Showing posts with label Civil Liberties. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Civil Liberties. Show all posts

October 29, 2009

UK: Over 60 face charges from anti-Israel protests

London - IRNA - 10/28/09 - A total of 63 people are due to appear in court later this week on charges arising out of demonstrations in London against Israel’s slaughter of over 1,300 Palestinians in Gaza at the turn of the year.

Most are charged under the country’s Public Order Act with using or threatening violence during two mass protest marches in January that culminated at the Israeli Embassy.

According to the Jewish Chronicle, all the cases will be heard at West London Magistrates’ Court on Thursday and Friday. Police were said to be still seeking another 17 people in connection with incidents that occurred.

The protests were parts of nationwide demonstrations, marches and rallies held around the UK at the height of Israel’s latest blitzkrieg attacks on Gaza.

Violence occurred at the embassy during clashes with anti-riot police. Several protesters complained to the Muslim News about the intimidation provoked by police charging the protest march in a tunnel on the way to the embassy.

More speech silencing: Michigan Student Assembly votes gag rule

October 29th, 2009

From Blaine in Michigan: Last night, the Michigan Student Assembly (MSA), a University of Michigan body, violated the Open Meetings Act, the First Amendment, and the university's Standard Practice Guide.

Look at today's Michigan Daily article, and judge for yourself:

Shocked by recent comments seeking to boycott Israel, the MSA voted for a Gag Rule.

That Gag Rule outlaws all public comments, uttered by any community member, unless they are pre-certified by an executive board to be "relevant to students".

The MSA also moved its meeting, for this vote, to a building up on North Campus, to ensure no one would even show up to complain.

The Michigan Daily editors had campaigned loudly for this Gag Rule, so great was their outrage that Gaza had been discussed at past MSA meetings, as Israel carried out massacres in the Gaza Strip.

Now Israel is free to massacre Gaza again without worrying about back-talk from anyone in the MSA meetings.

Here is the Boycott-Israel resolution that pained MSA so much that they shut down the First Amendment:

MSA Resolution to Boycott Apartheid Israel, and to Stop Apartheid on Campus

Resolution Summary:

  1. Boycott all Israeli products.
  2. Take that $1 trillion you’re spending to kill Muslims, and spend it instead on re-building Detroit.
  3. Stop 400 years of White Privilege—the University should admit every Black high school graduate.

Boycott all Israeli products

WHEREAS, White Supremacism, including Zionism, is the most genocidal force on Earth,

WHEREAS, Congress has paid $300 billion to Israel, according to Congressman John Dingell,

WHEREAS, Israel spent that money on a genocidal ethnic cleansing campaign against the Palestinian people, which has culminated in the Israeli siege against Gaza,

WHEREAS, Israel has forced 1.5 million Palestinians into a concentration-camp existence in Gaza, where childhood malnutrition and anemia are rampant,

WHEREAS, Israel is threatening to unleash a “Holocaust” on Gaza,

WHEREAS, Malcolm X was right— the Zionists had no “legal or moral right to invade Arab Palestine, uproot its Arab citizens from their homes and seize all Arab property for themselves”

WHEREAS, Israel’s alliance with Apartheid South Africa was "more intimate and more extensive than anything similar in Israel’s history", according to Professor Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi,

WHEREAS, Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons, which it tried to share with Apartheid South Africa,

WHEREAS, Israel is training its pilots to nuke Iran, a land of 76 million people who have never invaded anyone,

WHEREAS, Israel trained and oversaw SAVAK, the brutal force of torturers who kept the Shah of Iran in power,

WHEREAS, the United States has been bleeding Iran with economic sanctions, then with U.S.-imposed dictatorship, then with U.S.-fueled invasions, almost continuously since 1952,

WHEREAS, those economic sanctions still make it impossible for Iranians to get spare parts for any airplane, from anywhere in the world,

WHEREAS, Israel is demanding even crueler economic sanctions against Iran,

THEREFORE, the Michigan Student Assembly demands that Congress impose a total boycott against all Israeli products,

THEREFORE, we demand that Congress cut off all aid to the racist state of Israel, the last Apartheid State on Earth.

THEREFORE, we demand that the University of Michigan Board of Regents declare a boycott against all products imported from the racist state of Israel.

Take that $1 trillion you’re spending to kill Muslims, and spend it instead on re-building Detroit.

WHEREAS, Congress has spent $1 trillion to kill millions of Iraqis since 1991,

WHEREAS, Congress has killed over a million Afghans since the 1980’s, using a series of unbelievable excuses,

WHEREAS, the U.S. repeatedly bombs Somalia, using more unbelievable excuses,

WHEREAS, Senator Clinton threatens to “obliterate Iran”, and Senator McCain sings “bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran”,

WHEREAS, Senator Obama threatens to invade Pakistan, then President Bush launches military strikes directly on Pakistan,

WHEREAS, Congress’s trillion-dollar genocide against Muslim lands is conducted at the direct expense of Black America,

WHEREAS, Congress’s trillion-dollar occupation of Muslim lands is conducted at the direct expense of Black America, the Michigan Student Assembly demands that Congress immediately remove its trillion-dollar army of occupation from every nation on Earth, because that army only brings coups, torture, racism, and death to the planet;

THEREFORE, we demand that Congress immediately spend that trillion dollars, which was stolen from Black America, on the immediate rebuilding of Detroit, including mass transit that every Detroiter can walk to, including the best elementary, secondary, and university education in the nation, including the best neighborhood clinics, the best neighborhood libraries, and the best housing infrastructure in the nation, and including the necessary industrial facilities to build all of those things, and to employ every Detroiter of working age, with full union wages and benefits,

THEREFORE, we demand that Congress similarly rebuild every U.S. inner city, and that this rebuilding be directed by Black engineers, architects, professors, physicians, educators, and managers, and that this rebuilding be staffed by Black union labor, nationwide, until Black unemployment ceases to exist,

Stop 400 Years of White Privilege—

–the University should Admit every Black high school graduate.

WHEREAS, centuries of government policy, backed up by organized white violence at every level, has attempted to beat down African political power, financial power, industrial power, and landholding power, from the Congo to Chicago,

WHEREAS, Martin Luther King Jr. was right— the U.S. government is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”,

WHEREAS, the U.S. has murdered and imprisoned African and African-American leadership on a mind-boggling scale, from Lumumba in the Congo, to Mandela in South Africa, to Fred Hampton in Chicago, to Marcus Garvey, to the Orangeburg Massacre, to the Jackson State Massacre, to the U.S.-Israeli-South-African invasion of Angola in the 1970’s, to the U.S.-Israeli-South-African creation of death squads across the African continent which have murdered millions and stripped Africa of unimaginable wealth,

WHEREAS, today’s white suburban power structure was built with a trillion-dollar federal highway subsidy, and with massive governmental subsidies to build all-white suburban settlements, which have sucked the wealth and political power of Black America into virtually all-white enclaves, while barring the bulk of Black America from entry,

WHEREAS, white political, economic, employment, and educational power has always been built on massive federal subsidies, from the railroads in the 19th century, to the government-backed white academies created to suck away resources from any public educational system that might benefit Black students,

THEREFORE, the Michigan Student Assembly finds it obscene that a violent, 400-year steamroller of white privilege– where whites use the riches of Black labor to perpetuate a closed circle of privileged white university admissions, a closed circle of white business connections, a closed circle of white jobs, perpetuated by a heavily subsidized white suburban political machine,– is called a “meritocracy”, while the slightest effort to get Black students into the University is called “reverse racism”;

THEREFORE, the Michigan Student Assembly demands that the University of Michigan Board of Regents immediately guarantee admission, tuition-free, to every Black student who graduates from every Michigan high school, together with year-round tutoring for every new student who needs it;

THERFORE, we declare, in advance, a highly visible picket line and a 3-day student strike, if any state authority attempts to “stand in the schoolhouse door” to block the open admission of Black students to this University.

This Resolution was proposed for an immediate vote by the Michigan Student Assembly, at the University of Michigan.

This Resolution then was torn up by the Assembly's General Counsel, as the Michigan Daily reporter watched.

But the Resolution was again presented to the Assembly for a vote. This Resolution has also been proposed for a vote by the University's LSA Student Government.


October 27, 2009

Israelis Targeting Grassroots Activists

By Mel Frykberg

EAST JERUSALEM, Oct 27, 2009 (IPS) - Israeli authorities are increasingly targeting and intimidating non-violent Palestinian grassroots activists involved in anti-occupation activities who are drawing increased support from the international community.

Several weeks ago masked Israeli soldiers stormed the home of Ehab Jallad from The Jerusalem Popular Committee for the Celebration of Jerusalem as the Capital of Arab Culture for 2009.

"Around 3am the soldiers started kicking and banging on the door and threatened to break it down if I didn't open immediately. My young daughters were terrified as they didn't know what was happening," recalls Jallad, a young Palestinian architect from Jerusalem.

"The soldiers then proceeded to ransack my home before confiscating my laptop, several computers, files with my contacts and my ipod. When I asked them why they were doing this and told them I wanted to call my lawyer, they told me to shut up and threatened to beat me up," Jallad told IPS.

This is just the latest incident in which the Israeli authorities have arrested and taken Jallad in for questioning over his organisation of cultural events marking East Jerusalem as the capital of Arab culture. Jallad has also been monitoring the protests outside Al-Aqsa Mosque during the last few weeks.

"The Israeli officer questioning me said he knew I was in contact with the media but stated this would not help. He further warned me that I was being monitored, and if I continued with my activities my family and I would be subjected to further raids and harassment," said Jallad.

The same morning that Jallad was arrested Israeli security forces raided a warehouse used by Jerusalem community groups and cultural events organisers.

"They vandalised material we use for cultural events and confiscated other material," Jallad told IPS.

To date Jallad has not been charged with anything. But a war between Palestinians and Israeli continues unabated over Israel's continued Judaisation of East Jerusalem.

This has involved the expulsion of Palestinian residents from their homes in the eastern sector of the city and the expropriation thereof to make way for Israeli settlers.

A number of Palestinian families continue to live in tents pitched on streets outside their former homes as they watch Israeli settlers go about their daily business in their former homes.

Periodic violence between the two groups has broken out during the last few weeks with the Israeli police selectively arresting only Palestinians.

The Jerusalem Municipality has deliberately limited building permits for East Jerusalemites despite a chronic housing shortage, while the settlement of Israeli settlers in the area has been actively encouraged. Palestinian homes built without permits are regularly destroyed.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) envisions East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Under international law East Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian occupied West Bank.

The PA has tried to counter Israel's Judaisation efforts by asserting its presence in the contested part of the city. Organising cultural events has been part of the effort.

Hatem Abdul Qader, a PA official for Jerusalem Affairs, has been arrested by Israeli security forces several times over the last few months. He has also been banned from the city for several weeks on a number of occasions.

Muhammad Othman

Meanwhile, Muhammad Othman, 33, from the northern West Bank village Jayyous continues to languish in solitary confinement in a dirty Israel prison cell devoid of natural light or windows.

Othman has been labelled a "security threat" by the Israelis ever since his arrest on Sep. 22 as he crossed into the West Bank from Jordan. Othman had returned from a trip to Norway where he met with senior officials to discuss human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Norwegian government has divested its funds from Elbit, an Israeli company which supplies drones and other military technology.

During his incarceration Othman has been subjected to hours of interrogation, handcuffed, seated in stress positions and denied sleep. Like Jallad he has had no involvement in military activities which could constitute a security threat to the Jewish state. He too, has not been charged with any infringement of the law.

But Othman, a political activist, has been joining the Stop the Wall Campaign against the illegal Zufim settlement built by Russian billionaire Lev Leviev. The Stop the Wall Campaign is fighting against Israel's construction of a separation barrier which separates Israel proper from the West Bank.

The wall cuts through swathes of Palestinian territory dividing Palestinians from their agricultural fields, and trapping some Palestinian communities in pockets of territory between Israel and the West Bank.

The wall was ruled illegal by the International Court at the Hague, and several years ago an Israeli high court ordered the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to reroute parts of the wall, arguing that is compromised the livelihoods of Palestinian farmers.

Othman is also involved in the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign which has been drawing increased international support.

Othmans supporters believe his main "crimes" are his activities on behalf of the BDS which wants to see a boycott of Israel along the lines of the former boycott against apartheid South Africa.

"I think Israel is worried about its reputation amongst the international community now that more people are waking up to the human rights abuses and injustices being committed here," Jallad told IPS.

"I think in some ways we are perceived as more of a threat than an armed cell of Hamas fighters precisely because we are non-violent and what we are fighting for is reasonable."

Bishop fined €12,000 for denying Holocaust

Press TV - October 27, 2009 10:28:46 GMT

British Roman Catholic Bishop Richard Williamson

British Bishop and Holocaust-denier Richard Williamson has been fined over remarks on Swedish television that fewer than 300,000 Jews died in Nazi death camps.

A German court in the Bavarian city of Regensburg on Monday commanded Williamson to pay €12,000.

Williamson said he believes that no more than 300,000 Jews died in Germany's Nazi concentration camps rather than the 6 million.

His German lawyer Matthias Lossmann said his client had been told to pay €100 a day for 120 days and that he was likely to appeal. If an appeal is lodged, there will be a trial in Regensburg, which Williamson will not be forced to attend.

Holocaust denial is classed as a hate crime in Germany and because the interview took place in Regensburg, German prosecutors were allowed to investigate, The Guardian reported.

In several other countries, including France and Austria, "Holocaust denial" is against the law, and "deniers" have been punished with prison sentences.

For no other historical massacre does such a law exist.

October 26, 2009

Italy: an attempt to outlaw defending freedom of speech

The Zionist and the Neo-Fascist decide who must be silenced in Italy

Pacifici and Alemanno

October 26, 2009 - Palestine Think Tank

Antonio Caracciolo is a scholar of philosophy of law who works at the Faculty of Political Sciences of Rome University.

Politically, he is a liberal in the Italian sense of the word: a believer in the separation of Church and state, constitutional democracy, the rule of law and a free market; however he keeps his opinions strictly out of his work, reserving them for his blog Civium Libertas.

Recently, his blog has dedicated much attention to the politics of Israel and the methods used by Zionist organizations in Italy to silence criticism of Israel in the Italian media and political sphere.

The Zionist discourse, in recent years, has focused increasingly on the extermination of the European Jews during the Second World War, and this has led Antonio Caracciolo to touch another topic. As a liberal and legal scholar, he considers the attempt to introduce prison sentences against "Holocaust deniers" or "revisionists" incompatible with Articles 21 and 33 of the Italian constitution, which protect freedom of expression and of research. In this context, however, Antonio Caracciolo has refused to get involved in historical discussions, or to support any "revisionist" thesis.

His blog – one of hundreds of thousands on the net in Italy – passed unnoticed for over two years, until a few days ago Italy's leading daily, La Repubblica, decided to make its existence front page news, under the more-than-misleading title:

"'The extermination of the Jews is a legend", Holocaust denier professor, Rome University under shock"

Gianni Alemanno, mayor of Rome, immediately demanded that the President of Rome's University, Luigi Frati, take steps against Antonio Caracciolo. It is ironical to remember that Alemanno is not only the first neo-Fascist to become mayor of the Italian capital, he has also been the historic leader of the mystic current in the Alleanza Nazionale (former MSI) party, and is the son-in-law of Pino Rauti, who introduced the esoteric ideas of Julius Evola into the neo-Fascist movement.[1]

In Europe, even in the Middle Ages, mayors had no right to tell universities whom to hire or fire. However, the President of the University Luigi Frati, thanked Gianni Alemmano for his prompt action and promised to "look into taking disciplinary steps against Caracciolo", which could include his being fired from his job.

The right-wing president of the Rome town Council, Marco Pomarici, declared that

"one cannot tolerate certain statements circulating freely around Europe's largest university, especially in a course on Philosophy of Law. Such theories can generate a return of anti-Semitism and it is quite clear that Caracciolo is not suited to teach and must be dismissed."

Irony again, since Marco Pomarici a short time before had declared publicly that "there were also many positive elements in Fascism".

Riccardo Pacifici, the very Zionist president of the Jewish community elected by a first-time right wing majority (on a ticket explicitly called "For Israel") and well known in Italy for an "aid to Gaza" hoax, calls directly for imprisoning Antonio Caracciolo:

"Such "gentlemen" in some European countries – alas, not in Italy yet – are punished by the law for the ideas they uphold".

The next day, Riccardo Pacifici launched an appeal (directly from Israel) to the academic world, announcing that he would take legal action against Caracciolo's blog, and calling on university professors to take steps to "prevent allowing certain people having contact with students" (La Repubblica, October 23, 2009). Specifically, he calls upon the professors to "help us so that Italy makes laws declaring holocaust denial a crime".

Pacifici claimed the existence of a "true Holocaust denial network" in Internet, hardly surprising if we consider that Internet is a network. Pacifici also told the press that he had presented a black list of websites to the police.

"The problem of the net, emphasizes Pacifici, is that it is uncontrolled. The risk is that one can write anything by simply opening a website in Moscow. We also need to intervene in terms of legislation about this."

Statements of indignation about Caracciolo's blog "are not enough", Pacifici goes on. "Unanimous condemnation is not enough. We need to act in terms of criminal law".

The Caracciolo case opens a new frontier. Not only would unpopular opinions be banned, but also the right to criticize such bans. Pacifici's proposal, if applied in Germany, would put Henryk Broder, candidate-president of the German Jewish Community, in gaol, as he has promised to fight for the repeal of Holocaust denial legislation.

The following day, October 24, Repubblica itself published an article by Christopher Hitchens which called for a military attack on Iran, no less, but this seems not to have sent any shock waves through the media.

Far more than Holocaust revisionism/denial is at stake. Pacifici is calling for legislation able to outlaw a blog like Antonio Caracciolo, which criticizes a government of the Middle East, analyzes the action of public figures and organizations in Italy and defends freedom of speech.

Such legislation would be possible only if laws were passed forbidding opposition to government policies, or declaring certain foreign states to be above criticism, or forbidding even support for the notion of free speech.

This of course is the basic issue behind "Holocaust denial legislation", which is actually only part of the general attempt by governments to control the Internet and to make opposition – outside of very limited channels – a crime: one need only think of the Czech Republic, where legislators slipped a few extra words into the the Holocaust denial legislation. In Prague today, one can go to prison for up to eight years for "supporting class hatred" in "print, film, radio, television". "Hatred" of course is a purely emotional term, and any judge will be free to decide whether the person organizing a strike had such wicked feelings or not.


[1] The Italian neo-Fascist party, MSI (later Alleanza Nazionale, now dissolved into the governing centre-right party) was a complex coalition, with three main strands: very conservative, largely Catholic anti-Communists; the "left-wing" which saw Mussolini as the "true" Socialist in the progressive and secular nationalist tradition of the 19th century; and a mystic, largely pagan wing with close cultural ties to certain currents of German thought.

October 25, 2009

Police in £9m scheme to log 'domestic extremists'

Thousands of activists monitored on network of overlapping databases

By Paul Lewis, Rob Evans and Matthew Taylor
The Guardian
October 25, 2009

G20 police

Detailed information about the political activities of campaigners is being stored on IT systems.

Photograph: Fiona Hanson/PA

Police are gathering the personal details of thousands of activists who attend political meetings and protests, and storing their data on a network of nationwide intelligence databases.

The hidden apparatus has been constructed to monitor "domestic extremists", the Guardian can reveal in the first of a three-day series into the policing of protests. Detailed information about the political activities of campaigners is being stored on a number of overlapping IT systems, even if they have not committed a crime.

Senior officers say domestic extremism, a term coined by police that has no legal basis, can include activists suspected of minor public order offences such as peaceful direct action and civil disobedience.

Three national police units responsible for combating domestic extremism are run by the "terrorism and allied matters" committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo). In total, it receives £9m in public funding, from police forces and the Home Office, and employs a staff of 100.

An investigation by the Guardian can reveal:

• The main unit, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), runs a central database which lists thousands of so-called domestic extremists. It filters intelligence supplied by police forces across England and Wales, which routinely deploy surveillance teams at protests, rallies and public meetings. The NPOIU contains detailed files on individual protesters who are searchable by name.

• Vehicles associated with protesters are being tracked via a nationwide system of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras. One man, who has no criminal record, was stopped more than 25 times in less than three years after a "protest" marker was placed against his car after he attended a small protest against duck and pheasant shooting. ANPR "interceptor teams" are being deployed on roads leading to protests to monitor attendance.

• Police surveillance units, known as Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT) and Evidence Gatherers, record footage and take photographs of campaigners as they enter and leave openly advertised public meetings. These images are entered on force-wide databases so that police can chronicle the campaigners' political activities. The information is added to the central NPOIU.

• Surveillance officers are provided with "spotter cards" used to identify the faces of target individuals who police believe are at risk of becoming involved in domestic extremism. Targets include high-profile activists regularly seen taking part in protests. One spotter card, produced by the Met to monitor campaigners against an arms fair, includes a mugshot of the comedian Mark Thomas.

• NPOIU works in tandem with two other little-known Acpo branches, the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (Netcu), which advises thousands of companies on how to manage political campaigns, and the National Domestic Extremism Team, which pools intelligence gathered by investigations into protesters across the country.

Denis O'Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary, will next month release the findings of his national review of policing of protests. He has already signalled he anticipates wide scale change. His inspectors, who were asked to review tactics in the wake of the Metropolitan police's controversial handling of the G20 protests, are considering a complete overhaul of the three Acpo units, which they have been told lack statutory accountability.

Acpo's national infrastructure for dealing with domestic extremism was set up with the backing of the Home Office in an attempt to combat animal rights activists who were committing serious crimes. Senior officers concede the criminal activity associated with these groups has receded, but the units dealing with domestic extremism have expanded their remit to incorporate campaign groups across the political spectrum, including anti-war and environmental groups that have only ever engaged in peaceful direct action.

All three units divide their work into four categories of domestic extremism: animal rights campaigns; far-right groups such as the English Defence League; "extreme leftwing" protest groups, including anti-war campaigners; and "environmental extremism" such as Climate Camp and Plane Stupid campaigns.

Anton Setchell, who is in overall command of Acpo's domestic extremism remit, said people who find themselves on the databases "should not worry at all". But he refused to disclose how many names were on the NPOIU's national database, claiming it was "not easy" to count. He estimated they had files on thousands of people. As well as photographs, he said FIT surveillance officers noted down what he claimed was harmless information about people's attendance at demonstrations and this information was fed into the national database.

He said he could understand that peaceful activists objected to being monitored at open meetings when they had done nothing wrong. "What I would say where the police are doing that there would need to be the proper justifications," he said.

October 24, 2009

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 Contact him at:

October 21, 2009

State won’t prosecute officers filmed beating Palestinians

Liel Kyzer | Ha’aretz

21 October 2009

Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan rejected an appeal against the decision not to investigate Border Police officers who documented themselves abusing Palestinians.

The appeal was filed by the Yesh Din human rights group.

Senior deputy to the state prosecutor Nechama Zusman wrote last week on Nitzan’s behalf that “the beating in the case was extremely slight and did not cause any actual damage. Therefore, the deputy state prosecutor did not think it was appropriate to intervene in the decision of the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers to transfer the case to the care of the Israel Police disciplinary department, along with a recommendation to discipline the officers in question.”

Yesh Din issued a sharp response on Tuesday. The organization’s legal adviser, Michael Sfard, wrote to Zusman that, “Your position demonstrates unprecedented tolerance of abuse of people in custody by a person of authority, through the use of violence and humiliation.”

“The question of damage suffered is completely irrelevant, as criminal law prohibits assault and without qualifying it by the gravity of the damage caused,” the letter continued. “The argument that beating a prisoner is not a criminal act is even worse than the beating itself, and amounts to a dangerous move by the prosecution.”

The organization called upon the prosecution to review its decision to close the criminal case. Sfard asked for disciplinary proceedings to be stalled until a final decision is made, and made clear that Yesh Din is considering further legal measures if the original decision is upheld.

The video clips in which the officers documented themselves beating and humiliating Palestinians in East Jerusalem were revealed over a year ago, and appear to have been filmed in July 2007 and August 2008.

One clip shows an armed Border Police officer hitting a Palestinian detainee on the back of the head. Another shows a different officer forcing a Palestinian youth to salute.

Yesh Din, which made the clips public, said they were found in a cell phone apparently lost by one of the officers.

When the footage became public, Yesh Din approached the investigations department with a request to examine the events in an open criminal proceeding against those involved.

After looking into the matter, the department decided not to press criminal charges and to transfer the case to the police disciplinary unit.

October 18, 2009

UK Gov. Spies on ‘Innocent Muslims’

Inayat Bunglawala
October 18, 2009

A British spying program targeting thoughts & beliefs of innocent people

The British newspaper The Guardian carried this weekend a highly disturbing front page story revealing that the British government’s ‘Prevent’ program – which is meant to be aimed at halting Muslims from being lured into the world of violent extremism – is actually being used to gather intelligence on innocent people who are not themselves suspected of involvement in terrorism.

The information being gathered by the UK authorities includes, says The Guardian according to documents it says it has seen, political and religious views, information on mental health, sexual activity and associates, and other sensitive information.

As The Guardian’s editorial observes regarding the collection of this data:

“It hardly needs saying that it would be incredibly dangerous if innocent Muslims were to come to believe that [divide and rule] tricks were now being deployed against them, whether through the recruitment of agents or overt spying operations. Yet when, as we report, the authorities are actively seeking information on sexual activities, this must surely be a risk. What use could such data have apart from blackmail? How is news of its collection to be explained, other than in terms of a desire to dominate?” (1)

Biggest Spying Program Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty, the human rights organization, responded to The Guardian’s revelations by voicing outrage that the government appeared to be engaged in:

"...the biggest domestic spying programme targeting the thoughts and beliefs of the innocent in Britain in modern times. It is information-gathering directed at the innocent and the spying is directed at people because of their religion, and not because of their behaviour." (2)


  1. Surveillance of Muslims: The lives of the other
  2. Government anti-terrorism strategy 'spies' on innocent

October 16, 2009

UK: Judges overrule attempt to suppress torture evidence

By Richard Norton-Taylor, 16 October 2009

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, acted in a way that was harmful to the rule of law by suppressing evidence about what the government knew of the illegal treatment of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident who was held in a secret prison in Pakistan, the high court has ruled.

In a devastating judgment, two senior judges roundly dismissed the foreign secretary's claims that disclosing the evidence would harm national security and threaten the UK's vital intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US.

In what they described as an "unprecedented" and "exceptional" case, to which the Guardian is a party, they ordered the release of a seven-paragraph summary of what the CIA told British officials – and maybe ministers – about Ethiopian-born Mohamed before he was secretly interrogated by an MI5 officer in 2002.

"The suppression of reports of wrongdoing by officials in circumstances which cannot in any way affect national security is inimical to the rule of law," Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones ruled. "Championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, is the cornerstone of democracy."

The summary is a CIA account given to British intelligence "whilst [Mohamed] was held in Pakistan ... prior to his interview by an officer of the Security Service", the judges said. The officer, known only as Witness B, is being investigated by the Metropolitan police for "possible criminal wrongdoing".

The seven-page document will not be released until the result of an appeal is known. However, the judges made clear their anger at the position adopted by Miliband, MI5, and MI6 in their hard-hitting judgment.

An explanation was needed, they said, about "what the United Kingdom government actually knew about what was alleged to be cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or torture, in particular what Witness B knew before he interviewed [Mohamed] ... in Pakistan". The judges added that it was important to explain what MI5 "and others knew when they provided further information to the United States to be used in the interrogation".

There was a "compelling public interest" to disclose what Miliband wanted to suppress, they said; there was nothing in the seven-paragraph summary that had anything remotely to do with "secret intelligence".

"In our view, as a court in the United Kingdom, a vital public interest requires, for reasons of democratic accountability and the rule of law in the United Kingdom, that a summary of the most important evidence relating to the involvement of the British security services in wrongdoing be placed in the public domain in the United Kingdom."

Full article


October 17, 2009

UPDATE: Today's Guardian calls the Court's ruling "a devastating judgment," reporting that the "judges roundly dismissed the foreign secretary's claims that disclosing the evidence would harm national security and threaten the UK's vital intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US." The article also notes that the Court simply did not believe that the Obama administration would follow through on these threats, but instead issued them only at the behest of British officials, who needed a pretext for ongoing concealment.

-- Glenn Greenwald

Public Radio Censoring Announcement on Palestine event

If Americans Knew
October 16, 2009

Michigan Radio (WUOM 91.7), an affiliate of National Public Radio (NPR), is censoring a program announcement.

The local chapter of the nonprofit organization If Americans Knew, whose mission is to inform Americans on topics of importance that are under reported or misreported in the American media, is attempting to place the following paid announcement on the radio station:

“’If Americans knew dot org,’ a non-profit organization focused on media coverage of the Palestine-Israel conflict: Executive Director Alison Weir will visit southeast Michigan the week of Oct 12th. Details on the web at "If Americans Knew dot org".”

Michigan Radio has refused to air the announcement, violating its ethical obligation as a publicly funded station not to censor information. While the station eventually agreed to run an amended announcement (cost: $1,000), it still refuses to include the organization’s name, If Americans Knew.

Weir, who has traveled throughout Gaza and the West Bank as a freelance journalist and speaks widely throughout the United States, said that she will fight Michigan Radio’s censorship, saying: “It is exactly this type of activity – to prevent people from learning the facts on Israel-Palestine -- that is causing the perpetuation of this tragic conflict and that is behind the $7 million per day of American tax money that goes to Israel, a misuse of our money at any time, but especially when American schools, veterans programs, and businesses are desperate for funding.”

Weir said that her organization will fight Michigan Radio’s censorship: “Americans should not allow censorship of our public airwaves. A free and vigorous press is essential to our democratic republic. To maintain a strong, healthy, free and prosperous nation it is critical that we hold onto our most basic Constitutional rights and principles. We will fight Michigan Radio’s highly unethical and extremely destructive attempt to prevent its listeners from learning about an organization and allowing listeners to decide for themselves what they think of the facts it presents.

Weir, whose organization is based in Oregon, is a 1969 Journalism graduate of the University of Michigan and was a Senior Editor at the Michigan Daily. She said it is especially troubling to find this censorship at a station based at the University of Michigan, since in her studies at Michigan her professors had emphasized the importance of a free press and ethical journalism.

Weir said that despite repeated attempts to speak to representatives of Michigan Radio beginning on Oct 13th, no one had returned her calls. Weir, who has so far spoken at Michigan State University, Eastern Michigan University, University of Michigan Flint, University of Michigan Dearborn and other locations, still has three upcoming presentations. She says she hopes that the station will stop its censorship in time to run the If Americans Knew announcement.

Tonight Weir will speak at the Flint Islamic Center (9447 Corruna Rd, Swartz Creek) at 7 pm. On Saturday Weir will be speaking at 2pm in Swartz Creek at Genesee Academy (9447 Corunna Rd) at 2pm and at 7 pm at the Unity Center (1830 W Square Lake Rd.). The events are free and open to the public.

Weir said, “Michigan Radio’s attempt to prevent listeners from learning of our organization demonstrates why our work is so important – Americans are being deprived of information by media who refuse to give us the facts on one of the world’s most tragic, longest lasting, and destructive conflicts – one that not only costs the lives of Palestinians and Israelis, but that is also extremely damaging to Americans.”

Weir’s organization found that media reports on Israel-Palestine reported on Israeli children’s deaths at rates up to 13 times greater than they reported on Palestinian children’s deaths – even though Palestinian children had been killed first and in far greater numbers.

Similarly, the organization found that American media – including NPR – had failed to report on a 2003 Capitol Hill briefing in which a commission headed by former Chairman of the Joint chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas Moorer, Rear Admiral Merlin Staring, and General Ray Davis, America’s highest ranking Medal of Honor recipient, had announced their finding that Israel had “committed an act of war against the United States” in its attack on a US Navy ship that had killed or injured 200 American servicemen and that this incident had been ordered covered up at the time by the White House.

Weir says, “We all need to oppose this censorship.”

Smashing the Silence: Community Defiance in Honduras

Demonstration in front of Clarion Hotel, Tegucigalpa. (Photo: Joseph Shansky)

Demonstration in front of Clarion Hotel, Tegucigalpa. (Photo: Joseph Shansky)

By Joseph Shansky | Pulse Media | October 16, 2009

Since the few days of renewed excitement around the “secret” return to Honduras of democratically-elected President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, there has been a disturbing omission of the Honduran political crisis in the international news. It would be reasonable to think that with each passing day an exiled president was camped in a foreign embassy (as Zelaya has been in the Brazilian embassy since September 21st), tensions would rise and all eyes of the world would be on that lone building. Instead the opposite has occurred and it appears as though the international press had lost interest without action to follow. The subsequent collapse and renewal (and collapse again, etc.) of ongoing “negotiations” with Roberto Micheletti’s coup government did little to breathe life into this story.

Here in Tegucigalpa, life continues under subtle siege for ordinary citizens. The city gets dark faster at night now and the people seem more frightened in general. The curfew remains. Small groups huddle together and glance around anxiously, couples hug closer, young girls grasp hands tighter and walk faster. Militia is everywhere of course, made up of young, mostly uneducated kids who twirl their guns with abandon, dig their batons into the dirt and wait for a notice for action. It can come at a whistle’s call here, and sometimes it feels as though the entire country is poised, frozen in battle.

The most recent momentous note in this political standoff occurred when Micheletti declared an impromptu State of Emergency following the massive street rallies on the day Zelaya returned. He then imposed a “decree” which stripped Hondurans of almost all basic civil liberties, including the right to assemble freely and access to media outlets which did not strictly toe the coup government line. He also imposed a continuous and rather vague curfew, allowing open interpretation for street police to constantly monitor and harass citizens. After a brief but immediate international outcry, Micheletti apologized and promised to withdraw the decree, but has done no such thing. Instead, he’s used this legal loophole to clean house by first attacking the primary ingredient of a democracy: the free press.

The studios of Radio Globo and Channel 36 were assaulted in the middle of the night and their transmitters were sabotaged and taken, thus leaving the majority of the country without access to the few independent news sources they had depended on for so long. He then forcibly evicted 55 local farm workers who had occupied the headquarters of the National Agrarian Institute for months since the June coup. According to Honduras Resists, a leading online source for Resistance support, the Institute “houses the land titles that had been attained by small rural farmers and communities through years of struggle, many of which were finally granted under the Zelaya administration, angering the powerful landholders who are responsible for the coup and now want to halt and reverse the process of land reform in Honduras.”[1]

One major effect of this curfew and the violations that it brings is that Micheletti has unwittingly drawn people to the resistance movement against the coup government who may not have otherwise been involved. The demonstrations have continued daily for four months now, sometimes taking on different forms.

An example of the varied support for Zelaya’s restoration (and against the coup in general) has been factions of the religious community. A few days ago, a group of Evangelical Christians gathered together in front of the abandoned Channel 36 television station. They planted themselves there to sing and pray for the station, for the resistance, and for Honduras. Several speeches were also made by organizers and religious figures, including priests.

When they had completed the blessing of this censored independent media outlet, they continued making the rounds, next going to Radio Globo to perform the same songs, the same prayers. It was a striking image, the Bible lying on the table next to the microphones in the studio. It conjured up big notions of God and Information and Truth and good people who believe that these ideas are not mutually exclusive.

Under the decree, the military domination has also expanded into lesser populated areas. The police have stormed neighborhoods ranging from inside the city center all the way to Greater Tegucigalpa and its outskirts. The same has happened around the country. In turn, these remote and generally much poorer neighborhoods have begun organizing independently, as they now feel the effects of constant police raids on houses and communities. These barrios, usually ignored and left to their own devices, have begun to take action.

I recently traveled one night with several other foreign journalists to a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. Arriving amid mountains of trash, I immediately heard a cacophony of homemade percussive sounds, people drumming on whatever was freely available. We came upon hundreds of people of all ages marching in the dark together – families shouting, singing, chanting, blowing whistles, banging on nearby doors to rouse their neighbors. Along the sidelines, others watched from windows and front steps, staring fearfully and somewhat enviously at their neighbors’ courage in defying the curfew. This was just one of many similar nightly neighborhood rallies since the decree banning such gatherings.

The crowd surged up a hill and turned into an alley where a car was parked with a film projector sitting atop. After a few minutes, the organizers were able to project the image onto the side of a nearby house. The video was a compilation of homemade footage documenting many of the recent abuses their peers had suffered at the hands of the police. In one scene, the camera followed a single police officer from behind as he ran with his gun drawn directly at group of demonstrators nearby, shooting wildly and recklessly. Others showed the police randomly isolating and dragging non-violent protesters out of the street and into unmarked cars.

The images were designed to enrage the crowd, and it worked. Cries of “¡Asesinos!” (Murderers!) rang out in the night, the excitement and anger grew to a palpable climax, and for a moment I was sure that we’d soon be experiencing our own live replay of the scenes in front of us as soon as the local police took notice. These people were loud.

But aside from provocation, the video was also used as a tool to educate people who live in outlying areas to the realities of what much of the city was going through on a daily basis. It was a form of the news which had been missing from the public since Radio Globo and Channel 36 were taken off air.

This kind of sudden unity is not a novelty limited to one area of the city. The day after the decree, twenty four separate neighborhoods were listed as openly defying the curfew to protest the coup d’état. The resistance which has held steadfast for almost four months now has grown in true grassroots style. Like a domino effect, as the coup’s fear tactics increase, the opposition grows tremendously.

Regardless of what happens from the top-down politically, it would be wise to take note of the remarkable manner in which these communities have come together at ground level. On a very fundamental level, this is innovative democracy in action. Using any means possible, these citizens are courageously breaking through the information blockade that has paralyzed so much of the country and isolated much of the world from the events taking place in Honduras.


October 14, 2009

War Criminals Are Becoming Arbiters of the Law

Israel and the Goldstone Report

October 14, 2009

The double standard under which the Israeli government operates is too much for everyone except the brainwashed Americans. Even the very Israeli Jerusalem Post can see the double standard displayed by “all of Israel now speaking in one voice against the Goldstone report”:
“This is the Israeli notion of a fair deal: We’re entitled to do whatever the hell we want to the Palestinians because, by definition, whatever we do to them is self-defense. They, however, are not entitled to lift a finger against us because, by definition, whatever they do to us is terrorism.

“That’s the way it’s always been, that’s the way it was in Operation Cast Lead.

“And there are no limits on our right to self-defense. There is no such thing as ‘disproportionate.’

“We can deliberately destroy thousands of Gazan homes, the Gazan parliament, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, courthouses, the only Gazan flour plant, the main poultry farm, a sewage treatment plant, water wells and God knows what else.


“Why? Because we’re better than them. Because we’re a democracy and they’re a bunch of Islamo-fascists. Because ours is a culture of life and theirs is a culture of death. Because they’re out to destroy us and all we are saying is give peace a chance.

“The Goldstones of the world call this hypocrisy, a double standard. How dare they! Around here, we call it moral clarity.”
A person would never read such as this in the New York Times or Washington Post or hear it from any US news source. Unlike Israeli newspapers, the US media is a complete mouthpiece for the Israel Lobby. Never a critical word is heard.

This will be even more the case now that the Israel Lobby, after years of effort, has succeeded in repealing the First Amendment by having the Hate Crime Bill attached to the recently passed military appropriations bill. This is the way the syllogism works: It is anti-semitic to criticize Israel. Anti-semitism is a hate crime. Therefore, to criticize Israel is a hate crime.

As the Jerusalem Post notes, this syllogism has “moral clarity.”

Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, John Sawers, stepped into the hate crime arena when he told Israel Army radio that the Goldstone report on Israel’s military assault on Gaza contains “some very serious details which need to be investigated.”

A year from now when the Anti-Defamation League has its phalanx of US Department of Justice (sic) prosecutors in place, Sawers would be seized and placed on trial. Diplomatic immunity means nothing to the US, which routinely invades other countries, executes their leaders or sends them to the Hague for trial as war criminals.

In the meantime, however, the Israeli government put Sawers and the UK government on notice that British support for the Goldstone Report would result in the destruction of the double standard that protects the West and Israel and create a precedent that would place the British in the dock for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“London,” declared the Israeli government, “could find itself in handcuffs if it supports the document [the Goldstone report].”

Once the DOJ’s hate crime unit us up and running, “self-hating Jews,” such as leaders of the Israeli peace movement and Haaretz and Jerusalem Post journalists, can expect to be indicted for anti-semitic hate crimes in US courts.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at:

Russia Today reports about NY denial for independent 9/11 investigation

October 12, 2009

UN, Interpol design 'global policing doctrine'

Press TV - October 12, 2009 14:04:04 GMT

The United Nations and Interpol, the global police organization, are poised to become partners in fighting crime by jointly creating an international police force.

Interpol, which is financed by 187 member nations, says the "global police doctrine" would allow the deployment of peacekeepers among rogue nations plagued by war and organized crime.

"We have a visionary model," said Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble, who described the joint partnership "an alliance of all nations."

He suggested that by relying on Interpol's resources, the United Nations would be able to handle international conflicts and transnational crime far better.

"If UN peacekeepers assigned to post-conflict zones or fragile states are asked to perform police-like functions and to combat transnational crime, then more peacekeepers should come from the ranks of police and be given access to Interpol's global databases," said Noble.

Modern peacekeeping efforts have evolved significantly since the blue-helmeted UN military force was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988. Since 2005, the number of police forces involved in UN peacekeeping operations has more than doubled from about 6,000 to 12,200 in 17 countries.

However, Interpol officials plan to steer the organization into providing "advice and consulting services" in the area of policing during peacekeeping operations, AFP reported.

"Interpol is not going to send troops out into the field here and there throughout the world," said Interpol director of legal affairs Joel Sollier. "What Interpol is going to do is provide technical assistance, technical support."

On Sunday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a video message told a gathering of justice and foreign ministers from more than 60 countries in Singapore that the UN welcomes the initiative.

"They forge trust in uniformed men and women. They generate confidence that peace can succeed,” he said, describing the UN Police (UNPOL).

See also:

Waco Siege “Enforcer” To Rule Over Global Police Force

Paul Joseph Watson
October 12, 2009

October 11, 2009

NYCCAN Ballot Access Blocked

NYCCAN communique:

October 9, 2009

Yesterday afternoon, Justice Edward Lehner of the State Supreme Court rubberstamped Referee Louis Crespo’s recommendation that the decision to establish a local commission to investigate the events of September 11th not be put before the voters on November 3rd.

After showing interest in weighing both sides’ arguments in the hearing, the Judge’s short decision gives no indication of having considered the arguments put forth in the Petitioners’ memorandum of law, nor any acknowledgement of the need for a new investigation, which the City of New York callously dismissed as “irrelevant”.

On a dark day for democracy, the patriotic call for answers by hundreds of 9/11 families, first responders and survivors has been stifled, and the will of the people of New York City once again denied.

Judge Lehner ruled that modifying the petition to make it “legally permissible” would result in it being “inconsistent with the law sought by the signatories of the Petition” despite the fact that all 80,000 signatories agreed by signing the Petition that “If any provision of this law is held to be unconstitutional or invalid for any reason, the remaining provisions shall be in no manner affected thereby but shall remain in full force and effect.”

The deadline for inclusion on the ballot falls just before the election, making it possible to appeal Judge Lehner’s decision. NYC CAN is weighing all options and will make an announcement early next week on this issue, as well as on how it will be moving forward on other fronts. Regardless of the outcome in court, the quest for answers continues full throttle. This fight is only the beginning.

October 09, 2009

Israel's export of occupation police tactics

Jimmy Johnson, The Electronic Intifada, 9 October 2009

Israel's urban police tactics are being exported around the globe. (Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages)

Israel's specialized policing and fighting capacity, which it is currently exporting to other countries, including the US, began to take shape after the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war. In the territories it occupied during the conflict, especially the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, the Israeli government wanted to lay claim, permanently, to specific parts of the occupied area. This desire ran into Zionism's longest-running problem, the presence of Palestinians. As Zionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky wrote in 1923 about indigenous resistance to colonial projects, "The native populations ... have always stubbornly resisted the colonists."

This resistance would have to be suppressed and the population pacified if the occupation of these lands was to be sustainable. Thus began an evolutionary relationship that continues to this day, that of the Palestinian resistance versus Israel's policy of permanent occupation. Architect Eyal Weizman lays out in great detail the study of urban warfare and urban police actions undertaken by the Israeli military in his book Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation. Importantly, he looks at the ways the army adapts to the dynamics on the ground, explaining that "Indeed, military attempts to adapt their practices and forms of organization has been inspired by the guerilla forms of violence that confront it. Because they adapt, mimic and learn from each other, the military and the guerillas enter a cycle of 'co-evolution.'" This reciprocal cycle of tactical evolution, and intertwined relationship of Israel's police and army, is proving politically valuable to Israel by helping to shape international norms on policing more like its own.

Israel participates significantly in areas of the international political and economic markets of arms, security and policing. It is especially renowned for having a highly developed arms industry. There are significant potential political benefits to be gained by participation in the arms trade, especially in the military interoperability that develops with using the same training and systems of war. Military interoperability often lead to the development of political alliances and close personal relationships between high level defense and commerce officials during the research, bidding and approval processes.

However, this trade rarely leads to policy change favorable to Israel by itself. Instead, the training of foreign police and security forces based upon expertise gained in 42 years of military occupation accomplishes this by creating advocates within local, regional and national security infrastructures. In Peter Andreas and Ethan Nadelmann's book Policing the Globe: Criminalization and Crime Control in International Relations, the authors detail how the United States has shaped international policing and prosecution with regards to the drug trade. They explain that "US law enforcement agencies play an especially pivotal role in shaping a transnational police community and thickening intergovernmental law enforcement networks." This occurs by either providing or advocating for technical assistance and training for many foreign police officers. In addition, the US often advocates "for more intensive and systematic bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and prompting new initiatives in both criminal procedures and criminal legislation." Although Israel cannot do this with the same coercive power as the US, it is as proactive as possible in its outreach.

Israel is renowned as the center of training in the fields of policing, homeland security and related fields. In 2005 the then-chief of police of Washington, DC, a city that has adopted Israeli-style policing to an extreme degree, told The Washington Post that Israel is "the Harvard of antiterrorism." Israel actively lauds its expertise with ministries of commerce, public security and foreign affairs, advertising it in public pronouncements and their websites and the government offers support for exporting the expertise, whether done by private firms or public entities. The "Israeli method" blends together state security policing with that of other crimes. Systems put in place in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya, for example, have private businesses linking their information with the Tourist Police and City Police who in turn, link with the National Police, the General Security Service (aka, Shin Bet).

Israeli police and security forces do not separate policing related to Palestinian anti-occupation efforts from street crime. The Palestinians represent both a political and armed opposition to a military occupation, and a disenfranchised underclass with criminal elements in an apartheid state. The Israeli army, which is charged with investigating crime in Areas B and C of the West Bank -- areas designated as such during the Oslo accords of the mid-1990s -- along with its strictly military functions as an occupying army and national defense force, is engaged, along with the Israeli police's car theft bureau, with investigating car thefts by Palestinians. Palestinian car thieves often work with Israeli organized crime families or individual Israelis seeking to defraud insurance agencies and investigation and prosecution falls under the jurisdiction of both the army and the civil police. It is the Israeli police's mandate to prosecute any Israeli citizens, while the Palestinians will be tried in an Israeli military court.

The Israeli army also patrols the northern border along with the drug police looking for heroin, hashish and other items smuggled from southern Lebanon. Inspector Gal Ben Ish, referring to participation by Hizballah in the trade, told the Associated Press in April 2009, "We know that it's not just criminal activity -- here there's always the aspect of national defense. We're helping the country's security." Some of the same Sinai Bedouin tribes involved in smuggling women for Israeli organized crime, which is investigated by the police, also smuggle goods, including weapons, to Palestinians in Gaza. According to a June 2007 report in Terrorism Monitor, this has led to the army patrolling 40 kilometers from the Gaza Strip down the border with Egypt.

The training offered by Israeli police and security forces is exported all over the world. For example in India, Israel has drawn upon its experience in south Lebanon, rural West Bank and urban population centers in Gaza and the West Bank to help train Indian forces. According to a 9 September 2009 article in Defense News, the inspiration for these efforts came after New Delhi took "a keen interest in the homeland security operations, armaments and surveillance devices used by Israeli troops."

A 2008 declaration signed by then-Minister of Public Security Avi Dichter and Canadian Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day created a similar arrangement for Canada and Israel. According to the Israeli ministry's website, it allowed the countries to "share knowledge, experience, expertise, information, research, and best practices" and "facilitate technical exchange cooperation, including education, training, and exercises." In a 23 March 2008 press release, Minister Day stated that "The declaration seeks to establish a more structured framework for the continued cooperation on public safety issues between Canada and Israel."

Israeli police trained their Chinese counterparts for "possible scenarios involving terror and civil disturbances" prior to the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. According to a 28 September 2008 article in the Israeli daily Haaretz, the commander of China's People's Armed Police Force "expressed an interest in continued cooperation between Israeli and Chinese police following the success of the course." Five years earlier Israeli police performed a similar task in Greece prior to the Athens games. The French government brought the head of the Israeli police's special forces to instruct their police in riot control.

However, no country in the world has a closer cooperation with Israeli police forces than the US. Just a sampling of US cities and institutions that have trained or are training in Israeli methods are Alameda County; Atlanta; Boston; Cambridge, MA; Commerce, GA; Detroit; Duxbury, MA; Georgia Tech University; Knoxville, TN; Los Angeles: the Maryland Department of Transportation; Miami; New York City; Pembroke Pines, FL; San Francisco; San Mateo; Santa Clara; Seattle; Stamford, CT; Sterling Heights, MI; and Suffolk County, NY. Low-level bilateral relationships between city police, sheriff's departments and other agencies of order in the US are reinforced by arrangements put in place by high-level officials like the memorandum of understanding signed by former Minister Dichter and former US Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff in 2007. A statement put out prior to the agreement and quoted by The Jerusalem Post stated "that there exists a vital need to promote operational, scientific and technological cooperation between the parties in the field of homeland security."

Israeli methods are sought out and adopted for their perceived quality, largely led by the government's marketing of them. But the relationships established between agencies of order, whether they be drug enforcement, civil policing, customs officials, tactical police units or any other, are done entirely outside the democratic realm. The citizens of Beijing did not vote for their police to study the repression of civil disturbance in Haifa's football stadium. Canadian parliament neither proposed nor endorsed the "Declaration of Intent Between the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of Canada and the Ministry of Public Security of the Government of the State of Israel." The students of Georgia Tech University were not approached for their opinion about campus security adopting the tools that help sustain an illegal military occupation. This is the danger of agencies of authority going through processes of professionalization and integration with their foreign counterparts. It's often a strictly technocratic regime that can affect the public greatly but is done without its active knowledge or participation. As Andreas and Nadelmann argue, the efforts at professionalization are driven by the technocrats themselves, most often sanctioned by the governing authority, and it is this perceived technical neutrality that gives the efforts credibility.

This has been seen starkly in Washington, DC. The capitol police have long erected various checkpoints and barriers around the institutions of national government, especially the Capitol Building. In June 2008, Chief of Police Cathy Lanier, who according to The Washington Post once stated "No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel," authorized checkpoints to be set up in the troubled northeast neighborhood of Trinidad, which had seen a spike in homicides and other violent crime. There are severe quality of life problems in Trinidad, including high rates of violent crime, and the disproportionate participation in street violence and the illegal narcotics trade by residents from and visitors to the neighborhood has strong links to socioeconomic exclusion of the poor in the US, especially in communities of color. The establishment of checkpoints in Trinidad was an attempt to address the former while neglecting the latter. Alternately put, it was a method of pacification deployed against resistance to and coping mechanisms of victims of structural classism and racism in the US. The Washington Post quoted one longtime neighborhood resident stating "I knew eventually we'd be a police state. They don't talk to us, they're not community minded."

Prior to Washington, DC police leadership receiving Israeli training they had no socioeconomic desk with which to work against the root causes of street crime, nor do they now. If the US government is no longer going to attempt to integrate all its citizens into its economic and political infrastructure (see for example, the removal of suffrage from convicted felons in many parts of the country) the adoption of Israel's system of blended civil and national security policing has a compelling logic. The, in effect, surplus population in the country will be only slightly less "foreign" to the government, and only slightly more represented in local and national planning, than the Palestinians are to Israel.

The dominant method of warehousing in the US is penal incarceration leading to a nation with about five percent of the world's population containing about 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population, according to Andreas and Nadelmann. As activist Jeff Halper has written, the methods of warehousing used by Israel against its surplus population, the Palestinians, are primarily geographic and structural, such as checkpoints and separation walls and fences, and bureaucratic, such as restricting building permits and ID regimes prohibiting movements between areas.

Similarly, the training of the Beijing police in controlling civil disturbance was largely used to exclude Beijing's slum dwellers, tens of thousands of whom were displaced by the Olympic games themselves, from access to the media, global attention and economic bubble that came with the games. As Mike Davis observed in Planet of Slums, like the US's disenfranchised, the slum dwellers of Beijing, largely economic migrants from the western interior of the country, have been almost entirely written off by the municipal and national authorities in China. And like the Palestinians, they are a surplus population to the government currently controlling their fates. The training of foreign police and security forces in the methods used to pacify resistance to apartheid, military occupation and the warehousing of the Palestinians should give pause as to what these tools of Israel's pacification industry will be deployed against in countries receiving the training.

Jimmy Johnson is an researcher, analyst and organizer with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He's based in Washington, DC and can be reached at jimmy [at] icahd [dot] org.

See also:

Looking into the Background of the BART Execution

Atheo News
January 9, 2009