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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.
Obama's Decision Shields Bush Administration Officials From Prosecution
By Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
Commenting on the NYTimes article, "U.S. to Drop Spy Case Against Pro-Israel Lobbyists," Michael Munk wrote:
There was more to this story.
The indictment alleged that in early 2002 David Satterfield, (former deputy chief of the United States Mission in Baghdad and lead US negotiator on the phoney US-Iraq security treaty that Bush - and now Obama - hope would legitimate permanent US bases in Iraq) discussed secret national security matters in two meetings with the two AIPAC lobbyists.
The meetings, on January 18, 2002, and March 12, 2002, were confirmed by classified documents. The Times reported on August 18, 2005 that "Their meetings are listed as overt acts in a conspiracy to illegally communicate national defense secrets to a foreign government. After Mr. Rosen's first meeting with USGO-2 [Satterfield] on Jan. 18, 2002, the indictment said, a memorandum containing the information that Mr. Rosen had obtained was sent to other AIPAC employees.
The indictment did not indicate who wrote the memorandum, but said that it "contained classified information provided by [Satterfield]."The two men met again on March 12, the indictment said. At their second meeting, they talked about Al Qaeda, the indictment said, without saying what aspect of the terror network was discussed. On March 14, Mr. Rosen disclosed to an unidentified foreign official, [an Israeli diplomat] "FO-2," the information that he had heard from USGO-2, the indictment said.
Obama's decision protects Bush's secretary of state and national secuirty advisor from testifying in the case.
U.S. to Drop Spy Case Against Pro-Israel Lobbyists
By Neil A. Lewis and David Johnston | NY Times
A case that began four years ago with the tantalizing and volatile premise that officials of a major pro-Israel lobbying organization were illegally trafficking in sensitive national security information collapsed on Friday as prosecutors asked that all charges be withdrawn.
Stand up for Peace in the Middle East and Against the Pro-War Policies of AIPAC!
On May 3-5, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will hold its annual convention in Washington DC to rally its supporters to
push the U.S. government to support the Israeli government without conditions. AIPAC is advocating an aggressive approach to Iran;
supporting Israel's continuing to siege on Gaza and its refusal to cooperate with a UN investigation into violations of international law;
and backing the Israeli government’s refusal to engage in substantive peace negotiations with the elected Palestinian leaders.
It's time to expose AIPAC’s pro-war stance and take a stand in favor of human rights and international law. Join CODEPINK and other groups in DC May 2-5 in a variety of activities planned throughout the convention. E-mail for more information.
Schedule of Events:
Like a modern-day Cain, Mordechai Vanunu walks the streets of East Jerusalem in search of a place to spend the night. He has no permanent address, and because of a cash shortage he moves from one cheap hostel to the next. He is forbidden to talk with foreigners. With Israelis he does not wish to speak. The Arabs in East Jerusalem do not try to befriend him, fearing trouble. He is a difficult and complicated man. His belief in his principles is stern and dogmatic, but is also cause for bewilderment. Even his family and most of his few supporters abroad have cut off contact.
His financial situation as well as his physical and mental health is deteriorating. But Israel, to paraphrase Gene Pitney, is "a state without mercy." The security authorities and the courts, which back them almost automatically, are time and again after him. This is a vindictive, closed system that intends to apply the law as severely as possible. This week Home Front Command, one of the authorities dealing with Vanunu's case, called in his attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard to tell them that the warrants restricting Vanunu's freedom of movement and speech will remain unchanged. A similar announcement will be made by the Interior Ministry. Moreover, Vanunu still faces a four-month prison term for violating the restrictions - because he tried to enter Bethlehem on Christmas and spoke with foreign reporters. He has appealed to the Supreme Court.
Thus Vanunu, who was released from prison in 2004, entered his sixth year as a "Prisoner of Zion." During that time we have had three prime ministers, four justice ministers and three defense ministers; Israel exchanged prisoners with Hezbollah; spies were released from prison and murderers' sentences were shortened. But the state is adamant that Vanunu be punished repeatedly for his original sin.
The authorities consider him a traitor, even though he did not betray secrets to enemy countries, a terrorist organization or foreign security organizations. He exposed Israel's nuclear secrets to the British Sunday Times. Even if we accept the state's stance that this makes him a spy and a traitor, he was neither the worst nor the most dangerous. There have been and there are worse traitors than Vanunu.
Written by Melvin A. Goodman | The Public Record
Under the stewardship of Fred Hiatt, the editorial and op-ed pages of the Washington Post have gradually moved to the right. Post editorials and op-eds have defended the decision to go to war in Iraq; opposed any improvement in bilateral relations with Russia; refused to acknowledge Israel’s misuse of military power in the Middle East; and lobbied against the need for investigation of the detention and interrogation programs of the Bush administration.
Israeli Use of Palestinians As Human Shields
By Stephen Lendman
The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights is a Gaza-based Palestinian NGO mandated "to promote, protect and prevent violations of human rights in general, and economic, social and cultural rights in particular, to provide effective aid to those victims of such violations, and to enhance the quality of life of the community in (Gaza's) marginalized sectors."
It monitors and documents violations, provides legal aid and advocacy, and helps Gazans on "fundamental issues such as basic human rights, democracy, and international humanitarian" matters. It also produces reports and publications on its work.
Recognizing the Jewish State of Israel
What are the consequences of Israel’s newest demand for recognition on the Palestinian people and prospects for peace?
By Abu Yusef from occupied Palestine | Palestine Monitor | 19 April 2009
Here in Palestine, we have been utterly confused as to why Israel has publicly backtracked from the Annapolis Peace Process over the last weeks, in the midst of overt US pressure to continue the broken negotiations.
We understand that parties like Shas, Likud, Israel Beitenu and others in the coalition do not want to achieve any meaningful peace, and that in fact they want only to extend the Israel’s civilian and military reach into the occupied Palestinian Territories…so why would they be adverse to what had taken place since Annapolis? If anything they should be the ones eagerly promoting a return to the process, while the Palestinians should be running for the hills.
After all, since Annapolis:
- Not one of the over 6 million Palestinian refugees from abroad has been granted the right of return to either Israel or the occupied Palestinian Territories.
- Gaza, while disengaged from by Israel in the civilian sense, remains occupied and controlled by Israel in every other way imaginable.
- The number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails has increased to over 11,000.
- The Judaization of East Jerusalem has continued full bore with the destruction and seizure of hundreds of Palestinian homes.
- The illegal annexation Wall has continued to grow in the occupied Palestinian Territories despite its condemnation in international and Israeli courts.
- The settlement enterprise not only continued throughout 2008, it increased dramatically. Tenders for new construction increased by 550% (!), and a whole 55% of these were designated for construction even beyond the illegal annexation Wall.
- The system of checkpoints and movement restrictions, by which Palestine is turned in to a series of isolated cantons, have increased dramatically throughout 2008, and are set to increase ever more according to the promises of Israel’s Avigdor Liebermann.
JERUSALEM (AFP) – Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire on Tuesday accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing" policies in annexed east Jerusalem, where the municipality plans to tear down almost 90 Arab homes.
"I believe the Israeli government is carrying out a policy of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians here in east Jerusalem," said Maguire, who won the 1976 Nobel prize for her efforts at reaching a peaceful solution to the violence in Northern Ireland.
"I believe the Israeli government policies are against international law, against human rights, against the dignity of the Palestinian people," she said at a news conference.
It was held in a protest tent erected by residents of east Jerusalem's Silwan neighbourhood where 88 Arab homes are under demolition orders.
Harman's Wiretap Woes and the AIPAC Clique
By Marcy Winograd
How ironic that I made my decision to challenge Jane Harman in 2006 after watching her Meet the Press interview in which she lambasted the New York Times for breaking the story about the Bush administration's massive illegal wiretapping. "Oh my God," I told my husband, who was doing Sunday sit-ups in front of the television set, "this woman needs to be challenged -- on the wiretaps, on the war, and on her collusion with the Bush mob."
By the time I poured my coffee and cranked up my cell phone, I was off and running, campaigning as an insurgent Democratic Party peace candidate in the 36th congressional district.
The Aftermath of the War on Gaza and Israeli Elections: Problems and Prospects Facing Palestinian/Israeli Peace
Executive Summary | Link to complete paper
The War on Gaza ‐ The 22‐day war on Gaza did not move the conflict closer to resolution. After the war the imbalance of threats remains the same. HAMAS was able to launch rockets on the last day of the war and Israel maintains the ability to prevent food and fuel from entering the strip and can bombard it at will. The end result will undoubtedly have to be a negotiated agreement based on the security needs of both sides and for this to work it must be evenhandedly mediated and verified by third parties.
West Bank Situation ‐ As recently as this month the State of Israel announced plans for the major expansion of settlements in the West Bank. The establishment and expansion of settlements, still illegal under international law, continues unabated, striking at the very heart of Palestinians distrust of the State of Israel. Throughout the peace process settlements have continued to be built or expanded and have created the perception among Palestinians that Israel is only interested in talking about a two‐state solution without genuinely being willing to craft the necessary policies to make it a reality.. Land confiscation and home demolition continues in sensitive areas like East Jerusalem while a separation wall and checkpoints continue to make freedom of movement nearly impossible.
Palestinian Leadership Issues ‐ Since the death of Yasser Arafat divisions in Palestinian politics have continued to grow. Erupting in bloody conflict in the summer of 2007, the growing dispute between HAMAS and FATEH has left the internationally recognized Palestinian leadership in a week and illegitimate position. Recently conducted public opinion polling shows that the war on Gaza seems to have exacerbated the Palestinian crisis of legitimacy and calls into question the ability of President Mahmoud Abass to govern or negotiate a lasting peace. Many elected representatives in the Palestinian Legislative Council continue to be held by Israel as political prisoners.
Israel Leadership Issues ‐ The recent elections in Israel, which have lead to a new government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have brought the right wing of the Israeli political spectrum to power. Netanyahu’s previous record as Prime Minister, the platform positions of the empowered right wing parties, and statements of party officials during the campaign period indicate that the policies of the next Israeli government is not supportive of the two state solution within the framework of pertinent UN resolutions. The US government should ensure that the upcoming Israeli government publically declares its support for such a solution and that the latter takes tangible steps to enact it.
United Nations officials on Monday tried to save an anti-racism summit in Geneva after some delegates walked out in response to a speech by Mahmoud Ahmadi-nejad, the Iranian president, describing Zionist rule in Israel as racist.
”Following World War II they resorted to military aggressions to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering,” Mr Ahmadinejad told the conference, speaking through a translator.
Peter Gooderham, British ambassador, condemned the Iranian leader’s ”offensive and inflammatory comments” that prompted the temporary walk-out. Delegates said they would return after he had finished speaking.
Rep. Jane Harman, the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington.
Harman was recorded saying she would “waddle into” the AIPAC case “if you think it’ll make a difference,” according to two former senior national security officials familiar with the NSA transcript.
The Israeli military is preparing itself to launch a massive aerial assault on Iran's nuclear facilities within days of being given the go-ahead by its new government.
Among the steps taken to ready Israeli forces for what would be a risky raid requiring pinpoint aerial strikes are the acquisition of three Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) aircraft and regional missions to simulate the attack.
Two nationwide civil defence drills will help to prepare the public for the retaliation that Israel could face.
“Israel wants to know that if its forces were given the green light they could strike at Iran in a matter of days, even hours. They are making preparations on every level for this eventuality. The message to Iran is that the threat is not just words,” one senior defence official told The Times.
Officials believe that Israel could be required to hit more than a dozen targets, including moving convoys. The sites include Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges produce enriched uranium; Esfahan, where 250 tonnes of gas is stored in tunnels; and Arak, where a heavy water reactor produces plutonium.
The distance from Israel to at least one of the sites is more than 870 miles, a distance that the Israeli force practised covering in a training exercise last year that involved F15 and F16 jets, helicopters and refuelling tankers.
The possible Israeli strike on Iran has drawn comparisons to its attack on the Osirak nuclear facility near Baghdad in 1981. That strike, which destroyed the facility in under 100 seconds, was completed without Israeli losses and checked Iraqi ambitions for a nuclear weapons programme.
The United States is boycotting a U.N. conference on racism next week over a document that "singles out" Israel in its criticism and conflicts with the nation's "commitment to unfettered free speech," the U.S. State Department said Saturday.
The Obama administration made the decision not to attend the Durban Review Conference in Geneva "with regret," a State Department statement said.
Two months ago, the administration had warned that it would boycott the conference if changes were not made to the document to be adopted by the conference. In recent weeks, discussions over the document have fueled several revisions, but the changes to the language didn't meet U.S. expectations, the statement said.
The following the complete text of Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Khazaee's letter to the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, over Israel's latest threats to attack Iran. From Press TV
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
In a direct challenge to President Barack Obama's commitment to rejuvenate moribund Mideast peace talks, Israel on Thursday dismissed American-led efforts to establish a Palestinian state and laid out new conditions for renewed negotiations.
Leaders of Israel's hawkish new government told former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, the special U.S. envoy, that they aren't going to rush into peace talks with their Palestinian neighbors.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he would require Palestinians to accept Israel as a Jewish state in any future negotiations - a demand that Palestinians have up to now rejected, Israeli government officials said.
I keep braying that Gaza is a watershed moment in American political life and American Jewish life.
The billboard is one of ten being put up in New Mexico by an Albuquerque-based grassroots org (the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel).
The group looks to be multicultural, and led by two Jews, Lori Rudolph and Rich Forer. Forer says that he is a former member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) who has been shaken from ideological slumbers in the last couple of years by the Israeli New Historians.
He has learned that Jewish schoolchildren are "grossly misinformed" about the conflict and are taught to demonize Palestinians. Gaza was a "monstrous act of inhumanity," he continues, and Israel must act sincerely to restore the dignity to both peoples.
Monstrous act of inhumanity, that is the takeaway phrase. I believe anyone can be a member of AIPAC; but Forer's epiphany is evidently sincere, and symptomatic of a change in the American Jewish relationship to Israel that AIPAC will have to reckon with.
Investigating Israeli War Crimes in Gaza
by Stephen Lendman
Independent investigations and convincing testimonies, on both sides, provide compelling evidence of Israeli war crimes in Gaza. It's time to hold the guilty accountable.
In February, the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights showed conclusively how Israel violated core international law principles by indiscriminately attacking civilians in spite of IDF claims such instances were justified.
Amnesty International accused Israel of war crimes and called on the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has a long record of acting as an imperial agent even while at times fulfilling its mandate "to protect the human rights of people around the world....stand with (them) and uphold political freedom (by) bring(ing) offenders to justice."
By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, UPI
Gulf Cooperation Council members -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman -- are getting ready for what many now assume will be retaliation from Iran following Israeli bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities later this year.
Up and down the Persian Gulf, Patriot missile batteries have been quietly deployed around key oil installations. The Patriot system is designed to detect, target and then hit incoming missiles that may be no more than 10 to 20 feet long and flying at three to five times the speed of sound. Iran has hundreds of missiles and rockets.
Sometimes, reading about the Middle East, or at least about Israel, Iran, and nuclear weapons, feels like your most basic broken-record phenomenon. As New York Times op-ed columnist Roger Cohen reminded readers recently, there's nothing new about Israeli predictions that Iranian "madmen" -- or rather, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of a rather extreme new government, put it recently, "a messianic apocalyptic cult" -- would soon have nuclear weapons in their hands. The charges and predictions of the imminent arrival of the Iranian bomb go back well into the 1990s and yet, despite Iran's growing nuclear enrichment program, we still don't know what the true predilections of its leaders are on the basic issue of weaponization. (They might, for instance, be planning to opt for the Japan "solution," not weaponizing, but simply being capable of doing so relatively quickly.)
The other part of that broken-record phenomenon concerns Israel's nuclear arsenal, which I wrote about at TomDispatch back in 2003, since which time remarkably little has changed. One of the genuinely strange aspects of just about anything you can read here in the U.S. on nuclear weapons and the Middle East is this: all fear and much print (and TV time) is focused on whether the Iranians may someday, in the near or far future, get a nuclear weapon; that is, we're focused on a weapon that doesn't yet exist and, for all we know, may never exist.
A week before Israel launched an aerial bombing campaign on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the U.S. military shipped 989 20-foot containers of munitions, each weighing 14,000 tonnes, to Israel.
In the dying days of the Bush administration, and a week before Israel launched an aerial bombing campaign, followed by a land invasion of the Gaza Strip, the U.S. military shipped 989 containers of munitions to Israel.
Each container was 20-feet long with a total estimated net weight of 14,000 tonnes. The shipment reportedly reached Israel last month at Ashod, 40 kiometres north of Gaza. The huge arsenal of munitions will replenish those expended in the Gaza War.
According to Amnesty International in the UK, the shipment included white phosphorous.
By Dave Lindorff
When I was a 17-year-old kid in my senior year of high school, I didn’t think much about Vietnam. It was 1967, the war was raging, but I didn’t personally know anyone who was over there, Tet hadn’t happened yet. If anything, the excitement of jungle warfare attracted my interest more than anything (I had a .22 cal rifle, and liked to go off in the woods and shoot at things, often, I’ll admit, imagining it was an armed enemy.)
But then I had to do a major project in my humanities program and I chose the Vietnam War. As I started researching this paper, which was supposed to be a multi-media presentation, I ran across a series of photos of civilian victims of American napalm bombing. These victims, often, were women and children—even babies.
By Gareth Porter and Jim Lobe, IPS
WASHINGTON, Apr 8 (IPS) - A recent statement by the chief of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), Gen. David Petraeus, that Israel may decide to attack Iranian nuclear sites has been followed by indications of a debate within the Barack Obama administration on whether Israel's repeated threats to carry out such a strike should be used to gain leverage in future negotiations with Tehran.
In the latest twist, Vice President Joseph Biden, who has been put in charge of the administration’s non-proliferation agenda, appeared to reject the idea. "I don't believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu would [launch a strike]," he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Tuesday. "I think he would be ill-advised to do that."
Philip Rizk, 27, a freelance journalist and blogger who has been reporting from Gaza since 2005, was taken by Egyptian security forces after a pro-Palestinian rally in Cairo on February 6.
He was released a few days later without being charged.
While in Gaza, he filmed The Palestinian Life, a documentary highlighting non-violent means of resistance against the Israeli occupation.
The film is premiering at the London International Documentary Festival on April 4. Here are excerpts from an interview Rizk gave to Al Jazeera shortly before the film’s debut.
Calling for a Boycott of Israel for its Treatment of Palestinians is not Anti-Semitic
Montclair, NJ, April 8, 2009 -- More than 370 Jewish peace activists from around the world signed a statement defending German politician Hermann Dierkes against charges of anti-Semitism.
Dierkes, a left-wing politician with a distinguished record of fighting for social justice, called for a boycott of Israeli goods as a means of putting pressure on the Israeli government to end its oppression of Palestinians. For this he has been subjected to vicious denunciations for anti-Semitism.
The signers of the statement -- from Israel, Germany, the United States, and several other countries -- expressed their objection to those "who use charges of anti-Semitism to attempt to squelch legitimate dissent."