Thursday, June 25, 2009

Long, Slow, Cruel: Endless Isolation in Israeli Prisons

With a voice full of hope for a brighter future, and optimism that the end of suffering is near, the prisoner Hasan Salamah repeated songs he has memorized in order to break the routine of a deadly dull life in cramped isolation cells where mercy is unknown and the only smells are those associated with depression, death or insanity.

The prisoner, Salamah, sentenced to several life sentences, has been held in solitary confinement for six years. The occupation authorities have accused him of responsibility for the deaths of scores of Zionists. He is one of more than 100 Palestinian prisoners being held in isolation cells in various sections of Israeli prisons. This isolation may continue for many years so as to drill into the prisoner's mind, body and soul effects which can not be easily erased. The psyche and the body are subjected to ongoing pressure by being deprived of everything, even the simplest conversation with another human being.

Although isolation is a punishment which is supposed to be limited to a specific duration, the occupation has deliberately set no time limits on it so as to crank up the psychological pressure on prisoners. Isolation is periodically extended throughout the period of confinement by means of a kangaroo court known as the Court of Extended Isolation. The prisoner is brought before the court without ever being informed of the reason for his isolation, which is usually based upon a recommendation by the Zionist internal security service, Shin Bet. The prisoner is merely informed that his isolation has been extended on the basis of confidential material. The extension will be for a year if the isolation is partial (i.e., two persons in one cell) and for a period of six months if the prisoner is completely alone in the cell. Throughout this new term the prisoner continues to endure all the forms of suffering he had previously endured until he is brought before a new court in the following year to receive a new extension from the judge for another year for the same reasons (confidential material), and so on, year after year.

Punishment for Leaders!

According to the Ministry of Current and Released Prisoners, in a report on prisoners being held in isolation, the Israeli Department of Corrections imposes the punishment of isolation on those prisoners accused of carrying out major resistance attacks that led to the death of Zionists or on prisoners who are considered leaders of the nationalist movement among the prisoners, whose words carry weight with the other prisoners.

The goal is to humiliate the prisoner, break his will, destroy his psyche, and turn him into a body without a spirit. They are keen to turn him into fertile ground for the spread of debilitating diseases that weaken the bones and impair vision. They want the isolated prisoner to lose both spirit and body, so that he will long for death a thousand times rather than remain stuck within the same walls, talking to himself and counting the hours and days that drag by, waiting to emerge from this dark tomb.

Riyad al-Ashqar, director of the Information Department of the Ministry, explains that isolation is of two types: The first is in individual cells -called snuke- in which a prisoner is held in solitary confinement. These are no bigger than 1.5 × 2 meters, and there is no room to move, walk or pray. There is one mattress, a blanket, one bottle for relieving oneself, and another for drinking water. The prisoner is only allowed to go to the bathroom once a day.

In these cells prisoners lose all sense of time; they do not know the times of prayer or even when day turns to night. They are not allowed to have watches, radios, newspapers, or any means of communication with the outside world, nor are they permitted to purchase anything from the prison canteen.

The second type of isolation is in a wing of the prison completely devoted to isolation cells. The cells in these sections are slightly better than snuke, and are large enough to house more than one prisoner. They have a toilet inside each cell, and prisoners are allowed to prepare food inside the cell.

The Prisoners Subjected to the Greatest Isolation

Al-Ashqar explained that the number of prisoners being held in isolation is more than 100 prisoners in various prisons, with some being held in solitary confinement within the isolation wings of the prisons of Askalan, Ramla, Ayalon, Nafha and Beer Sheba. There are a number of prisoners who have been singled out by the prison management for punishment by isolation on a continuous basis. They are:
  • Hasan Salamah, from the city of Khan Younis, has been sentenced to dozens of life sentences. So far he has spent six years in isolation.

  • Hamid Ibrahim, from Silwad, has been sentenced to dozens of life sentences. He has been held in isolation ever since his initial arrest more than three years ago.

  • Mahmoud Eesa, from Jerusalem, has been sentenced to several life sentences. So far he has spent eight years in isolation.

  • Tayseer Samoudi, from Yamoun, has spent more than 14 years being shifted from one isolation cell to another.

  • Mu'taz Hijazi, from Jerusalem, was sentenced to 11 years. So far he has spent six years in isolation.

  • Abd al-Naser Halees has spent more than ten years so far in isolation.

  • Jamal Abu Haija of Jenin, has been sentenced to several life sentences. So far he has spent four years in isolation.

  • Abdullah al-Barghouthi, of Ramallah, has been sentenced to dozens of life sentences. So far he has spent five years in isolation.

  • Ahmed al-Maghrabi, from Bethlehem, has been sentenced to several life sentences. So far he has spent five years in isolation.

  • Mohammed Jamal Natsheh, from Hebron; a member of a Legislative Council, he was sentenced to eight years. He has spent five years in isolation.

  • Uwaydah Kallab from the Gaza Strip, was condemned to life imprisonment. He has stayed more than ten years in isolation.

  • Hisham Sharbati was sentenced to eight years; he has spent three years in isolation.

  • Zaher Jabareen, from Hebron, was sentenced to life imprisonment. He has been isolated more than once; the longest period was for two years.

  • Musa Dudeen, from Hebron, was sentenced to life imprisonment and has been subjected to isolation more than six times.

  • Mahawish Nu'aymat of Rafah has spent more than a year in isolation since his arrest.

  • Mohammed Jaber Ubaydi, of the town of Kafr Ni'ma, has spent four years in isolation.

  • Usamah al-Ainabusi of the town of Tubas.

  • Saleh Dar Musa from the town of Bayt Luqya.

  • Jihad Yaghmour of Jerusalem.

Suffering without Limits

Al-Ashqar identified a number of forms of suffering endured by prisoners confined in isolation cells. Among the most serious is being confined in sections that house common criminals; there they are subjected to every form of abuse, curses, and having flammable liquids thrown at them. They are also subjected to a steady assault on their religious sentiments and continued harassment by loud music, constant drumming on their doors and being repeatedly subjected to prisoner counts at short intervals.

Prisoners are not allowed to go out to the exercise "yard" except one hour a day, and the guards manipulate the timing of that hour so that on bitterly cold days they come at six in the morning to announce that anyone who wants to exercise must wake up. If one prisoner wants to sleep and the other wants to go out, the one who stays must wake up to have manacles placed on his hands so that the other can go out. If he doesn't wake up, the other will be deprived of the opportunity to go out in the yard. If they both want to go out, manacles are put on both, and they go out one by one. Frequently one of them will be required to remain out in the yard in manacles. Worse still, manacles are a feature of all the details of daily life. Prisoners are handcuffed when the trash is taken out, when receiving visits from lawyers or family members, and when going out to the clinic or the court. The prisoner will be placed on the examination bed and made to lie with his hands under his back. Prisoners are even forced to give urine samples in a most humiliating way while manacled.

The prisoner in isolation is imposed upon in all aspects of life. The prison administration may, for instance, require one prisoner to be paired off with another in cells that are usually cramped and poorly ventilated. The administration will deliberately pair a non-smoker with a smoker or a religious prisoner with a non-religious one to set the prisoners up for 24-hours-a-day of conflict. If one of them tries to protest or get a transfer away from the other, the solution is blows and truncheons. They are forced to live together, and if they refuse, all their personal belongings are confiscated and the cell is converted to a snuke or torture chamber stripped of all personal belongings. More than once the brothers are told, "One of you could get rid of the other by having the other one die."

A prisoner is subjected to the severest penalties if he reads the Qur'an aloud, or breaks anything inadvertently, or speaks with another prisoner in the section. If a piece of metal, wire or string tied for some particular purpose is found in a cell, all electrical devices will be removed from it and the prisoner will be denied access to the canteen and the daily exercise outing. As for visits from family members, these are already prohibited, except in rare cases.

In addition, there are sudden raids in the middle of the night by a special unit wearing masks and equipped with video cameras. They conduct violent searches in which the prisoner is stripped naked for no reason and handcuffed while his personal belongings are broken and trifled with and the room is turned upside down. After the inspection is completed, the door is locked and the prisoner sticks his hands through a large hole in the bottom of the door to have the handcuffs removed. For two or three days after an inspection a prisoner will work to restore order to his room, only to have the same procedure repeated a few days later.

If a prisoner in isolation is afflicted by any health ailment he will have to go through a complicated set of procedures before being able to see a doctor. He will have to register for the clinic several times. Often the isolation section will have a specific day of the week set aside when those prisoners are allowed to go out for clinic visits. If the day is Monday, for example, and the prisoner gets sick on Tuesday, he will have to wait the whole week before being allowed to go to the clinic. If the officer assigned to take him happens to be busy or has the day off, he loses his chance and has to wait for another week. When he does finally get to the clinic he will remain handcuffed during the examination and forced to listen to insults from the doctor and the nurse. If blood tests or imaging are necessary, he will have to wait for months, if he ever gets one.

Isolation wings tend to be unhealthy places with poor ventilation and poor hygiene; rats run on the food, and the rooms are filled with cockroaches and mosquitoes. Worst of all, the daily exercise yard is no more than a room 5 meters longs by 4 meters wide with a cement roof. It gets no sun, and it is not possible to use it for exercise or even a walk, it being frequently filled with the leftovers of the common criminals, such as urine, feces and other filth.

Prisoners in isolation are denied all religious rights such as holidays, Friday prayers, even religious books. A prisoner may even sometimes have his prayer rug taken away. They are, likewise, deprived of family visits and of newspapers.

Psychological effects

The report pointed out that isolation leaves great psychological effects on a prisoner. For years on end he does not see anyone; he is either entirely alone or with one other person, but the two of them cannot mingle with other people. He is subjected to all forms of psychological torture and deprivation, and then when he shows some signs of protest or of being affected by his situation, he is accused of being suicidal. Force is immediately brought to bear; his hands and feet are bound fast to a high iron "perch" on which he sleeps. He is set free only twice a day for half an hour each in the morning and evening to eat and go to the bathroom.

Many international human rights organizations have confirmed that isolation leaves clear, striking psychological effects on prisoners. Some prisoners go insane as a result of isolation from the world for long periods, for humans are by nature social beings; they need to talk with others. Should a person be forcibly deprived of expression of this natural instinct, he will be vulnerable to serious mental illnesses that will affect the course of his life.

The prisoner Uwaydah Kallab from the Gaza Strip was sentenced to life imprisonment and has spent 20 years in Israeli prisons, during which he has been isolated for more than 12 years. This has led to serious mental illness and the loss of mental and legal competence. It has resulted in his inability to recognize his friends in prison. He refuses the visits of his relatives, and he refuses to acknowledge his only son, who was a young child when Uwaydah was taken away and is now a young man.

Afeef Awawidah is suffering a serious psychiatric illness caused by isolation for long periods. The prison administration attempted to exploit the prisoner's disease by goading him to attack one of his colleagues in isolation. The prisoner Darwish Dawhal is also suffering from a psychological and neurological condition as a result of solitary confinement; he does not wish to talk with anyone or come out of his cell for the daily exercise session.

There are many other prisoners who are suffering from depression and mental illness as a result of isolation from the world for long periods. The situation calls for a serious stand to stop this criminal policy against the prisoners, which is in contravention of humanitarian conventions. The ministry is calling for immediate intervention by international institutions to curb the Israeli policy of punishing our male and female prisoners by isolation, and to improve the living conditions in prisons to bring them in line with the requirements of international law. They need to do that before they make demands of the Palestinians to release Corporal Gilad Shalit or allow him a visit by the Red Cross.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Israeli Psyops: Tweeting for Iran destabilization

I have found myself getting more and more suspicious about the western media coverage of the Iranian elections and their aftermath.

As I wrote before, What I do know for sure is that there are two simultaneous stories:

1.) What is actually happening in Iran


2.) How it is being reported here.

What I see is that my point two is pushing Bibi Netanyahu and his version of a Palestinian "state" off the front pages.

It is a good thing to remember that while Iran, in reality, actually poses no threat to Israel's existence (Persians are not suicidal), a free, sovereign Palestinian state in "Judea and Samaria" does. or at least to Bibi's version of it. In my opinion the neocons are back at work.

The run up to Iraq made me a bit paranoid I'm afraid, and all those who whooped up that war, haven't folded their tents or committed harakiri either, they are still with us. I simply don't trust the intentions of the US media, not then, not now.

Just like during the run up to the war in Iraq, the US media is not checking the sources, they are just gushing over the twitters and their tweets. And that is professional negligence if there ever was, because they are quite fishy.

Have you noticed that you can read all these Iranian "tweets"? Are you aware that the language of Iran is Farsi, not English? Does this piece of information suggest anything to you? Perhaps, the world is like in Hollywood movies where all the exotic character speak English, albeit with charming foreign accents? Or maybe, the dial on a person's bullshit meter might tremble a bit?

But, unlike the run up to the war in Iraq, this time some amateurs have take the trouble to do the homework that the "professionals" seem too understaffed to do themselves.

A financial website, "Charting Stocks", has taken the trouble that the MSM can't be bothered with and has exposed a very effective Israeli psy-op.

So, whatever is actually happening in Tehran, we now know that the Israelis are manipulating our perceptions.

Sit back and read this:
Proof: Israeli Effort to Destabilize Iran Via Twitter #IranElection

Right-wing Israeli interests are engaged in an all out Twitter attack with hopes of delegitimizing the Iranian election and causing political instability within Iran.

Anyone using Twitter over the past few days knows that the topic of the Iranian election has been the most popular. Thousands of tweets and retweets alleging that the election was a fraud, calling for protests in Iran, and even urging followers hack various Iranian news websites (which they did successfully). The Twitter popularity caught the eye of various blogs such as Mashable and TechCrunch and even made its way to mainstream news media sites.

Were these legitimate Iranian people or the works of a propaganda machine? I became curious and decided to investigate the origins of the information. In doing so, I narrowed it down to a handful of people who have accounted for 30,000 Iran related tweets in the past few days. Each of them had some striking similarities -

1. They each created their twitter accounts on Saturday June 13th.
2. Each had extremely high number of Tweets since creating their profiles.
3. "IranElection" was each of their most popular keyword
4. With some very small exceptions, each were posting in ENGLISH.
5. Half of them had the exact same profile photo
6. Each had thousands of followers, with only a few friends. Most of their friends were EACH OTHER.

Why were these tweets in English? Why were all of these profiles OBSESSED with Iran? It became obvious that this was the work of a team of people with an interest in destabilizing Iran. The profiles are phonies and were created with the sole intention of destabilizing Iran and effecting public opinion as to the legitimacy of Iran's election.

I narrowed the spammers down to three of the most persistent - @StopAhmadi @IranRiggedElect @Change_For_Iran

I decided to do a google search for 2 of the 3 - @StopAhmadi and @IranRiggedElect. The first page to come up was JPost (Jerusalem Post) which is a right wing newspaper pro-Israeli newspaper.

JPost actually ran a story about 3 people "who joined the social network mere hours ago have already amassed thousands of followers." Why would a news organization post a story about 3 people who JUST JOINED TWITTER hours earlier? Is that newsworthy? JPost was the first (and only to my knowledge) major news source that mentioned these 3 spammers.

JPost, a major news organization, promoted these three Twitterers who went on the be the source of the IranElection Twitter bombardment. Why is JPost so concerned about Iranian students all of a sudden (which these spammers claim to be)? I must admit that I had my suspicions. After all, Que Bono? (who benefits).

There's no question that Israel perceives Iran as an enemy, more so than any other nation. According to a recent poll, more than half of Israel's population support using military force against Iran if they do not cease from developing nuclear energy (which they have the legal right to do as per the NNP treaty). Oddly enough, this comes out of a country which is not a cosigner to the NNP treaty and has no right to develop nuclear energy, yet posses an arsenal of nuclear BOMBS.

Of course, Mousavi himself plays an important role in causing the social unrest within Iran. How often do you see a candidate declare himself the winner before any votes are counted and then, when faced with defeat, call the entire election process a fraud? As obvious as it was in our own 2000 election, Al Gore would not touch the topic of voter fraud. No major US politician goes near the subject. They know full well that such an accusation would shake the entire foundation of our democracy and threaten the political structures that are in place.

These twitting spammers began crying foul before the final votes were even counted, just as Mousavi had. The spammer @IranRiggedElect created his profile before a winner was announced and preformed the public service of informing us in the United States , in English and every 10 minutes, of the unfair election. He did so unselfishly, and without any regard for his fellow friends and citizens of Iran, who don't speak English and don't use Twitter!

Meet The Spammers:

3146 followers. 31 friends.
340 tweets in past 4 days. none before that.
Top 5 words - iranelection, cnnfail, mousavi, tehran,
All tweets in English
Time: Bulk between 12pm and 2pm eastern standard time
Most retweets: @StopAhmadi @IranElection09 @change_for_iran

14,000 followers. 0 friends
117 tweets in 2 days. none before that.
All tweets in English
Time: Bulk between 8:00 pm and 11:00 pm eastern.
Top 5 words: iranelection, people, police, right, students
No retweets

800 followers. 9 friends.
196 tweets in 3 days. none before that.
185 in English. 11 in Farsi (Arabic appearing letters. Not sure if it's Farsi)
Time: bulk between 2:00pm and 6:00pm eastern. Also 1:00am.
Top 5 words: iranelection, rt, mousavi, tehran, march
Most retweets: @IranRiggedElect @StopAhmadi

6199 followers. 53 friends.
1107 tweets in past 3 days. None before then.
top 5 words: iranelection, ppl, news, rt, iran.
All tweets in English
Time: bulk between 9:00am and 5:00pm eastern
Most retweets: @mohamadreza @mahdi

1433 followers. 142 friends
(protected account. cant see data)

The following all have the same photo in their profile and are followed by the profiles previously mentioned. (14,000 followers) (800 followers. 9 friends.)
One of the few things that I am sure of and understand in this situation is that the government of Israel, and those they influence, would like the USA to attack Iran. Up till now there has been little or no enthusiasm in the USA for doing so. How to "create" that enthusiasm? Stay tuned.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Biting the hand that feeds: Israeli minister wants sanctions on US

Obama gets tough with the Israelis - or, rather, talks about getting tough - and hilarity ensues:
"In a sign of growing concern in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government over U.S. President Barack Obama's Middle East policies, Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled proposed Israeli sanctions on the U.S. in a letter to cabinet ministers on Sunday.

"In the 11-page letter, obtained by the Jerusalem Post from a minister on Monday, Peled recommends steps Israel can take to compensate for the shift in American policy, which he believes has become hostile to Israel."
According to Peled, the Obama administration will eventually come to realize the error of its ways, but for now the U.S. president seems intent on exerting "intensive pressure to stop building in settlements, remove outposts, and advance the formation of a Palestinian state" - all steps previously agreed to by Israeli leaders, by the way, and now thrown in the trash bin by the far-Right nutballs who have captured the Israeli government.

"But in the interim," the Post reports, "the minister suggests reconsidering military and civilian purchases from the U.S., selling sensitive equipment that the Washington opposes distributing internationally, and allowing other countries that compete with the U.S. to get involved with the peace process and be given a foothold for their military forces and intelligence agencies."

The irony of someone "reconsidering military and civilian purchases" which are being made, or will be made, with our money is a real hoot - but the laughs are just starting!

There's just one conceivable answer to the suggestion that Israel should start "selling sensitive equipment that Washington opposes distributing internationally": when did they ever stop? The Israelis have been stealing U.S. technology and selling it to the Chinese - for one example - for years, much to Washington's chagrin. So does this mean they're going to be doing it openly, instead of sneaking around and doing it on the sly?

As for the idea of giving "other countries that compete with the U.S." a military foothold - go for it, Yossi! I can hardly wait until the Venezuelan army arrives to guard the Wall of Separation. And no doubt the Chinese - grateful for all the high-tech weaponry you've stolen on their behalf - will be more than happy to guard the illegal settlements you're building (with our tax dollars).

And although the French would be grateful, I'm sure, if the Israelis switched from Boeing to Airbus - as Peled suggests - they probably wouldn't want to get involved militarily. The most you can expect is that they'll displace Jerry Lewis from their national pantheon of comedic culture heroes and install this guy in his place.

Oh, but we haven't even gotten to the best part of this "news from Bizarro World" item:
"In what may be his most controversial suggestion, Peled recommends intervening in American congressional races to weaken Obama and asking American Jewish donors not to contribute to Democratic congressional candidates. He predicted that this would result in Democratic candidates pressuring Obama to become more pro-Israel."
Israel intervene in U.S. politics - why, what a novel idea! If Peled hadn't suggested it, it would never - ever - have occurred to me.

Okay, now that you've stopped laughing, just consider: look at all the pro-Israel money that has flowed into the coffers of U.S. congressional candidates, and you have to wonder - is it really enough? Surely the Israelis can afford to ship a few million of those billions we give them directly back to Washington. And, when you think about it, isn't this a way for the Israelis to make up for their boycott of Boeing and other U.S. providers - by pumping extra millions into the U.S. economy, via the campaign chests of our elected officials? They don't call it a "special relationship" for nothing.

The reality, of course, is that the Israelis and their American amen corner are already buying up U.S. politicians by the dozen - no, AIPAC doesn't do it directly, they do it through a complex network of local and regional political action committees. As for the idea of Israel and its American friends exerting pressure on a U.S. official in exchange for under-the-table favors - like, say, intervening in an espionage case - well, it is absolutely unheard of...

Or is it?

You really can't make this stuff up, and, what's more, you don't have to bother. Because the last two times the Israelis went in and slaughtered a few thousands of their neighbors, the U.S. Congress voted to hail them as heroes. When it become clear that our president wouldn't be catering to the Israelis' each and every whim, AIPAC circulated a letter demanding that the White House not "pressure" Tel Aviv - and more than three-quarters of the U.S. Senate signed it, along with the vast majority of House members.

Congress is already "Israeli-occupied territory," as one wag famously put it, so Peled's suggestion is redundant, to say the least. What I suggest, however, is that they start a campaign to impeach Obama, and, once they've succeeded, they should finance and run their own candidate for the White House. After all, look how they got rid of Cynthia McKinney and filled her seat with a suitable replacement.

Yes, the laughs just keep on coming:
"Peled called for the formation of a new body intended to influence American public opinion. The groups he suggests courting include Hispanic Americans and labor unions in industries that benefit from Israeli military acquisitions."
What a great idea: they can call the "new body" the "Elders of Zion" and put out a manifesto entitled - what else? - The Protocols. Then they can translate it into Spanish and pass it out at taco joints and factory gates (those that aren't closed on account of the recession and the Israeli boycott of U.S. goods and services). Now there's a winning strategy if ever I saw one!

Seriously, though, what gets me are the disingenuous responses to the Peled sanctions campaign from our pro-Israel lobbyists. "He's right," said Shoshana Bryen, senior director for security policy at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, but maybe he shouldn't talk so loud: "She warned that such expressions could 'take on a life of their own,'" the Post reports, "and that some of Peled's policy prescriptions could be less than helpful for the Jewish state."

Well, yes, Bryen does have a point: what if the U.S. suddenly stopped the $3 billion-plus in annual aid to the Jewish state? That might prove less than helpful, to be sure. And, even worse, the idea that our Israeli "allies" are faithless, spoiled, and have an unjustifiable sense of entitlement might take on a life of its own, so to speak - and help ensure that the aid cutoff is total, and permanent.

Not that this will ever happen, you understand, not even if the Israelis bombed Washington with those U.S.-bought-and-paid-for fighter jets. Smarties like Ira Forman are way ahead of Peled on this:
"Democratic political activists in Washington dismissed out of hand Peled's suggestions, saying that such an approach would have little chance of influencing Congress' posture on Israel. 'It shows Yossi Peled is terribly uninformed about U.S. politics,' said National Jewish Democratic Council Executive Director Ira Forman. 'He doesn't understand the politics of the American Jewish community. He doesn't understand the politics of the Democratic Party.'"
In short, Peled doesn't understand that the U.S. Congress has already been bought and sold by pro-Israel money - and that any more cash would be redundant. Peled also doesn't understand that no one is supposed to talk about this, unless they're an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for president who never had much of a chance anyway. Nothing is ever said, yet the quid pro quo is all-too-well understood.

The Post reports Forman's comment that "such efforts, if attempted, would neither shift congressional support away from Obama nor boomerang to hurt Israel's backing on Capitol Hill," and I'd lay odds on it. Before any "boomerang effect" sets in, at least in the hallowed halls of Congress, the Israelis would have to set off a couple of nukes in major American cities - and even then, there would probably be a congressional resolution expressing undying support for the "special relationship" in spite of all that bothersome radioactivity.

Okay, we've all had our laugh for the day, a light moment that enables us to rise above the depressing everyday reality, but before we return to the mundane world of the distinctly non-amusing, let's consider just who Yossi Peled is, and his place in the Israeli political landscape. Surely he's some fire-breathing extremist, a Kahanist or a supporter of Avigdor Lieberman's neo-fascist party - right? Wrong. According to the Jerusalem Post, he's a "moderate," a relative "dove" who's a Likudnik, albeit on the "left" flank of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party. In which case, can you imagine what the real extremists are wont to do in response to Obama's new policy?

For years, we've heard about how "pro-American" the Israelis are: why, they're just like us - a democratic and inherently Western state that is embedded in an anti-American sea. Well, not anymore. Today, the Foreign Ministry of Israel is run by a man who could be compared, with much justification, to the failed painter from Vienna, or at least a Bizarro World Jewish version of the same.

Israelis want to deport their Arabs, seize their land, and construct a "Greater Israel." What's more, anti-Americanism is on the rise in Israel - as Peled's comments suggest - and the most anti-American of them all appear to be those Israeli-American dual citizens who vote in U.S. elections and go to Israel regularly, where Max Blumenthal recently captured their rabid anti-American sentiments on video.

What I want to know is this: when, oh, when will the American people wake up to the basic absurdity of the "special relationship" - and put an end to it, forever? Their president, it seems, is aware that our national interests are not served by this condition of mutual resentment and dependency. Now that Israel's true face is showing, how long before all the public relations efforts in the world fail to mask the ugly reality?

And the reality is this: Israel has been a burden, not a benefit, to the U.S. and its national interests abroad. By giving the Jewish state our unconditional support, we have, ironically, set ourselves up for some "blowback" from Israel's direction - and it isn't pretty, is it?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Does Israel Really Have a Right to Exist?

Following Netanyahu's much anticipated policy speech, politicians and journalists, like mindless automatons, have set about repeating Israel's tired mantra that Palestinians should recognize Israel's right to exist. Never mind the fact that the PLO and Palestine Authority have obliged this ludicrous call, not once, but four times. And never mind that Israel has always denied Palestine's right to exist, not only as a nation, but as individuals seeking a dignified life in our own homeland.

Does anyone find it interesting that Israel is the only country on the planet going around with this incessant insistence that everyone recognize her right to exist? Given that we Palestinians are the ones who have been dispossessed, occupied, and oppressed, one might expect that we should be the ones making such a demand. But that isn't the case. Why? Because our right to exist as a nation is self-evident. We are the natives of that land! We know we have that right. The world knows it. That's why Palestine doesn't need Israel or any other country to recognize her right to exist. We are the rightful heirs to that land and this can be verified legally, historically, culturally, and even genetically. And as such, the only true legitimacy Israel will ever have must come from us abdicating our inheritance, our history, and our culture to Israel. That's why Israel insists we declare she had a right to take everything we ever had - from home and property, cemeteries, churches and mosques, to culture and history and hope.

Israel is a country that was founded by Europeans who came to Palestine, formed terrorist gangs who set about a systematic ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians from their homes on 78% of Historic Palestine in 1948. Those Palestinians and their descendants still languish in refugee camps. Israel attempted a similar scenario in 1967 when they conquered the remainder of Palestine, but Palestinians then couldn't be dislodged from their homes as easily. This remains true, despite 40 years of Israel's violent and oppressive military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Despite home demolitions, land confiscations, rapacious building of Jewish-only colonies, endless checkpoints, targeted assassinations, bombings of schools, hospitals, municipal buildings and malls, closures and denials; despite the massive human rights abuses, the imprisonment and torture of men women and children alike, the separation of families, the daily humiliations; despite the massive killings - Palestinians remain. We still resist. We still live, love, and have babies. As much as we can, we rebuild what Israel destroys. Such are rights!

Rights are inherent and inherently just, like the right to live with dignity and to be masters of one's own fate. It is a human right not be persecuted and oppressed because you happen to belong to one religion and not another.

That Israelis simply take property belonging to Palestinians is not a right. That is theft. That Israel cut off the movement of food, medicine and other basic goods to the Gaza strip, causing massive malnutrition, economic collapse and misery because Palestinians elected particular leaders is not a right. That is an affront to humanity. That Israel rain death from the skies on an already battered and starved Gaza, murdering over 3000 human beings and maiming thousands more in a single month is not a right. It's a war crime. That Israel has employed every imperialistic tactic to subjugate, humiliate, break, and expel an entire nation of principally unarmed civilians because of their religion is not a right. It is a moral obscenity. That every Jew from Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Australia be entitled to dual citizenship, one in their native country and one in Israel, while the rightful heirs to the land linger as refugees without citizenship anywhere is not a right. It is an outrage.

I'm sure my words will be twisted in some way to imply that I'm advocating pushing Israelis "into the sea" or some other asinine claim. So let me be explicit: We all have the right to exist, to live, to be masters of our own destiny. We all have the right not to be oppressed by others. Such rights are inherent to every individual living in that land: Jew, Muslim, or Christian. But Israelis do not have the right to create particular religious demographics by causing the demise of the natives. To be a Jewish [or Muslim or Christian] state, where privilege is accorded to those belonging to a particular religion at the expense of those who do not is not a right.

A nation that discriminates against and oppresses those who do not belong to a particular religious, racial, or ethnic group is not a light onto nations. It is a blight. And to recognize such racism as a human or national right goes against every tenet of international law. It defies the basic sense that the worth of a human being should not be measured by their religion, any more than it should be measured by the color of their skin or the language they speak.

Susan Abulhawa is the author of The Scar of David, a work of historic fiction. She is also the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, and Board Member of Deir Yassin Remembered. She can be reached at:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Gaza: No Right to Life. Collaborate or Die

With the lack of medical services in Gaza, critically ill patients must travel into Israel for treatment. Many are asked to collaborate with Israeli intelligence services before they receive aid. It has been alleged that if they refuse to become informers they are refused medical treatment.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What are they hiding? Flight 447 and Tunguska Type Events

Every now and then we have to lift our eyes up (literally) from the sordid state of poor Mother Earth and the treatment that our species meets out our weakest members, to contemplate larger matters. Unfortunately, they bring us no comfort either. There is grave danger in the heavens, the like of which has not been seen for over 3600 years. Yet the "leaders" of the world have seen fit to hide this from us.

Blue Ibis


Air France Flight 447 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris disappeared over the Mid-Atlantic (just north of the equator) at approximately 1.33UTC on June 1st 2009.

No mayday signal was received from the aircraft and almost two weeks later, aviation officials have yet to give a coherent explanation as to what could have caused the sudden demise of a high tech Airbus 330-200 passenger plane.

As usual, the media are missing (or concealing) some very obvious yet understandably disturbing data about the nature of the threats to life on planet earth, and as usual, it is left to to spell out the details.

One of the first official comments on the incident came from French Prime Minister Francois Fillon who said
"Our only certainty is that the plane did not send out any distress call but regular automatic alerts for three minutes indicating the failure of all systems."
Aviation experts were also said to be puzzled that there were no radio reports from the Airbus and stated that such a modern aircraft would have had to suffer multiple traumas to plunge into the sea.

Commercial aircraft pitot tube

Initial theorizing focused on the Pitot tube, part of the aircraft's system of pressure-sensitive instruments which determine airspeed, Mach number, altitude, and vertical speed. An Air France spokesperson stated on 3 June that "the aircraft sent a series of electronic messages over a three-minute period, which represented about a minute of information. Exactly what that data means hasn't been sorted out, yet."[17]

An aviation safety expert explained a few days later that "complete failure would require 100% failure of the electrical system," which "did not happen early in the flight, because the system was up linking data to the maintenance facility, indicating there was some electricity on the airplane.

The messages, sent from an onboard maintenance system, Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), indicated that between 02:10 UTC and 02:14 UTC - four minutes or less - 5 failure reports and 19 warnings were transmitted.The messages resulted from equipment failure data, captured by a built-in system for testing and reporting, and cockpit warnings also posted to ACARS. The failures and warnings in the 5 minutes of transmission concerned navigation auto-flight, flight controls, and cabin air-handling.

approximate last location of AF 447

Among the ACARS transmissions in the first minute is one message that indicates a fault in the pitot-static system. Sources close to the investigation have confirmed that "the first automated system-failure message in a string of radio alerts from the crashed jet explicitly indicated that the airspeed sensors were faulty". The twelve warning messages with the same time code indicate that the autopilot and auto-thrust system had disengaged, that the aircraft collision avoidance system was in fault mode. Additionally the flight mode went from 'normal law' to 'alternate law'. The remainder of the messages occurred from 02:11 UTC to 02:14 UTC, containing a fault message for an Air Data Inertial Reference Unit (which sends air speed data to the pilots display as well as other systems such as the engines, autopilot, flight control and landing gear systems. At 02:12 UTC, a warning message indicated that there was a disagreement between the independent air data systems. At 02:13 UTC, a fault message for the flight management guidance and envelope computer was sent. One of the two final messages, transmitted at 02:14 UTC was a warning referring to the air data reference system, the other was a "cabin vertical speed warning".

All of the above would seem to bear out the aforementioned aviation expert's conclusion that the plane did indeed suffer multiple traumas before it plunged into the sea. Yet such a series of traumas would be unprecedented in modern aviation history, particularly given that the Airbus 330 is one of the most advanced and and safest commercial planes available. It has an excellent safety record, with more than 550 planes built and no passenger fatalities since it went into service in 1993. It is almost inconceivable then that such a plane with no history of technical issues could have experienced such complete technical failure so quickly that the pilot did not even have time to send a distress call ("Mayday") on the aircraft emergency frequency.

Unsurprisingly then, on June 11th the French Investigation and Analysis Office For Civilian Security discounted the idea then that the "air speed sensor" could have been the main cause of the crash.

Severe weather has also been proposed as a possible cause. This theory is based on the report that at about 1am UTC the pilots reported that they had encountered "stormy weather with strong turbulence". Daniel G. Kottlowski, a senior meteorologist with calculated that thunderstorms in the region of the crash could have generated updrafts in the range of 100 miles per hour, although he conceded that this was not unusual weather for the region. According to commercial transport pilots familiar with the route, it is likely that the flight crew of the Air France aircraft was aware of the intensity of the storm in the flight path at that altitude long before actually encountering the thunderstorms. Using the on board radar pilots can see and fairly easily navigate around particular storm cells.

Lightning is also unlikely to have caused any serious problems because modern aircraft are designed to take lightning strikes without significant damage.

The most compelling evidence against the weather theory however is the fact that two Lufthansa jets flew through the same area both before and after Flight 447 without incident.
The United Nations weather agency said on Tuesday it had preliminary information indicating the two aircraft recorded data on prevailing temperatures and winds. But they were not equipped to automatically transmit information on turbulence.

On Monday, a source with access to the data transmitted to the World Meteorological Organisation told Reuters in Paris that the two jets passed through turbulence before and after the plane without incident, leaving experts scrambling to assess the weather's role in the disaster.
Indeed, no less than 12 other flights shared more or less the same route with Flight 447 around the time of the accident. No weather problems were reported by any of the planes.

Recent reports that passengers bodies have been found 54kms apart strongly suggest that the plane broke apart high in the air.

When faced with the problem of the loss of a commercial jet in mid-air with no obvious explanation, the mainstream media generally resorts to storytelling, with a little Hollywood movie-style emotional string pulling for good measure, as evidenced by this UK Times article:
Had AF447 suffered a structural failure? Did a window break or wing shear off? Whatever it was, the passengers must have been terrified. It was night over the Atlantic, lightning splitting the sky, the aircraft jolting in the turbulence, systems failing. Then massive decompression, cabin air gone and, outside, the temperature -30C or below. Mercifully they may not have suffered long.
Interestingly, in the same article the authors state:
Though no one yet knows for sure what destroyed the plane, investigators are concerned that it was not caused, as first suggested, by a lightning strike or a bomb or a meteorite. Instead they fear it was a fatal collision of high technology and the brute force of nature.
Ah yes, the "brute force of nature"! Now that is getting close, but even closer was the reference to a meteorite. Even though this idea received scant attention in the mainstream press, with only Discover magazine blog allowing one of their editors to speculate on the statistical possibility of an errant bolide sealing the fate of AF 447, it cannot be discounted. As the saying goes, when all other theories have been tried and found wanting, whatever remains, however implausible, must be the answer.

Readers of will be familiar with the data we have compiled on the alarming increase in frequency of meteorite sightings and impacts over the past 10 years. Laura Knight-Jadczyk's article Meteorites, Asteroids, and Comets: Damages, Disasters, Injuries, Deaths, and Very Close Calls presents a list of impact events dating from 10,000 BC to the present day. It was this and other data, studiously ignored by the mainstream media, that led us to quickly consider a more logical explanation to the sudden disappearance of AF 447.

Within a few days of the crash the first piece of evidence that something other than high technology and weather destroyed AF 447 came in.

A Spanish pilot with Air Comet (which flies from South and Central American countries to Madrid) flying the Lima to Madrid route reported a bright descending light in the region of AF 447's last position:
"Suddenly we saw in the distance a bright intense flash of white light that fell straight down and disappeared in six seconds".

At the time of the sighting, (the copilot and a passenger who was in the front kitchen area of the airplane also saw it), the Air Comet aircraft was located at seven degrees north of the equator and at the 49th meridian West. The estimated location for the A-330-203 until the moment of its disappearance is at the equator and around the 30th meridian West

It seems reasonable to suggest that an aircraft would not produce a bright and intense white light for six seconds as it fell from the sky. The many dozens of meteorite and fireball sightings over the past few years however are often seen as bright white flashes of descending light.

A reader later sent us the following report:
Early in the morning today (8th June 2009) I saw here in Brazil, an interview (on Record television network) with a native from the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha who stated that he saw strange lights in the night of the disaster with the Air France Jet.

He declared seeing a light (bright white) and later it changed directions several times and changed to red color.
So are we saying that a meteorite hit AF 447? Not exactly. The chances of a single smallish, (or even largish) rock falling from the sky and hitting a plane travelling at 500mph are surely too remote to be plausible. But meteorites and comets often do not simply fall to earth intact. Remember Tunguska?
The Tunguska Event, or Tunguska explosion, was a powerful explosion that occurred near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai of Russia, at around 7:14 a.m. on June 30, 1908

Although the cause of the explosion is the subject of debate, it is commonly believed to have been caused by the air burst of a large meteoroid or comet fragment at an altitude of 5 - 10 kilometres (3 - 6 miles) above the Earth's surface. Different studies have yielded varying estimates of the object's size, with general agreement that it was a few tens of metres across

The Tunguska shock wave
levelled 2000 sq kms of trees

Although the meteor or comet burst in the air rather than directly hitting the surface, this event is still referred to as an impact. Estimates of the energy of the blast range from 5 megatons to as high as 30 megatons of TNT, with 10 - 15 megatons the most likely - roughly equal to the United States' Castle Bravo thermonuclear explosion set off in late February 1954, about 1,000 times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan and about one-third the power of the Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated.The explosion knocked over an estimated 80 million trees over 2,150 square kilometres (830 square miles). It is estimated that the shockwave from the blast would have measured 5.0 on the Richter scale. An explosion of this magnitude is capable of destroying a large metropolitan area.

Although the Tunguska event is believed to be the largest impact event on land in Earth's recent history, impacts of similar size in remote ocean areas would have gone unnoticed before the advent of global satellite monitoring in the 1960s and 1970s.

© Don Davis
How the Tunguska blast might
have looked from the windows
of a nearby airliner. The expanding
shock wave would have knocked
the plane from the sky moments later
The Tunguska meteorite probably was visible as it exploded and broke up, appearing as a bright white light descending in the sky. 6-10 miles up is within the height range of commercial aircraft. And AF flight 447 was indeed located in a remote ocean area. So if, as we suspect, the blast from a Tunguska-like comet - though a significantly smaller one than that which exploded over Tunguska - destroyed AF447, the precursor electronic activity in the atmosphere explaining the anomalies of the complete air craft systems failures - it is also likely that modern satellite monitoring systems would have picked up such an event. Indeed, Brigadier General S. Pete Worden's article NEOS, Planetary Defense and Government - A View From the Pentagon confirms this likelihood:
I can show people evidence of real strikes inflicting local and regional damage less than a century ago. Even more compelling are the frequent kiloton-level detonations our early warning satellites see in the earth's atmosphere.

Within the United States space community there is a growing concern over "space situational awareness." We are beginning to understand that it is essential to identify and track virtually everything in earth orbit. Some of these objects, down to a few centimeters in size, present a potential threat to commercial and civil space operations such as the International Space Station.
So, what are the chances that civilian, or even government/military satellite imagery will be available to either confirm or deny this "wild speculation" of ours?

Well, up until a few days ago the chances seemed good. But then, for some unknown reason, and very coincidentally, this happened:
Military Hush-Up: Incoming Space Rocks Now Classified
10 June 2009

For 15 years, scientists have benefited from data gleaned by U.S. classified satellites of natural fireball events in Earth's atmosphere - but no longer.

A recent U.S. military policy decision now explicitly states that observations by hush-hush government spacecraft of incoming bolides and fireballs are classified secret and are not to be released, had learned.

The satellites' main objectives include detecting nuclear bomb tests, and their characterizations of asteroids and lesser meteoroids as they crash through the atmosphere has been a byproduct data bonanza for scientists.

The upshot: Space rocks that explode in the atmosphere are now classified.

"It's baffling to us why this would suddenly change," said one scientist familiar with the work. "It's unfortunate because there was this great synergy...a very good cooperative arrangement. Systems were put into dual-use mode where a lot of science was getting done that couldn't be done any other way. It's a regrettable change in policy."

Scientists say not only will research into the threat from space be hampered, but public understanding of sometimes dramatic sky explosions will be diminished, perhaps leading to hype and fear of the unknown.
Commenting last year on the significance of the Tunguska event, former Apollo astronaut and chairman of the Board of Directors of the B612 Foundation, Rusty Schweickart, stated:
Tunguska is a great reminder of what we will likely have to deal with in the next 10 years or so. We now know statistically that there are some 600,000 or more "Tunguskas" out there of which we have to date discovered less than 1%! While for those of us who have been working this issue it is clear that we can deflect such impact threats ... the primary prerequisite is that we know one is coming! We can't protect ourselves against something we don't know about.

So the primary "message" of Tunguska is that it happened, it will happen again, and we can prevent it. but we have to find and track these smaller NEOs. Congress has spoken. They've told NASA to crank up a more powerful search program. NASA, however, has refused to act - or even to comply with Congress's request to recommend a search strategy and to estimate the budget needed to support it.

Their excuse? They don't have the budget to support it!

Thanks, NASA.
If a high-altitude cometary explosion did indeed destroy AF 447, then the decision by the US military (and government), just a few days later, to impose a black out on all information about earth-bound space rocks is extremely worrying. It suggests that members of the US government know that a cometary explosion destroyed the Air France flight and that they suspect that more such events, perhaps over populated areas, are likely in the near future. More horrifying however is the callous disregard for human life displayed by such a cavalier attitude to the withholding of information pertaining to what is clearly the greatest existential threat facing humanity today.

the 25 ton doors leading
to the Cheyenne complex

Saturday, June 13, 2009

"Security threat": An attempt to visit family in Ramallah, West Bank by a British couple

Taking the first bus of the day, my wife and I arrived on the Israeli side of the King Hussein bridge crossing into the West Bank from Jordan. We explained that we were heading to Ramallah to visit my wife's mother and brothers for three weeks. We performed the exact same procedure last year without incident. However, this year I was told to wait.

My wife is a Palestinian from Ramallah, where we met a few years ago. We got married there, and her closest family still live in Ramallah. We have moved to live and work in London, but try to return once a year. As Israel still controls all the border crossings into the West Bank, a trip intended as a May holiday to visit family quickly ran afoul of the continuing occupation.

Four hours after my passport was taken away, I had heard absolutely nothing. I started to make a fuss and was told that my passport was "with security." Several hours later, I was taken in to a back room and questioned by a burly "security" agent. He asked several questions about the purpose of my trip while typing into a computer.

He wanted to know if I belong to any "groups that help the Palestinians," and asked if, since I am a journalist I was going to work during this visit. I replied that, although I had worked with the Palestine Times in the past, this trip I was just to visit family. It tells you a lot about the nature of the Israeli occupation that they try to make it seem that "helping the Palestinians" is some sort of crime.

After the questions were finished, he told me to wait in the next room "for five minutes." Two hours later I was still waiting.

By now we were the last remaining people in the terminal. I was finally approached by a police woman with my passport. After waiting a total of nine hours since the morning, I was told to come back the next day. Apparently I would not be allowed in without signing some sort of document, but the people from the Ministry of the Interior were not available, so I would have to come back when they were. After being assured by the policewoman that I would "definitely" be allowed in the next day, I returned to Amman at my own expense, while my wife went on to Ramallah.

I returned in the morning to find out that even though the policewoman was not there her colleague was familiar with my case. Eventually, I was called into an office marked "Ministry of the Interior" and presented with a one-page document to sign. Written in Hebrew, with English translation underneath each paragraph it had three clauses:
1. My visit was to be "within Israel only" and I was not allowed to enter "the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority without advance authorization from the Territory Actions Coordinator."

2. If I was to enter "any area under the control of the Palestinian Authority" I could be deported and issued with a ban from "Israel ... of up to 10 years."

3. My visit to "Israel" was only allowed for two days, and if I wished to apply for an extension on this, I would have to deposit 20,000 shekels (about $5,000), returnable on exit.
After waiting for two days just for this, I was extremely angry. I kept asking them why they couldn't have just told me just told me all this the previous day; they gave no answer of substance.

I asked, "who is the Territory Actions Coordinator?"

Reply: "That's us."

"Can I have permission to see my family in Ramallah?"


"Why not?"

"Security reasons."

"Which are what?"

"We can't tell you that."

And that was basically that. I stayed in Jerusalem catching up with some friends for two days before heading back. I had no real problems on the way out. I then reunited with my wife and her mother and brothers in Amman, Jordan where we spent a couple of weeks on holiday.

So basically the "State of Israel" considers a skinny Welsh guy from London a security threat, simply because he wants to visit his family in Ramallah? I would like to flatter myself that I worry the occupation authorities, but no: this is simply how they treat everyone visiting Palestine.

Examples abound, and are documented by the Right to Enter campaign. Palestinian director Annemarie Jacir was denied entry when traveling from Jordan to attend the premiere of her acclaimed film Salt of this Sea in Ramallah. The film was an official selection at the 2008 Cannes Film festival and stars acclaimed Palestinian-American poet and actress Suheir Hammad. The reason they gave for denying Jacir entry to her homeland was simply: "You spend too much time here."

As poorly as we were treated by the Israelis, I saw or met many Palestinians over the two days I spent at the border crossing who were treated much worse. Their number one target for abuse was Palestinians of the Diaspora: either Palestinians born overseas on their way to visit, or Palestinians who now have a different passport through marriage. There was one Palestinian-Australian woman who had come thousands of miles, presumably to visit family, yet the Israelis sent her back. I will never forget the tears in her eyes as they sent her back to Jordan; neither will I forget her defiance as she refused to give them the satisfaction of seeing her weep openly.

I talked with a Palestinian woman on her way back to Jerusalem. "I wish they would just give me an answer one way or another," I said. "At least then I could get this waiting over with."

"For me it's not an option," she replied. "I have to go back for work."

The way they treated her was disgusting. It was not enough for them to keep her waiting for hours without information: when she dared to politely ask what was happening with her passport the reply was screamed, "Go and sit down!" This is standard behavior.

If my wife had been from Gaza things would be even worse for us. At least my mother-in-law can come to Amman where we can reunite. For someone from the Gaza Strip to visit Egypt, even for emergency medical treatment, is next to impossible (and here we must lay blame at the door of the Western-backed Egyptian dictatorship, as well as the Israelis).

On the second day, I also saw the BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen pass through the terminal. He was not detained for more than 15 minutes, at most. But then, he has power and influence. I wish they would have detained him: I'm sure he would have done a story about it, and of course that is precisely why he wasn't.

The Israelis want to do everything in their power to pressure the Palestinians into leaving. At the moment, they cannot get away with a repeat performance of the mass ethnic cleansing of 1948 -- that might prove politically problematic. So instead they "encourage" indirect, slow, removal of the Palestinian population -- "transfer" in the longstanding Zionist jargon. Such treatment at borders, making travel difficult or impossible, is another aspect of this policy.

If you doubt any of this, consider this simple fact: they would not have given me these problems if I was married to a Jew and was going to visit her family in Tel Aviv. Similar policies in South Africa were called "apartheid" and the whole world boycotted and isolated the apartheid regime until, because of the struggle of the African National Congress, supported by the international solidarity campaign, the state was cornered into accepting democracy.

Yet, the world lets Israel get away with seemingly everything. Israel killed more than 1,400 Palestinians in the latest round of massacres that its army initiated in Gaza in December-January. But the European Union is still moving to upgrade trade relations with Israel. The US under President Barack Obama is still intending to bankroll Israeli apartheid to the tune of some $3 billion in military aid this year alone. It's time to wake up and respond to the call of Palestinian civil society to boycott Israel.

Of course I want to go back to Palestine, and going on what the Ministry of the Interior officials said, the door is not totally shut for me. I may still have legal avenues to explore. On the 61st anniversary of the 1948 Nakba, when half the population of Palestine was ethnically cleansed from their homeland by Zionist militias -- it's important to remember that, relatively speaking, I and my family are among the lucky ones.

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's Official: Israel is practicing apartheid

The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) has released a study indicating that Israel is practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The study is being posted for public debate on this website.

The interim report, which will form part of a discussion at an upcoming HSRC conference on the subject, titled Re-envisioning Israel/Palestine, on 13 and 14 June in Cape Town, serves as a document to be finalised later this year.

The HSRC commissioned an international team of scholars and practitioners of international public law from South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel and the West Bank to conduct the study. The resulting 300-page draft, titled Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A re-assessment of Israel's practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law, represents 15 months of research and constitutes an exhaustive review of Israel's practices in the OPT according to definitions of colonialism and apartheid provided by international law. The project was suggested originally by the January 2007 report by eminent South African jurist John Dugard, in his capacity as Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Council, when he indicated that Israel practices had assumed characteristics of colonialism and apartheid.

You can download the report below (PDF):

Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid; executive summary.

Full study.

Regarding colonialism, the team found that Israel's policy and practices violate the prohibition on colonialism which the international community developed in the 1960s in response to the great decolonisation struggles in Africa and Asia. Israel's policy is demonstrably to fragment the West Bank and annex part of it permanently to Israel, which is the hallmark of colonialism. Israel has appropriated land and water in the OPT, merged the Palestinian economy with Israel's economy, and imposed a system of domination over Palestinians to ensure their subjugation to these measures. Through these measures, Israel has denied the indigenous population the right to self-determination and indicated clear intention to assume sovereignty over portions of its land and natural resources. Permanent annexation of territory in this fashion is the hallmark of colonialism.

Regarding apartheid, the team found that Israel's laws and policies in the OPT fit the definition of apartheid in the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Israeli law conveys privileges to Jewish settlers and disadvantages Palestinians in the same territory on the basis of their respective identities, which function in this case as racialised identities in the sense provided by international law. Israel's practices are corollary to five of the six 'inhuman acts' listed by the Convention. A policy of apartheid is especially indicated by Israel's demarcation of geographic 'reserves' in the West Bank, to which Palestinian residence is confined and which Palestinians cannot leave without a permit. The system is very similar to the policy of 'Grand Apartheid' in apartheid South Africa, in which black South Africans were confined to black homelands delineated by the South African government, while white South Africans enjoyed freedom of movement and full civil rights in the rest of the country.

The Executive Summary of the report says that the three pillars of apartheid in South Africa are all practiced by Israel in the OPT. In South Africa, the first pillar was to demarcate the population of South Africa into racial groups, and to accord superior rights, privileges and services to the white racial group. The second pillar was to segregate the population into different geographic areas, which were allocated by law to different racialgroups, and restrict passage by members of any group into the area allocated to other groups. And the third pillar was "a matrix of draconian 'security' laws and policies that were employed to suppress any opposition to the regime and to reinforce the system of racial domination, by providing for administrative detention, torture, censorship, banning, and assassination."

The Report finds that Israeli practices in the OPT exhibit the same three 'pillars' of apartheid:

The first pillar "derives from Israeli laws and policies that establish Jewish identity for purposes of law and afford a preferential legal status and material benefits to Jews over non-Jews". The second pillar is reflected in "Israel's 'grand' policy to fragment the OPT [and] ensure that Palestinians remain confined to the reserves designated for them while Israeli Jews are prohibited from entering those reserves but enjoy freedom of movement throughout the rest of the Palestinian territory. This policy is evidenced by Israel's extensive appropriation of Palestinian land, which continues to shrink the territorial space available to Palestinians; the hermetic closure and isolation of the Gaza Strip from the rest of the OPT; the deliberate severing of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank; and the appropriation and construction policies serving to carve up the West Bank into an intricate and well-serviced network of connected settlements for Jewish-Israelis and an archipelago of besieged and non-contiguous enclaves for Palestinians".

The third pillar is "Israel's invocation of 'security' to validate sweeping restrictions on Palestinian freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, association and movement [to] mask a true underlying intent to suppress dissent to its system of domination and thereby maintain control over Palestinians as a group."

The research team included scholars and international lawyers based at the HSRC, the School for Oriental and African Studies (London), the British Institute for International and Comparative Law, the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (Durban), the Adalah/Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and al-Haq/West Bank Affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists. Consultation on the study's theory and method was provided by eminent jurists from South Africa, Israel and Europe.

The HSRC serves as the national social science council for South Africa. The Middle East Project of the HSRC is an independent two-year project to conduct analysis of Middle East politics relevant to South African foreign policy, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Government of South Africa. The analysis in this report is entirely independent of the views or foreign policy of the Government of South Africa and does not represent an official position of the HSRC. It is intended purely as a scholarly resource for the South African government and civil society and the concerned international community.

For more information or interviews, contact: or +27-21-466-7924. (Human Sciences Research Council of
South Africa (HSRC))

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Israel: Jewish Town in Galilee Demands "Loyalty Oath" to Block Arab Applicants

A community in northern Israel has changed its bylaws to demand that new residents pledge support for "Zionism, Jewish heritage and settlement of the land" in a thinly veiled attempt to block Arab applicants from gaining admission.

Critics are calling the bylaw, adopted by Manof, home to 170 Jewish families in Galilee, a local "loyalty oath" similar to a national scheme recently proposed by the far-Right party of the government minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Other Jewish communities in the central Galilee - falling under the umbrella of a regional council known as Misgav - are preparing similar bylaws in response to a court petition filed by an Arab couple hoping to build a home in Misgav.

"It looks very much like this is being co-ordinated by the Misgav council in an attempt to pre-empt the court ruling," said Ronin Ben Ari, resident of another Misgav community, Mikhmanim, and an opponent of the bylaw change.

Manof's move comes in the wake of efforts by Ahmed and Fatina Zbeidat, who live in the neighbouring Arab town of Sakhnin, to win admission to the Misgav community of Rakafet.

Traditionally some 700 rural communities in Israel, including 30 in Misgav, have weeded out Arab applicants by issuing automatic rejections through special vetting committees. Arab citizens make up one-fifth of the country's population.

According to a legal rights group, rural communities, which are home to only five per cent of the population but have control over four-fifths of the countryside, are seen by the state as a bulwark against Arabs gaining access to what are called "national lands".

However, the vetting system has been under threat since a court ruling in 2000 that required the committees to consider Arab applicants and justify their decisions.

In line with the ruling, the Zbeidats demanded the right to take a suitability test when their application was turned down in 2006. Examiners found Fatina too "individualistic" for life in a small community while her husband lacked "knowledge of sophisticated interpersonal relations".

The Zbeidats then petitioned the courts against the use of vetting committees, saying they enforced "blatant discrimination" against Arab applicants. Earlier this year, in an indication that the court was preparing to back them, it demanded that the attorney-general explain why the vetting committees should continue.

"There is little doubt that many residents of Misgav are panicking about the court case," said Mr Ben Ari, who heads a small dissident group called Alternative Voice in the Galilee.

He added that Ron Shani, who was elected Misgav's mayor late last year, made opposition to the Zbeidats' bid to live in Rakafet a major platform in his campaign.

Mr Shani defended the bylaw change last week to the Israeli media. "The council's position is that it is appropriate to strengthen the character of the community - a community in which Zionist values and Jewish heritage stand at the heart of its way of life. We don't see this as racism in any way."

Mr Ben Ari said: "There is a widely held feeling in Misgav that changing the bylaws is a legitimate way for the Jewish minority in the Galilee to defend itself against an Arab and Islamic danger.

"The residents here are not right-wing types like Lieberman. They see themselves as liberals and in fact are made very uncomfortable by the Lieberman comparison."

A bill proposed by Mr Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party that conditioned citizenship on declaring loyalty to a Jewish state was rejected by a ministerial committee last week. Mr Lieberman campaigned in February's general election on a platform of "No loyalty, no citizenship".

Such views are widely held, according to polls. One in 2006 found that 68 per cent of Israeli Jews would refuse to live next to an Arab and 46 per cent would not allow an Arab to visit their home.

The bylaw, accepted by an overwhelming majority in Manof, stipulates that applicants must share "the values of the Zionist movement, Jewish heritage, settlement of the Land of Israel ... and observance of Jewish holidays".

It also proposes that local children be encouraged to join the Zionist youth movement and the Israeli army.

A similarly worded proposal will come before another Misgav community, Yuvalim, later this month.

One resident opposed to the change, Arik Kirschenbaum, told the liberal Haaretz newspaper last week: "It suddenly seems as if we adopted bylaws from the settlements."

Residents of Manof have been quoted in the Israeli media decrying accusations of racism.

"It's unpleasant and even offensive to wake up one morning and find that you've turned into Lieberman," said Alon Mayer, pointing out that Yisrael Beiteinu won only 2.5 per cent of Manof's vote in the February general election.

Several residents were reported to fear that living alongside Arabs might lead to ethnic tensions and sectarian violence.

Suhad Bishara, a lawyer with the Adalah legal rights group who is representing the Zbeidats, said: "There is nothing unique or special about the way of life in these communities to justify this kind of restriction on admission.

"Rather, the purpose of the selection system is to make sure 80 per cent of the territory inside Israel is not accessible to Arabs, that the control of public resources stays exclusively in Jewish hands."

The Zbeidats' application was submitted after they were unable to find a building plot in Sakhnin. The town's young couples face increasing difficulties building homes after much of Sakhnin's land was turned over to Misgav's jurisdiction.

Sakhnin officials point out that its 25,000 inhabitants have only one-twentieth of the land available to the 20,000 residents of Misgav's 30 communities. An appeal by Sakhnin that it be awarded some of Misgav's land was rejected by a boundary commission in 2005.

Misgav promotes itself, in the words of its website, as a model of "ethnic pluralism" because it includes 5,000 Bedouin. However, critics note that Misgav's Bedouin live in a handful of separate communities deprived of the land available to the Jewish communities.

The Bedouin inhabitants are generally denied basic services such as water and electricity, as well as schools and medical clinics. In one, Arab al Naim, the inhabitants are forced to live in tin shacks because permanent structures are demolished by the state.

Last week, three members of the Israeli parliament introduced a bill stipulating that vetting committees should assess candidates' "suitability to the community's way of life and social fabric". The legislators said the bill would help in "maintaining the Zionist vision".

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Auschwitz survivor: "I can identify with Palestinian youth"

Hajo Meyer, author of the book The End of Judaism, was born in Bielefeld, in Germany, in 1924. In 1939, he fled on his own at age 14 to the Netherlands to escape the Nazi regime, and was unable to attend school. A year later, when the Germans occupied the Netherlands he lived in hiding with a poorly forged ID. Meyer was captured by the Gestapo in March 1944 and deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp a week later. He is one of the last survivors of Auschwitz.

Adri Nieuwhof: What would you like to say to introduce yourself to EI's readers?

Hajo Meyer: I had to quit grammar school in Bielefeld after the Kristallnacht [the two-day pogrom against Jews in Nazi Germany], in November 1938. It was a terrible experience for an inquisitive boy and his parents. Therefore, I can fully identify with the Palestinian youth that are hampered in their education. And I can in no way identify with the criminals who make it impossible for Palestinian youth to be educated.

AN: What motivated you to write your book, The End of Judaism?

HM: In the past, the European media have written extensively about extreme right-wing politicians like Joerg Haider in Austria and Jean-Marie Le Pen in France. But when Ariel Sharon was elected [prime minister] in Israel in 2001, the media remained silent. But in the 1980s I understood the deeply fascist thinking of these politicians. With the book I wanted to distance myself from this. I was raised in Judaism with the equality of relationships among human beings as a core value. I only learned about nationalist Judaism when I heard settlers defend their harassment of Palestinians in interviews. When a publisher asked me to write about my past, I decided to write this book, in a way, to deal with my past. People of one group who dehumanize people who belong to another group can do this, because they either have learned to do so from their parents, or they have been brainwashed by their political leaders. This has happened for decades in Israel in that they manipulate the Holocaust for their political aims. In the long-run the country is destructing itself this way by inducing their Jewish citizens to become paranoid. In 2005 [then Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon illustrated this by saying in the Knesset [the Israeli parliament], we know we cannot trust anyone, we only can trust ourselves. This is the shortest possible definition of somebody who suffers from clinical paranoia. One of the major annoyances in my life is that Israel by means of trickery calls itself a Jewish state, while in fact it is Zionist. It wants the maximum territory with a minimum number of Palestinians. I have four Jewish grandparents. I am an atheist. I share the Jewish socio-cultural inheritance and I have learned about Jewish ethics. I don't wish to be represented by a Zionist state. They have no idea about the Holocaust. They use the Holocaust to implant paranoia in their children.

AN: In your book you write about the lessons you have learned from your past. Can you explain how your past influenced your perception of Israel and Palestine?

HM: I have never been a Zionist. After the war, Zionist Jews spoke about the miracle of having "our own country." As a confirmed atheist I thought, if this is a miracle by God, I wished that he had performed the smallest miracle imaginable by creating the state 15 years earlier. Then my parents would not have been dead.

I can write up an endless list of similarities between Nazi Germany and Israel. The capturing of land and property, denying people access to educational opportunities and restricting access to earn a living to destroy their hope, all with the aim to chase people away from their land. And what I personally find more appalling then dirtying one's hands by killing people, is creating circumstances where people start to kill each other. Then the distinction between victims and perpetrators becomes faint. By sowing discord in a situation where there is no unity, by enlarging the gap between people - like Israel is doing in Gaza.

AN: In your book you write about the role of Jews in the peace movement in and outside Israel, and Israeli army refuseniks. How do you value their contribution?

HM: Of course it is positive that parts of the Jewish population of Israel try to see Palestinians as human beings and as their equals. However, it disturbs me how paper-thin the number is that protests and is truly anti-Zionist. We get worked up by what happened in Hitler's Germany. If you expressed only the slightest hint of criticism at that time, you ended up in the Dachau concentration camp. If you expressed criticism, you were dead. Jews in Israel have democratic rights. They can protest in the streets, but they don't.

AN: Can you comment on the news that Israeli ministers approved a draft law banning commemoration of the Nakba, or the dispossession of historic Palestine? The law proposes punishment of up to three years in prison.

HM: It is so racist, so dreadful. I am at a loss for words. It is an expression of what we already know. [The Israeli Nakba commemoration organization] Zochrot was founded to counteract Israeli efforts to wipe out the marks that are a reminder of Palestinian life. To forbid Palestinians to publicly commemorate the Nakba. ... they cannot act in a more Nazi-like, fascist way. Maybe it will help to awaken the world.

AN: What are your plans for the future?

HM: [Laughs] Do you know how old I am? I am almost 85 years old. I always say cynically and with self-mockery that I have a choice: either I am always tired because I want to do so much, or I am going to sit still waiting for the time to go by. Well, I plan to be tired, because I have still so much to say.

Adri Nieuwhof is consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.