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.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

PLC member Barghouti attends Beit Sahour protest

Mustafa Barghouti, a former Palestinian information minister, attended a demonstration in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, on Sunday in protest of the re-opening of a former military base.

The official, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, joined protesters, including international activists, at the Oush Al-Ghrab military post, a site known as Shdema to settlers.

Barghouti's media officer said Israeli soldiers fired stun grenades and tear-gas canisters at protesters. The lawmaker was reportedly hurt after he clashed with Israeli soldiers and his escort, Yousef Al-Khawaja, was hit in the shoulder when forces opened fire.

Three Palestinians affiliated with the PNI were also hurt, Barghouti's media officer said. Full story

Prisoner given 7th administrative detention sentence

Israeli authorities handed down on Sunday the seventh consecutive administrative detention (imprisonment without trial or indictment) sentence to an Islamic Jihad supporter from Beit Ummar, north of Hebron.

Relatives of Imad Abu Maria, 30, said he was preparing to leave the Negev prison and while fellow prisoners were bidding him farewell, he was told that his sentence was extended in relation to an undisclosed case.

Following Maria's third detention in Israeli custody and his brief release three days earlier, Israeli forces detained him. He has served 36 months of administrative detention  in total.

Maria's mother said her son has served a total of eight years in Israeli custody, while his brother Wahid has served 17. The family home had been demolished by Israeli forces, she said. Full story

Israel court to hear Citizenship Law challenge

The Israeli High Court of Justice will soon hear a challenge to a law which prohibits Palestinians with Israeli citizenship from bringing in spouses from the occupied territories and countries deemed "enemy states" by the Israeli government.

A petition was filed in 2007 by Adalah, the legal center for the Palestinian minority in Israel, and other human rights groups, contesting the Citizenship Law. In March 2009, the High Court held a hearing based on the petition and, in the run-up, Adalah submitted three expert legal opinions by lawyers and legal scholars from the UK, South Africa and the Open Society Justice Initiative, which deemed the Citizenship Law a violation of the right to family life, discriminatory, and unconstitutional, a statement by the legal center read.

During the hearing, the Attorney General's Office acknowledged that the law causes harm to thousands of innocent Palestinians who "do not constitute a security threat," but justified it on the grounds that Israel is unable to determine which Palestinians pose a security threat and which do not, Adalah wrote.

Adalah's attornies Hassan Jabareen and Sawsan Zaher argued in the petition that "The Citizenship Law is the most racist law in Israel and has no parallel in any democratic state in the world. The Citizenship Law imposes severe restrictions on the citizenship rights of the Arab minority in Israel: Members of the Arab minority cannot live with their families in their country, and are liable to lose their citizenship if they decide to live with their spouses in 'enemy states.'"

The law was enacted in July 2003. Although it was defined as a "temporary order," it has been extended and expanded repeatedly. In 2007, the scope of the law was expanded to include all residents or citizens of Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, defined by Israel as "enemy states" in addition to Palestinians from the occupied territories.  Full story

13 injured as Israeli police attack Palestinians in Jerusalem’s old city

At least 13 Palestinian civilians were injured on Sunday by Israeli police and army fire as it crackdown on residents at Jerusalem’s old city.

Eyewitnesses reported that five residents were arrested by the Israeli police forces during the in suite clashes. Earlier on Sunday Israeli soldiers locked down the Al Aqsa Mosque while people were praying inside.

Later troops stormed the outer courtyard of the third holiest site for Muslims worldwide and fired tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets injuring at least 13 residents.

Later in the day residents from Jerusalem old city gathered outside the Aqsa Mosque in solidarity with worshipers trapped inside.

Clashes now are being reported across east Jerusalem, as Israeli police have looked down old city part of Jerusalem and do not allow anyone in or out. Full story

Israeli forces storm Al-Aqsa compound

Seven Palestinians were detained as clashes erupted on Sunday with Israeli forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, after storming the site, with discord reported throughout the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem.

Ma'an's Jerusalem correspondent reported that four right-wing Israelis were allowed access to the Al-Aqsa compound with a police escort.

Dozens of Palestinian worshipers spent the night at the site, fearing a takeover during the Jewish holiday of Purim.

Four Palestinians were injured by rubber-coated bullets fired by Israeli soldiers near Herod's Gate and Bab Hutta. Additionally, 12 gathering near the Bab Al-Majlis were injured as Israeli forces deployed tear-gas canisters near the gate leading into the Al-Aqsa compound.

Fatima Al-Barsi, 40, sustained a leg fracture after reportedly being attacked by Israeli soldiers as she tried to enter the site.

Palestinians said their homes were used as vantage points by Israeli forces.

According to the Hebrew daily Haaretz, four Israeli policemen were injured in confrontations with Palestinians.

Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said "tourists entered the Temple Mount [Al-Aqsa compound] and were attacked by 20 masked Palestinians,throwing stones. Police immediately responded to disperse them."

Rosenfeld said police did not enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque, but surrounded the compound. He added that "1,000 tourist visits continue" in the area.

Over 200 Israeli soldiers and police surrounded the mosque, using loudspeakers calling on worshipers to evacuate the site, Ma'an's correspondent said. Palestinians responded by using the loudspeakers in the mosque, used to call Muslims to prayer, to urge Palestinians to head to the city.

Earlier on Sunday, Israeli forces and police erected checkpoints at all gates leading into the Old City of Jerusalem in the occupied part of the city, preventing entry to all Palestinians under the age of 50. Rosenfeld, the police spokesman, confirmed the age limit.

At the beginning of the week, extremist Jewish groups called on sympathizers to gather at the Buraq square, known to Israelis as the Wailing Wall, and march on the Al-Aqsa compound. Palestinians spent the night in the Al-Aqsa compound to prevent their entry, it was reported.

In response, national and religious leaders in Jerusalem and in Israel urged Palestinians to prevent the anticipated take-over by amassing at the mosque to prevent the entry of extremists.

The compound is a frequent site of clashes, as tensions run high in the Old City over Israeli excavations and rumors of settlers amassing at the site. In October 2009, 30 Palestinians were injured, including five journalists, and 20 detained as clashes erupted at the compound between worshipers and Israeli forces and police.

The compound, known by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, Haram Ash-Sharif, is the third holiest site in Islam, believed to be the location where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven and returned. The site is the holiest for Jews, who believe it to be the site of the Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, and is referred to by Jews and Israelis as the Temple Mount.

The Old City has been sealed off by Israeli authorities from the beginning of Purim on Friday until 1 March, marking the end of the religious holiday.

Additionally, all border crossings into Gaza have been closed, as the West Bank remains sealed until the end of Purim.  Full story

Friday, February 26, 2010

Juan Cole on Israel and its Lobby: Ideological Blinders or Hidden Meaning

Stephen Sniegoski

In this article I am going to critique some fundamental views expressed by a staunch opponent of the US wars in the Middle East, who has performed extremely valuable and courageous service in opposing US war policy in the Middle East...

Cole, who is a college professor, dares to do what few of his peers are willing to do: present his views (most frequently on  his weblog, "InformedComment")  on current Middle East issues which necessarily touch the taboo topic of Israel and contradict the position of the Israel lobby.

As a Middle East specialist, Cole is capable of writing very informative pieces on that region, which go into far greater depth than I have the expertise to do.  It is certainly not in his view of the Middle East per se where I find flaws in his interpretation, but in his assessment of the United State policy, especially the role of the neoconservatives and the broader Israel Lobby, an area in which I  have done considerable research (e.g. my book, "The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel"),  and where my Ph.D. background in US
diplomatic history would be of some relevance.

Although mentioning the role of some American Jews in regard to shaping American Middle East policy, Cole still tends to downplay it.  The flawed elements in his thinking on this crucial area are especially encapsulated in his recent article, "The Decline of the Israeli Right and the Increasing
Desperation of the 'Anti-Semitism' Charge.".......

Cole is obviously a sincere  opponent of US/Israel wars in the Middle Eas and of  the American-supported Israeli oppression of the Palestinians,  but since he is operating  from within the current paradigm-Jewish powerlessness and  universalistic Jewish beneficence-his analysis, despite his expertise and honesty on the Middle East developments, has significant flaws.

To Cole, at least in his explicit writing,  the culprits of the pro-war policy  are on the Right – the acceptable demons of American liberals.  This includes the  Likudniks (and other parties of the Israeli Right), the neocons, and the American right, along with assorted oil people, the military-industrial complex, etc.

But this rightist attitude, he maintains, is quite contrary to the liberal views of most Jews and is actually harmful to the real interests of Israel.  Cole writes that the "divide between liberal Jewish Americans and the Israeli Right has lurked as an issue since the Likud Party first challenged Labor dominance in the late 1970s. It is now coming to a boiling point, even as Israel's reputation in the world is sinking. As rightwing policies more visibly fail, the Likudniks are flailing
around making fools of themselves by smearing critics of those policies as racists."   

Cole continues along this vein......

While his writing here contains elements of the truth, it would seem that most national security policies pushed by the Israeli Right have substantial support from mainstream American Jewish organizations, which consist of numerous individuals who are considered liberals or progressives.  And it should be added that the use of the anti-Semitic smear is nothing new, but a long-time staple of mainstream Jewish groups, such as the Anti-Defamation League....

Jews who support "progressive"  measures  in the US do not necessarily apply a comparable "progressive" universalist standard to Israel's  actions.  Cole criticizes the smearing of Jimmy Carter as anti-Semitic by "the likes of Alan Dershowitz," and it is quite obvious that the insignificant role  that
Carter was allowed to play  in the 2008 Democratic Party Convention because of his critical views of the Israeli occupation had nothing to do with the Israeli or American Right but rather  liberal Democrats' desire for the votes and money from liberal American Jewry.  Obviously, there were no votes or money to be had from right-wing Jewish pro-Israel conservatives who were going to support McCain with his gaggle of  pro-Likudnik neocon advisors.

In  using Alan Dershowitz as an example,  Cole is explicitly referring to an American Jew who justifies almost every oppressive move made by Israel but is, nonetheless, known as a  liberal civil libertarian. Cole does the same when he  lambastes "Leon Wieseltier's unsubstantiated and shameful attack on
Andrew Sullivan" for anti-Semitism; Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, is an  American liberal in good standing.  In short, the very examples that Cole chooses to provide serve to disprove his contention that Israel's hard-line policies are opposed by progressive Jews...

.... how different is J Street from AIPAC?   J Street's executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, castigates as anti-Semitic  Mearsheimer and Walt's portrayal of a powerful Israel Lobby. Ben-Ami also rejects theUN-sponsored Goldstone report's critical depiction of Israeli war crimes in the December 2008-January 2009 incursion into Gaza-a report that was endorsed by the overwhelming majority of countries of the world.
, however, was less severe here than Dershowitz, who referred to Richard J. Goldstone,  the UN report's author, as a "moser" – a Jewish traitor – who deserves to be killed by loyal Jews. (The late Yitzhak Rabin wasbranded a "moser" by leading Israeli rabbis before his assassination  by a
Jewish extremist.)

Regarding the "two state solution," J Street specifically talks about incorporating the major West Bank Jewish settlements into Israel, instead of having Israel return to its 1967 borders.   In short, there is no evidence that J Street is willing to support any type of Palestinian state  that differs in any significant way from what Israeli governments have proposed in the past, which essentially is a  non-viable state that is, understandably, completely unacceptable to the Palestinian people.   It should also be observed that J Street differs but slightly from AIPAC on Iran.  If diplomacy and UN sanctions fail to bring concessions, J Street advocates the strong sanctions advocated by Congress, which could likely
serve as a step toward war...

..........Cole writes: "This Iraq strategy, which intended to stop the Rabin peace process and prevent the return of Gaza and the West Bank to the Palestinians for their state, was laid out by RichardPerle, Douglas Feith, and other Neoconservatives in a white paper for Bibi Netanyahu in 1996. Many of the authors were subsequently put in high officeby Bush-Cheney and pushed for an American war on Iraq with dirty tricks and false propaganda in 2002-2003. They included Canadian gadfly journalist
David Frum, who authored Bush's 2002 'Axis of Evil' speech in consultation with Perle."

 Now to point out that some of the neocons successfully persuaded the US to go to war to aid the interests of a foreign country is avery strong charge, and the specifics cited by Cole  make this activity more extreme and more obvious  than anything alleged about Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, Owen Lattimore, or any other presumed agent of Stalin, who as far as I know were never accused of making actual open contact with the unlamented Soviet dictator.

However, after making this very extreme, but true, anti-PC statement, Cole.... explicitly denies the primary role for the neocons in bringing about the war on Iraq.

He writes: "The mostly Jewish Neoconservatives were only one faction in the Bush-Cheney coalition that wanted regime change in Baghdad... However influential, they were not 'in control' and most Jewish Americans opposed their ideas and policies."

In reality, however, while the neocons did not represent a majority of  American Jews, they were certainly the  driving force for war.  It was their war agenda and they promoted and implemented it through their bogus war propaganda.

The  other groups citedby Cole were, at most, simply supporters of the war.   The Christian Right,
for example, definitely provided support for the war once it became an issue, boosting poll numbers in the pro-war direction, but it would be hard to name one Christian Rightist who played a role in developing and disseminating the Middle East war agenda before it reached the national spotlight, and then promoted and implemented it from within the Bush administration, whereas the number of neocons involved at these key levels was legion.

Even more can be said against any Big Oil role, the rationale for which has never been even spelled out in a consistent fashion.  Some proponents of this view claim that Big Oil wanted to gain control of Iraqi oil, while others maintain just the opposite, that Big Oil wanted to eliminate this
supply in order to raise oil prices.   As philosopher of science Karl Popper commonsensically pointed out, any theory that cannot be falsified by empirical evidence is ipso facto invalid.

Furthermore,  the proponents of the Big Oil argument  are loath to point out any alleged Big Oil person not intimately connected with the neocons-such as Cheney-who was significant in pushing for war.  However,  the cronies of the elder Bush, such as Brent Scowcroft and James Baker, who have been traditionally tied to Big Oil, were cool towards or opposed to the attack on Iraq.  And, of course, prior to 9/11 when the neocons were promoting a war on Iraq, Big Oil was trying to
eliminate the sanctions on Iraq.

Regarding the military-industrial complex, this argument could presumably be trotted out for any war since large sums of money are always spent as a result of war.  But why was Iraq targeted?  Why not just have a war scare with Russia or China since war scares always bolster military expenditures?

Moreover, not every major war industry actually benefited from the Iraq War since expenditures on some  sophisticated weapons systems were reduced as defense money was shifted to more mundane military needs for the occupation. Actual evidence showing that a consensus of major defense industries was pushing for the war on Iraq before the build-up for war occurred  is not
available, as far as I know. Further, the military brass were rather hesitant to launch a war (and significant retired military leaders took even a dimmer view); they consequently came in for strong criticism from neocons such as Richard Perle.

.........While Cole accepts the fact that the neocons and Likudniks planned for and promoted the war on Iraq, he maintains that this policy has been an utter failure.......

The failure of this strategy is hardly evident.  The neocon agenda assumed that Iran would be the next target after Iraq.  Due to opposition in the US, largely from the traditional American foreign policy establishment and various economic interests (and those who held this viewpoint within the
Bush and Obama administrations), the attack on Iran has not yet materialized, despite the pro-war efforts of the broader Israel lobby (which transcends the neocons)  and Israel itself.  However, the US is certainly edging  closer to war on Iran-and Professor Cole seems to see such a war  as a definite possibility in his writings on his "Informed Consent" weblog.

Regarding the current situation in Iraq, although the Shiites are in charge, the country is not a unified pro-Iranian state, with resistance from the Sunnis resurfacing-giving definite indications of a  possible civil war.

Moreover, Israel has gained strong influence in quasi-independent Kurdistan. In short, what has emerged in the once anti-Israel,  unified country of Iraq is an ethnically fragmented state, just as the Likudnik planners of the strategy had foreseen, with one element being strongly influenced by Israel. Iraq's army will  likely be preoccupied with maintaining domestic order, or engaged in internecine struggles,  and will not have the time nor capability to threaten the IDF.  In short,  I would judge the Iraq part of the neocon/Likudnik war agenda to have been close to a total success as it achieved the expected ends......

As I was getting to the end of Cole's article,  I began to wonder if  I was missing something.  Was Cole providing a hidden message between the lines, as writers have been wont to do in situations where censorship exists?

A few things just  didn't add up... then he moved on to a real zinger.  When criticizing pro-Zionist neocon David Frum, who happens to have been born and raised in Canada, Cole writes: "But I will complain about David Frum's dual loyalties. I am very suspicious of a rightwing Stephen Harper-style Canadian becoming so influential in the United States. I like my Canadians in their normal, sane estate. I fear he may be influencing my country in directions that benefit rightwing Canadian politicians and war industries in Ottawa."

Yes, of course, "Canadian" David Frum, author of Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech, is obviously trying to influence American foreign policy for the benefit of "rightwing Canadian politicians"  to help  well-known  "war industries" in Ottawa. Such dual loyalty is obviously disturbing.  This would be a good gag for Jon Stewart's Daily Show...

And digging beyond the obvious, Frum is actually not much of a conservative; in fact, he maintains that conservatives need to modernize and not be so fixated on such outdated things as the Constitution. Right or wrong, this position, needless to say,  is about the polar opposite of American conservatism,  though it fits in with the thrust of neoconservatism, as well as much of modern liberalism.

Frum also illustrates his divergence from American conservatism in his Time Magazine article  entitled  "Republicans Must Embrace the Vital Center,"  which trashes the hard-line conservatism of  CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference) whose attendees had the audacity to give the most votes in their presidential poll to Ron Paul, who happens to oppose the wars in the Middle East.  ...

Before becoming an American citizen, newcomer Frum, in his  2003 article "Unpatriotic Conservatives: A war against America,"  condemned as anti-American those individuals  who had labored in the conservative vineyard for decades, such as Pat Buchanan,  because they now  dared to
oppose the war in Iraq.  It is apparent that Frum's conservatism is not attuned to what has passed in the US as conservatism; rather, his "conservatism" is neoconservatism which has as its litmus test an  Israel First foreign policy (in contrast to the traditional  conservative penchant
for "America First.") ...
Full story

Yes, [Harvard's] Kramer Did Advocate Palestinian Genocide

Huffington Post - MJ Rosenberg
...a speech delivered by a professor affiliated with Harvard in which he seemed to advocate reducing the Palestinian population through means akin to genocide (and which match the legal definition of genocide).

The speech was delivered at the prestigious Herzliyah conference in Israel earlier this month...

One of the featured speakers this year was Dr. Martin Kramer. He is National Security Studies Program Visiting Scholar at Harvard University, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington (the AIPAC-created Middle East think tank) and incoming president of Shalem College in Jerusalem. (Shalem College is affiliated with the neoconservative Shalem Center which is funded, in large part, by Sheldon Adelson, the union busting and very rightwing casino billionaire.) Next month he will participate in two panels at the AIPAC conference, one with uber-hawk Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA).

Kramer's speech (which was well received) ......... was devoted to utilizing demography to defeat terror.

Genocide?  ....The answer can be found in the Geneva Convention on Genocide, to which Israel and almost every other country in the world is a signatory.

The Convention on Genocide bans "bans killing of members of any racial, ethnic, national or religious group because of their membership in that group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, inflicting on members of the group conditions of life intended to destroy them, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and taking group members' children away from them and giving them to members of another group."

And it is that -- withholding aid to prevent births within the group -- that Kramer advocates...

Here is Electronic Intifada with the back and forth from Harvard. 

Full story

Israel's New Strategy: "Sabotage" And "attack" The Global Justice Movement

IMEMC - Ali Abunimah, EI
An extraordinary series of articles, reports and presentations by Israel's influential Reut Institute has identified the global movement for justice, equality and peace as an "existential threat" to Israel and called on the Israeli government to direct substantial resources to "attack" and possibly engage in criminal "sabotage" of this movement...

......Reut recommends to the Israeli government an aggressive and possibly criminal counter-offensive. A powerpoint presentation Grinstein made to the recent Herzliya Conference on Israeli national security actually calls on Israel's "intelligence agencies to focus" on the named and unnamed "hubs" of the "delegitimization network" and to engage in "attacking catalysts" of this network.

...Reut recommends that "Israel should sabotage network catalysts."

The use of the word "sabotage" is particularly striking and should draw the attention of governments, law enforcement agencies and university officials concerned about the safety and welfare of their students and citizens.

The only definition of "sabotage" in United States law deems it to be an act of war on a par with treason, when carried out against the United States. In addition, in common usage, the American Heritage Dictionary defines sabotage as "Treacherous action to defeat or hinder a cause or an endeavor; deliberate subversion."

...At the very least, Reut seems to be calling for Israel's spy agencies to engage in covert activity to interfere with the exercise of legal free speech, association and advocacy rights in the United States, Canada and European Union countries, and possibly to cause harm to individuals and organizations.

These warnings of Israel's possible intent -- especially in light of its long history of criminal activity on foreign soil -- should not be taken lightly.

The Reut Institute, based in Tel Aviv, raises a significant amount of tax-exempt funds in the United States through a nonprofit arm called American Friends of the Reut Institute (AFRI). According to its public filings, AFRI sent almost $2 million to the Reut Institute in 2006 and 2007.

In addition to a state-sponsored international "sabotage" campaign, Reut also recommends a "soft" policy. This specifically involves better hasbara or state propaganda to greenwash Israel as a high-tech haven for environmental technologies and high culture -- what it terms "Brand Israel."
Other elements include "maintain[ing] thousands of personal relationships with political, cultural, media and security-related elites and influentials" around the world, and "harnessing Jewish and Israeli diaspora communities" even more tightly to its cause.

It even emphasizes that Israel should use "international aid" to boost its image (its perfunctory foray into earthquake-devastated Haiti was an example of this tactic)... Full story

Dozens Injured, Three Arrested As Israeli Troops Attack Protests In Hebron

Children, Palestinian Members of Parliament (MPs) and journalists were among those injured on Thursday during an Israeli attack on the protests in Hebron city in the southern West Bank.

Two Israeli supporters, and one American were arrested by the Israeli boarder police forces during the crackdown on today's protests in Hebron. Israeli boarder police and soldiers used tear gas, sound bombs and rubber-coated steel bullets to suppress the protests in Hebron.

One of the protests was organized by a local group called Youth Against Settlements in order to open Al Shohada street in Hebron old city. Soldiers closed the street 10 years ago to stop Palestinians from passing near four illegal settlement outposts located there. Al Shohada connects the old city part with the rest of Hebron....  Full story

Israeli Troops Detain 20 People From The West Bank

Twenty Palestinian civilians were detained by Israeli troops during military invasions targeting a number of West Bank communities on Thursday morning.

Local sources reported invasions in Hebron and Bethlehem cities in southern west Bank as well as Jenin in the north.

Eight residents were taken from Hebron while 12 other were taken during home searched in Bethlehem city......  Full story

German Jews To Aid Gaza

Among the groups and organizations aiding Gaza - a group of German Jews, some Holocaust survivors - plan to send a humanitarian aid ship to show support for the Gazan people.

... the group states, “We are a group of German Jews who want to send a ship with goods and musical instruments to Gaza. We intend to cooperate with a European project that is sending supplies in the spring of 2010. We are acquiring a ship, loading it up in Germany, then picking up passengers (Jewish and non-Jewish, German and non-German) at a Mediterranean port.”

According to the group, urgently needed items; medicine, baby food, bedding, children’s clothes and school materials, will be among the ship's humanitarian aid package.

........The German Jewish ship is part of several dozen solidarity aid boats, planned to form a flotilla that breaks the nearly 3-year long siege of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli and Egyptian siege upon Gaza has prevented the entry of nearly all basic medical, construction, fuel and food supplies.  Full story

Several Residents, Including Children, Wounded In Sheikh Jarrah

Palestinian medical sources in Jerusalem reported on Wednesday at night that several Palestinian residents, including children and women, were wounded in Sheikh Jarrah.

All those injured reported unprovoked attacks from Israeli soldiers and settlers.

Clashes took place after a group of settlers became violent while celebrating the Jewish Purim holiday, at and around the occupied home of al Ghawi family.

Local sources reported Israeli soldiers then arrived at the scene, kicking and clubbing the Palestinian residents.

The Israeli army and police closed all roads leading to Sheik Jarrah, preventing any Palestinian entry.

The army also designated Shiekh Jarrah a, "closed military zone," making entry virtually impossible.  Full story

U.S. officials: Expect new Iran sanctions by late March, early April

The United Nations Security Council is expected to impose additional sanctions on Iran by the end of March or the beginning of April, American officials told their Israeli counterparts at Thursday's strategic dialogue in Jerusalem.

"The sanctions will not be paralyzing and sweeping, as many would like," a senior Israeli official said. "But they will be firm enough to harm the regime there. Also, a mechanism will be set up to enable additional UN resolutions to be passed swiftly if the Iranians don't change their conduct."

Israel is waging a global diplomatic effort to persuade Security Council members to vote in favor of new sanctions. This week, an Israeli delegation visited Brazil covertly in an effort to persuade its government to support strong measures.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg led the strategic dialogue, whose American participants included senior officials from the White House, the Pentagon and the National Intelligence Council...

A major part of the dialogue dealt with the diplomatic efforts to stop Iran's nuclear program. The senior Israeli official said the American delegation stressed that it should be possible to pass a resolution imposing a fourth round of sanctions on Iran by the end of March or beginning of April.

The Americans said the Security Council was likely to approve the sanctions by a massive majority that would include Russian support, the Israeli source added. However, they were less optimistic regarding China, which at this stage continues to object to new sanctions.

The United States, Germany, France and Britain are all working to secure majority support for sanctions at the Security Council. At least nine of the council's 15 members must vote in favor of the sanctions for them to pass.

Earlier this week, a delegation of senior Foreign Ministry officials visited Brazil, which objects to imposing further sanctions on Iran. Brazil's foreign minister said this week that his country was interested in mediating between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is expected to visit Israel next month.

Ayalon plans to visit Nigeria and Gabon, two of Africa's representatives on the Security Council, in a few weeks to try to persuade them to support further sanctions on Iran. Gabon, which will be the rotating Security Council president for March, will play an important role in efforts to advance the sanctions resolution.

An Israeli delegation also traveled to Beijing on Thursday to try to persuade the Chinese to impose more sanctions on Iran. This trip was coordinated with the U.S. administration.

The delegation was headed by Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer. They are to meet the Chinese president's senior foreign policy adviser and senior Chinese Foreign Ministry officials.

Barak to U.S.: Impose new Iran nuclear sanctions

The U.S. must aid in imposing effective sanctions against Iran's nuclear program, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates during a meeting in Washington D.C. on Thursday.

Barak made the comments during a mostly private session with Gates, joined in parts by Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen as well as other defense officials, in which participants discussed Iran's alliance with both Syria and Hezbollah following a summit participated by Syrian President Bashar Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Damascus earlier Thursday.

"It is imperative to impose harsh, paralyzing sanctions on Iran in order to prevent it from any further advancement toward nuclear weapons capability," Barak said in the meeting...   Full story

N.Y. Jews accuse Be'er Sheva Kabbalist of massive fraud

...The rabbi told Ellowich that to receive the desired blessing, he would have to bring him $100,000 within five days. "You have to believe in me," Ellowich quoted the rabbi as saying. "I'm a great righteous person and I promise you your daughter will have children and grandchildren. Her luck will change. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Don't tell anyone, just bring the money."

......Ellowich said he borrowed money from friends, one of whom demanded $7,000 in interest. "Then I came to him with the check and he said: 'You're late, but I'll do it for you anyway.' With the check in his hand, he stood up with this hood over his face where you see only his lips, and said in a loud voice in Hebrew: 'I say to you, as you are standing here, that I, Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira, in the presence of Hezkel Roth and Menachem Ellowich and God, attest in the name of God that your daughter will be healed and will have children. You have nothing to worry about, it's in my hands now.'"

.......When the rabbi was next in New York, Ellowich went to see him to find out why the blessing had not been fulfilled. "He said to me, 'why didn't you invite me to the wedding? I told you then to come in five days and you were late. You brought the check at 3 P.M. Now you have to bring me another $100,000 in three days, and the promise will come true. You have a choice. Either bring me the money and you'll have a baby, or don't bring me the money and you won't. Her husband will leave her and she won't have children.' I didn't bring him the money. There were other people waiting in line, sick and depressed. He just takes control over you in a moment of despair, when you feel lost."

But eventually Ellowich gave in and decided to pay......

Two years passed, and still no pregnancy. "When the rabbi came to New York, I went to his agent and asked to see him. He said, 'the rabbi doesn't want to hear from you any more.' I asked if my son-in-law could see him, and he answered, 'if your son-in-law wants to see the rabbi, he'll have to pay at least $500.'"

The son-in-law, Y., said the rabbi received him after a two-hour wait and took the check, which was made out to the "Avraham Avinu Association." He said the rabbi told him, "'If you want a son, go tell your wife's father to give me $100,000. If not, your wife will never have children.' He tore the check into three pieces, gave them to me and pushed me out the door."

Ellowich said his son emerged shocked and crying from the meeting and told him Abuhatzeira had cursed him.

The curse in action

When Y. got home, his wife urged him to tell her what had happened. When he finally did, she began to cry. "In March 2008, after I went to work, she died," Y. said.

"Ever since my daughter found out about the curse, she lost the will to live," Ellowich said. "She would cry all day. She started to hemorrhage, she was depressed. The day I found her on the floor in the bathroom, I called an ambulance, but they couldn't revive her. To the day she died, she carried the blessing around in her purse."

.......Ellowich began a private war against Abuhatzeira, exploring and documenting the rabbi's modus operandi. "He tells people, 'I'm holy, I'm close to God.'" Ellowich said he has dozens of testimonies from people who say that within a few minutes, they were writing a check. He began taking a small tape recorder to his meetings with Abuhatzeira's agents. He also demanded his money back, to no avail.

He approached a Jewish newspaper, a local Jewish politician and finally, the police, who opened a case against Abuhatzeira.

Ellowich admitted he is afraid and believes he is being followed.

.....Ellowich's story recalls the pattern of behavior by Abuhatzeira that Haaretz detailed in a series of articles in 1997: He tries to impress people, persuades them to write a check in exchange for a blessing, obtains more money and threatens a curse if necessary.

Another man said his father paid Abuhatzeira for a blessing, but the rabbi threatened that if he married the woman he loved, he would have defective children. "That man and his gangsters have to be stopped," the man said.

Meir G., from New Jersey, said he heard the rabbi could perform miracles...... the rabbi said these things would only come true if I paid him $100,000. At that point, it was impossible to refuse. That same day, I started sending him the money. At some point I couldn't go on, and Mr. Harman [Abuhatzeira's aide] threatened that if I stopped, 'your son will die.' I am a religious man and I took the threats very seriously. Since I met him, my life has been a disaster."

M.V., 38, from Brooklyn, never filed a police complaint. But he did supply an affidavit stating that he had given more than $500,000 to Abuhatzeira .....

M.V. said he approached the Israeli tax authorities but has received no response. "If the cases were closed [in Israel], apparently he knows who to bribe. But I believe that up there, he'll get what's coming to him."  Full story

Every day is Purim

Ha'aretz - Doron Rosenbum
....The final farewell to any hopes for peace also includes large and small celebrations, as witnessed in the strange euphoria that has swept across the Israeli street and media following Mahmoud al-Mabhouh's assassination in Dubai. It seems "Shoshanat Yaakov" (the "Rose of Jacob," referring to the events of Purim in Shushan) has not been sung with such enthusiasm since Haman and his sons were hanged.... Even the "families" in New Jersey do not express as much glee when someone is liquidated, nor do they wallow in such enjoyment, day after day, as they describe every minute detail of the event.....  Full story

As his corruption trial begins, [Former Prime Minister] Olmert insists he will be cleared of all charges

......Even the defense admits that money changed hands, Abarbanel noted. "True, there's a disagreement over how much was in the envelopes and the circumstances under which it was passed, but there were envelopes." The facts to which the defense has admitted alone are enough to convict Olmert of breach of trust, he argued.

Abarbanel also said the infractions Olmert committed when he "opened doors" for Talansky to businessmen like Yitzhak Tshuva and [major Birthright funder] Sheldon Adelson come very close to bribery.......  Full story

Arab source: Mitchell wanted to quit over U.S. bias for Israel

An Arab political source said Friday that special U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell has requested to resign due to his frustration with the way the Obama administration has been handling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a Nazareth-based daily.

Hadith a-Nass reported that Mitchell's request stemmed partly from to his own failure to advance the resumption of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and also from his perception that certain elements within the State Department hold biased favor toward Israel....Full story

Daily Situation Report: Feb. 23, 2010

Israelis on Palestinian land:
  • Injured — 2 
  • Arrests (per person) — 8 Incl. a child, a journalist & a police officer
  • Detentions — 15 At checkpoints & in residential locales
  • Raids – 33 Incl. 2 in Jenin & 2 in Tubas
  • Checkpoints — 8 Access impeded at 5 checkpoints
  • Flying Checkpoints — 17 Incl. 2 in Hebron & 2 in Bethlehem
  • Attacks – 16 Incl. 10 in confrontations & 4 in raids
  • Air Patrols – 6 Incl. 4 patrols for reconnaissance
  • Provocation of Pal. Forces — 1 The detention of a civil police vehicle
  • House Occupation — 2 Roof of houses in Bethlehem & Hebron
  • Confiscation of Property — 1 ID of a civilian in Hebron city
  • Destruction of Property – 7 Incl. settlers cutting off 45 olive trees
  • Land Leveling  – 4 Areas of land in Gaza Strip
  • Wall Construction — 22 Jer., Raml’h., Qalq., Salfit, Heb., Beth.
  • Closure (per District) — 7 Jer., Beth. (2 villages) & Hebron (4 areas)
  • Closure of Crossing Points — 4 Partial opening of 3 crossings only
  • Closure of Main Roads — 40 Incl. 3 in Salfit & 1 in Jericho
  • Settler Violence — 4 Incl. stoning civilians in Hebron city 
Palestinians on Palestinian land:
  • Demonstrations — 6 Protest adding Al Ibrahimi to Jewish sites   Full report

Israel detains AFP photographer

A photographer for Agence France-Presse was briefly detained by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday.

Marco Longari was arrested for "acting violently toward security forces" and transferred to police custody, an army spokeswoman said.

An Israeli police spokesman confirmed that Longari was briefly held for questioning, but said the journalist was released without charge.

Longari is the head photographer for AFP, our correspondent in Hebron reported. A colleague identified him as an Italian national.

...Onlookers said Longari was one of three journalists injured during clashes near Hebron's Ibrahimi Mosque on Thursday.

The others were identified as Abed Al-Ghani An-Natshah, who reportedly blacked out after inhaling tear gas, and Nasser Shiyoukhi, who was beaten by soldiers....   Full story

Barred by Israel, Irish FM enters Gaza via Egypt

Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin arrived in Gaza on Thursday via the Egyptian controlled Rafah crossing after Israel denied him entry to the costal territory.

A Palestinian official at the Rafah crossing said Martin was joined by a 10-member delegation...

In a brief interview, Martin told Ma’an that he came to Gaza to “see for myself” what had transpired in the Strip, which was the target of a three-week military campaign by Israel last year.

....said Israel had given “no good reason” for denying him entry to the enclave.

He also criticized Israel’s eviction of Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem, house demolition, and arbitrary detention. He also demanded a halt to the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Martin arrived in Gaza amid a row between Ireland and Israel over allegation that Irish passports were used in a Mossad assassination of a senior Hamas figure in Dubai last month.

According to Dubai authorities, as many as 20 Irish passports were used in the killing of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, who was born in Gaza and exiled by Israel to Syria. Ireland summoned the Israeli ambassador in Dublin last week seeking answers in the matter.  Full story

Medics: Man shot by Israeli forces east of Gaza City

Israeli forces operating east of the Ash-Shuja'iyeh neighborhood of Gaza City shot and wounded a Palestinian man, medics in the Ash-Shifa Hospital said...  Full story

Union: Farmer beaten by Israeli forces at Jubarah checkpoint

A farmer on his way to agricultural lands near Tulkarem was told to lie on the floor of the Jubara checkpoint and was subsequently beaten while on the floor, the Agricultural Union said...

The man, identified as Said Walid, is a resident of Khirbet Jubara, a village in the West Bank but on the western side of Israel's separation wall. Residents of the village must pass through the Jubarah checkpoint to reach the city of Tulkarem, and any other of the neighboring villages.

.....The union said he was badly beaten "without any explanation," adding that Walid was the fourth member of the Tulkarem Agricultural union to have been beaten by soldiers since the start of 2010... Full story

Expert: UN could 'bury' Goldstone report

A year after Israel's assault on Gaza, bureaucratic wrangling is threatening to bury a UN report that accuses Israel and Palestinian militias of committing war crimes, a UN expert on the issue said on Wednesday.

Richard Falk, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, made the remarks ahead of a Friday vote at the UN General Assembly, which is expected to give Israeli and Palestinian authorities five more months to investigate war crimes charges outlined in the Goldstone report.

“I think it's part of the wider effort basically to bury the recommendations of the Goldstone report, unnecessarily delaying the implementation of its recommendations,” Falk told Ma’an in a phone interview.

As time passes, Falk said, the UN is less likely to hold accused war criminals accountable. The delays “remove the reality of what happened in Gaza from the collective memory of world society.”

The UN-mandated fact-finding mission led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone investigated the possibility of the commission of war crimes during Israel’s three-week assault on Gaza in 2008 and 2009. During the hostilities, more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died. A renowned judge who was the lead international prosecutor in war crimes tribunals in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, Goldstone and his team visited Gaza, interviewed hundreds of witnesses and collected thousands of pages of documents in compiling the report. Israel refused to comply with the investigation.

.... In February, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said both sides had been inconclusive in their investigations, but did not recommend further action on the issue...

....Falk was incredulous about the five-month extension. "There’s no responsible reason for this delay," he said. "It’s been well over a year since the events occurred and there’s been ample scrutiny” of Goldstone’s findings, he added. “It doesn’t seem like an appropriate response."

In Falk’s view, the General Assembly resolution in November left open avenues for international action, but this “depended on the balance of political authority.”

Since the United States is expected to veto any resolution in the UN Security Council on the Gaza report, human rights advocates are seeking ways to implement Goldstone's recommendations through other avenues...   Full story

Thursday, February 25, 2010

NYT, Ethan Bronner and Conflicts of Interest

Paalestine Chronicle – Jonathan Cook
A recent assignment of mine covering Israel's presumed links to the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh provoked some more thoughts about the New York Times reporter Ethan Bronner. He is the Jerusalem bureau chief who has been at the centre of a controversy since it was revealed last month that his son is serving in the Israeli army...

Last week, when suspicion for the assassination in Dubai started to fall on the Mossad, a newspaper editor emailed to ask if I could ring up my “Israeli security contacts” for fresh leads. It was a reminder that Western correspondents in Israel are expected to have such contacts. The point was underlined later the same day when I spoke with a leftwing Israeli academic to get his take on Mabhouh’s killing. I had turned to this Ashkenazi professor because he counts many veterans of the security services as friends.  

At the end of the interview, I asked him if he had any suggestions for people in the security services I might speak with. He replied: “Talk to Eitan Bronner. He has excellent contacts.” Naively, I asked how I could reach this expert on the veiled world of the Israeli security establishment. Was he employed at the professor’s university? “No, ring the New York Times bureau,” he responded increduously. Oh, that “Eitan”!

....... I am reminded of a recent predecessor of Bronner’s at the Jerusalem bureau -- an Israeli Jew -- who managed to do regular service in the Israeli army reserves even while he was covering the second intifada. I am pretty sure his bosses knew of this but, as with Bronner, did not think there were grounds for taking action.
.....a Jerusalem-based bureau chief asked to meet....

This reporter, who, unlike me, spends lots of time with the main press corps in Jerusalem, then made some interesting points. He wishes to remain anonymous but has agreed to my passing on his observations. He calls Bronner’s situation “the rule, not the exception”, adding: “I can think of a dozen foreign bureau chiefs, responsible for covering both Israel and the Palestinians, who have served in the Israeli army, and another dozen who like Bronner have kids in the Israeli army.”

He added that it is very common to hear Western reporters boasting to one another about their “Zionist” credentials, their service in the Israeli army or the loyal service of their children. “Comments like that are very common at Foreign Press Association gatherings [in Israel] among the senior, agenda-setting, elite journalists.”

My informant is highly critical of what is going on among the Jerusalem press corps, even though he admits the same charges could be levelled against him. “I'm Jewish, married to an Israeli and like almost all Western journalists live in Jewish West Jerusalem. In my free time I hang out in cafes and bars with Jewish Israelis chatting in Hebrew. For the Jewish sabbath and Jewish holidays I often get together with a bunch of Western journalists. While it would be convenient to think otherwise, there is no question that this deep personal integration into Israeli society informs our overall understanding and coverage of the place in a way quite different from a journalist who lived in Ramallah or Gaza and whose personal life was more embedded in Palestinian society.”

And now he gets to the crunch: “The degree to which Bronner's personal life, like that of most lead journalists here, is integrated into Israeli society, makes him an excellent candidate to cover Israeli political life, cultural shifts and intellectual life. The problem is that Bronner is also expected to be his paper's lead voice on Palestinian political life, cultural shifts and intellectual life, all in a society he has almost no connection to, deep knowledge of or even the ability to directly communicate with … The presumption that this is possible is neither fair to Bronner nor to his readers, and it's really a shame that Western media executives don't see the value in an Arabic-speaking bureau chief living in Ramallah and setting the agenda for the news coming out of the Palestinian territories.”

.......Yes, Ethan Bronner is “the rule”, as my informant notes, because any other kind of journalist -- the goyim, as many Israelis dismiss non-Jews -- will only ever be able to scratch at the surface of Israel’s military-political-industrial edifice. The Bronners have access to power, they can talk to the officials who matter, because those same officials trust that high-powered Jewish and Israeli reporters belong in the Israeli consensus. They may be critical of the occupation, but they can be trusted to pull their punches. If they ever failed to do so, they would be ejected from the inner sanctum and a paper like the NYT would be forced to replace them with someone more cooperative.

When in later years, these Jerusalem bureau chiefs retire from the field of battle and are promoted to the rank of armchair general back at media HQ – when they become a Thomas Friedman paid to pontificate regularly on the conflict -- they can be trusted to talk to those same high-placed officials, explaining their viewpoint and defending it. That is why you will not read anything in the NYT questioning the idea that Israel is a democratic state or see coverage suggesting that Israel is acting in bad faith in the peace proces......   Full story

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Expert: UN could 'bury' Goldstone report

A year after Israel's assault on Gaza, bureaucratic wrangling is threatening to "bury" a UN report that accuses Israel and Palestinian militias of committing war crimes, a UN expert on the issue said on Wednesday.

Richard Falk, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied territories, made these remarks ahead of a vote on Friday in which the UN General Assembly is expected to give Israeli and Palestinian authorities five more months to investigate war crimes charges.

“I think its part of the wider effort basically to bury the recommendations of the Goldstone report, unnecessarily delaying the implementation of its recommendations,” Falk told Ma’an in a phone interview.

As time passes, Falk said, the UN is less likely to hold accused war criminals accountable. The delays “remove the reality of what happened in Gaza from the collective memory of world society.”

Falk was referring to a UN-mandated fact-finding mission led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone into Israel’s three-week assault on Gaza in 2008 and 2009. More than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died in the conflict. A renowned judge who was the lead international prosecutor in war crimes tribunals in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, Goldstone and his team visited Gaza, interviewed hundreds of witnesses and collected thousands of pages of documents in compiling the report. Israel refused to comply with the investigation.

Under a General Assembly resolution passed in November, the two sides were given three months to investigate Goldstone's findings and hold perpetrators accountable. In February, UN-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said both sides had been inconclusive in their investigations, but did not recommend further action on the issue. Rights groups slammed Ban’s report as letting accused war criminals off the hook.

An Arab-backed resolution to be put to a vote on Friday calls On Israel and the Palestinians "to conduct investigations that are independent, credible and in conformity with international standards."

It also asks Ban to report back to the assembly "within a period of five months on the implementation of the present resolution, with a view to the consideration of further action, if necessary, by the relevant UN organs and bodies, including the Security Council."

Falk was incredulous about the five-month extension. "There’s no responsible reason for this delay," he said. "It’s been well over a year since the events occurred there’s been ample scrutiny” of Goldstone’s findings, he added. “It doesn’t seem like an appropriate response."

In Falk’s view, the General Assembly resolution in November left open avenues for international action but this “depended on the balance of political authority.”

Since the United States is expected to veto any resolution in the UN Security Council on the Gaza report, human rights advocates are seeking ways to implement the Goldstone's recommendations through other avenues.......

Human rights advocates believe Ban and other UN organs have come under political pressure from the report’s opponents (Israel and the US) to bury the report,....  Full story

Interview With Rani Bornat -Bil'in

IMEMC - Jody McIntyre
McIntyre [in January] interviewed Palestinian activist Rani Bornat about his life after being shot by the Israeli army.

Rani Bornat: My name is Rani Abdelfatah Ibrahim Bornat, and I'm 29 years old. I'm from the village of Bilin, west of Ramallah. I was shot in the throat on the first day of the second intifada.

Jody McIntyre: How was your life before you were injured?

RB: Before it happened, my life was like any other young person. I used to study, go horse riding, herd my goats, ride donkeys ... do all the things farmers do. My dream was to finish school, but I was deprived of it. I was to become an electronic engineer, and I was also deprived of that. God willing, I will be able to help my children study to become engineers instead.

It was while I was waiting to hear back from universities about continuing my studies, when the al-Aqsa intifada broke out in Palestine ...

JM: Tell me about how you were injured.

RB: It was Saturday, 30 September 2000, the first day of the uprising. We marched to one of the checkpoints near Ramallah to protest against Sharon's entering of the al-Aqsa mosque. It was a nonviolent demonstration, like the ones here in Bilin, with people chanting and holding up posters. But the soldiers didn't respond with tear gas or rubber bullets, only live ammunition, because it was their aim to kill as many Palestinians as possible.

I wasn't shot with a normal bullet, but a special "butterfly" bullet, so-called because of the way it spins as it flies through the air. It entered my throat and cut the artery that connects and nourishes my body and brain. Now I have an artificial artery. Because the artery was cut, and I had a blood clot in my brain, they had to tie two ends of the artery together. I had a stroke on my left side, and my right arm was left paralyzed.

It was a very dangerous situation -- I was taken to a hospital in Amman, where I stayed for seven months. For the first two months I was in a coma. I was operated on many times ...

JM: How did your family and other people from the village react to what had happened?

RB: When the people from the village saw me come home, still alive, they were so happy, because everyone thought that I would die from my injuries. Some of the family were crying with joy! ....

JM: Do you participate in the demonstrations at the wall here in Bilin, or are you too scared after your past experiences?

RB: .... I have been shot many times in the demonstrations in Bilin. ...
These are peaceful protests; if we don't fight for our land, then who can? If we don't fight for the truth, then who can? If we don't stand side by side and resist this occupation together, then who can? Peaceful demonstrations don't hurt or kill anybody; they are only there to serve the oppressed. We must tear down this wall, so that we can live with peace ... and freedom.

JM: Has your wheelchair ever been broken during a demonstration?

RB: Once, we had a demonstration in Bilin for disabled people, which I organized. Normally, we would protest right up at the wall, but on this occasion, the soldiers started shooting tear gas before we were even within sight. They started to shout that "after today, there will be no more demonstrations in Bilin" ... it was because the week before, they had shot an Israeli lawyer who was participating with us. So they wanted to stop the demonstrations because they were afraid of killing Israelis, not Palestinians! But that was a few years ago, so they haven't done a very good job on the "no more demos" promise ...

It was a very powerful symbol of the occupation, to see the Israeli army shooting at the blind and people in wheelchairs. They shot three tear gas canisters at my wheelchair and broke it completely.

JM: Do you think that the Israeli army deal with you differently because you are in a wheelchair?

RB: They treat me exactly the same. They don't care if I am in a wheelchair or if I'm walking -- according to them, I am a threat to the State of Israel, as ridiculous as that may sound.

Maybe they think I want to take revenge for what has happened to me, but I want to tell them that I am a man who wants peace. Even if they destroy my whole life, I only want to make peace.

JM: How do you envision the future?

RB: I am married now, and we have just welcomed three beautiful children, triplets, into the world. I want to start a new life.

Everybody living under the occupation is pessimistic, but I have hope that we can end it...


Jody McIntyre is a journalist from the United Kingdom, currently living in the occupied West Bank village of Bilin. Jody has cerebral palsy, and travels in a wheelchair.

He writes a blog for Ctrl.Alt.Shift, entitled "Life on Wheels," which can be found at, where a version of this article was originally published. He can be reached at jody.mcintyre AT gmail DOT com   Full story

Israel’s Municipality Hands Out More Demolition Orders To Palestinians In Jerusalem

The Israeli municipality handed out, on Wednesday, a new wave of demolition orders to Palestinian home owners near Jerusalem’s old city.

......The municipality says those homes lack the needed building permission. Home owners said that some of the homes are built before the creation of Israel.

Since Israeli occupied the city of Jerusalem in 1967 it has rarely given Palestinian residents permissions to built homes or renovates new ones.

In the meantime the Israeli government continue to build settlements in and around the city for Jewish settlers; a move that is illegal by international law.

An Israeli settler's organization announced, Monday, a plan by the Israeli controlled Jerusalem Municipality to construct 550 new settler's homes in Jerusalem’s east city. This new plan follows a number of plans issued last year to construct 2,327 settlement homes in the city....   Full story

Israeli troops injuries a Palestinian villager and detain him in northern West Bank

A Palestinian farmer from the village of Kufer Dan, northern West Bank, was injured on Wednesday by Israeli troops that later detained him.

Ibraheem Aabed, aged 34, along with other villagers tried to stop army bulldozers from destroying a water well at his land near his village. Troops opened fire at the group of village injuring Aabed in the abdomen.

A Palestinian medical crew rushed to the scene and evacuated Aabed; troops stopped the ambulance at the entrance of the village and took the wounded farmer away.

Villagers said that the army have demolished five water wells at their lands today before they got to Aabed’s...

The military told villager that they are going to destroy up to 20 water wells owned by famers in the coming few days, witnesses told local media. Full story

The Israeli military detain 14 Palestinian civilians from the West Bank

Israeli troops detained on Wednesday 14 Palestinian civilians during pre dawn invasions targeting a number of West Bank communities.

Palestinian sources reported invasions at the cities of Bethlehem and Hebron, Tulkarem, Jenin Nablus and Ramallah......

Since the start of this week Israeli troops have so far detained at least 27 Palestinian civilians during pre dawn invasions targeting West Bank communities.  Full story

Abbas Concerned 'Heritage Sites' Dispute Will Cause Religious War; Hamas Calls For 3rd Intifada

Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh, one of the two disputed Palestinian Prime Ministers, has stated that these actions are an extension of Israel's policy of annexing Palestinian land, and called for Palestinians in the West Bank to begin a 3rd intifada [uprising].

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the two sites would be added to Israel's list of Jewish heritage sites...

This announcement sparked protest in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, where the Ibrahimi Mosque is located, on Monday, which led to clashes between residents and the Israeli military... In the central West Bank city of Bethlehem and its surrounding areas, a general strike was called on Tuesday.

The Ibrahimi mosque is also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs, and is divided into two sections with separate entrances; one for Muslims, and one for Jews. To enter the site Palestinians must pass through a military checkpoint in the old city, and then be subjugated to further searches by the Israeli military at another checkpoint at the entrance to the mosque. It comes only a further 15 feet, or so, from the previous check.

The Mosque of Bilal, also known as Rachel's Tomb, was on the outskirts of the city of Bethlehem prior to the construction of Israel's annexation wall, and can now only be accessed by Palestinians living in the West Bank by first passing through a check point to the other side of the wall, assuming that they have permission to pass from the State of Israel. They must then take a bus or taxi to the site. Access is guarded by another military checkpoint, and entrance to the area by foot is not permitted.  Full story

Israeli troops detain eight civilians during raid in the West Bank

Eight Palestinian men were detained on Tuesday by Israeli troops during invasions targeting a number of West Bank communities.

Local Media sources reported home raids in the cities of Nablus, Jenin and Tubass all located in northern West Bank.  Full story

UN envoy: Heritage sites not in Israel

Robert Serry, the UN envoy for Middle East peace, expressed concern on Monday over Israel's announcement regarding holy sites in Hebron and Bethlehem and the heightened tensions that have resulted.

"These sites are in occupied Palestinian territory and are of historical and religious significance not only to Judaism but also to Islam, and to Christianity as well," Serry said in a statement.

"I urge Israel not to take any steps on the ground which undermine trust or could prejudice negotiations, the resumption of which should be the highest shared priority of all who seek peace. I also call for restraint and calm," he said...   Full story

Stargazing under siege in Gaza

A Palestinian astronomer who returned to Gaza after Israel's Operation Cast Lead killed his son and demolished his home brought with him the means to show children there is a world outside the Strip.

Dozens of children will soon be stargazing under the supervision of Gaza-born astrophysicist Suleiman Baraka, a former employee of the US space agency NASA. Baraka's group will have the help of a telescope imported to Gaza with the help of the French Consulate in Jerusalem and the French Cultural Center.

Baraka said he wants to get children interested in astronomy in order to help them overcome what he calls a "stereotype" of the sky as a source of death, with its unmanned Israeli drones, helicopter gunships and fighter jets.

Baraka told Ma’an, “When we ask a child here, ‘what do you see in the Gaza sky?’ He would say he sees Apaches [helicopters] and F-16s and all of the causes of death and destruction.”

Despite these fears, he says, “The Gaza sky is beautiful with all of its stars and galaxies.”

Baraka studied at French universities and later worked with NASA at Virginia Tech in the US. He was at work in Virginia when Israel launched its three-week war in Gaza in late 2008.

On the third day of the war, his 11-year-old son Ibrahim was killed in an Israeli airstrike that destroyed his home in Khan Younis. Seventeen members of his family were left homeless by the same bombing....

“My house is not a military base. Ibrahim is 11 years old. He doesn’t need F-16 jet fighters to kill him. My house roof was there for me and my children to use my telescope, not anti-aircraft missiles or rockets,” he said.

Baraka says he returned to Gaza after the war in part out of the sense that his country needs him. “What would happen if I stayed at NASA with an excellent salary and carrying out research? If you are qualified then it’s better for you to stay in your homeland,” he told Ma’an.

Now back in Gaza, he is brimming with ideas for projects, saying he intends to establish an observatory and astronomy programs in Gazan universities. He is also interested in setting up a facility to study the earth’s magnetic fields. He says his friends in the world astronomical community will help him bring telescopes into Gaza despite the Israeli-led border closure...

...“The universe is wide and the globe is bigger than having Beit Hanoun and Rafah as your only surroundings. Seeing the Gaza sky is an attempt to break the siege in all of its educational and political aspects, in belief that the Palestinians are capable of greatness in science.”  Full story

Western media, not Israeli hasbara - Ramzy Baroud

Ma'an - Ramzy Baroud
With the dreadful threat of yet another Israeli war in the Middle East looming, Israeli propaganda machine is likely to go into full gear.

In fact, trial balloons have already been sent out bearing supposedly unrehearsed comments by former Israeli Army general and current Minister Yossi Peled, suggesting that another war is on its way. More recently, Israel's ultra-right and unabashedly racist Foreign Minister Avigador Lieberman threatened to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad in case of a war.

And so it begins.

Historically, Israel has, with one understandable exception, determined the time and place of all of its wars with the Arabs. The only time Israeli forces were attacked in 1973 involved an Arab attempt to regain territories that were captured by Israel in 1967.

When Lieberman uttered his "message that should go out to the ruler of Syria from Israel" to an audience at Bar Ilan University, he was effectively saying that Israel will topple the Syrian government when it decides the time was ripe for war. ..... fulfilling the US neoconservative vision - that of "A New Strategy for Securing the Realm."

This inference should have been evident and thus sent shock waves throughout the world, and especially through the US media which now know fully the price of the Israeli-neocon folly.

So why do Western mainstream media, especially in the US, continue to guard Israel's image so protectively, at times even devotedly, when the country's belligerence is so blatant? And if some in the media are indeed well intentioned in their coverage, why do they continually miss the many clear signs pointing to Israeli criminality and aggression?

A growing reference that is once again floating among political and media analysts is that Israel has greater mastery than the Arabs over fighting media wars. Often cited, for example, is the National Information Directorate, an Israeli propaganda center that was established a few months prior to the devastating war on Gaza last year. Ironically, the center was established after recommendations made by an Israeli inquiry into the equally bloody Israeli war against Lebanon in 2006 - ironically because independent war inquiries often chastise the army for violation of human rights, as opposed to recommending the establishment of a "hasbara" - more like propaganda - body to justify the crimes committed against civilians.

Still, even such "hasbara" should have had little impact on the Western media's depiction of Israeli crimes and hostilities toward its neighbors.

One could possibly consider the claim that Israel's media success story is the brainchild of Israel's own media expertise under very specific circumstances: That Israeli spokespersons are icons of articulation and charm; that Palestinian retaliations to Israeli crimes in Gaza were vile and gruesome; that the Israeli media blackout was so successful that Western journalists had no other way of finding any credible, decipherable facts....

But none of these scenarios are convincing. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is as faltering in English as he is in his mother tongue. The Palestinian resistance merely killed 13 Israelis, 10 of whom were soldiers - and recently "regretted" the killing of the three civilians - while Israel killed over 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and remains unmoved........

Israeli officials continue to congratulate themselves on a job well done, and must be preparing yet another marvelous hasbara campaign to justify the killings that are yet to follow. However, there are some things that are becoming increasingly obvious, at least to the rest of us.

First, the secret of Israeli "success,"... stemmed from the media's decision, made years ago, to protect Israel's image. Second, despite the fanfare and self-congratulating commentary, Israel has now largely lost the media war, and the tide since the Gaza war has been turning, thanks to the underfunded, but solid and increasingly determined efforts of independent media groups, intellectuals, citizen journalists, civil society activists, artists, poets, bloggers, ordinary people and those in the media who possess the courage to challenge Israeli hasbara and its devotees.  Full story

Israel to 'relocate' village olive trees

An Israeli company operating on behalf of the country's Ministry of Defense began the relocation of olive trees on Tuesday, on lands belonging to the village of Bil'in slated for the construction of the separation wall.

The trees, which would otherwise be destroyed in the construction process that cuts off villagers from dozens of other trees that will not be moved, will be re-planted on lands that will remain on the east side of the wall, a statement from the Israeli military said. [In the past, many ancient olive trees taken from Palestinian farmers have been transplanted in Israel.]

According to the military, the relocation is being conducted in coordination with the land owners in Bil'in and the Civil Administration, a branch of the Israeli Defense Ministry which oversees non-military matters in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The move comes after Israel's High Court of Justice ruled that the separaion barrier should be rerouted so that it annexes less land from the village, which was cut in half by a system of fences, trenches and combed sand outlining the wall's eventual route.

....Meanwhile, the army said Israeli authorities were investigating claims that settlers cut down dozens of olive trees on the same day in an area of the West Bank thirty kilometers north of Bil'in.

Ghassan Daghlas, who holds the PA's northern settlements portfolio, said residents of the illegal Yitzhar settlement chopped down 45 trees on land belonging to Burin, a Palestinian village near Nablus....   Full story

Israeli forces, warships fire on Gaza workers in north

Palestinians collecting small stones and concrete rubble in the As-Saifa area, part of the northern 'no-go zone' at the western tip of the Strip, were targeted by Israeli fire from a military patrol and warships on Wednesday morning, locals said.

The workers, reportedly collecting fragments for construction projects in Gaza City, were able to escape the fire unharmed, locals added.

Israeli gunboats were also reported to have opened fire on the northern Gaza Strip in the early morning, fishermen in the Al-Waha area of the coast reported.....

In the southern Strip, witnesses said an Israeli military patrol entered 100 meters beyond the buffer area into civilian areas.

.....A weekly report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted an escalation in violence "in areas along the Gaza-Israel border" last week, which killed one and injured six. According to the the UN office, "Since the beginning of 2010, Israeli forces have killed nine Palestinians and injured 13 others in Gaza; no Israeli casualties have been reported."  Full story

Tulkarem radio host among 10 detained [by Israeli forces] overnight

During a series of raids targeting West Bank cities, Israeli forces detained a Tulkarem radio host and took him to an unknown location for questioning, locals said.

Omar Bleidy, owner and sometimes host of the local Tulkarem station Kul An-Nas (All the People) had his home surrounded by several military vehicles overnight, witnesses said, before he was removed and detained.

The local station broadcasts a variety of general interest programs, news and music.

Bleidy was among ten detained overnight, according to Israeli media, with one detained from Jenin, two from the Ramallah area and six from the Bethlehem municipality.....  Full story

Electrical repair equipment to enter Gaza in limited shipment

The Kerem Shalom crossing will be partially opened on Wednesday for the transfer of 99 truckloads of aid including two trucks of supplies for the electricity company....

In 2006, the power plant was the target of an Israeli airstrike, severely damaging the power producing capacity of the institution. The Gaza power network has been deteriorating since the start of the Israeli siege of Gaza in 2007 since no repair equipment or replacement parts have been permitted to enter the Strip. Parts of the power obliterated during Israel's Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9.

The Gaza power supply was described as "precarious" by a weekly report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which noted that "recurrent technical failures caused by the lack of spare parts due to the Israeli-imposed blockade," caused blackouts several times during the previous week...   Full story

Israeli construction ban forces Yatta children to learn in tents

A collection of Bedouin settlements in Area C southeast of Yatta has tried for years to obtain the necessary permissions for the construction of small school building for some 40 students who until now have been schooled in a tent.

The south Hebron hills were settled by several Bedouin communities in 1948 when they were expelled from their traditional grazing lands. They largely maintain a Bedouin lifestyle, but are confined to small areas in the hills.

As the population of the Bedouin communities grew, families became increasingly adamant that their children receive schooling under the Palestinian system.

To help residents, in 2009 the joint service council in Yatta provided them with three tents and school desks to be used as temporary classrooms.....

School Principal Khadr Al-Umour said the school has four split-grade elementary classrooms housing forty students, both boys and girls.....

A school van used to pick up students along the dirt road that runs through the area, but was confiscated by Israeli officials, Al-Umour said, for unknown reasons. The school has since rented a new van, but in the interim month, students had to walk up to eight kilometers to reach the tent-school.

Al-Umour said he was concerned that the new van would also be confiscated.

"The tents are inadequate ... they do not protect students from the elements in the summer or the winter. The rain leaks in and the summer heat is unbearable."  Full story

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Conservative Conference Demands End to 'War on Terror'


At the 2010 CPAC and sponsored a panel called "You've Been Lied To: Why Real Conservatives Are Against the 'War on Terror'" that featured founder and president Jacob Hornberger, retired Air Force Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, former CIA counter-terrorism specialist Philip Giraldi and former deputy attorney general Bruce Fein.

For a higher-quality, seamless version of this talk including the Q&A watch & on FFF's Vimeo channel.


URGENT APPEAL: Mass arrest of children in Jalazun Refugee Camp

UA - 1/10 : URGENT APPEAL : DCI-Palestine

Incident  Night time raid, arrest, ill-treatment of at least 17 children
Location  Al Jalazun Refugee Camp (Ramallah), West Bank
Date of incident  11 February 2010
Accusations  Throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers
Place of detention  Ofer Prison, West Bank

Summary of incident

On 11 February 2010, at least 17 children were arrested from the Al Jalazun Refugee Camp in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers. The children and their families report the use of excessive force during the arrests, and ill-treatment and coercion during subsequent interrogations. The children were interrogated in the absence of a lawyer and family member, and the interrogations were not video recorded. The children are accused of throwing stones, and in some cases, Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers in 2009 and 2010. The children are being prosecuted in military courts.

Background information

At around 2:00am, on Thursday, 11 February 2010, Israeli soldiers entered Al Jalazun Refugee Camp near Ramallah, in the West Bank and went from house to house and started rounding up, beating and harassing residents of the Camp...

........These cases are just some examples of what appears to be the systematic and institutionalised ill-treatment of approximately 700 Palestinian children by Israeli authorities each year in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The situation has not improved since the UN Committee Against Torture published its Concluding Observations regarding torture and ill-treatment in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory in May 2009.

........There are currently 318 Palestinian children being held in Israeli detention facilities....  Full story

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mortimer Zuckerman considering Senate bid

Publisher and real estate mogul Mortimer Zuckerman is considering a run for the U.S. Senate...

Zuckerman, publisher of the New York Daily News, is considering running for the New York Senate seat held by Kirsten Gillibrand, who in January 2009 filled the unexpired term of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

One of the [NY Times]sources said Zuckerman, whose fortune is estimated to be about $2 billion, was considering commissioning a poll to see if a candidacy was viable.

Though Zuckerman is known to be a Democrat, he is not registered with a political party and likely would run as a Republican or an independent in order to avoid a primary...

A naturalized American citizen who was born in Canada, he is a staunch supporter of Israel. Full story

Campaign finance decision may hurt Jewish influence

JTA - Ron Kampeas
...Most pro-Israel and Jewish civil liberties groups still operate under the tax code as 501(c)3 organizations -- religious, educational and charitable groups. This classification allows donors to write off contributions as a tax deduction but bans direct participation in the political process.

Groups with this classification are limited to pronouncements on issues and ideas: They may, for instance, speak generally about care for the environment or about energy conservations, but they cannot endorse or oppose specific candidates.

Last week’s Supreme Court ruling opens the way  for corporations to directly attack candidates.

......Were those battles to be replicated under the new rules, oil companies could marshal astronomical funds well out of the reach of pro-Israel donors to depict candidates as harming U.S. interests overseas.

......Saperstein said the decision made the case for greater involvement in which judges make the bench.

"It dramatizes the need for the Jewish community to get involved in nomination fights,” he said...  Full story

British Prime Minister: Israeli officials were part of decision to invade Iraq

In his recent testimony to the UK Committee investigating the Iraq war, British Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted that Israeli officials influenced and participated in the decision by the US and UK governments to attack Iraq in 2003.

During testimony regarding his meetings in Texas with then-US President George W. Bush in 2002, Blair stated, “As I recall that discussion, it was less to do with specifics about what we were going to do on Iraq or, indeed, the Middle East, because the Israel issue was a big, big issue at the time. I think, in fact, I remember, actually, there may have been conversations that we had even with Israelis, the two of us, whilst we were there. So that was a major part of all this." Full story

A Palestinian arrest so ridiculous even the Israeli judges smiled

Ha'aretz - Amira Hass
....There were three other Israelis present, who held back their cries as they watched the boy enter, faltering - the chains around his legs clanging against each other, the prisons service coat he wore much too big for him. These three women, of their own accord, go regularly to the caravans that house the Ofer military tribunal and take notes. Were it not for these three women, who eventually shared his story, Bassam would have become yet another hidden detail of a non-event. A non-event of the sort that takes place countless times, all the time. Without those non-events, it is impossible to comprehend what life is like under hostile rule.

This particular non-event began with Bassam (not his real name), who lives in a village west of Ramallah, deciding to visit his aunt who lives in another village 14 kilometers away. It took place in the afternoon hours of Monday, December 21, 2009. Bassam's home is some 10 kilometers north of Route 443 and his aunt's home to the south. A narrow, winding path links the villages located along the way. Bassam took two taxis, then began walking the rest of the way. At the suggestion of another boy he met on the path, he took a shortcut through a valley and headed for the little tunnel that runs below the road which is closed off to Palestinians, but built on their land.

Several hundred meters from the elevated road, some Israel Defense Forces soldiers popped out from in between the olive trees. According to the boy, they called him over, saying "Come, come." "I was afraid and fled," Bassam says. But the soldiers grabbed him. He noticed there were two jeeps nearby.

"They boxed me a little on my ears, covered my eyes and put plastic handcuffs on my wrists. Then they lifted me and threw me into a jeep," he says. An Arabic speaker, he says, told him: "If they ask you, say that you threw stones." "I was so afraid that I did not think about anything," Bassam says two weeks later, at home.

With his eyes covered and hands cuffed, Bassam was taken from place to place. At the first stop, he was kept about two hours. They offered him water, but he said he did not want any. Then they drove to another place where a police interrogator asked him if he "had ever thrown stones on 443," Bassam relates. "I said yes - because that's what the soldier in the jeep told me - but I didn't know what 443 was. He asked me whether I had ever thrown stones with a sling. I asked him what a sling was. He explained to me and I said no."

At the third stop, Bassam was seen by a doctor who spoke some Arabic. "He asked me if I had had any operations and I said no. Then they covered my eyes again, handcuffed me and we went off," he says. By then it was already dark; they next arrived at the Ofer Prison. In the Prison Service records, Bassam is registered as prisoner number 1336183.

The inmates in the cell he was taken to immediately calmed him down, gave him something to eat, and explained that he would appear in court the next day. "I knew about Shabak [the Shin Bet security service] but I didn't know what the court was," he says.

'But I am standing'

At around 3 P.M. on December 22, in the caravan which houses the court, Iyad Misk, an attorney with DCI (Defence for Children International), spotted Bassam, whom he did not know, huddled among the other prisoners. When the judge, Major Shimon Leibo, entered, Misk thought Bassam didn't realize he had to stand. "Get up, get up," he said in a stage whisper from the attorney's stand. Bassam stared at him in amazement. "But I am standing," he said. Judge Leibo heard, looked and began to smile.

Misk immediately volunteered to represent the kid. The prosecutor, police officer Asher Silver, said: "We ask that the suspect be released on condition of a NIS 1,500 deposit and that he be called to a hearing, as we intend to submit an indictment against him."

Misk explained that the suspect did not have NIS 1,500 (approximately one and a half times a Palestinian worker's monthly wage), and that his family members were not present and apparently did not even know where he was

.......Meanwhile, Bassam's parents were beside themselves with worry. When he did not return home in the morning from his aunt's home, they started searching for him throughout the surrounding areas in the orchards, at the checkpoints, on the roads, at army posts. "I walked through the mountains looking for him and crying," his father, who is a welder, recalls....
Full story