November 21, 2009
November 21, 2009
'Israel is the light onto the nations’ says the Torah. Indeed it is, and not just because the Torah says so. Israel is ahead of everyone else in many fronts. Take for instance, terrorizing civilian populations and practicing some of the most devastating murderous tactics upon elders, women and young.
The Jerusalem post reported yesterday that the Chairman of NATO's Military Committee, Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, visited Israel earlier this week to study "IDF tactics and methods that the military alliance can utilise for its war in Afghanistan." A senior Israeli defence official added "The one thing on NATO's mind today is how to win in Afghanistan…Di Paola was very impressed by the IDF, which is a major source of information due to our operational experience."
I would advise both the Israeli official and Admiral Di Paola to slightly curb their enthusiasm. The IDF didn’t win a single war since 1967. Yes, it murdered many civilians, it flattened many cities, it starved millions, it has been committing war crimes on a daily basis for decades and yet, it didn’t win a war. Thus, the IDF cannot really teach NATO how to win in Afghanistan. If NATO generals are stupid enough to follow IDF tactics, like the Israeli generals, they will start to see the charges of war crimes pile up against them. They may even be lucky enough to share their cells with some Israelis in due course, once justice is performed.
Admiral Di Paola spent two days with the infamous IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the man who led the IDF into Gaza last December.
In the Jewish state they were very enthusiastic with Admiral Di Paola’s visit. They regarded it as just another reassurance of 'business as usual. The visit of a NATO high supreme official was there to convince them that no one takes note of the Goldstone report. "Di Paola's visit is significant" says the Jerusalem Post, "since it comes at a time when the IDF is under increasing criticism in the wake of the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead as well as a decision by Turkey - a NATO member - to ban Israel from joint aerial exercises."
However, it would be crucial to elaborate on the emerging mutual interests between the two parties, Israel and NATO. "During their meeting on Wednesday, Ashkenazi and Di Paola discussed ways to upgrade Israeli-NATO military ties as well as the plan to include an Israeli Navy vessel in Active Endeavor, a NATO mission established after the 9/11 attacks under which NATO vessels patrol the Mediterranean to prevent illegal terror trafficking". This is indeed a necessary move for the Israelis. At the moment the Israeli Navy is operating in the Mediterranean as a bunch of Yiddish Pirates (Yidisshe Piraten), assaulting, hijacking and robbing vessels in international waters. Once operating under the NATO flag, the Israelis would be able to terrorise every vessel in the high seas in the name of the 'West’. For the Jewish state this would be a major step forward. Until now the Israelis have been committing atrocities in the name of the Jewish people. Once operating under the NATO flag, the Israelis will be able to perform their piracy in the name of 'Europe’. Such a move is further evidence of the spiritual and ideological transition within Zionism from 'promised land’ into 'promised planet’.
While the Israelis desperately need NATO’s legitimacy, NATO is far more modest. All it needs is knowledge and tactics. For some reason it insists on learning from the Israelis how to inflict pain on a civilian population. More pain, that is, than it is already making. "NATO's Defence officials said that Di Paola used his meetings with the IDF to learn about new technology that can be applied to the war in Afghanistan". The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel is a "known world leader in the development of specialized armor to protect against improvised explosive devices (IEDs), otherwise known as roadside bombs." This is indeed the case. Israeli generals realised a long time ago that their precious young soldiers prefer to hide in their tanks rather than engage with the 'enemy’ i.e. the civilian population, kids, elders and women. But it doesn’t stop there, Di Paola was also interested in "Israeli intelligence-gathering capabilities and methods that the IDF uses when operating in civilian population centers." Di Paola noted that "NATO and the IDF were facing similar threats - NATO in Afghanistan and Israel in its war against Hamas and Hizbullah."
I would suggest to Admiral Di Paola to immediately read the Goldstone report thoroughly, so he grasps his own personal legal consequences once he starts to implement 'Israeli tactics’. If Admiral Di Paola wants to serve his army, he should indeed visit Israel, he should also meet every war criminal both in the military and politics so he knows exactly what NOT to do.
NATO’s chances of winning in Afghanistan are not limited, they are actually exhausted. It can only lose. Some military analysts and veteran generals argue that it is lost already. NATO has brought enough carnage on the Afghani people without achieving any of its military or political goals. Given that Israel was severely humiliated in Lebanon in 2006 by a tiny paramilitary Hizbullah and failed to achieve its military goals in Operation Cast Lead in its genocidal war against Hamas, there is nothing for NATO to learn from the Israelis. Should NATO proceed in implementing added IDF tactics, all it will achieve is a dramatic reduction of security across Europe and America.
If we are concerned with peace and we want it to prevail, what we have to do is to move away as far as we can from any spiritual, ideological, political and military affiliation with Zionism, Israel and its lobbies. If 'Israel’ is indeed a 'light onto the nations’, someone better explain to us all, why its prospect of peace is becoming slimmer and darker.
My answer is actually simple. Israel can be easily seen as the 'light of nations’ as long as you learn from Israel what not to do. In fact this is the message passed to us by the great humanist prophets Jesus and Marx. Love your neighbour, be among others, transcend yourself beyond the tribal into the realm of the universal. In fact this is exactly what the Israelis fail to grasp. For some reason, they love themselves almost as much as they hate their neighbours.
If Admiral Di Paola wants to win the hearts and the minds of the Afghani people (rather than 'winning a war’), he should first learn to love. This is something he won’t learn in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Gaza, Ramallha and Nablus are more likely.
by Adam Horowitz on November 20, 2009
We’ve been following J Street’s attempts to counteract the growing BDS movement. First there was its aborted release of a public letter criticizing the Toronto Declaration. Then there was the workshop at its student conference called “Reckoning with the Radical Left on Campus: Alternatives to Boycotts and Divestments." The workshop didn’t go quite as planned either as many students who attended actually offered their support for divestment campaigns targeting the Israeli occupation. You would think these two initial missteps would lead J Street to reconsider which way the wind is blowing. Nope.
J Street is now working to undermine the National Campus Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Conference that will be held this weekend at Hampshire College. The conference is being called to build "a coordinated national BDS campaign," and J Street seems to feel threatened by this. Yesterday the organization sent the following email out to its student wing:
From: "Tal Schechter, J Street U"
Date: November 19, 2009 2:49:07 PM PST
Subject: Invest, Don’t Divest!
Invest, Don’t Divest!
This weekend, a bunch of students espousing that same, tired old narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a zero-sum game will converge on Hampshire College (my campus) — and I’m pretty concerned.
The upcoming conference promotes the misguided Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. This movement is spreading like wild fire on campuses across the country and we’re all going to get burned unless we speak out now.
We should be investing – not divesting – in our campus debate, in our communities and in the people who will bring about change in the region.
That’s why J Street U is launching an "Invest, Don’t Divest" campaign today to raise money for two organizations — LendforPeace.org, a Palestinian microfinance organization set up by students like us, and The Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development, which promotes Jewish-Arab Economic Cooperation in Israel.
We’re setting a goal of recruiting 500 students like you by the end of the semester to pitch in $2 each (2 bucks for 2 states!) to support economic stability for all Israelis and Palestinians. Will you do your part right now and ask your friends to do the same?
Donating just $2 might not seem like much – but if hundreds, maybe thousands, of students like us make this "$2 for 2 states" statement together, we’ll really show the media and campuses around the country that there is a strong and growing alternative on campus to the tired debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And it’s exactly the right amount to ask for from cash-strapped students like us.
Let’s be honest: we have already divested from this issue too much.
When debate becomes too heated, we divest from each other and stop listening. When we feel at odds with our traditional institutions’ message, we divest from our communities and tune out. When the conflict seems too confusing, we divest from the issue entirely and leave the conversation to the extremists.
Divestment defies common sense: Not only are the Israeli and Palestinian economies deeply intertwined, but so too are the fates of both peoples and their prospects for real peace and security.
If it is peace through a two-state solution and security for both Israelis and Palestinians that we want, divestment won’t get us there.
To Jewish Israelis, divestment only reinforces the notion that they are constantly under attack, creating an environment in which it is harder to achieve peace, not easier. 
For Palestinians who already suffer from a weak economy, divestment only puts their society more at risk. 
Investing in economic stability and cooperation will help set the context for a sustainable peace, but it won’t lead to a two state solution in and of itself. That’s why we need to invest in a campus movement that advocates for peace and social justice in Israel, the future state of Palestine and across the Middle East.
Check out our website to find out the many ways you can invest in this issue on your campus.
* Table on campus and ask other students to donate 2$ for two states
* Write an op-ed to your campus paper about why we need to invest, not divest
* Organize a discussion with other groups on campus about why a broad debate is important
* Turn a push for divestment into a drive for socially responsible investment
* Enter our t-shirt design contest. If you win, we will order t-shirts with your design from Israeli and Palestinian companies for students to sell on their campuses.
Thank you for helping us build a movement that takes constructive steps towards a peaceful and sustainable two-state solution.
J Street U National Board Member
Co-Founder of Students Promoting Israeli Culture and Information (SPICI) at Hampshire College
November 19, 2009
J Street U is the campus address for Middle East peace and security.
Lots to comment on here, but I’ll leave it at a few thoughts. This campaign is pretty indicative of the liberal Zionist take on BDS – it’s dismissive and condescending towards the strategy without making a real argument against it or offering a meaningful alternative. There is a debate to be had over whether BDS is an effective strategy towards peace, but simply labeling the movement "misguided" without saying why, or using cute puns on the word "divest" don’t really cut it. Some are trying to have this debate in a meaningful way. Hopefully J Street will follow that example and present its case in a more substantial way in the future.
It is also odd how much this campaign seems to mirror Benjamin Netanyahu’s "economic peace" proposal, which puts off forming a Palestinian state in favor of building the Palestinian economy. Divestment is about holding Israel accountable because no other body is willing to do so. Investing in Palestinian businesses is a nice idea, but does not do anything to shift the equation or provide the political pressure needed to create change. J Street seems to acknowledge this itself: "Investing in economic stability and cooperation will help set the context for a sustainable peace, but it won’t lead to a two state solution in and of itself. That’s why we need to invest in a campus movement." Frankly that gives this email the tone of an alarmist fundraising campaign for J Street–stoking the fear of marauding hordes of divesting students ("This movement is spreading like wild fire on campuses across the country and we’re all going to get burned unless we speak out now.")
J Street says it wants to promote an "alternative on campus to the tired debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Good luck to them. From where I’m sitting it seems like BDS is that alternative. But maybe holding a t-shirt contest will suffice.
(JTA) -- Canada's opposition Liberal Party is crying foul after the ruling Conservatives mailed out flyers extolling themselves as stronger supporters of Israel.
Barbs flew in the House of Commons Thursday after the taxpayer-funded leaflets were sent to electoral districts with high concentrations of Jewish voters in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. The mailings accuse the Liberals of participating in the 2001 UN anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa, which the pamphlets described as "overtly anti-Semitic," and of supporting Hamas and Hezbollah.
The flyers also attacked Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff for accusing Israel of committing war crimes in its 2006 war with Hezbollah.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives, meantime, were lauded for refusing to take part in the Durban II conference, spurning terrorist groups, and osupporting Israel's right to self-defense in 2006. The pamphlets ask voters to choose which federal leader "is on the right track to represent and defend the values of Canada's Jewish community."
Liberal MPs denounced the mailings as propaganda filled with half-truths. They pointed out that many nations, including the United States and Israel, attended at least part of the Durban I conference, and that it was Canada that helped blunt the language in the final communiqué to Israel's satisfaction.
The Liberals also point out it was they who listed Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations in 2002.
The mailings are "totally misleading [and] false," Montreal MP Irwin Cotler, a former federal minister of justice, told the Toronto Star. They "basically seek to associate the Liberal party with anti-Semitism. This is shocking ... this has no place in Canadian politics."
But Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney denied the government was suggesting the Liberals were anti-Semitic. "Anyone who's suggesting that is being completely over the top and mischievous," he told reporters. "These are facts. They are on the record. They [Liberals] are uncomfortable with that."
Karen Mock, a Liberal candidate in the heavily-Jewish neighborhood of Thornhill, north of Toronto, attended the Durban I meeting as part of the Canadian delegation and as chair of the International Jewish Caucus.
"That the Tories feel Jewish voters are so gullible as to accept second-hand information and divisive propaganda on these important issues is outrageous," she said.
Other opposition parties denounced the mailings as a new low in partisan politics in Canada.
by Jeffrey Blankfort on November 20, 2009
From the American Jewish Committee:
An AJC leadership delegation has concluded a four-day visit to Madrid , where it met with Spanish government officials, media and Jewish community leaders.
AJC´s interlocutors included Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos; Secretary General of the Presidency Bernardino Leon, the key foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Zapatero; Javier Moreno, director of the leading Spanish newspaper El Pais; the leadership of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain (FCJE); and American and Israeli diplomats.
“As Spain assumes the EU presidency in January, consultation with key Spanish officials is particularly constructive,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who led the delegation. “Spain will be counted upon to lead Europe in standing firm against Iran´s nuclear ambitions.”
November 20, 2009 16:18:42 EST
LOS ANGELES — The military’s top officer in charge of nuclear weapons issued a warning Thursday about the state of the nation’s nuclear programs, saying that new nuclear weapons need to be developed and lamenting the declining numbers of nuclear experts and scientists.
Calling the nuclear arsenal the foundation of the nation’s strategic deterrence capability, Gen. Kevin Chilton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said the military must invest more in the nuclear enterprise.
“First we need to fix the infrastructure that supports our nuclear stockpile,” said Chilton, speaking at an Air Force Association conference in Los Angeles. But “we can’t just continue to sustain [Cold War weapons] in our inventory. … It’s a new world in the 21st century, and we need weapons that were designed for and support the needs of the 21st century.”
Of particular concern, Chilton said, is the deterioration of the nation’s nuclear laboratories, which he called “decrepit.” These laboratories must be modernized in order to attract and retain the scientists needed to sustain a weapons program, he said.
He also said that since the U.S. no longer tests nuclear weapons, the nation must continue to invest in an aggressive stockpile management program to ensure that existing weapons remain reliable and safe.
Chilton warned that the community of nuclear experts has become dangerously small and the military has failed to replenish the talent pool since the 1980s and 1990s.
“We have skipped a generation,” he said. “We’ve got to do something about that.”
An alternative way to frame the issue would be that the bi-partisan consensus for U.S. energy policy is to direct resources toward developing new nuclear technologies, exactly what the Obama State Department is threatening war against Iran to prevent it from having access to.
“Restarting the nuclear power industry is very important in our overall plan to reduce carbon emissions in this country. From me, you are not going to get any reluctance. As you may know, I think that nuclear power is going to be a very important factor to getting us to a low carbon future.”“The Department of Energy is doing with its tools everything it can to restart the American nuclear industry. With the loan guarantees, we are pushing as hard as we can on that. We are going to be investing in the future in bettering the technologies and quite frankly, we want to recapture the lead in industrial nuclear power. We've lost that lead as we've lost the lead in many areas of energy technology and we need to get it back.”
November 20, 2009
A friendly game between an Arab soccer team and a Palestinian team was supposed to inaugurate the new stadium being built in the eastern part of Al-Bireh, near Ramallah, at the end of the year. "Supposed to" because the Civil Administration, an arm of the Defense Ministry, has ordered that the work be halted and is threatening demolition.
FIFA, the international soccer federation, financed the stadium as part of a larger program to promote Palestinian soccer. The stadium covers 11 dunams (2.75 acres) and will hold 8,000 seats. An Israeli contractor, in partnership with a Dutch company and a Palestinian subcontractor, constructed the field.
In October 2008, when the field was ready, FIFA president Joseph Blatter and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad laid the cornerstone for the stadium. The governments of France and Germany are paying for the construction of stands. The outer wall, the lighting and the scoreboard are being financed by the Al-Bireh municipality, which owns the land and within whose jurisdiction the stadium is located.
In 1973, the municipality submitted for the approval of the IDF a detailed plan for the area where the stadium is now located. It received final approval from Israel's National Planning and Building Council and Supreme Planning Council in 1981. Nevertheless, on October 11 of this year, Israeli soldiers and representatives of the Civil Administration showed up at the site. They arrived via the neighboring Jewish settlement of Psagot, which overlooks Palestinian neighborhoods and was built on Al-Bireh land. They delivered a stop-work order from the administration to one of the workers (whose name was handwritten, in Hebrew, on it).
On November 1, the municipality received a "final" stop-work order - addressed anonymously to "the holder," from "the Supreme Planning Council's building inspection subcommittee," and issued by "Assaf."
The document claims that work on the stadium's stands is being carried out "without a license," and contains other standard admonitions: "You were given an opportunity to appear before the inspection subcommittee to state your case. The subcommittee has concluded that the aforementioned work was carried out without proper permission ... You are hereby obligated, in accordance with section .... of the 1966 City, Village and Buildings Planning Law, to cease activity upon and use of said land, and to raze the building ... and to restore the location to its previous state within 7 days ... If you do not act as required, all legal means will be taken against you, including demolition of the structure and any means required to restore the situation to its prior state, at your expense."
A German source has told Haaretz: "This could become a major diplomatic issue between Germany and Israel. Just imagine: A German-financed project being torn down. It would definitely be a political scandal."
Blots on the landscape
Why is the Civil Administration concerned with a soccer stadium located within Al-Bireh's municipal boundaries, which the IDF itself approved nearly 30 years ago?
It emerges that some of the land in question, which the municipality designated for a school and other public buildings in the early 1970s, had the misfortune to later be defined as being in Area C (see box). Amid the 11,000 dunams (2,750 acres) that fall within the city's bounds, there are several such Area C "blotches" - for the most part, in areas close to where the settlements of Psagot and Beit El, as well as IDF and Civil Administration bases, were built, on the lands of Al-Bireh and Ramallah. The headquarters of Jawal (the Palestinian cell-phone company) is located in Area C, as is the house of Dr. Samih Al-Abed, who heads the Palestinian team at the territory and border negotiation committee. Even part of the residence of PA President Mahmoud Abbas is in Area C.
The Al-Bireh municipality has not, however, received any maps from Israel demarcating the exact location of the parts of the town defined as Area C. Their location has been surmised, based on the tabu (Land Registry) documents submitted to the municipality, as per the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement: The lots for which the Civil Administration did not submit documents to the city are understood to belong to Area C. But Area C is not a planning designation, per se.
"[It is] a political designation, which was supposed to be temporary - to last just 18 months," explained Al-Abed, an architect and city planner, and a former senior official in the Palestinian Planning Ministry.
"It is unjust, unreasonable and unfair to have to request and to wait for an Israeli license to build within the blotches of Area C that are within approved and recognized municipal areas," he said this week, pointing out that, "It is Al-Bireh that provides all services to the citizenry, including those bits of Area C that are in the municipal area: cleaning, garbage collection, maintenance, renovations, construction."
Musa Jwayyed, the Al-Bireh city engineer, says that over the years, various structures have been built in areas within the municipal borders that are apparently part of Area C, and that the city has also carried out the necessary infrastructure work in those areas, including preparation of a sewerage network, and the paving of roads and sidewalks - without requesting licenses from the Civil Administration.
Jwayyed: "Al-Bireh has another 18,000 dunams [4,500 acres] outside the municipal boundaries. Settlements sit on some of them, and the rest are private lands or our own land reserves. There I know I must have Israeli approval and coordination: such as for the renovation of the slaughterhouse, for reaching the municipal garbage-disposal site, for construction of a water-purification plant. But the stadium is located within the municipal boundaries that the IDF approved."
The question is: Why, all of a sudden, more than three years after construction of the entire project began and 10 months after construction of the stands started, has the Civil Administration decided to halt the work?
Ziv Nishri, the Israeli contractor who built the field, said in a telephone conversation: "The army knew about the project because it's impossible to do anything without the Civil Administration's approval. FIFA is the body dealing with the foreign minister. Without the umbrella of the Foreign Ministry, the army and the Civil Administration, nothing would be happening here."
When Nishri heard about the stop-work order this week, he was very surprised. "The plans for the stands are at least two years old. Even before we started on the project, I had the general plans for the stands, because we designed the field to fit them."
Officials at Al-Bireh city hall see a connection between the stop-work order, and the Palestinian refusal to return to the negotiating table as long as Israel does not freeze construction in the settlements, as well as the recent announcement by Prime Minister Fayyad of the planned consolidation of various Palestinian state institutions. The officials and local activists agree with Samih al-Abed when he says: "This is a typical kind of Israeli pressure, which means: 'Either you go back to negotiations or we'll punish you. We'll do whatever we can to upset your lives.'"
The coordinator of government activities in the territories responded to Haaretz: "Recently, there have been meetings and discussions between representatives of the Civil Administration and Palestinians at the very highest level, with the goal of resolving the issue of the construction of the Al-Bireh stadium. This has been in the wake of the official measures taken against the construction that was undertaken without the proper permits and in an illegal location. The Civil Administration is working with the civil-affairs ministry of the Palestinian Authority to prepare and submit an amendment to the existing zoning plan, and following that, the possibility of a permit, in principal, for the continuation of construction will be considered."
By Eva Bartlett - November 21, 2009
East of Gaza city, on some of Gaza’s most fertile land, little to nothing is growing, and what had grown has been repeatedly mowed down over the years by Israeli military bulldozers and tanks.
I am re-visiting the region to record farmers’ words on a vital issue: water. Their wells and cisterns have also been bulldozed, pumps and motors destroyed. In some areas there is a complete lack of water; in another region east of Beit Hanoun there’s just one water source.
We see the remains of pumps, some destroyed in prior Israeli invasions, the majority destroyed (again) in the last Israeli attack, the winter massacre of Gaza.
A cascade of house roofs and beams is nothing new, and taking the photo is more of habit than of awe.
Stopping for tea at one of the farmer’s houses, I expore what’s left of their farm livelihood. They are among the hundreds who have had their citrus, olive, and other fruit trees razed, their wells destroyed, their land polluted by chemical weapons.
I’m interested in bees, and want to know more about their small-scale honey production.
Turns out it used to be much larger: in 2004 they had 250 boxes of bees, each box containing up to 8 slots of bee hives (imagine a picture frame filled with honeycomb). These were destroyed when the Israeli bulldozers cut through their land.
Prior to the winter massacre, they had 80 boxes. But after the rockets and phosphorous, 15 boxes of bees perished. Along with the razed trees, bees and honey production in general got worse and worse, the bees no longer finding the flowers needed to sustain themselves.
The farm also lost 25 sheep during the massacre, I’m told.
Two handsome camels remain: a mother and her 8 month old son.
As we walk past more of the same: artfully destroyed homes, Mahdi, a Beit Hanoun resident, mentions that his family also kept bees. 500 boxes. All were lost in 2003 when the Israeli dozers came. His family has been raising bees for three decades, but with that invasion it came to an abrupt halt.
They did try again, he said. Two months ago they re-started their bee tending, but all the bees died, for want of flowers, trees, sustenance.
We won’t bother anymore, he told me. There are no trees in the area. Everything has been razed.
November 18, 2009
AS Police try to establish reports of a downed plane in the Boho area on Thursday of last week, the British Army has denied that it was one of their drones.
However, an army spokesperson confirmed that the skies over north Fermanagh and west Tyrone are hosting 'rest of world' night time flight training for RAF and British Army Air Corps pilots.
A police spokesman referred enquiries about 'drones' in the sky at night to the British Army Press Office. He said that police were keen to speak to anyone who was flying in the Boho area on Thursday around the time of the 'loud bang' reports to contact them so they can be ruled out of their enquiries about a downed plane.
A British Army spokesman insisted that there was no training with unmanned drones: "Absolutely not. We don't train with drones. I don't know where they do most of their training, but I would suggest the Salisbury Plain.
Ironically, it was on Thursday night of last week that residents in an area embracing Enniskillen, Lisbellaw and Ballinamallard first heard the sound of an invisible aircraft. Then, on Friday and Saturday nights, residents in an area extending from Trillick through Irvinestown and across Lower Lough Erne were also treated to the same phenomenon. In all cases, witnesses described the sound as 'a continuous drone'.
The British Army spokesman told the 'Herald' that these were 'rest of world' operations by pilots of aircraft heading to war zones, including Afghanistan.
"As you know, with Northern Ireland being part of the UK, there is low level flying required to be done. A lot of that training, by the RAF and Army Air Corps, is done at night in order to replicate what they'll be doing overseas.
"You're talking about certain areas of, say, Afghanistan. You have desert and arid areas and, then you have areas which are lush and full of forests and green fields, so by flying around parts of Fermanagh and Tyrone you're making the exercise as relevant as possible."
The spokesman went on: "They can't do this during the day, but the guys have to get training. They can't do it in areas of light pollution and there's not much use doing it in built-up areas, such as towns and cities as this reduces the usefulness of flying by night.
"The pilots do try to change the areas they use for training so that nobody is getting grief. For instance, they use the Sperrins one week and the next week or the week after some other place. No, I don't know how long this will go on for."
Asked about one report that the training aircraft are equipped with heat-seeking equipment, the spokesman said this was 'unlikely'. "It's not something we talk about."
He was then asked to comment on one report that wind farms in the training areas are now fitted with beacons to avoid a collision.
"This would be a matter for the Civil Aviation Authority. It has got nothing to do with us. The CAA give directions for high structures and for emergency vehicles such as police, ambulance and fire tenders, or, say, the Harland and Wolff crane."
Ulster Unionist Councillor Alex Baird, who is a former civil representative with the Northern Ireland Office, said while he appreciates that the Ministry of Defence or the Royal Air Force are entitled to use the Fermanagh skies, he believes they should have been proactive in briefing public representatives about when this is going to happen.
Meanwhile, DUP Minister Arlene Foster explained: "Both Councillor Bert Johnston and myself received many calls over the weekend about the noise and length of time a night flying aircraft circled in parts of Fermanagh.
"I made contact with St Angelo Airport late on Sunday after residents in Lisbellaw expressed concern to me. The staff at St Angelo were very helpful and explained it was a military aircraft. This information was then shared around the community. I understand that many in the communities, both in Ballinamallard and Lisbellaw, were concerned at the length of time this aircraft was circling and of the noise generated from it," she continued.
"The NIO have explained there was a military training exercise in the area and that it is now finished. I was pleased both Bert and I were able to reassure the communities we represent, and my thanks go to the staff at St Angelo Airport for their assistance in getting the correct information via ourselves to the concerned residents who accepted the information we gave them."
Meanwhile, éirígí Fermanagh chairperson, Kevin Martin has expressed concern at the increasing level of British military activity in the county.
He commented: "In recent months, undercover British soldiers, who are most likely attached to the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, have also been active at PSNI checkpoints and in raids in the county.
"Yet again we are witnessing the consequence of Britain's continued involvement in Ireland. Despite the claims that the British army was going with the ending of Operation Banner in 2007, it is obvious that they are here to stay."
Mr Martin said that British military activity in Fermanagh, whether it be in training exercises or in operations against Irish citizens, was completely unacceptable: "éirígí will continue to actively oppose the British military presence in Fermanagh and across the Six Counties."
Iran's 'Rejection' Apparently Greatly Exaggerated
The persistent reports of Iran’s final rejection of the draft third party enrichment proposal has been greatly exaggerated, it would seem, and officials are scrambling to put forth a last ditch effort to rescue the proposal.
The P5+1 is reportedly expressing disappointment that Iran hasn’t approved the deal yet, and IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei expressed hope that Iran would take a “minimum risk” in the interests of peace and still approve the deal.
At the same time ElBaradei is urging Western officials to hold off on their oft-threatened sanctions against Iran, saying there was still time to rescue the deal.
The nuclear deal has been hugely controversial inside Iran, with many officials expressing doubts about France’s involvement in the third party enrichment process. Iran has sought to alter the deal to a direct exchange, which has met with Western opposition.
by Al Jazeera
A joint Afghan-Nato raid has outraged Afghan villagers, who claim innocent civilians were killed.
The operation took place in the village of Haiderabad in Ghazni province early on Friday morning.
David Chater reports.
Five senior Palestinian General Intelligence Service officers have been detained by Israeli forces near the West Bank village of Salfit in an overnight raid.
The detainees include Salfit region intelligence commander Mohammad Abdel Hamid.
The Israeli military has also demanded the Palestinians hand over an additional officer who was not apprehended.
A Palestinian security source said the Friday morning arrests were apparently made in the wake of an investigation being carried out by the General Intelligence Service against a man suspected of collaboration with Israel.
The PA assumes that the arrests are another attempt by Tel Aviv to dampen PA clout in light of the political row between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Palestinian Authority however said that they are in contact with Israel in a bid to secure the release of those arrested.
The Friday morning detentions are made at a critical juncture in relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Acting PA Chief Mahmoud Abbas said Friday in an interview with the BBC Arabic service that there would be no peace talks with Israel as long as settlement construction continued. He also implied that his people might adopt a new type of struggle against the occupation.
"Those who have to resist are the people, and there are different types of resistance, like in Bilin and Naalin, where people are injured every day," he said.
November 20, 2009
Norman Finkelstein: Hamas is not obliged under international law to accept the legitimacy of the state of Israel.
If you go back, for example, 1947 Gandhi said he’ll accept the reality of Pakistan, but he would never accept the legitimacy of the state of Pakistan.
Hamas is not expected to be held to a higher level of diplomacy than Gandhi.
Gandhi said: ‘Pakistan is a reality which I’m forced to accept, but I don’t accept it as legitimate.’ And that’s the same position of Hamas. They said we’ll solve the conflict on the June ‘67 border.
Adam Holm: This is what makes Jerusalem wary of Hamas because they keep saying how can we have a neighbor which doesn’t recognize our legitimacy.
Norman Finkelstein: But you see the problem is; listen to yourself,.. your own language..
You’re just spouting Israeli propaganda.
Why are you saying ‘Jerusalem’?
East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory under international law, that was the ruling of the International Court of Justice since July 2004, and if you look at the Goldstone Report that just came out a month ago, they refer to East-Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian territory.
But now you’ve given over Jerusalem to the Israelis.
You’re just repeating Israeli propaganda; they have no title under international law to east Jerusalem.
Tip of the hat to Pulse Media
By Eva Bartlet - November 20, 2009
At 8:30 on November 15, a number of young men went as usual to the land near Gaza’s northern border with Israel, intending to catch birds. Amjad Hassanain, 27, was among the bird-catchers hunting near the border fence when Israeli soldiers began shooting.
The shots which missed the other bird-catchers hit Hassanain, grazing his shoulder.
Cameraman Abdul Rahman Hussain, filming in the vicinity, reports having seen the group of bird-catches head north.
“We were near the former Israeli settlement of Doghit,” said Hussain, referring to the area northwest of Beit Lahia in Gaza’s north.
“I had gone to the border area to photograph a young bird-catcher. We were about 400 m from the border fence, but when we heard the shooting, we moved back to around 1 km.”
According to Hussain, the other men had to carry the wounded Hassanain 1 km from the site of injury, then transferred him to a motorcycle and finally to a car.
“He was covered in blood, I couldn’t tell where he was hit,” said Hussain.
Hussain, there to document the work of bird-catchers, was surprised by the shooting.
“They always go there to catch birds. They put their nets close to the fence in order to catch as many as possible.” Like the bird-catchers, Hussain believed the Israeli soldiers along the border were familiar enough with the bird catching activity that they wouldn’t shoot.
Two hours later, Mahmoud Mohammed Shawish Zaneen and seven other farmers took a break from their work plowing land east of Beit Hanoun.
“We had three tractors with us. We’d been working since 8 am, planting wheat. At first we worked about 450 metres from the border fence, but later we were 700 metres away.”
The farmers had paused to drink tea when Israeli soldiers began shooting.
“The tractors were stopped and we were sitting on them. There were about seven Israeli soldiers, on foot. They shot the other tractors and then shot mine. They didn’t give us any warning, just started shooting.”
The bullet which pierced Zaneen’s left calf continued into his right calf.
Since the end of the Israeli massacre of Gaza last winter, at least nine Palestinians have been killed, and another more than thirty-four injured, by Israeli shooting and shelling in the border areas in Gaza’s north and east.
Ahmed Sourani, of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC) has long been aware of the impact the Israeli-imposed “buffer zone”, a north-south width of 150 metres from the border fence at inception a decade ago. Currently, Israeli authorities warn that anyone within 300 metres of the border fence risks being shot.
Not only is the agricultural land within 300 metres of the border rendered off-limits, but also that of adjacent land, also subject to Israeli shooting.
Following the Israeli massacre of Gaza last winter, Sourani said that “PARC is fearful that the Israelis will extend that military zone to reach 2 km or more to the east and 3 km to the north, then turn it into a de facto situation.”
The impact on the agricultural industry of the Israeli-led siege on Gaza, the Israeli massacre of Gaza, and the imposition of the “buffer zone” has been profound:
International bodies cite 60,000-75,000 dunams [1 dunam is 1000 square metres] of farmland they say is now damaged or unusable.
World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said anywhere from 35 percent to 60 percent of the agriculture industry was destroyed by Israel’s attacks on Gaza.
Mahmoud Zaneen, still recovering from his injuries, says that his family of four has lost its only source of income.
“I usually work every day, if I can. I make 50 shekels per day.”
Until his legs recover, the family will be minus even that meagre salary. But Zaneen, despite his injuries, is determined to return to the fields.
“If there is work, I’ll go again.”
Nazareth - November 20, 2009
A plan by right-wing legislators in Israel to commemorate the anniversary this month of the death of Meir Kahane, whose banned anti-Arab movement is classified as a terrorist organization, risks further damaging the prospects for talks between Israel and the Palestinians, US officials have warned.
A move to stage the commemoration in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is being led by Michael Ben-Ari, who was elected this year and is the first self-declared former member of Kahane’s party, Kach, to become a legislator since the movement was banned 15 years ago.
The US Embassy, in Tel Aviv, has sent a series of e-mails to Reuven Rivlin, the parliamentary speaker, asking that he intervene to block the event.
According to US officials, pressure is being exerted on behalf of George Mitchell, the US president Barack Obama’s envoy to the region, who is concerned that it will add to his troubles as Israeli and Palestinian leaders clash over a possible move by the Palestinians to issue a unilateral declaration of statehood.
Some Israeli legislators have warned that Mr Ben-Ari and his supporters are gaining a stronger foothold in parliament, in an indication of the country’s increasing lurch rightwards.
“Ben-Ari and the advisers he has brought with him are unabashed representatives for Kach and Kahane’s ideas,” said Ahmed Tibi, an Arab legislator and the deputy speaker. “What we have is in effect a terrorist cell in the parliament.”
Kahane, a US rabbi who emigrated to Israel in the early 1970s, advocated the expulsion of all Arabs from “Greater Israel”, an area that the far right believes encompasses not only Israel but also the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and parts of neighbouring Arab states.
Kahane was elected to parliament in 1984 but was barred from standing again four years later. He was assassinated by an Egyptian-American in New York in November 1990.
In 1994 Kach was declared a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States after Baruch Goldstein, a supporter, went on an armed rampage through the Ibrahimi mosque in the Palestinian city of Hebron, killing 29 worshippers and injuring 150.
Despite the ban, Kach is still active in many West Bank settlements, especially in and around Hebron, where shrines to Kahane and Goldstein regularly attract large numbers of devotees.
Mr Ben-Ari, one of four members of the National Union elected to the 120-seat parliament, has included as his parliamentary advisers two former Kach activists, Baruch Marzel and Itimar Ben Gvir, who are leaders of the far-right Jewish National Front. Mr Ben-Ari has never disavowed his support for Kahane, telling the Jerusalem Post newspaper this month that Kahane “dedicated his whole life to Israel … He was a great man and a great leader.”
This month Mr Ben-Ari was the voice on an advertisement on the Israeli radio station Reshet Bet to promote a public memorial service for Kahane held by his family. It was also reported that for the first time posters had been placed in many central areas of Jerusalem publicising the event and declaring “We all know now – Meir Kahane was right”.
The United States has expressed more concern, however, at a commemoration being planned in parliament.
Michael Perlstein, the second secretary at the US Embassy, is reported to have e-mailed Mr Rivlin several times, asking whether the commemoration was likely to be approved. According to e-mails leaked to the Israeli media, he added: “This is something Senator Mitchell and his team are following with some concern.”
An embassy spokesman reiterated those concerns last week: “To stir up controversy at the same time that we are trying to get people back to the [negotiating] table, is not productive of that effort. It is only natural that Senator Mitchell would be paying attention to that – and the US government as well.”
Mr Rivlin has reassured the United States that he has refused Mr Ben-Ari permission to stage a commemoration but has also admitted that it would be difficult for him to stop a “stunt” by Kahane supporters in the chamber.
“We are talking about a provocation,” Mr Rivlin told the Haaretz newspaper. “The man [Kahane] and his outlawed movement cannot be separated. This is an attempt to bring the Kach movement into the Knesset through the back door.”
Last week, Mr Ben-Ari appealed against the speaker’s decision to the House Committee, which rules on issues of parliamentary procedure. Mr Rivlin has said he will abide by the committee’s decision.
Its chairman, Yariv Levine of the ruling Likud Party, said he was not happy with Mr Rivlin’s refusal and is reported to be working with the speaker and Mr Ben-Ari to find a solution.
Mr Ben-Ari responded angrily to the US concern: “I was elected to the Knesset by citizens of the independent state of Israel. The flagrant involvement of Mitchell has crossed a red line and it testifies to the bowed head of the Knesset speaker that is turning the Knesset into a dish rag.”
Mr Ben-Ari is probably not the only former member of Kach in parliament. Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister and leader of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, the third largest in parliament, is believed to have joined Kach when he first arrived in Israel in the 1970s. His membership was revealed in February by Yossi Dayan, the movement’s former secretary general.
Last week Mr Ben-Ari had to cancel a trip to the United States, his first overseas visit, after he was refused a US visa. He had intended to speak to American Jewish groups to encourage emigration to Israel.
To date, the only authorized parliamentary commemorations are for Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister assassinated by a right-wing Jew in 1995, and for Rehavam Zeevi, a former general and leader of a far-right anti-Arab party, who was assassinated by Palestinian gunmen in 2001.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.
A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae)
By hosting an event in support of Hebron settlers at Citi Field, the New York Mets are supporting terrorism. (Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages)
When I first learned that the New York Mets were hosting a fundraiser for the nonprofit Hebron Fund at Citi Field in support of the Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, I honestly assumed it was a joke, albeit a poor one. When I realized this was an actual, planned event, I still found it almost impossible to believe. This is because, even aside from the devastating impact of settlement expansion on the prospects for peace in the region, I have had the misfortune to see, repeatedly and at first hand, the fruits of the Hebron Fund's labors.
During the summers of 2005 and 2006, and very briefly in 2008, I spent several weeks working as a human rights observer in the Tel Rumeida section of Hebron, home of the Beit Hadassah and Tel Rumeida settlements that are supported by The Hebron Fund. During that time, I encountered racist graffiti with such statements as "Gas the Arabs" and "Fatimah, we will rape all Arab women." I repeatedly observed settlers throwing stones and clods of earth at young Palestinian girls on their way to elementary school; yelling racial epithets at Palestinians walking in the streets; pushing, kicking, and spitting on Palestinian children and (occasionally) adults who were quietly minding their own business; and hurling large stones down on Palestinian homes and residents from settlement balconies.
I have witnessed this behavior by men and women, boys and girls, from pre-school-aged children to middle-aged adults. I was myself assaulted, on Shabbat, by a group of six teenage settlers, when I came between them and their intended victim, an elderly Palestinian woman who also happened to be the proud mother of a US Navy fighter pilot (the picture of her son standing by his plane was prominently displayed on her living room wall). The settler youths then turned to attack my companion, a young Scandinavian woman who was videotaping the original assault. I have heard and read numerous, credible reports of far worse violence than I personally experienced from other human rights observers, who were in the area for different and/or longer periods.
The Hebron settlers engage in this violence for the express purpose of driving out Palestinian families from Tel Rumeida, site of the Cave of Machpelah, or Cave of the Patriarchs, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims. Settler leaders have said as much in at least one published interview, and a young man from the Beit Hadassah settlement confirmed it to my face in September 2006. The settlers' efforts have been remarkably successful: of more than 600 Palestinian families originally living in the neighborhood, probably less than 100 remained when I was last there in 2008. If the settlers continue to receive free reign, and full funding, we may soon add a new chapter of completed ethnic cleansing to the troubled history of this ancient city.
According to the US Code, Title 22, Chapter 38, S 2656f, our country defines terrorism as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents." The Hebron settlers' violence is certainly premeditated. It is, by their own admission, politically motivated. It is perpetrated solely against noncombatant targets (overwhelmingly children), and it is obviously the work of a subnational group -- the settlers themselves.
The business of the Hebron settlers is terrorism, pure and simple; not quasi-terrorism, crypto-terrorism, neo-terrorism, potential terrorism, or something akin to terrorism, but the very thing itself. And the business of the Hebron Fund is funding terrorism. This does not mean that all, or even most, donors knowingly support these actions; many may be innocent victims misled by the fund's innocuous marketing materials. Although the fund's staff and Board member attempt to maintain a cloak of respectability, they are another matter entirely.
This year's Hebron Fund dinner will "honor" Hebron settler and spokesman Noam Arnon (whose picture is featured with other "Hebron Fund and Hebron Community Leaders" on the Hebron Fund website). In 1990, Arnon told Israel Radio that three Jewish militants, convicted of car-bombings that killed three Palestinians and maimed two Palestinian mayors, were "heroes" who sacrificed themselves "for the security of Jews." In 1995, Arnon was further quoted by the Associated Press when he called Baruch Goldstein, another settler who slaughtered 29 Palestinians at prayer in Hebron and injured more than 100 others, an "extraordinary person" denied "historical justice."
The 2008 Hebron Fund dinner honored Board member Myrna Zisman, who accepted her award on behalf of Yifat Alkoby, an "extraordinary woman" who received international attention in 2006 when she was videotaped repeatedly calling a Palestinian woman and her daughters whores and telling them to stay in their "cage," as the family sought refuge in their own home, with bars on the windows to protect them from recurring settler attacks.
I could say something about how the Mets, as a treasured New York City institution, shouldn't be lending their facilities, or their name, to such practices, and that would certainly be true. I could say something about the extraordinary irony of such an event being held on top of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, and that would be true as well. Yet the larger truth is that no American team, no American business, and no American individual should be providing material support for terrorism, or assisting those who provide such support. Unless and until the Mets reverse their terribly ill-considered decision to host this event, that is precisely what they have chosen to do.
Aaron Levitt is a member and past board member of West End Synagogue in Manhattan, a member of Jews Against the Occupation (JATO), and is presently Director of Research at a large New York City social services agency. Levitt has been working in support of a just peace in Israel/Palestine for the past seven years. He can be contacted at aaronjlevitt A T gmail D O T com.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei says he does not want to see fresh sanctions imposed on Iran.
Speaking on Friday in Berlin, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei expressed hope that Iran would agree to an international nuclear fuel proposal, which is said to be aimed at resolving a long-standing dispute over the country's nuclear program.
"We have not received any written response from Iran. What I got of course is an oral response, which basically said 'we need to keep all the material in Iran until we get the fuel,'" ElBaradei said.
"I hope to get an answer soon, within the next week or so," he added.
The IAEA chief was referring to a proposal put forward to the Tehran government by major powers in Geneva on October 19, suggesting that Iran sends the bulk of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) stockpile out of the country in exchange for metal fuel rods for its Tehran medical research reactor.
While Iran said that it would accept the essential elements of the UN offer, it sought modifications to the formula.
Arguing that a guarantee for the fuel supply is the core concern for Iran, nuclear officials in the Islamic Republic say Tehran wants its enriched uranium stockpile kept in a room inside the country sealed by the UN nuclear watchdog.
Iranian officials say that once the nuclear fuel is supplied to Iran, the agreed amount of LEU can be taken out of the country as part of the deal.
ElBaradei went on to warn the West against imposing new sanctions on the Islamic Republic, saying the move would prompt the Tehran government to further toughen its stance on its nuclear program.
"We got a positive response from the Russians and the Americans and the French who also said that they are ready to help and that, I thought, is a unique opportunity to move from sanctions and confrontation to the process of building confidence and trust," the outgoing head of the UN nuclear watchdog said.
November 18, 2009
[Muammar Gaddafi] warned the other assembled leaders at the [World Summit on Food Security] that foreign companies that are procuring massive tracts of farmland in Africa are becoming the continent's “new feudal lords," reports Reuters.
“In Africa, foreign investors buy farmland, transforming themselves into new feudal lords against whom we must fight,” Gaddafi said at the summit. Indeed many are calling the ominous development a massive "land grab," and the UK's Times Online went so far as to dub it "modern imperialism."
Monsanto has abandoned its ambitious plans for two types of a so-called "second generation GM crop" rather than accede to a request from European regulators for additional research and safety data.
Monsanto has informed the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that it no longer wishes to pursue its application for approval of GM maize LY038 and the stacked variety LY038 x MON810. Both of these varieties were designed to accelerate the growth rate of animals. Two letters were sent to EFSA from the Monsanto subsidiary company Renessen at the end of April this year confirming the withdrawal of its applications originally submitted in 2005 and 2006. The letters cite "decreased commercial value worldwide" and state that the high-lysene varieties "will no longer be a part of the Renessen business strategy in the near future." There has been no announcement of these decisions on the Monsanto web site, and there are no mentions on EFSA or European Commission web sites either.
In other words, there is a conspiracy of silence involving both the applicants and the regulators.
The two letters sent to EFSA in April requested the return of all dossier material (varietal characterization, experimental protocols, and test results) which was submitted with the applications for cultivation, animal feed and human food. EFSA acceded to this request, making it impossible for any future independent researchers to analyse the Monsanto / Renessen data.
Scientists who have followed these two applications are quite convinced that the "decisions to withdraw" have nothing to do with commercial considerations and everything to do with food safety. In other words, the varieties are too dangerous to be allowed onto the open market. Objections came from scientists at the Canterbury University's Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety (INBI), New Zealand, who warned that the new corn was not safe for humans when cooked. They also expressed concerns about unpredictable health effects, increased levels of toxins in high- lysene corn, and possible allergies and links to cancer.
INBI's concerns were supported by some European countries, which prompted the EFSA to ask for new trials and adherence to the rules of the Codex Alimentarius, thus forcing Monsanto to withdraw its request under the pretext of a "decreased commercial value".
A collision between a nuclear-powered US Navy submarine and a US warship in the Strait of Hormuz was caused by "catastrophic failure" in management, a US Navy report says.
US Navy investigators found that "ineffective and negligent" management and the failure of navigation practices were to blame for a March 2009 collision between the USS Hartford and the USS New Orleans, an amphibious vessel.
"This incident comes down to weak and complacent leadership, which led to inadequate planning and preparation of the crew," the Navy Times said in its report.
Commander of US Fleet Forces Command Adm. John C. Harvey Jr. endorsed the findings of the report and described the collision as "avoidable."
"Correction of any one of nearly 30 tactical and watchstander errors, or adherence to standard procedure, could have prevented this collision," he was quoted by AFP as saying.
"In this case, the command team failed to do so, and a high price has been paid for that shortcoming," he explained.
Fifteen sailors aboard the submarine were injured. One of the diesel tanks of the New Orleans was ruptured, which resulted in an oil spill of approximately 25,000 gallons (90,000 liters) of diesel fuel.
The collision also inflicted hefty financial damages at a time when the United States is still recovering from recession. The USS Hartford is undergoing an extensive repair, which is expected to cost about USD 100 million, while the USS New Orleans suffered damages worth USD 2.3 million.
The Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway between Iran and Oman, connects the Persian Gulf with the Sea of Oman. Nearly 40 percent of the world's crude oil passes through this waterway.
ASTANA, Kazakhstan — On Nov. 16, Kazakh Environmental Defence Minister Nurlani Ashimov announced before the deputies of the lower house of parliament that the former Daryal-U firing range (used by Russia until 2003) would be declared an ecological disaster area. He said there was a risk that poisonous substances left at the firing range could spread over a wider area.
According to the minister, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) seeped into the walls of the warehouse, where the toxic condensers were kept. He declared that an emergency would allow Interior Ministry forces to be deployed to the firing range, both to protect local residents and carry out an investigation into the causes of the seepage.
The inquiry may be connected with a sentence handed down on Oct. 16 to former Environmental Defence Minister Nurlan Iskakov, who was found guilty of abuse of office in connection with the spending of approximately US$6.7 million that had been earmarked for demolishing Daryal-U. Iskakov’s appeal of his four-year sentence will be heard on Dec. 9.
Ashimov added that after his department received the necessary financing, the warehouses would be dismantled, transferred to a remote location and completely buried.
The condensers are to be dismantled by a German firm that earlier removed some of them from Daryal-U. The minister said he understood the remaining condensers would be transported to Germany for dismantling by the end of the year, at the expense of German investors.
[KazTAG.kz, Azattyq.org, NewsKaz.ru] Source
The logo of the World Council of Churches (WCC)
WCC declared that the expansion of the Israeli settlements "may destroy any chance for peace", AFP reported.
Secretary General Reverend Samuel Kobia called on organizations related to the Council "to act with resolve, in concert ... to reverse this decision of the Israeli government and the settlement program it represents."
Israel on Wednesday announced that it will build 900 new homes in east Jerusalem Al-Quds, which it occupied in 1967.
Expressing "great disappointment", Kobia said the leading council of Christian and Orthodox churches "strongly condemns the decision ... to expand the illegal Gilo settlement as we believe that this decision will hinder attempts now in process to restart the peace negotiations."
"If settlements continue to expand and proliferate, they will further complicate negotiations and may destroy any chance for peace" Kobia said in a statement.
The WCC brings together 348 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican churches representing about 560 million Christians in 110 countries.
November 19, 2009
by Matthew Cole and Brian Ross
The CIA built one of its secret European prisons inside an exclusive riding academy outside Vilnius, Lithuania, a current Lithuanian government official and a former U.S. intelligence official told ABC News this week.
Where affluent Lithuanians once rode show horses and sipped coffee at a café, the CIA installed a concrete structure where it could use harsh tactics to interrogate up to eight suspected al-Qaeda terrorists at a time.
"The activities in that prison were illegal," said human rights researcher John Sifton. "They included various forms of torture, including sleep deprivation, forced standing, painful stress positions."
Lithuanian officials provided ABC News with the documents of what they called a CIA front company, Elite, LLC, which purchased the property and built the "black site" in 2004.
Lithuania agreed to allow the CIA prison after President George W. Bush visited the country in 2002 and pledged support for Lithuania's efforts to join NATO.
"The new members of NATO were so grateful for the U.S. role in getting them into that organization that they would do anything the U.S. asked for during that period," said former White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, now an ABC News consultant. "They were eager to please and eager to be cooperative on security and on intelligence matters."
Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite declined ABC's request for an interview.
ABC News first reported that Lithuania was one of three eastern European countries, along with Poland and Romania, where the CIA secretly interrogated suspected high-value al-Qaeda terrorists, but until now the precise site had not been confirmed. Read that report here.
Until March 2004, the site was a riding academy and café owned by a local family. The facility is in the town of Antaviliai, in the forest 20 kilometers northeast of the city center of Vilnius, near an exclusive suburb where many government officials live.
A "Building Within A Building"
In March 2004, the family sold the property to Elite, LLC, a now-defunct company registered in Delaware and Panama and Washington, D.C. That same month, Lithuania marked its formal admission to NATO.
The CIA constructed the prison over the next several months, apparently flying in prefabricated elements from outside Lithuania. The prison opened in Sept. 2004.
According to sources who saw the facility, the riding academy originally consisted of an indoor riding area with a red metallic roof, a stable and a cafe. The CIA built a thick concrete wall inside the riding area. Behind the wall, it built what one Lithuanian source called a "building within a building."
On a series of thick concrete pads, it installed what a source called "prefabricated pods" to house prisoners, each separated from the other by five or six feet. Each pod included a shower, a bed and a toilet. Separate cells were constructed for interrogations. The CIA converted much of the rest of the building into garage space.
Intelligence officers working at the prison were housed next door in the converted stable, raising the roof to add space. Electrical power for both structures was provided by a 2003 Caterpillar autonomous generator. All the electrical outlets in the renovated structure were 110 volts, meaning they were designed for American appliances. European outlets and appliances typically use 220 volts.
The prison pods inside the barn were not visible to locals. They describe seeing large amounts of earth being excavated during the summer of 2004. Locals who saw the activity at the prison and approached to ask for work were turned away by English-speaking guards. The guards were replaced by new guards every 90 days.
Former CIA officials directly involved or briefed on the highly classified secret prison program tell ABC News that as many as eight suspects were held for more than a year in the Vilnius prison. Flight logs viewed by ABC News confirm that CIA planes made repeated flights into Lithuania during that period. In November 2005, after public disclosures about the program, the prison was closed, as was another "black site" in Romania.
Lithuanian Prison One of Many Around Europe, Officials Said
The CIA moved the so-called High Value Detainees (HVD) out of Europe to "war zone" facilities, according to one of the former CIA officials, meaning they were moved to the Middle East. Within nine months, President Bush announced the existence of the program and ordered the transfer of 14 of the detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, Ramzi bin al Shihb and Abu Zubaydah, to Guantanamo.
In August 2009, after ABC News reported the existence of the secret prison outside Vilnius, Lithuanian president Grybauskaite called for an investigation. "If this is true," Grybauskaite said, "Lithuania has to clean up, accept responsibility, apologize, and promise it will never happen again."
At the time, a Lithuanian government official denied that his country had hosted a secret CIA facility. The CIA told ABC News that reporting the existence of the Lithuanian prison was "irresponsible" and declined to discuss the location of the prison.
On Tuesday, the CIA again declined to talk about the prison. "The CIA's terrorist interrogation program is over," said CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano. "This agency does not discuss publicly where detention facilities may or may not have been."
Former CIA officials told ABC News that the prison in Lithuania was one of eight facilities the CIA set-up after 9/11 to detain and interrogate top al-Qaeda operatives captured around the world. Thailand, Romania, Poland, Morocco, and Afghanistan have also been identified as countries that housed secret prisons for the CIA. President Barack Obama ordered all the sites closed shortly after taking office in January.
The Lithuanian prison was the last "black" site opened in Europe, after the CIA's secret prison in Poland was closed down in late 2003 or early 2004.
"It obviously took a lot of effort to keep [the prison] secret," said John Sifton, whose firm One World Research investigates human rights abuses. "There's a reason this stuff gets kept secret."
"It's an embarrassment, and a crime."
|The PA leadership in Ramallah is leading the Palestinian movement of independence to a dead end with its proposed unilateral call for Palestinian statehood. (Thaer Ganaim/MaanImages)|
From a rumor, to a rising murmur, the proposal floated by the Palestinian Authority's (PA) Ramallah leadership to declare Palestinian statehood unilaterally has suddenly hit center stage. The European Union, the United States and others have rejected it as "premature," but endorsements are coming from all directions: journalists, academics, nongovernmental organization activists, Israeli right-wing leaders (more on that later). The catalyst appears to be a final expression of disgust and simple exhaustion with the fraudulent "peace process" and the argument goes something like this: if we can't get a state through negotiations, we will simply declare statehood and let Israel deal with the consequences.
But it's no exaggeration to propose that this idea, although well-meant by some, raises the clearest danger to the Palestinian national movement in its entire history, threatening to wall Palestinian aspirations into a political cul-de-sac from which it may never emerge. The irony is indeed that, through this maneuver, the PA is seizing -- even declaring as a right -- precisely the same dead-end formula that the African National Congress (ANC) fought so bitterly for decades because the ANC leadership rightly saw it as disastrous. That formula can be summed up in one word: Bantustan.
It has become increasingly dangerous for the Palestinian national movement that the South African Bantustans remain so dimly understood. If Palestinians know about the Bantustans at all, most imagine them as territorial enclaves in which black South Africans were forced to reside yet lacked political rights and lived miserably. This partial vision is suggested by Mustafa Barghouthi's recent comments at the Wattan Media Centre in Ramallah, when he cautioned that Israel wanted to confine the Palestinians into "Bantustans" but then argued for a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood within the 1967 boundaries -- although nominal "states" without genuine sovereignty are precisely what the Bantustans were designed to be.
Apartheid South Africa's Bantustans were not simply sealed territorial enclaves for black people. They were the ultimate "grand" formula by which the apartheid regime hoped to survive: that is, independent states for black South Africans who -- as white apartheid strategists themselves keenly understood and pointed out -- would forever resist the permanent denial of equal rights and political voice in South Africa that white supremacy required. As designed by apartheid architects, the ten Bantustans were designed to correspond roughly to some of the historical territories associated with the various black "peoples" so that they could claim the term "Homelands." This official term indicated their ideological purpose: to manifest as national territories and ultimately independent states for the various black African "peoples" (defined by the regime) and so secure a happy future for white supremacy in the "white" Homeland (the rest of South Africa). So the goal of forcibly transferring millions of black people into these Homelands was glossed over as progressive: 11 states living peacefully side by side (sound familiar?). The idea was first to grant "self-government" to the Homelands as they gained institutional capacity and then reward that process by declaring/granting independent statehood.
The challenge for the apartheid government was then to persuade "self-governing" black elites to accept independent statehood in these territorial fictions and so permanently absolve the white government of any responsibility for black political rights. Toward this end, the apartheid regime hand-picked and seeded "leaders" into the Homelands, where they immediately sprouted into a nice crop of crony elites (the usual political climbers and carpet-baggers) that embedded into lucrative niches of financial privileges and patronage networks that the white government thoughtfully cultivated (this should sound familiar too).
It didn't matter that the actual territories of the Homelands were fragmented into myriad pieces and lacked the essential resources to avoid becoming impoverished labor cesspools. Indeed, the Homelands' territorial fragmentation, although crippling, was irrelevant to Grand Apartheid. Once all these "nations" were living securely in independent states, apartheid ideologists argued to the world, tensions would relax, trade and development would flower, blacks would be enfranchised and happy, and white supremacy would thus become permanent and safe.
The thorn in this plan was to get even thoroughly co-opted black Homeland elites to declare independent statehood within "national" territories that transparently lacked any meaningful sovereignty over borders, natural resources, trade, security, foreign policy, water -- again, sound familiar? Only four Homeland elites did so, through combinations of bribery, threats and other "incentives." Otherwise, black South Africans didn't buy it and the ANC and the world rejected the plot whole cloth. (The only state to recognize the Homelands was fellow-traveler Israel.) But the Homelands did serve one purpose -- they distorted and divided black politics, created terrible internal divisions, and cost thousands of lives as the ANC and other factions fought it out. The last fierce battles of the anti-apartheid struggle were in the Homelands, leaving a legacy of bitterness to this day.
Hence the supreme irony for Palestinians today is that the most urgent mission of apartheid South Africa -- getting the indigenous people to declare statehood in non-sovereign enclaves -- finally collapsed with mass black revolt and took apartheid down with it, yet the Palestinian leadership now is not only walking right into that same trap but actually making a claim on it.
The reasons that the PA-Ramallah leadership and others want to walk into this trap are fuzzy. Maybe it could help the "peace talks" if they are redefined as negotiations between two states instead of preconditions for a state. Declaring statehood could redefine Israel's occupation as invasion and legitimize resistance as well as trigger different and more effective United Nations intervention. Maybe it will give Palestinians greater political leverage on the world stage -- or at least preserve the PA's existence for another (miserable) year.
Why these fuzzy visions are not swiftly defeated by short attention to the South African Bantustan experience may stem partly from two key differences that confuse the comparison, for Israel has indeed sidestepped two infamous fatal errors that helped sink South Africa's Homeland strategy. First, Israel did not make South Africa's initial mistake of appointing "leaders" to run the Palestinian "interim self-governing" Homeland. In South Africa, this founding error made it too obvious that the Homelands were puppet regimes and exposed the illegitimacy of the black "national" territories themselves as contrived racial enclaves. Having watched the South Africans bungle this, and having learned from its own past failures with the Village Leagues and the like, Israel instead worked with the United States to design the Oslo process not only to restore the exiled leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its then Chairman Yasser Arafat to the territories but also to provide for "elections" (under occupation) to grant a thrilling gloss of legitimacy to the Palestinian "interim self-governing authority." It's one of the saddest tragedies of the present scenario that Israel so deftly turned Palestinians' noble commitment to democracy against them in this way -- granting them the illusion of genuinely democratic self-government in what everyone now realizes was always secretly intended to be a Homeland.
Only now has Israel found a way to avoid South Africa's second fatal error, which was to declare black Homelands to be "independent states" in non-sovereign territory. In South Africa, this ploy manifested to the world as transparently racist and was universally disparaged. It must be obvious that, if Israel had stood up in the international stage and said "as you are, you are now a state" that Palestinians and everyone else would have rejected the claim out of hand as a cruel farce. Yet getting the Palestinians to declare statehood themselves allows Israel precisely the outcome that eluded the apartheid South African regime: voluntary native acceptance of "independence" in a non-sovereign territory with no political capacity to alter its territorial boundaries or other essential terms of existence -- the political death capsule that apartheid South Africa could not get the ANC to swallow.
Responses from Israel have been mixed. The government does seem jumpy and has broadcast its "alarm," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has threatened unilateral retaliation (unspecified) and government representatives have flown to various capitals securing international rejection. But Israeli protests could also be disingenuous. One tactic could be persuading worried Palestinian patriots that a unilateral declaration of statehood might not be in Israel's interest in order to allay that very suspicion. Another is appeasing protest from that part of Likud's purblind right-wing electorate that finds the term "Palestinian state" ideologically anathema. A more honest reaction could be the endorsement of Kadima party elder Shaul Mofaz, a hardliner who can't remotely be imagined to value a stable and prosperous Palestinian future. Right-wing Israeli journalists are also pitching in with disparaging but also comforting essays arguing that unilateral statehood won't matter because it won't change anything (close to the truth). For example, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened unilaterally to annex the West Bank settlement blocs if the PA declares statehood, but Israel was going to do that anyway.
In the liberal-Zionist camp, Yossi Sarid has warmly endorsed the plan and Yossi Alpher has cautiously done so. Their writings suggest the same terminal frustration with the "peace process" but also recognition that this may be the only way to save the increasingly fragile dream that a nice liberal democratic Jewish state can survive as such. It also sounds like something that might please Palestinians -- at least enough to finally get their guilt-infusing story of expulsion and statelessness off the liberal-Zionist conscience. Well-meaning white liberals in apartheid South Africa -- yes, there were some of those, too -- held the same earnest candle burning for the black Homelands system.
Some otherwise smart journalists are also pitching in to endorse unilateral statehood, raising odd ill-drawn comparisons -- Georgia, Kosovo, Israel itself -- as "evidence" that it's a good idea. But Georgia, Kosovo and Israel had entirely different profiles in international politics and entirely different histories from Palestine and attempts to draw these comparisons are intellectually lazy. The obvious comparison is elsewhere and the lessons run in the opposite direction: for a politically weak and isolated people, who have never had a separate state and lack any powerful international ally, to declare or accept "independence" in non-contiguous and non-sovereign enclaves encircled and controlled by a hostile nuclear power can only seal their fate.
In fact, the briefest consideration should instantly reveal that a unilateral declaration of statehood will confirm the Palestinians' presently impossible situation as permanent. As Mofaz predicted, a unilateral declaration will allow "final status" talks to continue. What he did not spell out is that those talks will become truly pointless because Palestinian leverage will be reduced to nothing. As Middle East historian Juan Cole recently pointed out, the last card the Palestinians can play -- their real claim on the world's conscience, the only real threat they can raise to Israel's status quo of occupation and settlement -- is their statelessness. The PA-Ramallah leadership has thrown away all the other cards. It has stifled popular dissent, suppressed armed resistance, handed over authority over vital matters like water to "joint committees" where Israel holds veto power, savagely attacked Hamas which insisted on threatening Israel's prerogatives, and generally done everything it can to sweeten the occupier's mood, preserve international patronage (money and protection), and solicit promised benefits (talks?) that never come. It's increasingly obvious to everyone watching from outside this scenario -- and many inside it -- that this was always a farce. For one thing, the Western powers do not work like the Arab regimes: when you do everything the West requires of you, you will wait in vain for favors, for the Western power then loses any benefit from dealing more with you and simply walks away.
But more importantly, the South African comparison helps illuminate why the ambitious projects of pacification, "institution building" and economic development that the Ramallah PA and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have whole-heartedly embarked upon are not actually exercises in "state-building." Rather, they emulate with frightening closeness and consistency South Africa's policies and stages in building the Bantustan/Homelands. Indeed, Fayyad's project to achieve political stability through economic development is the same process that was openly formalized in the South African Homeland policy under the slogan "separate development." That under such vulnerable conditions no government can exercise real power and "separate development" must equate with permanent extreme dependency, vulnerability and dysfunctionality was the South African lesson that has, dangerously, not yet been learned in Palestine -- although all the signals are there, as Fayyad himself has occasionally admitted in growing frustration. But declaring independence will not solve the problem of Palestinian weakness; it will only concretize it.
Still, when "separate development" flounders in the West Bank, as it must, Israel will face a Palestinian insurrection. So Israel needs to anchor one last linchpin to secure Jewish statehood before that happens: declare a Palestinian "state" and so reduce the "Palestinian problem" to a bickering border dispute between putative equals. In the back halls of the Knesset, Kadima political architects and Zionist liberals alike must now be waiting with bated breath, when they are not composing the stream of back-channel messages that is doubtless flowing to Ramallah encouraging this step and promising friendship, insider talks and vast benefits. For they all know what's at stake, what every major media opinion page and academic blog has been saying lately: that the two-state solution is dead and Israel will imminently face an anti-apartheid struggle that will inevitably destroy Jewish statehood. So a unilateral declaration by the PA that creates a two-state solution despite its obvious Bantustan absurdities is now the only way to preserve Jewish statehood, because it's the only way to derail the anti-apartheid movement that spells Israel's doom.
This is why it is so dangerous that the South African Bantustan comparison has been neglected until now, treated as a side issue, even an exotic academic fascination, to those battling to relieve starvation in Gaza and soften the cruel system of walls and barricades to get medicine to the dying. The Ramallah PA's suddenly serious initiative to declare an independent Palestinian state in non-sovereign territory must surely force fresh collective realization that this is a terribly pragmatic question. It's time to bring closer attention to what "Bantustan" actually means. The Palestinian national movement can only hope someone in its ranks undertakes that project as seriously as Israel has undertaken it before it's too late.
Virginia Tilley is a former professor of political science and international relations and since 2006 has served as Chief Research Specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa. She is author of The One-State Solution (U of Michigan Press, 2005) and numerous articles and essays on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Based in Cape Town, she writes here in her personal capacity and can be reached at vtilley A T mweb D O T co D O T za.