Saturday, June 30, 2007

USS Liberty Podcast Available!

This week on Crossing The Line, June 2007 marked 40 years of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, this much is known. What has gone widely unreported is another 40 year anniversary. one in which American soldiers were killed. No we're not talking about the war in Vietnam. This attack was carried out by one of America's closest allies, Israel.

Today we'll talk to a survivor of the USS Liberty, a ship that was nearly dystroyed by the Israeli army in an unprovoked attack that left 34 US navy personal dead.

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.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Wages of Corruption and Occupation

Welcome to "Palestine"


How troublesome the Muslims of the Middle East are. First, we demand that the Palestinians embrace democracy and then they elect the wrong party - Hamas - and then Hamas wins a mini-civil war and presides over the Gaza Strip. And we Westerners still want to negotiate with the discredited President, Mahmoud Abbas. Today "Palestine" - and let's keep those quotation marks in place - has two prime ministers. Welcome to the Middle East.

Who can we negotiate with? To whom do we talk? Well of course, we should have talked to Hamas months ago. But we didn't like the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people. They were supposed to have voted for Fatah and its corrupt leadership. But they voted for Hamas, which declines to recognise Israel or abide by the totally discredited Oslo agreement.

No one asked - on our side - which particular Israel Hamas was supposed to recognise. The Israel of 1948? The Israel of the post-1967 borders? The Israel which builds - and goes on building - vast settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, gobbling up even more of the 22 per cent of "Palestine" still left to negotiate over?

And so today, we are supposed to talk to our faithful policeman, Mr Abbas, the "moderate" (as the BBC, CNN and Fox News refer to him) Palestinian leader, a man who wrote a 600-page book about Oslo without once mentioning the word "occupation", who always referred to Israeli "redeployment" rather than "withdrawal", a "leader" we can trust because he wears a tie and goes to the White House and says all the right things. The Palestinians didn't vote for Hamas because they wanted an Islamic republic - which is how Hamas's bloody victory will be represented - but because they were tired of the corruption of Mr Abbas's Fatah and the rotten nature of the "Palestinian Authority".

I recall years ago being summoned to the home of a PA official whose walls had just been punctured by an Israeli tank shell. All true. But what struck me were the gold-plated taps in his bathroom. Those taps - or variations of them - were what cost Fatah its election. Palestinians wanted an end to corruption - the cancer of the Arab world - and so they voted for Hamas and thus we, the all-wise, all-good West, decided to sanction them and starve them and bully them for exercising their free vote. Maybe we should offer "Palestine" EU membership if it would be gracious enough to vote for the right people?

All over the Middle East, it is the same. We support Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, even though he keeps warlords and drug barons in his government (and, by the way, we really are sorry about all those innocent Afghan civilians we are killing in our "war on terror" in the wastelands of Helmand province).

We love Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, whose torturers have not yet finished with the Muslim Brotherhood politicians recently arrested outside Cairo, whose presidency received the warm support of Mrs - yes Mrs - George W Bush - and whose succession will almost certainly pass to his son, Gamal.

We adore Muammar Gaddafi, the crazed dictator of Libya whose werewolves have murdered his opponents abroad, whose plot to murder King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia preceded Tony Blair's recent visit to Tripoli - Colonel Gaddafi, it should be remembered, was called a "statesman" by Jack Straw for abandoning his non-existent nuclear ambitions - and whose "democracy" is perfectly acceptable to us because he is on our side in the "war on terror".

Yes, and we love King Abdullah's unconstitutional monarchy in Jordan, and all the princes and emirs of the Gulf, especially those who are paid such vast bribes by our arms companies that even Scotland Yard has to close down its investigations on the orders of our prime minister - and yes, I can indeed see why he doesn't like our coverage of what he quaintly calls "the Middle East". If only the Arabs - and the Iranians - would support our kings and shahs and princes whose sons and daughters are educated at Oxford and Harvard, how much easier the "Middle East" would be to control.

For that is what it is about - control - and that is why we hold out, and withdraw, favours from their leaders. Now Gaza belongs to Hamas, what will our own elected leaders do? Will our pontificators in the EU, the UN, Washington and Moscow now have to talk to these wretched, ungrateful people (fear not, for they will not be able to shake hands) or will they have to acknowledge the West Bank version of Palestine (Abbas, the safe pair of hands) while ignoring the elected, militarily successful Hamas in Gaza?

It's easy, of course, to call down a curse on both their houses. But that's what we say about the whole Middle East. If only Bashar al-Assad wasn't President of Syria (heaven knows what the alternative would be) or if the cracked President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad wasn't in control of Iran (even if he doesn't actually know one end of a nuclear missile from the other).

If only Lebanon was a home-grown democracy like our own little back-lawn countries - Belgium, for example, or Luxembourg. But no, those pesky Middle Easterners vote for the wrong people, support the wrong people, love the wrong people, don't behave like us civilised Westerners.

So what will we do? Support the reoccupation of Gaza perhaps? Certainly we will not criticise Israel. And we shall go on giving our affection to the kings and princes and unlovely presidents of the Middle East until the whole place blows up in our faces and then we shall say - as we are already saying of the Iraqis - that they don't deserve our sacrifice and our love.

How do we deal with a coup d'├ętat by an elected government?

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

See No Evil, Report No Evil Podcast Available!

This week on Crossing The Line, we'll examine the disparity in media coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict with journalist Alison Weir. Also, this week we'll speak to photographer and activist Andrew Courtney about the little known community of African Palestinians and their long history within the country and conflict.

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.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

One-state solution "gaining ground" UN envoy admits

By Ali Abunimah

The Electronic Intifada
13 June 2007

The one-state solution for Palestine-Israel is "gaining
ground," a senior UN diplomat has admitted in a leaked
confidential report. Recently retired UN special envoy Alvaro
de Soto wrote "that the combination of [Palestinian Authority]
institutional decline and Israeli settlement expansion is
creating a growing conviction among Palestinians and Israeli
Arabs, as well as some Jews on the far left in Israel that the
two State solutiuon's best days are behind it."

De Soto's "end of mission" report delivered to his superiors
in May, but published in The Guardian on June 13 contains
stinging criticism of the anti-Hamas and pro-Israeli approach
taken by the UN, the European Union and the United States.
"The steps taken by the international community with the
presumed purpose of bringing about a Palestinian entity that
will live in peace with its neighbour, Israel, have had
precisely the opposite effect," de Soto wrote.

While his broadsides at the failed peace process have been
widely reported, his acknowledgment of the decline of the
two-state solution has drawn less notice.

De Soto, a Peruvian diplomat who has also served as a special
envoy to Cyprus, observed: "Given that a Palestinian state
requires both a territory and a government, and the basis for
both is being systematically undermined," an increasing number
of Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and some Israeli Jews "believe
the only long-term way to end the conflict will be to abandon
the idea of dividing the land and instead, simply insist on
respect for the civil, political and national rights of the
two peoples, Jews and Arabs, who populate the land, in one

Contradicting peace process industry conventional wisdom and
spin, which long held that Israel's 2005 settler pullout from
Gaza was part of an effort to implement the "Road Map" peace
plan, de Soto acknowledged that Israel was motivated entirely
by concerns about the fact that Palestinians are once again on
the verge of becoming the majority in Israeli-ruled territory
(as they were prior to 1948). Israel is in a conundrum because
further unilateral withdrawals are "off the table" while "the
demographic clock continues to tick." De Soto predicts that
"Should the PA pass into irrelevance or non-existence, and the
settlements keep expanding, the one State solution will come
out of the shadows and begin to enter the mainstream."

Signs that this is already happening include increased public
discussion of a single state in the Palestinian solidarity
community. This includes a seminar to be held this July at
Spain's Universidad Complutense de Madrid at which Palestinian
academics and activists from inside Israel, the occupied
territories and the Diaspora, along with counterparts from
Israel, Spain, South Africa and other countries will discuss
legal, practical and political opportunities and possibilites
for a single state. see

Drawing on his experience in Cyprus, de Soto speculates that a
peace plan developed originally for Cyprus based on a
binational confederation could be revived for Palestine.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The New York Times and Israel

Howard Friel

May 25, 2007

On Wednesday, May 23, Amnesty International reported that, in 2006,
Palestinians killed more than 650 Israelis, including 120 Israeli
children, while the Israelis killed 27 Palestinians, including one
Palestinian child. Readers of the New York Times would not be surprised
to read such figures, since the Times regularly features Palestinian
violence on the front page and elsewhere in the front section.

The problem with the Times’ depiction of Palestinian violence, however, on
the occasion of Amnesty`s 2007 annual report and other such reports, is
that Amnesty actually reported the opposite—in 2006 Israel killed over
650 Palestinians, including 120 children, while Palestinians killed 27
Israelis, including one child.

One Israeli child
killed by Palestinian terrorists is one child too many; likewise with
respect to the 20 Israeli civilians that Palestinians also killed in
2006. Most people in the United States rightfully condemn the
Palestinians who kill innocent and unarmed Israelis. But what about the
Israeli government and military officials who authorized and carried
out the policies that killed 120 Palestinian children and another 200
Palestinian civilians in 2006? Would most people in the US even guess
that in 2006 more Palestinians than Israelis were killed by a ratio of
24 to 1, let alone condemn Israeli terrorism in the occupied

For many years, including since the
start of the Second Palestinian Intifada on September 29, 2000, Amnesty
International has issued annual reports detailing Israeli and
Palestinian casualties. In its 2001 report (covering events in 2000),
Amnesty reported that “More than 350 Palestinians, including nearly 100
children, were killed mostly through excessive use of lethal force by
Israeli security services.” Amnesty also reported that “More than 60
Israelis, including more than 30 civilians, were killed by Palestinian
armed groups and individuals.” The fact is that Israel has killed well
over 800 Palestinian children since September 2000.

On December 31, 2000, a Switzerland-based human rights organization,
Defense of Children International, which has consultative status with
UNESCO and UNICEF and the Council of Europe, issued a report, and the
chart below, detailing how those 100 Palestinian children were killed
“through excessive use of lethal force” from September 30, 2000 to
December 31, 2000. This chart, in addition to numerous other reports
issued by DCI on the Israeli killing of Palestinian children,
contradicts Israel`s repeated claims that it does its utmost to avoid
harming innocent people.


30 September
Mohammad Jamal Mohammad Al-Dura
Live bullet to multiple places

30 September
Nizar Mohammad Eida
Deir Ammar/Ramallah
Live bullet to chest

30 September
Khaled Adli Insooh Al-Bazyan
Exploding bullet to head

1 October
Samir Sidqi Tabanja
Live bullet to chest

1 October
Sarah `Abdel Atheem `Abdel Haq
18 mos.
Live bullet to head. Killed by Israeli Settlers

1 October
Hussam Bakhit
Balatta Refugee Camp/Nablus
Live bullet to head

1 October
Iyad Ahmad Salim Al-Khoshashee

Live bullet to multiple places. Iyad`s body was found Sunday in the
hills surrounding Nablus, but he is believed to have died on Saturday.

1 October
Sami Fathi Mohammad Al-Taramsi
Sheikh Radwan/Gaza
Live bullet to chest

1 October
Mohammad Nabeel Hamed Daoud
Live bullet to head

2 October
Wa`el Tayseer Mohammad Qatawi
Balatta Refugee Camp/Nablus
Live bullet to eye

2 October
Muslih Hussein Ibrahim Jarad
Deir Balah/Gaza
Killed in Um Al-Fahim
Live bullet to chest

2 October
`Aseel Hassan `Assalih
`Arrabeh Al-Batouf/Upper Galilee
Live bullet to neck

3 October
Hussam Ismail Al-Hamshari
Exploding bullet to head

3 October
Ammar Khalil Al-Rafai`i
Hit by missile in the head

4 October
Mohammad Zayed Yousef Abu `Assi
Bani Sahla/Gaza
Live bullet to chest

6 October
Saleh Issa Yousef Al-Raiyati
Live bullet to head

6 October
Majdi Samir Maslamani
Beit Hanina/Jerusalem
Exploding bullet to head

6 October
Mohammad Khaled Tammam
Live bullet to chest

8 October
Yousef Diab Yousef Khalaf
Al Breij/Gaza
Died from injuries sustained on 2 October, shrapnel to head.

11 October
Karam Omar Ibrahim Qannan
Khan Younis Refugee Camp/Gaza
Rubber coated steel bullet to chest

11 October
Sami Hassan Salim Al-Balduna
Tulkarem Refugee Camp
Live bullet to chest

12 October
Sami Fathi Abu Jezr
Died from injuries sustained on 11 October, Live bullet to head

16 October
Mo`ayyad Osaama Al-Jawareesh
Aida Refugee Camp/Bethlehem
Rubber coated steel bullet to head

20 Octobe!
Mohammad `Adil Abu Tahoun
Live bulle
t to multiple places

20 October
Samir Talal `Oweisi
Live bullet to chest

20 October
`Alaa Bassam Beni Nimra
Live bullet to chest

21 October
Omar Ismail Al-Abheisi
Deir Balah/Gaza
Exploding bullet to chest

21 October
Majed Ibrahim Hawamda
Exploding bullet to head

22 October
Wa`el Mahmoud Mohammad Imad
Jabaliya Refugee Camp/Gaza
Live bullet to head

22 October
Salah Al-Din Fawzi Nejmi
Al-Maghazi Camp/Gaza
Live bullet to chest

23 October
Ashraf Habayab
Askar Refugee Camp/Nablus
Exploding bullet to head. Died from injuries sustained 16 October.

24 October
Iyad Osaama Tahir Sha`ath
Khan Younis/Gaza
Live bullet to head. Died from injuries sustained 21 October.

24 October
Nidal Mohammad Zuhud!
i Al-Dubeiki
Hai Al-Darraj/Gaza
Exploding bullet to abdomen.

26 October
`Alaa Mohammad Mahfouth
Arroub Refugee Camp/Hebron
Live bullet to head. Died from injuries sustained on 6 October.

27 October
Bashir Salah Musa Shelwit
Live bullet to chest.

29 October
Husni Ibrahim Najjar
Rafah/Gaza Strip
Live bullet to head.

31 October
Shadi Awad Nimir Odeh
Hai Zaitun/Gaza Strip
Live bullet to head.

1 November
Ahmad Suleiman Abu Tayeh
Shatti Refugee Camp/Gaza
Live bullets and exploding bullets to multiple places.

1 November
Mohammad Ibrahim Hajaaj
Live bullet to head.

1 November
Ibrahim Riziq Mohammad Omar
Shatti Refugee Camp/Gaza
Live bullet to chest.

2 November
Khaled Mohammad Ahmad Riziq
Live bullet to multiple places.

2 November Yazen Mohammad Issa Al-Khalaiqa
Killed in Bethlehem
Live bullet to back.

4 November
Rami Ahmad Abdel Fatah
Exploding bullet to multiple places.

4 November
Hind Nidal Jameel Abu Quweider
23 days old
Tear gas inhalation.

5 November
Maher Mohammad Al-Sa`idi
Live bullet to head

6 November
Wajdi Al-Lam Al-Hattab
Exploding bullet to chest

6 November
Mohammad Nawwaf Al-Ta`aban
Deir Balah/Gaza
Live bullet to chest

7 November
Ahmad Amin Al-Khufash
Run-over by Israeli settler

8 November
Ibrahim Fouad Al-Qassas
Khan Younis/Gaza
Live bullet to eye. Died from injuries sustained on 5 November.

8 November
Faris Fa`iq Odeh
Hai Zaitun/Gaza
e bullet to head.

8 November
Mohammad Misbah Abu Ghali
Khan Younis Refugee Camp/Gaza
Live bullet to chest.

8 November
Ra`ed Abdel Hamid Daoud
Exploding bullet to multiple places

9 November
Mahmoud Kamel Khalil Sharab
Khan Younis/Gaza
Live bullet to back

10 November
Osaama Mazen Saleem `Azouqah
Live bullet to chest

10 November
Osaama Samir Al-Jerjawee
Hai Al-Daraj/Gaza
Live bullet to chest

11 November
Musa Ibrahim Al-Dibs
Jabalia Camp/Gaza
Live bullet to chest

12 November
Mohammad Nafiz Abu Naji
Sheikh Radwan/Gaza
Live bullet to chest

13 November
Yahya Naif Abu Shemaali
Khan Younis/Gaza
Live bullet to chest

14 November
Saber Khamis Brash
Al `Amari Camp/Ramallah
Live bullet !
to chest

14 November
Mohammad Khatir Al `Ajli
13 Hai Sheju`a/Gaza
Exploding bullet to head

15 November
Ibrahim Abdel Raouf Jaidi
Live bullet to chest

15 November
Jadua Munia Mohammad Abu Kupashe
Al Samua/Hebron
Live bullets to multiple places.

15 November
Ahmad Samir Basel
Tel Al-Howwa/Gaza
Live bullet to chest

15 November
Mohammad Nasser Mohammad Al-Sharafe
Live bullet to head

15 November
Jihad Suheil Abu Shahma
Khan Younis/Gaza
Live bullet to head

15 November
Ahmad Said Ahmad Sha`aban
Exploding bullet to abdomen

16 November
Samir Mohammad Hassan Al-Khudour
Al-Fawwar Refugee Camp/Hebron
Exploding bullet to chest

17 November
Rami Imad Yassin
Live bullet to chest

17 November
Mohammad Abdel Jalil Mohammad !
Abu Rayyan
Live bullet to head

19 November
Abdel Rahman Ziad Dahshan
Live bullet to chest

20 November
Ibrahim Hassan Ahmad Uthman
Tel Al-Sultan/Gaza
Live bullet to chest

21 November
Yasser Taleb Mohammad Tebatitti
Tulkarem Killed while on vacation. Family lives in Saudi Arabia.
Live bullet to chest

22 November
Ibrahim Hussein Al-Muqannan
Khan Younis/Gaza Strip
Live bullet to head. Died from injuries sustained on 20 November

23 November
Maram Imad Ahmad Saleh Hassouneh
Jalazone Refugee Camp/Ramallah
Tear gas inhalation

24 November
Aysar Mohammad Sadiq Hassis
Exploding bullet to eye.

24 November
Majdi Ali Abed
Sheju`a/Gaza Strip
Live bullet to head. Died from injuries sustained on 17 November.

26 No!
Ziad Ghaleb Zaid Selmi
ive bullets to multiple places.

26 November
Mahdi Qassem Jaber
Live bullets to multiple places.

28 November
Karam Fathi Al-Kurd
Khan Younis/Gaza Strip
Live bullet to head Died from injuries sustained on 23 November.

29 November
Mohammad Abdullah Al-Mashharawi
Live bullet to head. Died from injuries sustained on 26 November.

30 November
Walid Mohammad Ahmad Hamida
Live bullet to chest.

30 November
Shadi Ahmad Hassan Zghoul
Run-over by Israeli settler.

1 December
Mohammed Salih Mohammad Al-Arjah
Rafah/Gaza Strip
Live bullet to head.

5 December
Ramzi Adil Mohammed Bayatni
Abu Qash/Ramallah
Live bullet to eye.

8 December
Mohammad Abdullah Mohammad Yahya
Kufr Rai/Jenin
Hit b!
y missile.

8 December
Alaa Abdelatif Mohammad Abu Jaber
Hit by missile.

8 December
Ammar Samir Al-Mashni
Beit Or Al-Tahta/Ramallah
Live bullet to head

8 December
Mu`ataz Azmi Ismail Talakh
Dheishe Refugee Camp/Bethlehem
Live bullet to head

9 December
Salim Mohammad Hamaideh
Live bullet to head

11 December
Ahmad Ali Hassan Qawasmeh
Live bullet to head

20 December
Hani Yusef Al-Sufi
Shrapnel to head

22 December
Arafat Mohammad Ali Al-Jabarin
Live bullet to head

31 December
Mo`ath Ahmad Abu Hedwan
Shrapnel to head

The following Palestinian children have been declared clinically dead.



30 September
Khaled Hameed
Live bullet to head

30 September
Mohammad Nawaf Abu Owemer
Deir Balah/Gaza
Live bullet to head

30 September
Mohammad Sami Al-Hummos
Live bullet to head

5 November
Ghazaleh Joudet Jaradat
Rubber coated steel bullet to head

11 November
Hamad Jamal Al-Faraa
Khan Younis/Gaza Strip
Live bullet to head



13 October
Alaa Osaama Hamdan

Died from a severe lung infection after Israeli soldiers prohibited her
father from passing through a checkpoint to transport her to a

In its 2002 annual
report, Amnesty reported that 460 Palestinians, including 79 children,
were killed during 2001 by Israeli security forces, while Palestinian
armed groups killed 187 Israelis, including 154 civilians. This pattern
of casualties was repeated in each of Amnesty International’s annual
reports from 2003 to 2007. The same pattern of much higher Palestinian
casualties is also reported by Human Rights Watch in its annual

As of yesterday (May 24), B’Tselem, Israel’s
most important human rights organization, reported fatalities as
follows: From September 29, 2000 to April 30, 2007, 4,098 Palestinians
were killed by Israeli security forces and Israeli civilians, while
1,021 Israelis were killed by Palestinians.

many more fatalities on the Palestinian side throughout this period,
the New York Times has featured Palestinian violence in its coverage of
the conflict. From September 29, 2000 to December 31, 2005, the Times
published nearly 50 front-page articles on Palestinian suicide bombings
and other terrorist acts,[i][1] in addition to 25 articles on
Palestinian terrorism reported elsewhere in the front section.[ii][2]
This reporting accounted for the vast majority of Palestinian suicide
bombings and other terrorist acts inside Israel’s borders. In contrast,
there was much less emphasis in the Times on the far more numerous
Israeli killings of Palestinians in the occupied territories during the
same period. And as far as I can tell, using the New York Times search
engine, the Times neglected to cover any of the annual reports from
Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch on Israel throughout the
period, nor has it ever mentioned the reports on the Israel-Palestine
conflict issued regularly by Defense for Children International.

is another major problem with the Times’ coverage. Both Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch monitor violations of
international humanitarian law, which protects civilians in armed
conflict and belligerent occupation. The Fourth Geneva Convention
(1949) is the main instrument of such law as it applies to Israel’s
occupation of the Palestinian territories. Both Amnesty and HRW
frequently cite Israeli violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, not
only with respect to Israel’s excessive lethal force, but also with
regard to beatings and abuse, house demolitions as collective
punishment, and administrative detention and torture, in addition to
Israel’s settlements in Palestinian territory. Article 49(6) of the
Convention states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer
parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
This key stipulation is universally recognized (except by Israel) as
prohibiting, and thus outlawing, Israel’s settlements in the West Bank
and East Jerusalem. However, again as far as I can tell, the New York
Times has ignored the Fourth Geneva Convention and the fact that it
outlaws Israel`s settlements. This amounts to nothing less than a
rejection of the rule of law by the Times as it applies to the
Israel-Palestine conflict.

Consistent with its
pattern of ignoring the annual reports of Amnesty International as they
apply to Israel`s occupation, the Times appears to have ignored
Amnesty’s just-published 2007 report as well. There was no reference to
the report, or at least to the section on Israel, in either the print
or online editions on May 24. However, if you were to intuitively type
Amnesty International into the Times’ search engine, you would have
found an Associated Press report titled, “Israel Killed 650
Palestinians in 2006,” which summarizes Amnesty’s 2007 report on
Israel. The AP report begins: “Israeli troops killed more than 650
Palestinians last year—half of them unarmed civilians including some
120 children—a threefold increase from 2005, a leading human rights
group said Wednesday [May 23].” Inexplicably, the AP report states that
“No such killings [by Israeli soldiers and settlers] were documented in
the report.” However, Amnesty’s report documents several such
incidents, as reproduced below:

On 9 June, seven
members of the Ghalia family—five children and their parents—were
killed and some 30 other civilians were injured when Israeli forces
fired several artillery shells at a beach in the north of the Gaza
Strip. The beach was crowded with Palestinian families enjoying the
first weekend of the school holidays. The Israeli army denied
responsibility for the killings but failed to substantiate their claim.

the early morning of 8 November, 18 members of the Athamna family were
killed and dozens of other civilians were injured when a volley of
artillery shells struck a densely populated neighbourhood of Beit
Hanoun, in the north of the Gaza Strip. The victims, eight of them
children, were killed in their sleep or while fleeing the shelling,
which lasted for around 30 minutes and during which some 12 shells
landed in the area. The Israeli authorities expressed regret for the
killings, saying that the houses were mistakenly struck due to a
technical failure, but rejected calls for an international
investigation. The attack came in the wake of a six-day Israeli army
raid in Beit Hanoun code-named “Autumn Clouds”, during which Israeli
forces killed some 70 Palestinians, at least half of them unarmed
civilians and including several children and two ambulance emergency
service volunteers. The raid also injured some 200 others, including
scores of children.

Eight-year-old Akaber ‘Abd al-Rahman
‘Ezzat Zayed was shot dead by Israeli special forces who opened fire on
the car in which she was travelling to hospital with her uncle, who was
seriously injured in the attack. The incident took place on 17 March in
Yamun village, near the northern West Bank town of Jenin.

19 December, 14-year-old Dua’a Nasser ‘Abdelkader was shot dead by
Israeli soldiers as she approached the fence/wall with a friend near
Fara’un, a village in the north of the West Bank.

members of the Abu Salmiya family were killed when an Israeli F16
fighter jet bombed their home at 2.30am on 12 July. According to the
Israeli army, a senior leader of Hamas’ armed wing was in the house at
the time of the strike but survived. However, the strike wiped out an
entire family: the owner of the house, Nabil Abu Salmiya, a Hamas
political leader and university lecturer; his wife Salwa; and seven of
their children all aged under 18. Dozens of neighbours were also
injured and several other houses were damaged in the strike.

the evening of 25 March a group of Israeli settlers assaulted
‘Abderrahman Shinneran as he slept in his tent with his wife and three
children in Susia in the southern Hebron Hills. When his brother ‘Aziz
went to his rescue he too was assaulted and injured.

On 18
November, Tove Johansson, a 19-year-old Swedish human rights defender,
was assaulted by Israeli settlers as she accompanied Palestinian school
children through an Israeli army checkpoint near the Tel Rumeida
Israeli settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron. She was struck with
a broken bottle and sustained facial injuries. Israeli soldiers at a
nearby checkpoint took no action to stop the attack or apprehend the

Despite continuing US military and financial
support of Israel, in addition to the US boycott of the elected
Palestinian government, the Times chose to ignore these incidents as
presented in Amnesty’s 2007 annual report.

Andrew Rosenthal’s tenure as editor of the Times’ editorial page has
substantially improved at least that page’s performance with respect to
a number of important issues, that shift has occurred in the context of
a persistent 30 percent approval rating of President Bush in public
opinion polls and an apparent rejection of the administration’s
policies in the 2006 congressional elections. Tougher tests of
journalistic oversight occur when conditions are not so favorable for
principled criticism and commentary. The Times catastrophically failed
those tests with respect to its coverage throughout most of the US war
in Vietnam and in recent years in Iraq. The Times is failing that test
today in its coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. While Israel
has done most of the killing and has violated a preponderance of the
applicable law, the Times, in a relative sense, has persistently
over-represented Palestinian violence and lawlessness. By failing also
to integrate applicable international law into its editorial standards,
while mostly ignoring the human rights organizations (which regularly
invoke international law in their reports), the Times apparently has no
editorial policy to apply to the conflict aside from an historical and
contemporary disposition to support Israel’s illegal policies.

Friel is coauthor with Richard Falk of Israel-Palestine on Record: How
The New York Times Misreports Conflict in the Middle East (Verso, June
1) and with Falk of The Record of the Paper: How The New York Times
Misreports US Foreign Policy (Verso, 2004

Friday, June 08, 2007

Al Naksa Podcast Available!

This week on Crossing The Line, June 8th marks 40 years of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Today we'll speak to two women, Samira Khoury whose family was displaced on this day in the West Bank and Nadia Hijab a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies. Also, we'll hear from noted author and activist Phyllis Bennis about the continuing human rights violations of the Israeli occupation army onto Palestinian land.

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.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

An Interview with Greta Berlin

Sailing to Gaza


Greta Berlin, 66 years old, is a businesswoman from Los Angeles, CA. She is the mother of two Palestinian-American children and has been to the occupied territories twice in the past four years with the International Solidarity Movement. She is also a member of Women in Black Los Angeles.

She is one of many other people, who have organized an unusual project, sailing a boat to Gaza. They intend to challenge Israel's claim that they no longer occupy Gaza. Talking to her, she explains why she and the other courageous people are going.

Silvia: Your mission states," We tried to enter Palestine by ground. We tried to enter by air. Now we are going to go by sea."1 This is an exceptional attempt. Why Gaza in particular? And why go by boat in one of the most patrolled places in the world?

Greta Berlin: Israel says that Gaza is no longer occupied. Well, if that's true, then we have every right to visit. The truth is that Israel controls every entrance into Gaza, and the population is completely isolated from the rest of the world. Internationals can no longer go through the border with Egypt, and, of course, the Eretz border with Israel is closed to almost everyone.

So, 50 to 80 of us, men and women, will begin our journey in Cyprus toward the end of this summer. Many of us are over 50, and we come from all over the world Palestinians, Israelis, Australians, Greeks, Americans, English, Spanish, Italians, just to name a few we will embark on a boat called FREE GAZA. One of the passengers, Hedy Epstein, is a holocaust survivor, and two or three Palestinians are Nakba survivors.

Many of us have also been stopped from entering the occupied territories, because we have gone before to non-violently bear witness to what Israel does to the Palestinians.

Silvia Cattori: This departure coincides with the time The Exodus left Marseille for Palestine sixty years ago on July 27, 1947. It had 4500 Jewish refugees on board. Is your trip meant to coincide with that departure in l947?

Greta Berlin: It's merely a coincidence. The reason we're leaving in the summer of 2007 is because it's the second anniversary of Israel's 'alleged withdrawal' from Gaza. Since then, Gaza is ever more besieged, and the people are living in much worse conditions. We intend to draw the attention of the world to the terrible lack of human and civil rights for the Palestinians.

Silvia Cattori: To enter the waters of Gaza is not going to be so simple. Do you really believe the Israeli navy will let you in?

Greta Berlin: Israel has no right to prevent us from going. So we're going. International law says that we have the right to visit Gaza. Remember, in July 2005, when Israel told the entire world that Gaza was no longer occupied? If it's no longer occupied, why shouldn't we go?

Let the Israeli authorities prove that it's no longer occupied by allowing us to enter. This voyage is an attempt to challenge Israel's own words. We've been invited by many NGO's to come and visit their facilities and clinics. Why should Israel have the right to deny us those visits?

Let me repeat. We must do everything we can to bring to the world's attention to the fact that Israel's military blockade is causing the death of the people of Gaza. We clearly know this trip will be difficult, but we're determined. We can either complain about the inertia of the international community, or we can do something to make them sit up and pay attention. If those of us who have already seen the gravity of the situation do nothing about it, then what kind of credibility will we have with the occupied Palestinians?

We've planned this trip for a long time, carefully thinking out the best way to show our support. We discussed the possibility of going to support of the right of return for the Palestinians of 1948. Should our journey be a statement about the 60 years of occupation? But we decided it's of utmost importance that we challenge Israel's claim that Gaza is no longer occupied, that its people are free.

According to international law, the waters of Gaza for all 40 kilometers of its coast belong to the Palestinians, and Israel has no right to control those waters. Even the Oslo agreements state that the coast of Gaza belongs to the people who live there.

Silvia Cattori: What do you want to prove?

Greta Berlin: We want to prove that Israel and the United States are starving the people of Gaza for democratically electing Hamas. We're hoping to call on the conscience of the world, "Wake up. You can't turn away from the crimes of Israel. You can't close your eyes any longer to the slow-motion genocide of the Palestinians

It's important to show that Israel has lied; Gaza has never been free. Israeli warships still fire on the fishermen, killing many of them over the past two years. What did these men ever do except fish for their families? What kind of evil would make Israel fire on men who had the right to fish in their own waters?

Silvia Cattori: Do you seriously believe that you can face the military might of Israel?

Greta Berlin: We're going to try. Our mission is to go to Gaza. Of course, we assume that we'll be stopped. However, we're going to insist that we have the legal and moral right to go. And, we have enough media on board to tell the story of what will happen; so let them try to stop us. They'll report that Israel's 'freedom for Gaza' is a complete hoax, The territory is still occupied and its people terrorized every day.

Silvia Cattori: Is your mission more for political reasons then?

Greta Berlin: Yes. Gaza has the right to be free. Our objective is not to take food or medicine, although we are going to have both on board. Like any people, the people of Gaza want to be able to travel, to trade, to work in peace, and to have the right to control their own destinies. They should have the right to fly out of their airport that Israel destroyed five years ago, and they should have the right to fish in their sea.

Of course, the humanitarian catastrophe is important, but it's vitally important for the people to be free. The international community must step up and help them reestablish the internal structures to build their society. But out mission is to put Israel, the United States, the EU on notice that they bear responsibility for the welfare of 1.4 million people.

Silvia Cattori: This is a great project that you are all launching.

Greta Berlin: The Palestinians have never received anything with all these 'so-called' peace plans. Every international effort has failed. Part of our desire is to counter the misinformation that has been out there for almost 60 years in favor of Israel instead of the true story of the Palestinian's dispossession.

The world can't wait any longer for Israel to decide when to come to the peace table.

Even the NGO's aren't able to tell the true story for fear of losing international support. More than 65 UN resolutions have tried to bring Israel to account; yet the US has vetoed these resolutions every time. For 60 years the Palestinians have waited for justice. How much longer must they pay the price for what Europe did to the Jews? How much longer will the international community turn away and say, "We didn't see, we didn't know."

Silvia Cattori: Do you hope that other boats and other captains will join you?

Greta Berlin: Any person who has a boat, anyone who wants to join our breaking the siege is welcome. The more boats that join us, the better our chances are that we will be heard.

Silvia Cattori: Don't you all need a certain amount of courage to launch such a project?

Greta Berlin: I think that if Hedy Epstein at 82 and Mary Hughes at 73 and so many others in their 70s and 80s can make this trip, so can I. I don't think any of us think we are brave; I think we are determined to have the voices of the Palestinians heard, and if we can help, we have to. We can't turn away as Israel bombs women and children every day.

Silvia Cattori: Why do you care so much for the plight of the Palestinians?

Greta Berlin: When I lived in Chicago, Illinois I married a Palestinian refugee from l948. That's when I began to learn the truth about Israel's ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians in order to establish a Jewish state. As I became more involved in the 60s and 70s, a group called the Jewish Defence League threatened by two small children, saying they would kill them if we continued to work for justice for the Palestinians

For almost 20 years I left the struggle, raising the children and working on my career. I wasn't going to jeopardize their safety for a cause I supported.

In 1997, with my children grown and gone, I started to write letters and advocate again. I couldn't believe that almost 20 years had passed, and the situation for the Palestinians was worse by the day. On September 29, 2000, Mohammed Al Dura, a little 12-year-old boy in Gaza was murdered by an Israeli sniper. Someone just happened to catch the killing on video. I was appalled and returned.

When Rachel Corrie was crushed to death in March, 2003 and Tom Hurndall was shot through the head several days later; both human rights workers with the International Solidarity Movement in Gaza, I made a commitment to go to the occupied territories to see for myself what Israel was doing to a people it occupies.

Silvia Cattori: Isn't the ISM considered to be a terrorist organization by Israel?

Greta Berlin: Actually, no. Those of us who have volunteered for the ISM are peaceful and believe in nonviolently demonstrating against the occupation. The only terrorism that I witnessed in the five months I was there in 2003 and 2005 was the Israeli military violence against us and the illegal settler violence against the Palestinians and those of us who were trying to protect them. I was shot in the leg by a rubber-coated steel bullet while protesting against that dreadful wall Israel is building. And I, like hundreds of peace activists, have had tear gas and sound bombs thrown at me in Bil'in. While escorting Palestinian children to school in Hebron, settler children threw rocks at us, wounding me in the hand and the thigh.

Almost everyone on board this boat has been beaten, shot, or tear-gassed by the Israeli military. Many of us have been arrested for protecting women and children. Israeli authorities know that we aren't connected in any way to any terrorist organization.

But Israel is terrified that we come back to our countries and tell the truth of what happens to an occupied people. That's what they really fearthe truth.

We are all committed to going to Gaza. And we are eagerly awaiting the support of all progressive people to join with us2. Even if we don't land, we will have tried, and we will have told the world the situation. I believe that all of the people on the boat feel the same way. We know what the obstacles are. And this is not the only voyage. We will continue to return as part of a strategy of bringing the truth of Israel's occupation to the world.

Silvia Cattori: What do you hope to do once you reach Gaza?

Greta Berlin: We're going fishing. Come, join us, bring your fishing poles.



2. Contact :

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Defending Israel from democracy

By Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 5 June 2007

The second Palestinian intifada has been crushed. The
700km wall is sealing the occupied population of the West
Bank into a series of prisons. The "demographic timebomb"
-- the fear that Palestinians, through higher birth rates,
will soon outnumber Jews in the Holy Land and that
Israel's continuing rule over them risks being compared to
apartheid -- has been safely defused through the
disengagment from Gaza and its 1.4 million inhabitants. On
the fortieth anniversary of Israel's occupation of the
West Bank and Gaza, Israel's security establishment is
quietly satisfied with its successes.

But like a shark whose physiology requires that, to stay
alive, it never sleeps or stops moving, Israel must remain
restless, constantly reinventing itself and its policies
to ensure its ethnic project does not lose legitimacy,
even as it devours the Palestinian homeland. By keeping a
step ahead of the analysts and worldwide opinion, Israel
creates facts on the ground that cement its supremacist
and expansionist agenda.

So, with these achievements under its belt, where next for
the Jewish state?

I have been arguing for some time that Israel's ultimate
goal is to create an ethnic fortress, a Jewish space in
expanded borders from which all Palestinians -- including
its 1.2 million Palestinian citizens -- will be excluded.
That was the purpose of the Gaza disengagement and it is
also the point of the wall snaking through the West Bank,
effectively annexing to Israel what little is left of a
potential Palestinian state.

It should therefore be no surprise that we are witnessing
the first moves in Israel's next phase of conquest of the
Palestinians. With the 3.7 million Palestinians in the
occupied territories caged inside their ghettos, unable to
protest their treatment behind fences and walls, the turn
has come of Israel's Palestinian citizens.

These citizens, today nearly a fifth of Israel's
population, are the legacy of an oversight by the
country's Jewish leaders during the ethnic cleansing
campaign of the 1948 war. Ever since Israel has been
pondering what to do with them. There was a brief debate
in the state's first years about whether they should be
converted to Judaism and assimilated, or whether they
should be marginalised and eventually expelled. The latter
view, favoured by the country's first prime minister,
David Ben Gurion, dominated. The question has been when
and how to do the deed.

The time now finally appears to be upon us, and the
crushing of these more than one million unwanted citizens
currently inside the walls of the fortress -- the
Achilles' heel of the Jewish state -- is likely to be just
as ruthless as that of the Palestinians under occupation.

In my recent book Blood and Religion, I charted the
preparations for this crackdown. Israel has been secretly
devising a land swap scheme that would force up to a
quarter of a million Palestinian citizens (but hardly any
territory) into the Palestinian ghetoes being crafted next
door -- in return Israel will annex swaths of the West
Bank on which the illegal Jewish settlements sit. The
Bedouin in the Negev are being reclassified as trespassers
on state land so that they can be treated as guest workers
rather than citizens. And lawyers in the Justice Ministry
are toiling over a loyalty scheme to deal with the
remaining Palestinians: pledge an oath to Israel as a
Jewish and democratic state (that is, one in which you are
not wanted) or face being stripped of your rights and
possibly expelled.

There will be no resistance to these moves from Israel's
Jewish public. Opinion polls consistently show that
two-thirds of Israeli Jews support "transfer" of the
country's Palestinian population. With a veneer of
legality added to the ethnic cleansing, the Jewish
consensus will be almost complete.

But these measures cannot be implemented until an
important first battle has been waged and won in the
Knesset, the Israeli parliament. One of Israel's gurus of
the so-called "demographic threat", Arnon Sofer, a
professor at Haifa University, has explained the problem
posed by the presence of a growing number of Palestinian
voters: "In their hands lies the power to determine the
right of return [of Palestinian refugees] or to decide who
is a Jew ... In another few years, they will be able to
decide whether the state of Israel should continue to be a
Jewish-Zionist state."

The warning signs about how Israel might defend itself
from this "threat" have been clear for some time. In
Silencing Dissent, a report published in 2002 by the Human
Rights Association based in Nazareth, the treatment of
Israel's 10 Palestinian Knesset members was documented:
over the previous two years, nine had been assaulted by
the security services, some on several occasions, and
seven hospitalised. The report also found that the state
had launched 25 investigations of the 10 MKs in the same

All this abuse was reserved for the representatives of a
community the Israeli general Moshe Dayan once referred to
as "the quietest minority in the world".

But the state's violence towards, and intimidation of,
Palestinian Knesset members -- until now largely the
reflex actions of officials offended by the presence of
legislators refusing to bow before the principles of
Zionism and privileges for Jews -- is entering a new, more
dangerous phase.

The problem for Israel is that for the past two decades
Palestinian legislators have been entering the Knesset not
as members of Zionist parties, as was the case for many
decades, but as representatives of independent Palestinian
parties. (A state claiming to be Jewish and democratic has
to make some concessions to its own propaganda, after

The result has been the emergence of an unexpected
political platform: the demand for Israel's constitutional
reform. Palestinian political parties have been calling
for Israel's transformation from a Jewish state into a
"state of all its citizens" -- or what the rest of us
would call a liberal democracy.

The figurehead for this political struggle has been the
legislator Azmi Bishara. A former philosophy professor,
Bishara has been running rings around Jewish politicians
in the Knesset for more than a decade, as well as exposing
to outsiders the sham of Israel's self-definition as a
"Jewish and democratic" state.

Even more worryingly he has also been making an
increasingly convincing case to his constituency of 1.2
million Palestinian citizens that, rather than challenging
the hundreds of forms of discrimination they face one law
at a time, they should confront the system that props up
the discrimination: the Jewish state itself. He has
started to persuade a growing number that they will never
enjoy equality with Jews as long as they live in ethnic

Bishara's campaign for a state of all its citizens has
faced an uphill struggle. Palestinian citizens spent the
first two decades after Israel's creation living under
martial law, a time during which their identity, history
and memories were all but crushed. Even today the minority
has no control over its educational curriculum, which is
set by officials charged with promoting Zionism, and its
schools are effectively run by the secret police, the Shin
Bet, through a network of collaborators among the teachers
and pupils.

Given this climate, it may not be surprising that in a
recent poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute 75
per cent of Palestinian citizens said they would support
the drafting of a constitution defining Israel as a Jewish
and democratic state (Israel currently has no
constitution). Interestingly, however, what concerned
commentators was the survey's small print: only a third of
the respondents felt strongly about their position
compared to more than half of those questioned in a
similar survey three years ago. Also, 72 per cent of
Palestinian citizens believed the principle of "equality"
should be prominently featured in such a constitution.

These shifts of opinion are at least partly a result of
Bishara's political work. He has been trying to persuade
Israel's Palestinian minority -- most of whom, whatever
the spin tells us, have had little practical experience of
participating in a democracy other than casting a vote --
that it is impossible for a Jewish state to enshrine
equality in its laws. Israel's nearest thing to a Bill of
Rights, the Basic Law on Freedom and Human Dignity,
intentionally does not mention equality anywhere in its

It is in this light that the news about Bishara that broke
in late April should be read. While he was abroad with his
family, the Shin Bet announced that he would face charges
of treason on his return. Under emergency regulations --
renewed by the Knesset yet again last week, and which have
now been in operation for nearly 60 years -- he could be
executed if found guilty. Bishara so far has chosen not to

Coverage of the Bishara case has concentrated on the two
main charges against him, which are only vaguely known as
the security services have been trying to prevent
disclosure of their evidence with a gagging order. The
first accusation -- for the consumption of Israel's Jewish
population -- is that Bishara actively helped Hizbullah in
its targeting of Israeli communities in the north during
the war against Lebanon last summer.

The Shin Bet claims this after months of listening in on
his phone conversations -- made possible by a change in
the law in 2005 that allows the security services to bug
legislators' phones. The other Palestinian MKs suspect
they are being subjected to the same eavesdropping after
the Attorney-General Mechahem Mazuz failed to respond to a
question from one, Taleb a-Sana, on whether the Shin Bet
was using this practice more widely.

Few informed observers, however, take this allegation
seriously. An editorial in Israel's leading newspaper
Haaretz compared Bishara's case to that of the Israeli
Jewish dissident Tali Fahima, who was jailed on trumped-up
charges that she translated a military plan, a piece of
paper dropped by the army in the Jenin refugee camp, on
behalf of a Palestinian militant, Zacharia Zbeidi, even
though it was widely known that Zbeidi was himself fluent
in Hebrew.

The editorial noted that it seemed likely the charge of
treason against Bishara "will turn out to be a tendentious
exaggeration of his telephone conversations and meetings
with Lebanese and Syrian nationals, and possibly also of
his expressions of support for their military activities.
It seems very doubtful that MK Bishara even has access to
defense-related secrets that he could sell to the enemy,
and like in the Fahima case, the fact that he identified
with the enemy during wartime appears to be what fueled
the desire to seek and find an excuse for bringing him to

Such doubts were reinforced by reports in the Israeli
media that the charge of treason was based on claims that
Bishara had helped Hizbullah conduct "psychological
warfare through the media".

The other allegation made by the secret police has a
different target audience. The Shin Bet claims that
Bishara laundered money from terrorist organisations. The
implication, though the specifics are unclear, is that
Bishara both helped fund terror and that he squirrelled
some of the money away, possibly hundreds of thousands of
dollars, presumably for his own benefit. This is supposed
to discredit him with his own constituency of Palestinian

It should be noted that none of this money has been found
in extensive searches of Bishara's home and office, and
the evidence is based on testimony from a far from
reliable source: a family of money-changers in East

This second charge closely resembles the allegations faced
by the only other Palestinian of national prominence in
Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement
and a spiritual leader of the Palestinian minority. He was
arrested in 2003, originally on charges that he laundered
money for the armed wing of Hamas, helping them buy guns
and bombs.

As with Bishara, the Shin Bet had been bugging Salah's
every phone call for many months and had supposedly
accumulated mountains of evidence against him. Salah spent
more than two years in jail, the judges repeatedly
accepting the Shin Bet's advice that his requests for bail
be refused, as this secret evidence was studied in minute
detail at his lengthy trial. In the closing stages, as it
became clear that the Shin Bet's case was evaporating, the
prosecution announced a plea bargain. Salah agreed
(possibly unwisely, but understandably after two years in
jail) to admit minor charges of financial impropriety in
return for his release.

To this day, Salah does not know what he did wrong. His
organisation had funded social programmes for orphans,
students and widows in the occupied territories and had
submitted its accounts to the security services for
approval. In a recent interview, Salah observed that in
the new reality he and his party had discovered that it
was "as if helping orphans, sick persons, widows and
students had now become illegal activities in support of

Why was Salah targeted? In the same interview, he noted
that shortly before his arrest the prime minister of the
day, Ariel Sharon, had called for the outlawing of the
Islamic Movement, whose popularity was greatly concerning
the security establishment. Sharon was worried by what he
regarded as Salah's interference in Israel's crushing of
Palestinian nationalism.

Sharon's concern was two-fold: the Islamic Movement was
raising funds for welfare organisations in the occupied
territories at the very moment Israel was trying to
isolate and starve the Palestinian population there; and
Salah's main campaign, "al-Aqsa is in danger", was
successfully rallying Palestinians inside Israel to visit
the mosques of the Noble Sanctuary in the Old City of
Jersualem, the most important symbols of a future
Palestinian state.

Salah believed that responsibility fell to Palestinians
inside Israel to protect these holy places as Israel's
closure policies and its checkpoints were preventing
Muslims in the occupied territories from reaching them.
Salah also suspected that Israel was using the exclusion
of Palestinians under occupation from East Jerusalem to
assert its own claims to sovereignty over the site, known
to Jews as Temple Mount. This was where Sharon had made
his inflammatory visit backed by 1,000 armed guards that
triggered the intifada; and it was control of the Temple
Mount, much longed for by his predecessor, Ehud Barak,
that "blew up" the Camp David negotiations, as one of
Barak's advisers later noted. Salah had become a nuisance,
an obstacle to Israel realising its goals in East
Jersualem and possibly in the intifada, and needed to be

Salah had become a nuisance, an obstacle to Israel
realising its goals in East Jersualem and possibly in the
intifada, and needed to be neutralised. The trial removed
him from the scene at a key moment when he might have been
able to make a difference.

That now is the fate of Bishara.

Indications that the Shin Bet wanted Bishara's scalp over
his campaign for Israel's reform to a state of all its
citizens can be dated back to at least the start of the
second intifada in 2000. That was when, as Israel prepared
for a coming general election, the departing head of the
Shin Bet observed: "Bishara does not recognise the right
of the Jewish people to a state and he has crossed the
line. The decision to disqualify him [from standing for
election] has been submitted to the Attorney General." Who
expressed that view? None other than Ami Ayalon, currently
contesting the leadership of the Labor party and hoping to
become the official head of Israel's peace camp.

In the meantime, Bishara has been put on trial twice
(unnoticed the charges later fizzled out); he has been
called in for police interrogations on a regular basis; he
has been warned by a state commission of inquiry; and the
laws concerning Knesset immunity and travel to foreign
states have been changed specifically to prevent Bishara
from fulfilling his parliamentary duties.

True to Ayalon's advice, Bishara and his political party,
the National Democratic Assembly (NDA), were disqualified
by the Central Elections Committee during the 2003
elections. The committee cited the "expert" opinion of the
Shin Bet: "It is our opinion that the inclusion of the NDA
in the Knesset has increased the threat inherent in the
party. Evidence of this can also be found in the
ideological progress from the margins of Arab society
(such as a limited circle of intellectuals who dealt with
these ideas theoretically) to center stage. Today these
ideas [concerning a state of all its citizens] have a
discernible effect on the content of political discourse
and on the public 'agenda' of the Arab sector."

But on this occasion the Shin Bet failed to get its way.
Bishara's disqualification was overturned on appeal by a
narrow majority of the Supreme Court's justices.

The Shin Bet's fears of Bishara resurfaced with a
vengeance in March this year, when the Ma'ariv newspaper
reported on a closed meeting between the Prime Minister,
Ehud Olmert, and senior Shin Bet officials "concerning the
issue of the Arab minority in Israel, the extent of its
steadily decreasing identification with the State and the
rise of subversive elements".

Ma'ariv quoted the assessment of the Shin Bet:
"Particularly disturbing is the growing phenomenon of
'visionary documents' among the various elites of Israeli
Arabs. At this time, there are four different visionary
documents sharing the perception of Israel as a state of
all citizens and not as a Jewish state. The isolationist
and subversive aims presented by the elites might
determine a direction that will win over the masses."

In other words, the secret police were worried that the
influence of Bishara's political platform was spreading.
The proof was to be found in the four recent documents
cited by the Shin Bet and published by very diffrerent
groups: the Democratic Constitution by the Adalah legal
centre; the Ten Points by the Mossawa political lobbying
group; the Future Vision by the traditionally conservative
political body comprising mostly mayors known as the High
Follow-Up Committee; and the Haifa Declaration, overseen
by a group of academics known as Mada.

What all these documents share in common is two
assumptions: first, that existing solutions to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict are based on two states and
that in such an arrangement the Palestinian minority will
continue living inside Israel as citizens; and second,
that reforms of Israel are needed if the state is to
realise equality for all citizens, as promised in its
Declaration of Independence.

Nothing too subversive there, one would have thought. But
that was not the view of the Shin Bet.

Following the report in Ma'ariv, the editor of a weekly
Arab newspaper wrote to the Shin Bet asking for more
information. Did the Shin Bet's policy not constitute an
undemocratic attempt to silence the Palestinian minority
and its leaders, he asked. A reply from the Shin Bet was
not long in coming. The secret police had a responsibility
to guard Israel "against subversive threats", it was
noted. "By virtue of this responsibility, the Shin Bet is
required to thwart subversive activity by elements who
wish to harm the nature of the State of Israel as a
democratic Jewish State -- even if they act by means of
democratically provided tools -- by virtue of the
principle of 'defensive democracy'."

Questioned by Israeli legal groups about this policy when
it became public, the head of the Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin,
wrote a letter clarifying what he meant. Israel had to be
protected from anyone "seeking to change the state's basic
principles while abolishing its democratic character or
its Jewish character". He was basing his opinion on a law
passed in 2002 that charges the Shin Bet with safeguarding
the country from "threats of terror, sabotage,

In other words, in the view of the Shin Bet, a Jewish and
democratic state is democratic only if you are a Jew or a
Zionist. If you try to use Israel's supposed democracy to
challenge the privileges reserved for Jews inside a Jewish
state, that same state is entitled to defend itself
against you.

The extension in the future of this principle from Bishara
to the other Palestinian MKs and then on to the wider
Palestinian community inside Israel should not be doubted.
In the wake of the Bishara case, Israel Hasson, a former
deputy director of the Shin Bet and now a right-wing
Knesset member, described Israel's struggle against its
Palestinian citizens as "a second War of Independence" --
the war in 1948 that founded Israel by cleansing it of 80
per cent of its Palestinians.

The Shin Bet is not, admittedly, a democratic institution,
even if it is operating in a supposedly democratic
environment. So how do the state's more accountable
officials view the Shin Bet's position? Diskin's reply had
a covering letter from Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz,
the country's most senior legal officer. Mazuz wrote: "The
letter of the Shin Bet director was written in
coordination with the attorney general and with his
agreement, and the stance detailed in it is acceptable to
the attorney general."

So now we know. As Israel's Palestinian politicians have
long been claiming, a Jewish and democratic state is
intended as a democracy for Jews only. No one else is
allowed a say -- or even an opinion.

Jonathan Cook, a journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, is
the author of Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the
Jewish and Democratic State (Pluto Press, 2006). His
website is

Monday, June 04, 2007

Dispossession and Humiliation

Four Decades of Occupation


"I don't know what I would do if my daughter had to go through that humiliation." A U.S. congressman said those words to me while watching Qalandia checkpoint, the key Israeli roadblock between occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. As we mark the 40th anniversary of the 1967 war and Israel's military occupation of Palestinian territory, his comment is particularly poignant. As both a Palestinian and an American, I wonder what my fellow Americans would do if they lived for 40 years with every aspect of their lives controlled by a foreign army, or what members of Congress would do if they had to pass through an occupier's checkpoint on Capitol Hill.

In 1995, I worked with other Palestinians to launch the Coca-Cola franchise in the West Bank and Gaza. I am one of many Palestinian-American businessmen who invested after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. They were supposed to have ended the occupation and led to the formation of an independent and economically viable Palestinian state. We were determined to create jobs and build businesses that would bring Palestinians hope for a free and prosperous future. Instead, the occupation has become more entrenched. And we see the toll it takes on the new generation of Palestinians ­ every man, woman and child under the age of 40 who has not known a day of freedom in his or her lifetime.

Israel is the leading foreign destination for privately sponsored congressional trips. Yet while the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is one of our most critical foreign policy issues, few members of Congress visit the occupied Palestinian territories. I tell those who do that a trip through Qalandia checkpoint will show them most of what they need to know.

The checkpoint is a microcosm of the Palestinian experience. More than 500 Israeli checkpoints are scattered throughout the West Bank, which is roughly the size of Delaware. Palestinian students wait at checkpoints, sometimes for hours, to get to school. Others wait years to visit their parents in Gaza while studying in the West Bank. Laborers wait to get to work, mothers to the grocery store, and doctors to the hospital. With a wave of a soldier's hand, they might pass through and make it to their final exam or to the hospital in time to deliver a healthy baby. Just as easily, the soldier can stop them. Hours at a checkpoint can mean missing an exam or losing a baby to a miscarriage.

Israel's military occupation similarly blocks the economic, political and social potential of Palestine. Like all people, when allowed to live in freedom, Palestinians have thrived. Economic development in the oil-rich Arabian Gulf countries was largely driven by Palestinians. Palestinian-Americans are accomplished businesspeople, educators and artists. But in their homeland, the military occupation hems Palestinians in, limits their horizons and stifles their potential. Is this in Israel's best interest?

For 40 years, America has called on Israel to end the occupation. There is international consensus that the creation of an independent Palestinian state would bring peace and stability to the region. Yet the occupation and relentless building of new Israeli settlements continues unabated. Consecutive American administrations have agreed that settlements are illegal. Still, at least 20,000 new Jewish settlers moved into the West Bank last year alone. And the prospects for an independent Palestinian state darken.

A viable state cannot be built on a ruined economy. Various agreements ­ beginning with the Oslo Accords and most recently the November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access ­ required the free movement of people and goods within the Palestinian territory. Yet, according to a recent World Bank report, Israeli restrictions leave more than 50 percent of the West Bank off limits to Palestinians while the movement of Israeli settlers living there illegally remains relatively unhindered. We can spend hours at Qalandia and the many other checkpoints, while Israeli settlers speed by on Israeli-only roads.

The World Bank notes that these restrictions "create such a high level of uncertainty and inefficiency that the normal conduct of business becomes exceedingly difficult and stymies the growth and investment which is necessary to fuel economic revival." I know this firsthand. Today Coca-Cola employs hundreds of Palestinians. Yet, it is virtually impossible to compete fairly when my goods and my employees cannot move freely, even within our own community.

American interests suffer, too. Our credibility is damaged when Israel ignores U.S.-brokered agreements, yet remains the beneficiary of unparalleled American financial and diplomatic support. American peacemaking efforts are premised on the notion that a better future is possible, a future where both Palestinians and Israelis live in peace, freedom and dignity. On this anniversary of the 1967 war, the United States should fully engage and commit to winning the war of peace. The first step is for the occupation to end. Surely 40 years has been too long.

Zali Khouri is CEO of the Palestinian National Beverage Co. and a board member of the Palestinian Development Investment Co. He is chairman of the Palestine International Business Forum and chairs the largest Palestinian NGO, the NGO Development Center, in association with the World Bank.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Black Like Me Podcast Available!

This week on Crossing The Line, the historic relationship that has existed between the African American and Jewish communities has been well documented. But what about the relationship between Blacks and Arabs, and in particular Palestinians? Today we'll examine this alliance and speak with author and lecturer Alex Lubin and Dr. Charles Mock.

Also this week we'll get an update on the ongoing crisis in the Nahr El-Bared refugee camp.

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.