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By David Swanson
Illustrated by Michael Parenti
Kevin Ovenden contacted me. He works with British MP George Galloway -- yes, this hero. Ovenden is currently in the United States helping to put together a convoy of, hopefully, hundreds of vehicles and people to bring medical aid to the besieged people of Gaza.
Americans are invited to take part. The cost of a plane ticket, a hotel for two nights in Egypt, and other expenses is required. I told Ovenden I'd like to go if I can raise the money. If you'd like to read, hear, and see my reports from Gaza at http://AfterDowningStreet.org please go to that site and contribute. If $2,000 comes in, I'll go. If that total isn't reached, I'll use your contributions in our work for peace and justice.
But this is not just about me. I want YOU to contact Kevin and join the convoy yourself. Here's what Kevin says about the trip:
We will fly out from the US to Cairo on July 4 (message being that Palestinian independence is as worthy as US independence) where we will cohere the convoy, aid and vehicles and head off aiming to enter Gaza on July 12. We organized a similar operation from Britain in February - driving for 23 days with 107 vehicles, 255 people and approx $2 million worth of aid through France and Spain, and then across the Maghreb.
Support for the convoy is already taking off. Ron Kovic is the co-leader of the convoy alongside George. As in Britain, the climate post the December/January offensive against the people of Gaza has turned markedly. There is a renewed confidence around this issue - notwithstanding the shocking verdict and sentencing in the retrial of the Holy Land Foundation people.
We are taking strictly medical aid and have gone to great lengths to meet the stringent requirements of the US authorities on charitable contacts with organizations operating in Gaza. We want the convoy to show the world - particularly the Middle East - a different face of the US, that something other than the US Marine Corps can come from these shores.
We hope that it will play a part in continuing to shift US public opinion on the issues surrounding Israel/Palestine and the wider region. A changed public opinion is a precondition for a changed and more just foreign policy.
Navy Vet Honored, Foiled Israeli Attack
By Ray McGovern
What’s the difference between murder and massacre?
The answer is Terry Halbardier, whose bravery and ingenuity as a 23-year-old Navy seaman spelled the difference between the murder of 34 of the USS Liberty crew and the intended massacre of all 294.
The date was June 8, 1967; and for the families of the 34 murdered and for the Liberty’s survivors and their families, it is a “date which will live in infamy” — like the date of an earlier surprise attack on the U.S. Navy.
An 85-year-old former civilian employee of the U.S. Army was fined but avoided prison time on Friday after earlier pleading guilty to giving classified documents to Israel in the 1980s in a case the sentencing judge said was "shrouded in mystery."
Court documents showed that Ben-Ami Kadish, who was fined $50,000 but spared prison time, reported to the same handler as Jonathan Pollard, an American who spied for Israel in the 1980s and triggered a scandal that rocked U.S.-Israeli relations.
"Why it took the government 23 years to charge Mr. Kadish is shrouded in mystery," U.S. District Judge William Pauley said during the sentencing hearing in Manhattan federal court. "It is clear the (U.S.) government could have charged Mr. Kadish with far more serious crimes."
Kadish pleaded guilty in December to acting as an unregistered agent of Israel. He was arrested in April 2008 on four counts of conspiracy and espionage. The spying charge, dropped under a plea deal, had carried a possible death sentence.
"I am sorry I made a mistake," a frail-looking Kadish said during the sentencing hearing. "I thought I was helping the state of Israel without harming the United States."
The judge said he gave a lenient sentence due to Kadish's age and infirmity, but said Kadish had committed "a grave offense" and had "abused the trust" of the United States. Read more.
Amnesty: Israel repeatedly breached rules of war in Gaza
By Yossi Melman | Haaretz
Amnesty International has accused Israel of repeatedly violating the rules of armed conflict during its recent offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
"Israeli forces repeatedly breached the laws of war, including by carrying out direct attacks on civilians and civilian buildings and attacks targeting Palestinian militants that caused a disproportionate toll among civilians," the human rights watchdog said in its annual report.
The report states that 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the offensive - including 300 children - and that 5,000 people were wounded. The Israel Defense Forces, however, says 1,166 Palestinians were killed, the vast majority of whom were Hamas militants.
The report mentions Israel's stated goal in the 3-week campaign: The desire to stem rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian militants on southern Israel. The report goes on to note that three Israeli civilians were killed during the operation, which was in December 2008 and January 2009, in addition to the seven Israeli civilians who were killed by Qassam rockets and other Palestinian attacks launched from Gaza in 2008.
According to the report, the hostilities erupted after suffering the consequences of an Israel-led blockade on the Gaza Strip for a year-and-a-half.
"The blockade throttled almost all economic life and led growing numbers of Palestinians to become dependent on international food aid; even terminally ill patients were prevented from leaving to obtain medical care that could not be provided by Gaza's resource- and medicine-starved hospitals," Amnesty said. Read more.
By Helena Cobban
If Israel launches a military attack (= act of war) against Iran, what would the main goal of this attack be?
There is good reason to believe that the goal would be not the direct physical destruction/incapacitation of Iran's nuclear programs but rather, to trigger an all-out US-Iran war in the course of which, Israel's planners hope, the US would do the dirty work in Iran that it is unable to do itself.
Human Rights Situation in Occupied Palestine
By Stephen Lendman
On March 15, 2006, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly 170 to 4 (with only the US, Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau against) "to establish the Human Rights Council (HRC), based in Geneva, in replacement of the Commission on Human Rights, as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly....responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner."
HRC "is an inter-governmental body within the UN system made up of 47 states responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe."
Three Palestinians have been rescued after spending five days under the rubble of a tunnel in Rafah which was targeted by Israeli aircraft.
The tunnel which links the Gaza Strip to Egypt was hit by Israeli warplanes on Tuesday, and the three had to struggle to survive until Saturday when they were saved by Egyptian rescue workers.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade for almost two years, use the tunnels -- also known as Gaza feeding tubes -- to import food, medical and vital supplies into the enclave.
In addition to the blockade, Israel launched a three-week war against the Gaza population in late 2008 and early 2009, killing 1,330 Palestinians and inflicting at least USD 1.6b in damages to the infrastructure and facilities along with residential buildings.
Cheney: Support for Israel Feeds Terrorism
By Ray McGovern
If we hear in the coming days that former Vice President Dick Cheney has fired one of his speechwriters — or perhaps grounded Lynne or Liz — it will be clear why.
Oozing out of the sleazy speech he gave Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute was an inadvertent truth regarding the Israeli albatross hanging around the neck of U.S. policy in the Middle East.
I watched the speech, but had missed the gaffe until I went carefully through the written text before a radio interview Thursday evening. It amounts to a major faux pas, though I’ll give you odds that the usual-suspect pundits of the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) will not touch it, because it raises troubling questions about the close U.S. relationship with Israel.
A former United States Army Lieutenant Colonel who worked for military intelligence is calling for the military to attack and kill “partisan media.” In a report penned for the rabid pro-Israel group JINSA (the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs), Ralph Peters writes that the media have determined the outcomes of conflicts and as such should be considered targets.
“Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media,” he writes. “Perceiving themselves as superior beings, journalists have positioned themselves as protected-species combatants. But freedom of the press stops when its abuse kills our soldiers and strengthens our enemies. Such a view arouses disdain today, but a media establishment that has forgotten any sense of sober patriotism may find that it has become tomorrow’s conventional wisdom.”
US Colonel Advocates US 'Military Attacks' on 'Partisan Media' in Essay for Neocon, Pro-Israel Group JINSA
In the era of embedded media, independent journalists have become the eyes and ears of the world. Without those un-embedded journalists willing to risk their lives to place themselves on the other side of the barrel of the tank or the gun or under the airstrikes, history would be written almost entirely from the vantage point of powerful militaries, or—at the very least—it would be told from the perspective of the troops doing the shooting, rather than the civilians who always pay the highest price.
In the case of the Iraq invasion and occupation, the journalists who have placed themselves in danger most often are local Iraqi journalists. Some 116 Iraqi journalists and media workers have been killed in the line of duty since March 2003. In all, 189 journalists have been killed in Iraq. At least 16 of these journalists were killed by the US military, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The network that has most often found itself under US attack is Al Jazeera. As I wrote a few years ago in The Nation:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he told U.S. President Barack Obama that Israel is willing to immediately open peace talks with Syria and the Palestinians.
But Mr. Netanyahu says he also made it clear to Mr. Obama that any peace deal must address Israel's security needs.
The Israeli prime minister frustrated President Clinton's peace efforts; the new president must do better.
By Mustafa Barghouthi, LA Times
Icannot recall a more important meeting between an American president and an Israeli prime minister than today's meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Will the Obama administration have the courage to challenge Netanyahu, or will all the talk of change dissolve in the face of a concerted one-two punch from Netanyahu and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee?
I am increasingly convinced that if Obama fails to speak out now, it will doom the two-state solution forever. Further fiddling in Washington -- after eight years of it -- will consign Jerusalem, the West Bank and the two-state solution to an Israeli expansionism that will overwhelm the ability of cartographers to concoct a viable Palestinian state.
Two cheers for President Obama.
President Obama, at the press conference yesterday with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu:
Now, Israel is going to have to take some difficult steps as well, and I shared with the Prime Minister the fact that under the roadmap and under Annapolis that there's a clear understanding that we have to make progress on settlements. Settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward.
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine
By Stephen Lendman
After two years of "underground" work, it was launched with a "successful press conference" and announcement that:
"The Russell Tribunal on Palestine seeks to reaffirm the primacy of international law as the (way to settle) the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Its work will focus on "the enunciation of law by authoritative bodies. The International Court of Justice (ICJ), in its opinion on the (Separation Wall in Occupied Palestine, addressed relevant) "International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law, as well as dozens of international resolutions concerning Palestine."
This Tribunal will "address the failure of application of law even though it has been so clearly identified." It begins where the ICJ "stopped: highlighting the responsibilities arising from the enunciation of law, including those of the international community, which cannot continue to shirk its obligations."
Israel yields to UN and Lebanese demands that it hand over data on the cluster bomb operations it conducted in Lebanon in 2006.
The United Nations peacekeeping forces in Lebanon, known as the UNIFIL, revealed Tuesday that Israel has handed over technical strike data and maps that detail its use of cluster munitions in its most recent war on Lebanon.
Israeli warplanes had dropped most of the cluster bombs in the last 72 hours of the 33-day war when Tel Aviv had lost all hopes of winning the war and the Hezbollah movement rendered Israel unable to take control of the country.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general says Israel would be making a 'completely insane' move, should it stage a war on Iran.
Head of the UN nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei advised officials in Tel Aviv to exercise restraint and allow the diplomatic approach of the Obama White House on the Iranian nuclear issue to proceed.
ElBaradei's comments, made in an interview with Der Spiegel released on Saturday, came as Israel is increasingly preparing the ground for a military strike on the Islamic Republic.
Meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Obama has the chance to make good on real change in U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is coming to Washington on May 18, for his first official visit with President Obama. If President Obama is serious about achieving a two-state solution in his first term, and therefore serious about bringing real pressure to bear on Israel, there will be no better time to do so. *
Obama, who has strongly supported the idea of a two-state solution since his campaign, has yet to articulate whether or not he is actually prepared to spend some of his massive political capital to exert serious pressure on Israel towards that end – for example by conditioning (even some) of the currently committed $30 billion in U.S. military aid to Israel, on a complete Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank. If he means it, this could be the moment. Netanyahu’s campaign rejection of the two-state solution, his rejection of continuing the current Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy and instead limiting negotiations to economic issues, and his extreme racist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman all serve to make a serious U.S. effort towards Israeli accountability not only timely, but less politically costly than ever.
Host: Basima Farhat
Anna Baltzer is a 28-year-old Jewish American Columbia graduate, Fulbright scholar, and the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. She is a three-time volunteer with the International Women’s Peace Service, where she documented human rights abuses in the West Bank and supported the nonviolent movement against the Occupation. She has spent most of the past few years in Palestine or on tour with her book, Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories. Anna Baltzer presents: LIFE IN OCCUPIED PALESTINE: EYEWITNESS STORIES & PHOTOS
Anna Baltzer is touring the United States with a presentation and book describing her experiences documenting human rights abuses in Palestine and supporting nonviolent resistance to the Occupation.
Providing photographic documentation and critical information often misrepresented or ignored in the Western media, Baltzer’s presentation covers checkpoints, settlements, demonstrations, Israeli activism, the 1948 war & refugees, censorship, the Separation Wall, and more.
For further information about Baltzer’s work and tour, please visit
Since Israel's closure of the Gaza Strip in 2007, only severely sick Palestinians have been allowed to seek medical attention elsewhere provided they receive authorisation and security clearances from the Israeli authorities.
However, getting the special permit that allows patients to leave Gaza for medical treatment is a bureaucratic hassle and, many Gazans say, comes with strings attached.
It’s Springtime for AIPAC! The mega-Israel Lobby convenes annually in Washington, D.C. at the convention center. AIPAC sucks out over $3 billion a year from our fast fading treasury for Israel with little or no dissent from the fakers in the U.S. Congress. (See links in "Read more" below).
In pursuit of the case of Israeli war crimes, the United Nations moves to report to the Security Council that UN facilities in Gaza had been targeted willfully.
After the United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA) compound became the target of GPS-guided Israeli mortars on January 15, the UN set up a commission to bring Israeli human rights violations in Gaza out into the open.
The commission -- led by the former British secretary-general of human rights group Amnesty International, Ian Martin -- assembled a report on Israeli actions in Gaza for submission to the Security Council.
"Israel deliberately fired at UN institutions even though it knew it was forbidden", read the report.
The Israel lobby has been running into a few problems lately, but it’s nothing they don’t think they can handle: a charge of treason, a strong suspicion of obstructing justice, and a gathering storm of criticism from a few dissident intellectuals and policy types. Nothing to get too exercised about. Having felled Charles "Chas" Freeman, smitten Gen. Zinni, and sidelined those in the Obama administration who question the nature and utility of America’s "special relationship" with Israel, the Lobby’s flagship organization, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), is primed to hold their national conference in Washington next week, with Jane "This Conversation Doesn’t Exist" Harman slated to address the gathering.
The focus of the conference, and the legislative centerpiece of the event, will be passage of the Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act, which would ban US companies from providing Iran with refined petroleum products, and seeks to punish European companies — particularly the Swiss, who come in for two specific mentions in the text of the bill — for doing so.
To begin with, the name affixed to this piece of legislative legerdemain is a prime example of congressional doublethink: will it really enhance diplomatic relations with Iran to impose draconian sanctions, the equivalent of an economic chokehold and a prelude to a military blockade? Hardly, and that is very far from its clear intent.
This bill is all about provoking the Iranians, effectively sabotaging efforts to engage in a mutual dialogue with Tehran. Why the egregious packaging? Well, it seems the American people are sick and tired of war, and preparations for war, and so it is far less incriminating if a member of Congress can say he (or she) voted for "the Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act" than it is to admit they supported isolating Iran economically.
Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to be the third pontiff to visit the Holy Land from 8-15 May, following in the footsteps of Paul VI in 1964 and John Paul II in 2000, on a mission officially described as a “pilgrimage” and one of “peace and reconciliation.”
However, the Pope will be stepping into “a diplomatic minefield,” where the Catholic highest spiritual authority will be unmercifully scrutinized by the protagonists of the one hundred year old Arab-Israeli conflict for the Holy Father’s every step, word and handshake, which would force him into the defensive in an impossible balancing act that will rule out any hope his presence is supposed to inspire, especially among the down-trodden Arabs of Palestine, whether those who are “Israelis” living as second class citizens since 1948 or those Palestinians living under the Israeli military occupation since 1967.
Even the pontiff’s own Catholic diminishing flock in the Holy Land seems in controversy over the timing and the itinerary of his pilgrimage. "We will ask him why he came, what he intends on saying … and why he isn't coming to Gaza," Father Manuel Mussalam, the pastor of the only Catholic church of about 300 believers in Gaza, out of 3000 Christians in the Israeli besieged Mediterranean strip, was quoted by AFP as asking. "We'll tell him that this is not the right moment to come and visit the holy places, while Jerusalem is occupied," Mussalam added.
In a small anonymous home in the West Bank, a Palestinian academic has set up a project which is almost unheard of in the Occupied Territories.
Hassan Musa is the curator of a museum exhibition dedicated to the Jewish Holocaust in Europe.
The cracked white walls of this makeshift museum in the village of Ni'lin are covered from floor to ceiling with images of people forced out of their homes, tortured, imprisoned, starved and murdered.
In addition to the pictures depicting the Nazi brutality against Jews in Europe, there are also images of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the violence in Palestine since.
On one wall, there is a picture of a scared Jewish boy holding up his hands as Nazi soldiers look on; the caption reads: "Make your final account with Hitler and the Nazi Germans, not with the Palestinians."
An American academic is to be prosecuted for drawing parallels between the plight of Gazans and that of the Jews who suffered under Nazi rule.
Jewish Sociology and Global Studies Professor William Robinson of the University of Santa Barbara in California sent the electronic post entitled 'Parallel photos of Nazis and Israelis' to 80 students in his class, Ynet reported on Thursday.
There have been hints in the press that the Obama Administration has been considering conditioning U.S. aid to Israel on a real freeze of Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank. There's a conventional wisdom that suggests that doing this would touch a "third rail of politics." But the conventional wisdom might not have been accurate; if it once was accurate, it might not be accurate any more.
WorldPublicOpinion.org has just released a poll showing that three-quarters of Americans oppose Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank. This number is up 23 points from 2002.
Even among respondents who say they sympathize with Israel more than the Palestinians, 64% say Israel should not build settlements in the West Bank.