Thursday, June 29, 2006

Today's Forecast.

The Israeli Occupation Forces have called this a "Summer Shower" of their re-occupation (as if they ever left) of Gaza. While I'm hearing this, I feel like I'm watching my local meterologist here in Tucson, Arizona, Chuck George describe what is happening.

I can visualize Destry Jetton and Guy Achley the co-anchors of the morning local news giving a lead-in to this section of insanity.

Destry: Well Guy, it seems that the winds are really starting to pick up in Raffah, Gaza City and other parts of the Strip today.

Guy: Yes indeed, Destry. Storms clouds have been massing along the border of Gaza and they seem to be threatening. Chuck can you tell us how it's looking out there?

Chuck: Well, Guy, these showers have brought a low pressure system over the entire Gaza Strip for this tropical storm; knocking out power grids, leaving many in Gaza City in the dark. In addition, this on-shore flow has now disabled the water supply, requiring residents to line up for drinkable water in various areas.

Heavy rains of missiles and sonic blasts have been happening since Tuesday and are expected to continue throughout the week, and possibly into the foreseeable future.

Now, I should say that although there have been no reports of death due to this current storm, a number of arrests have occurred, in particular in the governmental area.

So, what's in store for the rest of the week? Well, we just don't know. It seems that "Israel", by the way that is what we're calling this tropical depression, has settled over the whole of Gaza and doesn't appear to be moving away anytime soon.

So, let's look at the rest of the week's forecast; the forecast calls for more of the same; shelling, arrests of government officials, collective punishment of Palestinians as a whole, and the complete silence of the U.S. and the rest of West.

Destry and Guy, back to you.

Destry: Thanks Chuck. Seems like a lot is going on there in Gaza.

Chuck: Yes there is and too bad that you're not there with you're camera, you could get some really good shots of UN human rights violations going on.

Guy: Thanks again, Chuck. Now to other news, it seems that a small orange tabby cat named Snowball got trapped in a sewer. Firefighters and police took nearly four hours just to rescue the cute feline who had wandered from home.

Destry: Oh that's so sad.

Guy: Yes it is, but at least Snowball is safe now.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Race Against Time: An interview with Sam Bahour

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American living in the besieged Palestinian city of El-Bireh in the West bank. He is the co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994). I spoke with Sam via telephone about the worsening situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, U.S. aid restrictions on Palestine, divestment from Israel, and the need for a strong resistance leadership in the Palestinian Authority.

Christopher Brown: Can you talk about the current climate in The West bank and Gaza in light of the recent massacres that have occurred at the hands of the Israeli military?

Sam Bahour: I’ve been there since 1994, so I’ve seen ups and downs regularly for the last 12 years. However, during the last six months specifically, the Israelis basically in my opinion have been spinning out of control. They have unleashed, literally daily attacks on Palestinians. Unfortunately, the World only sees, every once in awhile, what’s happening there when there is a camera taking a picture such as the incident when the whole family of civilians that was on the beach. They were lucky enough to have a camera there to take a picture of that war crime.

For the last six years, there’s been a non-stop onslaught in terms of not only killing Palestinians, but also we’re talking about nightly raids into Palestinian cities where they’re actually arresting people on a nightly basis. I literally cannot think of a night when there isn’t a Palestinian being arrested in the various cities throughout the West Bank, and before they exited Gaza, in Gaza as well; that, in addition to F-16’s and Apache helicopters, which as your seeing lately, are basically assassinating Palestinians from the air.

So, although the Israelis would like to claim that they have left Gaza what they really did is what they said they would do, which is a re-deployment. Unilaterally they re-deployed outside the center of the population area in the Gaza Strip, to surrounding the Gaza Strip totally. And what that has done is two things: One is turn the political crisis into, the first time ever, into a humanitarian crisis. Because, the borders of The Gaza Strip are fully in Israeli control and they have not allowed, or they’re restricting heavily, the amount of food and medicine that can come into the Gaza Strip. As per international law, they still fully occupy in terms of who’s in charge of the Palestinians lives. So they are still an occupying force, which means they have the full responsibility for the population of the Gaza Strip. They don’t like to hear that, but that is the way the Un has classified it up until now.

The environment has intensified after the legislative council elections. Where the Islamist organization Hamas won elections via a very democratic process as was said by those observers, including Jimmy Carter himself. And I think that one of the most hypocritical phenomena that we’re facing is the U.S. specifically was one of the motivating forces to push Palestinians into an electoral process at all levels of government; that means municipal elections, presidential elections and Palestinian legislative council elections. And at every level, except presidential, Hamas or the more extreme factions within the Palestinian political spectrum have won. The only reason they didn’t win the presidential elections is because they boycotted the presidential elections. So, there really was not a challenge to Mahmoud Abbas. And this most recent election has caused a knee-jerk reaction from the American side to basically suffocate the Palestinian community; without any regard to the investment they’ve made within the last 12 years of trying to build as much as possible the infrastructure of a new economy. And what they’ve done by suffocating the Palestinians by terms of cutting off all banking relations; basically spearheading Global sanctions against the Palestinian authority they’ve turned this political crisis totally into a humanitarian one. That’s going to have long-term ramifications even when on sense of normalcy comes back. I think the Palestinians will start looking at the Americans with much more scrutiny than they did before.

CB: Apart from a few Western journalists, are there any corporate media that have looked deeper into the events of the Beit Lahiya killings or the subsequent executions over the past two weeks?

SB: Well there are multiple vantage points to look at this: Number one, the mainstream media has really done very little in trying to do investigative reporting. The best example I use is the most recent, is the CNN reporter, I believe her last name is Sweeney, she’s actually covering events in Ramallah, in Gaza, and in Northern The West Bank while she’s sitting in a modern updated Israeli studio in the center of West Jerusalem. We’re talking about events that are happening literally ten minutes, 40 minutes from where she’s at and she doesn’t have a clue of who to cover the events.

So what they’re doing, not only CNN, but also other mainstream media as well, literally, if they want to cover, especially on video the event, they’re relying on strangers that will be able to sell them some video; and even then, that video goes through two sets of censorship; one is the Israeli military censors who actually cut out what they don‘t want the World to see; and then there is the self-censoring that’s happening in the studios of the various media outlets themselves.

There’s one very well known case about seven or eight months ago in Nablus in the refugee camp called Balatta refugee camp; there was an actual cold-blooded killing of an Israeli soldier who killed a 12-year-old. And the Western media outlet that got videotape of the entire incident, and when they’re tape went back to Israel to be edited before it got sent out, that entire incident was removed. Palestinians actually filed a complaint and it was later found that the outlet actually acknowledged that they erased or nixed the entire incident. So this self-censorship is troubling. The military censorship from the Israeli side is rather expected. We live under military occupation, and you expect that they don’t want to put out any bad image to the World. However, what the Israelis are missing, even the media outlets especially the Western media outlets are doing themselves a disservice, is that technology has bypassed the ability to do full censorship.

I was in Palestine for the first intifada in the late 80s and then there was the ability for the Israeli occupation forces to confine what people see and be able to be rather successful to keep the Palestinian voice to heard or even incidents to be covered. However in this Intifada from the year 2000 onwards, we have new tools available to us. We have the video, the Internet, email, digital cameras; we have much more media savvyness within our own communities, we have professional media personnel that are taking they’re own video and syndicating it out to whoever would like to cover it.

So as much as Israel tries to militarily censor, or as much as the media outlets try to be politically correct in terms of not disrupting their relationship either with their owners or the Israeli media spin that they’re being fed; they’re finding themselves at a huge disadvantage because the pictures and the Palestinian perspective is getting out. And at the end of the day this is not a media twist, there’s a real live military occupation on the ground. And as in Iraq, The Americans and Iraqis are getting stories through embedded reporters inside of tanks. They need to be a little more wiser if they want to learn about what’s really happening, and they should given that they’re receiving news from the embedded reporters. They need to go beyond those embedded reporters.

I would say the same thing applies to Palestine. Given that the mainstream media every once in awhile, will show what’s happening is wrong; and I think there is a right and wrong, we should not fall into the trap of symmetry. The day we fall into the trap of symmetry where the Palestinians who are occupied and the Israelis who are occupiers all get equal time, I think we’ve done a disservice to report the truth of what’s happening.

But I do think that the media, the alternative media specifically, is going in a good direction. I am personally able to get published; last week I had something in the Dallas morning News a couple of days before I had something in the San Diego Tribune. These are mainline papers, covering the Palestinian perspective. Unfortunately, everything I get published gets run side-by-side with a syndicated, rather right-wing reporter here in the States, whose giving the Israeli line, but that’s okay. I think if the Americans are able to see both sides of the story, I think they will start to understand that the Palestinians have had a historical injustice being done against them. Unfortunately the U.S. is supporting the injustice.

CB: Recently, the Israeli High Court ruled that part of the separation wall near the villages of Azur and Nebi Elias be torn down. In addition, the wall would have also gone around the illegal settlement of Tzofin built on occupied land. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that; “essentially ruled that the State lied” over claims that the 670 km (415 mile) barrier “is based solely on security considerations.” Are we finally starting to see justice from the Israeli courts towards the Palestinians?

SB: First of all I don’t see any justice being done. What I think is happening, and I’ve read Israeli analysis of this, is that the wall could have been probably completed by now. However, especially with Sharon, before he was incapacitated, there’s an analysis that says: by design they didn’t finish building the wall as fast as they could’ve: Why? Because, especially after the International court of justice ruled that it was illegal and needs to be torn down, Israel needed some kind of legal cover to be able to justify what they’ve done; which is to sow down the building of the wall, and really propped it up to enter the Israeli court system so that different parts of it can be contested and thus the Supreme Court of Israel or High Court of Israel would give a decision to move it a few meters one way or the other, and thus give s sense of legitimacy to the wall.

And this is the bluff that the World is buying. That as the Israeli legal system, that’s the occupier is also justifying its occupation via a legal system. It’s a complete disrespect for the rule of law. And this is not the first tie we’ve seen the Israeli legal system play an active role in justifying the occupation, it happens in many spheres of life.

But regarding the wall itself, the International Court of Justice was very clear. The United Nations General Assembly was very clear; this wall at all parts of it, in all locations is illegal. If Israel wants to build a wall, they’re more than welcome like any other sovereign country to build anything they like on their own land. But they cannot build a wall, which runs through their neighbor’s kitchen, which is basically what, has happened to the Palestinians. They’ve taken not only the settlements that are illegal and put them on the Western side of the wall and annex those large settlements to become part of Israel proper. But they’ve also done something which is very hard to paint a picture of, they’ve incorporated the wall that all of the aquifers to be on the western side of the wall, thus creating one of the very rare resources in The Middle East, which is water, to also become part of this conflict. So not only are they doing a land grab, but they’ve also done a water grab. Not only that, as per the Oslo agreement, they’ve also controlled the airwaves. I’m in telecom by trade, and basically all of the frequencies are under Israeli control.

So your talking about a three dimensional occupation where the underground is being occupied as well as the land and the sky. And this is a complexity that they’ve been able to create where it’s rather subtle it’s difficult for foreign reporters to come and take a picture.

One of my Israeli friends who’s in the peace movement, Jeff Halper, he wrote a booklet called The Matrix of Control; that the occupation isn’t just one kind of control it’s a whole system of policies and permits, check-points, access and denied access, that all together make up this occupation. So it’s one of the most sophisticated types of oppression that we’ve seen in recent history. And little by little it’s becoming exposed, and Palestinians are in a race against time, because this most recent aggression against us, we feel that what is being done with the wall is not only creating a separation between the Palestinians in The West Bank, Gaza, and Israel, but is also creating a separation between Palestinians in various Palestinian cities from each other. And at the end of the day this is what we call in Middle East politics the politics of transfer.

In 1948 and 1967when Israel made their aggression, they actually transferred forcefully populations outside of the areas they wanted to control. Today what they are doing with all this matrix of control is creating an involuntary transfer where people are becoming so frustrated, they’re livelihood is so difficult to maintain, that people are looking for ways out and if they have the means to be able to leave, they leave voluntarily. As far as the Israelis are concerned it reaches the same goal to have as much land as possible with the least amount of Palestinians on it as possible.

This is why we really feel that we are in a race against time. And its sad because you look at the US as the super power, legislation is being passed through the house and the Senate that not only speaks the Israeli State line, but even goes further than that and more extreme and becoming a one-sided approach to the entire conflict. It’s a dangerous situation, that I personally think will break somewhere along the line.

Palestinians can no longer go on living with the amount of stress that is being applied to their society from a humanitarian perspective as well as a political perspective. And I really fear for the days to come. Because this is not a status quo this is a kettle ready to boil over.

CB: The House of Representatives passed by an overwhelming majority a bill (HR 4681) to severely restrict aid to the Palestinians, further worsening an already horrible humanitarian crisis in Gaza and The West Bank. What is the current situation on the ground and how will this bill affect the situation in the future?

SB: The American legislation is rather surprisingly taking a more draconian measure than even the Israelis themselves are taking. I think that these days as the Israeli lobby, APIAC, is being exposed even further and further, many people think that the U.S. system is so tied to Israeli affairs domestically that it’s very difficult for Palestinians to make in-roads at least in the legislative side of things. The Palestinian/Israeli conflict is not a foreign affairs issue for the U.S. it’s a live domestic issue and we seen that throughout history where legislators running for the House and the Senate are defeated at times because they’ve taken the wrong position as far as the Israeli lobby is concerned.

In a general sense the Palestinians have been aware that all of the donors, The U.S. and E.U. being the largest, that have invested into Palestine during the last ten years since Oslo was signed; we are fully aware that those monies are politically motivated and it’s been a struggle that as we try to do a dual task of ending the occupation, at the same time trying to establish the economy for a future State. We have to weigh between how much those donor funds are being funneled for Palestinian priorities and how much are being funneled for donor priorities.

Recently, the Senate passed their version of the House bill (S.2370), and there’s 20 million dollars allocated for peace, reconciliation and democracy. The Palestinians just came out with the most democratic elections in the entire Middle East, maybe they can be compared to elsewhere in the World and the U.S. As international observers, including Jimmy Carter stated. And the problem is not that we don’t know how to apply democracy, we just did, the problem is that the U.S. as part of the international community are not able to accept democratically elected results. And that is the real crux of the matter, because if those donor funds are to be applied only if democracy results only in the results those donors want to see, then I think they need to take a closer look at their own understanding of what democracy is all about.

As they move forward the Palestinians will scrutinize even more the various funds that are coming in. True, in a humanitarian crisis I doubt the Palestinians will turn down food and medicines away, but as we move forward, and hopefully things settle down a bit and some of those donor funds move into more developmental channels, I think the Palestinians will want to dictate even more that those funds are supporting Palestinian priorities and maybe not U.S. priorities.

We saw what happened during the last ten years where international funds, U.S. funds were investing millions and millions in the infrastructure; an airport, a port, water projects, industrial parks, and it took only weeks for the Israeli military, at the beginning of this Intifada, to destroy most of that via those same tanks and Apache helicopters that they got from the U.S.

If the American public cannot see that they’re investment, their tax dollars that are being invested in developmental projects in Palestine are being destroyed by those same grants that they’re giving to Israel then the problem is really on the American side to look at.

As far as the Palestinians are concerned, with these international sanctions and boycotts being applied against us, I would hope and I would imagine that any future government is going to really scrutinize how much and where those funds go. In addition, I think Palestinians are going to be looking at more self-sufficient types of measures. So that we can start to get off these donor funds; at the end of the day many Palestinians are saying; ‘Donor funds are paying for the occupation.’ Every dollar that is put into the Palestinian Authority today is a dollar that is a dollar that Israel gets to maintain the occupation.

So as we move forward, the dynamics are going to change greatly compared to what they were the last ten years.

CB: The Presbyterian Church of the United States (PCUSA) at its annual conference voted on whether to selectively divest from companies that do business with Israel, with regards to the occupation. Although PCUSA has decided not to take steps to divest at this time, they have left this as a last option if no other is available. In fact, they decided to use “softer” language in their wording of the statement. The Israeli supporters claimed that this was a victory for Israel. How do you see this statement and the situation with regards to divestment?

SB: I am personally in the loop with the PCUSA and I understand the most recent move of using “softer” language. But what I received, following the convention, were statements much to the contrary of an Israeli victory. They were saying that they have been put under an extreme amount of pressure of all different levels of the national church to withdraw their activities with regards to Israel. They did not withdraw their activities they had to make adjustments for various reasons. But I think there just as much focused on utilizing their positions to expose the injustices as never before; The Episcopal Church as well is involved in a similar situation as well.

I have to place a little bit of the blame on the inability to create this international movement of sanctions and divestments on our own leadership. Because at the end of the day one of the things that South Africans are fully aware, was that the ANC was in full control of leading the national struggle. In the Palestinian scenario it’s not as clear-cut. We have a lack of resistance leadership; The Palestinian leadership, at this stage, is more involved in trying to appease the U.S. government because they think that U.S. government has the means to end this occupation, or they’re rushing behind the Israeli leadership hoping that they will come back to the negotiating table. But what we see is a lack of Palestinians leading a solidarity movement nationally, clearly calling for boycotts and divestments. At the end of the day I think that without that Palestinian leadership taking it’s natural role and putting a frame and action plan forward, we’re going to find in various spots around the World and various organizations around the World, at times will become more active in divestment than at other times. But we’re not going to find that major thrust that’s required.

Having said that I have full respect for all those organizations that are taking concrete steps to work towards divestment; it’s happening at the academic level, it’s happened at the business level, and what we need is a coalescing of all those efforts via a clear Palestinian leadership to move forward. And that kind of leadership is probably in the midst of being created; because this last onslaught that Israel has undertaken where civilians and children are being killed on a daily basis; I think more and more people are becoming aware that we cannot pin our hopes on an Israeli government coming to it’s senses; and we definitely cannot look towards the U.S. to lead an effort to bring their allies back to the community of nations; they’re not going to do it.

As I said, we believe that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a domestic issue, and the U.S. being a short –term kind of system, where people are looking at elections before they’re looking at long-term strategies; the U.S. is not set-up to deal with such a complicated issue. I feel that the results of the reality, especially after the sanctions that have been held against the Palestinian Authority, because of their democratic elections, this is going to bring the Palestinians round about into another level of “leadership resistance” to move the solidarity movement in a way that can be non-violent but effective as well.

In The Middle East, non-violence has not had much success because of the lack of proper leadership for it. Many people think that non-violence happens automatically; whereas we know, its hard work and a lot of sacrifice goes into creating a mass movement. But I feel that Israel is giving no other alternative except for Palestinians to renew they’re resistance in more creative ways, in ways that actually can achieve a victory. And if we look at that a little more deeply, they would do themselves a favor by coming to the negotiating table to end this occupation as soon as possible; because it will end one way or the other.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Road to Map to Starvation

What's Next for the Palestinians?


The topic under discussion was grim - "The Politics of Starvation: The Humanitarian Crisis in Palestine." In Room SC-6 of the U.S. Capitol, the Council for the National Interest (CNI) authored a public forum, the 18th in a series over the last few years, dealing with Middle East issues, and in particular, the Israel-Palestine Question. The two presenters at the standing-room- only event on June 23, 2006, were Tim Rothermel, a former UN chief of its Development Program to the Palestinian people (UNDP); and Ms. Laila El-Haddad, a Palestinian journalist and mother from Gaza. She is a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at both Harvard and Duke U. Ms. El-Haddad has reported for Aljazeera Satellite Network, Pacifica Radio, UK Guardian Unlimited and also BBC World Service. She also maintains a popular blog.

Since January, 2006, the Israelis have been tightening the screws on the Palestinians, because they dared to elect a government dominated by members of Hamas. (3) Beside additional border closings and constant harassment of civilians at check points, the Israelis' targeted killings of victims has also greatly accelerated. After May 31, 2006, when Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke to a mostly servile U.S. Congress, the Israeli Occupation Army (IOF) slaughtered 32 Palestinians, including 10 children. Olmert said he has "deep regrets" about the operations of the IOF, but that the lives of Israeli citizens were "even more important," which sounded like a line out of George Orwell's "Animal Farm." As a result of some of the arbitrary IOF's border closings, essential food items for "765,000 Gazans" have been seriously "delayed" and even put in jeopardy.

"The humanitarian outlook for the occupied Palestinian territory has become extremely bleak. It is expected to worsen dramatically in the coming months," said Rothermel. He underscored that since the Hamas victory at the polls in January, Israel has halted its "transfer of the Value Added Taxes and custom taxes it is obligated to pay, amounting to half of the Palestinian Authority's budget." Along with this measure, "Western donor funding for Palestinians," has been suspended as well. "With the fall in revenue to the Palestine Authority (PA), the salaries of over 150,000 civil servants have for the most part not been paid since March. And these civil servants, in turn, directly support some one million other Palestinians or a quarter of the population in the West Bank and Gaza. And the majority of these civil servants are the doctors and nurses, school teachers, police officials and municipal employees whose services provide the backbone of a functioning civil society," Rothermel emphasized.

The affable Eugene H. Bird, CNI's President, since 1994, opened the proceedings by saying the Israel-Palestine Question "was central to resolving the U.S. war on terrorism." He said that over "60 percent" of the American people want Israel to be held "more accountable" for its reckless actions and that the present federal administration has "no idea what they are doing." As for the U.S. Congress, he said, "It should be ashamed of itself." Rafi Dajani, executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), served as moderator for the nearly two-hour program.

"Numbers reflect the deepening crisis," Rothermel continued. "Seventy percent of the population in the occupied Palestinian territory is now living below the poverty line, up from sixty-eight percent in 2005, and thirty percent five years earlier. Unemployment, currently at thirty-eighty percent of the workforce, is expected to double by the end of this year, according to World Bank estimates. The lack of socioeconomic improvement and a rise in violence, attributable to living conditions, has led to increased levels of insecurity throughout the population and food insecurity, i.e. people unable to rely on the purchase of food, has reached over half the population as a result of the PA's fiscal crisis, extended closures (of borders) and market disruptions."

Rothermel also referred to a recent UN report, whose compelling statistics revealed that the "Gross Domestic Product (in the Occupied Territories) is estimated to fall by 27% by the end of 2006, and poverty [is] expected to rise sharply. Around 70% of Gaza's potential workforce, for example, will be out of work or go without pay. [They] made up 40% [of the] current unemployed. The loss of PA salaries and further job cuts through the contraction of the economy and the loss of work in Israel (sic)...Palestinians and their goods are no longer able to move freely within the West Bank and are banned from entering many areas, such as the Jordan Valley. Imports into Gaza from Israel are functioning at minimal levels and exports in the past two months have dropped to just six trucks a day..."

The other speaker at this event was Ms. El-Haddad. Her comments were mostly restricted to the present desperate human rights situation in Gaza, where close to 1.4 million people reside. She said Gaza is "sealed off" and that "90 percent of the population are under a total travel ban." She also told the audience that "over 16,000 homes" in the southern border town of Rafah were razed by the IOF, prior to their so-called "disengagement," and that "20,000 fruit-filled trees were uprooted" by the occupiers. (5) She added that Gaza is "so enclosed, that it feels like a prison." To reinforce that opinion, she told how one of the children of Rafah had asked her: "Have you ever seen an Egyptian?" Many of the children of that area, she related, "have never left Rafah, let alone Gaza." Ms. El-Haddad showed photos of "Green Houses" in Gaza, that were funded by U.S. taxpayers and were destroyed by the IOF, which she labeled, "a completely unaccountable" entity.

Ms. El-Haddad said that since the "disengagement" by the IOF, in March, 2006, (citing UN statistics), that "over 8,000" artillery shells have fallen on Gaza, about "a hundred shells a day," fired by IOF's air strikes, ground forces or from their naval gunboats. "The only commercial crossing," she continued, "into Gaza has been closed more than 50 percent of the year. And as a result, the wheat stocks, at one point, were completely depleted and there were bread shortages. People had to line up and get their rations-two bags of bread a day. The problem is that those stocks (wheat stocks) have never been replenished, are unreliable, and also a thousands of tons of fruits and vegetables actually rotted. Millions of dollars were lost. More importantly, exports couldn't get outside to Europe..."

Summing up, Ms. El-Haddad said, "there are 9,000 Palestinians" languishing in Israeli jails. The overwhelming majority of them, "without charges. Twenty percent of all Palestinians have been detained or imprisoned at one point in their lives-40 percent of men. Gaza," she concluded, "is very dangerous. It is really at the brink of an implosion, that I can't emphasize enough. Everything is so unstable right now from a humanitarian perspective..."

Finally, as a result of the authoritative and scholarly Harvard Study, many in this country have come to the shocking realization, that the Israeli Lobby has been exercising "unmatched power" over our foreign policy for more than 40 years, which hasn't been in the national interest. (6) Whether that will make any difference in how the American people reply to this latest outrage, (read collective punishment), by the Israelis over the Palestinians, remains an open question. Nevertheless, the Israelis, and their Hard Right Zionist supporters in the U.S., should be put on notice that a day of justice is coming. The brilliant Scottish historian, Thomas Caryle, put it this way: "Foolish men imagine that because judgment for an evil thing is delayed, there is no justice...Judgment for an evil thing is many times delayed...but it is sure as life, it is sure as death."

William Hughes is the author of "Saying 'No' to the War Party" (IUniverse, Inc.). He can be reached at

Hudson Institute and 'Eye on the UN' join the ranks of gutter journalists

Yacoub Kahlen, The Electronic Intifada, 22 June 2006

Recently, the Hudson Institute, a prestigious, academic think-tank in the United States, with an impressive list of associates though strongly pro-Israel roots, released a surprisingly amateurish report through its project 'Eye on the UN'. The report criticizes the United Nations for granting consultative status to the internationally respected Palestinian NGO Badil. As Yacoub Kahlen writes, their flimsy critiques are strong indications of the growing desperation amongst elite supporters of Israel that the Zionist lobby is losing the moral argument, and just like the NGO Monitor, the 'Eye on the UN' should not be taken seriously by anyone interested in serious analysis and a human rights perspective.

Hudson Institute

The Hudson Institute was founded by Herman Kahn, who is described as a 'brilliant futurist'. By way of endorsement, the Institute quotes US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who describes Kahn as:

'a giant. He boldly confronted public issues with creativity and the conviction, in his case correct, that thought and analysis could help make ours a better world.1'

However, despite such endorsements from committed neo-conservatives such as Rumsfeld, one shouldn't think that the Hudson Institute is necessarily a tool of the Republicans and neo-cons alone. Indeed, its board is represented by Democrats and Republicans alike as well as major US corporations. They include the well known neo-con Richard Perle, but also Roy Innis, national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), elsewhere described as a 'civil rights leader' and 'lifelong democrat'. It must, however, be mentioned that Innis' integrity has been called into question, particularly concerning his views on the anti-apartheid movement, which he once described as 'a vicarious, romantic adventure' with 'no honest base'.2

All board members appear to share a similarly conservative vision that American-style 'freedom' is what every country in the world aspires to and that the USA should help them reach this glittering ideal. An example of this is contained in the biography of Hudson Institute board member and former US Senator Rudy Boschwitz, who was sent by then President George H.W. Bush to Ethiopia in 1991.

'His mission resulted in Operation Solomon, the rescue of the small Black Jewish community of Ethiopia and their dramatic airlift to Israel. The negotiations also helped cause a simultaneous end to the decades-long civil war in Ethiopia.'

This vision is further confirmed in the Hudson Institute's mission statement, describing itself as:

'a non-partisan policy research organization dedicated to innovative research and analysis that promotes global security, prosperity, and freedom. We challenge conventional thinking and help manage strategic transitions to the future through interdisciplinary and collaborative studies in defense, international relations, economics, culture, science, technology, and law. Through publications, conferences and policy recommendations, we seek to guide global leaders in government and business.'

'Since our founding in 1961 ... Hudson's perspective has been uniquely future-oriented and guardedly optimistic. Our research has stood the test of time in a world dramatically transformed by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rise of China, and the advent of radicalism within Islam. Because Hudson sees the complexities within societies, we focus on the often-overlooked interplay among culture, demography, technology, markets, and political leadership.'

Among the subjects on the Institute's current research agenda: 'The War on Terror and the Future of Islam', which characterises much of the Institute's publications concerning Israel and the Palestinians. Although its funding is clearly substantial, the Foundation does not disclose its sources of funding on its website.

Eye on the UN

'Eye on the UN' is a project of the Hudson Institute in collaboration with the Touro Law Center Institute for Human Rights. Its editor-in-chief, Anne Bayefsky, is both a 'senior fellow' with the Hudson Institute and 'visiting professor' at the Touro College Law Center.

Bayefsky is assisted by Gillian Collins, a legal researcher who used to work with Bayefsky at York University in Toronto and Rebecca Tobin, who interned at the Anti-Defamation League,3 well known for its virulent comments against critics of Israel. This three-member staff is complemented by a list of authors,4 which include the well-known neo-conservative Newt Gingrich and Gerald Steinberg (of the NGO Monitor). The site includes reference to an article written by Steinberg entitled 'NGOs Make War on Israel'.

Purpose of the 'Eye'

The stated purpose of the 'Eye on the UN' project, according to its website, reveals an intense skepticism, verging on outright resentment, of the role of the United Nations in international affairs, suggesting that it has betrayed its original intentions. Ignoring the previous history of the UN's predecessor, the League of Nations and instead insisting that the United Nations 'rose from the ashes of World War II and the Holocaust', the website goes on to make reference to the Nuremberg tribunals (which prosecuted Nazi war criminals). However, it claims that the UN 'has not lived up to the task of "naming", let alone shaming or intervening.' The website goes on to claim that 'the UN human rights system has squandered the commitment and passion of its original benefactors'. Rather than supporting the UN in fulfilling its stated intentions, the 'Eye on the UN' makes the ambiguous, and somewhat menacing promise of: 'making transparent the UN's record on its fundamental promise - to identify, condemn, and protect against human rights violations.5

Managing great ambitions with a narrow focus

Given the vast breadth of work that the United Nations covers, if only in the area of human rights, the purpose of the 'Eye' is, it must be said, an immense undertaking for a visiting professor, assisted by a lawyer, a young graduate and a group of independent authors.

However, its 'secret' to managing such an ambitious set of objectives becomes quickly clear. The website's section 'In the Spotlight', and indeed the rest of the site, focuses overwhelmingly on the Middle East, terrorism and, above all, how the organisation perceives the UN's treatment of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Overwhelming focus on Israel

Editor-in-chief Bayefsky ensures that the focus of the 'Eye' is squarely on what it perceives as Israel's ill treatment at the United Nations. In a passionately-written report entitled 'Spreading Hate, Destruction & Terrorism: The UN-NGO Cadre', Bayefsky makes the hysterical claim that NGOs have displaced the impact of States.

'The multibillion-dollar U.N. system was once largely closed to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as the private playing field of member states. But NGOs have now found their way into the most intimate recesses of the U.N. It is a development, however, that is not a one-way street with the members of so-called "civil society" as mere supplicants looking for an opening.'6

The focus of Bayefsky's report, which is surprisingly devoid of analysis for such an experienced academic, is on efforts by NGOs to draw attention to Israel's massive violations of human rights and humanitarian law through a worldwide boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, which Bayefsky attempts to reframe as 'Spreading Hate, Destruction & Terrorism'.

'It is the large number of NGOs that have been empowered by U.N.-accreditation to spread anti-Semitism, hate, and encourage terrorism from a U.N. platform. The call for boycotts and sanctions against Israel is a central plank of this campaign.'7

Glossing over Israel's behaviour

Without referring to Israel's widespread violations of human rights and humanitarian law, the 'Eye' deals with the numerous references to Israel by their bland, UN reference number, with no elaboration, suggesting elsewhere that the disproportionate attention given to Israel discloses some kind of 'conspiracy' against Israel and, by implication, the Jewish people.

The 'Eye' website section 'Memorable UN moments' takes the conspiracy theme further, focusing exclusively on the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances in Durban, South Africa by providing a video as well as various handouts, signs and clothing that were apparently carried or worn by protestors at the conference. It is a curious - and highly misleading - mish-mash of what were clearly fringe, overtly anti-Semitic messages distributed at the meeting together with more prominent pro-Palestinian slogans and messages critical of Israel. The underlying implication is that the protestors, and by extension the entire event was anti-Semitic. The effect of this effort, which organisations like the Anti-Defamation League, American Israel Political Action Committee and others have also undertaken, is to dishonestly and simplistically equate criticisms of Israel or support for Palestinians with hatred of Jews.

Missing in all of this so-called analysis are the numerous, public statements made by the United Nations, world leaders present at the conference and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson that openly and unconditionally condemned anti-Semitism.

Links with the Jerusalem Center and NGO Monitor

While direct references are difficult to find, the Hudson Institute and its 'Eye' project work hand-in-hand with the Jerusalem Center on Public Affairs (JCPA) and its virulent, poorly-researched and hate-mongering publication, NGO Monitor.

While the Hudson Institute itself seems more reluctant to acknowledge these links, the JCPA makes frequent reference to the Hudson Institute, presumably in an effort to try and lend itself credibility and distance itself from its own military background.

But while each organisation seeks to position itself differently - JCPA are the brash, burly military types, while the Hudson Institute staff present themselves itself as polished academics - the two are very much linked and adopt increasingly similar tactics in their efforts to win support for Israel.

Direct links include Max Singer, an associate of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs who was a founder and President of the Hudson Institute8. Nina Rosenwald serves on the board of both organisations. Rosenwald also serves on the Board of an organisation called 'Freedom House'.9 In their 'Map of Freedom 2005', Freedom House presents Israel - quite misleadingly - as the only 'free' country in the middle-east, next to Jordan, which is presented as 'partly free'.10 This reference stands in bizarre contrast to the numerous references by the UN, and documented by the 'Eye on the UN', to countless violations of human rights and humanitarian law by Israel, including both its appalling discrimination of Palestinian citizens of Israel and actions of the Israeli military and security forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Criticism of Badil

The 'Eye's' treatment of the UN World Conference Against Racism is used as a 'template' for their treatment of the internationally-respected Palestinian organisation, Badil Resource Centre on Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights.

Similar to the shallow and deeply pro-Israel approach of the NGO Monitor, the criticisms raised about Badil by the 'Eye on the UN' are poorly researched and rely on simplistic rhetoric. According to the 'Eye', as with the NGO Monitor, advocating for the legally protected, politically acknowledged and morally defensible right of return and restitution of Palestinian lands is equated with 'advocating the end of a Jewish state'. Badil's important documentation of the passionate sentiments of those whose land was (in many cases violently) taken away from them is equated with 'glorification of violence and encouraging terrorism'. In neither case is there any serious analysis done. What passes for critique is nothing more than empty rhetoric. Most mystifying of all are the 'Eye's' reference to two illustrations, apparently from Badil's website, which depict Israeli oppression against Palestinians and their homes. According to the 'Eye', such images are supposed to represent anti-Semitism.

The report concludes with website references to reports by the NGO Monitor, which has been widely discredited by organisations interested in serious analysis and solid reporting. That the 'Eye' can claim to have a human rights perspective is a laughable proposition.

The Hudson Institute disgraces itself

By associating itself with such an amateurish initiative, where conspiracy theories concerning Israel dominate and serious critiques of state behaviour, human rights and the challenging work of the UN are anywhere from thin to non-existent, the Hudson Institute, by associating itself with the 'Eye on the UN' disgraces itself.

Furthermore, the Institute's and 'Eye's' close links with the overtly pro-Israel Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and its 'NGO Monitor', with its poorly researched, hate-filled messages, make it yet another outlet for confusion, rather than serious discourse and analysis.

The Hudson Institute and the 'Eye' should not be taken seriously

The staff of the Hudson Institute, its 'Eye on the UN' project and particularly the writings of Anne Bayefsky, an unabashed Zionist with a highly selective interpretation of human rights, form part of a long history of scare-mongering by Israel and its supporters, spreading lies and half-truths and undermining the efforts of the United Nations to bring peace to the middle-east.

They are amongst those who maintain the tired position that the UN is "anti-Israel".

While aiming to be more sophisticated, the Hudson Institute and 'Eye' project are essentially cut from the same cloth as the Jerusalem Center for Public Policy and its discredited NGO Monitor. Both disclose a growing desperation by Israel and its supporters, who are fast losing the moral defensibility of their positions.

Just like the NGO Monitor, the 'Eye on the UN' should not be taken seriously by anyone interested in serious analysis and concern over human rights and humanitarian law.

Yacoub Kahlen is a pseudonym. The author is a journalist and political commentator.

1. All unacknowledged quotes in this section: Hudson Watch,
2. Ref: Lobby watch
3. Ref: Anti-Defamation League,
4. Ref: Eye on the UN
5. Ref: Eye on the UN
6. Ref: Eye on the UN
7. Ibid.
8. Ref: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
9. Ref: Hudson Institute
10. Ref: Freedom House
11. NGO Monitor should not be taken seriously, Yacoub Kahlen and Robert E. Foxsohn (18 October 2005)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Another Escalation from the Palestinians

June 26, 2006

Another Escalation from the Palestinians

Israeli "Retaliation" and Double Standards


The killing by Palestinian militants of two Israeli soldiers and the capture of a third from an army post close to the Gaza Strip set the scene for Israeli "reprisals" and "retaliation", according to the reports of BBC correspondents in Israel and Gaza yesterday.

The attack by the Palestinians, who sneaked through tunnels under the electronic fence surrounding Gaza, marked a "major escalation in cross-border tension" (Alan Johnston) that threatened to overturn "a week of progress on two fronts" (John Lyon): namely, the recent talks between Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan, and between rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas.

Thus, according to the BBC's analysis, this attack ends the immediate chances for "peace" negotiations and provides the context for the next round of the conflict between the Israeli army and the Palestinians of Gaza. We are left to infer that all the suffering the army inflicts in the coming days and weeks should be attributed to this moment of "escalation" by the Palestinians.

We can ignore the weeks of shelling by the Israeli army of Gaza, the firing of hundreds of missiles into the crowded Strip that have destroyed Palestinian lives and property, while spreading terror among the civilian population and deepening the psychological trauma suffered by a generation of children.

We can ignore the deaths of more than 30 civilians, and dozens of horrific injuries, in the past few weeks at the hands of the Israeli military, including three children hit in a botched air strike last week, and a heavily pregnant woman and her doctor brother killed a day later as a missile slammed into the room where they were eating dinner.

We can ignore the blockade of Gaza's "borders" by the Israeli army for months on end, which has prevented Palestinians in the Strip from trading goods at crossing points with Israel and from receiving vital supplies of food and medicines. As a captive population besieged by Israeli soldiers, Gazans are facing a humanitarian catastrophe sanctioned by Israeli government policy and implemented by the Israeli army.

We can ignore Israel's bullying of the international community to connive in the starving of the Hamas-led government of funds and diplomatic room for manoeuvre, thereby preventing the elected Palestinian leadership from running Gaza. So desperate is the situation there that Hamas officials are being forced to smuggle in millions of dollars of cash stuffed in suitcases to pay salaries.

And finally we can ignore the violation of Palestinian territory by Israeli commandos who infiltrated Gaza a day before the Palestinian attack to kidnap two Palestinians Israel claims are terrorists. They have been "disappeared", doubtless to be be held in administrative detention, where they can denied access to lawyers, the courts and, of course, justice.

None of this provides the context for the Palestinian attack on the army post -- any more than, in the BBC's worldview, do the previous four decades of occupation. None is apparently relevant to understanding the Palestinian attack, or for judging the legitimacy of Israel's imminent military "reprisals".

In short, according to the BBC, we can ignore Israel's long-standing policy of unilateralism -- a refusal to negotiate meaningfully with the Palestinians, either the old guard of Fatah or the new one of Hamas -- with its resort to a strategy of collective punishment of Gaza's population to make it submit to the continuing occupation.

In the skewed moral and news priorities of the BBC, the killing of two Israeli soldiers by Palestinian militants -- the "escalation" -- provides a justification for "fierce retaliation" against Gaza, with the inevitable toll on Palestinian civilians and militants alike. The earlier killing of tens of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli military, however, is not presented as justification for yesterday's Palestinian retaliation against the army.

In other words, on the scale of moral outrage the BBC ranks the deaths of Israeli soldiers enforcing an illegal occupation far above those of Palestinian civilians enduring the illegal occupation.

There is another notable asymmetry in the BBC's assessment of the "escalation". Participation by the military wing of Hamas in the attack is evidence, suggest the reporters, of the role of the Palestinian leadership in "escalating tension". But the killing by the Israeli army of a Palestinian family of seven on a Gaza beach on June 9, and many more civilians since, was apparently not an "escalation", even though it provoked Hamas to renounce a ceasefire it had maintained for 16 months in the face of continuous Israeli military assaults.

So how is the ordinary viewer to make sense of these events -- the endless "cycle of violence" -- with the BBC as guide. (And the BBC is no worse, and possibly better, than most of other Western broadcasters. At least its reporter Alan Johnston is based in Gaza.)

Not only do its reporters exhibit the biases associated with its institutional racism -- as an organisation, the BBC chooses to identify with Israeli concerns before Palestinian ones -- but they then compound this distortion by repeating uncritically Israel's own misrepresentation of events.

The reporters, like so many of their colleagues, fall into the trap of presenting the conflict through the eyes of the Israeli government, the same government whose prime minister, Ehud Olmert, last week proudly displayed his ethnic chauvinism by setting the suffering of the Jewish residents of Sderot, who face a mostly non-lethal smattering of Palestinian home-made Qassam rockets, far above the rising death toll of Gaza's civilians from the army's constant aerial and artillery bombardment. "I am sorry with all my heart for the residents of Gaza," Olmert said, "but the lives and well-being of Sderot's residents are more important than those of Gaza residents." In other words, a potential threat to a single Jew is more important than the deaths of dozens of Palestinian innocents.

Thus we learn without comment from the BBC that Olmert has denounced the killing of the two soldiers as "terrorism", even though the word cannot describe an attack by an occupied people on an occupying army. How is it possible for a few men with light arms to terrorise one of the most powerful armies in the world? What next: are we to listen sympathetically to claims by the US that its soldiers are being "terrorised" by Iraqi insurgents?

The defence that the BBC is simply reporting Israel's position does not stand up to scrutiny. Is it even conceivable that we might hear a BBC reporter neutrally repeat a Hamas statement that the Israeli army is terrorising Palestinians by reckless shelling civilians in Gaza, even though the word's usage in this case would better satisfy the dictionary definition? The shells most certainly do spread terror among Gaza's civilian population.

We hear too without comment that Olmert is holding both Hamas and the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas responsible for the attack. The BBC dutily repeats Israeli claims that Abbas has the resources to fight "terror" even as the money to pay Palestinian security forces is held by foreign banks unwilling, at Israeli and American behest, to hand it over, and as Hamas and Abbas are locked in battle for control of the Palestinians' shrinking government.

Does common sense not recoil from the suggestion that both Hamas and Abbas can be equally blamed for the attack when the two are bitter rivals for power? Or that either can be held accountable when Israel has refused to negotiate with them or treat them as the genuine representatives of the Palestinian people?

Again, would the BBC report with due solemnity claims by the Palestinians that they hold Olmert and Peretz personally guilty for the civilian deaths in Gaza over the past fortnight, even though in an enlightened world both should be standing trial for war crimes?

Instead, however implausible the Israeli version of reality, the BBC happily sows confusion on behalf of the Israeli army. Like other broadcasters, it credulously reports preposterous arguments seeking to exonerate the Israeli army of responsibility for the shelling of the beach in Gaza that killed a Palestinian family of seven. It treats as equally credible the army's belated version in which Palestinian militants are said to have laid a single mine at a favourite seaside picnic spot in the futile hope of preventing the Israeli navy landing along the Strip's miles of coastline. (In consequence, the BBC excludes the seven dead and dozens of Palestinian injured in that Israeli attack from its list of recent civilian casualties in Gaza).

And both BBC reporters note gravely Israel's concerns that this is the first time Palestinian militants have broken out of the fenced-off Strip since Israel withdrew from Gaza nearly a year ago. Somehow the fact that the Palestinians have briefly escaped from their cage appears to make the attack all the more shocking not only for Israel but for the two reporters.

This attack in Israel, they tell us, is the most serious to date, with the implication that it is therefore illegitimate and part of the same "escalation". Even ignoring the fact that this attack was against Israeli soldiers besieging, imprisoning and shelling the Palestinians of Gaza, does the BBC not to pause to consider the double standard it is applying?

Was the Israeli army's incursion into Gaza a day earlier to capture two alleged Palestinian militants not an equal escalation? Was it not an equal violation of Palestinian sovereignty? Of course not. The BBC knows, as do the rest of us, that the army never really left Gaza and the occupation never really ended. But you won't hear that from any of its reporters.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the author of the forthcoming "Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State" published by Pluto Press, and available in the United States from the University of Michigan Press. His website is

Open Letter to Prime Minister Olmert....Yes another one!

Dear Prime Minister Olmert,

Hi. It’s been awhile since I last wrote to you. Sorry about that, been busy writing about some pretty bad things going on in Gaza. Actually, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.

I know the army is showing a lot of restraint in the Gaza Strip, but there are a few things that have me concerned at the moment.

In the last nine days 14 Palestinian civilians have been killed as a result of Israeli airstrikes that hit their targets and killed innocents nearby or missed their targets completely.

I appreciate you expressing “deep regret” for the killings due to army operations. But then you went on to say that the lives that are threatened by Qassam attacks are “even more important.”

Well, at least you’re finally starting to state truthfully what you’ve thought about in your mind; that Palestinians lives don’t amount too much.

Then you went on to say that; “I am deeply sorry for the residents of Gaza, but the lives, security and well-being of the residents of Siderot is even more important. I reject the attacks on the IDF and its commanders. No one is more dedicated or more cautious, and will continue to be so in the future.”

Well, I’m glad to hear that Mr. Olmert, because the last nine days have not been the army’s best.

I’m just assuming that the missile strike on the house which killed Fatima Ahmed, 37, and her brother Zakaria, 45, was one of those cautious and dedicated operations the IDF is so noted for.

Oh, did I fail to mention that Fatima was seven months pregnant?

But not to worry, we can all look to you as being a reasonable man. Well, reasonable is a relative term here. I mean, when you look at the comments that people like Bebe Netanyahu are making:

“The IDF has the power to wipe out an entire population if we wanted. We could wipe out all of Gaza but we are not doing this.”

Wow Mr. Olmert you sound like your prepping for the Nobel Peace Prize. Of course, Israel would never do this sort of thing. Remember, it has “the most moral army in the World.” Wow, glad we got that sorted out. I was starting to wonder; you know, what with children being blown apart and all recently.

Good on you buddy!

I’m glad the whole of the government doesn’t have the mindset like Yuval Steinitz, the former chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs and defense committee, said the Palestinians have failed to prevent daily attacks by homemade rockets and Israel must take steps to protect itself.

“I call on the government of Israel to wait no further, but to launch a comprehensive ground operation in Gaza for several weeks, to strike at the very foundations of the terrorist infrastructure,” he said. (Weizman, Steve AP Press 23 June 2006)

Man, I’m glad you guys aren’t listening to this dude. Can you imagine what Gaza would look like if ground troops went in? Seems better just to stick to the airstrikes, seems to be working for ya. Sure you kill an innocent kid here, bomb the house of a large family there. The point is, your making progress. And we sure know that the Outside world isn’t going to say anything. Well, almost no one; I heard that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is getting a bit perturbed about the response that you all seem to have in response to defending yourselves. But don't worry about him, the UN is gutless in the face of such fierce countries as Isarel, The U.S., and The Marshall Islands.

Look, I know you’ve got a lot of people to protect Mr. Olmert, Israel isn’t large, but hey six million is six million. But don’t you think that Annan’s comments that Israel’s strikes need to be, “proportionate and do not put civilians at grave risk,” doesn’t that seem valid to you? Almost three times as many Palestinian civilians have been killed in Gaza alone in the past nine days as Israeli civilians in Sderot killed by Qassam rockets in the past five years.

But hey, if your determined to go on with this airstrike thing, knock yourself out. I admire a person who sticks to this/her principles. Who cares if the World community has some serious questions regarding the deaths of the Ghalil family on Bait Lahiya beach back on 9 June. Your men investigated it and found themselves not guilty of foul play. I use to think that there needed to be an outside inquiry on this but not anymore!

The moral army needs no outside interference dammit!

Well, I better let you go. You’re a busy man and probably have better things to do with your time like have that wonderful photo op with Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan, and talking about you know circumventing the Hamas led government and talking to a man who was basically put in the “Prime Minister” position of the PA back in 2003 by you’re predecessor, Ariel Sharon and his lackey George Bush. Good luck with the talks, and remember to smile for the cameras.

Christopher Brown

PS Oh I almost forgot, any chance that you might re-consider talking with the Palestinians about the 1967 borders? I know you said; “I have no commitment to return back to the boundaries which are defined by my colleague Abu Mazen or by other Palestinians,” but could you give it some thought?

Any chance that you could speak to Bush and the EU about lifting those sanctions on monies being given to the Hamas led government? I’ll tell you, I’ve got friends who have small children and when they get sick, their parents can’t take them to the hospital because they’ve run out of medicine. It’s really bad right now. Any help you can give would be great! Thanks a lot pal.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Israeli lives worth more than Palestinian ones

By Donald Macintyre in Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip

The Independent
23 June 2006

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, expressed "deep
regret" for army operations that have killed 14
Palestinian civilians in Gaza in just nine days but said
the lives of Israeli citizens threatened by Qassam attacks
were "even more important".

The deaths in three separate missile attacks overshadowed
Mr Olmert's first meeting with the Palestinian President,
Mahmoud Abbas, since taking office, as grieving relatives
gathered here to mourn the two latest civilian victims,
Fatima Ahmed, a 37-year-old pregnant mother of two small
children, and her brother Zakaria, 45.

The siblings were killed by an Israeli missile which had
been launched in the second bungled attempt to assassinate
militants in less than 24 hours. The attack wounded 13
other members of the family, including six children, and
partly wrecked the house in which they had all been
concluding a celebratory meal in honour of Mr Ahmed, who
had been on a week-long visit from Saudi Arabia to see his
83-year-old mother.

A pile of fallen masonry and a gaping hole in the house's
straw roof were still visible yesterday at the house,
about 20 metres from the main Salahadin north-south Gaza
road at the entry to Khan Yunis.

The Israeli Defence Forces say that the attack early on
Wednesday evening was aimed at a pick-up truck carrying
members of militant Palestinian Resistance Committees.
Witnesses said a six-inch crater on the other side of the
road from the house was from a second missile.

The dead victim's sister-in-law, Amtiaz Ahmed, 47,
described how she had been in the kitchen preparing coffee
and tea at the end of the meal when the missile struck.
Displaying a dozen shallow cuts on the back and arms of
her 15-month-old nephew, Ahmed Sufian Ahmed, which she
said were from shrapnel, Mrs Ahmed exclaimed: "Is he a
terrorist? Does he have a rocket-propelled grenade? It is
the Zionists who are the terrorists."

Three children were killed in an assassination attempt
designed to curb Qassam rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel
on Tuesday.

Mr Olmert said last night in Caesarea: "I am deeply sorry
for the residents of Gaza, but the lives, security and
well-being of the residents of Sderot [the Israeli border
town which has borne the brunt of Qassam attacks] is even
more important. I reject the attacks on the IDF and its
commanders. No one is more dedicated or more cautious, and
will continue to be so in the future."

Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, this week called on
Israel to ensure its responses were "proportionate and do
not put civilians at grave risk ". Almost three times as
many Palestinian civilians have been killed in Gaza in the
past nine days as Israeli civilians in Sderot killed by
Qassam rockets in the past five years.

Maj-Gen Eliezer Shakedi, the Israeli air force commander
entrusted with investigating how the civilian deaths
occurred, told Army Radio: "We have to make a great effort
to try everything possible to avoid hitting civilians."
But he added: "We have to fight terrorism and we are doing
it... This is... the most accurate and the best possible
option without launching a broad and very significant
[ground] operation."

The dead woman's husband, Nidal Wahba, 39, said the
couple's 18-month-old son Khaled was in hospital after
having emergency surgery for injuries to his head. With
heavy irony, he added: "He has been shooting rockets at
Amir Peretz", the Israeli Defence Minister who lives in

But Mr Wahba, who works for an aluminium fabrication firm,
said he wanted to see an end to violence on both sides.
"We are against all this. We don't want to teach our
children violence. I wouldn't like to see this happen to
Israeli people."

The attack came amid signs of progress in talks between
Fatah and Hamas designed to reach an agreement on a
two-state solution to the conflict with Israel. Mr Wahba
said: "There are people in Gaza who want to make war
against Israel and people who want to make peace. I want
the Palestinians to have one goal and that should be

Of the missile strike which killed his wife and
brother-in-law, he added: " I hope it will be the last

Thursday, June 22, 2006

When Killings don't count

A Week of Israeli Restraint


In Israeli discourse, Israel is always the side exercising restraint in its conflict with the Palestinians. This was true again for the events of the past week: As the Qassam rockets were falling on the Southern Israeli town of Sderot, it was “leaked” that the Israeli Minister of Defense had directed the army to show restraint.1

During the week of Israeli restraint, the army killed a Palestinian family who went on a picnic on the Beit Lahya beach in the Gaza Strip; after that, the army killed nine people in order to liquidate a Katyusha rocket.

But in the discourse of restraint, the first killing does not count, because the army denied its involvement, and the second was deemed a necessary act of self-defense. After all, Israel is caught in the midst of Qassam attacks, and must defend its citizens. In this narrative, the fact that Israel is content merely to bombard the Gaza Strip from air, sea and land is a model of restraint and humanity that not many states could match.

But what is driving the Qassam attacks on Israel? For 17 months, since it declared a cease fire, Hamas has not been involved in firing Qassams. The other organizations have generally succeeded in launching only a few isolated Qassams.

How did this evolve into an attack of something like 70 Qassams in three days?

The Israeli army has a long tradition of “inviting” salvoes of Qassams. In April of last year, Sharon took off to a meeting with Bush in which his central message was that Abbas is not to be trusted, has no control of the ground, and cannot be a partner for negotiations. The army took care to provide an appropriate backdrop for the meeting. On the eve of Sharon’s departure, on 9 April 2005, the Israeli a rmy killed three youths on the Rafah border, who according to Palestinian sources were playing soccer there.

This arbitrary killing inflamed a wave of anger in the Gaza Strip, which had been relatively quiet until then. Hamas responded to the anger on the street, and permitted its people to participate in the firing of Qassams. On the following two days, about 80 Qassams were fired, until Hamas restored calm. Thus, during the Sharon-Bush meeting, the world received a perfect illustration of the untrustworthiness of Abbas.2

At the beginning of last week (11 June), Olmert set out on a campaign of persuasion in Europe to convince European leaders that now, with Hamas in power, Israel definitely has no partner. The USA does not appear to need any convincing at the moment, but in Europe there is more reservation about unilateral measures. The Israeli army began to prepare the backdrop on the night of the previous Thursday (8 June 2006), when it “liquidated” Jamal Abu Samhadana, who had recently been appointed head of the security forces of the Interior Ministry by the Hamas government. It was entirely predictable that the action may lead to Qassam attacks on Sderot. Nevertheless, the army proceeded the following day to shell the Gaza coast (killing the Ghalya family and wounding tens of people), and succeeded in igniting the required conflagration, until Hamas again ordered its people, on 14 June, to cease firing.

This time, the show orchestrated by the army got a bit messed up. Pictures of the child Huda Ghalya succeeded in breaching the wall of Western indifference to Palestinian suffering. Even if Israel still has enough power to force Kofi Annan to apologize for casting doubt on Israel’s denial, the message that Hamas is the aggressive side in the conflict did not go unchallenged in the world this time. But the army has not given up. It appears determined to continue to provoke attacks that would justify bringing down the Hamas government by force, with Sderot paying the price.

Even though it is impossible to compare the sufferings of the residents of Sderot with the sufferings of the residents of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya in the North of the Gaza Strip, on which 5,000 shells fell in the past month alone3, my heart also goes out to the residents of Sderot. It is their destiny to live in fear and agony, because in the eyes of the army their suffering is necessary so that the world may understand that Israel is the restrained side in a war for its very existence.

This op-ed went to press an hour before the Israeli air force killed three more children in a crowded street in North Gaza, on Tuesday, June 20.

Tanya Reinhart is a Professor of Linguistics at Tel Aviv University and the author of Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948 and The Roadmap to Nowhere. She can be reached through her website:


1. On Monday, June 12, the headlines announced that the Defence Minister Peretz blocked an initiative of the army to launch a massive land offensive in Gaza (e.g. Amos Har'el and Avi Issacharoff, Ha'aretz, June 12, 2006). In the inside pages of the weekend papers, it turned out that this was a "media spin" produced by Peretz bureau "based on a security consultation held the previous night" (Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, Lost innocents, Ha'aretz, June 16-17, 2006).

2. This sequence of events is documented in detail in my book The Road Map to Nowhere, to appear in July, 2006 (Verso).

3. Alex Fishman, Senior security analyst of Yediot Aharonot reports that at the beginning "the artillery shelling of the Gaza strip was debated", but then, "what started ten months ago with dozens of shells a month that were fired at open areas today reached astronomical numbers of shells. The battery that fired the six shells on Friday [June 9] fire an average of more than a thousand shells a week towards the north of the Strip. This means that the battery which has been placed there for four weeks has already fired about 5000 shells" (Yediot Aharonot Sa! turday Supplement, June 16, 2006).

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

All is not well in Iraq

This memo was leaked to the Washington Post. It contradicts all the statements that Bush and his Generals have been saying. This would not hold weight if it wasn't confirmed by the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.

To read a story from and downlaod a PDF copy of the memo, click on the link below.

Setting the bar high: An interview with Dahr Jamail

With his soft gentle voice and disarming smile, one wouldn’t categorize Dahr Jamail as a threat to National Security. But that is precisely what he is. Why? For having the nerve to suggest that the U.S. interests in Iraq are not “altruistic” as the Bush administration would have one believe; and Jamail would know he spent eight months in Iraq covering the war from Fallujah to Baghdad, from Mosul to Ramadi. As an un-embedded journalist, Dahr Jamail saw the “other” Iraq that those of us in the West rarely see. His dispatches from the frontlines gave us a glimpse into chaos that surrounds Iraqis every day at the hands of the coalition forces on one side and the insurgents on the other. I received the opportunity to speak with Dahr via phone about the current situation in Iraq, the woeful coverage by parachute mainstream journalists and the courage of brave men and women who refuse to fight in this “immoral” occupation. Please check out his website at:

Christopher Brown: Dahr Jamail, you recently wrote in an article published on the website, that the US and coalition forces are planning a major offensive in the town of Ramadi that would rival that of Fallujah. It is rumored that the coalition forces are not even allowing “embedded “ journalists on this assignment. Are we in the midst of seeing a total news blackout in regards to these offenses?

Dahr Jamail:
We are and I think this is a perfect example. I mean, when it gets to a point of not even allowing embedded reporters with the military – that’s a program that was set up by the Pentagon originally – where they won’t even allow those, then I don’t know what else needs to happen when we are looking at a news blackout. Because if we look at corporate media, not that I can say I’ve seen every single source of corporate media since this action against Ramadi has begun but from what I have seen; I haven’t seen any reporting of it whatsoever in the mainstream media back here in the U.S. There’s some Arabic journalists who are reporting it but it seems pretty clear that the U.S. military and the Bush administration had their way in Iraq at this point they would have total control of all information coming out of there. And with regards to Ramadi I think it’s as close to a news blackout as we’ve seen to date.

CB: You’ve mentioned Bush in all of this. As we know, Bush made a surprise visit to his Manchurian counter-part, Nuri Al Maliki. No one knew of this visit with the exception of Vice President. Dick Cheney, Secretary of State, Condaleeza Rice and Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. Should it not been seen as troubling that a Head of State who visits another not do so formally? With this visit, it is obvious that Iraq is no longer a sovereign nation and is therefore nothing more than a prop set-up by the U.S. Why is their no outrage or no questioning by the media over this visit?

Well I think that’s really the question of the day. And it’s really why I went to Iraq and why I continue to report on it. Because the corporate media journalists and stenographers simply won’t to their jobs I think we have to really get into that question. I think we need to talk about what’s causing this problem of not accurate information being given by journalists. Journalists basically not doing their jobs and I think there are a lot of reasons but primarily it’s corporate control of the media where journalists are simply trying to follow this unattainable guideline that was set-up once corporations began to buy up all the different media and they created this thing called “objective journalism” – which I personally don’t believe in – I believe in being balanced and being fair, but I don’t believe in the myth of objectivity.

I think that people try to adhere to this standard; basically giving equal weight in an argument, which really doesn’t deserve equal weight. For example, using this as a case in point; Bush’s surprise visit to al-Maliki that really, I agree with everything you said, It really underscored the fact that this individual is a puppet. The only reason he was inserted into the prime minister’s position was because Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice and Jack Straw (Rice’s British counterpart) made a prompt visit to Baghdad a ways back and pressured the acting prime minister at the time to step down and open up the way for al-Maliki to come into power.

It was clear from the beginning that he didn’t have credibility amongst the Iraqi people and he was brought into power by the occupation forces and being maintained in power by them. So, obviously, it’s clear that he is expected to bend to every whim that they have, including last minute visits by Mr. Bush. I read that Mr. al-Maliki had five minutes warning in advance of this visit, and therefore quite bit disturbed and downtrodden, and not pleased even in front of the press during much of Mr. Bush’s visit. And why isn’t this being reported this way? I don’t know how you would be very balanced about this, other than to show the truth. Which is, this is a situation in which Iraq essentially is another U.S. colony now or a U.S. territory. And their prime minister is simply another puppet who, without backing of the U.S., wouldn’t last longer than a few days inside Baghdad.

And I think we have to get down to the root of why are corporate journalists basically not reporting it and I think it is this myth of objectivity that they have to give equal balance to both sides of this argument – as if there are only two sides – there’s multi-faceted sides to this argument. But really it’s this lack of really getting down to the meat of what’s actually happening in the story, or the truth of what’s happening of which I just covered. And we look at the fact that there is censorship going on in the corporate world of journalism – both by the journalists themselves as well as the editors -I have had experience with some people with this. For example, I know of people (emphasis editor’s) working for CNN who have had, from time to time, produced good quality stories about what’s actually happening in Iraq but those stories never make it past the desk of the editors. Those are a couple of the main reasons and throw on top of that what we covered briefly before, which is the Bush administration pressuring various media outlets and doing things like issuing presidential orders making it illegal for various media outlets to show photographs of coffins of dead U.S. soldiers and even taking that to the point of trying to influence the media to not call them coffins of soldiers but rather call them “transfer tubes.”

We have an administration that has launched their own private war against journalism and I think all of those factors together can begin to explain why we see the state of journalism in the U.S. today in such a dismal state.

CB: You wrote that; Haditha is just one of many massacres, war crimes that are going on in Iraq today. There was Abu Gharib, Samara, Hamandia, and the only reason why these events were made known to us, was due to the fact that independent journalists and civilians went in and documented the facts. TIME magazine only covered the Haditha killings after video footage was shown to them. Abu Gharib became public when a soldier sent in the photos anonymously. Why is the corporate media not taking a closer look at these accusations when they are first reported by Iraqis and independent journalists? Why are not willing to look further on a consistent pattern of illegality that is being committed by the U.S. forces and their allies?

Well that’s a really important question and I think the best answer I can give is all of the different pressures whether they be self-imposed by corporate journalists themselves, or their editors, or the owners of various media outlets, or pressure from the government.

I agree and I think it would have become clear that to maintain their credibility that the wise thing to do now is to report on these things as they occur. And I think Ramadi is another case in point. As we speak we have atrocities being carried out by the U.S. military, I’m working on another story on that right now. From information I’m getting from people from within that city and aid organizations - that certainly an independent journalist with not much money, using a telephone and internet over in the U.S. who can get this information – if I can do it, I would think people in huge media agencies like CNN with millions of dollars behind them, all the latest high tech gear you could possible dream of as a journalist, they could certainly do the same thing from their bureau in Baghdad or pick another outlet and “insert their name here.”

And I think really as it goes on, they simply lose more credibility by the day by not doing their jobs as journalists. I don’t expect them ever - to suddenly wake up and do their job unless forced to. I mean, the situation with TIME magazine covering Haditha; that only occurred because they essentially were spoon-fed videos and footage and photographs by Iraqi journalists – and decided under whatever political circumstances, it was okay to go ahead and do this. It’s kind of like poll driven politics. We have politicians like John Kerry who now come out and are very opposed to the war, and are calling for a withdrawal of the troops. Well where was that attitude back when he was running for president? Well now the polls are shifted so it’s safe for him to do that. And I think the same thing can said for the journalists.

Now polls are drastically in favor of people who are opposed to the war, so now it’s safer as a journalist, it’s less of a risk, to do this kind of story. But yet we still don’t see en-masse this type of reporting being done. I think it’s an important open-ended question is: Why not? I think the longer that this continues, the more it simply erases whatever credibility might be left of the corporate journalists.

You spent 8 months in Iraq. You did not attend journalism school rather you were fed up with the coverage on the war in Iraq and decided that you were tired of getting lied to by the mainstream press and made up your mind to go to Iraq to see for yourself what was really transpiring. As an un-embedded journalist the risk of harm looms even greater for you not just by insurgents, but also coalition forces. For instance, the Palestine Hotel where most un-embedded journalists stayed in Baghdad was shelled by the U.S. Additionally, the Al Jazeera News network not only had it’s Baghdad headquarters bombed but also lost one of its brightest journalist’s. Are you getting a sense that the stories that yourself and other un-embedded journalists are uncovering have encouraged the coalition forces and in particular the U.S. military to target the independent media?

I think without a doubt that the Bush administration is intentionally, from the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, have been waging a war against information coming out from independent journalists.

I think this is clear – even back in the bombing of Afghanistan a month after 9/11 where U.S. warplanes bombed both the BBC bureau there and the bureau for Al Jazeera in Kabul the capital of Afghanistan. And that is a policy that continues right on into the invasion of Iraq.

If we go back during the invasion we look at the fact that Al Jazeera, not wanting their bureau to bombed there as it was in Afghanistan, intentionally gave their coordinates to the Pentagon so as not to be bombed. Of course they were bombed and one of their journalist’s was killed during that bombing. Since that time at least 15 journalists have been killed directly by occupation forces, by U.S. soldiers within Iraq. It is the bloodiest place in the World. The most unsafe place in the World to work as a journalist; more journalists have been killed in Iraq during the invasion and occupation than all that were killed during the entire Vietnam war over eight years; and even during WWII or WWI.

It’s rather astounding looking at it in that context of how bloody this has been for journalists and it’s directly because the Bush administration is willing to do whatever is necessary, including killing journalists, from keeping that information from getting out. Without a doubt if you’re an Arab or an independent journalist working in a place like Ramadi for example today, trying to take pictures of U.S. snipers shooting people and shooting ambulances, which is their policy now when they conduct these large operations in cities, your very much in danger of loosing your life if they see you doing that.

There’s been instances of U.S. tanks shelling the Palestine hotel during the invasion of Baghdad as well, killing a couple of journalists there. We could really just go on down the line. But I think it’s safe to say that this administration has no problem at all simply eliminating the sources that are willing to bring out the truth of what’s going on there.

We are now heating up for mid-term elections that will be taking place in November. A number of people are using this as their platform to aspire to become the next Commander and Chief. Hillary Clinton has stated that she is disappointed with Bush’s handling of the war. But yet she is still proud to support the war, proud that she voted for it, and she stated that she is also against a time-line for pulling out. Are we beginning to see the formation of a new South Korea being set up in Iraq?

Well, we already have it. We can bypass the word “beginning” because, as we speak, we have a U.S. so called “boot city” being constructed. I say “so-called” because it is an embassy that’s going to house 8,000 government employees. It’s an embassy of 21 buildings with a school there. So what kind of embassy would be built for that many people with a first run movie theatre; the largest swimming pool in the country; a vehicle maintenance garage; and when it’s complete, it’s going to be two-thirds the size of the National Mall in Washington D.C.

That’s just the embassy being constructed in Baghdad. Then we have a bare minimum of six of these permanent bases, on up to as many as fourteen that are absolutely massive. They’re larger than, some of them much larger than, camp Bondsteele, which is in Kosovo, which prior to Iraq was the largest U.S. military installation not on U.S. soil. And these bases (Those in Baghdad) are much larger than that.

You have a base like Camp Anaconda for example, in Ballad, just outside of Baghdad, a little bit to the Northeast of Baghdad. And this one base by itself has 20,000 soldiers, less than a 1,000 of whom never leave the base whatsoever. It has 250 of it’s own aircraft. It has, it’s own first-run movie theatres, swimming pools, a HERTZ RENTAL CAR AGENCY, POPEYE’S FRIED CHICKEN, a 24 hr BURGER KING, a SUBWAY sandwich shop, a STARBUCK’S COFFEE outlet. So, this is the type of base being built in Iraq. They are being constructed by Halliburton, Dick Cheney’s old company, and this base in particular has so many Kellogg, Brown and Root employees, that they have they’re own little apartment area there called “KDR Land.”

So that’s just one base to give you an idea that the situation is permanent. You are correct to say that rather than troops being withdrawn from Iraq we actually, less than two weeks ago, had 1,500 more troops sent into Iraq from Kuwait. So the troops are going in the wrong direction. I think they would like to see a draw down in the number of troops down to something like we have in Afghanistan now, but that is a very big number if we talk about drawing down troops vs. a total withdrawal.

This administration and I think any Democrat of the ilk of Hillary Clinton or Joe Liberman or someone like that; they have absolutely no plans whatsoever of a total withdrawal from Iraq.

Finally Dahr, Ehren Watada is the first active on-duty officer to declare in public that he will not serve in an “immoral” war. In addition, he is willing to face jail time for his beliefs. Do you feel that the actions of this young man, the actions of the six retired generals who spoke out against Rumsfeld’s handling of the war, soldiers who have not returned to their units to be re-deployed to Iraq, and the alternative recruitment campaigns that are taking place around the country; do you see these as inspiring steps for others to protest the war in Iraq?

I really hope it does. Because I think if there is any hope of ending this illegal occupation of Iraq, it lies squarely on the shoulders of the U.S. soldiers who are going over there and making it all possible.

Secondly it lies squarely on the shoulders of the American public. Even people already convinced this war is illegal and their opposed to it. Clearly not enough has been done to bring it to an end. And until we start to see massive consistent, coming out into the streets and displays of opposition to this war at home; and that means more than just writing letters and making phone calls or going to demonstrations; until we see more of that on a level what happened once the war against Vietnam was really rolling consistently; that coupled with a large GI resistance movement, which we also saw in Vietnam; until that really starts to happen I think any real talk of withdrawal is just a pipe dream.

I think the actions of Officer. Watada and people like that are really setting the bar up there; setting the standard of what soldiers should do morally if they are really going to stand to that oath that they swore to which is to: “Defend the Constitution from enemies both domestic and foreign.”

Because right now it’s people in the military, it’s their obligation, by their oath to defend the Constitution from domestic enemies, and right now those domestic enemies are people like George Bush, people like Condaleeza Rice, Dick Cheney, ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, people like this who are either in or were in this administration making all of this possible; they are assaulting the Constitution and until more soldiers realize that and understand that they’re enemy is not broad, they’re enemy is actually right here at home.

And really the only moral thing to do is to refuse to go over there. Because the bottom line is, these people who are waging this war, people in the Bush administration they can’t wage a war without soldiers. I can’t commend people like this, who are taking this stand, enough.

I’ve written a statement in support of this individual, and told them, and passed on a personal message and said I’d be happy to do anything I can to support you whether it’s getting information out, or anything else. Because people like him and Camilo Mejia have already taken their stance, we need thousands, tens of thousands of these people to step up now and do the right thing. Otherwise, we are looking at an indefinite occupation of Iraq.