Saturday, March 31, 2007
This week on Crossing The Line, it is not often one receives the opportunity to hear how life is really like in a refugee camp. I’ll speak with a young Palestinian woman about growing up in an environment where one is an alien within an alien environment. That’s coming up, then later in the podcast our weekly commentary by Mumia Abu-Jamal and The War’s Toll compiled and read by Scott Burgwin of The Stand independent News Service.
You can go to the podcast by clicking here.
Friday, March 30, 2007
By Adam Entous
28 March 2007
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Members of Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas's presidential guard eligible for
U.S.-funded training and equipment will be screened in
advance for militant ties, U.S. documents showed on
The Bush administration is trying to allay concerns raised
by some U.S. lawmakers and Israeli officials that a
portion of the $59.4 million program for the presidential
guard could inadvertently benefit militants from al-Aqsa
Martyrs Brigade, which is linked to Abbas's Fatah faction,
The groups are considered "terrorist organizations" by the
United States and Israel.
Under the program, the United States will provide $14.5
million for "basic and advanced training" for the
presidential guard and $23 million for non-lethal
Another $2.9 million in U.S. funds will be used to upgrade
the presidential guard's training facilities, including a
sprawling new base being build in Jericho, in the occupied
A U.S. government document, a copy of which was obtained
by Reuters, said members of the presidential guard will
undergo a series of local background checks before
receiving any U.S.-funded training.
Their names also will be run through terrorism databases
maintained by the FBI and the State Department.
In addition, Israel will be able to screen individual
trainees before they are allowed to travel to Jordan for
A Western diplomat close to the U.S. program said the
screening process would create a "firewall against any
terrorists becoming part of this program."
But it was unclear whether the safeguards would satisfy
U.S. lawmakers and Israelis.
Presidential guard recruits already undergo screenings by
local commanders. Some recruits have been dropped or moved
to other branches, either because they are affiliated with
non-Fatah groups or their family members are, Palestinian
The Israeli army has raised objections in the past to U.S.
plans to equip the presidential guard with more advanced
body armor and other battle gear.
The $59.4 million security program was scaled back from an
initial $86.4 million after Abbas agreed to form a unity
government with Hamas Islamists.
Less than two weeks old, the new government is already
showing signs of internal strain.
Factional fighting has flared up in Gaza and Abbas's
appointment of one of Hamas's long-time foes, Mohammad
Dahlan, as national security adviser, has stoked tensions.
The U.S. security program includes $3 million for Dahlan's
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The Ongoing Persecution of Sami Al-Arian
By NICOLE COLSON
After 60 days without food, an ailing Sami Al-Arian called off his hunger strike last week at the urging of his wife and children. But just hours later, a federal appeals court upheld a civil contempt ruling that could keep Al-Arian behind bars indefinitely.
Al-Arian has been imprisoned since 2003 on trumped-up charges of supporting terrorism--even though a Florida jury acquitted him or deadlocked on all counts in 2005.
Faced with the possibility of a retrial, Al-Arian agreed to plead guilty to a single count of supporting the nonviolent activities of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The deal specified that Al-Arian would be given a short additional sentence, followed by voluntary deportation--even though Al-Arian has lived in the U.S. since 1975, and his five children are all U.S. citizens.
Instead, the U.S. government continued its witch-hunt.
First, a Florida judge imposed the maximum sentence, despite the recommendations of federal prosecutors in Florida for a lesser sentence. Then, federal prosecutors in Virginia demanded that Al-Arian testify in an investigation into Muslim charities in that state--despite a verbal agreement, recorded in court transcripts, that he would be exempt from future testimony.
The appeals court's decision last week upholds the contempt ruling against Al-Arian for refusing to testify--claiming that the plea agreement "contains no language which would bar the government from compelling appellant's testimony before a grand jury."
THIS IS just is just the latest chapter in the persecution of Al-Arian that led the former University of South Florida professor to go on hunger strike.
"It was unbelievable," said Al-Arian's wife, Nahla Al-Arian, in an interview. "I'm sure the government would have let him die."
According to Nahla, Virginia's Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg has gone out of his way to prolong Sami's suffering. Kromberg has reportedly made anti-Muslim statements regarding Al-Arian's case--including allegedly complaining about the "Islamization" of the U.S. justice system.
"This man was very upset when my husband got this deal from the government," Nahla said. "He wanted my husband to stay in jail forever. He ignored the plea agreement terms that said that my husband didn't want to cooperate."
When Al-Arian refused to take the stand, he was given an additional 18-month sentence, a move that will keep him imprisoned beyond his original April 13 release date. "When the judge did this to him, he said, 'I'm going to start a hunger strike, because what's happening to me is very unfair and unjust,'" Nahla said.
Al-Arian began refusing all food on January 22. His hunger strike was also designed to draw attention to the racist abuse he has suffered at the hands of prosecutors and prison guards, and the inhumane conditions he has been subjected to--including being housed in a rat- and roach-infested cell.
"We Muslims here are, unfortunately, the new target of racism," said Nahla. "All of these things that they did to him, without any necessity except just to humiliate him and to torture him--and every time he would ask, 'Why are you doing this to me?', they would answer, 'Because you are a terrorist.' As if we didn't go through a lengthy trial for six months, and our innocence wasn't proven. The racism is unbelievable."
By the end of his hunger strike, Al-Arian had lost 55 pounds--more than a quarter of his original body weight--and he was confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk or stand on his own.
As he approached his 60th day without food, his family had become particularly concerned about his health. Irish Republican prisoners on hunger strike in the 1980s began dying around the 60th day without food.
"We were shocked and scared when we saw him," Nahla said, of a recent visit that she and her children made to the North Carolina prison medical facility where Sami is housed. He looked like those in an African famine, or a Holocaust survivor. His body, his ribs, everything was showing. He looked very, very weak. His cheekbones were also showing...There was no flesh, he was only bones and skin."
THE FEDS aren't finished with Sami Al-Arian yet.
The federal appeals court decision against him means that prosecutors are now free to once again drag Al-Arian in front of a grand jury--and have the court re-impose a sentence for civil contempt until he testifies. In essence, he can be held hostage indefinitely.
"Unfortunately, we are going through a very dark time in the history of America with the courts," said Nahla. "The courts are...affected by the atmosphere of fear and intimidation. There are very few times now where you can see courageous rulings in terms of foreigners."
"If they can get away with it," she says, "they will keep him forever."
Nahla adds that the family has received support in their battle, which is giving them the strength to go on.
"Just being here with my fellow Americans, fighting for justice, rallying together, writing letters together--the sense of working together as one family, loving each other and caring about each other is so beautiful," she says. "That's what's happening in our situation, and that's what the government, I'm sure, is not happy to see."
Organizations including Amnesty International, the National Council of Churches, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Al-Awda Palestine Right to Return Coalition have all circulated statements on Al-Arian's behalf.
And on March 24, as many as 100 people gathered near the federal prison facility in Butner, N.C., to rally for Al-Arian's release.
"This person has been tortured," said one of the protesters, Margaret Misch, of the Orange County Bill of Rights Defense Committee. "He's already given up his citizenship. Everything's gone for him now. The decent thing is to let him go."
How You Can Help
Demand that Dr. Sami Al-Arian be set free. Write to: Honorable Judge Gerald Lee, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, 401 Courthouse Square, Alexandria, VA 22314--and request that Dr. Al-Arian be released from detention and allowed to leave the country with his family.
For more information on the case and what you can do to help, visit the Free Sami Al-Arian Web site.Nicole Colson is a reporter for the Socialist Worker.
Friday, March 23, 2007
This week on Crossing The Line; the long winter in Palestine heats up as Israeli occupation forces stormed into Nablus injuring and killing civilians, targeting resistance fighters, and using residents as human shields. I’ll speak to Anna Baltzer who witnessed and investigated the event, that’s coming up. Then later in the podcast our weekly commentary by Mumia Abu-Jamal and The War’s Toll compiled and read by Scott Burgwin of The Stand Independent News Service.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Friday, March 16, 2007
This week on Crossing The Line with numerous revelations of The White House’s failed policies concerning the Near East, and in particular Palestine and Congress’ complicity in appeasing Israel; why won’t journalists stand up and ask the tough questions of lawmakers? I’ll speak with Sam Husseini founder of Washingtonstakeout.com, about the lack of hard-hitting journalism concerning Israel. That’s coming up, then later in the podcast our weekly commentary by Mumia Abu-Jamal and The War’s Toll compiled and read by Scott Burgwin of The Stand independent news Service.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
The week AIPAC is holding its annual policy conference in the Nation's capital. Amongst the scheduled speakers are Vice President Dick Cheney as well as Speaker of The House Nancy Pelosi (my very own representative no less.)
No doubt during this week other men and women in Congress will be glad-handing with the lobbyists to re-iterate their unwavering support for Israel. Of course I'm not telling you anything new. Most of you who read this blog know all of this.
But what you may not know is that former President Jimmy Carter will not be one of those that attends. Ever since the publication of his new book; Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter has been inundated with cries of anti-Semitism from the likes of such Israeli hawks as Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League and Professor Alan Dershowitz. Yet Carter has remained stead-fast in his characterization that Israeli occupation mirrors the South African government's repression of Blacks, so-called coloureds and the Indian communities.
Carter's definition of apartheid is, "the forced segregation of one people by another." Not a bad comparison but it doesn't go far enough. With this forced segregation comes the inhumane treatment of one people over another; the sub-standard education of one people over another, the continued violence for all; and the perpetuation of stereotypes that are so prevalent in both Israel and Palestine.
Carter's book only targets the treatment of Palestinians in the territories and says he feels that those Arabs living in Israel as citizens get equal treatment. Well, not quite sir. In fact, not at all. Sure they're allowed to vote in elections, but many other conditions exist that foster more discrimination to some of Israel's so-called citizens. For instance, Palestinian Israelis cannot freely move into any neighborhood that they want, their education system receives less money on average than that of Jewish children and many have family that live in the territories whom they are, by law, forbidden to go and see.
But aside from all of this, Carter is a brave man to stand up to the juggernaut of the Israeli lobbies. He has grown something that has been sorely lacking from most lawmakers past and present; a spine. Good on you Jimmy Carter, good on you!
Monday, March 12, 2007
9 March 2007
Israel Defense Forces soldiers used an 11-year-old
Palestinian girl as a "human shield" during an operation
against militants in the West Bank town of Nablus last
week, an Israeli human rights group said on Thursday.
The IDF said it was checking the information from the
B'Tselem group, which monitors Israeli actions in the
occupied territory. Israeli law bans the military from
using human shields.
B'Tselem said the girl, Jihan Daadush, told its
interviewers that IDF soldiers had entered her family home
and questioned her and her relatives about the whereabouts
of gunmen who had fired at them during the raid.
The soldiers, she said, threatened to arrest her unless
she led them to a nearby house.
"[A soldier] ordered me to go towards the house," B'Tselem
quoted the girl as saying. "Three soldiers walked behind
me. When we reached the house, there were a lot of
soldiers. The soldiers ordered me to go inside the house
and I went inside."
B'Tselem said Jihan told them the soldiers shone
flashlights and asked about the rooms of the house. There
was no mention in the report of whether troops found
militants inside. The girl said two soldiers then returned
"[One of the soldiers] told me, 'Thank you, but don't tell
anyone,'" the girl said, according to B'Tselem. "I was
afraid they would kill me or put me in jail. I am still
afraid the soldiers will invade the city again and take me
B'tselem also said the army had used a 15-year-old
Palestinian boy and a Palestinian man for a similar
purpose during the five-day raid of Nablus, a militant
The IDF ended the operation on March 1. During the
incursion, troops shot dead a Palestinian civilian who had
observed the raid from his rooftop. Soldiers also detained
11 suspected militants.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
This week on Crossing The Line, I'll speak to Hannah Mermelstein, co-founder of Birthright Unplugged about their alternative tours to Palestine for young Jewish men and women, thats coming up. Then later in the podcast our weekly commentary by Mumia Abu-Jamal and The War's Toll compiled and read by Scott Burgwin of The Stand independent News Service.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
3 March 2007
On 17 February 2007, around 9:40 P.M., three young men
from 'Azzun 'Atmah were summoned to help free a car that
was stuck in a field in the village. They drove to the
area in a tractor without lights. The tractor went up onto
a boulder and flipped over. One of the men, 'Adel 'Omar,
21, was pinned under the tractor and seriously injured.
One of the men ran to the village to get somebody to bring
a bigger tractor to aid in the rescue. The bigger tractor
then lifted up the tractor under which the man was pinned.
The injured man was evacuated in a private car, in order
to get him to the hospital in Qalqilya as quickly as
The village of 'Azzun 'Atmah is surrounded by the
separation barrier, and lies between Israel 's green line
and the separation barrier. The only way out of the
village is through a gate in the barrier, which closes at
10:00 P.M. When the young men reached the gate, it was
after ten o'clock. The soldiers had closed the gate and
were positioned in the guard tower. For an hour, the young
men begged the soldiers to open the gate so they could
take their friend to the hospital. Only after the hour
passed did the soldiers come down from the tower and
verify that a person had been injured and needed emergency
medical treatment. It took the soldiers another ten
minutes to open the gate.
They men rushed to the hospital. On the way, they checked
their friend's condition and saw that he was moving and
was breathing. At the hospital, he was pronounced dead on
The army contends that the injured person was already dead
when he reached the gate. The army did not explain the
basis for its contention. It is clear, however, that it
took the soldiers an hour to come down from the tower (a
fact that the army did not deny), and that they were not
competent to determine that the man was dead. Following
B'Tselem's exposure of the incident, the army announced
that the gate itself would be staffed twenty-four hours a
B'Tselem demanded that the Chief Military Prosecutor order
the opening of an investigation of the incident.
Friday, March 02, 2007
The ongoing war between Israelis and Palestinians has been called the world's most intractable conflict. It is by now a commonplace that the only way to end the violence is to divide the territory and seperate the two peoples. But how can this be achieved? I'll speak to Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada about his bold proposal for a one state solution, then later in the podcast our weekly commentary by Mumia Abu-Jamal and The War's Toll compiled and read by Scott Burgwin of The Stand Independent News Service, all this and more coming up.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
By Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz Correspondent
28 February 2007
A Bedouin girl was critically wounded on Wednesday when
she sustained bullet wounds to the head in the northern
Negev. The shots were apparently fired by an Israel
Defense Forces soldier.
The military police has opened an investigation into the
The girl, 12, was hospitalized at the Soroka Medical
Center in Be'er Sheva with life-threatening wounds.
The girl, who had been herding her sheep in the area of
the incident, was brought to an IDF base near Kibbutz Orim
in the northern Negev in the early afternoon by a Bedouin
man. The man said that the girl had been shot by IDF
soldiers after she had wandered into a firing zone.
The paramedic who treated the girl confirmed that she had
severe head wounds.
The girl was evacuated to the hospital by ambulance. The
IDF has not confirmed any details of the incident.
It is still unclear whether the girl's family had a permit
for herding in the area of the incident. The herding
season has begun and many Bedouin complained that there is
a shortage in herding permits.
Since 1999, no new herding permits have been issued.
Last year, the issue of herding permits resurfaced after a
12-year-old boy was killed when a dud mortar exploded
while he was herding his flock in a firing zone near
Kiryat Gat without a permit.
Over a week ago, 120 shepherds infiltrated a firing zone
with their herds to protest the shortage of permits.