October 24, 2009

838 Students Still Trying to Leave Gaza for Study Abroad

large_Gaza-Youth-Jan8-09_Palestine, October 22, 2009, (Pal Telegraph) - Once again, following the start of the academic year at many institutions of higher education around the world, some 838 Palestinian students are still waiting to leave Gaza to study abroad. The students cannot leave due to the Israeli-imposed closure of the Gaza Strip and the rigid criteria for exit via the Erez and Rafah border crossings. According to figures provided to Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement - by the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza, 1,983 students who have been accepted into educational institutions abroad have registered for permits to exit via the Rafah crossing since the start of the year, but only 1,145 students have managed to pass through the crossing. 69 additional students have left via Erez crossing.

Overseas travel is no simple matter for Palestinian students because passage through Israel is extremely limited in accordance with a long list of criteria determined by Israel, which include the possession of a "recognized" academic scholarship and enrollment to study in a country which has a diplomatic presence in Israel. In addition, since June 2008 Israel has made the exit of students from Gaza to study abroad conditional on a physical diplomatic escort (see Gisha's report: "Obstacle Course: Students Denied Exit From Gaza"). The students also have difficulty leaving through Egypt via Rafah crossing due to the fact that it is closed most of the time. The rare openings of Rafah Crossing permit travel for only about 12% of people wishing to pass (see Gisha's report: "Rafah Crossing: Who Holds the Keys?").

As a result, 838 students are still waiting in Gaza for permission to leave. An additional unknown number of students were not even eligible to register for a Rafah exit permit since they were unable to attend a visa interview in Jerusalem or the West Bank - a prerequisite for passing through the Rafah crossing. Below are three examples of students harmed by the infrequent opening of the Rafah crossing and the strict exit criteria set by Israel:

Mohammed AbuHajar, 29, was accepted into an MA program in Information Technology and Communications at the Center for Information Technologies in Athens in July 2009, and was even awarded a full scholarship by the Center. Since Israel does not consider this to be a "recognized university" or a "recognized scholarship," and despite requests by Greek officials on his behalf, all of AbuHajar's attempts to leave Gaza have so far led nowhere. He only just managed to register with the Palestinian Interior Ministry, but it is not known when the next opening of the Rafah crossing will take place or whether AbuHajar will be able to get through the crossing at all.

Ihab Naser, 38, who holds a graduate degree in Biochemistry, was accepted into doctoral studies in Community Nutrition at a Malaysian university in May 2009, but he has not yet managed to leave Gaza. Since Malaysia has no diplomatic ties with the State of Israel, so long as Israel continues to insist on the diplomatic escort requirement, Naser has no chance of getting out of Gaza via Israel to study abroad. Despite the fact that Naser has been on the list of students with a permit to exit via the Rafah crossing for a long time already, due to the huge crowd of hopeful travelers that converges on the crossing every time it opens, his exit has been delayed time and again.

Wesam Kuhail, 28, who holds a BA in Business Administration, was accepted into an MBA program in the USA, but has been forced this year - for the third time - to renew his application for the program. This is because Kuhail has not yet managed to get an exit permit from Gaza in order to attend a visa interview at the US Consulate in Jerusalem: "I don't know if I'll ever make it to the consulate under these circumstances. This wait has prevented me from making important life decisions... All I am doing is waiting for my entry permit to be approved by the Israelis."

- Guisha

Venezuela, Honduras, Peru, Ecuador: Media Lies and "Oversights"

By Eric Toussaint
October 23, 2009

It may be useful to assess the dangers of the systematically hostile attitude of the overwhelming majority of major European and North American media companies in relation to the current events taking place in Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. This hostility is only matched by an embarrassed, complicit silence with regard to those involved in the putsch in Honduras or the repression enacted by the Peruvian army against the indigenous populations of the Amazon.

In order to demonstrate this statement, here are a few recent facts:

1) On 5 June 2009, the Peruvian army massacred over 50 Amazonian Indians who were protesting against the land concessions made by Alan Garcia’s government for foreign, mainly European transnational companies. The repression aroused no disapproval among the major global media groups. [1] These groups gave almost exclusive priority to the protests occurring in Iran. Not only did the press fail to condemn the repression in Peru; it did not even bother to cover the story. And yet in Peru, so great was public discontent that the government had to announce the repeal of the presidential decree which the Amazonian Indians had fought against.

Once again, media coverage of the government’s backtracking was almost non-existent. We must ask ourselves the following question: if a Venezuelan or Ecuadorian army or police intervention had caused the deaths of dozens of Amazonian Indians, what kind of media coverage would such events have received?

2) When the constitutionally elected president Manuel Zelaya was ousted by the military on 28 June, the overwhelming majority of media groups declared, in total contradiction of the truth, that the soldiers were reacting to Zelaya’s attempt to modify the constitution, thus ensuring he could remain in power. Several other media groups added that he was following the example of Hugo Chavez, who is presented as an authoritarian populist leader. In fact, Manuel Zelaya was proposing to the Honduran citizens that they vote in favour of the organization of general elections for a Constituent Assembly, which would have represented real democratic progress being made in this country. This is well explained by Cécile Lamarque and Jérôme Duval on their return from a CADTM mission in Honduras:

The coup d’Etat was carried out on the same day Manuel Zelaya had organized a non-binding “consultation” asking the Hondurans whether or not they wanted to convene a National Constituent Assembly, after the elections which were due to take place on the 29 November 2009. The question went like this: “Do you agree that at the next general elections of 2009, a fourth ballot box be installed so as to allow for the people to express their point of view on the convocation of a national Constituent Assembly? YES or NO?” If this consultation had resulted in the majority voting “yes”, the president would have issued a decree of approval before Congress so that, on 29 November, the Hondurans would formally make known their decision on the convocation of a Constituent Assembly through this “fourth ballot box” (the first three ballot boxes would be for the election of a president, deputies and mayors, respectively). In order to give an air of legality to the coup, Congress and the Supreme Court, associated with the putsch, deemed the ballot box to be illegal and asserted that president Zelaya had “violated the Constitution” by trying to modify it “so as to set his sights on serving a new mandate”, in the manner of an “apprentice Chavist dictator”. And yet, Manuel Zelaya, through this consultation with the people, was not seeking to renew his presidential mandate of four years which cannot be renewed. Zelaya would therefore be unable to be a candidate for his own succession.” [2]

Whilst the popular movements opposing those involved in the Putsch increased, with protests and strikes in July, August and September, the big media names only dedicated a couple of lines to these events. On the rare occasions when the leading daily newspapers dedicated a feature article to the situation in Honduras, they adopted a policy of slander against the constitutionally elected president by presenting the military’s actions as a democratic military coup. This is the case with The Wall Street Journal, which in its editorial on 1 July 2009 wrote, “the military coup d’Etat which took place in Honduras on June 28th and which led to the exile of the president of this central American country, Manuel Zelaya, is strangely democratic.” The editorial adds, “the legislative and judicial authorities will remain intact” following military action. On its part, perhaps in a more subtle manner, the famous French newspaper Le Monde participated in a smear campaign against Manuel Zelaya. Here is one example. On 12 September 2009, Jean-Michel Caroit, the paper’s special correspondent in Honduras, quoted the words of a French expatriate living in the country and then associated these words with the systematically repeated lie regarding Zelaya’s supposedly sinister intentions, “ ‘For the Hondurans, Zelaya’s return is unacceptable as that would mean there would be twenty years of a Chavez-style dictatorship,’ states Marianne Cadario in reference to the Venezuelan president who - as his ally Manuel Zelaya tried to do (underlined by me) - modified the Constitution in order for him to be allowed to be re-elected. Marianne Cadario, a Frenchwoman who has lived in Honduras for over thirty years states that she is “very shocked by the reaction of the international community who condemned the putsch.” [3] The tone of newspapers like Le Monde and Libération began to change at the end of September after those involved in the putsch began to increase their repressive measures. The tone became more critical of those involved in the putsch. Having said this, the daily newspaper Libération deserves a prize for its use of euphemisms. In fact on 28 September 2009 (3 months to the day after the coup) the title “The Scent of Dictatorship” (underlined by me) of a paragraph explaining how the government involved in the putsch had declared, “‘the banning of “any public unauthorized meeting,” the arrest of “anyone putting their lives or anyone else’s in danger” “evacuation” of areas where there are protesters and those who interfere with “any broadcasting of programmes by any media that endanger public order.” [4]

3) At the beginning of August 2009, the Venezuelan authorities’ intention to question the right of 34 radio and television channels made the headlines in the international press: “It is further proof of the almost total disappearance of the right to expression and criticism in this authoritarian country.” The way in which the major news publications treat the subject of the media in Venezuela is one of unilateral hostility, despite the fact that 90% of the Venezuelan media is privately owned, a large number of which actively support disinformation campaigns. Globovisión, one of the main privately-owned TV channels, actively participated in the military coup d’Etat against Chavez on 11 April 2002. A documentary made by Globovisión made its way around the world on 11 April 2002 and the days following the military coup. It was actually a set-up, designed to distort the truth. One can see people posing as Chavez supporters on a bridge, firing their guns in an unidentifiable direction. The voice-over of the Globovisión journalist states that the Chavez supporters are about to kill opposition protesters who were protesting peacefully in the streets below the bridge. The Venezuelan prosecution has been able to reconstruct the exact chain of events, having analysed the reports and photographs made by certain individuals on the day of 11 April. In fact the pro-Chavez militants, who, according to Globovisión, were shooting at protesters, were actually responding to gunfire coming from an armoured vehicle of the metropolitan police, allied to the putsch. The opposition protesters were no longer in the streets when those guns were fired. Several sources can prove without a doubt that the assassination of the anti-Chavez protesters was used as a set-up so as to attribute these crimes to Chavez, thus justifying their coup. On 11 April 2008, the Venezuelan viewers were able to see again the images of the press conference given by the military involved in the putsch at a time when no protester had been killed yet. And yet the military announced at that time that they were taking power following the murders carried out by the Chavez supporters. This clearly supports the theory that these murders were planned deliberately so as to be able to justify their seditious plan.

In the days following the putsch, on 12 and 13 April 2002, when hundreds of thousands of unarmed citizens surrounded the barracks of the putschists to demand the return of Hugo Chavez, then in prison, Globovisión failed to broadcast any coverage of these protests, explaining that the country was back to normal and that Hugo Chavez had tendered his resignation and was on his way to Cuba. During the last hours of the putsch, this channel broadcast only cartoons and variety shows [5]. Globovisión in fact connived with the putschists on several critical occasions, a fact which led the parents of victims and injured survivors’ associations to demand the channel’s conviction. Up to now the Chavist government has refused this demand in order to prevent further escalation of the international smear campaign being waged against him. Several human rights associations are dissatisfied with the passive attitude of the Venezuelan authorities in this matter.

More recently, Globovisión has been sympathetic towards the authors of the 28 June putsch in Honduras. Several programme presenters at Globovisión have supported the putsch from the very beginning, at the same time accusing the Chavez government of interference in condemning it. For example, Guillermo Zuloaga, the president of Globovisión, stated on 17 July that “the government of Micheletti complies with the Constitution, and we would like, indeed we would be delighted, if here in Venezuela, the Constitution was respected in the same way that it is in Honduras”, thus making clear his support for the putschist government.

Globovisión has never been prohibited from broadcasting. What major European or North-American media has even mentioned this fact? What major European or North-American media has ever informed the public that the overwhelming majority of Venezuelan media are controlled by the private sector? Or that they account for over 90% of the viewing audience? Or that they are extremely aggressive towards the government, presenting it as a dictatorship, or that some of them played an active part in ousting a constitutionally elected president, and have continued to broadcast freely for seven years? Can one imagine General de Gaulle failing to take repressive measures against a newspaper, radio or TV station that was seen to actively support an OAS coup during the Algerian war? Would it not be considered normal for the Spanish government to take measures against the media that actively supported – in real time – Colonel Tejero when he burst into the Cortes [6] with a group of military putschists and held (up) at gunpoint the MPs who were there? If Manuel Zelaya were restored to office as constitutional president, would he and his government not be in their right to demand accountability and take measures against the Honduran media owners who deliberately supported the putschists by systematically deforming the truth and covering up the many human rights violations committed by the military?

4) Arms spending. When you read the European or North American papers, you have the distinct impression that Venezuela is indulging in huge arms expenditures (particularly by way of Russia), which poses a serious threat in the region. Yet according to the CIA [7] the situation is quite different: the Venezuelan military budget ranks 6th in the region, after the budgets of Brazil, Argentina, Chile (far less populated than Venezuela and regarded as a model), Colombia and Mexico. In relative terms, taking the GDP of each country, the Venezuelan military budget comes 6th in Latin America! Is any of this published in the leading news publications?

On another front, in August 2009 we read in the papers that Sweden took Venezuela to task after the Colombian government once again denounced its neighbour for supplying arms to the FARC guerrillas. Sweden had in fact informed Colombia that SAAB missiles found in a FARC camp had been supplied by Venezuela. But for those who read Chavez’ detailed response it became clear that the missiles in question had been stolen from a Venezuelan harbour in 1995, four years before Chavez became president.


One needs to be aware of the one-sided manner in which the leading media report the news, and adopt a highly critical approach when appraising it. The discrediting of Hugo Chavez, Rafael Correa and Evo Morales is so excessive that it poses the risk of numbing international public opinion in the event of another coup d’Etat, or of lulling the public into approving aggressive measures taken by a government such as the US. Among the many insidious and unfounded accusations, we can read in the Spanish papers (for example in El Pais) that Rafael Correa’s election campaign was financed by the FARC. We can also read that the Venezuelan authorities do nothing to fight drug trafficking. In the case of the Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, the discredit heaped on him is intended to prevent international opinion mobilizing in favour of his return to power as head of State.

Translated by Francesca Denley and Judith Harris

Eric Toussaint is the president of CADTM Belgium (Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt, www.cadtm.org), has a PhD in political science from the University of Liège (Belgium) and the University of Paris VIII (France). He is the author of Bank of the South. An Alternative to the IMF-World Bank, VAK, Mumbai, India, 2007; The World Bank, A Critical Primer, Pluto Press, Between The Lines, David Philip, London-Toronto-Cape Town 2008; Your Money or Your Life, The Tyranny of Global Finance, Haymarket, Chicago, 2005.

1. See http://www.cadtm.org/Le-CADTM-est-pleinement-solidaire and http://www.cadtm.org/Perou-le-massacre-de-Bagua

2. Cécile Lamarque and Jérome Duval, « Honduras : Why the Coup d’Etat », 17 September 2009, www.cadtm.org/Honduras-Pourquoi-le-coup-d-Etat

3. Jean-Michel Caroit, « Au Honduras, la campagne électorale s’ouvre dans un climat de haine », Le Monde, p. 8, Saturday 12 September 2009.

4. http://www.liberation.fr/monde/0101593847-le-honduras-s-enfonce-dans-la-crise

5. It is interesting at this point to note the initiative of Hugo Chavez’ government on 11 April 2008, six years after the putsch. The government used its right to broadcast on the private and public TV stations to show a re-run of the entire reportage produced by the anti-Chavist private channels (Globovisión, RCTV...) on the official inauguration session of the president and the putschist government in a reception room in the Miraflores presidential palace. The complete programme, which the whole of Venezuela could watch on 11 April 2002, was re-broadcast without any cuts or critical commentary by the Chavez government. Hugo Chavez relied on the critical acumen of Venezuelan viewers to form their own opinion on the active complicity of the private media with those behind the putsch, amongst whom the viewer could identify the leading Catholic church authorities, the putschist military brass, the head of the anti-Chavist labour union CTV (Confederation of Workers of Venezuela), the chief executives of private corporations and the president of the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Fedecámaras), Pedro Carmona. It should be said that this president, who held power for scarcely 36 hours, earned the enduring nickname of “Pepe el breve” (Pepe the brief).

6. On 23 February 1981, an attempted coup d’état organized by Franquist sectors took place in the Spanish Congress, The leader, Colonel Tejero, held up the members of parliament present at gunpoint and took them hostage as the new president of the government was being sworn in.

7. See https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html, consulted in March 2009

Original article, Venezuela, Honduras, Pérou, Equateur : « petits » oublis et « grands » mensonges des medias, published on October 5, 2009


Yemeni army bombs three markets in north

Press TV - October 24, 2009 17:42:45 GMT

Houthi fighters in Yemen say they have inflicted heavy losses on government forces as the army continues to target residential areas in Saada Province

In a statement released on Saturday, the fighters said they captured two military camps along with all their equipment in the town of Al-Razih.

The Houthi statement also said that the government continues to target residential areas in the Northern Province, leaving dozens killed and wounded.

According to the statement, the military planes targeted a crowded market in the Shaaf area of Saada Province, killing several people and wounding others.

Four civilians have sustained critical wounds, the report said.

The military planes also attacked two other markets in Al-Razih and Sahar in Saada Province, destroying many shops and buildings in the area.

In al-Iqab, army troops along with an armed vehicle attempted to take the control of the Samaa base; they, however, failed and their armed vehicle was destroyed.

According to the statement, targeting civilians has only led to the strengthening of the people's solidarity and encouraged them to resist tyranny.

The fighters, led by Abdul-Malek al-Huthi, have been engaged in fierce fighting with government since the army launched 'Operation Scorched Earth' on August 11.

The government accuses fighters of seeking to restore a religious leadership in the northern areas that was overthrown in 1962.

The Houthis, however, say they want more autonomy, a halt in alleged Saudi-backed efforts to cause regional insecurity and to impose Wahabism in the region as well as an end to discrimination against their people.

Mass disruption of war criminal Ehud Olmert in San Francisco

October 23, 2009

French national hurt at anti-wall protest

[MaanImages - Archive]

Ramallah - Ma'an - A French citizen and nine others sustained light injuries during an anti-wall demonstration in the central West Bank village of Bil'in on Friday, according to news reports.

The unidentified protester was reportedly struck by a tear-gas canister.

Demonstrators at the protest, among them Palestinians and internationals, applauded several Israeli high school seniors who recently opted not to participate in Israel's forced military draft program, a refusal that could eventually lead to their arrests

Meanwhile, hundreds of demonstrators also rallied against the construction of Israel's separation barrier in Na'lin, which cuts through some 50 percent of village's farmland.

Israel's military fired tear-gas canisters and other riot means at the largely peaceful crowd, according to onlookers. There were also reports of rock-throwing on the part of a handful of Palestinians near the demonstration.

In Na'lin, another village near Ramallah, nine others were hurt by the same type of weaponry, according to activists, including six who were struck by rubber-coated bullets. One was hospitalized in Ramallah.

Near Bethlehem, protesters similarly rallied against the wall in Al-Mas'ara. There were no reports of incidents there.

But in Hebron, Israeli forces detained six protesters near the illegal Kiryat Arba settlement, according to demonstrators. Among them was a senior figure in the Palestinian People's Party.

Israeli Settlers Sing And Dance In Front Of Palestinian House They Occupied In East Jerusalem

By Saed Bannoura
October 23, 2009

Dozens of fundamentalist Jewish settlers held prayers on Friday in front of a Palestinian home they occupied by court order in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, in East Jerusalem. After praying, the settlers held a dance and party.

Dozens of Israeli policemen and Border Guard units were intensively deployed in the area.

Members of Al Ghawi family, who lost their home to the settlers, and residents of Sheikh Jarrah, gathered near the home and banged on pots and construction materials to protest the settlers’ party.

Several residents played tapes of the Holy Quran in front of a home that belongs to Qasem family.

On Thursday, the Israeli District Court in Jerusalem decided to bar resident Khalid Abdul-Fattah Al Ghawi from the area for 15 days.

The decision came following Tuesday clashes in the neighborhood.

The Jerusalem Municipality informed Al Ghawi family that they have until Sunday to remove their protest tent which became their home after their eviction.

Uruguay's last dictator Gregorio Alvarez gets 25 years

October 24, 2009

Article from: The Australian

MONTEVIDEO: Uruguay's last military dictator, Gregorio Alvarez, has been jailed for 25 years for murder and rights violations during his 1981-1985 rule.

Alvarez, 83, was handed the sentence yesterday by a judge who found him responsible for 37 "aggravated homicides", prosecutor Oscar Goldaracena said.

Alvarez was not in court because he was ill, the lawyer said.

Alvarez played a key role in the country's 1973 coup before going on to be commander-in-chief of the army and ultimately becoming the final president of Uruguay's civilian-military dictatorship.

He has been in detention since 2007, when he was found guilty of kidnapping exiled leftist activists living in Argentina who were sent to Uruguay and executed in 1978.

The conviction highlighted a change of position of Uruguay on addressing the crimes of the dictatorship that has already led to judgments against eight former soldiers and police officers.


Robert Bernstein: Human Shield for Criticism of Israel

October 24, 2009
Palestinians are routinely subjected to violence--often lethal--at the hands of the Israeli Occupation Forces

By Max Kantar

Earlier this week the New York Times published an op-ed article, Rights Watchdog, ‘Lost in the Mideast’ written by Robert L. Bernstein, the founding chairman emeritus of Human Rights Watch.

The editorial amounts to one regurgitation of Israeli propaganda after another in an effort to delegitimize mainstream criticism of Israeli policies in the international human rights community. The timing of Bernstein's article is instructive; its publication in the New York Times comes on the heels of the release of the Goldstone Report as the intellectual apologists for Israeli crimes in the U.S. go into ultra-hysteria mode to save the already eroding image of their favorite client state. Bernstein decries HRW for its supposed anti-Israel bias and unleashes a tirade of familiar accusations routinely invoked by ‘supporters of Israel’ to deflect criticism of the Jewish state. To make the case that HRW--and presumably the international human rights community in general—has ‘lost critical perspective’ on Israel-Palestine, Bernstein cites six major points:

1) There is no "moral equivalency" between the "democratic and non-democratic worlds"

2) HRW spends more time criticizing Israel than it spends criticizing individual neighboring states

3) Hamas and Hezbollah use civilians as human shields and do not fight fairly

4) The government of Iran supports Hamas and Hezbollah and seeks to destroy the state of Israel and exterminate all Jews

5) Weapons are making their way into Gaza and Lebanon and might be used to strike Israel

6) Israel only commits wrongs in self-defense while Hamas and Hezbollah do so intentionally

These claims are all demonstrably false. What is interesting is that someone in Bernstein's position surely must be aware of this. In his analysis Bernstein wisely chooses not to inform his readers of the general political context surrounding Israel-Palestine--a point to which I will return. For the moment, let's have a look at Bernstein's primary talking points.

Moral Equivalency and the Democratic and Non-democratic Worlds

Bernstein begins by explaining that HRW in its birth originally "sought to draw a line between the democratic and non-democratic worlds in an effort to create clarity in human rights" in order "to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters." More to the point, "we wanted to prevent the Soviet Union and its followers," Bernstein declared, "from playing a moral equivalence game with the West."

Bernstein's suggestion that there is no comparison between alleged human rights violations inside democratic states as opposed to abuses in authoritarian and undemocratic states seems to be, at face value, reasonable. However, the HRW reports of Israeli human rights violations are almost always (the exceptions being the wars in southern Lebanon) documentations of Israeli practices and policies in the occupied Palestinian territories where Palestinians most certainly do not live under the rule of a democratic state, but rather under the rule of a ruthless, foreign military occupation. Palestinians in the occupied territories (henceforth OPT) are systematically denied freedom of movement, assembly, and speech; they are routinely subjected to violence--often times lethal--at the hands of the IDF and paramilitary Jewish settlers, both of which act with virtual impunity and are totally unaccountable to the Palestinians. Jewish settlers living illegally in the occupied Palestinian territories enjoy all the rights and privileges that one would attribute to "the democratic world" while Palestinians in the same territorial entity essentially live under martial law, in what amounts plainly to an extremely violent military/police state. Palestinians have absolutely no rights and no say in the (Israeli) government and military that effectively rules over them. Bernstein's inference that documented Israeli human rights abuses take place in "the democratic world" is perhaps his most absurd and irresponsible assertion. By any standard of law and government the OPT is a part of--to use Bernstein's terminology--"the undemocratic world." Of course, the existence of systematic violations of human rights (like those attributed to Israel) proves that those being subjected to the abuses are not part of anything that could be even remotely called a "democracy."

Furthermore, it should be understood that empty and elite rhetorical concoctions like "moral equivalency" are simply terms of propaganda used to justify applying to official enemies standards one refuses to apply to favored states. Suggesting that favored states (Israel or the West in general) have an inherent moral superiority compared to disfavored states/parties is totally meaningless. It has been illustrated time and time again that the internal democratic character of a state does not necessarily inhibit it from committing gruesome atrocities outside of its official national boundaries. What difference does it make to the victims of state violence if the perpetrator has democratic institutions and provisions in its own national territory? The real issue at hand is Israel's human rights record, which leads us to the next point.

Why Does HRW Write More about Israel Than Other States in the Region?

To illustrate HRW's failures, Bernstein points to the fact that although "the region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records," (which it surely is) it is Israel who receives the most condemnations from HRW. The basis for Bernstein's objection to this fact (assuming that Israel does receive the most condemnations) is that Israel is a democracy--rationale that falls flat on its head when juxtaposed with the reality in the occupied Palestinian territories, as illustrated above.

That being said, perhaps Israel receives more attention from HRW than its neighbors because it does indeed have the worst human rights record in the region. For over forty years it has been a belligerent occupier, constantly threatening its neighbors and attacking them at will. Israel's savage repression of the primarily nonviolent first intifada in the OPT almost makes the recent crushing of the Iranian popular uprising look like a tea party. When one thinks of the thousands of home demolitions, the draconian siege, the multiple invasions of Lebanon, the constant atrocities and arbitrary killings, the "separation" wall, and the 300 children murdered in cold blood last winter, it is not difficult to conclude that Israel likely holds the regional title for "worst human rights record."

Moreover, why should Western human rights activists not focus on exposing Israeli practices in the OPT? I imagine that supporters of white supremacy in Apartheid South Africa decried what they saw as the overemphasis on South African human rights abuses as well. Like South Africa was, Israel is largely dependent on Western military, economic and diplomatic support which therefore warrants a corresponding degree of critical attention in light of the massive abuses. It is also widely recognized that Israel is imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinians in the OPT, as alluded to above. Both Israel's leading human rights group and its leading newspaper (Ha’aretz) have acknowledged this much, as have Former President Jimmy Carter and countless South African anti-apartheid activists, including John Dugard and Desmond Tutu. Apartheid is considered to be a "crime against humanity" and warrants an international solidarity effort to overthrow it. Instead of complaining about the fact that rights groups are exposing Israeli crimes, Bernstein and his ideological cohorts should use their influence to help put an end to the abuses.

Human Shielding

In the most familiar accusation leveled against anyone Israel attacks, Bernstein desperately parrots the claims of Israel's state department, noting that Hamas and Hezbollah "use their own people as human shields." Unfortunately for Bernstein, the documentary record reveals that by and large, the accusations of the use of human shields on the part of Hamas and Hezbollah are false, or at best, unsubstantiated.

Taking the most recent conflict with Hezbollah in 2006, the US Army War College carried out a study on counterterrorism and guerilla warfare. Despite their heavy reliance on Israeli military contacts and interviews, the study discovered that there was no "systematic reporting of Hezbollah using civilians in the combat zone as shields" and "little or no meaningful intermingling of Hezbollah fighters and noncombatants."

An Amnesty International report on the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war also concluded that no evidence existed that would suggest the use of civilian shielding on the part of Hezbollah. However, the study did find that Hezbollah officials "encouraged or assisted people who had been unable to leave their villages in south Lebanon to do so." As for Israel, Amnesty noted that convoys of fleeing civilians were deliberately attacked by Israeli forces as they attempted to evacuate the area.

Human Rights Watch also reached similar conclusions in its own analysis and report on the 2006 war noting that "available evidence indicates that in the vast majority of cases Hezbollah fighters left populated civilian areas as soon as the fighting started and fired the majority of their rockets from pre-prepared positions in largely unpopulated valleys and fields outside villages." They went on to report that "Hezbollah fighters had not mixed with the civilian population" and that "Hezbollah stored most of its rockets in bunkers and weapon storage facilities located in uninhabited fields and valleys."

During "Operation Cast Lead" Israel constantly accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields in an attempt to explain the massive civilian causalities it was inflicting on the people of Gaza. None of the independent reports to emerge since the assault on Gaza have found any evidence to substantiate Israel's claims. The Goldstone Report did however discover multiple cases of Israeli military forces and units using Palestinian civilians as human shields during "Operation Cast Lead" and dedicated twenty full pages to the chronicling of these abuses (pgs. 280-300). Israeli soldiers have also since came out and testified as to the IDF's use of Palestinian civilians as human shields in Breaking the Silence.

The Devil in Tehran

Bernstein cites Hamas and Hezbollah's relationship with the Iranian regime as yet another reason why HRW should sympathize with Israel. The Iranian regime seeks to destroy Israel and all of the world's Jews, Bernstein says.

Bernstein should know that Iran does not seek to destroy Israel anymore than it seeks to destroy itself. If Iran were to even contemplate an attack on Israel, the entire country would be flattened within moments by the United States, as everybody knows. I'm afraid that such statements on the part of Bernstein simply play into the hysteria conjured up by the US and Israel...

In fact, Iran has accepted the international consensus on resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. Like every other Muslim state, it has endorsed the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the OPT alongside Israel in its pre June 1967 borders--precisely the international consensus on the conflict's resolution. If Iran seeks to "destroy" Israel, why would it endorse this mainstream peace plan which recognizes the right of Israel to live in peace and security in its internationally recognized borders? Let us not forget that it is Israel and the United States who have continued to threaten Iran with annihilation and obliteration. These threats are also violations of the UN Charter.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Bernstein also warns that HRW "know[s] that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again."

Israel has the fourth most powerful military in the world and a stockpile of nuclear weapons big enough to wipe Lebanon, Gaza, and Iran off of the face of the planet. Last winter Israel slaughtered 1,400 people while sustaining only 13 casualties of its own. The number of Palestinians killed by Israel in the first three minutes of "Operation Cast Lead" greatly exceeds the number of Israelis killed by Hamas in the previous six years.

Nevertheless it is Hamas and Hezbollah that we should be worried about, Bernstein tell us. While Israel starves the Gaza Strip into the Stone Age we are supposed to believe that Hamas fighters are developing serious deterrence capabilities. Putting aside the complete lunacy of Bernstein's false alarms, readers should keep in mind that the Hezbollah organization was established to resist the brutal Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Likewise Hamas was created for the same reason--to resist Israeli military occupation of their land.

In any event, it truly surpasses belief that these absurdities could even be contemplated in a free society, let alone appear on the pages of the country's most prominent newspaper.

Self-Defense and Occupation

Implying that Israel acts with proportion and in self-defense and that the Palestinians are the aggressors, Bernstein declares that "there is a difference between wrongs committed in self-defense and those perpetrated intentionally." It takes true intellectual discipline to read these words without breaking into laughter--or tears. Israel is the military occupier and has been for over forty years. By definition, Israel is the aggressor. How can Israel claim to be defending itself while it is militarily occupying other people's lands? By any reasonable standard, one could not call what Israel does "self-defense."

And while Gaza is still considered "occupied territory" by all relevant observers, the illegal economic blockade is considered to be "an act of war" under international law. What are the Palestinians supposed to do? Does Israel have a moral ‘right’ to impose illegal collective punishment on the Palestinians in Gaza?

While no party is entitled to attack and target civilian populations, readers should not forget the root cause of Israel's conflict with the Palestinians, which is unending military occupation and colonization. Virtually the entire world--including both major Palestinian political groupings and every Arab and Muslim state--has accepted the principle of resolving the conflict peacefully via a full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital. It is Israel—backed by the United States--who refuses to accept these terms.

Until Robert Bernstein can come to terms with these basic facts, it is he--not Human Rights Watch--who is lost in the Mideast.

- Max Kantar is a Michigan based human rights activist and freelance writer. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: maxkantar@gmail.com

Somali Insurgents Condemn AU for Shelling Civilians

Retaliation Threatened Against Uganda, Burundi

by Jason Ditz, October 23, 2009

Insurgent groups in Somalia are scoring a major PR victory today, condemning the African Union (AU) “peacekeepers” for firing dozens of rockets into the crowded Bakara market today, killing several civilians.

Uganda has 2,700 troops in Somalia

The incident came yesterday, when insurgents fired mortars at the airplane of Somali President Ahmed. The AU responded to the attack by firing at the market, Mogadishu’s largest, which is in militant controlled territory.

Though the chain of events was widely confirmed yesterday, the African Union is now denying that it fired any rockets at all, and insisted that the militants shelled their own market for some inscrutible reason. The insurgents confirmed attacking the plane, but said the mortars were fired from outside the city, far from civilian occupied areas.

Al-Shabaab, one of the nation’s largest militant groups, is threatening to launch retaliatory attacks inside Uganda and Burundi, the nations who have committed materially all of the troops to the AU force in Somalia.


Free Gaza News: Eye Witness Reports From Gaza

By Haitham Sabbah • Oct 24th, 2009

Ewa Jasiewicz, Free Gaza Coordinator in Gaza, talks in Berlin, Germany about what she witnessed during the 22-day massacre of civilians in Gaza. Her on-the-ground reporting of what she and seven others saw during that time is heart-wrenching. Israel deliberately murdered 16 medics trying to do their job of rescuing other injured Palestinians, targeting them directly. Ewa and the other volunteers from Free Gaza and the International Solidarity Movement accompanied these ambulances, horrified at what they saw.

She also eloquently speaks about the people in Gaza, how they are trying to make a living for their families as the Israeli Occupation Forces shoot to kill the farmers and fishermen, long after Operation Cast Lead was supposedly over.

Listen to her speech, see the images from the people who were there recording Israel's use of white phosophorus bombs and other deadly weapons that Israel literally threw at a civilian populations. Families have been torn apart, 29 members of one family murdered in their home as they held a white flag of surrender.

As Ewas says, "Israel's objective is to rid Palestine of Palestinians: drip by drip, body by body, person by person, village by village."

She as well as over a dozen other speakers are available to speak to your groups.

You can contact: http://www.freegaza.org/join-in/speaker-bureau and ask for someone to come and talk about the voyages of Free Gaza movement, the work in Gaza and witnessing the attempt by Israel to destroy a civilian population aided by American money and American weapons.

In solidarity & struggle,


Aoun urges army, Hezbollah to remain well-equipped

Press TV - October 24, 2009 12:36:42 GMT

Lebanon's Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun

In the face of growing threats from Israel, Lebanon's Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun says that Hezbollah should remain armed and the Lebanese army should be well-equipped.

"We should bolster our defense forces at all costs; but I believe no matter how many weapons we obtain and how much money we spend, we will never have the potential to deter an Israeli attack. That is why, I believe, the resistance movement should remain armed" said Aoun in an exclusive interview with Press TV on Saturday.

"The best way to succeed against Israel is resistance-style asymmetrical warfare, therefore these artillery should be given to Hezbollah and should remain at its disposal until a peace deal is reached with Israel," the Christian leader explained.

The former general said he has decided to hold another meeting with prime minister-designate Saad Hariri, but refrained from elaborating on the exact time and venue.

"I am still waiting for Hariri's reply to the proposals I submitted in my latest press conference," he said.

Aoun was referring to demands that his party be granted six portfolios and be allowed to maintain the five ministries, including the Telecommunications Ministry — which is of great security and financial importance.

October 23, 2009

Locked in Gaza - Internee Interviews

Doctor Mustafa Al-Hawi, 50, lecturer at al-Aqsa University

Mustafa al-Hawi, holds a Ph.D in environmental management and he currently works as a lecturer at al-Aqsa university.

He lost a job opportunity in Spain due to the blockade.

“I feel very traumatised, pissed off and very sad for not being able to travel and to have the freedom to do whatever I like,” he says. (2:39):

Fadi Bakheet, 27, hip hop group manager

Fadi Bakheet is the manager of a hip hop group called “darasheen, the Arabian revolutionary guys.”

His group missed out on an opportunity to represent Palestine in a festival in Copenhagen due to the siege.

“I don’t think I would leave Gaza if things were better because this is my home, the worst thing about being here is being trapped and not be part of the world community,” he says. (2:31):

More Videos

AP and NYT Coddle Terrorists

Left I on the News
October 23, 2009

An astonishing (if you were a visitor from outer space unaccustomed to reading the U.S. corporate media) headline from AP via The New York Times: "Florida: Militant's Benefactor Released." And who is this "militant" of which they speak? Only one of the world's most notorious terrorists, Luis Posada Carriles, organizer of a mid-air airplane bombing which killed 73 people, a string of hotel and tourist site bombings in Cuba which killed one person, and a convicted participant in the attempted assassination of Fidel Castro in Panama in a bombing which would have killed hundreds of students had it been successful, along with a host of other nefarious activities. And, as readers know, a man who is being successfully protected by the United States from being extradited to Venezuela to stand trial for those 73 murders.

And the "benefactor"? Why it's yet another terrorist, Santiago Alvarez, who acted as "benefactor" to mercenaries that he sent to Cuba to participate in bombing tourist facilities like the famous Tropicana nightclub, a man who served time (minimal, naturally) for being caught with one of the largest illegal stashes of weapons ever seized in the U.S. (dozens of machine guns, rifles, C-4 explosive, dynamite, detonators, a grenade launcher and ammunition), and a man who helped smuggle Posada into the U.S., which, as noted in that earlier post, would be a crime even if Posada were a normal illegal immigrant, and a major crime considering Posada is a convicted felon (not to mention a known terrorist).

Is it any wonder Americans are confused about the "war on terror"? A war the U.S. is supposedly fighting, at the same time both the government and the media do their best to protect and whitewash the existence of terrorists walking free right here in the streets of Miami?

Meanwhile, the Cuban Five, five heroic men who risked their lives to prevent such acts of terrorism, languish in U.S. prisons.

China clinches biggest buyout in Australia

Press TV- October23, 2009 19:32:03 GMT

A coal dredger seen in operation at the Loy Yang Open Cut coal mine near Melbourne in early August. China's Yanzhou has won the takeover of Australia's mining giant Felix.

A Chinese company has succeeded in the biggest-yet takeover bid of an Australian firm in a move seen as an exploit amid bitter investment relations.

The Australian authorities on Friday approved the 3.5-billion-dollar bid by China's Yanzhou Coal for mining giant Felix, AFP reported.

Felix produces about 4.8 million metric tons of coal a year.

The Chinese enterprise would be running its Australia-based mines through an Australian company.

"The Australian Securities Exchange listing of all of Yanzhou's Australian assets ... is a significant development," Australia's Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry said in a statement.

"It represents the first time a Chinese state-owned enterprise operating in Australia will list on our stock exchange," he added.

"As such, it demonstrates the strength of the developing bilateral economic and investment partnership between Australia and China," Sherry said.

Palestine in Pieces

An Interview with Bill and Kathleen Christison

By JEFF GORE - October 23, 2009

In 1979, Kathleen and Bill Christison retired from the CIA, where they worked as analysts. Ever since then, they've had an unorthodox retirement, to say the least. With only a couple relatively brief interludes, they've dedicated what could have been years of relaxation to fighting perhaps the most uphill battle imaginable: trying to bring the plight of the Palestinians to the public eye. The newest addition to the Christison canon is Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation, published in August by Pluto Press. During this decade the Christisons have made a habit of visiting Palestine at least once per year; they returned from their most recent trip earlier this month. Since the couple warned against the potentially endless nature of a conversation over the phone, I elected to send them a few questions via email, which they were gracious enough to answer.

Jeff Gore: Kathleen: In a recent interview with Laura Flanders on GRITtv, you said that based on your travels to Palestine over the past half-decade or so, you believe the situation of the Palestinians “has gotten worse, every year.” Given that the interview was conducted before your latest trip, would you still say this today, considering the downgrade or closure of several checkpoints this year, and, according to the New York Times, “a sense of personal security and economic potential...spreading across the West Bank?”

Kathleen Christison: This is an extremely important question. The supposed closure of checkpoints throughout the West Bank and what is being widely touted as an opening of economic potential are a fiction—a huge scam perpetrated by Israel and the U.S., intended to make it look to the world as though Palestinians are now prospering, that the Palestinian economy is thriving and Palestinian society is now content, all thanks to the beneficence and good will of the Israelis. The media—not just the New York Times, but other print and electronic media and various opinion-molders like Thomas Friedman—have fallen for this scam and indeed have been knowingly participating in it.

The objective is to delude us all, including the Palestinians, into thinking that a new era of peace and prosperity is dawning in the West Bank because Palestinians have stopped terrorism and Israel has responded in good faith by easing restrictions, all in contrast to the situation in Gaza, where all the misery is supposedly the fault of Hamas because it refuses to recognize Israel and refuses to end violence. We are meant to forget that the occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem continues and is continually being reinforced, that Israel launched an unprovoked murderous assault on Gaza early this year, that Israel continues to dominate every aspect of Palestinian daily lives.

In actual fact, things are no better for Palestinians in the West Bank, and in many cases they are worse. We’ve made two trips to Jerusalem and the West Bank this year, in April-May and October, and we’ve seen no substantial improvement in the situation Palestinians face on a daily basis. Despite the supposed removal of many checkpoints, most remain, and all can be reimposed at a moment’s notice. OCHA, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which has kept careful track for the last several years of Israeli movement obstacles, just issued a report indicating that the numbers of obstacles, which include checkpoints, roadblocks, earth mounds across roads, and gates blocking roads, had been reduced in recent months hardly at all—from 618 earlier in the year to 592 now. OCHA also suggests that there’s a good deal of subterfuge in Israeli reporting: although the Israelis promised the removal of 100 roadblocks by the end of Ramadan and issued GPS coordinates for these supposedly vanishing obstacles, OCHA did an on-the-ground survey and could confirm the removal of only 35. In numerous instances, the Israeli GPS locations weren’t even in the West Bank.

It’s true that there has been some improvement in a few showcase locations. The cities of Jenin and Nablus are rebuilding after the terrible destruction there during the Israeli siege of 2002 and 2003, and there’s a bit more economic prosperity. Even in Hebron, which lives under siege from the most vicious of Israeli settlers, some market areas are reopening. The most notorious checkpoint, Huwara just south of Nablus, has been opened up somewhat so that Palestinian cars may now drive through and people no longer have to walk through. But this is classic colonialism, designed to make things just enough better to take the edge off the anger of the colonized: you fill the natives’ stomachs and hope they become tame, that they won’t want to resist your oppression, that they’ll forget that they have no freedom, that they still live under oppression, always at the mercy of a colonialist oppressor who has no intention of relinquishing his domination or ending his exploitation of the oppressed and their resources.

The “model cities” in Jenin and Nablus and the “model checkpoints” such as Huwara are the exceptions in the Palestinians’ grinding life under occupation. Movement from one area to another is still severely restricted. Most West Bank Palestinians still cannot visit Jerusalem. Those who have work permits to enter Jerusalem must still wait for hours in endless lines to enter the city and pass through multiple security checks, including biometric checks that leave a record of when they entered the city and whether they have exited by the end of the day. Israeli settlements continue to be built and expanded on confiscated Palestinian land. The road network connecting the settlements to each other and to Israel, on which Palestinians may not drive, continues to be expanded, cutting off increasing numbers of Palestinians from each other. Palestinians are still harassed and physically attacked by aggressive Israeli settlers. Olive groves and other agricultural land continue to be confiscated, destroyed, burned, either by settlers or by bulldozers clearing land for more settlements or for the Separation Wall. Construction of the Wall is proceeding, cutting off more Palestinian land from its owners.

Non-violent protesters who demonstrate regularly against the Wall continue to be shot and killed or imprisoned. While newly trained, spiffily uniformed Palestinian security forces patrol city streets during the day, Israeli forces control the night and therefore control the entire territory. They conduct middle-of-the-night raids in villages throughout the West Bank, arresting young Palestinian men on suspicion merely of being Palestinian, beating or even shooting anyone who resists. In Jerusalem, where the Netanyahu government is currently concentrating its harshest oppression, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians continues quite openly. Palestinian homes continue to be demolished for no other reason than that they are in Israel’s way—in the way of the Wall’s advance, or of the next new or expanding Israeli settlement, or of Israel’s efforts to depopulate the land of Palestinians and create a Jewish majority. Palestinian families continue to be evicted from their homes so that Israeli settlers can live in them.

The catalog of horrors is long, and it is not ending, despite the hypocritical claims by the New York Times and others of an increased “sense of personal security,” despite all efforts by Netanyahu and the Obama administration to make us think peace has come. The occupation continues, and more harshly than ever. As Israeli journalist Amira Hass recently put it, the occupation “completely shrinks people’s lives,” and this has not changed.

JG: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a white Westerner traveling in the Occupied Territories?

Kathleen & Bill Christison: Although we feel very comfortable among Palestinians, and have always felt very welcome, at the same time we always feel some embarrassment because we’re there basically as voyeurs watching other people’s misery. In fact, we feel we’re helping by bringing the Palestinians’ story, the facts of the occupation and what it means for Palestinian daily lives, to public attention in the West, but it’s still hard to get away from the feeling that we’re invading other people’s privacy by watching them line up at checkpoints and taking pictures of them, or watching them sob as their homes are demolished. Or, as happened to us once, talking to a man scheduled for surgery in Jerusalem who had been waiting for days for an Israeli permit to get into the city and who cried as he told us his story and asked us to take a picture of the medical certificate that attested to his need for surgery and should have provided his entrée to the city. We’ve told his story, but we knew, and he knew, that we couldn’t do anything to help him and that we would ultimately be able to go home to our comfortable lives in the U.S. while he waits—waits for his permit, waits for his freedom, waits for a decent life.

This is the principal reason, incidentally, that we’ve decided we won’t take any royalties or other profits from our new book, but will donate them to organizations that we feel most benefit the Palestinians. No book on the Palestinians will ever make much money in the first place, sad to say, but the idea that we personally should make any money because we’ve been witness to other people’s misery is unacceptable to us.

JG: I've always thought that the strongest argument for the two-state solution -- and against the one-state solution -- was Michael Neumann's assessment of Israel as unwilling to “abolish itself.” On the other hand, Kathleen, you've written critically about Neumann's remarks and advocated a single democratic state in Palestine. Ruling out any precipitous fall in American power, any miraculous surge in power of the Palestinian governing body, or God forbid, any catastrophic regional war, in what scenario can you envision Israeli Jews consenting to a bi-national secular state; to changing their flag, national anthem, even the name of their country?

KC: I have to say I object to the premise of Michael Neumann’s argument—that we should or should not pursue one or another solution simply on the basis of whether it meets Israel’s desires. I think, on the contrary, that we should pursue a solution for no other reason than that it is just, for both Palestinians and Israeli Jews. A two-state solution—which at its very best would give Palestinians a state in less than one-quarter of their original homeland and at it most likely would give them a non-viable, non-contiguous state in little pieces constituting quite a bit less than one-quarter—is simply not just. I recognize that realists like Michael disdain “dreamers,” as he’s called one-state advocates, as naïve and maybe other-worldly to be talking about unrealistic, impractical concepts like justice. But I don’t think, first of all, that it’s really so naïve or even futile to advocate and work for justice—justice does prevail on occasion. And, secondly, I think perpetrating gross injustice is ultimately totally impractical and cannot endure: a two-state solution, to my mind, is so grossly unjust—not to say also unlikely because Israel doesn’t want that either—that it is also impractical.

So my preference, if we’re faced with a situation in which Israel is not willing at the moment to “abolish itself” but is also not willing to give the Palestinians anything, not even a non-viable, cantonized state, is to work for the most just solution, which is a single democratic state in which Palestinians and Jews would live as equal citizens with equal access to the instruments of government and a constitution that would guarantee the equality of everyone. (I would not, by the way, call this a “bi-national” state, which I see as a state that maintains some de jure separation between the two peoples. This is something I fear would perpetuate the power imbalance and perpetuate Jewish domination of Palestinians. Although nothing would be easy for the Palestinians no matter what solution is pursued, a single integrated state with constitutional guarantees of equality would more readily assure them of some kind of political and economic parity.)

Those like Michael who argue on the basis of what Israel would not want to do are arguing from the premise that might makes right, that might makes a reality that we cannot counter, and that simply because the powerful party in this conflict doesn’t want something, it won’t come to be and none of us should even speak about it. This is absurd. Who would have expected in the mid-1980s when liberals throughout the world were fighting a seemingly futile battle of sanctions against apartheid South Africa, that the very powerful white leadership of that country would decide in the next few years to “abolish itself”? Who would have expected at that same time that the very powerful Soviet Union would “abolish itself”?

My crystal ball isn’t clear enough to be able to lay out a precise scenario, but I believe that Zionism and the racism and injustice inherent in it simply cannot endure and that Israel will collapse of its own weight at some time in the future, hopefully in our lifetime. No empire has lasted in history, and gross, systematic injustice does not last either. I also give Jews greater credit for having a conscience, for caring about justice and caring about the injustices perpetrated against the Palestinians in the name of world Jewry, than Michael or others like Uri Avnery do, who criticize us one-staters because we don’t seem to realize, as they say, that Israeli Jews will always want to screw the Palestinians if they all live in the same state. I just don’t buy that. If white South Africans and Soviet appartchiks could relinquish power voluntarily and non-violently, then I believe Jews will ultimately be led by their consciences to do the same.

My bottom line is, I don’t think we can or should shut our mouths about a just peace settlement—or, even more importantly, deliberately limit Palestinian options by refusing to speak about the possibilities—simply because Israel might not happen to like it, which is what I see as the principal argument of the anti-one-staters.

JG: Similarly, in your travels, what impression have you gotten from Palestinians as to which solution they advocate?

KBC: It’s hard to make a definitive judgment on this, but it is fair to say that support for a one-state solution is growing among Palestinians. Polls of Palestinian opinion still show this support in the minority, but growing. Many Palestinians whom we’ve talked to still favor two states and specifically reject one state, either because they fear Jewish political and economic domination in a single state or because they are closely enough connected to the Palestinian Authority that they are unwilling even to think of any alternative to the PA’s official support for two states, which is the position that gives them entrée into negotiations and whatever favors are bestowed by the U.S. But an increasing number of our acquaintances now more explicitly favor one state. They are increasingly dissatisfied with the PA’s position and its acceptance of the two-state solution, all of which they see as collaboration with the Israeli oppressor and a betrayal of fundamental rights in return for no benefit whatsoever for the Palestinians.

Much of Palestinian thinking is formed more around the possibilities than strictly on the basis of preferences, which is to say that as long as the two-state solution was the only alternative held out to the Palestinians, support for this option was quite high, but the more the possibility of a one-state solution is talked about—and, of course, the more the likelihood of a real, independent Palestinian state ever being formed in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem has receded—the more Palestinians are willing to think about and advocate a single state. As it has become clearer and clearer to the Palestinians that Israel under its current leadership has no intention of ever withdrawing from the occupied territories and no intention of allowing Palestinians any sovereignty in Jerusalem, support for a single state in all of Palestine has grown. More importantly, Palestinians increasingly recognize that their demand for the right of return is ultimately incompatible with a two-state solution, in which only limited numbers of refugees, if any, would be allowed to return to their homes and land inside Israel and the vast majority would have to be accommodated inside the tiny Palestinian state. It’s unlikely that an enduring peace settlement will ever be forged that does not address and provide a fair solution of the refugee issue and the right of return.

JG: In my recent interview with Jonathan Cook, he spoke highly of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, saying that in his view, “there is no way to end the occupation unless Israelis are made to see that they will pay a heavy price for its continuance.” Would you agree with this? If so, how would you respond to criticism about harming “innocent” Israelis with a blanket boycott or sanctions? Or is there even such a thing as an “innocent” Israeli when it comes to the issue of Palestinian suffering?

KBC: We do indeed agree with Jonathan on the wisdom of BDS and the notion that Israelis must be made to pay a heavy price for continuing the occupation if there’s to be any hope of ever ending it. As to whether “innocent” Israelis might be harmed by a blanket application of BDS, we would ask where one should draw the line on what harms Israelis. Does it harm innocent Israelis to cut off or cut back U.S. aid to Israel—which would be the ultimate sanction? Under a long-term ten-year agreement, the U.S. gives, not lends, Israel $3 billion of military aid every year—in cash, at the beginning of each fiscal year—plus additional increments of economic aid and loan guarantees on a year-by-year basis. Aid of this magnitude and given under these terms obviously greatly helps the Israeli economy. It also gives Israel virtually total impunity to commit whatever atrocities it wants against the Palestinians without fear that the U.S. will cut it off. So if we’re worried about harming individual Israelis, we have to worry about the guy in an electronics shop who is harmed economically because he no longer gets the subcontract for some airplane or tank part, but we also have to worry about the innocent Palestinians—the literally millions of innocent Palestinians—in Gaza particularly, but elsewhere as well, who are being killed by those airplanes and tanks and other military equipment that Israel uses with the impunity granted it by the U.S. If blind justice weighs these two groups of innocents and the harm done to them on her scales, we believe she would conclude that the “innocent” Israeli is after all not so innocent.

Although it may be clearer how the scales should balance when we’re talking about military aid, the same factors must be weighed when we deal with boycotts of non-military products and academic and cultural boycotts, and we think the same conclusions must be reached: ending Palestinian suffering at Israel’s hands is a more worthy, more just objective than saving the economic hide or the jobs of any Israelis. Maybe you’re right that there is no such thing as an “innocent” Israeli when it comes to Palestinian suffering. In a democratic state—democratic at least for Israeli Jews—all Jewish Israelis are responsible for the injustices and the killing and the atrocities visited upon the Palestinians. They elected the governments that have carried out these policies and actions; they have failed to put an end to them; they live in a state established on the suffering and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians over 60 years ago. We Americans are just as responsible for the killing and atrocities visited by U.S. forces on Iraqi and Afghan civilians and in past eras on civilians in places like Vietnam, and we would not claim that sanctions against the U.S. were unfair, even if these caused us to suffer personally. Perhaps this should be the criterion: that innocence lies in greater measure with the people being oppressed and bombed and occupied, and we must be more concerned with ending harm to them than with causing incidental harm to individuals in the oppressor-occupier nation.

JG: In your new book you briefly compare Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to the U.S's treatment of Native Americans. That said, I was wondering if you had an opinion on how to respond to one of the peskier questions addressed specifically to Americans that nobody seems to be able to answer. The question is: what right do I have to criticize Israel as a “colonial” or “settler” state when I am a descendant of colonists and settlers myself, enjoying the spoils of theft from an indigenous people?

KBC: This is indeed a difficult question to answer, and there is for sure a measure of hypocrisy in criticizing Israel without also rectifying our own nation’s sins. But we don’t believe that one injustice, even when perpetrated by our own country, imposes an obligation to remain silent about another injustice or requires that we stop working on Israel’s injustice until we’ve resolved the United States’ unjust policies. In fact, having acquired a conscience about what our country did, and continues to do, to our own native population has given us, we feel, a bit more moral authority from which to demand that the United States stop giving Israel the means—the political, military, and economic support—with which to commit a similar atrocity against the Palestinians.

We all pick our battles in this life, and we happen to have picked support for Palestinian rights as our battle. We did this initially from a position of considerable—and, we would acknowledge, shameful—ignorance about the history of U.S. treatment of Native Americans, but our focus on the Palestinians has helped open our eyes to the Native Americans’ situation, and we’re now more conscious of the need to work for justice for both peoples. If we personally continue to devote more of our attention to the Palestinians, this is because it’s a more easily resolvable situation and because we’ve already invested 30-plus years of our education and work in it. But to repeat, whatever inequity exists in our own allocation of attention, whatever hypocrisy exists in demanding of Israel what the U.S. has not done for its own native population, does not put any obligation on us to give Israel carte blanche to continue its oppression unopposed.

JG: Kathleen, in the GRITtv interview you described losing interest in the conflict for a few years before returning to it due to its "haunting" nature. Could you describe that in more detail, or in other words, what has compelled you to keep writing on behalf of the Palestinians for three decades, despite their situation growing increasingly worse over that time period?

KC: Maybe it’s precisely because the Palestinians’ situation has grown worse that I’ve been so “haunted” and so compelled to continue working on this issue. Although I had worked on the Palestinian question for several years before Bill and I left the CIA in 1979, I never actually met a Palestinian until the late 1980s, when I began interviewing Palestinian Americans about their attitudes toward Israel—which ultimately led to my book The Wound of Dispossession. It was only by doing these interviews, and doing a lot of reading on the history of Palestine-Israel, that I really learned the Palestinian story. And I was and continue to be shocked at how horribly that story has been distorted in the United States and the rest of the West. For me—and for Bill too—it’s been a kind of crusade to bring this story to greater public attention. The Palestinians are such a graceful people and the injustices perpetrated against them for six decades and more have been so horrific—and so deliberate—that we both feel we can’t give up.

JG: For those who don't have time or means to visit Palestine, but want to help the Palestinians, what would you suggest is the best thing that they can do?

KBC: This may be the most difficult of your questions to answer. The usual route, talking to one’s congressmen, is an almost totally futile pursuit on this issue. The Israel lobby, in all its aspects, has Congress so sewed up that it’s almost impossible to get any attention if one is talking about Palestinian rights or demanding concessions from Israel or advocating anything other than the current so-called international consensus on two states. We both think that at the popular level in the U.S. there’s been an upsurge in support for the Palestinians and a greater willingness to criticize Israel. This has been particularly true since Israel’s assault on Gaza early this year. But so far this change in viewpoint hasn’t reached up to the political level, meaning in the administration and Congress, because there simply aren’t enough people willing to mobilize, visit congressmen, write letters to the editor, etc. But this is what’s needed. We need to educate ourselves on the issue so that we can educate others, join whatever solidarity organizations exist in our areas, gain some political muscle by increasing our numbers, work together, lobby congressmen in numbers, write letters to the editor, force the media to pay attention to what’s happening on the ground, call out Israel’s supporters everywhere for their moral blindness, sign on to the many petitions and letters to politicians that circulate on the internet. In general, make ourselves known, make our position known, and make noise!

Jeff Gore is a freelance journalist based in Athens, GA. He is a frequent contributor to the Athens weekly Flagpole Magazine and has also written articles for Dissident Voice and The Comment Factory. His journal of his summer spent in Palestine can be read at holylanddispatches.blogspot.com . He can be reached at jgore00@gmail.com.

Why I disrupted Olmert

By Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 23 October 2009

Protesters demonstrated in the rain outside of the University of Chicago lecture hall where activists inside disrupted Olmert's speech, 15 October 2009. (Maureen Clare Murphy)

If former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had merely been a diplomat or an academic offering a controversial viewpoint, then interrupting his 15 October speech at University of Chicago's Mandel Hall would certainly have been an attempt to stifle debate (Noah Moskowitz, Meredyth Richards and Lee Solomon, "The importance of open dialogue," Chicago Maroon, 19 October 2009). Indeed, I experienced exactly such attempts when my own appearance at Mandel Hall last January, with Professor John Mearsheimer and Norman Finkelstein, was constantly interrupted by hecklers.

But confronting a political leader suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity cannot be viewed the same way.

The report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict last winter, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, found that Israel engaged in willful, widespread and wanton destruction of civilian property and infrastructure, causing deliberate suffering to the civilian population. It found "that the incidents and patterns of events considered in the report are the result of deliberate planning and policy decisions" and that many may amount to "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity." If that proves true, then the individual with primary responsibility is Ehud Olmert, who, as prime minister and the top civilian commander of Israel's armed forces, was involved in virtually every aspect of planning and execution.

The killings of more than 3,000 Palestinians and Lebanese during Olmert's three years in office are not mere differences of opinion to be challenged with a polite question written on a pre-screened note card. They are crimes for which Olmert is accountable before international law and public opinion.

Israel, unlike Hamas (also accused of war crimes by Goldstone), completely refused to cooperate with the Goldstone Mission. Instead of accountability, Olmert is, obscenely, traveling around the United States offering justifications for these appalling crimes, collecting large speaking fees, and being feted as a "courageous" statesman.

In their 20 October email to the University of Chicago community, President Robert Zimmer and Provost Thomas Rosenbaum condemned the "disruptions" during Olmert's speech. "Any stifling of debate," they wrote, "runs counter to the primary values of the University of Chicago and to our long-standing position as an exemplar of academic freedom."

Was it in order to promote debate that the University insisted on pre-screening questions and imposed a recording ban for students and media? In the name of promoting debate, will the University now invite Hamas leader Khaled Meshal -- perhaps by video link -- to lecture on leadership to its students, and offer him a large honorarium? Can we soon expect Sudan's President Omar Bashir to make an appearance at Mandel Hall?

When I and others verbally confronted Olmert, we stood for academic freedom, human rights, and justice, especially for hundreds of thousands of students deprived of those same rights by Olmert's actions.

During Israel's attack on Gaza last winter, schools and universities were among the primary targets. According to the Goldstone report, Israeli military attacks destroyed or damaged at least 280 schools and kindergartens. In total, 164 pupils and 12 teachers were killed, and 454 pupils and five teachers injured.

After the bombing, Olmert and Israel continued their attack on academic freedom, blocking educational supplies from reaching Gaza. Textbooks, notebooks, stationery and computers are among the forbidden items. In September, Chris Gunness, spokesman for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, publicly appealed to Israel to lift its ban on books and other supplies from reaching Gaza's traumatized students.

Israel destroyed buildings at the Islamic University and other universities. According to the Goldstone report, these "were civilian, educational buildings and the Mission did not find any information about their use as a military facility or their contribution to a military effort that might have made them a legitimate target in the eyes of the Israeli armed forces."

Gaza's university students -- 60 percent of them women -- study all the things that students do at the University of Chicago. Their motivations, aspirations, and abilities are just as high, but their lives are suffocated by unimaginable violence, trauma, and Israel's blockade, itself a war crime. Olmert is the person who ordered these acts and must be held accountable.

Crimes against humanity are defined as "crimes that shock the conscience." When the institutions with the moral and legal responsibility to punish and prevent the crimes choose complicit silence -- or, worse, harbor a suspected war criminal, already on trial for corruption in Israel, and present him to students as a paragon of "leadership" -- then disobedience, if that is what it takes to break the silence, is an ethical duty. Instead of condemning them, the University should be proud that its students were among those who had the courage to stand up.

For the first time in recorded history, an Israeli prime minister was publicly confronted with the names of his victims. It was a symbolic crack in the wall of impunity and a foretaste of the public justice victims have a right to receive when Olmert is tried in a court of law.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. This article was originally published in the University of Chicago's Chicago Maroon newspaper

UNRWA official: Israeli refusal to allow stationary into Gaza illogical

GAZA, (PIC)-- An UNRWA official in Gaza criticised the Israeli occupation for not allowing stationary and textbooks into the Gaza Strip describing this action as illogical and unacceptable.

Adnan Abu Hasna, spokesman for the UNRWA is Gaza said on Thursday that hundreds of thousands of Palestinian school-children are affected by this Israeli ban on stationary and textbooks to schools.

He said that even when stationary is found in some shops, it is too expensive for parents, who are unemployed and are suffering because of the bad economic situation, to buy for their children.

Abu Hasna expressed astonishment at the Israeli insistence to ban the entry of these materials asking: "What is the link between stationary and textbooks and the security of Israel?!"


Allied Strategy at Risk as Afghan Police Run Out of Recruits

Low Pay, Dangerous Conditions a Recipe Most Afghans Eager to Avoid

by Jason Ditz, October 22, 2009

US efforts to dramatically expand Afghanistan’s domestic security forces are running into a brick wall as officials say they simply aren’t able to recruit enough people to meet the Western goals.

Perhaps even more worrisome is that about a third of the police force is quitting now in any given year, so the recruitment effort is having a hard enough time replacing the outgoing police, let alone adding to the force.

It’s not hard to see why. Afghan police make only $120 a month and are often placed on the front lines of the nation’s security, facing some of the most dangerous conditions possible. In the end only the desperate are willing to take such low paying jobs.

The low pay is likely also a source corruption, as $120 a month is only about half of what is required to support a family, and it is generally understood that recruits will make up the different with bribes. As one of the trainers put it “the best we can hope for is that if they are taking bribes, at least they know it’s wrong.”

But likely the ones who know it’s wrong are the ones leaving in droves, and those remaining are either those incapable of doing any better or those that have found ways to supplant their meager income in one of the most corrupt governments on earth. This is likely part of the reason why Western officials aren’t even willing to hazard a guess how much longer this war will take.


Barak Breaks the Israeli Silence on Iran Nuclear Deal

Al Manar

23/10/2009 A senior European Union official told Israeli officials this week that “Israel” is not privy to the details of the exchanges between Iran and the Western countries regarding its nuclear program. “You do not understand the extent to which you are not in the picture. You do not know how much you do not know and what is happening in Iran,” he said.

Accordingly, a number of senior Israeli officials backed the European official’s statements by saying that the release of the draft of an agreement with Iran caught Israel by surprise. However, a senior official in the U.S. administration told Haaretz Thursday that from the minute the talks began on a deal over the uranium enrichment program of Iran, Israel was updated on every detail by the United States, and was given detailed reports on the talks with the Iranians and the ongoing dialogue on a nearly daily basis.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Bureau refused to comment.

However, Defense Minister Ehud Barak broke Israel’s official silence on a draft plan under which most of its enriched uranium will be exported abroad for processing into a form usable in its research reactor, saying there was a need to halt all uranium enrichment on Iranian soil.

“Iran received legitimization for enriching uranium for civilian purposes on its soil, contrary to the understanding that those negotiating with it have about its real plans – obtaining nuclear [weapons] capability,” Barak said. He acknowledged that the deal, if signed, would significantly reduce Iran’s stock of enriched uranium, but said what is needed is a complete halt to its enrichment program.

“The talks [with Iran] must be of short, limited duration,” he added. “The principle we are recommending to all the players is not, under any circumstances, to remove any option from the table.”

Iran is slated to sign the agreement Friday, along with the United States, France, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Many details of the agreement have not yet been published, but the bits released to the public call for Iran to transfer about 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium – about 75 percent of its known stock – to Russia. There, it will be enriched to a level of 20 percent and then transferred to France, where it will be processed into nuclear fuel and returned to Tehran for use in its research reactor, which makes medical isotopes. The entire process will take about 18 months.