31 July 2010

The Real Aim of Israel’s Bomb Iran Campaign

Gareth Porter | Information Clearing House | July 30, 2010

Reuel Marc Gerecht's screed justifying an Israeli bombing attack on Iran coincides with the opening of  the new Israel lobby campaign marked by the introduction of House Resolution 1553 expressing full support for such an Israeli attack.

What is important to understand about this campaign is that the aim of Gerecht and of the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu is to support an attack by Israel so that the United States can be drawn into direct, full-scale war with Iran.

That has long been the Israeli strategy for Iran, because Israel cannot fight a war with Iran without full U.S. involvement. Israel needs to know that the United States will finish the war that Israel wants to start.

Gerecht openly expresses the hope that any Iranian response to the Israeli attack would trigger full-scale U.S. war against Iran. "If Khamenei has a death-wish, he'll let the Revolutionary Guards mine the strait, the entrance to the Persian Gulf," writes Gerecht. "It might be the only thing that would push President Obama to strike Iran militarily...." Gerecht suggest that the same logic would apply to any Iranian "terrorism against the United States after an Israeli strike," by which we really means any attack on a U.S. target in the Middle East. Gerecht writes that Obama might be "obliged" to threaten major retaliation "immediately after an Israeli surprise attack."

That's the key sentence in this very long Gerecht argument. Obama is not going to be "obliged" to join Israeli aggression against Iran unless he feels that domestic political pressures to do so are too strong to resist. That's why the Israelis are determined to line up a strong majority in Congress and public opinion for war to foreclose Obama's options.

In the absence of confidence that Obama would be ready to come into the war fully behind Israel, there cannot be an Israeli strike.

Gerecht's argument for war relies on a fanciful nightmare scenario of Iran doling out nuclear weapons to Islamic extremists all over the Middle East. But the real concern of the Israelis and their lobbyists, as Gerecht's past writing has explicitly stated, is to destroy Iran's Islamic regime in a paroxysm of U.S. military violence.

Gerecht first revealed this Israeli-neocon fantasy as early as 2000, before the Iranian nuclear program was even taken seriously, in an essay written for a book published by the Project for a New American Century.  Gerecht argued that, if Iran could be caught in a "terrorist act," the U.S. Navy should "retaliate with fury". The purpose of such a military response, he wrote, should be to "strike with truly devastating effect against the ruling mullahs and the repressive institutions that maintain them."

And lest anyone fail to understand what he meant by that, Gerecht was more explicit: "That is, no cruise missiles at midnight to minimize the body count. The clerics will almost certainly strike back unless Washington uses overwhelming, paralyzing force."

In 2006-07, the Israeli war party had reason to believed that it could hijack U.S. policy long enough to get the war it wanted, because it had placed one of its most militant agents, David Wurmser, in a strategic position to influence that policy.

We now know that Wurmser, formerly a close adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu and during that period Vice President Dick Cheney's main adviser on the Middle East, urged a policy of overwhelming U.S. military force against Iran.  After leaving the administration in 2007, Wurmser revealed that he had advocated a U.S. war on Iran, not to set back the nuclear program but to achieve regime change.

"Only if what we do is placed in the framework of a fundamental assault on the survival of the regime will it have a pick-up among ordinary Iranians," Wurmser told The Telegraph.  The U.S. attack was not to be limited to nuclear targets but was to be quite thorough and massively destructive. "If we start shooting, we must be prepared to fire the last shot. Don't shoot a bear if you're not going to kill it."

Of course, that kind of war could not be launched out of the blue.  It would have required a casus belli to justify a limited initial attack that would then allow a rapid escalation of U.S. military force.  In 2007, Cheney acted on Wurmser's advice and tried to get Bush to provoke a war with Iran over Iraq, but it was foiled by the Pentagon.

As Wurmser was beginning to whisper that advice in Cheney's ear in 2006, Gerecht was making the same argument in The Weekly Standard:

Bombing the nuclear facilities once would mean we were declaring war on the clerical regime. We shouldn't have any illusions about that. We could not stand idly by and watch the mullahs build other sites. If the ruling mullahs were to go forward with rebuilding what they'd lost--and it would be surprising to discover the clerical regime knuckling after an initial bombing run--we'd have to strike until they stopped. And if we had any doubt about where their new facilities were (and it's a good bet the clerical regime would try to bury new sites deep under heavily populated areas), and we were reasonably suspicious they were building again, we'd have to consider, at a minimum, using special-operations forces to penetrate suspected sites.

The idea of waging a U.S. war of destruction against Iran is obvious lunacy, which is why U.S. military leaders have strongly resisted it both during the Bush and Obama administrations.  But  Gerecht makes it clear that Israel believes it can use its control of Congress to pound Obama into submission. Democrats in Congress, he boasts, "are mentally in a different galaxy than they were under President Bush." Even though Israel has increasingly been regarded around the world as a rogue state after its Gaza atrocities and the commando killings of unarmed civilians on board the Mavi Marmara, its grip on the U.S. Congress appears as strong as ever.

Moreover, polling data for 2010 show that a majority of Americans have already been manipulated into supporting war against Iran - in large part because more than two-thirds of those polled have gotten the impression that Iran already has nuclear weapons.  The Israelis are apparently hoping to exploit that advantage. "If the Israelis bomb now, American public opinion will probably be with them," writes Gerecht. "Perhaps decisively so." Netanyahu must be feeling good about the prospects for pressuring Barack Obama to join an Israeli war of aggression against Iran.  It was Netanyahu, after all, who declared in 2001, "I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won't get in the way."

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist on U.S. national security policy

30 July 2010

New Israeli report on Operation Cast Lead confirms Goldstone report’s main findings

Hybrid States | Yaniv Reich | July 22, 2010

Defense Minister Ehud Barak described it as "false, distorted, and irresponsible".  Information Minister Yuli Edelstein called it "anti-Semitic".  Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren said it "insidiously... portrayed the Jews as the deliberate murderers of innocents".  Foreign Minister Lieberman argued that its true purpose "was to destroy Israel's image, in service of countries where the terms 'human rights' and 'combat ethics' do not even appear in their dictionaries".  And the US House of Representatives banded together in bipartisan harmony to pass a resolution (344-36) that called "on the President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration" of it.

For nearly a year now, vicious attacks on the Goldstone report and on Judge Goldstone himself have been the thing for Israel's numerous apologists to do.

There is just one not-so-minor problem with this knee-jerk criticism of the report and infinite stream of ad hominem libel against its main author.  A majority of the most damning - and damaging - war crimes that are alleged to have taken place have now been confirmed by the IDF's own investigations into the matter, themselves only conducted in an effort to derail the Goldstone report's referral to the International Criminal Court.

IDF confirms over 20 gravest findings of the Goldstone Report

Several of the most dramatic instances of war crimes, which previously stirred Israel's defenders into fits, are now publicly admitted by the IDF in the recent update to its official response (which can be found here).

Some examples of war crimes include:

  • • White phosphorous in urban areas: This one is probably the most famous admission that emerged after a series of easily disproved lies.  Israel's initial response was one of absolute denial, indeed indignation, that people would suggest it had used banned chemical weapons in densely populated areas.  But the steady stream of photos and videos depicting phosphorous burns on children and buildings eventually forced Israel to admit it had used these prohibited weapons.
  • • The murder of two unarmed Palestinians carrying white flags of surrender.
  • • The Al-Fakhura Street incident: Israeli mortar fire at a site adjacent to a UN Relief Works Agency compound resulted in multiple civilian deaths.
  • • The use of innocent Palestinians as human shields: The Goldstone report explains that in order "to carry out house searches as human shields the Israeli soldiers took off AD/03’s blindfold but he remained handcuffed. He was forced to walk in front of the soldiers and told that, if he saw someone in the house but failed to tell them, he would be killed. He was instructed to search each room in each house cupboard by cupboard. After one house was completed he was taken to another house with a gun pressed against his head and told to carry out the same procedure there. He was punched, slapped and insulted throughout the process."  The new Israeli report identifies this anonymous human shield AD/03 and confirms this episode.  Other cases of human shield use, e.g. Abbas Ahmad Ibrahim Halawa and Mahmoud Abd Rabbo al-Ajrami, were also confirmed.
  • • Al-Samouni family massacre: The Israelis attacked two houses of the Samouni family, killing 23 people in total.  Subsequently, they prevented the Red Cross and PRCS from providing care to the wounded and dying for three days.  Confirmed by Israel and the subject of a military investigation.
  • • Firing on Al Maqadmah and other mosques during prayer time.

In total, a quick scan through the IDF's new report provides direct confirmation of more than 20 of Goldstone's findings.  A number of these are the subject of internal IDF investigations, which are infuriating large swaths of the military.  Of course, decent people everywhere should hope that those investigations are conducted in the most unbiased and professional manner possible, and that justice is served appropriately to all those who have committed war crimes.  I am not holding my breath, but it's good to throw this wish out there.

Libanon 2006: Israël bombardeerde een dag lang, ook na meldingen van de VN en waarschuwingen van het hoogste niveau, een VN basis, waarbij o.a. 4 peacekeepers om het leven kwamen.

Israel admits it did not minimize civilian casualties

The IDF report states: "IDF orders include the obligation to take all feasible precautions in order to minimize the incidental loss of civilian life or property" [emphasis added].  Israelis accept this statement as an article of faith and become unglued at the suggestion that "everything possible" wasn't done to ensure the safety of innocent people.  This expression of faith is often followed by the questions: "What? Do you think Israel wants to kill civilians?"  These questions are of course answered far more accurately with data on casualties than with ideological blindness.

They are also answered, however, through inadvertent slips in the public relations machine that shapes international media coverage of Israel/Palestine.  Today, we are treated to a spate of articles across the English and Hebrew-language press (e.g. here and here) about how Israel "promises" to do a better job of not killing innocent human beings next time around.

"The IDF has ... implemented operational changes in its orders and combat doctrine designed to further minimise civilian casualties and damage to civilian property in the future," it said.
"In particular, the IDF has adopted important new procedures designed to enhance the protection of civilians in urban warfare, for instance by further emphasising that the protection of civilians is an integral part of an IDF commander's mission."

Perhaps in a future "update" the IDF can enlighten the world as to how it was previously taking "all feasible precautions" and yet finds only now new tactics to protect civilians.  Perhaps the IDF spokesperson can further explain how emphasizing to its soldiers that "protection of civilians is an integral part" of the mission is considered an "operational change" from earlier practice.  One must presume that protection of civilians has not been given sufficient attention until now, and only Goldstone's courageous and now confirmed report has forced Israel to reconsider the meaning of "all feasible precautions" and "minimize civilian casualties". As Magnes Zionist has pointed out, Israel seems to think it can get away with a "I didn't do it but will try harder next time" approach.

Or perhaps the IDF's commanders and soldiers got a bit confused by all this talk of "protecting civilians" and that talk of the "Dahiya Doctrine."

But all of this gives the IDF a bit too much credit, too much benefit of the doubt.  This new report is nothing more than a desperate tactic to try and avoid criminal prosecution for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in the ICC.  Most of the IDF's "investigations" have already been dismissed as part of this whitewash, notwithstanding all the irate IDF officers unaccustomed to the pretense of accountability.

All it teaches us is four concrete things: (1) the Goldstone report did a stunningly good job in identifying possible war crimes despite Israel's concerted non-cooperation with the commission, (2) Israel has by its own admission failed to adequately protect civilians in war, (3) many people owe Judge Goldstone a sincere, begging apology for the disgraceful manner in which he has been treated, and (4) justice for the Palestinian victims of Israeli terrorism is still far away.

Blair's undisclosed business dealings conflict with Quartet role

Adri Nieuwhof | The Electronic Intifada| 29 July 2010

Tony Blair's term as envoy of the Quartet (US, UK, Russia, UN) has been marked by many photo opportunities but few, if any, accomplishments. Indeed, research shows that Blair's relationship with one of the world's richest men poses a clear and significant conflict of interest with his duties as Quartet envoy.

Tony Blair inspecteert de Israëlische belegering van Gaza bij de Kerem Shalom grensovergang, 22 juni 2010

Blair is close friends with Bernard Arnault, the chairman of the luxury goods conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy Group (LVMH), and has refused to publicly disclose whether or not he accepted a paid post as adviser to Arnault, as reported in the media. LVMH has been implicated in benefiting from Israel's occupation through its subsidiary, the cosmetics retail chain Sephora.

At the end of May, the French-based Coordination des Appels pour une Paix Juste au Proche Orient (CAPJPO) (Coordinated Appeals for a Just Peace in the Middle East) launched legal action against Sephora because of its retailing of products made with stolen Palestinian natural resources in illegal Israeli settlements.

CAPJPO claims that Sephora has maintained an illegal contract with the Israeli cosmetics company Ahava whose products are made in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli settlements Mitzpe Shalem and Kaliya co-founded Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories and own 44 percent of the company. In addition, Ahava manufactures its cosmetics in a factory in the Mitzpe Shalem settlement and operates an information center for tourists there.

The mud used in Ahava products is expropriated without Palestinian permission from a site near Kaliya, along the shores of the Dead Sea within the occupied West Bank. However, Ahava labels its skin care products as originating from "The Dead Sea, Israel."

Bathrobe brigades in Amsterdam informing people about the dirty secrets of Ahava beauty products in front of a store that sells the product, 2 december 2009

In July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) reaffirmed the illegality of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. Relying on the ICJ ruling, CAPJPO argues in its complaint that Sephora is supporting Israel's violations of international law by retailing Ahava products.

Blair's friendship with Arnault, LVMH's chairman, dates to his time as UK Prime Minister. Arnault is one of the richest men in France, with an estimated net worth of more than $27.5 billion. Blair's three eldest children studied in France while he was prime minister, and often stayed at Arnault's mansion in Paris. Indeed, the Daily Mail reported in February 2007 that Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament Norman Lamb warned Blair "It is very dangerous to take hospitality from very wealthy individuals who may be seeking to wield influence" ("Cheri's pride graduate girl"). Blair's friendship with Arnault continued after he stepped down as premier and accepted the position as Quartet envoy.

In January, the Daily Telegraph revealed that Blair was to be appointed as Arnault's personal advisor. Although the announcement was repeated by Agence France Press, neither Blair nor LVMH have officially confirmed or denied the appointment. When asked for clarification in a written request from The Electronic Intifada, the office of Tony Blair remained silent. The lack of transparency on Blair's position stands in stark contrast to his portfolio as Quartet envoy which tasks him with teaching Palestinians how to build up transparent government institutions.

Blair also serves as a consultant to companies and countries on the principles of good governance. In a 28 June address to the Institute for Government on the importance of governance in the modern world, Blair reflected on ten lessons he had learned during his time as prime minister. His first lesson was that "Governance is not a debate as sometimes people think of it, as a debate about transparency or accountability. It is a debate about effectiveness and efficiency" (Institute for Government).

Blair's lack of transparency on his dealings with LVMH appears to be typical of how he operates, with an almost indistinguishable line between his public duties as Quartet envoy and his private profit.

Richard Murphy, an accountant from Tax Research UK, explained to the UK's Guardian how Blair can keep his wealth a secret. By setting up a complicated structure of 12 different entities Blair has been able to take advantage of obscure loopholes in UK regulations to side-step rules that normally require the publication of accounts.

The complicated legal structures that enable Blair to to keep his finances secret are "simply an administrative vehicle established in order to allow Mr. Blair's office sensibly to administer his different projects," Blair's spokesman told the Guardian ("Mystery of Tony Blair's money solved," 17 December 2009).

Transparency has also been a difficult goal for LVMH to achieve. In 2004, the company tried to avoid the bad publicity that its Louis Vuitton division collaborated with the Nazis during the German occupation of France. While writing about the history of Louis Vuitton in honor of its 150th anniversary, author Stephanie Bonvinci requested the company's war-time documents. She was told that the company documents for the period 1930-1945 were destroyed in a fire.

Undeterred, Bonvinci researched historical archives and talked to surviving family members. She eventually exposed the links of Louis Vuitton with the Vichy regime, led by Marshal Phillipe Petain, that ruled France during the Second World War and openly collaborated with the Nazi occupation. LVMH did not contest the contents of Bonvinci's book.

Given LVMH's lack of openness about its wartime history, it is ironic that Blair would have no qualms about working for the company. As Prime Minister Blair's government instituted the first annual Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK in 2000, something he justified by stating: "I am determined to ensure that the horrendous crimes against humanity committed during the Holocaust are never forgotten" ("Plan for Holocaust Memorial Day," Press Association, 18 October 1999).

Tony Blair's political and business roles pose a serious conflict of interest. As the Quartet's envoy to the Middle East he is no doubt familiar with the 2004 ICJ ruling and the plethora of UN security resolutions pertaining to the occupied Palestinian territories. He also knows that Ahava's factory and tourist center are built in violation of international law. And yet he refuses to disclose whether or not he has a paid role as advisor to the chairman of a company in business with Israel's occupation.

Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.

A barely tolerated minority

All Palestinian political activity more radical than a Cub Scout meeting is illegal in East Jerusalem.

Haaretz | 30.07.10 | By Daniel Seidemann

Hamas-affiliated Palestinian parliament member Mohammed Abu Tir - renowned for his bright orange beard - is my neighbor in Jerusalem. We live about a mile apart.

I've never met him, nor do I care to. I have no illusions about Hamas.

Abu Tir has just been released after spending four years in Israeli jail in because of his membership of the Change and Reform Party, which is associated with Hamas (and which both Israel and the Palestinian Authority allowed to participate in the 2006 legislative elections ). He is now facing exile. Not new charges, not a new indictment, not a trial.

I unequivocally object to the interior minister's decision to revoke his residency rights in Jerusalem and to expel Abu Tir from Israel and the city that is both of our homes - for the crime of being a public, political symbol of Hamas. This decision illuminates more about Israel's problematic rule over "unified" Jerusalem than it does about Hamas.

Such as the fact that Palestinians of East Jerusalem, who as "permanent residents" rather than citizens, are treated by Israel as visiting guests enjoying the privilege of residency, not as an indigenous population with the right to be there. Israel has for years shown an appetite for revoking that privilege. East Jerusalemites who move even a short distance outside the city risk forfeiting their residency, permanently, on the grounds that Jerusalem is no longer their "center of life." Those who go abroad for purposes of work or study risk the same fate.

And it is not just Hamas that is outlawed in Jerusalem: All Palestinian political activity more radical than a Cub Scout meeting is illegal in East Jerusalem. Palestinians in East Jerusalem are not being paranoid if they fear that the expulsion of Abu Tir portends a new trend, where any "proscribed" political activity may result in permanent exile.

Israeli non-recognition of the Palestinians of East Jerusalem as an indigenous community with rights is evident in every policy that governs that part of the city.

Israel has expropriated one-third of the privately owned Palestinian land there to build 50,000 residential units for Israelis; none for Palestinians. The expropriations are always made for "public purposes," but the "public" involved is, invariably, Israelis only. Much of the remaining Palestinian property in East Jerusalem is under threat of confiscation as "absentee property" - based on an Israeli law that nullifies Palestinian ownership if the current or previous owners reside even a few miles away in the West Bank or anywhere in the Arab world. And the burden of proof is on Palestinian property owners, who are presumed to be guilty of being "absentees" unless they can prove otherwise.

The planning regime in East Jerusalem has been geared to accelerate development in the Israeli sector and put an artificial cap on the Palestinian sector. Since it is virtually impossible to obtain a building permit, Palestinians often build without one - that is, "illegally," running the risk of heavy fines and ultimately demolition.

These are not random examples. Overall, policies regarding planning, property and construction in East Jerusalem indicate that from the perspective of the government of Israel, the birth of an Israeli child in Jerusalem is a simcha (joy ), whereas the birth of a Palestinian child is a demographic problem.

These policies disclose the consistent Israeli approach to Palestinians in East Jerusalem since 1967. With it, Israel is sending a clear message to these Palestinians about how it perceives them: "You are a barely tolerated minority whose position in Jerusalem hangs by a thread. We reject you as an indigenous, empowered or entitled collective. You are here under sufferance rather than by any inalienable right, and the privileges we extend to you can be revoked at whim."

After 43 years, the cumulative impact of these policies is an increasingly anomalous situation that is eating away like acid at the already vulnerable foundations of Israeli democracy. After 43 years, these policies also are increasingly unjustifiable even to Israel's staunchest allies, and are contributing to the growing and unprecedented isolation of Israel.

The foregoing is no mere litany of Israeli misdeeds. The underlying problem is not that Israel is ruling East Jerusalem unfairly and unwisely, but that we are ruling it at all. Consequently, these policies are now collapsing under their own weight. Neither the Palestinian residents of the city nor a consensus within the international community - including among Israel's closest allies - will countenance continued aggressive Israeli hegemony imposed over a functionally disenfranchised Palestinian community in one of the most sensitive places in the world.

Today, engaging and empowering the Palestinians of Jerusalem as a cohesive community is not only critical to the stability of the city, but it is the litmus test of the seriousness of any political process ostensibly aimed at ending the conflict.

Under current Israeli government policies, including the expulsion of Mohammed Abu Tir and the four other Hamas legislators from Jerusalem, Israel conspicuously fails this litmus test.

Daniel Seidemann is a Jerusalem-based lawyer specializing in Israeli-Palestinian relations in Jerusalem.

UN experts fault Israel on human rights

GENEVA — A UN panel of experts called Friday on Israel to fall in line with international norms on civil rights and to take action against targeted killings, torture and impunity for security forces.

The UN Human Rights Committee also called for an end to the blockade of Gaza and questioned the independence of Israel's own inquiry into a naval raid on a Gaza-bound relief supply ship in which nine Turkish nationals dead.

In conclusions on its review of Israel's application of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the committee also urged a halt to restrictions on Palestinians and raised concerns about discrimination.

"The State party should ensure that all alleged cases of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials, including police, personnel of the security service and the armed forces, are thoroughly and promptly investigated by an authority independent of any of these organs," the committee said.

It also reiterated concern that since 2003, the Israeli armed forces "have targeted and extrajudicially executed 184 individuals in the Gaza Strip, resulting in the collateral unintended death of 155 additional individuals" despite a Supreme Court ruling in 2006 imposing safeguards.

The panel dismissed Israeli assertions that the covenant -- a multilateral treaty ratified by 166 nations including Israel and in force since 1976 -- did not apply in areas under occupation or during armed conflict, saying its government must ensure "full application."

The 18 independent experts, tasked with reviewing how the treaty is applied in each nation that has signed up to it, also took issue with the "extensive use" of administrative detention without fair trial, including for children.

They expressed concern at restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in a "seam zone" with the occupied territories, "frequent" demolition of homes and schools in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and discrimination on housing "disproportionately favouring" the Jewish population in those areas.

Investigations into Israel's most recent major military operations, the operation against the aid activists' boat in May and the military offensive in Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009, were criticised.

"All decision makers, be they military and civilian officials, should be investigated and where relevant prosecuted and sanctioned," it said, underlining the human toll and calling for "credible" and independent probes.

AFP | 30 July 2010

U.N. rights body tells Israel to end Gaza blockade

GENEVA | Fri Jul 30, 2010 5:37am EDT

GENEVA (Reuters) - Israel must lift its military blockade of the Gaza Strip and invite an independent, fact-finding mission to investigate its raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, a United Nations rights body said on Friday.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee also told Israel to ensure that Palestinians in the occupied territories can enjoy the human rights that Israel had pledged to uphold in the main international human rights treaty.

The committee's non-binding recommendations add to pressure on Israel to explain what happened in its attack on May 31 on an aid flotilla in which nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed, damaging relations between Israel and Turkey.

Israel admitted errors in planning the raid but justified the use of lethal force saying its marines came under attack from activists wielding knives and clubs. Activists deny this.

They are also the latest in a series of reports and sessions in which Israel has found itself on the defensive at the United Nations over its policies in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

On July 23, another U.N. rights forum, the Human Rights Council, appointed a team of international experts to investigate the raid on the flotilla and called on all parties to cooperate.

The committee is a body of 18 independent experts, mainly prominent in international and human rights law, that monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by countries that have signed up to it.

The recommendations on Israel's regular report to the committee on its compliance included calls for investigations into human rights abuses including killings in Israel's military offensive in Gaza between December 27, 2008, and January 18, 2009.

The committee also told Israel to end extra-judicial executions of terrorist suspects, make torture illegal, end construction of settlements in the occupied territories, stop building a wall cutting off some of the territories from other regions, and stop destroying homes as a collective punishment.

It asked Israel to say in its next report due by July 2013 what action it had taken on these and other recommendations.

Israel betrokken bij voorbereiding bloedloze coup in Golfemiraat

Israël is betrokken bij de voorbereiding van een bloedloze coup in het emiraat Ras al-Khaimeh (RAK), op 65 kilometer van Iran. RAK is een van de zeven emiraten waaruit de Verenigde Arabische Emiraten bestaan. Dat meldt de Britse krant The Guardian. Ondanks dat het emiraat wordt geleid door zijn vader, is RAK volgens de voormalige prins Khalid bin Saqr al-Qasimi een transitplaats geworden voor het transport van nucleair materiaal naar de Islamitische Republiek Iran.

Khalid werd in 2003 uit RAK verbannen na een geweldloze machtswisseling en heeft sinds dan miljoenen dollars besteed aan het lobbyen bij Israël en de VS om hem te helpen de troon van het emiraat te heroveren. Omdat de gezondheid van zijn vader snel verslechtert (de man zou stervende zijn in een hospitaal in Abu Dhabi) zou anders straks zijn halfbroer op de troon komen -wat feitelijk reeds het geval is- en dat kan Israël maar best voorkomen, denkt Khalid.

Israël heeft wel oren naar Khalids plan. The Guardian kreeg een reeks emails en opgenomen telefoongesprekken in handen die Khalid voerde met de Israëlische ambassadeur in Londen. Deze laatste heeft nu zijn contacten in Washinghton ingeschakeld. Mocht Israel Khalid er in doen slagen zo’n coup uit te voeren dan zou dat ‘zeer oncomfortabel’ voor de regio kunnen zijn, aldus Christopher Davidson, een expert in de politiek van de Verenigde Arabische Emiraten aan de universiteit van Durham.

Davidson verwacht nog voor het einde van de zomer meer duidelijkheid: ‘Dit is een nieuw soort coup, waarbij geen kelen worden overgesneden maar miljoenen worden besteed aan globale communicatie. Het is de eerste van zijn soort en ik gok erop dat hij zal slagen’.

Express.be | 29 jul 2010

Giving Up On Victory, Not War

If you ever needed convincing that the world of American "national security" is well along the road to profligate lunacy, read the striking three-part "Top Secret America" series by Dana Priest and William Arkin that the Washington Post published last week. When it comes to the expansion of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), which claims 17 major agencies and organizations, the figures are staggering. Here's just a taste: "Twenty-four [new intelligence] organizations were created by the end of 2001, including the Office of Homeland Security and the Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Task Force. In 2002, 37 more were created to track weapons of mass destruction, collect threat tips, and coordinate the new focus on counterterrorism. That was followed the next year by 36 new organizations; and 26 after that; and 31 more; and 32 more; and 20 or more each in 2007, 2008, and 2009. In all, at least 263 organizations have been created or reorganized as a response to 9/11."

More striking yet, the articles make clear (admittedly a few years late) that no one has a complete picture of the extent of the American intelligence quagmire -- from its finances (announced at $75 billion but, the authors assure us, significantly higher) to its geography, its output (the 50,000 top-secret reports it churns out yearly that no one has time to read or track), its composition, or even its office space. ("In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001.") And keep in mind that all of this and more was created not to keep track of or fight a series of covert wars with another major imperial power like the Soviet Union, but to track and hunt down a rag-tag terrorist outfit with a couple of thousand members, including modest-sized groups in countries like Yemen and small numbers of individual wannabe terrorists like the "underwear bomber." In much of this, as anyone who bothers to scan front-page headlines knows, the IC has been remarkably unsuccessful. Such staggeringly out-of-control expansion should, of course, be a major scandal, but along with our constant wars, it's already so much a part of the new national security norm that the publication of the Post series is unlikely to have any significant effect.

All this has, in turn, been driven by Fear Inc. To fuel its profitable if cancerous growth, it has vastly exaggerated the relatively minor and largely manageable danger of Islamic terrorism -- since 9/11, above shark attacks but way below drunken-driving accidents -- among the many far more serious dangers this country faces. If the IC actually worked as an effective intelligence delivery system, we would be a Mensa among states. But how could such a proliferation of overlapping agencies and outfits, aided and abetted by a burgeoning privatized, mercenary version of the same, provide "intelligence"? With more than two-thirds of all intelligence programs militarized and overseen by the Pentagon, itself driven to paroxysms of spending and expansion since 2001 (despite the fact that all major military challengers to the U.S. are long gone), labeling this morass "intelligence" should be considered a joke. However absurd, though, don't expect any of those organizations or agencies to disappear any time soon. They're ours for the duration.

It's into such national security institutional madness that Andrew Bacevich, author of the bestselling The Limits of Power, strides in his latest work, to be published this week, Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War. It is the single best source for understanding how Washington came to garrison the planet, intervene regularly in distant lands, and turn war-making -- and not even successful war-making at that -- into an American norm. It's simply a must-read. Think of today's TomDispatch post as a little introduction to just a few of that book's themes. (And while you're at it, catch Timothy MacBain's latest TomCast audio interview in which Bacevich discusses his new book by clicking here, or to download it to your iPod, here).Tom

The End of (Military) History?
The United States, Israel, and the Failure of the Western Way of War
By Andrew J. Bacevich

"In watching the flow of events over the past decade or so, it is hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental has happened in world history." This sentiment, introducing the essay that made Francis Fukuyama a household name, commands renewed attention today, albeit from a different perspective.

Developments during the 1980s, above all the winding down of the Cold War, had convinced Fukuyama that the "end of history" was at hand. "The triumph of the West, of the Western idea," he wrote in 1989, "is evident… in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism."

Today the West no longer looks quite so triumphant. Yet events during the first decade of the present century have delivered history to another endpoint of sorts. Although Western liberalism may retain considerable appeal, the Western way of war has run its course.

For Fukuyama, history implied ideological competition, a contest pitting democratic capitalism against fascism and communism. When he wrote his famous essay, that contest was reaching an apparently definitive conclusion.

Yet from start to finish, military might had determined that competition's course as much as ideology. Throughout much of the twentieth century, great powers had vied with one another to create new, or more effective, instruments of coercion. Military innovation assumed many forms. Most obviously, there were the weapons: dreadnoughts and aircraft carriers, rockets and missiles, poison gas, and atomic bombs -- the list is a long one. In their effort to gain an edge, however, nations devoted equal attention to other factors: doctrine and organization, training systems and mobilization schemes, intelligence collection and war plans.

All of this furious activity, whether undertaken by France or Great Britain, Russia or Germany, Japan or the United States, derived from a common belief in the plausibility of victory. Expressed in simplest terms, the Western military tradition could be reduced to this proposition: war remains a viable instrument of statecraft, the accoutrements of modernity serving, if anything, to enhance its utility.

Grand Illusions

That was theory. Reality, above all the two world wars of the last century, told a decidedly different story. Armed conflict in the industrial age reached new heights of lethality and destructiveness. Once begun, wars devoured everything, inflicting staggering material, psychological, and moral damage. Pain vastly exceeded gain. In that regard, the war of 1914-1918 became emblematic: even the winners ended up losers. When fighting eventually stopped, the victors were left not to celebrate but to mourn. As a consequence, well before Fukuyama penned his essay, faith in war's problem-solving capacity had begun to erode. As early as 1945, among several great powers -- thanks to war, now great in name only -- that faith disappeared altogether.

Among nations classified as liberal democracies, only two resisted this trend. One was the United States, the sole major belligerent to emerge from the Second World War stronger, richer, and more confident. The second was Israel, created as a direct consequence of the horrors unleashed by that cataclysm. By the 1950s, both countries subscribed to this common conviction: national security (and, arguably, national survival) demanded unambiguous military superiority. In the lexicon of American and Israeli politics, "peace" was a codeword. The essential prerequisite for peace was for any and all adversaries, real or potential, to accept a condition of permanent inferiority. In this regard, the two nations -- not yet intimate allies -- stood apart from the rest of the Western world.

So even as they professed their devotion to peace, civilian and military elites in the United States and Israel prepared obsessively for war. They saw no contradiction between rhetoric and reality.

Yet belief in the efficacy of military power almost inevitably breeds the temptation to put that power to work. "Peace through strength" easily enough becomes "peace through war." Israel succumbed to this temptation in 1967. For Israelis, the Six Day War proved a turning point. Plucky David defeated, and then became, Goliath. Even as the United States was flailing about in Vietnam, Israel had evidently succeeded in definitively mastering war.

A quarter-century later, U.S. forces seemingly caught up. In 1991, Operation Desert Storm, George H.W. Bush's war against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, showed that American troops like Israeli soldiers knew how to win quickly, cheaply, and humanely. Generals like H. Norman Schwarzkopf persuaded themselves that their brief desert campaign against Iraq had replicated -- even eclipsed -- the battlefield exploits of such famous Israeli warriors as Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin. Vietnam faded into irrelevance.

For both Israel and the United States, however, appearances proved deceptive. Apart from fostering grand illusions, the splendid wars of 1967 and 1991 decided little. In both cases, victory turned out to be more apparent than real. Worse, triumphalism fostered massive future miscalculation.

On the Golan Heights, in Gaza, and throughout the West Bank, proponents of a Greater Israel -- disregarding Washington's objections -- set out to assert permanent control over territory that Israel had seized. Yet "facts on the ground" created by successive waves of Jewish settlers did little to enhance Israeli security. They succeeded chiefly in shackling Israel to a rapidly growing and resentful Palestinian population that it could neither pacify nor assimilate.

In the Persian Gulf, the benefits reaped by the United States after 1991 likewise turned out to be ephemeral. Saddam Hussein survived and became in the eyes of successive American administrations an imminent threat to regional stability. This perception prompted (or provided a pretext for) a radical reorientation of strategy in Washington. No longer content to prevent an unfriendly outside power from controlling the oil-rich Persian Gulf, Washington now sought to dominate the entire Greater Middle East. Hegemony became the aim. Yet the United States proved no more successful than Israel in imposing its writ.

During the 1990s, the Pentagon embarked willy-nilly upon what became its own variant of a settlement policy. Yet U.S. bases dotting the Islamic world and U.S. forces operating in the region proved hardly more welcome than the Israeli settlements dotting the occupied territories and the soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) assigned to protect them. In both cases, presence provoked (or provided a pretext for) resistance. Just as Palestinians vented their anger at the Zionists in their midst, radical Islamists targeted Americans whom they regarded as neo-colonial infidels.


No one doubted that Israelis (regionally) and Americans (globally) enjoyed unquestioned military dominance. Throughout Israel's near abroad, its tanks, fighter-bombers, and warships operated at will. So, too, did American tanks, fighter-bombers, and warships wherever they were sent.

So what? Events made it increasingly evident that military dominance did not translate into concrete political advantage. Rather than enhancing the prospects for peace, coercion produced ever more complications. No matter how badly battered and beaten, the "terrorists" (a catch-all term applied to anyone resisting Israeli or American authority) weren't intimidated, remained unrepentant, and kept coming back for more.

Israel ran smack into this problem during Operation Peace for Galilee, its 1982 intervention in Lebanon. U.S. forces encountered it a decade later during Operation Restore Hope, the West's gloriously titled foray into Somalia. Lebanon possessed a puny army; Somalia had none at all. Rather than producing peace or restoring hope, however, both operations ended in frustration, embarrassment, and failure.

And those operations proved but harbingers of worse to come. By the 1980s, the IDF's glory days were past. Rather than lightning strikes deep into the enemy rear, the narrative of Israeli military history became a cheerless recital of dirty wars -- unconventional conflicts against irregular forces yielding problematic results. The First Intifada (1987-1993), the Second Intifada (2000-2005), a second Lebanon War (2006), and Operation Cast Lead, the notorious 2008-2009 incursion into Gaza, all conformed to this pattern.

Meanwhile, the differential between Palestinian and Jewish Israeli birth rates emerged as a looming threat -- a "demographic bomb," Benjamin Netanyahu called it. Here were new facts on the ground that military forces, unless employed pursuant to a policy of ethnic cleansing, could do little to redress. Even as the IDF tried repeatedly and futilely to bludgeon Hamas and Hezbollah into submission, demographic trends continued to suggest that within a generation a majority of the population within Israel and the occupied territories would be Arab.

Trailing a decade or so behind Israel, the United States military nonetheless succeeded in duplicating the IDF's experience. Moments of glory remained, but they would prove fleeting indeed. After 9/11, Washington's efforts to transform (or "liberate") the Greater Middle East kicked into high gear. In Afghanistan and Iraq, George W. Bush's Global War on Terror began impressively enough, as U.S. forces operated with a speed and élan that had once been an Israeli trademark. Thanks to "shock and awe," Kabul fell, followed less than a year and a half later by Baghdad. As one senior Army general explained to Congress in 2004, the Pentagon had war all figured out:
"We are now able to create decision superiority that is enabled by networked systems, new sensors and command and control capabilities that are producing unprecedented near real time situational awareness, increased information availability, and an ability to deliver precision munitions throughout the breadth and depth of the battlespace… Combined, these capabilities of the future networked force will leverage information dominance, speed and precision, and result in decision superiority."

The key phrase in this mass of techno-blather was the one that occurred twice: "decision superiority." At that moment, the officer corps, like the Bush administration, was still convinced that it knew how to win.

Such claims of success, however, proved obscenely premature. Campaigns advertised as being wrapped up in weeks dragged on for years, while American troops struggled with their own intifadas. When it came to achieving decisions that actually stuck, the Pentagon (like the IDF) remained clueless.


If any overarching conclusion emerges from the Afghan and Iraq Wars (and from their Israeli equivalents), it's this: victory is a chimera. Counting on today's enemy to yield in the face of superior force makes about as much sense as buying lottery tickets to pay the mortgage: you better be really lucky.

Meanwhile, as the U.S. economy went into a tailspin, Americans contemplated their equivalent of Israel's "demographic bomb" -- a "fiscal bomb." Ingrained habits of profligacy, both individual and collective, held out the prospect of long-term stagnation: no growth, no jobs, no fun. Out-of-control spending on endless wars exacerbated that threat.

By 2007, the American officer corps itself gave up on victory, although without giving up on war. First in Iraq, then in Afghanistan, priorities shifted. High-ranking generals shelved their expectations of winning -- at least as a Rabin or Schwarzkopf would have understood that term. They sought instead to not lose. In Washington as in U.S. military command posts, the avoidance of outright defeat emerged as the new gold standard of success.

As a consequence, U.S. troops today sally forth from their base camps not to defeat the enemy, but to "protect the people," consistent with the latest doctrinal fashion. Meanwhile, tea-sipping U.S. commanders cut deals with warlords and tribal chieftains in hopes of persuading guerrillas to lay down their arms.

A new conventional wisdom has taken hold, endorsed by everyone from new Afghan War commander General David Petraeus, the most celebrated soldier of this American age, to Barack Obama, commander-in-chief and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. For the conflicts in which the United States finds itself enmeshed, "military solutions" do not exist. As Petraeus himself has emphasized, "we can't kill our way out of" the fix we're in. In this way, he also pronounced a eulogy on the Western conception of warfare of the last two centuries.

The Unasked Question

What then are the implications of arriving at the end of Western military history?

In his famous essay, Fukuyama cautioned against thinking that the end of ideological history heralded the arrival of global peace and harmony. Peoples and nations, he predicted, would still find plenty to squabble about.

With the end of military history, a similar expectation applies. Politically motivated violence will persist and may in specific instances even retain marginal utility. Yet the prospect of Big Wars solving Big Problems is probably gone for good. Certainly, no one in their right mind, Israeli or American, can believe that a continued resort to force will remedy whatever it is that fuels anti-Israeli or anti-American antagonism throughout much of the Islamic world. To expect persistence to produce something different or better is moonshine.

It remains to be seen whether Israel and the United States can come to terms with the end of military history. Other nations have long since done so, accommodating themselves to the changing rhythms of international politics. That they do so is evidence not of virtue, but of shrewdness. China, for example, shows little eagerness to disarm. Yet as Beijing expands its reach and influence, it emphasizes trade, investment, and development assistance. Meanwhile, the People's Liberation Army stays home. China has stolen a page from an old American playbook, having become today the preeminent practitioner of "dollar diplomacy."

The collapse of the Western military tradition confronts Israel with limited choices, none of them attractive. Given the history of Judaism and the history of Israel itself, a reluctance of Israeli Jews to entrust their safety and security to the good will of their neighbors or the warm regards of the international community is understandable. In a mere six decades, the Zionist project has produced a vibrant, flourishing state. Why put all that at risk? Although the demographic bomb may be ticking, no one really knows how much time remains on the clock. If Israelis are inclined to continue putting their trust in (American-supplied) Israeli arms while hoping for the best, who can blame them?

In theory, the United States, sharing none of Israel's demographic or geographic constraints and, far more richly endowed, should enjoy far greater freedom of action. Unfortunately, Washington has a vested interest in preserving the status quo, no matter how much it costs or where it leads. For the military-industrial complex, there are contracts to win and buckets of money to be made. For those who dwell in the bowels of the national security state, there are prerogatives to protect. For elected officials, there are campaign contributors to satisfy. For appointed officials, civilian and military, there are ambitions to be pursued.

And always there is a chattering claque of militarists, calling for jihad and insisting on ever greater exertions, while remaining alert to any hint of backsliding. In Washington, members of this militarist camp, by no means coincidentally including many of the voices that most insistently defend Israeli bellicosity, tacitly collaborate in excluding or marginalizing views that they deem heretical. As a consequence, what passes for debate on matters relating to national security is a sham. Thus are we invited to believe, for example, that General Petraeus's appointment as the umpteenth U.S. commander in Afghanistan constitutes a milestone on the way to ultimate success.

Nearly 20 years ago, a querulous Madeleine Albright demanded to know: "What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?" Today, an altogether different question deserves our attention: What's the point of constantly using our superb military if doing so doesn't actually work?

Washington's refusal to pose that question provides a measure of the corruption and dishonesty permeating our politics.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His new book, Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War, has just been published. Listen to the latest TomCast audio interview to hear him discuss the book by clicking here or, to download to an iPod, here.

Copyright 2010 Andrew Bacevich


29 July 2010

The Palestinian Authority is imprisoning Gazans

The same government that includes a call to end the blockade on Gaza, in practice aids in imprisoning the Gazans by preventing them from holding valid Palestinian passports.

Haaretz | By Amira Hass | 28.07.10

Lies and power go hand in hand. But what is considered outrageous in a sovereign state is catastrophic for a society fighting for its freedom. The Palestinians have two sets of leadership under occupation competing for the dubious title of "government" - and both are generating lies to perpetuate their status. The Hamas government, which won the majority of the vote in democratic Palestinian legislative elections, is not recognized by most countries. Yet these countries warmly accept the Palestinian Authority government, which was appointed by the president and leader of the party that lost the election, Fatah.

A Hamas policeman checks passports at the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, June 2010

This is the government that has explained its decision to postpone the municipal and local elections, originally scheduled for July 17 this year, by its desire to prevent the political rift between the West Bank and Gaza from widening. Parallel elections would not have been possible in the Gaza Strip because of the split between the parties and clashes over authority and legitimacy.

It is possible to argue over the logic of the initial stubbornness to hold elections that would have fortified the double-rule reality (one political experience in Gaza, and a different one in the West Bank ). This is why, indeed, independent circles in Gaza welcomed the decision to postpone. But everyone knows the real reason behind the postponement was internal disputes within Fatah, as well as a possible fear that competing slates would succeed - despite the fact that Hamas announced it would boycott the elections.

The same government that includes a call to end the blockade on Gaza in every one of its statements, in practice aids in imprisoning the Gazans by preventing many of them from holding valid Palestinian passports. Not only does the Fatah government refuse to send blank passports to Gaza to be filled out, thus forcing Gazans to use the services of special go-between agencies which send the applications to Ramallah, but its general intelligence service even intervenes - as has been revealed lately - and in many cases vetoes passports for Gaza residents.

Now, with Egypt easing the restrictions on entry through its border with Gaza, this arbitrary cruelty has become even more pronounced. The feeling of imprisonment, and the lies accompanying it, generates bitterness toward the government in Ramallah - even among those who are not Hamas supporters.
Security forces in the West Bank continue to arrest people identified with Hamas. The fact that the vast majority of these people are imprisoned for extended periods without a trial or any charges brought against them, raises the suspicion that this practice is not meant to foil security risks, but to actually take revenge for Fatah's defeat in Gaza and to repress its political opponents.

Take Murad Amira, for example, from the village of Na'alin. As a volunteer paramedic in the Red Crescent he goes every Friday to the demonstrations held in his village against the separation wall. He was arrested by the Palestinian general security service six weeks ago and only released yesterday - without any explanation provided to him, his family or friends.
The Ramallah government supports the popular struggle in its words, but at the same time its security services continuously harass activists in Na'alin who are close to Hamas: They arrest them for two or three days, release them, and arrest them again. That is why official support for the popular struggle is viewed as just another fabrication. It's no surprise the protests have remained the private domain of those directly affected by the lands expropriations and haven't drawn the masses, certainly not those who fill the coffee houses, restaurants and festivals in Ramallah.

These are the same security authorities that have won praise from the occupier for the quiet they've achieved while the occupier acts: confiscating land, demolishing homes, expelling people, arresting children, preventing free movement and killing. The lies that accompany these activities and their close affiliation with Fatah cast a shadow over the trustworthiness of the leadership in the eyes of its people.

28 July 2010

De judaïsering van de Negev

Ziet u de krantenkoppen al voor u, wanneer 1500 Arabieren met een konvooi bulldozers en gepantserde wagens een Israëlisch dorp van 300 inwoners met de grond gelijk maken? Maar wanneer 1500 Israëlische politieagenten dat doen met een dorp van 300 bedoeïnen in de Negev, dan blijft het oorverdovend stil in Nederland, op een paar regels bij de wereldomroep na. In de Guardian schrijft ooggetuige Neve Gordon over de judaïsering ("ethnic cleansing") van de Negev.

Ethnic cleansing in the Israeli Negev

The razing of a Bedouin village by Israeli police shows how far the state will go to achieve its aim of Judaising the Negev region

The Guardian | Neve Gordon | 28 July 2010 | video

A menacing convoy of bulldozers was heading back to Be'er Sheva as I drove towards al-Arakib, a Bedouin village located not more than 10 minutes from the city. Once I entered the dirt road leading to the village I saw scores of vans with heavily armed policemen getting ready to leave. Their mission, it seems, had been accomplished.

The signs of destruction were immediately evident. I first noticed the chickens and geese running loose near a bulldozed house, and then saw another house and then another one, all of them in rubble. A few children were trying to find a shaded spot to hide from the scorching desert sun, while behind them a stream of black smoke rose from the burning hay. The sheep, goats and the cattle were nowhere to be seen – perhaps because the police had confiscated them.

Scores of Bedouin men were standing on a yellow hill, sharing their experiences from the early morning hours, while all around them uprooted olive trees lay on the ground. A whole village comprising between 40 and 45 houses had been completely razed in less than three hours.

I suddenly experienced deja vu: an image of myself walking in the rubbles of a destroyed village somewhere on the outskirts of the Lebanese city of Sidon emerged. It was over 25 years ago, during my service in the Israeli paratroopers. But in Lebanon the residents had all fled long before my platoon came, and we simply walked in the debris. There was something surreal about the experience, which prevented me from fully understanding its significance for several years. At the time, it felt like I was walking on the moon.

This time the impact of the destruction sank in immediately. Perhaps because the 300 people who resided in al-Arakib, including their children, were sitting in the rubble when I arrived, and their anguish was evident; or perhaps because the village is located only 10 minutes from my home in Be'er Sheva and I drive past it every time I go to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem; or perhaps because the Bedouins are Israeli citizens, and I suddenly understood how far the state is ready to go to accomplish its objective of Judaising the Negev region; what I witnessed was, after all, an act of ethnic cleansing.

They say the next intifada will be the Bedouin intifada. There are 155,000 Bedouins in the Negev, and more than half of them live in unrecognised villages without electricity or running water. I do not know what they might do, but by making 300 people homeless, 200 of them children, Israel is surely sowing dragon's teeth for the future.

A Bedouin man gestures as he stands facing a row of Israeli police officers in riot gear during house demolitions in a Bedouin village near Beersheba, southern Israel, Tuesday, July 27, 2010.

Bedouin women from the al-Turi family remove a metal plate from the rubble of their demolished house after Israeli authorities escorted with heavy security forces destroyed tents and buildings in the Bedouin village of al-Arakib in the Negev Desert, north of Beersheva, on July 27, 2010.

Israeli police officers in riot gear walk in line near demolished homes in a Bedouin village near Beersheba, southern Israel, Tuesday, July 27, 2010.

27 July 2010

Christenen voor Israël in opspraak

Dutch Christian Group Backs Settlements

IPS News | by David Cronin

NIJKERK, The Netherlands, Jul 27, 2010 (IPS) - Sandwiched between giant car and furniture stores on a motorway stop-off, a blue-and-white Star of David flag droops nonchalantly on a stifling summer's day. The factory-like building beside it could easily be missed by a traveller who blinks too soon, yet the work undertaken here in the Israel Centre is far from commonplace.

Its staff and management are dedicated not to the manufacturing of goods or to devising sales strategies but to drumming up support for a contentious political project: expanding Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The centre is home to Christenen voor Israel (Christians for Israel), a Dutch organisation that views the creation of the state of Israel as the fulfilment of a Biblical prophecy. "It is very important that we in Holland work with the churches and let them know that Israel is one of the important players in the Bible and that they (Israelis) are God's chosen people," André Groenewegen, a spokesman for the group, told IPS.

Further on up the corridor from his office, a shop does brisk trade. The merchandise it sells is promoted as "made in Israel", yet closer inspection reveals that some of it is sold by firms headquartered in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The shop's cosmetics section brims with Ahava products; though boasting minerals from the Dead Sea, these are manufactured in the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. The shop's website, meanwhile, offers spices from Amnon and Tamar Karmi, whose head office is located in the settlement of Alfei Menashe, near the Palestinian town of Qalqilyah.

Unlike almost every member country of the United Nations, Christians for Israel refuses to regard the West Bank as occupied Palestinian territory. According to Groenewegen, "the Bible tells us" that it is part of Israel. (International law is at odds with that view; the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention makes it illegal for an occupying power to transfer part of its own civilian population into the land it is occupying).

Although a brochure on display at the centre's entrance states that one of the group's activities is to support Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria (the Biblical name for the West Bank), Groenewegen claims he is unaware of specific projects that it is aiding in the settlements. He concedes, though, that "our daughter organisation", Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC) is involved in such work.

CFOIC was founded in 1995 after some Christian Zionists had expressed the view that Israel had granted too many concessions to the Palestinian Authority as part of the so-called Oslo accords. Literature published by CFOIC argues that the West Bank was granted to the Jewish people 4,000 years ago. The book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament implores Jews to settle this land and to make it "prosper more than before", according to CFOIC.

"We don't consider Judea and Samaria to be occupied," said Henk Poot, a clergyman active in CFOIC and Christians for Israel. "There was never a Palestinian state or people. Apart from this we believe that the land of Israel has been promised by God Almighty to the Jewish people and in that way we feel very much connected to the religious Zionist movement."

Poot did not respond to requests for information about how much financial assistance the CFOIC sends to Israeli settlements. Yet the organisation's website solicits donations for the installation of "security cameras" for the gates of Zufim, a settlement beside Qalqilyah, as well as for the maintenance of students in Ariel, a university for settlers.

Even though they are supporting settlement activities that the Dutch government officially considers to be illegal, Christians for Israel and the CFOIC enjoy a cordial relationship with some of the most powerful politicians in the Netherlands.

Maxime Verhagen, parliamentary leader of the Christian Democrats party and the outgoing minister for foreign affairs, expressed his support for the work of pro-Israel lobby groups in an interview published in a Christians for Israel newsletter earlier this month. Verhagen has defended Israeli atrocities against Palestinians even more hawkishly than most of his peers in the European Union's 27 governments.

In January 2009, Verhagen visited the southern Israeli town of Sderot as a gesture of solidarity with its residents; three Israeli civilians were killed by rockets fired from Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. Verhagen refused to travel further into Gaza itself, where 1,400 Palestinians were killed over a three-week bombardment by Israeli forces.

Christians for Israel are part of a wider pro-Israel lobby with significant political clout in the Netherlands. The most influential organisation in the lobby network is the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) in The Hague. During the recent general election in the Netherlands, one of CIDI's staff members Wim Kortenoeven won a parliamentary seat for the Party for Freedom, led by the far-right politician Geert Wilders.

This party is in talks with the Christian Democrats about the possible formation of a coalition government. Another pro-Israel lobbyist Gidi Markuszower had been named as a candidate on Wilders' electoral list but Markuszower's candidacy was withdrawn at a late stage in the election, reportedly because he had previously been arrested for carrying a gun in public.

Max Wieselmann, a representative of European Jews for a Just Peace, an organisation campaigning for the rights of Palestinians to be respected, said that Christians for Israel is in close contact with Israeli diplomats. "You can always see the Israeli ambassador at their meetings or when they have parties and receptions," Wieselmann added. "This is a little bit funny. We always say - - and it is the same for Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. -- that they are not interested in Jews as people but only as a vehicle for their own views."

25 July 2010

Repubs Plot Israel-Iran Apocalypse and the Collapse of the US Economy

Jamal Abdi at HuffPo explains that almost a third of Republicans in the House have signed on to a resolution urging Israel to attack Iran.

The National Iranian American Council has a petition you can sign calling on minority leader John Boehner to repudiate this measure.

The move is reminiscent of the 1998 letter the Project for a New American Century signatories sent to President Clinton, puttingpressure on him to initiate war on Iraq. They did maneuver him into pulling out UN weapons inspectors and bombing Iraq. The US removal of the inspectors made the West blind as to the lack of Iraqi weapons programs, since their absence could no longer be certified. In turn, Iraq’s opaqueness as a result of the Clinton actions allowed the Bill Kristol crowd and the rest of the Israel, war industry and oil lobbies to propagandize America into the fruitless and ruinous Iraq War. Now they are repeating this pattern with regard to Iran.

Think about how weird it is. Nearly half of Republicans in the House are from the South, which has relatively few Jewish Americans. So this resolution is likely emanating from the Christian Zionists like John Hagee (who once said that God sent Hitler to punish the Jews for being outside Israel). It is not impossible that the people behind this resolution are fervently hoping for the Judgment Day to come more quickly and look forward to a Middle East apocalypse as a step toward the Return of Christ and the end of that pesky but temporarily necessary Judaism. In other words, for these right wing Americans to call for Israel to go to war on behalf of America is just one more case of white Christians sacrificing Jews for their own interests and is a form of anti-Semitism.

The likely outcome of an Israeli military strike on Iran s as follows:
  • Iran will use Shiite operatives and militiamen to kill the increasingly vulnerable remaining US troops in Iraq (once there are less than 50,000 non-combat troops in that country, they are not troops, they are hostages).

  • Iran will stir up its substantial number of clients in Afghanistan to hit the United States, widening the insurgency from mainly Pashtun Taliban to include fundamentalist Tajiks and Hazaras. The US will remain mired in that war, perhaps for decades, as a result.

  • Iran will probably bide its time and act in covert and hard to trace ways against US interests in the region. There could be more operations like the Khobar Towers bombing of US troops in Saudi Arabia or the 1983 attack on a Marine barracks in Beirut. All US commercial and government offices in the region would become targets.

  • A fair likelihood exists that Hizbullah would do something to Israel in revenge, possibly provoking another Israel-Lebanon War. The last war did not go well for Israel, despite its massive military superiority. A fourth of Israelis were forced to move house, chemical gas facilities in Haifa were threatened (and the Dimona Nuclear plant that makes all those Israeli nuclear warheads could be), and Hizbullah had broken Israeli radio encryption and knew all the Israeli army plans beforehand.

  • Not only would the democratically inclined opposition movement in Iran evaporate, but Muslim fundamentalists in Egypt, Jordan and other US allies would mobilize and perhaps gain in popularity out of anti-imperial solidarity. (Only 6% of ordinary Arabs is worried about an Iranian nuclear bomb, whereas almost all are disturbed by Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians).

  • The price of oil would spike, likely to 2008 highs of $140 a barrel, throwing the world back into Depression.

  • Once such hostilities began, and given these likely responses, the US could well get sucked into a third major Middle East war, against a country geographically much bigger than either Iraq or Afghanistan, and more than twice as populous as each of them. At another $1 trillion, that cost would push the US into $14 trillion in indebtedness all by itself, and since that is American annual gross domestic product, it could trigger a downgrading of American credit, making the interest servicing on existing and future loans far more expensive and, along with crippling high oil prices, beginning America’s final spiral down into poverty and weakness.

  • Juan R. I. Cole is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. For three decades, he has sought to put the relationship of the West and the Muslim world in historical context. His most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan, March, 2009) and he also recently authored Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). www.juancole.com

    24 July 2010

    Israël pakt media hardhandig aan

    Mel Frykberg, IPS | MO.be | 23 juli 2010

    NABI SALAH, 23 juli 2010 (IPS) - De zenuwen staan strak gespannen op de Westelijke Jordaanoever. Het Israëlische leger heeft het steeds meer gemunt op journalisten die verslag uitbrengen van de protesten daar. Intussen worden Palestijnse actievoerders opgesloten en staan Israëlische actievoerders onder toezicht.

    De Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israël trok onlangs van leer tegen wat ze ziet als een wijziging in het beleid van het Israëlische leger (IDF). Journalisten die verslag doen van het toenemende aantal protesten op de Westelijke Jordaanoever tegen Israëls scheidingsmuur, illegale nederzettingen en landonteigening worden hard aangepakt, volgens het persagentschap.

    "De vrije verslaggeving van nieuwsfeiten is een essentieel onderdeel van de democratie", verklaart de FPA. "Dat houdt dus in dat je niet mag slaan op het gezicht van een fotograaf die zichtbaar werkt voor een geaccrediteerde nieuwsorganisatie. En ook niet dat je een granaat mag mikken naar het hoofd van een duidelijk herkenbare nieuwsfotograaf, of kortweg dat je cameramensen, fotografen en journalisten mag arresteren."

    De mededeling kwam er na een aanval op drie journalisten die verslag uitbrachten van een protestmars nabij een joodse nederzetting die illegaal gebouwd werd op grondgebied van het Palestijnse dorp Beir Ummar in het zuiden op de Westelijke Jordaanoever.

    Fascistische staat

    Enkele weken geleden werden in het dorp Nabi Salah, ten noorden van Ramallah, twee Israëlische activisten opgepakt. Ze hadden kritiek geuit op Israëlische soldaten die de stenen van Palestijnse jongens beantwoordden met geweerschoten. Een van deze actievoerders is de 38-jarige Yonatan Shapira, een voormalige piloot uit de Israëlische luchtmacht. Hij werd recent ondervraagd door de inlichtingendienst Shin Bet over zijn deelname aan protesten tegen de bezetting. "We doen niets illegaal, dus ik ben niet bang. Maar ik voel me ongemakkelijk bij het feit dat mijn land in een fascistische staat verandert," zegt hij.

    "De Israëlische autoriteiten proberen dissidente Israëli's te intimideren. We vormen geen bedreiging voor de veiligheid, maar de grens tussen politiek activisme en veiligheid wordt steeds vager doordat de autoriteiten dissidentie strafbaar willen maken", meent Shapira.


    Israël wordt opgeschrikt door de groeiende internationale steun voor een boycot tegen het land met een rechtse regering die steeds vaker een loopje neemt met de rechten van burgers. Honderden Israëlische professoren tekenden een petitie tegen het dreigement van minster van Onderwijs, Gideon Saar, om iedere  lesgever of instelling die zich uitspreekt voor een boycot van Israël, te straffen.

    Minister Saar van de Likoedpartij steunt Im Tirtzu, een rechts-nationalistische beweging die eist dat iedereen in het Israëlische onderwijs zijn gehechtheid aan het zionisme moet bewijzen. Neve Gordon, een professor politieke wetenschappen aan de Ben Goerion Universiteit in Beersheva, ontving doodsbedreigingen nadat hij vorig jaar een opiniestuk schreef in de Los Angeles Times waarin hij uitlegde waarom hij voorstander is van een boycot van Israël.

    Intussen worden Palestijnen die geweldloos actievoeren tegen de bezetting nog steeds gearresteerd en opgesloten. Ze spreken van verzonnen aanklachten na gedwongen bekentenissen. Het leger voert nachtelijke raids uit in de dorpen van de Westelijke Jordaanoever, waar op vrijdag geregeld demonstraties plaatsvinden en waar de dorpelingen zich bijzonder actief tonen.

    "Wat wij als Israëlische activisten doorstaan is klein bier in vergelijking met de Palestijnen. Zij worden harder en veel brutaler aangepakt dan ons", stelt Shapira.

    Reuters news agency reporter Fadel Shana after his car was hit by an Israeli missile on April 16 in the Gaza Strip.

    De kinderen van Beit Hanoun

    Samah, negen jaar, rent haar huis binnen. Ze lijkt op het eerste zicht ongedeerd maar na enkele minuten begint ze hevig te braken en stroomt er bloed uit haar neus.

    Samah was voor haar huis aan het spelen toen het Israëlische leger vier spijkerbommen afvuurde in de regio van Beit Hanoun, in het noorden van de Gazastrook. Een spijkerbom is een bom die 8 à 10 duizend spijkers bevat die bij ontploffing over een grote afstand worden rond geslingerd.

    Samah werd geraakt door scherven en spijkers afkomstig van een bom die 100 meter van haar huis explodeerde. Ze werd met inwendige bloedingen naar het ziekenhuis afgevoerd. 

    Toen ik haar ’s avonds in het ziekenhuis opzocht verkeerde ze nog steeds in kritieke toestand. Ze verkrampte regelmatig van de pijn, had moeite om te ademen en verloor af en toe het  bewustzijn.

    Een verdiep lager lag de vier jarige Haitham. Zijn moeder stuurde hem kort voor de aanslag naar de markt om een boodschap te doen. Zijn familie hoorde een bom exploderen en vernam kort daarna dat Haitham naar het ziekenhuis was overgebracht. Hij bleek ernstig verwond te zijn aan zijn gezicht. Een spijker drong in zijn neus en hij liep ook verwondingen op aan zijn rechterarm. Haitham bevond zich op 200 meter van de plaats van explosie.

    Bij de aanslag verloren twee jongemannen het leven. Mohammad Al-Kafarneh, 23 jaar oud, stierf aan verwondingen aan rug en borstkas. Ook Kasim Al-Shinbary, 19 jaar, overleed ten gevolge van ernstige verwondingen aan zijn hoofd. Verschillende nagels drongen in zijn schedel en rug.

    De twee jongemannen worden door Israël omschreven als militanten. Een excuus dat wel vaker gebruikt wordt om hun optreden te verantwoorden. Vorige week vuurde het Israëlische leger eveneens drie spijkerbommen af, toen kwam een 33-jarige vrouw om het leven. Spijkerbommen mogen volgens het internationaal recht niet gebruikt worden in dichtbevolkte regio’s omdat ze een oncontroleerbaar effect hebben en er altijd onschuldige slachtoffers kunnen vallen. Om regels van het internationaal recht blijkt Israël zich niet te bekommeren.

    Tilde De Wandel | MO.be | 23.07.10

    23 July 2010

    Film: To Shoot an Elephant

    Portret van het door Israël bezette Gaza. Regisseur Alberto Arce was embedded bij de International Solidarity Movement, een van de weinige hulpverleningsorganisaties die nog in de streek aanwezig zijn. In een reeks vignetten, gefilmd tussen 25 december 2008 en 16 januari 2009, toont hij het hedendaagse leven in de bezette gebieden van de Gaza-strook, gecentreerd op de ambulancediensten die gewonden en doden (consequent aangeduid als 'martelaren') van de straten plukken. Met gevaar voor eigen leven, want ondanks de Geneefse conventies schieten de Israëli's met scherp. Mohammad Rujailah, de fixer van de filmcrew, staat op de rol als coregisseur, maar is ook een van de meest sprekende personen in de film zelf. Op kalme toon, maar zonder zijn wanhoop en woede onder stoelen of banken te steken, spreekt hij de internationale gemeenschap -- en daarmee de kijker -- aan op hun verantwoordelijkheid. De film is losjes vernoemd naar George Orwells essay Shooting an Elephant (1936); een verwijzing naar de kolonisatiepolitiek die Orwell in dit stuk, evenals in de rest van zijn oeuvre, aan de kaak stelde. Net als in Orwells op feiten gebaseerde fictie, komen door de kleine dwarsdoorsnede van het Palestijnse leven die To Shoot an Elephant geeft grotere politieke vraagstukken aan bod. (IDFA)


    Gaza Strip has been under siege since June 2007, when Israel declared it an "enemy entity". A group of international activists organized a siege-breaking movement, the Free Gaza movement. Thanks to their efforts, and despite the Israeli ban on foreign correspondents and humanitarian aid workers to cover and witness operation "Cast Lead" on the ground, a group of international volunteers: self organised members of the International Solidarity Movement were present in Gaza when the bombing started on December, 27th 2009. Together with two international correspondents from Al Jazeera International (Ayman Mohyeldin and Sherine Tadros), they were the only foreigners who managed to write, film and report for several radio stations what was happening inside the besieged Palestinian strip.

    Were they journalists? Were they activists? Who cares!. They became witnesses. Being a journalist or being whatsoever depends on how you feel. It is an ethical responsibility that you manage to share with a wider audience what you and those who are around you are going through. It will be the result of your work that will lead you to a professional career as a journalist or not, rather than pre-assumptions and labels. Make them know. Make those who you want to: listen and be aware of what you are aware of. That is a journalist. Having a card, with "press" written on it, or getting a regular salary is not necessary to be a witness with a camera or a pen. Forget about neutrality. Forget about objectivity. We are not Palestinians. We are not Israelis. We are not impartial. We only try to be honest and report what we see and what we know. I am a journalist. If somebody listens, I am a journalist. In Gaza´s case, no "official journalists" were authorized to enter Gaza (apart from those who were already inside) so we became witnesses. With a whole set of responsibilities as regarding to it.

    I have always understood journalism as "a hand turning the lights on inside the dark room". A journalist is a curious person, an unpleasant interrogator, a rebel camera and a pen making those in power feel uncomfortable. And that is the concept of my work in Gaza: To fulfil a duty in the most narrated conflict on earth, where the story of the siege and the collective punishment that is being imposed by Israel on the whole population of the territory in retaliation for rockets sent by Hamas will never be told with enough accuracy. For this it has to be lived. I sneaked inside Gaza despite Israeli attempts not to allow us to enter and I was "politely" asked to leave by those in power in Gaza. That is my idea of journalism. Every government on earth should feel nervous about somebody going around with a camera or a pen ready to publish what he or she manages to understand. For the sake of information, one of the biggest pillars of democracy.

    This is an embedded film. We decided to be "embedded within the ambulances" opening an imaginary dialogue with those journalists who embed themselves within armies. Everyone is free to choose the side where they want to report from. But decisions are often not unbiased. We decided that civilians working for the rescue of the injured would give us a far more honest perspective of the situation than those whose job is to shoot, to injure and to kill. We prefer medics rather than soldiers. We prefer the bravery of those unarmed rescuers than those with -also interesting, but morally rejectable experiences who enlist to kill. It is a matter of focus. I am not interested in the fears, traumas and contradictions of those who have a choice: the choice of staying home and saying no to war.

    Directors: Alberto Arce/ Mohammad Rujailah
    Script: Alberto Arce/ Miquel Marti Freixas
    Editing: Alberto Arce/ Miquel marti Freixas
    Sound: Francesc Gosalves
    Posproduction: Jorge Fernández Mayoral
    Co-production/distribution: Eguzki Bideoak.
    Translation: Mohammad Rujailah/ Alberto Arce
    Design Team: Mr. Brown and Mabrilan


    A collaborative effort

    This film would have never been possible without the devotion and commitment of Muhammad Rujailah, "the fixer". A local Gazan who decided to spend those weeks with us. For most of the time he was my ears, my eyes, my mouth. Most foreign journalists, not speaking Arabic rely on a "hidden figure" that is normally erased from the resulting work. I want to acknowledge his collaboration. Expressing that foreigners need locals. And locals have to be credited for their work. Orientalism is always present in the foreigners approach to the Middle East, that´s where local perspectives are needed to overcome stereotypes and build an honest narration of the complex reality we are facing.

    This film would have never been possible without the trust, warmth and collaboration of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and Health Worker Committee ambulance crews. Rescuers like Marwan, Hassan, Jamal and many others were there, answering phone calls and driving crazy day and night races between bombs and snipers knowing they were targets for the Israelis. Many of their friends, like Arafa Abdel Daim, were killed. They were shot at. Their cars were destroyed. But they never gave up. They are brave. Brave without weapons. One of our main focuses of "to shoot an elephant" is to uphold International Humanitarian law by showing how the medical teams and hospitals were directly targeted while performing their duties.

    In Gaza, we were a team. Together with the locals, Vittorio Arrigoni, Eva Bartlett, Ewa Jasiewicz, Leila, George, Natalie, Jenny united to form a group. Now I will show some of their intentions and work during those days. It could not have been possible without them. Also without the strength I got from the telephone calls from a number of activists all around the world who just phoned to say that they were there, that we were not alone. They have to be thanked properly. Even if they don´t know and I am unable to say thank you personally, they pushed me ethically not to give up. Haidar Eid and his fellow colleagues from the University teachers association of Gaza Strip with their intellectual support in understanding what was going on and what should be done after the massacre we witnessed, to effectively join efforts for justice. Nabil, from the Palestinian Medical Relief Society was the person who showed us all around Jabalya refugee camp in order for us to understand the magnitude and perversity implied in maintaining the collective punishment that Gaza´s inhabitants are suffering.

    Some officials in the Spanish government helped me to get out with all the raw material. It was their duty, but they did it with the best professionalism. Others would not have engaged. Mahmud was our crazy driver. With his taxi and his willingness to risk, we managed to reach houses directly targeted with white phosphorous shells or managed to film the fire at the United Nations central warehouse for food when it vanished and was burnt with phosphorous. And fighter Ahmed who paid a price because of helping me. Miquel trusted me and believed in this project right from the start when we talked for the first time. Eguzki Bideoak supported me and all the participants and those involved in the organising of the "Encuentros de Fotoperiodismo Ciudad de Gijón" who helped me to regain the enthusiasm I had somehow lost.

    Sarah and my family. Always Sarah and my family. I entered Gaza with a commitment to making a film because somebody had faith in me. CI Comunicación have to be acknowledged for that. Too bad our paths took us to different destinations.