Studies show that US coverage is Israeli-centric. The main bureaus for CNN, Associated Press, Time, etc. are located in Israel and often staffed by Israelis. The son of the NY Times bureau chief is in the Israeli army;"pundit" Jeffrey Goldberg served in the IDF; Wolf Blitzer worked for AIPAC. Because the U.S. gives Israel over $8 million/day - more than to any other nation - we feel it is essential that we be fully informed on this region. Below are news reports to augment mainstream coverage.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Palestinian woman prisoner: 'rape-threats, beatings'

ISM
'The 23 year old Palestinian women, Somod from Nablus, was recently released after having been imprisoned in Israel for four and a half years... suffered from ...rape-threats, isolation, and denial of access to basic sanitation facilities.. went to court .. 18 times before she was released...

“...beat me badly... threatened me by saying that they would ‘make me a woman’ if I refused to give them information. ...

... On her scheduled release date, she was told by the warden that she will be detained for an additional 6 months... her parents waited outside the jail for two days and were unable to get any explanation as to why their daughter was not being released. Four days after her scheduled release Somod was sent out of the prison with nothing. She found a man on the street that allowed her to borrow a phone... Full story

Information on Israeli & Palestinian prisoners

Neglect of wastewater treatment in the West Bank severe hazard

B'tselem
'Wastewater in the West Bank – from the settlements, from parts of Jerusalem, and from Palestinian communities – amounts to 91 million cubic meters [mcm] a year. Most of it is not treated, despite the sanitary and environmental danger inherent to wastewater flowing freely. Prolonged neglect of this issue has caused severe hazards in the West Bank and is liable to pollute the Mountain Aquifer, the most important and highest-quality water source for both Israelis and Palestinians...

During more than 40 years of occupation, Israel has not built advanced regional wastewater treatment plants in the settlements to match those inside Israel.

... Since settlers in the West Bank use Israel’s water-supply system, neglect of wastewater treatment in the area has almost no effect on them. Palestinians, however, ... rely on water from natural sources...pollution of these sources aggravates the chronic drinking-water shortage in the West Bank...use of untreated wastewater for agriculture contaminates crops and harms a major sector of the Palestinian economy. In the long run, the flow of untreated wastewater will also diminish land fertility... Full story

Breaking News: UK deplores Israeli decision to allow new settler homes

Ynet
'British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Tuesday he deplored Israel's decision to approve construction of 50 new homes at a West Bank settlement in defiance of a US call for a settlement freeze.

"Settlements are illegal under international law and they are a major blockage to peace in the Middle East on the basis of a two-state solution," Miliband told parliament. (Reuters)

UN probe in Gaza: Especially painful testimonies


Ynet
'Richard Goldstone and UN delegates hear testimonies of Gaza Strip residents as part of UN Human Rights Council's investigation of Operation Cast Lead. According to Goldstone, goal of hearing is to bring story of victims to world... delegates found it difficult to disguise their emotions as they heard the difficult and painful testimonies.... Israeli authorities have so far refused to allow the investigators into the country...
Full story

Israeli Doctors Collude in Torture

CounterPunch - Jonathon Cook
'Israel’s watchdog body on medical ethics has failed to investigate evidence that doctors working in detention facilities are turning a blind eye to cases of torture, so Israeli human rights groups charge.

...The accusations will add fuel to a campaign backed by hundreds of doctors from around the world to force Yoram Blachar, who heads the IMA, to step down from his recent appointment as president of the World Medical Association (WMA)...

... This month, Defense for Children International issued a report on the torture of Palestinian children.. A boy of 14 who was beaten repeatedly on a broken arm reported the abuse to a doctor who, he said, replied only: “I had nothing to do with that.”...
Full story

June 28, 2009 Situation Report: 23 raids; 25 incarcerated, including 5 children


PMG
On june 28th Israeli forces conducted 23 raids into Palestinian Territories; continued closing off roads and villages; forced evacuation of 35 farmers' families; leveled agricultural land and uprooted trees; etc. Full story

Investigation: Israel killed civilians with precision weapon


Human Rights Watch
'During the recent fighting in Gaza from December 27, 2008, to January 18, 2009, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) killed dozens of Palestinian civilians with one of the most precise weapons in its arsenal: missiles launched from an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV)-the latter more commonly known as a drone... Alongside weapons that affect large areas, such as high explosive artillery and artillery-fired white phosphorous, Israeli forces in Gaza used drones in precisely targeted attacks that killed and wounded civilians...

This report focuses on six Israeli drone strikes, which in total killed 29 civilians, eight of them children... determined that in all of these attacks the Israeli military directed their strikes on individuals who were all found to be civilians. In none of the cases did Human Rights Watch find evidence that Palestinian fighters were present in the immediate area of the attack at the time. None of the targets were moving quickly or leaving the area, so the drone operators would have had time to determine whether they were observing civilians or combatants, and to hold fire if they were not able to tell the difference...
Full story

My First House Demolition

A soldier escorts a mother and child through the demolition site.

by Liza Behrendt
'...because it was my first, I was hit hard emotionally. On Via Dolorosa, a neighbor allowed us onto their roof, above a church, to view the second-floor demolition across the way. We could see the family watching, and at one point could hear them screaming.... Full story

Israel demolished two homes in Negev and removed tents

IMEMC
'[On Monday Israeli] authorities demolished the home of Al Bdour family, in Um Rattam village ... in Al Far’a village, the authorities demolished a home belonging to Mohammad Suleiman Al Ma’abda, who was planning to live in it after he gets married next month... several tens belonging to Al Talalqa family in Taweel Abu Jaroul village were removed for the 25th time... Israel is refusing to recognize dozens of Arab villages in the Negev and is continuously demolishing their homes and structures in a bid to remove the Arabs from the area... Full story

Info on 'unrecognized villages'
' The majority of the villages existed at the time of the creation of Israel in 1948 and some were established in the early 1960's when Israel evacuated Bedouins from northern Negev to the south of Beersheba. Full story

Israel's navy seizes 'Humanity' ship off Gaza, Abducts former Congresswoman, Nobel Laureate, 21 others

Ma'an
'Israeli naval forces intercepted and boarded, and took control of a converted ferry bound for Gaza, towing its passengers, crew, and cargo to Israel’s port of Ashdod on Tuesday afternoon.... “This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip,” said Cynthia McKinney, a former US Congresswoman who was on board...

Free Gaza Movement Organizer Huwaida Arraf said “No one could possibly believe that our small boat constitutes any sort of threat to Israel. We carry medical and reconstruction supplies, and children’s toys. Our passengers include a Nobel peace prize laureate and a former US congressperson... At 1:30am, the crew of the ship said, Israeli warships surrounded the boat and threatened to open fire... Full story

Request for assistance

Israel demolishes Palestinian house on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives

Ma'an
Two women were hospitalized after Israel's Jerusalem Municipality demolished a house on the Mount of Olives in occupied East Jerusalem on Monday morning... The destruction came a day after the municipality declared that it would freeze 70% of demolition orders... housed 15 people.... Israeli police who came to protect bulldozers during the demolition attacked the family and as a result nine people, including four women, were bruised, Jum’a said . Two women were evacuated to the nearby Al-Maqasid Hospital.

The owner said the demolition came without any warning.

The West Jerusalem Municipality...demolishes Palestinian houses on the grounds that they are built without construction permits, which are nearly impossible to obtain.

According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Yakir Segev, revealed that in 2008 only 18 permits were issued for building in the Palestinian parts of the city, home to some 270,000 Palestinians... Full story

Israeli forces detain six Palestinians near Jenin

Ma'an
'Israeli forces seized on Tuesday morning six Palestinians during a raid on the village of Al-Araqa... taken to unidentified locations... Israeli soldiers ransacked several homes and forced residents to evacuate them for inspection... residents of Al-Malih neighborhood in the Jordan Valley said Israeli forces conducted large-scale maneuvers and drills in the Jordan valley at dawn. Full story

Israeli soldiers seize 16-year-old in Bil'in

Ma'an
'Israeli soldiers seized a 16-year-old boy from his home in the West Bank village of Bil’in on Tuesday in the latest of a series of raids in a community known for its political activism... Israeli army has invaded the village nearly every night for the last two weeks. Sif was the eighth person to be arrested in these raids.
... a weekly demonstration against Israel’s separation wall, which is being built in the village, cutting the residents off from nearly 60% of their land ... Full story

Israeli settlers attack two Nablus villages

Ma'an
'Two Palestinians were injured Monday evening when crowds of Israeli settlers attacked villages of Asira Al-Qibliya and Far’ata southwest of Nablus... dozens of settlers attacked several Palestinian homes ... Settlers also closed the main road between Far’ata, Nablus and Qalqiliya. They fired several gunshots from handguns into the air.

Israeli soldiers arrived shortly after the clashes began and fired tear gas canisters towards Palestinian citizens. ... settlers ransacked the homes of Jamal Yousif and Mahmoud Dawood.... settlers damaged agricultural fields ... Israeli forces stopped settlers only after they “completed their attacks as planned.” Full story

Israeli forces invade Bil'in, seize two teenagers

Ma'an
'Bethlehem – Ma’an – Seventy Israeli soldiers invaded the West Bank village of Bil’in [knwon for nonviolent demonstrations against the Israeli wall being built on village land] at 2:30am on Monday morning, raiding houses and eventually abducting two teenage boys.
... soldiers invaded his house, threatening to arrest his nine-year-old son if he did not hand over a camera...Full story

Erekat: Israel must not squander international will for peace

Ma'an
Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erakat warned Israel on Monday not to squander what he said was unprecedented international willingness to achieve Mideast peace... Full story

Israel ends seven-year ban on its Palestinian citizens entering Bethlehem

Ma'an
'Israel has lifted a ban on its own Palestinian citizens entering the West Bank city of Bethlehem that has been in effect since 2002... Full story

Free Gaza humanitarian aid boat surrounded by Israeli navy gunships

IMEMC
' The 'Free Gaza' movement has reported that their boat, the 'Spirit of Humanity', departed Cyprus Monday morning to bring much-needed humanitarian aid, medicine and building supplies to the people of Gaza. As soon as the boat began to get near the Gaza Strip, the Israeli navy surrounded them with gunships and jammed their navigation systems, according to eyewitnesses.

...The movement's team in Cyprus report receiving a cellphone call from boat passengers saying that the Israeli navy had surrounded the boat and was pointing guns at all the passengers. In the background, they report hearing organizer Huwaida Arraf shouting at the Israeli naval commanders, "You cannot open fire on unarmed civilians", and repeating this statement a number of times.... Full story
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Twitter
'They're about to come on board, they're about to come on board. Then the line went dead. If true, Israel illegally boarded Spirit.
*
'IOF released a statement saying they've taken over the boat. Call the Israeli officials. Register your outrage over kidnapping our people. Free Gaza reports

Monday, June 29, 2009

Subsidies for Israel, Sanctions for Iran



Left photo: Mark Steven Kirk with Israeli leader Tzipi Livni, overlooking Gaza Strip, where Israeli forces had killed over 1,200 men, women, and children. Palestinian forces had killed 9 Israelis, three of them civilians.

Right photo: Nita Lowey:
"One of the engines of pro-Israel activity on Capitol Hill" - The Forward

Grant Smith - AntiWar.com
'President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2010 budget request for $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel is proceeding smoothly through the Congress. On June 17 the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs held a “markup” session on the budget. The subcommittee came under pressure from an antiwar group that sought to suspend or condition foreign aid over Israel’s use of U.S. weapons that left 3,000 Palestinians dead during the Bush administration. The subcommittee held its session in a tiny Capitol room, denying activists and members of the press access to determine whether there was any discussion on aid to Israel. The budget quickly passed and is now before the full House Appropriations committee.

Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) sponsored an amendment to the foreign operations bill that would prevent the Export-Import Bank of the United States from providing loan guarantees to companies selling refined petroleum to Iran. According to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Kirk is the top 2008 recipient of pro-Israel political action committee (PAC) contributions [.pdf]. Kirk received $91,200 in the 2008 election cycle, bringing his career total thus far to more than $221,000. Kirk’s AIPAC-sponsored sanctions legislation passed the House Appropriations Committee on June 23. While tactically positioned as a rebuke to the crackdown on Iranian election protesters, the measure is only the most recent of a raft of long-term AIPAC-sponsored sanctions against Iran...

... Cutting the massive indirect U.S. subsidization of Israel’s nukes and insisting that Israel sign the NPT would go further in averting a nuclear arms race and conflicts in the region than targeting hapless Iranians at the gas pump. It would also demonstrate to the American public that the president and Congress, even under the pressure of AIPAC, won’t blatantly violate U.S. foreign aid laws by publicly pretending Iran – rather than Israel – is the region’s nuclear hegemon. Full story

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The Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs is New York Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who proudly proclaims on her website:
"'Called one of the engines of pro-Israel activity on Capitol Hill' by the Forward, Lowey has been a leading Congressional proponent of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and the Appropriations Committee's chief advocate of the annual U.S. aid package to Israel."

Background on the Israel lobby

June 26, 2009, Situation Report; 20 Israeli raids; Palestinians & internationals hold 3 demonstrations


NAD
On June 26th, Israeli forces conducted 20 raids into Palestinian Territories... incarcerated 14 Palestinians, including 2 children... leveled Palestinian agricultural land... destroyed crops... continued to close off roads and villages... extended the prison time for a Palestinian woman who has not been charged with a crime for another three months... fired at Gazan fishing boats, etc... Palestinians and internationals hold three demonstrations... Full story

June 27, 2009, Situation Report: Palestinian child dies; 13 Israeli raids; 10 injured, etc


NAD
On June 27th Israeli forces conducted 13 raids into Palestinians territories... child Ali Iyad Qarmout of Gaza died from Gaza city died in a government hospital of critical injuries sustained during the Israeli aggression on Gaza districts... Israeli forces incarcerated 26 Palestinians.... Israel continued to close off roads and villages... Israeli war boats fired at Gazan fishing boats and civilians.... Palestinians and internationals held one nonviolent demonstration... Full story

People for Sale in a Hungry World

CounterPunch
'... IRIN News, affiliated with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, reported on 18 June that "women from the former Soviet Union and China are still being trafficked across the border with Egypt into Israel for forced prostitution by organized criminal groups". Israel has been identified as a "prime destination for trafficking by both the State Department and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime". One Israeli gang alone, according to the report, has trafficked over 2,000 women into Israel and Cyprus in the last six years.

One has to wonder the wisdom of international conferences and global efforts aimed at cracking down on Gazans smuggling food and medicine across the same Egyptian border to survive the Israeli siege when almost no efforts have been dedicated to ending the stark exploitation and abuse of thousands of women enriching Israel's sex industry.... Full story

Students trained to be advocates for Israel when return to U.S.

Ynet
'More than 400 English-speaking yeshiva students have recently completed an educational curriculum dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict and titled, "Understanding, Advocating, and Inspiring."

The program, which brings courses on the modern State of Israel and Israel advocacy into yeshiva classrooms, was created by The David Project in cooperation with MASA, and Taglit-Birthright... to bring their Jewish leadership experience to college campuses and speak up for Israel. ...


Project participants (Photo courtesy of The David Project)

...Executive director of the David Project Anna Kolodner explained, "…deepening the students' connection with Israel by educating them on Zionism ... and inspiring them to take leadership roles back home".

...Next fall Nava [Friedman] will bring her leadership skills to the campus of Princeton University. Full story

NBC interview: Netanyahu claims Israel does not use violence against protesters

CounterPunch
'... I saw NBC's David Gregory interviewing [Israeli Prime Minister] Bibi Netanyahu on Meet the Press. Discussing Iran, Netanyahu said that true democracies such as Israel would never commit violence against protesters. Gregory let that one go right past him, going on to the next puffball question to Bibi...Full Story

PHOTO: American shot by Israeli forces following nonviolent protest

Privately run checkpoint stops Palestinians with 'too much food'

Ha'aretz
'A West Bank checkpoint managed by a private security company is not allowing Palestinians to pass through with large water bottles and some food items, Haaretz has learned. Full story

Israel to build 50 West Bank homes

Ha'aretz
'Israel will build 50 new homes in an existing [illegal, Jewish-only] West Bank settlement ... The complete plan calls for the construction of 1,450 homes in the settlement of Adam...... News of the plan emerged shortly before Defense Minister Ehud Barak set off for the United States Monday in a bid to end a quarrel with U.S. President Barack Obama's administration over Israel's refusal to completely halt West Bank settlement construction...' Full story
map of outposts

IRAN - Dilip Hiro, The Weeks of Living Dangerously

TomDispatch
...'In the meantime, the discredited neocons from the salad days of George W. Bush's Global War on Terror are back thumping for stronger presidential denunciations and an American-led attempt to democratize Iran, as well as to strangle the country. (The last time they went at this, of course, they wanted to bomb Iran back to the stone age.) At the same time, some on the left still imagine that those millions in the streets are essentially a CIA plot to create a new "color-coded revolution." (Yes, American agents are undoubtedly in Iran. After all, a major project of the Bush administration was the covert undermining of the Iranian regime... Full story

Red Cross: '1.5 Million Palestinians living in despair in Gaza'

IMEMC
'The International Red Cross reported Monday that six months after Israel's offensive in Gaza, 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are still living in poverty, despair and are unable to rebuild their lives and structures.

The Red Cross added that the strict Israeli siege and restrictions on the Gaza Strip are blocking the international efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip although 4.5 million US dollars are allocated for reconstruction efforts.

It also stated that the Gaza Strip lacks basic medications, its basic infrastructure is ruined, and that the water supplies are irregular, while sanitation is collapsing.




The organization demanded Israel to allow the entry of spare parts, water pipes, construction materials and other basic supplies into the Gaza Strip to start the reconstruction process.

It added that the patients in Gaza are not receiving the needed treatment as the siege emptied the hospitals from the basic medical supplies and equipment. The repeated power outages, due to the lack of fuel to run the generators and Israel’s shelling of Gaza’ Power Station, caused further suffering and limited the functionality of hospitals and medical centers.

Hundreds of patients died in Gaza, hundreds remain in critical conditions but Israel is still baring their transfer to hospitals in Egypt or elsewhere.

The Red Cross further reported that poverty rates in Gaza have reached alarming levels, and that larger numbers of children are suffering from malnutrition.

The international organization linked the situation in Gaza to the three-week Israeli offensive earlier this year, in which more than 1417 Palestinians, including 936 civilians, were killed and thousands were wounded, and also linked the situation to the ongoing Israeli siege.

On the Israeli side, ten soldiers were killed in Gaza and three settlers were killed by Palestinian fire targeting settlements surrounding Gaza. The Red Cross said that thousands of Palestinians have lost their homes due to Israel’s war, and that the residents are still homeless.

More than 70% of the residents in Gaza are living below poverty line, as the average monthly income of a family of nine is less than $250. Full story

Ha'aretz report
Red Cross report

The military attack fishermen boats and invades areas in Gaza

IMEMC
'Israeli navel forces attacked on Monday Palestinian fishing boast of the shores of Beit Lahyia, northern Gaza Strip... the navy opened fire at the fishermen and forced them back and fired at civilians gathered at the beach....

...Meanwhile Israeli tanks and bulldozers invaded areas near the Israeli borders with the central Gaza Strip. Witnesses said that bulldozers uprooted trees and destroyed farm lands.

... Israeli jet fighters conducted fake air attacks over Gaza City on Monday afternoon..
Full story

Israeli forces detain student from Nablus

Ma'an
'Israeli forces detained a Palestinian young man after an Israeli patrol stopped his car for inspection in the northern West Bank on Sunday morning... taken to an unknown destination, and it was not immediately clear if he was suspected by Israel of having committed a crime. Full story

UN hears Gaza 'war crimes' testimonies

UN Human Rights committee in Gaza

Ma'an
'The UN fact-finding mission in Gaza City on Sunday started its first public hearing sessions to collect testimonials from victims of the Israeli war on the coastal region in December and January.... The committee consists of four experts headed by South African Judge Richard Goldstone. They will meet war victims, eyewitnesses, and Gazan experts at the UN headquarters there.

...The first testimony the committee heard was from the director of the World Health Organization in Gaza, who explained that the Strip's hospitals had suffered from severe shortage in equipment and medicines that rendered them unable to provide appropriate services for the large numbers of injuries, as well as other patients.

He highlighted that continuous closure of the Gaza Strip crossing points impeded passage of medicines and medical equipment. He also told the committee that medical aid to the injured was difficult because Israeli forces repeatedly opened fire on medical staff. He also noted that 16 medics were killed during the offensive. Full story

Israeli forces surround house where gas canister exploded

Ma'an - June 28
'Israeli soldiers surrounded a house where the sound of an explosion was heard in the Ar-Ras area of the West Bank city of Hebron on Sunday.

Israeli soldiers declared the area a closed military zone, preventing Palestinians from leaving or entering the area, and interrogating the occupants of the house.....the sound was a cooking gas canister exploding, causing part of the house to collapse..... Israeli forces blocked Palestine Red Crescent Society ambulances and Hebron Municipality firefighters from reaching the house...
Full story

Israeli soldiers poisoned well in West Bank village

Ma'an - June 28
'Israeli soldiers poured dirt, stones and toxic chemicals in the only well in the hamlet of Khirbat Makehl ...on Saturday.... soldiers riding in three military jeeps entered the community overnight and sabotaged the well.... The 80 cubic-meter well is the only source of water for the village of 70 to 80 families, Hamdan said.

..., since the village lies near the Israeli settlement of Hermesh, the armed guards of the settlement often harass and assault Palestinians, particularly herders who venture near the edges of the settlement. Israeli forces also sometimes close the road leading to the community, preventing deliveries of food.

Hamdan invited human rights organizations to visit the community to see the situation there and ultimately put pressure on Israel stop the abuses in the area. He said the situation is “unbearable,” and some of the local families have begun moving to nearby towns and cities because of these repeated attacks. Full story

Syria threatens to retake Golan

Maan
'Syrian officials suggested that they could retake the Golan Heights back from Israel unless the two countries reach an agreement soon...

On Wednesday, [Syrian Prime Minister] Assad said there was no possibility of reaching an agreement because of Israel's unwillingess to to strike a deal. "For reaching an agreement an Israeli partner committed to international law, to UN decisions and to the principle of land for peace is necessary," .... The Syrian president said such an Israeli partner did "not exist" at this time. Full story Map

Israeli troops detain 14 in night-time raids, including two 16-year-olds


FILE IMAGE OF PREVIOUS ARREST
Ma'an
'Israeli troops detained two locals from the Balata refugee camp east of Nablus ... both aged 16... dozens of settlers accompanied by troops overran the holy shrine of Joseph's Tomb late at night .... the Israeli military reports that it detained 14 Palestinians in overnight raids in the West Bank. Full story

New ship to break siege departs for Gaza


Ma'an
'The Free Gaza Movement's "Spirit of Humanity" vessel departed Cyprus at 7:30am on Monday... Twenty-one human rights and solidarity workers representing 11 different countries were aboard. The passengers include Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire and former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

The ship was also carrying three tons of medical aid, children's toys, and rehabilitation and reconstruction kits for twenty family homes...

...Over 2,400 homes were destroyed in Gaza during the Israeli assault in December-January, 490 of them by F-16 airstrikes, as well as 30 mosques, 29 educational institutions, 29 medical centers, 10 charitable organizations, and five cement factories, the movement said.

Although over 4 billion dollars in aid was promised to Gaza in the aftermath of the Israeli onslaught, little humanitarian aid and virtually no reconstruction supplies have been allowed in. Full story

One dead and three injured as war-damaged house collapses in Gaza

IMEMC
A house in Eastern Gaza, that had been damaged by shelling during Israel's offensive in Gaza in the beginning of this year, collapsed on Monday killing one Palestinian and injuring three others.... there might have been three more people missing in the house. ... Full story

Hamas to deliver letter to Shalit, 'if he survived the war'

Ma'an
'Hamas leader Osama Al-Mazini promised on Monday to deliver a letter from the family of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit if the prisoner survived Israel's assault on Gaza last winter.

"Hamas received the letter and promised to send it to the relevant persons. If he is alive it will reach him, but if he is dead it won’t reach him because we actually don’t know if he is still alive after the Gaza war," he said...

...the official said that there has been little progress on the soldier's case, but that in the first year of Shalit's detainment, there were understandings reached with Israel.... negotiations ended with the administration of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.... Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government hasn't submitted anything yet, and all that has been reported in the media are "test balloons," the official added, referring to a number of Israeli and Palestinian reports that a release and prisoner swap were imminent [Israel holds over 10,000 Palestinian prisoners, including women and children].

... He also said that Israel has agreed not to rearrest anyone freed in the deal, but that there were no guarantees the country's military would not attempt to assassinate them later. Full story

Tehran, June 2009

Middle East Report
'As in 1979, or in 1997, when the “reformist” cleric Mohammad Khatami captured the presidency, or in 2005, when Ahmadinejad won his own (highly contested) landslide victory, the Western media has been caught off guard by events on the Iranian stage. The crudest analysts insist upon seeing an epic battle between the government and “the people” -- but neither of these actors is unitary. Others, writing from left, right and center, extrapolate theories from the supposed characteristics of the dramatis personae. Hence “the opposition,” urban, educated, technologically savvy and broadly supportive of Mousavi, is said to be arrayed against the poor, exaggeratedly pious peasants and plebeians who back Ahmadinejad. Such interpretations are also far too simple. They fail to explain why the election campaign was so competitive and why the popular reaction became so virulent once the scale of the fraud employed by the regime to fix the election for Ahmadinejad became evident.... Full story

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Palestinians discriminated against at Rafah crossing

Daily News Egypt
"...we have witnessed hundreds of Palestinians being denied entry to Gaza, even with proper visas... Even Palestinians with US passports are stalled, and must return to the US without ever visiting their families in Gaza.... Full story

Will Iran be Obama's Iraq?

New America Foundation
...days of round-the-clock, ill-informed commentary in the United States have helped to "sell" several dangerously misleading myths about Iranian politics. Left unchallenged, these myths will inexorably drive America's Iran policy toward "regime change" --just as unchallenged myths about Saddam Hussein's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ties to Al Qaeda paved the way for America's invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Myth 1: "Ahmadinejad stole the election." Full story

AP's Karin laub, Israeli government misrepresentations

Agence Global - Mohammed Omer
...When Associated Press reporter Karin Laub called me on my cell phone for an interview after my ordeal, I detailed how I was stripped and held at gunpoint. Her reply? “Go on,” she stated. “This is normal about what we hear happening at Ben Gurion Airport . It’s nothing new.”

Torture, strip searches and holding award winning journalists or any other human beings at gun point is normal at Israel ’s largest airport? Ms. Laub’s apathy continued. In her article for the Associated Press on June 29th she wrote that she interviewed "Dr. Husseini who claims there were no signs of physical trauma."

There’s only one problem with this. This Dr. Husseini never treated me. The Minister of Health in Ramallah confirmed that Husseini never made any such statement to the AP reporter. For reasons known only to her, Ms. Laub appears to have fabricated this comment and purposely ignored the medical reports and the statements by the attending paramedics...

Meanwhile the Jerusalem correspondent for the Los Angeles Times... conducted an investigation into my case and noted in his article on November 3, 2008, that my medical records describe: "Tenderness on the anterior part of the neck and upper back mainly along the right ribs moderate to severe pain," and "by examination the scrotum due to pain varicocele (varicose veins in the spermatic cord) at left side detected and surgery was decided later." ...

... Richard Falk, the U.N. human rights official wrote to Verhagen, the Minster of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands and stated: "I have checked out Mr. Omer's credibility and narrative of events, and I find them fully credible and accurate."
Full story

Scores treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation as Israeli soldiers attack the Nil'in's weekly

IMEMC
Israeli soldiers attacked Palestinian villagers along with their international and Israeli peace supporters during the weekly non-violent protest against the wall in Ni'lin village, west of the central West Bank city of Ramallah, on Friday. Full story

The Israeli military attacks Bil'in weekly protest

IMEMC
Dozens suffered from gas inhalation when Israeli troops attacked the weekly protest in Bil'in village near the central West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday.

Youth taking cover form the tear gas at Today's protest in Bil'in � Photo by Hamde Abu Rahma
Youth taking cover form the tear gas at Today's protest in Bil'in - Photo by Hamde Abu Rahma

International and Israeli supporters joined the villagers of Bil'in and marched from the village center after the Friday midday prayers. Joining the protest on Friday was the the Canadian writer and Journalist Naomi Klein.

The protesters demanded the halt of the Israeli illegal settlements and the construction of the wall.

As the protesters arrived at the wall, Israeli troops stationed at its gate fired a barrage of sound bombs, tear gas and rubber-coated bullets.

Dozens were treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation. This week the Israeli military attacked the village on a number of occasions and kidnapped six people among them two children. Full story

UN mission to broadcast Gazan war testimonials live

Ma'an
A UN fact-finding mission arrived in Gaza via Rafah on Friday, and is scheduled to collect testimonials from victims from the Israeli war on the coastal region carried out over December and January....The filming will be carried out by two TV crews contracted by the UN on Sunday 28 June and Monday 29 June from 8:30-1:30 and 2:30-5:00 local time. Full story

Israeli forces beat Palestinian, Israeli activist north of Hebron; both sustain fractures

Ma'an
An Israeli and a Palestinian woman were severely beaten and between 15 and 24 Israeli activists were arrested as the group attempted to access Palestinian agricultural lands near the Bat Ayin settlement north of Hebron Saturday.

The Palestinian woman’s leg was broken as soldiers beat her with rifle butts, and the Israeli activist had her wrist fractured.
Full story

Twilight Zone / Black on white (wash)

Ha'aretz - Gideon levy
It might be useful to recall who this Tamir is. From his stint as commander of the Golani infantry brigade - when his troops twice shelled the Jenin market (2002), killing several children, including two small brothers - to Operation Autumn Clouds in Gaza (2006) which he commanded, he has been responsible for wanton bloodshed, with at least half the 80 Palestinians killed on his watch being civilians....

...
A few days earlier, soldiers abused six Palestinian youngsters from the village of Wadi al-Shajneh for 14 hours nonstop, imprisoning and beating them until finally dumping them onto the road from a jeep at first light.

...
Let's go back another few weeks. In March, an IDF sniper fired a bullet into the head of Mahdi Abu Ayash, a 16-year-old boy, in front of his father.

...
In January 2008 Kifah Sider, then 23, was in labor at her home in Hebron's Tel Rumeida neighborhood, which is dominated by Jewish settlers and barred to Palestinian vehicles, including ambulances. According to her husband, when she set out for the hospital, soldiers at the checkpoint held her up for 20 minutes, until she eventually had to lie down on the road in the freezing January weather to give birth.

...
a 66-year-old woman who had a serious heart attack, was being rushed to the hospital in Tul Karm in March 2008. That's Tul Karm, not Kfar Sava. Unfortunately for her, she had to go through a checkpoint. The soldiers would not allow her to pass and told her husband - now a widower - "We don't care if your wife dies." Yes, Darek died at the checkpoint.

...
Week after week, the stories published here about the Israeli occupation are accompanied by a response from the IDF spokesman, and almost every week, the response is a lie....

...
In January 2009, soldiers forced Yasser Temeizi to get off his mule in front of his young son and abducted him from their small olive grove. Temeizi was a devoted employee of the Harash company in Ashdod, but during January's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza his employers asked him not to come to work. So he started to work the family's olive grove. At the end of the day he was found shot to death from point-blank range, with signs of binding on his hands....

...
It is an incontrovertible fact that some 4,800 Palestinians have been killed by the IDF in the past nine years, about 950 of them children (according to B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories). How many indictments have been handed down in the IDF? Thirty, no more. That's less than one percent of the number of killings. How many soldiers have been convicted? Five. How many have been sentenced to a significant prison term? One. One soldier out of 4,800 cases of killing...

...
Israel has just prevented another official UN commission of inquiry, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, a South African Jew and a Zionist, from entering the country in order to investigate the Gaza war .... Full story

Leader or bulletproof vest?

Ha'aretz
... Just recently, a meeting between [Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu] and U.S. envoy George Mitchell was canceled after it became clear that the [Israeli] government has no intention of acceding to the Obama administration's demand to halt settlement construction.... Full story

18-year-old charged with killing man just for being an Arab

Ha'aretz
... The prosecution alleges that Sayenko, of Upper Nazareth, decided to kill Karuwani purely because Karuwani was an Arab.... Full story

IDF agrees to expanded activity by PA forces in W. Bank towns

Ha'aretz
Israel agreed on Wednesday to expanded activity by Palestinian Authority security forces in four West Bank towns, for a trial period of one week followed by an assessment....The move follows increased action by Palestinian security forces against Hamas and Islamic Jihad infrastructure in all West Bank towns, including arrests and the shutting down of Hamas-affiliated charitable organizations.

...would be allowed to operate freely within the city limits of Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho and Qalqilyah from midnight to 5 A.M. Israel had previously allowed the Palestinian forces to operate only in Jenin during the night.

... Some of the new forces to be deployed in the Palestinian localities have been trained in Jordan under American supervision (headed by American security coordinator Gen. Keith Dayton). Three battalions of the national security force and one battalion of the presidential guard are to be deployed, a total of approximately 2,100 Palestinian soldiers.

The U.S. Congress recently approved additional funding for the training in Jordan of three more battalions of the Palestinian national security force, and by the end of the year the Palestinian Authority will have a total of seven battalions at its disposal whose training was supervised by the Americans.

Cooperation has greatly improved over the past year between the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet security service and the Palestinian forces regarding exchanges of intelligence on Hamas and thwarting the formation of terror cells. The IDF has also informed the Palestinians before forces entered Jenin to make arrests....
Full story

Lawbreakers in the Supreme Court

Ha'aretz
Would we want a lawbreaker to be a Supreme Court justice? Or a justice hobnobbing with lawbreakers? The danger of this happening is closer than ever. There is a reasonable chance that transgressors and their cohorts will enter the temple - three candidates to the beacon of justice are settlers...

The land they live on has been plundered by either fraud or violence. In many cases this is private land that does not belong to them, in settlements whose very establishment is a violation of international law. It was their ideological choice to live in a region of lawlessness, violence and crime, as aptly described in the Sasson Report - an official Justice Ministry paper adopted by the cabinet.


.... These men were not nominated for their superior legal qualities. None of them is an outstanding jurist. They are only candidates because they represent the West Bank settlements.
Full story

Blair: Peace within reach if Israel compromises

Ha'aretz
Former British prime minister Tony Blair said Friday that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be within reach if Israel compromises on issues such as halting settlement expansion.

"There is a virtual consensus across the international community not just as to what needs to happen, but how... Full story

Jewish groups welcome Homeland Security grants

New Jersey Jewish Standard
Jewish institutions will receive the majority of the federal funds allocated to New Jersey’s nonprofit organizations by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Of the $15 million allotted to 227 nonprofit organizations across the country. New Jersey received the third highest allocation... Full story

JTA
...Since the this program started in 2005, more then $80 million have been distributed, nearly 69 percent of which has gone to Jewish organizations, according to the UJC.

...UJC is working with the grant program’s congressional champions to increase the FY 2010 appropriations to $25 million. “Congress has been an ardent supporter of this program since day one,” said Daroff. “We look forward to continuing to work with our congressional champions to bolster security for nonprofits for the long-term.” Full story

Thousands of haredim protest in Jerusalem

Ynet
Some 30,000 members of all ultra-Orthodox factions ... protest of decision to open parking lot in capital on Shabbat. Some attempt to attack journalists. ... At a certain stage, protestors began running towards the television photographers and reporters, crying out, "The desecrater will be put to death." As the journalists escaped, the crowd spat and them and knocked on the windows of their vehicles.... Full story

Friday, June 26, 2009

Gaza Tunnels - first-hand experience

CounterPunch - Emily Ratner
...The guide kneeling beside me, and thousands like him, cheat death every day in these tunnels as they journey back and forth between Rafah, Egypt and Rafah, Gaza, one city divided by a border and a cruel siege. And nearly every day, at least one of these men loses his gamble and does not come home. The siege has kept out everything but a painfully short list of humanitarian items. Building materials, a wide variety of foodstuffs, ink and paper, and so many other necessities are not permitted to enter Gaza. If the people of Gaza are to have anything close to a life, to bathe and eat and rebuild and learn, they must purchase this contraband illegally, and someone must illegally import it.

... Since 1948, the trauma of losing agency over one’s life and living conditions has become, in the words of Dr. Sarraj, “a part of the Palestinian psyche.” This trauma, which has grown with every violent incursion into Palestinian communities, strongly intensified with the first Intifada in 1987, when Israeli soldiers mercilessly beat children armed only with rocks, and also beat and arrested their parents. The psychiatrist notes that many of these children grew up to embrace more violent weapons in the second Intifada in 2000, a response to the brutal abuse and humiliation they’d witnessed. More than 45% of Palestinian children have watched Israeli soldiers beat and/or arrest their fathers, and the trend Dr. Sarraj describes has grown exponentially since the December/January massacre. Since the attacks, more than 75% of the youth of Gaza do not believe their parents can protect them from Israeli soldiers. Surrounded by the rubble of schools, hospitals, and whole neighborhoods, and with virtually no hope of employment upon graduation (the siege-induced unemployment rate is 80%), it is hard for the youth of Gaza to envision much of a future... Full story

Israel probes website over 'murderer' soldier image

AFP - June 21
Israeli prosecutors on Sunday ordered a criminal investigation into a website that it says published a picture of an soldier with the caption "murderer" and asked readers to identify him.

Indymedia Israel, a news site and activists' forum, on April 17 posted pictures taken at Bilin, a village adjacent to Israel's West Bank barrier where a Palestinian protestor was killed by Israeli forces hours earlier... Full story

Remembering Bassem Abu Rahma


Corruption in Israel runs much deeper than untrustworthy politicians

Ynet
Tip of the iceberg
Corruption in Israel runs much deeper than untrustworthy politicians... Full story

Bottom Shekel / Why Israel, why now?

Ha'aretz
......Israel ended the first quarter of 2009 with economic contraction of 4%, in annualized terms, and unemployment hit 8%.

But relative to the United States and various European countries, the damage to the economy was minor. Israel's banks are standing firm. The government didn't have to nationalize any companies. There were layoffs but not en masse, and no major collapses ensued. The real estate market, which sent whole economies into spasms, was barely affected: If anything, home prices continued to amble upward ...

..... Yet that doesn't mean that nothing but roses are coming up in the Holy Land. ....Israel also suffers from almost impossible political structures. Its form of coalition government generates instability. One after another, governments rise only to fall well before their scheduled demise, which results in a tremendous waste of resources. A new low was recorded this year with the inauguration of the biggest cabinet in Israeli history: The new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, conducts an orchestra with no less than 37 ministers and deputy ministers.

Israel's system of governance impairs the proper administration of the state. One result is that the government is forced to capitulate to pressure groups. Crucial reforms are stymied and destroyed, in education, in eradicating the monopolies, in the management of the local authorities...... Full story

Diamond mogul quizzed over alleged bribes to Lieberman

Ha'aretz
Millionaire diamond trader Dan Gertler has been questioned by Israeli police twice under caution in connection with criminal allegations against Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Haaretz has learned... Full story

[Archives] Neocon Ideologues Launch New Foreign Policy Group

WRMEA - My-June 2009

A NEWLY FORMED and still obscure neo-conservative foreign policy organization...

The blandly-named Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI)—the brainchild of Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, neoconservative foreign policy guru Robert Kagan, and former Bush administration official Dan Senor—has thus far kept a low profileprofile; its only activity to this point has been to sponsor a conference pushing for a U.S. “surge” in Afghanistan.

But some see FPI as a likely successor to Kristol’s and Kagan’s previous organization, the now-defunct Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which they launched in 1997 and which became best known for leading the public campaign to oust former Iraqi President Saddam Hussain both before and after the Sept. 11 attacks....

FPI was founded earlier this year, but few details are available about the group, which has so far attracted no media attention...

Two of FPI’s three staffers, policy director Jamie Fly and Christian Whiton, have come directly from foreign policy posts in the Bush administration, while the third, Rachel Hoff, last worked for the National Republican Congressional Committee....

.....For its formal coming out... FPI has chosen to push for escalating the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan....

... the formation of FPI may be a sign that its founders hope once again to incubate a more aggressive foreign policy during their exile from the White House, in preparation for the next time they return to political power. Full story

Harman Comes Out Swinging Once More in Israel Wiretap Flap

Congressional Quarterly
Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif, who was reportedly overheard on a 2005 NSA wiretap agreeing to lobby Bush administration officials on behalf of two accused Israeli agents, released a letter from the Department of Justice today that she says clears her of any wrongdoing.

......But in claiming absolution from the Justice Department, Harman has continued a public relations tack of effectively denying something she was never charged with.

No one ever said she was under investigation by the Justice Department for anything.

Reports in April, first here, and subsequently corroborated by The New York Times and Washington Post, revealed that Harman had been overheard during a foreign intelligence investigation of a suspected Israeli operative, whose name has yet to surface.

According to three former national security officials with first-hand knowledge of the wiretap transcript, Harman promised the target of the court-approved wiretap that she would lobby the Bush Justice Department to reduce charges against two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) who had been accused of violating the Espionage Act.

In exchange, according to those reports, the suspected Israel agent promised to help Harman get the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 congressional elections, which the Democrats were expected to win, by raising campaign money for then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who would make the appointment.

The post would have given Harman access to the nation's most sensitive secrets. In the end, because of Pelosi's wrath at Harman's strenuous campaigning for the job, she ended up with a lesser post, chairing an intelligence panel of the House Homeland Security Committee.

No evidence has emerged that Harman did, in fact, discuss the AIPAC case with Justice Department officials, although The Washington Post reported in April that she called the White House on the defendants' behalf.

In the opinion of some attorneys in the Justice Department's Public Integrity and Intelligence Oversight sections, Harman had committed a "completed crime" merely by agreeing to use the power of her office in exchange for something...

In any event, the AIPAC charges were not reduced by Bush officials. They were dropped last month by President Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, because the judge in the case had set an impossibly high bar for the government to get a conviction.

But back in late 2005, following the discovery of Harman's conversation on the court-ordered wiretap, then-CIA Director Porter Goss was supposed to notify the leaders of the House, Pelosi and Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, that Harman had been picked up on a national security electronic intercept, and that FBI agents would seek to question her.

But Goss... was blocked from notifying Pelosi and Hastert by then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte, who told the CIA director they needed Harman's support for the administration's warrantless NSA wiretap program, which was about to surface in the New York Times.

Any revelation that she was under investigation for ties to Israeli intelligence would effectively neutralize her as a useful Democratic supporter of the Bush wiretaps, they argued.

Ultimately, Harman was never questioned by the FBI about her remarks on the wiretapped conversation, much less investigated.

But when excerpts from the wiretap transcript surfaced here in April, Harman attempted to deflect attention from her alleged remarks by claiming, falsely, that she had been the victim of the Bush administration's illegal NSA wiretapping program -- which, in any event, she had supported, both privately, when it began after the 9/11 attacks, and publicly, in 2005, when it was revealed.

Harman had been heard on a wiretap that had been approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court.

Nevertheless, her tack was to make herself out to be a victim of Bush's extralegal wiretap program, suggesting along the way that NSA was targeting members of Congress.

Aided by veteran Democratic public relations advisor Lanny Davis, whom she hired to deal with the burgeoning flap, Harman took to the airwaves to accuse the Bush administration of an "outrageous abuse of power.... Full story

Ross appointed for Middle East Affairs


Israeli leader Ehud Barak (left) with Dennis Ross
IMEMC
The White House decided on Thursday to name Dennis Ross , veteran Middle East Negotiator [often called "israel's lawyer], as the special advisor to President Barack Obama on affairs regarding the Middle East, the Arab Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia.

He will also work with top officials on several policies issues regarding Iran and Iraq. Full story

Politico
The White House sought for the first time Thursday to answer basic questions about a key player in President Barack Obama’s approach to what the administration is calling the “Central Region” of foreign policy, a vast tract of the globe spanning from Pakistan to Israel.

The National Security Council announced that Dennis Ross would serve as its senior director, and as a special assistant to the president...

Some of Ross’s more hawkish allies suggested that his arrival at the White House implied a rightward turn for the administration, but several government officials suggested that the shift is more subtle...

...Ross’s portfolio will include also include Iraq, still full of U.S. troops and civilians, and Syria, where the U.S. has hinted at a diplomatic opening aimed at separating the country from Iran. He may also, one government official said, serve – as he did on Obama’s campaign – the role of reassuring the Israelis and American friends of Israel, with whom he’s closely associated, of Obama’s intentions.

......Ross’s allies on the right trumpeted the move as a shift toward the more confrontational stance toward Iran that they, and the Israelis, have long sought.

“Dennis is much more of the view that you cannot solve major problems in the region without dealing with Iran. It’s Iran first, it’s not the Palestinians first,” said Dan Senor, a former chief spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, who also suggested that Ross would quickly trump other Obama advisors.

“He’s going to become the de facto National Security Advisor because of the portfolio he has, because of the experience he has, and because of the relationships he’s accumulated abroad,” he said. “Mitchell is marginalized because Dennis has Mitchell’s portfolio – only he’s closer to the center of decision making.”

A White House official dismissed Senor’s comment, noting that Ross reports to both National Security Advisor James Jones and Jones’s powerful deputy, Tom Donilon, and that Donilon will continue to run crucial interagency processes. Another administration official suggested Mitchell’s stance – which has at times been more confrontational toward Israel – would hold sway..... Full story

Mashal: 'Hamas willing to cooperate with international efforts, will not accept demilitarized state'

IMEMC
Hamas political bureau head, Khalid Mashal, stated Thursday that the movement would cooperate with any international effort that would end the Israeli occupation, but would not accept the notion of a demilitarized Palestinian state. Full story

israelis arrest young shepherds

Ma'an
The Christian Peacemaker Teams in the south Hebron hills reported the arrest of two children by Israeli forces and the youngsters grazed their family sheep Thursday morning.... “The police refused to provide a reason for the detention of the young boys.”

The young shepherds were held for five hours and released... The father of one of the boys was quoted by CPT as saying “they weren’t doing anything, they graze their sheep there every day.” Full story

PA minister denounces Israeli actions in East Jerusalem

Ma'an
Palestinian Minister... denounced “the systematic policy Israel is carrying out inside Jerusalem, including expelling its Palestinian residents...... the latest of which, home demolition orders in the Al-Bustan neighborhood of Silwan" in a statement sent to Ma'an.

....“this comes as a continuous policy carried out against the city since its occupation in 1967, in contravention to the Fourth Geneva Convention in 1949.”

....... “they are attempts to forge the history of the city by substituting the Palestinian residents with Israeli settlers, substituting the Arabic names of streets with Hebrew words, substituting everything there including Al-Aqsa [Mosque].”

...[he urged] the international community to move toward stopping such acts carried out in Jerusalem and to implement international law." Full story

One crossing into Strip open Friday; siege continues

Ma'an
Some 1.5 million Gazans will collectively see 50-61 truckloads of goods and 350 cows transferred into the Strip via one open crossing Friday, as Israel maintains its siege on the coastal area....

All crossings will be closed Saturday for the Jewish Sabbath, and minimal transfers will likely continue on Sunday........ Before Israel imposed the siege on Gaza, more than 400 truckloads of goods would enter the Strip daily. Full story

Free Gaza will continue despite warnings from Israel, Cyprus, USA

Ma'an
The Free Gaza movement, after being denied permits to sail from the port of Larnaca at Cyprus, will deliver a waiver, signed by all going to Gaza Friday, absolving Cyprus of “all responsibility for our safety.”

The Cypriot authorities reportedly denied the crews of the Free Gaza’s two boats permission to sail out of concern for their safety, worried that the crew would be harmed at sea. “Though we understand and appreciate their concerns,” Free Gaza organizer Greta Berlin wrote in a statement, “we will not back down to Israel’s threats and intimidation.”

Further to the denial of permission to sail from Cyprus, the Free Gaza group was also contacted by the US embassy at Nicosa. According to the group, the US representatives communicated the following:

“…[T]he Israeli Foreign Ministry informed U.S. officials at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv that Israel still considers Gaza an area of conflict and that any Free Gaza boats attempting to sail to the Gaza Strip will “not be permitted” to reach its destination.”

Given the comments from the Israeli authorities, the US consulate advised the crews to take the Israeli notification seriously.

Former US Congresswoman and once presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney responded to this warning by pointing out that, “The White House says that cement and medical supplies should get into Gaza and that's exactly what we are attempting to take to Gaza.”
“Instead of quoting Israel policy to us,” McKinney continued, “…the U.S. should send a message to Israel reiterating the reported White House position that the blockade of Gaza should be eased, that medical supplies and building materials, including cement, should be allowed in. Full story

june 25, 2009 Situation Report; 22 raids, etc


PMG
On June 25th, Israeli military conducted 22 raids into the Palestinian Territories, incarcerated 23 Palestinians, including 2 children, destroyed property, leveled land, closed off villages and roads; the Israeli navy fired at fishing boats and the army opened intense fire toward agricultural land and civilian houses etc. Palestinians held one sit-in and individual fired one mortar towards the Green line. Full story

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mideast question removed from Canadian exam

JTA
A controversial practice-exam question about Middle East politics was removed from the British Columbia education ministry's Web site.

The multiple-choice question, removed following protests from the Jewish public and Canadian Jewish Congress, was posted as part of a practice test for students studying for province-wide grade 12 history exams.

It asked students to identify the following group: "They have been fighting to regain a homeland since they were driven out in 1948. Some have lived their entire lives in refugee camps. Forty years later, Israel still refuses to recognize their right to exist as a nation." Full story

SPECIAL REPORT: JEWISH EXTREMISTS

JTA
... a small but vocal and increasingly violent constituency of the Jewish settler movement..... Radical settlers rampage against Palestinians and Israeli soldiers, sometimes hiding their faces behind black ski masks or scarves. Confident they are following the word of God, they call for a Torah-based theocracy that they say will one day triumph over the State of Israel....

Ariel is a disciple of the charismatic St. Louis-born head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg...

Ginzburg preaches a messianic brand of Judaism that views Jews as superior beings and violent revenge attacks on Arabs as justified by the Torah. He is one of a small group of rabbis who provides the theological and ideological underpinnings for radical settlers....

... Over the last year and a half, radical settlers seem to have upped the ante. They have defaced Muslim tombstones, set fire to Palestinian olive groves, assaulted Palestinians, slashed tires of IDF vehicles and thrown acid at Israeli soldiers.

It’s all part of a strategy the radicals call “price tag,” which aims to greet every move by the government against illegal settlements with mayhem and violence...

Full story

Hip-hop, Palestinian style

Ynet
Last Thursday night, 50 groups and soloists from the West Bank and Gaza gathered to participate in HipHopKom, the first Palestinian hip hop competition, aimed at selecting the best up and coming Palestinian rap group. The event was broadcast simultaneously in Gaza City and the West Bank city of Ramallah, with the participants in either city able to watch each other via video conferencing and projection. Full story

Jews want equality, and to kick Arabs out

Ynet
Former Supreme Court president criticizes human rights situation in the 'occupied territories', says it indirectly effects situation within Israel and warns, 'If we don’t find a way to live in peace with the Arabs, we won't find a way to live in peace with ourselves'...

... "If you ask a Jew whether he supports equality with the Arabs, he will say: 'Certainly', and if you ask if he supports kicking all the Arabs out of here, he will say: 'Certainly'. He sees no contradiction between the two," Barak said. Full story

More on Guantanamo...

CounterPunch

In over three years of researching and reporting about the prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, I learned early on to expect, as one of Guantánamo’s first commanders, Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey explained, that many of the men were “Mickey Mouse” prisoners, with no connection to terrorism whatsoever.....

... also from a former interrogator at the U.S. prisons in Kandahar and Bagram... Using the pseudonym Chris Mackey, he wrote a book about his experiences, The Interrogators, in which he explained that the military commanders on the ground in Afghanistan received instructions from the highest levels of government that every Arab who ended up in U.S. custody was to be transferred to Guantánamo, even if those on the front line had concluded that they had been seized by mistake.

The dismay that this instilled in me was only heightened when I learned from my own research, for my book The Guantánamo Files -- and from research conducted by the Seton Hall Law School in New Jersey, based on documents released by the Pentagon -- that 86 percent of the prisoners were not seized by U.S. forces “on the battlefield,” as senior officials alleged, but were picked up by their Afghan and Pakistani allies and handed over -- or sold -- at a time when the U.S. military was offering bounty payments of $5000 a head -- equivalent to about $250,000 in the U.S. -- for “al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects”; in other words, any Muslim with a beard who could be passed off as a terrorist...

.... the boys who were no more than 12 or 13 years old when they were captured; the 88-year old who was seized when his house was bombed; and another old man who was seized because he was deaf and couldn’t hear what the U.S. soldiers who came to his house in the middle of the night were saying to him... Full story - Andy Worthington

The Iranian Protests and the Mainstream Media

CounterPunch
Cable news now functions as a mechanism that selects from a haze of unverifiable information and amplifies its choices. CNN seems to be the best example. At least they’re upfront about it: an anchor previewed an upcoming story by saying they’d be bringing us reports “true or not.” Jack Cafferty noted that the information from Iraq was “Alive but Cloudy”. Even their original segment on Green martyr Neda opened with the disclaimer “the facts surrounding her life and death are difficult to confirm.” This didn’t stop them from replaying the garish spectacle so often that it begs comparison with the paltry coverage of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani victims of US aggression... Full story

UN says Israel roadblock count is not accurate

Ha'aretz
... [the UN] said that the Israel Defense Forces claim that there are only 16 manned roadblocks in the West Bank is incorrect. According to OCHA there are 69 manned roadblocks.... According to [the UN], there are also 521 unstaffed roadblocks throughout the West Bank, including earthen barricades, gates, concrete blocks, etc, as well as 23 "partial" roadblocks, a designation for roadblock structures are staffed some of the time. Full story

U.S. peace plan: demilitarized park on the Golan

Ha'aretz
... The Americans believe the crisis in Iran has created an opportunity for the United States to draw Syria closer and resume Israel-Syria negotiations...

Fred Hoff, who serves as Mitchell's deputy and is charged with the Syrian and Lebanese files, put forth a proposal under which much of the Golan Heights would be turned into a nature reserve open to visitors from both Israel and Syria during the day. The demilitarized area would be under international supervision, led by U.S. officers, while the pullout and dismantlement of Israeli settlements on the Golan would be carried out over several years, in parallel with a normalization of ties between Syria and Israel. Full story

Tight security ahead of Jerusalem gay parade

Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem gay pride parade, which regularly riles up religious and haredi city residents [adherents of the most theologically conservative form of Orthodox Judaism], is scheduled to take place Thursday under tight security...

The annual march, which is organized by Open House, Jerusalem's small gay and lesbian center... has stirred repeated controversy in the past...

The parade is viewed by most religious Jews - as well as by many traditional Jews and by Christian and Muslim religious leaders - as an abomination and an anathema to biblical values and the holiness of Jerusalem. A public opinion poll has found that two-thirds of Jerusalem residents were opposed to holding such an event in the city....

Over 1,500 police officers... will be on the streets to prevent any altercations or violence... undercover police detectives would be mingling with the crowd to thwart any potential disruptions. The 2005 gay parade in Jerusalem was marred by violence when a haredi man stabbed three participants.

A decision by the Eda Haredit to refrain from demonstrating against the parade is expected to greatly reduce friction... Full story