Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rattling the Cage: Provoking anti-Semitism

Interesting column by Larry Derfner in The J'sem Post and unusually critical of Israel, considering where it was published. Had the author replaced 'anti-Semitism' with 'anti-Israel', anti-Zionist' or 'criticism of Israel' in just a few places, there would have been almost nothing I'd have disagreed with. As it stands there isn't that much to complain about either...
First we left the Gaza Strip in bloodied ruins. Then we raised up a politician who, with his appeal to racism, militarism, fear of alien "subversives" and the yearning for a strong leader, fits the classic, textbook definition of a fascist.

And now, what is the talking point for our hasbara (spin) campaign? The surge in global anti-Semitism.

It's hard to avoid the impression that for the champions of Israel Right or Wrong, the surge in global anti-Semitism - which is real enough - came as a godsend. Finally, Israel and its lobbyists could get off the defensive about civilian casualties, white phosphorous and Avigdor Lieberman, and go on the offensive against synagogue firebombings, chanting mobs and boycotts.

I'm not saying Israel and its cheerleaders are happy that Jews are coming under increasing attack in Europe and elsewhere. Environmentalists aren't happy about oil spills - but oil spills are a godsend for their cause. I'm saying that the chorus of condemnations of anti-Semitism from Israelis and pro-Israel nationalists has a dual purpose - to fight anti-Semitism, which is good, and to neutralize criticism of Operation Cast Lead and the spread of Israeli fascism, which is cynical and morally deadening.

THE CLAIM we hear is that anti-Semitism today is worse than it's been since the 1930s. That may be true, but it overlooks one little thing that's different about the Jews of today compared to those of the 1930s: power. The Jews back then had none, or at least none that could protect them, while Israel, the focus of today's rise in anti-Semitism, has awesome power. Incomparably more power than its enemies have, including the anti-Semites, who are legion.

To claim that "anti-Semitism today is worse than it's been since the 1930s" is of course ludicrous in itself and simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny: by and large the irritation, anger and frustration being expressed world-wide in the wake of Gaza is directed at Zionists, unconditional supporters of Israel and the Zionist regime itself and not Jewry as a collectivity. Although the number of anti-Semitic attacks on Jews simply for being Jews has indeed risen sharply and cannot be condoned it has to be remembered that similar surges of Islamophobia and anti-Irish feelings targeted (e.g.) British Muslims after 9/11 and the British Irish during the IRA mainland terror campaign, respectively.
In the 1930s, Jews didn't do anything to provoke anti-Semitism. They were weak while their persecutors were strong. But today? Today's surge in anti-Semitism began with a war in which the Jewish state killed its enemies at a ratio of 100-to-1, then made a political giant out of a former bouncer whose campaign slogan was "Only Lieberman understands Arabic."

To compare Israel's predicament today with that of the Jews of the 1930s is disingenuous in the extreme. Today's rise in anti-Semitism was provoked not by Israel's weakness, but by its abuses of power, first against the Gazans, then against Israeli Arabs. The difference is night and day.

It's also disingenuous to imply, as hasbara does, that the entire wave of anti-Israel sentiment in the world is tainted by anti-Semitism. (To pro-Israel lobbyists, it's fair and acceptable to acknowledge that Israel is not perfect. Anything beyond that is suspect.) There's a great deal of moral outrage at Israel, some of it fair, some of it not. On the far side of the unfair is the anti-Semitic.

Somewhat in contrast with the above, here I believe he's largely correct, apart from the wholesale equating of criticism with anti-Semitism, a point he later back pedals on.
In the 1930s, only anti-Semites were incensed at Jews. Today, while there are certainly masses of anti-Semites who are incensed at Israel, they're not alone. Today the world is filled with people who are not anti-Semites yet who are incensed at the things this country has been doing. Lots of them, myself included, are Jews.

I UNDERSTAND very well that Israel is by no means to blame for most of the anti-Semitism in the world. We are not to blame for Islamic fundamentalism, or the irrational Third World Left, or the age-old anti-Jewish instincts of much of Europe and Latin America. No matter how good, how fair we are to the Arabs, the reservoirs of anti-Semitism in the world are not going to dry up.

No, but Israel is not good or fair to Arabs, wasn't from the moment it came into being and still isn't today. If it was, then most of the anti-Israel feeling in the wider world and the Arab world would dissipate quickly (without necessarily solving the problem of irrational, age-old Jew hatred).
But since this country's actions were responsible for the recent surge in the level of those reservoirs, I think there's a way of at least bringing that level down, a way that might work as well if not better than stepping up the hasbara: Let's stop fighting immoral wars. Let's stop laying siege to a tiny, destitute country. (That might stop Gazans from firing rockets at us, too.) Let's stop holding 10,000 Palestinian prisoners. (That might also help us get Gilad Schalit back.)

And finally, let's stop electing fascists to the Knesset. And if this is too much to ask of ourselves, let's at least have the decency not to bring them into the government. And if even that's beyond us, if we're going to have fascists as cabinet ministers, if we go so far as to have one for finance minister or foreign minister, then let's not complain about the next surge in global anti-Semitism, because we will have provoked that one, too.
This is not the 1930s. We, the nation of Israel, are far from being powerless, and we are far from being innocent.

Hear, hear...

Poll: Israelis oppose two state solution

Beware of all polls of course, few things are easier to manipulate while at the same time exuding an aura of veracity and definiteness, but the one reported below is difficult to ignore. Despite the considerable error margin of 4.5 %, the split between support for (32 %) and opposition to (51 %) the two state solution is very significant. It's also hard to see how this result doesn't tie in with the overwhelming and almost constant support for the war in Gaza and the further veering to the Far Right of Israeli politics...

H/T Mondoweiss


On Feb. 10, Israel held a legislative election. The outcome was too close to call, with the ruling Kadima and the rightist Likud party garnering roughly the same amount of votes. Israeli president Shimon Peres will ask either Kadima leader Tzipi Livni or Likud leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government.

Following the election, David Makovsky—director of the Washington Institute’s Project on the Middle East Peace Process—commented on the way a new government would deal with current situation, saying, "Livni deeply believes that a two-state solution is in Israel’s national interest based on the democratic threats of holding onto the West Bank. You don’t sense that with Bibi [Netanyahu]."

Polling Data

In light of the experience with disengagement, the Second Lebanon War and the war against Hamas in Gaza, do you support or oppose the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria?







Not sure


Source: Maagar Mochot / Channel 2
Methodology: Telephone interviews with 1,894 Israeli adults, conducted on Feb. 2 and Feb. 3, 2009. Margin of error is 4.5 per cent.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Israel planning mass expansion of West Bank settlement bloc

Despite the state's formal commitment not to expand West Bank settlements, a government agency has been promoting plans over the past two years to construct thousands of housing units east of the Green Line, Haaretz has learned.

The plans, which have not yet been approved by the government, were drawn up by the Civil Administration, the government agency responsible for nonmilitary matters in the West Bank. Details of the plans appear in the minutes of the agency's environmental subcommittee, which were obtained by the B'Tselem organization under the Freedom of Information Act.

The plans propose the initial construction of 550 apartments in Gva'ot, located near Alon Shvut in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, followed by construction of another 4,450 units at a later stage. At present, Gva'ot is inhabited by 12 families. The neighboring settlement of Bat Ayin, which has about 120 families, is slated to receive another 2,000 apartments, according to the plans.

Rimonim will get another 254 apartments if the plans are approved, and expansion plans are also in the works for Einav and Mevo Dotan. All three of these settlements are east of the separation fence. Read on.

40 days after war, Hamas rule of Gaza gaining legitimacy


The blow Hamas was dealt has only led to increased admiration for the group, according to opinion polls in the territories. Hamas is still waiting for another crowning achievement: if abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is released for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

As predicted: you can't bomb a people or its leaders into submission...

Cast Lead raised international hackles, because Israel lost few people to the rockets fired from Gaza, but its response caused widespread death and destruction. What's more, in Gaza the victims were Palestinians, who already bear the brunt of the tragedy of 1948; the world is much more sympathetic to them than to Syria's Bashar Assad or Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah.

The major damage Cast Lead did was in legitimizing Hamas as the ruler of the Gaza Strip, with increasing calls for "reconciliation talks" that will return the organization to the Palestinian leadership.

The operation was planned to coincide with the end of the term of the Israel-friendly President George W. Bush, before President Barack Obama entered office. But now, instead of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton coming to talk to Israel about the Iranian threat, her first visit in office will focus on the problems of the Palestinians in Gaza. That might be the greatest damage of all.

Don't you love it when the softly-softly Zionists at Ha'aretz speak their mind? Clinton's focusing on the Palestinians' problems, "might be the greatest damage of all"? Probably true though...

And what a few reservists think about Cast Lead:

Forty days after the end of the war in Gaza, reserve paratroop sergeant, Keren Hagigi, whose unit fought north of Gaza City, said that when the cabinet announced the end of the operation, "of course I was glad to get home to my wife and little boy, but I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that even when we were sitting in a house in Beit Lahiya, we could still see Katyushas being launched, right next to us."

But Sgt. 1st Class Amitai Ahiman added: "I think that except for getting [kidnapped soldier] Gilad Shalit back, we did the most we could. From what I saw inside [the Strip], we did attain deterrence."

Another reservist, Amir Marmor, a gunner, said he left the war ashamed. "The IDF used disproportionate power, in a kind of punishment operation."

Peace will be achieved only by talking to Hamas

Interesting article in The Times, cosigned among others by a former Israeli Foreign Minister (and former peace negotiator), Dr Shlomo Ben-Ami:

We need to rethink the strategy for achieving peace in the Middle East - The Times

Sir, If every crisis is also an opportunity, it is now time to rethink the strategy for achieving peace in the Middle East. The latest and bloodiest conflict between Israel and Hamas has demonstrated that the policy of isolating Hamas cannot bring about stability. As former peace negotiators, we believe it is of vital importance to abandon the failed policy of isolation and to involve Hamas in the political process.

An Israeli–Palestinian peace settlement without Hamas will not be possible. As the Israeli general and statesman Moshe Dayan said: “If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” There can be no meaningful peace process that involves negotiating with the representative of one part of the Palestinians while simultaneously trying to destroy the other.
Whether we like it or not, Hamas will not go away. Since its victory in democratic elections in 2006, Hamas has sustained its support in Palestinian society despite attempts to destroy it through economic blockades, political boycotts and military incursions. This approach is not working; a new strategy must be found. Yes, Hamas must recognise Israel as part of a permanent solution, but it is a diplomatic process and not ostracisation that will lead them there. The Quartet conditions imposed on Hamas set an unworkable threshold from which to commence negotiations. The most important first step is for Hamas to halt all violence as a precondition for their inclusion in the process. Ending their isolation will in turn help in reconciling the Palestinian national movement, a vital condition for meaningful negotiations with Israel.

We have learnt first-hand that there is no substitute for direct and sustained negotiations with all parties to a conflict, and rarely if ever a durable peace without them. Isolation only bolsters hardliners and their policies of intransigence. Engagement can strengthen pragmatic elements and their ability to strike the hard compromises needed for peace.

The new US Administration and the appointment of George Mitchell as the Middle East envoy give hope that a new strategy grounded in realism and not ideology will be pursued. Without this, there will be no two-state solution and no peace and security for either Israelis or Palestinians. We must recognise that engaging Hamas does not amount to condoning terrorism or attacks on civilians. In fact, it is a precondition for security and for brokering a workable agreement.

Michael Ancram
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon
Dr Shlomo Ben-Ami (Israel Foreign Minister, 2000-01)
Betty Bigombe (former Uganda Government minister)
Alvaro de Soto (UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Envoy to the Quartet, 2005-07).
Gareth Evans (Australian Foreign Minister, 1988-96)
Peter Gastrow (former Member of Parliament in South Africa and member of the National Peace Committee and the National Peace Secretariat)
Gerry Kelly (Sinn Féin member of the Northern Ireland Assembly)
John Hume (Leader of the Social
Democratic Liberal Party of Northern Ireland, 1979-2001)
Dr Ram Manikkalingam (Founder of the Dialogue Advisory Group)
Lord Patten of Barnes

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More nuclear distortions...

I don't think there's a topic in the entire world of news that's more riddled with distortions, misapprehensions, highly contentious interpretations, hidden and not-so-hidden agendas, titillation even and plain old propaganda, as the 'nuclear Iran issue'. This time, Israel's leading daily Ha'aretz is at it in their article titled: "Israel calls Iran nuclear plant test 'bad news' for whole world".

Iran has started tests on its Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant as part of preparations for its launch, an official said on Wednesday.

Israel responded to the news with concern, calling the test "bad news" for the whole world.

A purely civilian test that doesn't even actually involve any actual nuclear materials (see below) cannot be seen as 'bad news for the whole world'. Iran, whether we like it or not, has the right to develop civilian nuclear technology. Its Bushehr project has been delayed for years (often due to banal disputes with the Russian contractors) but cannot be expected to stand idle forever.

"Iranians are showing again that they are making progress in their nuclear race," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said. "This should be understood as very bad news for the whole of the international community."

Palmor called for immediate and very determined steps in order to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

The West, which suspects Tehran of seeking to produce its own nuclear bomb, has been critical of Russia's involvement in building Bushehr in southwestern Iran. Russia says it is purely civilian and cannot be used for any weapons program.

The Bushehr tests don't constitute progress in "their nuclear race": non-live testing of a light water civilian reactor is a normal phase in bringing a civilian facility up to the point of first actual operation.

Civilian reactors of the Bushehr-type (PWR or Pressurised Water Reactors) are in use for the civilian production of electricity all over the world. The nuclear fuel used is lowly enriched uranium (about 5 % of U 235) and cannot be used in any way, shape or form for nuclear weapons (the enrichment process however, can in principle be used to produce Highly Enriched Uranium [HEU - at least 90 % U 235], but that's an enormous step).

Civilian nuclear reactors do also produce plutonium (the second option for producing Hiroshima/Nagasaki-style A-bombs) as a largely nuisance by-product but the resulting plutonium, often and somewhat confusingly referred to as 'reactor-grade plutonium' (R-Pu) is not suitable for bomb-making due to the presence of higher plutonium isotopes like Pu 240 and Pu 241. Strictly speaking R-Pu could be weaponised but British tests showed R-Pu to have a much higher critical mass (making it harder to make a missile-deliverable weapon) than weapons-grade plutonium (which is almost exclusively Pu 239) and that R-Pu has a tendency to prematurely detonate, paradoxically resulting in a fizzle or a very low yield explosion.

Weapons-grade plutonium (almost 100 % Pu 239) cannot be made by refining R-Pu with any known process and can only be successfully produced in a reactor of the type Syria is highly suspected of having tried to build, Windscale or Hanford type graphite reactors, or quite exceptionally in heavy water facilities like Israel's Dimona reactor.

All in all, considering the difficulty in producing HEU (U 235 > 90 %), if Iran really was really hell bent on building nuclear bombs it rather begs the question why it didn't go for the graphite-moderated gas-cooled Magnox-type plutonium breeder reactor, specifically designed to produce weapons-grade plutonium. Such facilities are fairly small, relatively easy to build and operate, require no uranium enrichment whatsoever and should be quite easy to conceal in a vast country like Iran.

The Iranian official, Mohsen Shirazi, said the visiting head of Russia's state nuclear company, Sergei Kiriyenko, and his Iranian counterpart Gholamreza Aghazadeh were at the plant to inspect work that included injecting "virtual" fuel into rods.

"This process started 10 days ago. Lead is used instead of nuclear fuel," Shirazi told reporters at the site.

So no nuclear activity whatsoever (lead is not a fissionable material). Loading fuel rods with lead blanks is no more than a completely radiation-free form of dress rehearsal. A necessary step in clearing the reactor for a later 'live' phase but not related to any weapons program whatsoever. Any information that will be gleaned from this exercise does not contribute in any way, shape or form to knowledge that would be of use to a potential bomb builder.

Asked about Wednesday's tests, Kiriyenko said: "This is virtual fuel injection to test how the reactor works."

His comments were translated by Iranian state television.

He did not give details. Iranian media on Sunday said Wednesday's event would include testing of all of Bushehr's activities with special computer software.

Rosatom spokesman Sergei Novikov, however, said earlier this week that no major milestone in the reparations for Bushehr's start-up is expected during Kiriyenko's visit.

Novikov said that Rosatom expects it to be a just a working visit and that as before, the reactor's physical start-up is expected by the end of the year.

"It is a regular meeting on the site, with Russians and the Iranian organizations which are working on the project," Novikov said of Wednesday's event.

Shirazi said that if the tests were successful fuel rods with enriched uranium would be used instead of lead, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Enriched uranium can be used as fuel for power plants and also provide material for bombs if refined much further.

Only if Iran masters uranium enrichment to well beyond the point of producing some tons of lowly enriched uranium (5 % U 235) and becomes capable of pushing the enrichment reliably past HEU (U 235 > 90%), a rather huge step.

Russia started deliveries of nuclear fuel for the plant in late 2007, a step both Washington and Moscow said removed any need for Iran to have its own uranium enrichment program.

Moscow says Iran will return all spent fuel rods to Russia.

The latter should be seen as the ultimate safeguard because it means that Iran cannot even access the reactor-grade plutonium by-product contained in spent fuel rods.

As so much regarding Iran's nuclear issue, this is by and large another non-story, designed solely to strike fear into nuclear laymen... And Palmor is just another lying Zionist.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hitchens on Avigdor Lieberman

The more than potential ascendancy of Lieberman to the post of Israeli Foreign Minister brings with it some tragicomical contradictions, explains Christopher Hitchens:

Avigdor Lieberman's Chutzpah: The right to return cannot confer the right to expel.

A reliable friend and colleague swears that he saw the following incident in the Israeli-occupied territories a couple of years ago. A Palestinian physician, in urgent need of permission to travel, was trying to persuade a soldier at a roadblock to allow him to hurry on to the next town. He first tried the stone-faced guard in Hebrew, in which many Arabs are fluent, but he received no response. He then made an attempt in English, which is something of a local lingua franca, yet he fared no better. After an unpleasant interval of mutual noncommunication, it transpired that the only word the Israeli soldier knew was no, and the only language in which he could speak it was Russian.

The words occupation and dispossession are flung around pretty freely, but I invite you to picture a life under occupation in which your unfriendly neighborhood cop did not even speak the language of the state that he served, let alone any tongue known to you. There is, by the way, a fair likelihood that the soldier was not even Jewish; it's an open secret in Israel that tens of thousands of Russian immigrants used forged papers as a means of exiting their country of birth, pretending to exercise the "right of return." So here is yet another insult to heap on those whose great-great-grandparents were born in Palestine yet are treated as if they live there only on sufferance.

Yet if you are a former bouncer born in former Soviet Moldova, like Avigdor Lieberman, you can come to live in the Holy Land as of right and become the leader of a party that proposes to institute a "loyalty oath" not just to the Arab citizens of the state of Israel but to all Jewish members of religious Orthodox sects that do not declare themselves Zionist. And this grotesque party, named Israel Beiteinu or "Israel Is Our Home," is now the power broker, and its leader is the kingmaker in the Israeli electoral process.

In his early days as an immigrant in Israel, Lieberman was briefly a member of Kach, the hysterical group led by Rabbi Meir Kahane that was morbidly obsessed with the sex lives of Arabs and that yelled for their mass expulsion or—to employ the common euphemism—"transfer." He has now somewhat refined his position, calling for an exchange of territories and people that would more nearly approximate partition or even a two-state solution. But as with every such proposal, this still leaves a large number of Arabs under Israeli sovereignty, either on the West Bank or in Israel "proper." I doubt that Lieberman is really serious about any "land for peace" negotiations—he quarreled even with Ariel Sharon about disengagement from Gaza, so if it were up to him, there would presumably still be Israeli settlers in the strip. He has changed the whole tone of the argument by deciding to question the presence of Israeli Arabs who, unlike their cousins under occupation, enjoy the right of citizenship and voting as well as the privilege of living under the Israeli flag.


He concludes:

Now we have to watch the rise of a thug and a demagogue who has called with relish for the execution of elected Arab members of Israel's parliament if they meet with Hamas, who has demanded the drowning of Palestinian prisoners in the Dead Sea, whose supporters chant "Death to the Arabs" at their rallies, and who has materialized the worst fears of those Arabs who have made the longest-lasting accommodation with the Jewish state. Avigdor Lieberman's essentially totalitarian and Inquisitionist style, though, may be even more manifest in his insistence that non-Zionist haredim, or pious Jews, also either take an oath of loyalty or forfeit their citizenship. This takes the ax to the root of the idea that Jews have a presence in Jerusalem from time immemorial and that their resulting rights are not derived from, or dependent on, any state or any ideology. Shame on Benjamin Netanyahu if he makes even a temporary alliance with Lieberman. As questionable as the "right to return" may already be, it certainly cannot confer the right to expel.

War Crimes in Gaza?

Al Jazeera is making sure the events in Gaza aren't forgotten. To that effect, the station has initiated a new weekly investigative show, called Focus on Gaza. I watched the episode below twice on TV and once via YouTube and there is little doubt in my mind that the incident described and researched here must be illegal.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Avigdor gets some Joementum

The American 'normalisation' of the Ultra Far Right proto-fascist Avigdor Lieberman is in full swing. J'Post:
Joe_and_AvigdorIsrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman met with his American namesake, US Senator Joseph Lieberman, on Sunday in what sources close to him said was an audition for the role he wants in Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu's government: foreign minister.

Lieberman has told associates in closed conversations that he will request the Foreign Ministry in coalition talks. Former ambassador to Washington and incoming Israel Beiteinu MK Danny Ayalon, who accompanied Lieberman to the meeting, said he was a natural fit.
"He's already prepared to be foreign minister," Ayalon said.

"Of course he's fit for the position. He's a strategic thinker and analyst. He's impressive one on one. His English is very good. The more meetings like this, the more people understand his caliber. I've been meeting ambassadors, including Arab officials, and no one is raising eyebrows about the possibility of Lieberman being the minister of foreign affairs."

Phillip Weiss has this advice:
Israel Beiteinu MK Danny Ayalon, and former Israeli ambassador to Washington, would seem to invite an Avigdor Lieberman trip to the US to sell his loyalty oath plan. According to Ayalon: "I told [Joe Lieberman] that we are the most Americanophile party," Ayalon said. "We support drafting a constitution, an American system of government, and instituting a pledge of allegiance like America has."

Here's a bit of free advice to Ayalon: as someone who mumbled their way through the US pledge of allegiance for 12 years of public school, I can promise you there is no one in the US who will confuse your plan to kick Palestinian citizens out of the state of Israel with the pledge that is recited here. I would assume Joe Lieberman is giving you better advice than this for your upcoming attempt to try to fool the American people into supporting your racist agenda. I could be wrong.

Earth to Phil: "no one"? I bet you there'll be plenty American Zionists who'll be willing to be confused on that issue...

Anti-Semitism smears no longer silence US critics of Israel

In a reaction to a Jeffrey Goldberg smear piece, Glen Greenwald wrote this:
More notably, what Goldberg is doing here in unusually unconcealed (though otherwise characteristic) fashion is relying on the most standard, by-now-clichéd debate-suppressive tactic of neoconservative Israel-fanatics in the U.S. Anyone who criticizes the actions of the Israeli Government will, for that reason alone, have "anti-Semite" tossed in their vicinity and attached to their name (just as those who criticized the actions of the Bush administration -- say, for attacking Iraq -- were branded "anti-American"). Any American citizen who argues that we are acting counter-productively with our unquestioning, full-scale support for Israel -- the use of American money, arms and diplomatic tools to enable anything the Israeli Government does -- is guilty of the crime of "Israel-bashing" and is condemned as being "anti-Israel" (or, worse still, will have the phrase "Sheikh Hassan" disgustingly placed before their name by Goldberg and his friends). These rancid equations are too familiar to require any elaboration or refutation.

But what is worth noting -- and celebrating -- is that a significant and palpable change has occurred. Whereas these smear tactics once inspired fear in many people, now they just inspire pity. They no longer work. Very few Americans are going to refrain from expressing their views on American policy towards Israel out of fear that the Jeffrey Goldbergs of the world are going to screech "anti-Semitism" at them. Neocons are far too discredited and their policies far too self-evidently destructive for them to intimidate anyone out of questioning their orthodoxies. Now, watching neocons recklessly spew their bitter little epithets in lieu of (and in order to suppress) debate is like watching an old, dying dragon sadly trying to breathe mighty fire from its mouth but collapsing in a debilitating coughing fit instead -- or is like watching a disgraced, post-censure Joe McCarthy in 1956 stand in an empty Senate chamber and rail against hidden Communists. Nobody cares.

People like Jeffrey Goldberg -- and his comrades at places such as Commentary and the ADL -- have so abused, over-used, manipulated and exploited the "anti-semitism" and "anti-Israel" accusations for improper and nakedly political ends that those terms have become drained of their meaning, have almost entirely lost their sting, and have become trivialized virtually to the point of caricature. That behavior has produced serious harm. Their trivialization and misuse of those terms have severely diminished the ability to stigmatize and attack real anti-Semitism, because legitimate accusations of anti-Semitism are now conflated with and discredited by the neocons' cynical attempts to wield it as a cheap debating weapon. That's a particularly dangerous -- and ironic -- outcome given that it has been spawned by many who have long claimed proprietary ownership over the "anti-Semitism" term in order, ostensibly, to protect it from trivialization.

He concludes:

The ban on questioning U.S. policy towards Israel and the requirement that uncritical homage be paid to the Israeli government is clearly coming to an end. Several members of Congress -- Sen. John Kerry as well as Reps. Brian Baird and Keith Ellison -- visited Hamas-ruled Gaza this week in order to survey the massive damage that was done. Newly appointed New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand openly declared this week that the U.S. should use its leverage to push Israel into serious peace negotiations "regardless of what Netanyahu says he wants to do." And the Jewish-American group J Street is well on its way to destroying the stranglehold which right-wing groups have long exerted on American policy debates over Israel and the monopoly those groups have deceptively claimed on speaking for American Jews.

America's destructive involvement in all Israeli conflicts and its blind devotion to all Israeli actions is one area where -- not due exclusively or even primarily to Obama -- change is on its way. That policy just isn't sustainable any longer, nor are the myths that have long been propagated, and the smear tactics that have long been invoked, in service of shielding that policy from critical scrutiny and open debate. As the debate finally unfolds, Jeffrey Goldberg can -- and almost certainly will -- scream "anti-Semite" until he loses his voice. But the louder he screams, the more he abuses and exploits that accusation, the fewer people who will be listening. Or caring.

Obama Picks Israel Critic for Senior Intelligence Post

To be confirmed but it looks like Obama is appointing a critic of Israel to head the National Intelligence Council. Chas Freeman, a former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia had this to say in 2005:

In 2005 remarks to the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, Freeman said that “as long as the United States continues unconditionally to provide the subsidies and political protection that make the Israeli occupation and the high-handed and self-defeating policies it engenders possible, there is little, if any, reason to hope that anything resembling the former peace process can be resurrected. Israeli occupation and settlement of Arab lands is inherently violent.

And as long as such Israeli violence against Palestinians continues, it is utterly unrealistic to expect that Palestinians will stand down from violent resistance and retaliation against Israelis. Mr. Sharon is far from a stupid man; he understands this. So, when he sets the complete absence of Palestinian violence as a precondition for implementing the road map or any other negotiating process, he is deliberately setting a precondition he knows can never be met.”

In 2008, in a speech to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Security Studies Program, he said, “We have reflexively supported the efforts of a series of right-wing Israeli governments to undo the Oslo accords and to pacify the Palestinians rather than make peace with them.

“The so-called ‘two-state solution’ is widely seen in the region as too late and too little. Too late, because so much land has been colonized by Israel that there is not enough left for a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel; too little, because what is on offer looks to Palestinians more like an Indian reservation than a country.”

"Occupation", "Israeli violence against Palestinians", "colonized by Israel"??? These aren't terms one would expect to hear from a senior administration official. Further evidence of the changing wind?


Mad Mel Phlips is seriously pissed off about it (in my book that's always a good sign!): "An American addition to the Islamists' armoury?" she calls it. Phwooaaar!!!!

As always, reading Mad Mel's soapbox tirades is never complete without perusing the comment section, manned by a bunch of Paladins of the Clash of Civilisations:

February 22nd, 2009 11:08pm
It is an established truth that
former ambassadors to the Saudi regime remain permanently in their pay, and so to earn their pay off they continue to spout anti-Israel propaganda for as long as they are able.
I sincerely hope that Netanyahu's coalition partners will include Avigdor Lieberman's party, and so safeguard Israel's security. It will be a source of great pleasure to see the Obama/Clinton overtures to Hamas going precisely nowhere.

February 23rd, 2009 2:58am
Dave and Robert: We have reached the stage where "critics" of Israel are a camp comprising non-Jewish Jew-haters, as well as Jews by background, who share this hatred. All the objective evidence proves this.
But, don't worry so much: it's become academically,socially and politically acceptable.
Oh, by the way, re-read the Biblical Samson story.

Original Tony
February 23rd, 2009 12:46pm
On a more serious note, Israel will never be wiped off the face of the map so I look forward to a long future visiting those fine people and the Arabs will never prosper outside of oil revenue. They follow a fanatical religion that is like a two-headed snake that is always biting the other head, compounded by lies, more lies and deceit. America is falling prey to their trap so God help the USA, the best thing to do is prove Obama is not a citizen and get him out of office!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Viva Palestina convoy: first to cross Moroccan-Algerian border in 15 years!

The 1.5 mile long Viva Palestina aid to Gaza convoy made history by being the first vehicles to cross the Moroccan-Algerian border since 1994.

Israel Apartheid Week 2009

A list of places and organisations taking part at the bottom of this post

Great Hebrew/Arabic Rap here by "DAM":

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Syria's nuclear reactor: it's almost official

Al_KibarAfter the radio silence on the Israeli attack on a Syrian facility of unknown purpose (but suspected nuclear nonetheless) in 2007 have recently come the photos, analysis and video CIA presentation. Assuming there is no fabrication, the presentation makes a very strong case for suspecting the Al Kibar facility to have been a Yongbyon-style graphite-moderated gas-cooled nuclear reactor at an advanced level of construction. Such reactors of this size have only one purpose: the production of nuclear weapons-grade Plutonium 239. This type of reactor is the simplest of its kind, running on natural uranium (or natural uranium oxide) and not enriched uranium (as typically used in light water reactors for civilian energy production).

There remain nonetheless multiple questions. The Al Kibar facility shows no upstream or downstream facilities. Upstream a nuclear fuel processing plant would be needed to produce the natural uranium (as metal or oxide) from ore, at sufficiently high purity ('atomic grade') and in the right physical form.

Downstream, a spent-fuel processing plant, most likely deploying the PUREX process for the separation of nuclear fission products, Plutonium 239 and unconverted Uranium would be needed. A Plutonium refinery plant, capable of processing the separated and highly dangerous material from a chemically bound form to metallic Plutonium and subsequent machining of the metal into bomb cores would also be needed.

The absence of such facilities puts into question certain claims that the facility was within weeks of becoming operational.

Finally there remains the question of Uranium sourcing. As far as we know Syria has no internal sources (mines) of this highly restricted material. Iran does have its own mines but shipping ore or processed Uranium to Syria would be a high risk strategy. There is also some speculation about Syrian efforts to extract Uranium from phosphate rocks, a fairly common practice to produce fertiliser.

Further reading: ISIS report on Al Kibar (*.pdf)

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Rise of the New anti-Semitism: A Causal Agent

Several authors, including David Toube, Howard Jacobson, Dennis McShane and Melanie Phillips have been pointing to the obvious emergence of a new form of anti-Semitism, in particular among the European Left but none of these authors have been able to point to a causal agent for this new infection. Instead they see the New anti-Semitism rather as a continuation of anti-Semitism itself. As an evidence-based person, I find this highly unsatisfactory. Here I will argue that a clear causal agent really does exist.

Once upon a time (and for a very long time) Europe was in the throes of a vicious form of racism against Jews, commonly referred to as anti-Semitism. Religious in origin, a centuries long smear campaign morphed anti-Semitism into something quite universal, with holders of that pernicious belief system pervading all layers of European society, from high to low, left to right, religious to atheist, a plague, like the Bubonic one, truly without borders or regards for class or status.

And so, to escape this persecution, European Jews started to form the plan of creating a Jewish Homeland. This plan gradually became accepted by various Western powers and by the first part of the 20th Century had gained enough momentum for a concrete implementation to be commenced. By the nineteen thirties the foundations of this Jewish state had been established in Palestine, mainly by Zionist Jewish European immigrants to the area.

Meanwhile in Europe, anti-Semitism had reached epidemic proportions, in particular in Nazi Germany, which started a systematic campaign firstly of persecution and isolation and later of deportation and extermination of European Jewry. In the ensuing systematic massacre, known now as the Holocaust, European Jewry was nearly wiped out.

Forces on the Left, traditionally opposed to oppression and racism, were unable to stop the rise of virulent anti-Semitism and the ensuing massacre. After Nazi Germany had been finally defeated, more European Jews, including many Holocaust survivors, immigrated to Palestine to join their Zionist brethren in the emerging Jewish state, which shortly thereafter declared independence, as the modern Nation State of Israel.

For multiple reasons not necessary to go into here the European Left were mostly ardent supporters of the new state. Plain sympathy with the oppressed and victims of a crime most horrific made the European Left temporarily abandon its traditional anti-colonial stance and see the Palestinian refugee problem created in 1948 through its fingers.

Then came the 1967 war and Israel captured much terrain: outside of Palestine the Sinai and the Golan Heights; inside of it Gaza and the West Bank. Under International Law Israel was not allowed to settle Israelis on these territories conquered by means of war (it considerably later returned the Sinai entirely to its rightful owners in a peace agreement with Egypt). But the Israeli state ignored this and gradually started a campaign of systematic and incentivated colonisation of the West Bank and Gaza. To this day, not a year has passed without expansion of the settlements in the West Bank (although to Israel's credit it did unilaterally remove all settlements from Gaza in a rather contentious move).


Meanwhile something completely unrelated happened around the same time (probably late sixties, early seventies): for reasons not entirely clear Western governments in Europe and the US had decided to complement drinking water with a substance, to this day unknown and undetected and thus referred to as Agent X. It is believed the purpose of the unknown substance to be similar to mild chlorination and fluorination of the drinking water: to stop the spread of some disease or decay in humans.

Agent X, for all we know, may have worked very well (as did 'Elephant Powder' in Europe, you don't see many of the blighters here, do you?) but it had a profound and strange side-effect: the European Left started to feel firstly ambiguous about Project Israel, then critical. These anti-Zionist (and thus anti-Semitic) feelings started to be vented increasingly and more and more openly.

By contrast, Agent X's side-effect on the American Right was almost completely the opposite: American Rightists started, for the first time ever, to actually take notice of the tiny Israel and they liked what they saw. Feelings of Judeophilia and strong sympathy for Israel began to emerge and became so popular that successive American administrations were forced to give in to demands for large scale donations to Israel. The US has never looked back since. On Hollywood too the effect was profound: they actually discovered the Holocaust and stared to commemorate it with a string of, albeit often schmalzy, popular movies and mini TV series. This of course further compounded the US's love for all things Zionist and Israeli.

In 1982 the Sabra and Shatila massacres took place in Lebanon and shortly before these events European Governments increased the dose of Agent X slightly, again for unknown, possibly classified reasons. Upon the escalation of the dosage of Agent X, the European Left's side-effects to Agent X consolidated: now open criticism of Israel was beginning to become the norm and even some previously pro-Zionist European Jews started to suffer from anti-Zionist hallucinations. 'Oppression and dispossession' of the Palestinian People were openly being decried and Israel was increasingly referred to as a 'colonial project' and an 'Apartheid regime'.

In the light of the pernicious side-effects of Agent X, it has to be assumed that rather untimely, European governments augmented the dose of the dreaded medicament once more, this time shortly before Israel's offensive on Gaza, early on this year. This unfortunately unleashed the vilest forms of the New anti-Semitism seen since the Holocaust, including mass demonstrations, calls for boycotts, sanctions and divestments and clamour for dragging Israel's finest through the courts for alleged war-crimes. Individual attacks on Jews, the daubing of Synagogues with anti-Semitic slogans and other acts of anti-Semitic behaviour have also been reported.

There is of course always an alternative theory (or 'third way', if you will) but it is so far-fetched and counter-intuitive that it can only be dismissed out of hand. For the sake of completeness I will briefly outline it here.

Detractors of the 'Agent X' theory and the 'criticism of Israel is the New anti-Semitism' theory claim that the European Left's slow turnabout with regards to Israel is driven by the same motivation and sentiment as its original warm embrace of Zionism: that sympathy for the oppressed and profound dislike of the oppressor (the Zionists) is what drives the increased criticism of Israel (thinly disguised New anti-Semitism). That the volume of this criticism seems to be directly proportional to Israel's alleged atrocities and the duration of the so-called 'Occupation' is too risible to entertain. Others still, claim that the American general public's support for Zionism is the result of the successive American administrations' desire to ally itself with Israel but that would really be putting the horse before the cart...

It was 'something in the water' after all...

Brian Baird Views Destruction in Gaza

After the Kerry/Baird/Ellison trip to Gaza/Israel Brian Baird issued the following statement:

Brian Views Destruction in Gaza – Calls for Immediate Relief and Change in Policy

Washington, D.C. – Two members of Congress, Brian Baird (D-WA-03), and Keith Ellison, (D-MN-05), visited Gaza on Thursday to view firsthand the destruction from recent Israeli air and ground attacks and to meet with international and local relief agencies. This visit, which did not have the official sanction of the Obama Administration, is the first time anyone from the U.S. government has entered Gaza in more than three years.

Prior to Gaza, both Congressmen met with the chief negotiator of the Palestinian Authority, Dr. Saeb Erekat, as well as with Dr. Riad Malki Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority. On Friday, Baird and Ellison will tour the Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon, which have been the target of numerous rockets before and throughout the recent attacks launched from within the Gaza strip.

“Staff from the U.S. State Department advised us of security concerns for our own safety, and we are well aware of the sensitive political issues involved in this visit,” said both Congressmen in an official release.

“We believe it is important to be here to see what happened for ourselves, to meet with people who have been affected, and to express our concern and support,” said Congressman Baird.

“We also want to better understand what can and must be done to recover from the destruction, address the underlying issues, and work toward a lasting, just and peaceful resolution,” added Congressman Ellison.

After spending the day visiting various locations within Gaza and meeting with civilians and relief workers, Baird and Ellison were deeply affected by what they had seen and heard.

“The stories about the children affected me the most,” said Ellison. “No parent, or anyone who cares for kids, can remain unmoved by what Brian and I saw here.”

“The amount of physical destruction and the depth of human suffering here is staggering” said Baird, “Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed, schools completely leveled, fundamental water, sewer, and electricity facilities hit and relief agencies heavily damaged. The personal stories of children being killed in their homes or schools, entire families wiped out, and relief workers prevented from evacuating the wounded are heart wrenching – what went on here, and what is continuing to go on, is shocking and troubling beyond words.”

Inquiring about the status of relief efforts, the Congressmen learned that some aid material has been allowed in since the intensity of the attacks lessened a month ago, but much is still being blocked by the Israeli defense forces. Examples of aid that has been banned by the Israeli Government include: lentils, macaroni, tomato paste, lentils and other food. Basic building materials, generator fuel and parts to repair damaged water treatment equipment have also been kept out.

“If this had happened in our own country, there would be national outrage and an appeal for urgent assistance. We are glad that the Obama administration acted quickly to send much needed funding for this effort but the arbitrary and unreasonable Israeli limitations on food and repair essentials is unacceptable and indefensible. People, innocent children, women and non-combatants, are going without water, food and sanitation, while the things they so desperately need are sitting in trucks at the border, being denied permission to go in” said Baird and Ellison.

The Congressmen’s concerns about treatment of Palestinians were not limited to Gaza. They also visited Palestinian hospitals that treat patients from East Jerusalem and the West Bank. There they met with doctors, nurses and hospital directors who described how official Israeli policies and restricted border checkpoints make it exceedingly difficult and expensive for patients, nurses, medical technicians, and other essential personnel to reach the hospital to receive or provide care.

“It’s hard for anyone in our country to imagine how it must feel to have a sick child who needs urgent care or is receiving chemotherapy or dialysis, then be forced to take a needlessly lengthy route, walk rather than drive, and wait in lines as long as two hours simply to get to the hospital. As a health care professional myself, I found this profoundly troubling, no, actually it’s beyond that, it is outrageous,” said Baird.

Responding to this and other issues the Congressman emphasized that fundamental changes and solutions are needed beyond the immediate challenges in Gaza.

“The first and most urgent priority must be helping the people in Gaza. At the same time, the rocket attacks against Israeli cities must stop immediately. Just as the people of Gaza should not be subject to what they have experienced the Israeli civilians should not have to live in fear of constant and indiscriminate rocketing. The entire region and the international community must recommit itself to making the difficult but necessary changes to bring about lasting and just peace and security for the region. President Obama has made important and encouraging initiatives, now it is up to leaders and citizens here to move forward toward that shared goal”

Could Lieberman weaken US/Israel relations?

The current US administration, assuming they know the facts about the proto-fascist Lieberman, must be worried about the prospect of having to deal with him and in real terms he remains after all the kingmaker:

The belief that the US and Israel share common values seems to be unraveling in the wake of Avigdor Lieberman's success in the recent Israeli elections. Two days after former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer admitted it would be difficult for the US to support an Israeli government that included an openly racist party, the Forward reported:

Administration officials have so far avoided commenting on Lieberman’s electoral success and on his prospects of becoming a senior member in Israel’s next government. In a February 12 speech, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg dismissed the issue as “hypothetical.”
But former State Department official Jon Alterman believes that the impact of the Lieberman phenomena will be seen in the long run. “There is a fundamental assumption that Israelis are basically like Americans in their belief in democracy and in the rule of law,” said Alterman, who heads the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “When this assumption is undermined, it can hurt the sense of communality that binds the two nations.”

Lieberman has been calling for Netanyahu to be PM, in a Goverment that's to include Kadima (plus Likud/Yisrael Beiteinu).

But Livni wisely says "thanks but no thanks!", while windbag Netanyahu dithers.

Assuming Livni holds out, this might leave Bibi only with the worst of possible choices: Likud/Yisrael Beiteinu/other Far Right Riff Raff, the kind Obama and cohorts must feel uncomfortable with.

On the conservative US side the process of "normalising " Lieberman as nothing but a slightly flamboyant Nationalist has already begun a while ago. What will rank and file Democrats think of him?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

US congressmen express shock at Gaza devastation

Breaking news: 5 hours ago at the time of posting.

From: AFP (any emph. is mine)

GAZA CITY (AFP) — US Democratic representatives Brian Baird and Keith Ellison expressed shock at the plight of the war-shattered Gaza Strip during a rare visit to the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave on Thursday.

"The amount of physical destruction and the depth of human suffering here is staggering" Baird said in a statement issued jointly with Ellison during their visit which coincided with a similar trip by US Senator John Kerry.

The visits were the first by US lawmakers since Hamas, an Islamist movement Washington blacklists as a terrorist organisation, seized control of the overcrowded territory in June 2007.

Ellison, a representative from Minnesota, harshly criticised restrictions on the delivery of desperately needed goods into the coastal strip that has been under a crippling Israeli blockade imposed after the Hamas takeover.

"People, innocent children, women and non-combatants, are going without water, food and sanitation, while the things they so desperately need are sitting in trucks at the border, being denied permission to go in," he said.

"The stories about the children affected me the most," said Ellison. "No parent, or anyone who cares for kids, can remain unmoved by what Brian and I saw here."

Baird, from Washington state, said the situation he saw was "shocking and troubling beyond words."
"The personal stories of children being killed in their homes or schools, of entire families wiped out, and relief workers prevented from evacuating the wounded are heart wrenching," he said.

Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the US Congress, hailed US President Barack Obama for acting "quickly to send much needed humanitarian funding to Gaza for this effort."
"However, the arbitrary and unreasonable Israeli limitations on food, and repair and reconstruction materials are unacceptable and indefensible," he added.

Ellison and Bair both stressed that their visit did not have the official sanction of the Obama administration.

They said they held talks with civilians and relief workers, while Palestinian officials stressed they did not meet with any representatives of Hamas.

During their visit, the pair visited Izzbet Abed Rabbo, a community in northern Gaza devastated during the deadly 22-day Israeli offensive that ended on January 18.

An estimated 14,000 to 20,000 homes and other buildings were damaged or destroyed during the military offensive in which more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed.

"The first and most urgent priority must be to help the people in Gaza. At the same time, the rocket attacks against Israeli cities must stop immediately," Baird and Ellison said in their joint statement.

"Just as the people of Gaza should not be subject to what they have experienced, the Israeli civilians should not have to live in fear of constant and indiscriminate rocketing," they added.

On Friday, the two planned to tour the Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon, which are regularly targetted by the almost daily rocket attacks from Gaza.

Shame on the Zionists - York University, Canada

Things are stirring in Canada too...

Netanyahu is running scared...

The Mr Boumbastick of Israeli far right politics, Windbag Numero uno, the man who wins elections almost purely on strongman talk and empty promises, is at it again: watering down his own Manifesto. I think we can relax folks, there will be no bombing of Iran any time soon. And the peace process may be dead in the water but Netancescu is unlikely to completely torpedo and sink it. It seems to be more or less Bibi's MO past and present. And this time perhaps the cooling winds of change blowing from the Obama camp are dampening Mr Right's appetite for extremism...

Netanyahu, put your money where your mouth is By Gideon Levy

Why isn't Benjamin Netanyahu setting up a right-wing government? Why isn't he carrying out the voters' will to position the right wing in power? Why isn't he taking the opportunity that fell into his hands to form a government in tune with his doctrine?

Why is he talking about a broad coalition, knowing it would force him to compromise his principles? Because he is afraid. Now, at the moment of truth, when he has the ability to implement his ideology, he has gotten cold feet and wants to dilute his government with components that are alien to his doctrine.

Together with Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Habayit Hayehudi and National Union - a majority of 65 Knesset members who are all distinctly far right - Netanyahu could carry out his political ideas. After all, the right wing always has answers for everything, a solution to every problem. So go for it, Netanyahu, go for it.

First, go for the economic peace. Let's see you obtain funding - from the Arab world and perhaps from Israel, too, especially in these economic times - to carry out the projects you promised. Persuade the Palestinians and Americans that this is enough. Let's see what happens after the first suicide attack in the industrial zone built on the outskirts of Nablus or behind Hebron.

Been there, done that. We've had industrial zones - so-called "peace parks" - in Erez, Tul Karm and Atarot. They stand abandoned, in ruins.

Why? Because they weren't enough for the Palestinians. Because the Palestinians understood the deception behind the approach that we give them work and they remain quiet. After all, Palestinians, like other nations, need not only bread but also freedom and self-definition. A weird sort of notion that Netanyahu's fathers also dreamed of.

So go for the economic peace, Netanyahu, the right-wing government will applaud you. A broad coalition may, however, demand more.

Bomb Iran, Netanyahu, because sanctions aren't enough for you, you don't believe in diplomatic negotiations with Iran and you pledged that you, Mr. Iran, would prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear arms at any cost. Let's see you get Barack Obama's permission for the most dangerous escapade of all. Bombard and let's see what happens.

A broad government could stop your quirks, so why go there? This is the most crucial issue on your agenda. Topple Hamas' rule in Gaza, as you promised. Release Gilad Shalit without freeing murderers, as you wrote in your book about terror. Go forth on your way.

In your speech at the last session of the 17th Knesset you outlined this way: Any territory released from the IDF's control would be occupied by Hamas, so don't evacuate a single dunam, you said. Explain that to Obama and Mahmoud Abbas. Tell them you won't ever negotiate over Jerusalem. That the Jordan Valley and Judean Desert will remain in our hands for eternity. Ya'akov Katz (National Union) will cheer you on, Moshe Ya'alon will salute you. A broad coalition, however, could demand something else.

Offer the Syrians peace for peace. After all, you wouldn't uproot the tender sapling you planted in the Golan just last week, on Tu Bishvat. You wouldn't renege on your statement, "Gamla will not fall again."

Build more and more settlements - there is plenty of "state-owned land" and private land to usurp. Then annex the territories. There is no reason not to apply Israeli law to territories that will remain forever in our hands. Annex and annex, from Jenin to Hebron, distribute Israeli identity cards to the residents and, hey, on to the next Knesset elections with two million new voters.

Perhaps America will finally tell you, annex or evacuate, and you will have to decide. Try selling Obama this political merchandise, and we'll see how he reacts. And let's see how you react if he says no. Why not ask his administration for more and more weapons, more economic aid, more diplomatic support and still stand on your principles. Let's watch you in action, Netanyahu.

But the truth is, Netanyahu knows that this would be a horrific sight. He wants Kadima and Labor in his government to hold him back, to prevent him from carrying out his doctrine. This is exactly why they must not join his coalition. Render unto Netanyahu the things that are Netanyahu's. Let's see how it ends up working out for him. And for us.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The AOF: Israel's Finest on the Job

Don't go: This link provides narrative and context of these events, as well as a longer clip.

US National Lawyers Guild Investigates Israel's alleged War Crimes

Strong Indications of Israeli War Crimes


Gaza City.

We are a delegation of 8 American lawyers, members of the National Lawyers Guild in the United States, who have come here to the Gaza Strip to assess the effects of the recent attacks on the people, and to determine what, if any, violations of international law occurred and whether U.S. domestic law has been violated as a consequence. We have spent the last five days interviewing communities particularly impacted by the recent Israeli offensive, including medical personnel, humanitarian aid workers and United Nations representatives.

In particular, the delegation examined three issues: 1) targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure; 2) illegal use of weapons and 3) blocking of medical and humanitarian assistance to civilians.

Targeting of Civilians and Civilian Infrastructure

Much of the debate surrounding Israel’s aerial and ground offensive against Gaza has centered on whether or not Israel observed principles of proportionality and distinction. The debate suggests that Israel targeted Hamas i.e., its military installations, its leaders, and its militants, and in the process of its discrete military exercise it inadvertently killed Palestinian civilians. While we have found evidence that Palestinian civilians were victims of excessive force and collateral damage, we have also found troubling instances of Palestinian civilians being targets themselves.

The delegation recorded numerous accounts of Israeli soldiers shooting civilians, including women, children, and the elderly, in the head, chest, and stomach. Another common narrative described Israeli forces rounding civilians into a single location i.e., homes, schools which Israeli tanks or warplanes then shelled. Israeli forces continued to shoot at civilians fleeing the targeted structures.

This is only a snippet. A short one. Please read the rest here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

On the boycott of Leviev and other BDS efforts

Leviev's devotion to settlement construction have drawn protest from various quarters. Josh Rushing reports:

The Israeli Consul General's response to the Leviev boycott? 'It's anti-Semitic: the Nazis boycotted Jewish stores too!' Sigh, do these one trick ponies only know one song?

More on the progress of the BDS campaign worldwide here.

Israel to evacuate West Bank settlements!

BREAKING NEWS: Finally a sign of Israeli largess and goodwill; large area of West Bank to be liberated! Colonists to withdraw!

What's that I hear you say? I'm holding this piece of paper upside-down? Actually it says:

Israel seizes West Bank land

Oh, zut alors!

Al Jazeera

Israel has taken control of a large area near a prominent settlement in the Palestinian West Bank, paving the way for a possible construction of 2,500 settlement homes, officials have said.

Oded Revivi, the mayor of Efrat, said on Monday that the Israeli military has designated 425 acres near the settlement of about 1,600 families south of Jerusalem, as so-called state land two weeks ago.

Revivi said Efrat plans to build 2,500 homes on that land, but government approval would still be needed before construction begins, a process that could take years.

Eventually, Efrat is to grow to a city of 30,000 people, he said.
The settlement is situated in one of three settlement blocs Israel expects to hold on to in any final peace deal with the Palestinians.

Revivi said nine appeals, eight of which were rejected and one was upheld, had been filed by Palestinian landowners.

'Sticking point'

Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh, reporting from Ramallah, West Bank, said the "confiscation [of the land], which by international law is deemed illegal, has been greeted with condemnation among Palestinian circles".

"We've seen statements from these leaderships describing this measure as condemnable, calling on the international community to take a firm stance," she said.

"... This will undoubtedly be a major sticking point when the US peace envoy George Mitchell visits the region towards the end of the month.

"This is what [the] Palestinians will be concentrating on. Already we've heard from the Palestinian president's office that there will be no negotiations until all settlement activities in the occupied West Bank including east Jerusalem stops."

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has warned that continued settlement expansion would cripple peace talks.

His aides said recently that peace talks can only resume after a settlement freeze.
Expansion could also create friction with the US, as Mitchell, the US Middle East envoy, has long called on Israel to halt construction in settlements.

Nearly 290,000 Israelis currently live in West Bank settlements.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Scenes from the new Nakba

The Second Nakba

By: Reem Salahi

History repeats itself. With the key to her demolished home around her neck, the middle-aged Palestinian woman standing before me had escaped the first Nakba (meaning 'Day of Catastrophe' marking the exodus of Palestinians from their homes with the creation of the State of Israel) of 1948 only to live through the second Nakba; the Nakba of 2009, which was more destructive and deadly than the first.

In order to reach the tent city in Jabalia, we walked down a long road of pure destruction and demolition; destroyed homes, mosques, buildings, bakeries and stores.

I had wanted to see the tent city in Jabalia to take pictures and talk to the residents living there. Undoubtedly, these people were the most affected by Israel's recent offensive as their livelihoods were minimized to nothing more than a 6x8 foot white tent which had no amenities and housed up to fifty persons per tent.

Wherever we looked there was destruction and children; children who had lost the roof over their heads and now stood vulnerable to not only the elements, but also to Israel's continued bombing of border villages. One child walked up and down the road with a piece of rubble tied to a long cord. It was his new toy since his old toys were lost under the ruins of what used to be his home. Men stood around, drinking tea and talking. With the backdrop of mounds of rubble and tents was another man, praying, on a piece of tarp. While the Israelis had taken away everything else of his, they did not take away his God, and to this, he bowed his head in gratitude.

These Palestinians stand under the burning sun day-in and day-out living their lives for no particular purpose. Many of them used to be farmers. Most of them had lost multiple family members. All of them had lost their homes and farms. An older woman sat in the sand swatting flies. We approached her, as we were told by the residents of this tent city that she had lived through both Nakbas – the Nakba of 1948 and the Nakba of 2009.

Born in 1945, Sabha Yousef Mohammad Abed had lived through the first Nakba but had lost her husband and her farm in the second. Sabha had left her home in Brett (sp?) near Jaffa in what is currently considered Israel-proper when the Zionist forces had first come. Her family fled from one village to the next to escape the Zionist forces until she eventually landed in Gaza, in the village of Jabalia, a few months later. After the first Nakba, she lived for a few years in tents but slowly her life improved as the tents changed into block rooms and from block rooms to actual homes and farms. While Sabha was very young during the first Nakba, she remembers the fear and the constant fleeing from one village to the next. She remembers being shot at and losing family members. She remembers the uncertainty of life and the tents and the running sewage. But more so, she remembers building her life block by block from scratch and establishing a home for herself and her family. Sabha lost this home during the first week of Israel's offensive and is now living in a tent with her children.

While Sabha has never experienced complete stability due to ongoing wars and bombardment from Israeli forces and settlers, she had never seen the magnitude of bloodshed and brutal force used against Palestinians as she saw in Israel's recent offensive. Israeli forces began their aerial strikes against Jabalia on the second day of the offensive. Israeli forces bombed homes and civilians indiscriminately as her neighbors tried to flee. Many of those who tried to flee were taken as hostages by Israeli soldiers and many others were killed or fatally injured. Those who were only mildly injured bled to death due to the lack of medical access and the ambulance drivers' inability to drive the less than one kilometer stretch from the headquarters of the Palestinian Red Cross Society to the bombed-out areas.

As Sabha spoke about Israel's recent offensive, she shook in anger. Tell me where are the militants, she kept asking. Are these children militants? Does any human being deserve to live the way we live, fifty people to one tent with no blankets, no food, no water. And where do we defecate? They have even taken away our dignity. We are less than animals in their eyes. Even animals have more rights than us. To Sabha, Israel's objectives were nothing short of genocide. The Zionists fled from a holocaust and created a new one. They want a land with no people, she stated simply. A land without people for a people who have been purged from their land. For Sabha, this was not a war with Hamas, it was a massacre, and its only objective was to eliminate the Palestinians, to wipe them from the face of the earth.

Sabha told us of how the Israeli soldiers entered their village in midday and separated the men from the women. The soldiers' faces were painted black and they shot at the villager's feet. When Sabha saw her sons being taken away as hostages, she left her aging husband and farm behind and hid in the home adjacent to the hostages. The other women were made to march to the city center under the aerial strikes and constant bombing. Those who resisted or turned back were immediately shot. All around the streets were the dead and injured. The area smelled of phosphorus and rotting bodies. Sabha stayed in hiding for many days. During that time, her husband was forced from their farm as Israeli bulldozers demolished the farm and bulldozed the walls of the farm over their goats, sheep, chicken and camels. Sabha's husband, who stood on the street and watched his farm and home being demolished before his eyes, was killed moments later by an Israeli missile. One of the farm's walls fell over his dead body, and his body lay rotting for days.

As Sabha spoke, the entire village surrounded us. Even the children stood around in a circle and added to Sabha's narrative. One girl, about seven or eight years of age, tugged at my sleeve. That was my home over there, she whispered, pointing at rubble. She was in school when the bombing started. Embarrassedly, she admitted that she was so scared during the bombings that she fainted and peed on herself. Her brother was killed as was many of her extended family.

Sabha is not alone in her anger. I have not met one Palestinian in Gaza who was not shocked and angered by the extent of Israel's brutality in the recent offensive. After conducting an interview with one of the delegates, anchorman and filmmaker Ashraf Mashharawi from British Channel 4 spoke with me about his 16 year old cousin, Ahmad, who was sliced in half by what is believed to be a DIME missile. DIME or Dense Inert Metal Explosives produce an unusually powerful blast within a small area and cause strong biological effects. The blast does not cause bleeding, but rather slices a body as smoothly as though the body was amputated. While Israel's use of DIME has not been officially confirmed, it has been unofficially confirmed by weapons experts and doctors who have visited Gaza.

Ahmad along with Ashraf's younger brother, Mahmoud, age 11, were playing on the rooftop when they were targeted by a drone missile. Both Mahmoud and Ahmad were killed on impact and Ahmad was sliced in half. Days later, the bottom portion of Ahmad's body was located a few kilometers from the rooftop that both Mahmoud and Ahmad were playing on. Parts of Ahmad's legs and one of his arms similarly separated from his body and were found on the rooftop by family members.

Having seen pictures of these DIME-caused amputations, I must admit that it is the most horrifying sight one can imagine. One of the doctors at Al Awda Hospital showed me a video on his cell phone of a baby girl who was similarly sliced in half. Her top half was black from the blast and her bottom half was gone, cleanly cut from the waist down as her guts and insides were exposed for the world to see. In the video, when the doctor – who had undoubtedly seen death in all its forms – approached to see her, he fell to the ground and started wailing. I cannot describe the sight of the girl. Even now as I write about it, I feel light-headed and nauseous. No news station, not even Al-Jazeera, agreed to film this girl. Having seen the doctor's video, I can only sympathize.

Today is Israel's elections. Yet for the Palestinians, the question is not who will take over Ehud Olmert's position, but rather, when will be the next Israeli offensive, how many more Palestinians will be killed, and what will the next genocide that will undoubtedly wipe the memory of all Palestinians living in Gaza look like. Before leaving the tent city in Jabalia, I told Sabha that insha'Allah I will come back to see her in better days, in happier days. She laughed and patted my hand. When you come back, she said, you will be lucky to see any Palestinian left alive here. But maybe its better that we are killed, this life has been hard and painful. I have only wanted peace and stability throughout my life, and have gotten neither. Now I have lost hope. I have lived through many wars, yet I have never seen any war like this before. That is why I know that Israel is out to eradicate us. It failed to eliminate us this time, but will not fail next time. That is why I don't think you will come back and find us next time. Alhamdulillah (thanks to God), that is all I can say. Alhamdulillah.