberately ignored all of this in his speech. Instead, he patted the Arab League on the head (“The Arab peace initiative contains constructive elements”), calling on Arab states to take “steps towards normalizing relations with Israel, and [stand] up to extremism that threatens us all.” To construe Obama’s remarks as a slip or “mistake,” to suppose that this literate, lawyerly President didn’t actually read the document, would be preposterous. Obama’s choice was a deliberate policy declaration: Israel will continue to do what it is doing, with US protection. The US has found a proxy (and armed it -- more on this below). Hamas must “bow its head” to the master’s will. Between the lines that refer to Arab states “normalizing” their relations with Israel, read: the US’s most powerful Arab clients, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, hopefully (though not surely) with Syria in tow.

As for the “peace” which Obama professes to cherish, it would be easy to get to it through negotiation along the real Arab League proposal lines, the international consensus. But three-plus decades of US-Israel rejectionism have fostered only Israel’s expansion and the US’s regional hegemony, through brutal occupation and wars, with the consequences in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon (and, if one includes Iraq in the Gulf War, sanctions and Bush periods, Iraq) well-known to readers of this publication.

What has Obama had to say – let alone do about – all of the Palestinian suffering? He has somewhat tempered his if-rockets-were-falling-on-my-daughters expression of sympathy for Israel with words of the “both sides suffering” variety, taking a slight bow to Gaza’s “humanitarian” crisis (a topic that deserves its own commentary). It’s a mistake to think his intellect – and reverse racism to think his skin color - will serve the dispossessed across the American empire. (Among the “cool” and “aloof” moments which increasingly anger Obama’s voting base was his silence at the UN’s elimination of Israel-Palestine from the Durban Anti-Racism Review Conference). Obama is a President skilled in oratory, with an admirable public relations machine, who can be counted on to exert all the savageries of imperial management. John F. Kennedy was just such a President, with charisma, intelligence, and a slick propaganda mill that still leaves liberals revering “Camelot.” In reality, however, his administration was among the US’s most brutal.

What’s surprising is that left publications have focused so little on Obama’s clear statement of intent in the Arab League proposal reference. It is also surprising that the left press has seldom commented (if at all) on a March 4 address to the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center by Senator John Kerry. As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry made very clear the Administration’s “peace” plans:

To start with, we need to fundamentally re-conceptualize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a regional problem that demands a regional solution. The challenges we face there – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the Middle East peace process – form an interconnected web that requires an integrated approach . . . . That’s why it is vital that we move quickly, with the Arab world and the Quartet, to build Palestinian Authority capacity. [Thanks to Noam Chomsky for drawing my attention to his discussion of Kerry’s role in his “Exterminate All the Brutes,” on Znet.]

The US, together with “the Arab world” (meaning the US’s most powerful Arab clients, Egypt and Saudi Arabia) is to become a united front with Israel against, of course, Iran. The “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” will thus be integrated – or sidelined – within the wider spectrum of the US’s imperial dominance throughout the region. As for the Palestinians, Kerry reiterates that the Administration has found “a legitimate partner for peace” in Abbas – of course there have been no “legitimate” partners to date, Arafat’s compliance at Oslo and his pre-Oslo overtures to Israel being so much disposable trash in the dustbin of history. (Hamas’s repeated overtures to Israel – these have guaranteed truces as long as 30 years in exchange for Israel’s retreat to the ’67 borders, the same requirement as in the Arab League proposal – have been rebuffed by targeted assassinations and last winter’s butchery in Gaza.) Abbas is now shored up with an army. Here’s Kerry at Brookings again:

For years, everyone has talked of the need to give the Israelis a legitimate partner for peace . . . . We must help the Palestinian Authority deliver for the Palestinian people, and we must do it now. . . . Most importantly, this means strengthening General Dayton’s efforts to train Palestinian security forces that can keep order and fight terror. Recent developments have been extremely encouraging: during the invasion of Gaza, Palestinian Security Forces largely succeeded in maintaining calm in the West Bank amidst widespread expectations of civil unrest.

Given the US’s “help” to similar client regimes throughout the world, the “help the Palestinian Authority deliver” phrase is chilling. While one part of the “experiment” with a final solution to the Palestinian problem was underway – Israel’s bombing and shelling of Gaza, possibly as a test for future US strikes in the Middle East in densely populated areas – another part, equally critical, was underway in the West Bank. To protect the population’s “human rights” the “truly professional” Palestinian National Security Force (N.S.F.) crushed West Bank demonstrations, averting the worrisome possibility that in the face of Israel’s slaughter of their sisters and brothers in Gaza, there might be unwelcome disturbances. According to reliable reports, Abbas also has CIA-run forces, Preventive Security and General Intelligence, which promise to be far more brutal than Dayton’s paramilitaries (these fall under State Department aegis).

Thomas Friedman, the US-Israel’s press proxy, reported in the New York Times this past February that after Hamas “took over Gaza in 2007,” the US gave funds to Keith Dayton to do proxy-army training of Palestinians in Jordan: “Schooled in everything from riot control to human rights [sic], the N.S.F. [Palestinian National Security Force] is the only truly professional force controlled by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.”

Only a few of Abbas’s “truly professional” proxy-ancestors are Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Somoza in Nicaragua, Suharto in Indonesia, and the proxy forces, professionals in massacre, looting, rape, and assassination, which operated under them. There is, needless to say, no unified Palestinian resistance movement to parallel the FMLN in El Salvador let alone Nicaragua’s Sandinistas. In a Palestine weakened by decades of savage occupation, the US succeeded in fomenting maximal strife between Hamas and Fatah.

As for the “two states” that get Obama’s lip-service, there are only two possibilities. One is the Lieberman-Kadima proposal (Tzipi Livni, among others to Lieberman’s “left,” has endorsed it). It would annex to the West Bank parts of the Galilee containing large Arab populations and call the result a “Palestinian state.” This is the racist solution, which has sometimes been termed “soft transfer”, as I described it on this site.

The other is the land-swap option proposed at Taba, Egypt in 2001 at the end of Clinton’s administration. (There is also the land-swap option of the Geneva Accord crafted by Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo, after PM Ehud Barak pulled out of the Taba talks.) Israeli security and foreign policy expert Zeev Maoz quotes the joint Israeli-Palestinian January, 2001 statement after Taba:

The sides declare that they have never been closer to reaching an agreement and it is thus our shared belief that the remaining gaps could be bridged with the resumption of negotiations following the Israeli elections.

The Brzezinski-Scowcroft proposal savaged by Bill and Kathy Christison in these pages contains a sentence referring to Taba: “Indeed, the outline of an Israeli-Palestinian accord was crafted during the dying days of the Clinton administration.” After the sentence about Taba the authors demur about the difficulties of getting “to yes,” but the allusion is still in the document.

What is the alternative to Taba? Or to the Geneva initiative (in the very unlikely event that the Obama administration were to take it up again)? In the ruins of Gaza people hover on the edges of bare survival (among other ravages of the siege alone, which continues unremittingly, is stunted growth in young children, noted in a recent Lancet report) in the West Bank, California-like suburban settlements ravage the former beauty of Palestine’s hills, slicing and dicing what remains of Palestine’s villages and cities; two armies and brutal vigilantes attack any form of resistance, however peaceful, and the usual suffering (evictions, home demolitions and more) goes on under US-Israel rule.

It is difficult for those who have long yearned for justice for Palestine to admit that the US-Israel are winning. But the conclusion is inescapable.

To recognize this doesn’t mean stopping our condemnation of the ongoing daily savageries against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza; or stopping educational work among Americans ignorant of the facts; or valuable “sister city” projects and other person-to-person work underway in, for instance, Cambridge, Massachusetts; or boycott and divestment activities of the sort recently achieved at Hampshire College. But none of that work should cloud our understanding of the very narrow real-world options possible under Obama.

Ellen Cantarow has written since 1979 on Israel and Palestine. She can be reached at

Posted by JNOUBIYEH at 11:34 AM

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Soldiers Confirm Israel's War Crimes in Gaza

Soldiers Confirm Israel's War Crimes in Gaza

'Anyone who’s in there is a terrorist', said the commander.

By Kim Bullimore

Testimony given by Israeli soldiers involved in Israel’s 22-day December-January assault on Gaza to a pre-military preparatory program at the Oranim Academic College in Israel on February 13, and which the March 18 Haaretz daily began printing daily excerpts of, revealed that they repeatedly committed crimes with impunity in Gaza.

One soldier, a squad commander, revealed that his unit was instructed to open fire in densely populated areas without warning. “We were supposed to go in with an armoured personnel carrier called an Achzarit [literally meaning “cruel”] to burst through the lower door [of Palestinian houses], to start shooting inside and then ... I call this murder ... in effect, we were supposed to go up floor by floor, and any person we identified — we were supposed to shoot. I initially asked myself: Where is the logic in this?” He said his commanding officers “said this was permissible, because anyone who remained in the sector and inside Gaza City was in effect condemned, a terrorist, because they hadn’t fled. I didn’t really understand: On the one hand they don’t really have anywhere to flee to, but on the other hand they’re telling us they hadn’t fled so it’s their fault.”

The squad commander said that Palestinian civilians were suppose to be given five minutes’ warning to leave their houses. However, many soldiers under his command challenged this, one soldier saying, “Anyone who’s in there is a terrorist”. According to the squad commander, that sentiment was backed up by other soldiers under his command who said, “We need to murder any person who’s in there ... any person who’s in Gaza is a terrorist”.

‘Do Anything You Want’

According to the squad commander, the soldiers believed that “inside Gaza you are allowed to do anything you want”. He went on to say that commanding officers did little to counter this attitude and that it was permissible “to write ‘death to the Arabs’ on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can”.

The squad commander also related that soldiers under his command killed an old woman was who walking down the road. When asked why this happened, he responded, “That’s what is so nice, supposedly, about Gaza: you see a person on a road, walking along a path. He doesn’t have to be with a weapon, you don’t have to identify him with anything and you can just shoot him. With us it was an old woman, on whom I didn’t see any weapon.”

According to another soldier, the descriptions of the squad commander were accurate. A third soldier said that lax rules of conduct within the attacking Israeli army also resulted in the death of many Palestinian civilians. In one incident, Israeli troops occupied a Palestinian house for several days, detaining the family who owned the house. According to the soldier, after a few days an order came through to release the family. However, not all the soldiers were informed “and they forgot to tell the sharpshooter on the roof they had let them go”. As a result, a mother and her two children were shot dead.

According to Rachel Johnson, an Australian human rights activist with the International Solidarity Movement, the testimony of the soldiers is just the tip of the iceberg. Johnson, who entered Gaza two days after the war concluded, visited dozens of Palestinian villages and cities, taking testimony and writing reports about the attacks on Palestinian civilians. Along with other international human rights activists, she also provided international accompaniment to Palestinian civilians who were still coming under Israeli fire, despite Israel’s supposed unilateral cease-fire.

Johnson told Direct Action that while it was clear that Israeli soldiers were allowed to act with impunity in Gaza, this “was part of a broader sanctioned policy by the Israeli military that sought to deliberately target Palestinian civilian infrastructure and Palestinian civilians”. She noted that the Israeli military wantonly destroyed civilian houses during the three-week bombardment. “Of the thousands of houses that were destroyed during those three weeks of ceaseless bombardment, the vast majority were in villages that were close to the Green Line [the 1949 armistice line] … In these areas that were harshly targeted during the attacks, entire neighbourhoods were wiped out, with the devastation being total”. She recounted that “in Gaza city, locals often now struggle to orientate themselves”, because “buildings were not just bombed, but the area was then bulldozed, altering the landscape utterly”.

Bulldozers Used against Residents

According to Johnson, Palestinian civilians not only endured aerial bombardment, but many residential areas were either destroyed by military bulldozers or by the placing of “internal explosives by Israeli ground forces”. She told DA: “The huge civilian death toll is largely a result of the fact that houses were destroyed while the residents were still inside”. She said that in the village of Khoza’a, “Israeli bulldozers tried to bury more than 200 of the residents of the village alive, using debris from the bulldozed houses … When they tried to run, they were shot at ... Finally they were able to crawl away and most of them survived.” However, 15 people were killed in Khoza’a on that night. In addition, 150 houses were destroyed. Johnson told DA that “the bombing of houses created an intense level of fear and helplessness among the residents of Gaza”. She “often encountered the rhetorical cry ‘Where could we go? There is nowhere that was safe. We would think to go to the school, but they bomb the schools. We would go the mosque, but they bomb the mosques.’”

White phosphorous was used widely in Gaza, Johnson said. Use of munitions containing white phosphorus is illegal in populated areas under international law. It causes severe burns and death because it is easily absorbed into the skin and burns through soft tissue to the bone and vital body organs, resulting in multiple organ failure. Johnson said many Gazan children are suffering from severe white phosphorous burns. “Doctors in Gaza simply don’t know what to do with these burns, which are very common”.

Johnson noted that the Israeli military also repeatedly attacked medical personnel and hospitals during its war on the civilian population, recounting that a number of her colleagues who were in Gaza during the war were inside hospitals when they were being bombed by the Israel military. Johnson pointed out that the targeting of medical facilities or people seeking medical aid is a war crime under international law. Her testimony is corroborated by the Israeli-based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR-Israel), which issued a report on March 23 noting that in Gaza the Israeli military repeatedly targeted medical facilities and medical teams in contravention of international law.

The report by PHR-Israel noted that in many cases the Israeli military refused to “give medical assistance to wounded human beings that were within several feet of soldiers” and refused to allow the evacuation of wounded or trapped civilians for days, leaving them in isolated areas with no food, water or medical treatment. PHR-Israel also noted that 16 medical personnel had been killed and another 25 wounded by Israeli fire while performing their duties. In addition, the report stated, “34 medical facilities were hit by the army, eight hospitals and 26 primary care clinics”. This was a “severe violation of directives of international law that forbid attacks on medical personnel and medical facilities”. PHR-Israel said that the actions of the military were “in violation of the army’s code of ethics, the medical code of ethics and basic human values”.

- Kim Bullimore has recently spent 12 months living and working in the Occupied West Bank with the International Women's Peace Service She has a blog at This article was first published in the Australian newspaper, Direct Action She contributed this article to

Hamas: Any government not approved by the PLC is illegitimate

"... Saudi king spoke with Israel's President Shimon Peres at a UN..."

Reuters, here
"Saudi Arabia demanded on Thursday that the U.S. State Department retract a claim that King Abdullah met Israel's president last year, in a rare public rebuke toward the kingdom's veteran ally.
William Burns, undersecretary at the State Department, told a conference on U.S.-Saudi relations in Washington this week that the king spoke with Israel's President Shimon Peres at a United Nations conference on dialogue among world religions in New York in November. ....
"The comments by the State Department undersecretary are absolutely baseless and made up," a statement from an "official source" on the state news agency SPA said.
"The official source demanded that the State Department retract the news and offer an explanation and clarification of the reasons behind this falsehood that does not serve relations between the two friendly countries."
Riyadh has resisted U.S. pressure to establish public channels with Israel before any final peace, but there have been numerous reports in recent years of secret meetings between senior members of the Saudi royal family and Israeli officials.
Riyadh has denied the reports, which could damage its credibility among many Arabs and Muslims who say Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, is too close to Washington.
Islamist network al-Qaida launched a campaign to topple the Saudi rulers in 2003 and Riyadh fears militants could use its poor southern neighbor Yemen to revive the insurgency. "
Posted by G, Z, & or B at 4:26 PM

Decision to Release Four Generals Hailed for 2nd Consecutive Day

Decision to Release Four Generals Hailed for 2nd Consecutive Day
Readers Number : 56

30/04/2009 For the second consecutive day, Lebanon hailed on Thursday the decision to release the four Generals detained since 2005 without charges over the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, calling for suing and prosecuting the Lebanese judiciary for unfairly keeping the Generals detained for 44 months.

In this context, Ayatollah Sayyed Mohamad Hussein Fadlallah called on all Lebanese to follow a line of general reconsideration, mainly regarding the judiciary body that should be the general governor of the country's motion. His eminence stressed on the need to rehabilitate the innocent people, calling to question those who hide behind an international octopus.

For his part, Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Nassereddin Gharib called on those who were responsible of the detention of the four Generals to apologize. He urged them to make room for others if they were tired of taking unfair decisions with respect to oppressed people.

The Lebanese Republic's Mufti Sheikh Mohamad Rashid Qabbani said that he trusts the international tribunal and thus, respect all its rulings.

Meanwhile, former minister Michel Samaha said that the decision to release the four Generals was, in itself, a direct conviction of the Lebanese judge who's scared of the head of the Future Movement MP Saad Hariri. He accused the Lebanese judges Said Mirza, Saqr Saqr, Ralph Riachi and Elias Eid of breaching their oath, urging them to immediately resign.

Samaha, who was speaking to Al-Manar, accused the "major man" in the Hariri family of securing the escape of the false witness Mohamad Zuhair Siddiq from France to Arab Emirates with a fabricated passport. He also recalled that US former ambassador to Beirut Jeffrey Feltman had visited him and asked him about the identity of the weakest among the four officers "who could claim that President Emil Lahoud recommended Rafiq Hariri's assassination."

Former Prime Minister Najib Miqati in turn said that the decision to release the four Generals would reflect negatively on the judiciary system in Lebanon, adding that it resulted in a number of wounds that it would be difficult to overcome. He called on the judiciary authority to take the initiative and launch an internal movement to handle the gaps here and there.

The head of the Islamic Labor Front Fathi Yakan also said that the release decision constituted a flagrant slap for all those who misled the investigation and counterfeited the truth.

Baath party official Fayez Shokr said that the conspiracy to hide the truth behind the assassination of former PM Rafiq Hariri became obvious and transparent.

The Lebanese Communist Party Secretary General Khaled Hadada said, in turn, that the release of the Generals points to a crisis in the judicial body.

Former Minister Wadih al-Khazen said that release of the officers proved that their arbitrary detention was a result of the attempts to mislead the investigations and falsify the truth.

Meanwhile, the Christian National Meeting expressed satisfaction with the release of the officers. During its regular meeting headed by the candidate in Baalbeck Emil Rahmeh, the meeting wished the Lebanese judiciary had released them, not the STL, because the judiciary should be the base of national sovereignty.

President Sleiman from London: Full Truth Is Coming Out

Washington, Mehlis Challenge STL's Francine Decision

The four Generals are out not as suspects, but as free men. Their release by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s pre-trial judge Daniel Francine has shocked the March 14 camp.

The Loyalty bloc is trying to absorb the blow, especially after senior March fourteenists had spent nearly four years saturating journals, televisions, internet sites and podiums with sham.
They had incriminated the Generals, vowed to send them to gallows and publicly announced to make their families shed tears of blood on the four officers.

The coverage of March fourteenist media yesterday reflected a state of denial and shock on the one hand and inability to react to the collapse of a March 14 postulate they had been trying to establish as ultimate truth.

The Mustakbal newspaper is seeking to insinuate that the four generals are still suspects in the Hariri murder case. The daily says that Francine had ordered their release because the general prosecutor has not yet reached the stage where he can officially press charges against “specific individuals.” It added that “the release of the four officers comes in the framework of the great progress made in the investigation and during a transitional phase towards prosecution and beginning the trial.”

Some find it hard to swallow that a significant progress in an investigation in a case as big as Hariri’s assassination could not find a shred of evidence to link the officers – individually or collectively – to the crime.

Washington and Detlev Mehlis, the former chief investigator in the Hariri case had to interfere.

"These four officers are still under investigation by the tribunal prosecutors. So the prosecutors indicated that the investigation is ongoing," Acting State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.

For his part, Mehlis, who had left Beirut without prior notice and resigned from his post as chief investigator after he and his fake witnesses were exposed, resurfaced to light and bestowed his viewpoint upon the public opinion. “Unless Bellemare personally announces that the four officers were no longer suspects, then they would legally remain suspects,” Mehlis said.

“Mehlis was colonialist; he used to impose his decisions on the Lebanese judicial authorities thus undermining Lebanese sovereignty. He considered himself to be the ‘lord of the castle’ whereas his mission was limited to helping the Lebanese authorities in investigating Hariri’s assassination. This was in favor of Israel as it helped it in it endeavor to cause disengagement among the Lebanese and create internal sedition in our country,” Lawyer Omar Nashabi, Al-Akhbar newspaper columnist, told Al-Manar website.

Nashabi said that Mehlis was only expressing his own point of view and that Francine’s decision was crystal clear that they are neither suspects nor accused in the Hariri case. “If we go back to the constitution, nothing indicates that the officers were suspects. So I advise Mr. Mehlis to read carefully and stop delusions and manipulating the Lebanese judiciary,” Nahsabi added.

Mehlis also turned a blind eye on the “four years” of arbitrary detention when he said that the four officers’ arrest was ‘legal and necessary’ for the five months that followed his recommendation to detain them as a preventive measure and to keep them ready for the court’s investigation. Mehlis’ made his recommendation based on the false testimony of Mohamad Suheir Siddiq, who was arrested recently in the UAE and awaits extradition to Syria.

Assad: Hezbollah Has No Intentions against Egypt

Assad: Hezbollah Has No Intentions against Egypt
Readers Number : 245

28/04/2009 Syrian President Bachar Assad stressed Hezbollah “has no intention” in launching attacks in Egypt. Speaking to the Asharq al-Awsat daily, Assad reminded that Hezbollah had denied alleged reports that it was planning attacks and said they do not have anything against Egypt or the Egyptians.

Assad was on an official trip to Austria.

On the Special Court for Lebanon to try suspects in the Rafik Hariri assassination case, the Syrian President said: “we have no expectations, however, it seems that things as not going in a professional manner. If the case were tackled professionally, then it would end in a good way, and this is what we expect. You have to be professional to know who killed Hariri.”
“Lebanon and the Court have an agreement. Syria does not. We have our own law and anything that has to do with any Syrian, whether innocent or guilty, must be dealt with through an agreement between the Syrian judiciary and the concerned court.”

President Assad said that Syria and Lebanon will exchange Ambassadors soon. “We have already announced their names and regarding our Ambassador, we have given him a two-month period to prepare himself to return from Kuwait and then head to Lebanon, it’s only a matter of time.”

The Syrian President also called on the Israeli government to accept the two-state solution in occupied Palestine and withdraw from the occupied Golan Heights before speaking about ‘peace.’

Israel furious over EU discontent with Bibi

Israel furious over EU discontent with Bibi

Press TV reports:

Israel has threatened to block the Middle East peace process over the European Union's harsh criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said on Thursday that Israel strongly protested at the criticism by EU ministers and senior officials about Israel's new government, warning that the Netanyahu's largely right-wing cabinet will forgo the Mideast peace process as long as the hawkish administration is under criticism.

EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner recently called for a freeze in upgrading ties with Israel over its peace process policies.

Last month, the European Union warned Netanyahu that ties with Israel would suffer should he reject the two-state solution.

The largely right-wing cabinet of Israel's hawkish prime minister has halted the previous negotiations over the formation of an independent Palestinian state, questioning the US-backed agreements reached in Annapolis.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Tel Aviv was not bound by the 2007 deal, under which Israel agreed to the creation of a Palestinian state, describing the process as a 'dead end'.

At the US-hosted Annapolis Conference, Israel pledged to halt all settlement activities in East Jerusalem (al-Quds) and the West Bank. Jerusalem (al-Quds) is widely viewed as the capital of Palestine's future state.

Israel has in recent months announced the construction of hundreds of new housing units in the city, in breach of United Nations Security Council resolutions
Comment: ok, so now even the Israelis are rejecting a two-state solution. Not that they favor a one-state solution - they want a no-state solution, at least a no state solution for Palestine. So basically the Israeli approved "solutions" now are:

a) deporting the Palestinians
b) incarcerating the Palestinians or
c) exterminating the Palestinians

It is rather obvious that, in fact, the Zionists have already agreed on implementing a combination of these three "solutions". The only difference between the various Israeli governments is in the exact ratio of solutions chosen at any one moment in time. That's all. The mix, as such, has already been adopted by consensus by the Israeli society.

Zieg Eretz Yisrael!

This clarity is a good thing as it offers the rest of (civilized) mankind another two fundamental options:

a) a racist genocidal "Jewish state" run amok or
b) a single democratic state based on a one man one vote principle

As Norman Finkelstein constantly repeats, there is nothing complicated about the conflict in the Middle-East. The arrogance and hubris of the current Isareli government only helps to make this clear.

In the meantime, I leave you with a video which really says it all:

Posted by VINEYARDSAKER: at 4:55 AM