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WASHINGTON, Mar 13 (IPS) - Although the successful campaign to keep Amb. Charles "Chas" Freeman out of a top intelligence post marked a surface victory for the pro-Israel hardliners who opposed him, the long-term political implications of the Freeman affair appear far more ambiguous.
Freeman’s withdrawal has provoked growing - if belated - media scrutiny of the operations of the so-called "Israel Lobby", and aroused protests from a number of prominent mainstream political commentators who allege that he was the target of a dishonest and underhanded smear campaign that, among other things, accused him of shilling for the governments of Saudi Arabia and China.
A newly-released recording of Osama bin Laden compared Israel's January military strikes in Gaza to the Nazi Holocaust and renewed the al-Qaida leader's condemnation of Arab states for, in his view, failing to support the Palestinians.
A brief audio recording of bin Laden was aired by the Al-Jazeera satellite channel. Its authenticity could not be immediately verified. It refers to the Israeli military operation in Gaza in December and January, and charges that Arab states were, in bin Laden's words, "complicit with the crusader-Zionist alliance against our people."
Israel's War Crimes
Israel blamed its earlier wars on the threat to its security, even that against Lebanon in 1982. However, its assault on Gaza was not justified and there are international calls for an investigation. But is there the political will to make Israel account for its war crimes?
by Richard Falk | LeMonde
For the first time since the establishment of Israel in 1948 the government is facing serious allegations of war crimes from respected public figures throughout the world. Even the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, normally so cautious about offending sovereign states - especially those aligned with its most influential member, the United States - has joined the call for an investigation and potential accountability. To grasp the significance of these developments it is necessary to explain what made the 22 days of attacks in Gaza stand shockingly apart from the many prior recourses to force by Israel to uphold its security and strategic interests.
In my view, what made the Gaza attacks launched on 27 December different from the main wars fought by Israel over the years was that the weapons and tactics used devastated an essentially defenceless civilian population. The one-sidedness of the encounter was so stark, as signalled by the relative casualties on both sides (more than 100 to 1; 1300-plus Palestinians killed compared with 13 Israelis, and several of these by friendly fire), that most commentators refrained from attaching the label "war".
Iran Nuke Myth Heats up
Retired Amb. Chas Freeman, who said today that he no longer accepts an offer to chair the National Intelligence Council, has just sent this message:
You will by now have seen the statement by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair reporting that I have withdrawn my previous acceptance of his invitation to chair the National Intelligence Council.
By Robert Parry
The neoconservatives have demonstrated that their power in Washington remains strong as they have succeeded in keeping veteran diplomat Chas Freeman out of a top intelligence job. READ IT.
Timidity Derails Obama Intel Choice
By Ray McGovern
On Tuesday morning, Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, employed the indicative mood in describing the high value that Chas Freeman, his appointee to head the National Intelligence Council (NIC), will bring to the job — “his long experience and inventive mind,” for example. READ IT.
Chas Freeman's own comments:
I have concluded that the barrage of libelous distortions of my record would not cease upon my entry into office. The effort to smear me and to destroy my credibility would instead continue. I do not believe the National Intelligence Council could function effectively while its chair was under constant attack by unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign country. READ IT.
A lasting ceasefire was urgently needed to keep Gaza crossings open, which will allow the Palestinian economy to recover, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.
In a message to a UN seminar on assistance to the Palestinian people in Cairo, Mr. Ban called for a “proper and durable” end of hostilities to “allow for a return of calm” to Gaza and southern Israel.
“The situation at the crossings is intolerable,” he said, stressing the need for Israel to ease the closure.
The overall humanitarian situation in Gaza remains unchanged, according to an update from the office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory.
Yoni Goodman, director of animation for the Academy Award-nominated film, "Waltz with Bashir", talks about the process of making his new animated film on the closure of Gaza together with the human rights group Gisha.
Click "Read more" to see the animation's making and goal.
By Ann Wright, retired US Army Reserve Colonel
“Would women in Gaza really celebrate International Women’s Day?” was the question members of our 58 person delegation from United States, Canada, Pakistan, France, Australia, Egypt, Dubai and Turkey asked as we travelled from Cairo to the Gaza border.
In less than three weeks, the delegates had responded to an appeal by Codepink: Women for Peace to join an international delegation to try to go into Gaza at the invitation of the United Nations Works and Relief Agency of Gaza (UNWRA).
Women of Gaza have so little to celebrate.
by Linda Milazzo
Certainly no person aware of Israel's blockade of goods and services to Gaza, or Israel's devastating bombing of Gaza, would consider Gaza a vacation haven. Gaza is not a place of joy. It’s an overcrowded war-zone populated by more than a million terrified men, women and children. They subsist amidst the rubble caused by Israel's missiles that crushed their homes and killed their loved ones. They inhabit a tiny strip of land that can be driven across in two hours. They have no space for recreation. They have no scenic boulevards and tony cafes. Even their beach is a danger. Their lives are a daily challenge of fear, illness, hunger, anguish, poverty, joblessness, homelessness and physical and emotional wounds.
Israel, on the other hand, which propagates its struggle for survival and its imminent danger as rationale for killing and imprisoning Palestinians, is promoted as a vacation oasis. Witness the glory of Israel from the video below that loops frequently on local Los Angeles TV. No fear, hunger, rubble or homelessness appear in this portrayal of Israel. Only beauty, riches and joy.
Pots of urine, feces on the walls - how IDF troops vandalized Gaza homes
By Amira Hass | Haaretz
GAZA - We had already visited this house, belonging to the Abu Eida family. It is the only one of the family's nine large houses that remained standing at the eastern edge of the city of Jabalya following Operation Cast Lead. The demolition of the family's houses and its four cement factories spells the loss of 40 years of hard work.
One Hebrew word scrawled on a wall tells the story of the 10 days when young Israeli soldiers became the ostensible prison wardens of five people. The youngest is Suheila Masalha, 55; the eldest is her mother Fatma, who is perhaps 85 or 90 or older. The only man is her brother Mohammed, 65, who is paralyzed and dependent on the women of his family. And there were two more women from the Abu Eida family - Rasmiya, 70, who owns the house, and her sister-in-law Na'ama, 56, who is blind.
A confidential EU report accuses the Israeli government of using settlement expansion, house demolitions, discriminatory housing policies and the West Bank barrier as a way of "actively pursuing the illegal annexation" of East Jerusalem.
The document says Israel has accelerated its plans for East Jerusalem, and is undermining the Palestinian Authority's credibility and weakening support for peace talks. "Israel's actions in and around Jerusalem constitute one of the most acute challenges to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making," says the document, EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem.
Raed al-Atamna's family's six houses were destroyed in the recent Gaza conflict, as well as the cars he uses to earn his living as a taxi driver.
With nearly 3,000 families homeless, rented accommodation is scarce in Gaza - Mr Atamna's pregnant wife and seven children are now staying with relatives, while he sleeps in a corrugated metal shack next to his ruined house.
The Israeli military says it destroyed buildings because of "substantial operational needs", for example because of booby traps or militants in them, but Amnesty International says "wanton destruction" occurred, in violation of international law.
Iranian missiles can now reach Israeli nuclear sites, a top Iranian military commander said yesterday.
"Today, Iran has missiles with the range of 2,000km, and based on that all Israeli land including that regime's nuclear facilities are in the range of our missile capabilities," Revolutionary Guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said in comments carried by the ISNA news agency.
However, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said a breakthrough was possible if negotiations were conducted on an "equal footing" and insisted on Iran's right to nuclear power.
Israel is seriously considering taking unilateral military action to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, according to a report by top US political figures and experts released Wednesday.
The report also says Israel's time frame for action is growing shorter, not only because of Iranian advances, but because Teheran might soon acquire upgraded air defenses and disperse its nuclear program to additional locations.
Donor conference pledges $5B for Gaza, Abbas gov't
By Salah Nasrawi and John Heilprin | Yahoo!News
But the meeting's broader message targeted Hamas, seeking to isolate the Islamic militant movement and force it to compromise in its control of Gaza. Many of the participants — including top diplomats from 45 nations — called for the creation of a Palestinian unity government led by Abbas that would be able to rebuild Gaza and pursue peace negotiations with Israel.
International donors pledged $5.2 billion Monday to rebuild the devastated Gaza Strip and fund the Palestinian government, giving a powerful boost to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and putting new pressure on the rival Hamas militant group to moderate.
Five tunnel workers died Sunday when a tunnel collapsed from heavy rains. One of them was Ahmed Abu Samhadaneh, 20, a second-year university student. He had supported his parents and seven siblings with tunnel work for the past year, as the only breadwinner...."If the border was open, my son would still be alive today,...He wouldn't have to go work in the tunnels."
As top diplomats pledged billions of dollars for war-ravaged Gaza on Monday, ordinary people here — from merchants to housewives — said they'd rather have open borders than handouts.
The labeling as anti-Semitic of anyone critical of the state of Israel’s policies in the continued destruction of Palestinian identity and the increasing domination into American foreign policy no longer has the sting of threat or intimidation it once mastered. For too long this masquerade has been used to silence those opposing anything Israel, shouted at anyone disseminating truth and seeking justice. Like the boy who cried wolf, this charade has lost its power or hypnotic control, and today only serves to breed more anger and resentment against the apologists and smear mongers protecting the cancerous tentacles of Zionism and the crimes against humanity it spawns.
Israeli leaders pledge 'painful' rocket response | MSNBC
Olmert suggests Israel's earlier offensive against Gaza fell short of its goal
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday threatened a "painful" response to Palestinian rocket fire menacing southern Israel, suggesting that Israel's blistering offensive against Gaza Strip militants fell short of its goals.
The prospect of heightened hostilities in Hamas-ruled Gaza cast a pall over a week of crucial diplomatic activity, including an international conference designed to drum up billions of dollars to rebuild the heavily damaged territory. With a new Israeli government to take office within weeks, however, it wasn't clear how sweeping any response would be.
Hamas, the militant Palestinian organisation, attempted to conduct secret talks with the Israeli leadership in the protracted run-up to the recent war in Gaza - with messages being passed from the group at one stage through a member of prime minister Ehud Olmert's family.
Confirmation of attempts to establish a direct line of communication between Hamas and Israel - and the willingness of senior figures in Hamas to contemplate direct negotiations - fundamentally alters the narrative of the build-up to the war in Gaza which claimed more than 1,300 Palestinian lives and led to about a dozen Israeli deaths.
Maamon Khozendar, chairman of Khozendar and Sons Company Ltd., is one of Gaza's most successful industrialists. He's a petroleum importer, and executes major construction projects around the Palestinian enclave.
What he'd most like to do now is help his fellow Gazans recover from the devastating 22-day war that came to an uncertain pause in late January. But rebuilding and rehabilitating Gaza requires the basics of the construction industry – cement and steel – that Israel will not allow in through their border crossings.
His dilemma presents a window into a core challenge faced by Palestinians and international donors as they gather in Egypt on Monday to pledge funds for postwar reconstruction.
The disproportionate and indiscriminate actions by Israeli forces during Operation Cast Lead rightly earned Israel's leaders international opprobrium, and in some cases the verbal outrage was backed by concrete sanctions. Having last year declared an upgrading of relations with Israel, the EU decided last month to put the process on hold in the wake of the carnage in Gaza.
Israel blocks pasta shipment to Gaza, and tensions boil
By Dion Nissenbaum | McClatchy Newspapers
For more than seven weeks, the international aid group Mercy Corps has been trying to send 90 tons of macaroni to the isolated Gaza Strip as part of a global campaign to help the 1.4 million Palestinians there rebuild their lives after Israel's recent devastating 22-day military operation.
Israel, which controls most of what goes into and out of Gaza, has said no repeatedly.
At first, Israeli officials said that they wanted to make sure that the macaroni wasn't destined for a Hamas charity. Then they said macaroni was banned because they didn't consider it an essential food item.
On Wednesday, days after American lawmakers raised pointed questions about the macaroni ban, Israeli authorities said that they were preparing to give the pasta a green light.
The US is likely to boycott a UN racism conference, reports say, saying a text drawn up for the event criticises Israel and restricts free of speech.
An unnamed state department official said the draft document for April's forum in Geneva was "unsalvageable".
Canada and Israel have also said they plan to boycott the meeting.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says he advocates a war on Iran, following the country's successful test-runs at the Bushehr power plant.
Tehran edged closer towards the final launch of a light-water reactor in the southern port of Bushehr on Wednesday, after it staged pre-commission operations at the 1000-megawatt reactor.
Simulated fuel rods made of lead were reportedly used instead of virtual nuclear fuel in the pilot operation, which was launched in the presence of Iranian and Russian dignitaries -- including Russian nuclear agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko.
While the incident was hailed in Iran as a huge leap in the construction of the country's first power reactor, the test-run immediately raised hackles in Israel.
In recent days, four key developments have clicked in to edge Iran and Israel much closer to a military denouement with profound consequences for American oil that the nation is not prepared to meet.
What has happened?
Bibi Netanyahus assumption of power in Israel sets the stage for a huge campaign by the Israeli government, and its well-oiled lobby groups in Washington, to push us into a war with Iran.
Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, according to U.S. and European intelligence agencies. But reality rarely impedes on politics. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, along with Netanyahu, all talk as if Iran is on the brink of dropping the big one on the Jewish state.
Netanyahu on Friday named Iran as Israels main threat after he was called to form a new government following the Feb. 20 elections.
Ex-Lobbyists in U.S. Case of Espionage Win a Round
By Neil A. Lewis | NY Times | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled in favor of two former lobbyists for a pro-Israeli advocacy group in deciding how much classified information they may use in their defense on espionage charges.
A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond, Va., ruled against the government and in favor of the defendants, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, whose trial is now scheduled for April. The appeals court also refused to entertain the government’s objections to a series of formidable hurdles to a conviction put in place by the trial judge.
Targeting Israel with Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions, and Prosecutions
by Stephen Lendman
Enough is enough. After 61 years of Palestinian slaughter, displacement, occupation, oppression, and international dismissiveness and complicity, global action is essential. Israel must be held accountable. World leaders won't do it, so grassroots movements must lead the way.
In 2004, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote:
"The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure - in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Over the past six months, a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation."
On Friday, 16 January, Mohammed Shurrab and his two sons, Kassab and Ibrahim, took advantage of the daily lull in the Israeli assault – the ‘three hours’ promised by the IDF – to travel from their plot of land in the eastern part of the Gaza Strip back to their home in Khan Younis. They were driving a red Land Rover. On the road, soldiers in a tank waved them on. Later, in the village of Al Fukhari, in a street lined with small houses and gardens, their vehicle was shot at by soldiers stationed on the roof of a local home. Kassab was killed instantly. Ibrahim lay bleeding beside his father; he died at midnight. Mohammed Shurrab had called for help on his cellphone, but the army prevented ambulances from entering the area until 23 hours after the shooting. The closest hospital was two minutes’ drive away.