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Beneath the hype Pt.5: Ray McGovern and Greg Thielmann on the potential causes of armed conflict in Iran.
Mondoweiss today gives us a Youtube clip of Tony Blair dodging a tough question from a University of Buffalo student about the Goldstone report.
The student, Nick Kabat, asked Blair why the US and Israel should be allowed to get away with blocking the Goldstone Report, how (as the "Quartet"'s peace envoy) he could explain that proceeding with Goldstone's recommendations might harm the peace process, and whether he didn't think that the blocade on Gaza also harmed the peace process.
You could see Blair ducking and weaving. (The questions had all been pre-screened by the university; but Kabat submitted a bland dummy question then asked this one instead.)
Blair said he'd been to Gaza "twice-- in the recent period" and that the situation there is difficult... But you also "have to understand" that Israel has received a lot of rockets from there since it withdrew in 2005 and still has its young soldier Gilad Shalit held there as a prisoner...
No mention from Blair that there have been almost no rockets coming out of Gaza since Hamas announced the currently-operant ceasefire there on January 18-- but despite that lack of rocketings, the Israeli siege is harsher even than it was prior to last winter's war.
No mention of the roughly 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners and detainees being held in Israeli jails. Read more.
And you thought "don't ask, don't tell" was a U.S. law on gays in the military that Barack Obama has promised to change. As it turns out, the same phrase plays quite a different role in the Middle East, where Obama seems to have no intention of changing it at all. Successive administrations have adhered to a "don't ask, don't tell" policy when it comes to Israel's sizeable arsenal of nuclear weapons. That country has never acknowledged their existence, adhering instead to another arcane formula: "We will not introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East." Jonathan Schell has described this strange situation: "Evidently, in some abstruse way, possessing [nuclear weapons] is not introducing them. You'd have to do something more to introduce them. You'd have to brandish one or make a threat with one, or maybe just acknowledge that you had them. As long as they keep them in the basement and don't make any introductions, then it's alright."
In May, the Obama administration evidently agreed not to break step with the fictions of previous administrations by acknowledging, or attempting to force Israel to publicly acknowledge, its estimated 100-200 nuclear weapons, including city-busters and cruise missiles adapted to be nuclear-armed and put on subs in the Mediterranean. His administration seems also to have agreed not to pressure the Israelis to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) under which nuclear arms are theoretically managed on our planet.
This, of course, leads to bizarre Middle Eastern policy anomalies rarely acknowledged in this country. In the midst of all the screaming headlines about an Iranian bomb which does not yet (and may never) exist, none of the acts the administration is demanding of the Iranians (and around which it is threatening to impose even stronger sanctions), including allowing International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors into its nuclear sites and providing greater transparency about the state of its nuclear program, have been put into practice by Israel, despite its perfectly real -- in fact, staggeringly large -- program. And no penalties have been imposed.
When Israel was in Iran's present situation back in the 1950s and early 1960s, and secretly developing a nuclear weapons program, U.S. administrations simply looked the other way. Ever since, presidents have preferred not to look at all, not publicly anyway. According to Eli Lake of the Washington Times, despite President Obama's stated policy of wanting to strengthen the NPT and lead the world toward nuclear disarmament, he recently "reaffirmed" to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections."
One irony of the Obama push for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, even while working to bring Iran to heel, has been this: despite all efforts in Israel and here, the Israeli nuclear arsenal has begun creeping towards the light of day. Soon enough, to everyone's surprise, it may become part of the conversation even in the United States. So here's a final irony: it's just possible that "don't ask, don't tell" will lose its meaning in the Middle East before it does in the U.S. military. In the meantime, as TomDispatch regular Ira Chernus points out, the Obama administration's focus on Iran continually creates unexpected problems elsewhere. Tom
Obama Trapped Behind Wall of Mideast Containment
It's the Iranians, Stupid
By Ira Chernus
Damn the Iranians and full speed ahead. That was the U.S. policy in the Middle East. But the waters have proved treacherous, with torpedoes everywhere. Despite an initial hopeful sit-down with Iranian negotiators, this won't be the October the White House wanted on the foreign policy front. By now, Barack Obama was supposed to have announced -- with ruffles and flourishes -- the beginning of Middle East peace talks, leading to a final status agreement by 2012. But something didn't happen.
Israel didn't heed Obama's demand to stop all settlement expansion in the West Bank. So Obama didn't stick to that demand, settling instead for a temporary freeze after a spate of new building. The Palestinians, buoyed by Obama's initial strong stance on the settlements, refused to negotiate until Israel stopped all construction. Other Arab nations didn't offer Israel nearly as many concessions as the U.S. administration was demanding. Undermined by all that didn't happen, the president had nothing of substance to announce.
What went wrong? The heart of the problem was not Israel's supposed power over U.S. policy. The U.S. still has plenty of leverage over the Israelis and everyone else in the region. Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea is right: "Everyone depends on America, its money, its military aid, and its moves vis-à-vis Iran."
But it is precisely those U.S. moves, meant to contain the power of Iran, that are the main stumbling block on the path to a U.S.-brokered two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Middle East is a textbook example of the perils of containment.
The Ghost Of Cold War Past Read more.
But, then, Brigadier Eli Avraham, an Israeli representative, played a videotape showing a meeting between Abbas and Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister during the Gaza war, in which Tzipi Livni, Israel's former foreign minister, was also present, the report said.
The tape showed Abbas trying to convince Barak to continue the offensive, according to the Shahab report.
Avraham also played an audiotape of a telephone call between Dov Weissglass, a senior Israeli official, and al-Tayyib Abdul Rahim, secretary-general of the Palestinian president's office, the report said.
In the conversation, Abdul Rahim noted that circumstances were suitable for entry of the Israeli army into Jabalya and al-Shatea refugee camps, and said that the fall of these two camps would end Hamas's rule in Gaza Strip, Shahab said in its report.
Weissglass then told Abdul Rahim that such an army operation would lead to the deaths of thousands of civilians, but, according to Shahab, Abdul Rahim said: "They have all elected Hamas, so they are the ones who have chosen their fate, not us."
Members of the UN Security Council will meet to discuss Libya's request for an emergency session on a report that claimed war crimes were committed by Israel during last year's offensive on Gaza.
Le Luong Minh, Vietnam's ambassador who holds the council presidency this month, said he had scheduled closed-door talks for Wednesday after receiving a request from Libya, the only Arab member on the 15-nation council.
Libya circulated a letter on Tuesday on behalf of the UN Arab group urgently seeking "an emergency meeting" of the council to consider the Goldstone report, Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's deputy ambassador, said.
The UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, Switzerland, postponed a vote last Friday on a resolution that would have condemned Israel's failure to co-operate with its investigation into the December-January war. Read more.
The Gaza War's Effect on Women
By Stephen Lendman
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights' (PCHR) new report, titled "Through Women's Eyes," highlights "the Gender-Specific Impact and Consequences of Operation Cast Lead" and the ongoing siege, including 12 case study examples "through the victims' words." Several are discussed below.
In patriarchal Palestinian society, women traditionally are caregivers while men typically head households and are the main breadwinners. As a result, when widows are thrust into this role, they're often victimized by cultural, social and economic discrimination and marginalization. In Gaza today, it's hard for women to get by alone, so widows must either live with family members or remarry. The alternative is a hard struggle alone, something most Palestinian women try to avoid, but post-conflict many have no choice.
President Obama has reaffirmed a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections, three officials familiar with the understanding said.
The officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they were discussing private conversations, said Mr. Obama pledged to maintain the agreement when he first hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in May.
Under the understanding, the U.S. has not pressured Israel to disclose its nuclear weapons or to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which could require Israel to give up its estimated several hundred nuclear bombs. Read more.
The prospect for peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is “dead as a doornail,” said Francis Boyle in an interview with the Canadian Charger on September 25.
That is “because Obama sided with Binyamin Netanyahu,” at the UN meeting of the General Assembly.
Boyle is a professor of international law at the University of Illinois and was legal advisor to the Palestinian delegation at the peace negotiations that culminated in the Oslo agreement.
According to Boyle, former senator George Mitchell “is running a dog and pony show” in his scampering around the Middle East.
“Because of his accomplishments in Northern Ireland, I had given him the benefit of the doubt, but not with what happened at the UN. Now it is clear that Mitchell’s mission is just a public relations exercise to delude the Arab and Muslim world into believing that the Obama administration is going to do something while in fact they are pushing their agenda against Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan.”
“At the UN,” he said, “the entire world saw Obama personally get steamrollered by Netanyahu. Obama was humiliated in front of the entire world which saw him as a pusillanimous and feckless leader.”
The US continues to fund Israel to the tune of $4 billion a year but will not insist on peace measures such as a halt to settlement construction.
Boyle believes that the current situation will inevitably lead to a third intifada, which will “sweep aside the geriatric leadership of Fatah.”
As for Gaza, “most of their leaders have been killed by Israel.” And as for Israel, it “never wanted peace. It always wanted more land, a greater Israel.” Read more.
In a surprise deal announced Wednesday, Hamas will give Israel a videotape providing a first glimpse of a captured Israeli soldier to prove he is alive in return for the release of 20 Palestinian women held in Israeli prisons.
It marked the first tangible sign of progress in more than three years of talks aimed at a larger prisoner exchange, and it could lead to an end to a crippling blockade of the impoverished, war-torn Gaza Strip, which is ruled by militant Islamic Hamas.
Israel said the video-for-prisoners exchange would take place Friday.
Up to now, the only signs of life from the soldier, Gilad Schalit, were several letters and an apparently carefully scripted audio tape, released just months after he was captured in June 2006. Hamas-linked militants tunneled under the Gaza-Israel border, attacked an Israeli army base from the rear, killed two soldiers and hauled a bleeding Schalit off into captivity. Read more.
Israel's Ofra Settlement on Unauthorized Palestinian Land
By Stephen Lendman
Israel's 130 West Bank settlements are illegal under international law, including Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that states:
"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."
In addition, various UN resolutions (including 446, 452 and 465) condemned Israel's settlement building by declaring they have "no legal validity" to exist. Yet they do and continue expanding in reckless disregard of the law.
Even so, after its forces occupied the West Bank in 1967, Israel in principle agreed to respect binding local Jordanian law and its own subsequent military order. It didn't then and doesn't now.
B'Tselem's report titled "The Ofra Settlement - An Unauthorized Outpost" shows that Israel reneged on its agreement because Ofra is illegal under local and international law.
Called a flagship settlement, it was established in 1975 by the fundamentalist Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) movement that began seizing West Bank land for itself - modestly at first in abandoned Jordanian Ein Yabrud army camp houses. Then later, more aggressively after the Rabin government recognized it as a community even though 58% of its area lies on land registered to Palestinians in Israel's Land Registry. Settlement construction there is forbidden. Yet in 1977 under Menachem Begin, recognition became official.
Ofra set a precedent. As the first northern West Bank settlement, it broke "the barrier that blocked settlement attempts in the heart of the Palestinian population" and established events on the ground for dozens more to follow - illegal settlements and outposts "in opposition to the stated official position of the government," on paper only to be defiled and ignored.
Some Background on Gush Emunim
Under the slogan, "The Land of Israel, for the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel," Gush Emunim (GE) emerged in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, but Israel's 1967 Six-Day war victory inspired its adherents to believe that all biblical Israel for Jews alone was now in reach.
Today, GE is an influential, extremist pressure group - fundamentalist, radical, messianic, militant, terrorist, and undemocratic, yet supported by all Israeli governments. Ofra gave it a footprint, a toehold, an entry for Israel to establish 130 West Bank settlements and other outposts, now home to half a million Jews on confiscated Palestinian land.
Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
There is no good evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. It has offered to allow regular International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of the newly announced facility near Qom, which would effectively prevent it from being used for weapons production.
There is a secret nuclear facility in the Middle East, however, producing plutonium and not just enriched uranium, which has the capacity to make 10 nuclear warheads a year.
It is Israel's ongoing nuclear weapon production that drives the nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Saddam wanted a bomb because Israel had one. The Iranians were then worried both about an Iraqi and an Israeli bomb. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others are annoyed at their geostrategic helplessness in the face of Israeli nukes.
Israel's nuclear arsenal is the region's Original Sin.
By David Swanson
Stephanie Westbrook pointed out to me a very curious PDF, a journal of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published in Europe. It includes an article that begins:
"Uncle Sam wants you to see the home of Judaism and Christianity. He wants you to earn good pay in a sunny climate doing work you are proficient in and enjoy - work that is personally and professionally rewarding and that you know will help an important ally. What could be better than that? Yes, Uncle Sam wants you. He wants you to bring your
talent and expertise to Israel."
A U.S. contractor already working there has this to say in this promo article:
Artist Michael Parenti shared these graphics with ominous implications. The caption of Rina Castelnuovo's photo on the right for the New York Times reads, "A settler tosses wine at a Palestinian woman on Shuhada Street in Hebron. The approach of some settlers towards neighboring Palestinians, especially around Nablus in the north and Hebron in the south, has often been one of contempt and violence."
Robert Hariman posted the photo in his essay, The Practice of Domination in Everyday Life, describing its impacts this way:
One is that it reveals what is rarely shown: the small acts of personal viciousness and humiliation that make up the practice of domination in an occupied land. Second, it is clear that both the boy’s aggression and the woman’s protective reaction are often-practiced, habitual responses. Were he taunting an older woman for the first time, he would be likely to look much more ragged, uncoordinated, and either furtive or overly demonstrative. Instead, he could be a figure out of Whitman: throwing his weight around without breaking stride, a figure of youthful grace on the city street. Likewise, she isn’t being caught by surprise. Her head is already turned, her body hunched against the impending blow. She’s been through this before, and she’s learned that direct confrontation is not an option. This may be her neighborhood, but it’s his street.
The third dimension of the photograph’s power derives from its capacity for analogy. Look at the woman’s coat and hat, and at the Star of David scrawled on the storefront; she could be in the Warsaw ghetto, and all it takes is a change of costume to see him as a German soldier. Or they could be an African-American woman and a young cracker in the Jim Crow South, or any other tableau that depicts the small details of domination. One picture isn’t enough to nail down such comparisons, but it should make you think of them.
Commenter Dennis Q at BAGnewsNotes observed: "What makes this picture so horrifying for BagNews Notes readers is that the arc of the blood-red wine is the same as the arc of the scythe of the Grim Reaper."
How Opposition to Israel's Annexation Wall Is Targeted and Suppressed
By Stephen Lendman
Established in 1992, the Addameer (Arabic for conscience) Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association helps Palestinian prisoners, and works to end torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions, other forms of abuse, and unjust, unequal treatment in Israel's criminal justice system that handles Jews one way and Palestinians another.
In July 2009, in cooperation with the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall) and the Palestinian Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association, Addameer published a report titled "Repression allowed, Resistance denied" that documents resistance to Israel's apartheid wall and the "staggering level of repression, arrests and violence" by Israeli authorities.
The Defense Intelligence Agency and its contractors conclude that a nuclear test was conducted jointly by South Africa and Israel.
An ad hoc presidential panel contradicts that analysis and suggests a meteoroid struck the satellite causing it to sound a false alarm.
Which was it? What should've been the U.S. response? Can you decide?
But perhaps the questions we should really be deciding is does Iran have nuclear weapons; and if so, should the U.S. attack Iran and North Korea”.
Israel's Netanyahu: Let's Talk with Palestinians -- and Stop Iran's Threat
Prime Minister Tells ABC's Charles Gibson Iran's Nuclear Ambitions Threaten World Peace
By Ned Potter | ABC News
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ABC's Charles Gibson tonight he welcomes talks -- without preconditions -- to set up a Palestinian state in the Middle East. But he said it is up to Palestinian leaders to exert leadership, and added he is not going to back down on the right of Israelis to settle in Palestinian territory.
"There are a quarter of a million people living in these communities," said Netanyahu. "You know, they need kindergartens. They need schools. ... You can't freeze life."
In a one-on-one interview with Gibson, Netanyahu said he is especially worried about Iran -- which, he said, could destabilize the entire Middle East with the development of nuclear weapons. Read more.
Goldstone Commission Gaza Conflict Findings and Reactions
By Stephen Lendman
"While the Israeli Government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right of self defence, the Mission considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole." Rocket attacks were a pretext for naked aggression.
Calling them war crimes, the Mission found evidence that "Palestinian armed groups" launched rockets and mortars into Southern Israel, but they were minor incidents compared to the Israeli onslaught.
On April 3, 2009, a UN press release stated:
"The Human Rights Council (HRC) today announced the appointment of Richard J. Goldstone....to lead an independent (four-person) fact-finding mission to investigate international human rights and humanitarian law violations related to the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip....The team will be supported by staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights....Today's appointment comes following the adoption of a resolution by the Human Rights Council....to address 'the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip."
President Obama will host meetings Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the White House announced Saturday.
The meetings come as hopes for renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks have dimmed despite diplomatic efforts of former Maine Sen. George Mitchell, the U.S. envoy for the Middle East, who capped off last week's visit to the region with a second round of talks with both sides.
The meetings, set for the sidelines of next week's U.N. General Assembly session in New York, are "another sign of the president's deep commitment to comprehensive peace that he wants to personally engage at this juncture," Mitchell said in the White House statement.
Obama will talk with each leader separately before all three meet together, the White House said. Read more.
Overriding Western objections, a 150-nation nuclear conference on Friday passed a resolution directly criticizing Israel and its atomic program for the first time in 18 years. Iran hailed the vote as a "glorious moment."
The result was a setback not only for Israel but also for the United States and other backers of the Jewish state, which had lobbied for 18 years of past practice — debate on the issue without a vote. It also reflected building tensions between Israel and its backers and Islamic nations, backed by developing countries.
Of delegations present at the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting Friday, 49 voted for the resolution. Forty-five were against and 16 abstained from endorsing or rejecting the document, which "expresses concern about the Israeli nuclear capabilities," and links it to "concern about the threat posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons for the security and stability of the Middle East."
In an attempt to sway the assembly before the vote, U.S. chief delegate Glyn Davies spoke out against an "attempt to use this resolution to criticize a single country."
"Such an approach is highly politicized and does not truly address the complexities at play regarding crucial nuclear-related issues in the Middle East," he said. Read more.
The report, released on Tuesday, says that if no appropriate independent inquiry gets under way in Israel within six months, the United Nations Security Council should refer the matter to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. It made a similar recommendation for Palestinian authorities, calling for an inquiry into evidence of war crimes committed by Palestinian armed groups firing rockets into Israel.
Israeli officials on Wednesday bluntly dismissed one of the main recommendations of the United Nations fact-finding mission’s report on the three-week war in Gaza last winter: a call for the Israeli government to begin an independent investigation of “serious violations” of international humanitarian and human rights law, including evidence of war crimes, during the military campaign.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that the internal military investigations into the Israeli Army’s conduct in Gaza already under way were “a thousand times more serious” than the investigation just completed by the United Nations mission led by Richard Goldstone, a respected South African judge.
Reflecting a broad consensus in Israel, the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, also harshly criticized the report, calling it “a mockery of history” for failing “to distinguish between the aggressor and a state exercising its right for self-defense.” Mr. Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, added that the report “legitimizes terrorist activity, the pursuit of murder and death.” Read more.
When seen from a distance, kites in Gaza may look quite ordinary. But while Gazan children, in many respects, are just children, their kites are hardly ordinary. Often adorned by the red, black, green and white of the Palestinian flag, Gazan children´s kites are expressions of defiance, hope and the longing for freedom.
This is hardly a cliché. People living under oppressive rules take every opportunity to express defiance, even through such symbolic ways.
Born and raised in Nuseirat Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip, I remember my first kite. It, like most kites, carried the colors of the flag. The kite was the work of my older brother, now a successful medic in the West Bank. He obliged before my incessant cries for a kite despite my father´s objections. But why should a father object to something so seemingly harmless? Simple.
A notorious Israeli military camp and detention center was stationed on the outskirts of our refugee camp, between Nuseirat and Buraij. The military camp served multiple purposes. It was to immediately dispatch troops into our refugee camp at the first sign of protest. Further, the men stationed there guarded a nearby Jewish settlement. Finally, it also served as a temporarily prison where Palestinian activists suffered torture before being hauled off to Gaza´s central prison, or worse, Al-Nakab.
The military camp however, hardly enjoyed a moment of peace. Students and other refugees from adjacent refugee camps would descend into the Israeli military grounds, almost daily with marches; carrying flags, throwing stones and demanding that the soldiers´ depart. Of course, the soldiers didn´t oblige, and my refugee camp paid a heavy price in blood with every confrontation. Read more.
Problems Defending Palestinians in Israeli Courts
By Stephen Lendman
Established in 1992, the Addameer (Arabic for conscience) Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association provides support for Palestinian prisoners and works to end torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions, other forms of abuse, and unjust and unequal treatment in Israel's criminal justice system that handles Jews one way and Palestinians another.
In January 2007, it published a report titled "Defending Palestinian Prisoners: A Report on the Status of Defense Lawyers in Israeli Courts" in which it explained obstacles lawyers face in representing Palestinians in military and civil courts. They're hampered by military orders, Israeli laws, and prison procedures that prevent them from adequately helping clients - from their time of arrest through detention, trial, imprisonment, appeal, and other constraints against justice.
Yet international law is clear and unequivocal. Article 2, section 3(b)(c) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states:
....persons "shall have (the) right (to effective remedy through a) competent judicial, administrative or legislative (authority), or by any other competent authority provided for the legal system of the State (to) ensure that the competent authorities shall enforce (judicial) remed(ies)."
Article 14, section 1 states:
"All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals (and) shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law." They shall "be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law."
They're also entitled to competent counsel, may meet with them in confidence, and censorship of their written and oral communications is prohibited.
By Linda Milazzo
I was out last evening. I tried to escape, just for a while, back to the days of (Taking) Woodstock when we who worked to end the Vietnam war did so as a united, free-spirited force. I readily admit that in today's times of racism disguised as patriotism, religious perversion, rampant ignorance, unhinged media menaces, and growing hostility amongst Americans, I yearn for that long ago era of 'peace and love.'
Enroute home after my wistful evening, I glanced at my phone and saw a Washington Post alert saying Obama's Green Jobs appointee, Van Jones, had resigned. I was shocked. I knew Jones was being assaulted by the right, but I didn't think he'd resign, and I didn't think the Obama administration would so readily sacrifice this brilliant advocate for the environment and the poor. After all, Jones is a person in the Obama administration who personifies the term "public servant." For progressives, Van Jones' appointment was, and is, Obama's tour de force gift to America of a high level appointee free of corporate entanglements who cannot and will not be bought. Jones is a man for the people in an administration where for the corporation is the norm.
Israeli plans to authorise the construction of hundreds of houses in the occupied West Bank sparked furious protests from American and Palestinian officials yesterday.
In a nod to US requests to suspend all building work at Jewish settlements, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister, is offering a freeze on construction at a later date — a peace gambit that did little to mollify those involved in the negotiations leading to a new Middle East peace process.
President Obama had hoped to start formal talks between Palestinians and Israel later this month.
“We regret the reports of Israel’s plans to approve additional settlement construction,” Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said. “As the President has said before, the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement expansion and we urge it to stop.” Read more.
There is a firestorm ahead in the Middle East for which neither the US government nor the US public is prepared. The storm will go from Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan to Israel/Palestine, says Immanuel Wallerstein.
There is a firestorm ahead in the Middle East for which neither the US government nor the US public is prepared. They seem scarcely aware how close it is on the horizon or how ferocious it will be. The US government (and therefore almost inevitably the US public) is deluding itself massively about its capacity to handle the situation in terms of its stated objectives. The storm will go from Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan to Israel/Palestine, and in the classic expression "it will spread like wildfire."
Let us start with Iraq. The United States has signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq, which went into effect on July 1. It provided for turning over internal security to the Iraqi government and, in theory, essentially restricting US forces to their bases and to some limited role in training Iraqi troops. Some of the wording of this agreement is ambiguous. Deliberately so, since that was the only way both sides would sign it.
Even the first months of operation show how poorly this agreement is operating. The Iraqi forces have been interpreting it very strictly, formally forbidding both joint patrols and also any unilateral US military actions without prior detailed clearance with the government. It has gotten to the point that Iraqi forces are stopping US forces from passing checkpoints with supplies during daytime hours.
The US forces have been chafing. They have tried to interpret the clause guaranteeing them the right of self-defense far more loosely than the Iraqi forces want. They are pointing to the upturn in violence in Iraq and therefore implicitly to the incapacity of Iraqi forces to guarantee order.
The general commanding the US forces, Ray Odierno, is obviously extremely unhappy and is patently scheming to find excuses to reestablish a direct US role. Read more.
A UN Special Focus on Gaza Under Siege
By Stephen Lendman
In August 2009, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published a special report titled: "Locked In: The Humanitarian Impact of Two Years of Blockade on the Gaza Strip." It focuses on import and export restrictions, the travel ban on "livelihoods, food security, education, health, shelter, energy and water, and sanitation." It explains how violence and human rights abuses increase the suffering of 1.5 million people.
Following Hamas' January 2006 electoral victory, all outside aid was cut off. Sanctions and an economic embargo were imposed, and the democratically elected government was falsely accused of being a terrorist organization and isolated. Stepped up repression followed as well as IDF attacks, killings, targeted assassinations, property destruction, and more. Gazans have been imprisoned ever since. In silence, the world community sanctions Israeli crimes and shares guilt for their commission.
In June 2007, Israel placed the Territory under siege and imposed an unprecedented blockade on nearly all movement and supplies in and out of the Strip, "triggering a protracted human dignity crisis with negative humanitarian consequences." At its heart is the "degradation (of) living conditions," the erosion of livelihoods, the lack of vital services in the areas of health, water, sanitation and education, and the collapse of essential infrastructure in the wake of Operation Cast Lead.
Over the past several months, Israel allowed in only small amounts of vital goods and services, far below quantities essential enough to relieve a grave humanitarian crisis. Despite the urgings of the UN, ICRC, a few nations, and numerous human rights organizations, Israel continues its blockade that includes:
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is No Role Model for Hawaii’s Women
By Ann Wright
A coalition of activists in Hawaii has asked Hawaii’s Governor Linda Lingle, currently the only Jewish governor of a U.S. state, to withdraw her invitation to former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to speak at Hawaii’s September 22, 2009 International Women’s Leadership Conference.
In its sixth year, the Leadership Conference brings to Hawaii “role models” for women of Hawaii. Because of her involvement in the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, the activists consider Livni as an inappropriate role model. The Governor has not responded to the coalition’s letter demanding that the invitation be rescinded. The letter was sent three weeks ago.
Israeli jets have bombed a building in the Gaza Strip which the military says hid a tunnel that Palestinian militants could use to infiltrate Israel.
No-one was hurt in the air strike, to the east of Gaza City.
Israel said the attack was retaliation for a rocket fired from Gaza into its territory on Saturday. The rocket caused no casualties or damage.
Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, described the target of the Israeli air strike as "open ground".
However, witnesses said it was a building with two rooms and a courtyard. Read more.
Download the attached file containing the latest articles, blogs, interview and talks from January, March, May and June 2009 CODEPINK Delegations to Gaza and the Occupied Territories of Palestine; the new entries to the list are from August 14 - 24, 2009. Click on the attachment title to download, then open for review.