This undated image posted on a
militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria.
Photo by AP
Syrian jihadi town where 'brides' are snatched from schools
Once liberal bastion Raqqa was over-run by al-Qaeda group
before secular rebels launched a fight back
(Richard Spencer, Independent UK, 3/29/14)
A year ago, the city of Raqqa in
northern Syria was sprouting political activist groups and
philosophical discussion circles. A “guerrilla gardening” squad
promoted environmental awareness by planting vegetables in central
The liberals who made it a base after the rebels swept in and drove out
the regime in March last year are gone, disbanded, accused of
supporting democracy and other “kuffar” or infidel beliefs, their
members living either underground or in Turkey.
The city has been transformed into a
staging ground for displays of the harshest “justice” meted out by the
Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the jihadi group too extreme
even for al-Qaeda that has imposed its rule over large parts of the
Refugees, women still living under its rule and men who have escaped
from its prisons have told Telegraph of the life under the shadow of
the extremist group’s black flag.
One woman, whose name the Telegraph knows but is withholding, described
how she went to the recruiting office of an all-women jihad unit,
formed from the women who have flocked to Syria from Europe and
elsewhere to serve the cause, some with their children.
“I went inside their headquarters, which used to be the Christian
church,” she said. “I asked what the conditions were to join. They said
you have to be 18-25, unmarried, and you would earn 25,000 Syrian
“But if you joined you had the opportunity to marry one of the
foreign fighters. However, they make sure you are a real jihadist.”
She said that outside she met four new recruits, three from Tunisia,
and one Frenchwoman, who told her she was divorced and had brought her
12-year-old daughter and four younger sons to Syria to join the
The opportunities for marriage in the Syrian jihad - and before
“martyrdom” - is a recurring theme of the blogs and other online forums
favoured by ISIS’s foreign fighters in Syria, many of whom write in
But the Raqqa woman and other activists from the town say that the
imbalance of the sexes means ISIS has begun to “recruit” brides from
local schools and colleges.
Among those who resisted, they say, was
a 21-year-old student called Fatima Abdullah from a tribal area outside
the city, whose brother had joined ISIS and persuaded their father to
hand her over for marriage to a Tunisian. She refused, and when her
family insisted, killed herself with rat poison. The story was
confirmed by other activists from the town.
Since the beginning of January, rival rebel groups including
western-backed militias still loyal to the original opposition Free
Syrian Army have launched a counter-attack across the north of Syria to
drive out ISIS.
Earlier this month, rebels all but completed an operation to remove the
extremists from Idlib province while in Aleppo province ISIS have been
forced into towns to the east. As they left their former strongholds
they killed some of their prisoners, freed others, and loaded many more
on to trucks and took them with them.
In Aazaz, a town between Aleppo and the Turkish border, ISIS retaliated
for the FSA attack by beheading four captives from other militias and
placing their heads on the plinth in the middle of the roundabout in
one of the main squares, residents.
Ahmed Primo, described how he was saved from a similar fate by a stray shell.
“I heard a voice calling my name for execution,” he said. “Then
suddenly there was the sound of an explosion. The guards and the emir,
the militia leader, were injured, and carried away. The next day the
prison was liberated and I escaped.”
Mr Primo had previously been detained by
the Syrian regime in his home city, Aleppo, and held for a month. Asked
whether the treatment he received from ISIS, which included beatings,
being bound and blindfolded for weeks at a time, and electrocuted in
his testicles, was better or worse than his experiences under the
regime, he said: “It is not a question of better or worse. It was
exactly the same.”
ISIS split last summer from Jabhat al-Nusra, the recognised wing of
Al-Qaeda in Syria, and in February was disavowed by Al-Qaeda’s leader,
But by then its capacity to instill fear by its harsh punishments, and
ability to attract fanatical fighters from abroad had enabled it to
take control of large parts of northern Syria, with Raqqa province
mostly under their sway.
Anwar Mohammed, one of the early “citizen journalists” who sent reports
of the initial uprising against President Bashar al-Assad to the
outside world, was among Aazaz’s luckiest people. He had been seized
from his home by ISIS fighters, taken to the group’s headquarters in
Aleppo city, a former children’s hospital, for interrogation, and then
detained in a prison in another town, Hreitan.
Light of build, he managed to escape one night by squeezing through the
bars of his cell and lowering himself to the ground with knotted
blankets. When he made it home - and across the Turkish border - his
father said ISIS had visited him to tell him his son was to be executed
as a spy.
What is perhaps most remarkable is that
despite the brutality, many residents of north-west Syria still back
ISIS. Samer Amori, Mohammed Nour’s uncle, said that people who
supported the regime now support ISIS. A more convincing explanation is
that by demanding control of all aspects of its subjects’ lives, ISIS
did at least manage to impose some sort of order on a Syria that is
becoming more lawless as the war progresses.
But for many men and women, particularly the liberal activists, who
have suffered under both the regime and ISIS, the recent fighting has
brought the third year of the uprising to deeply depressing close.
Mr Primo, electrocuted by fighters from the regime and Assad, said he
had always believed the West would intervene, and that what had
happened in Tunisia and Libya would happen in Syria. Now it is clear
that with the country little more than a fighting ground for rival
warlords, some not even Syrian, the West has little stomach for
“When I started out I could never have imagined anything like this,” he
said. “These people, they do not have our way of life, or of thinking.
It’s very strange to us. I didn’t expect it would turn out this way.”
Screenshot of the B'Tselem video
Over 1500 children killed by Israel since 2000
Palestinian minister says more than 10,000 children have been arrested during the same period and 200 are still detained.
Wesleyan declares itself an Open Hillel
The Wesleyan Jewish Community is the
third local Hillel-affiliate to declare that it will no longer follow
Hillel International's restrictive "Standards of Partnership".
The Open Hillel movement has already captured two campuses, Swarthmore and Vassar, and is making inroads at Harvard, Berkeley and Brown.
Statement from the Wesleyan Jewish Community
Published with the support of the majority of student leaders
Over 1,500 Palestinian children have
been killed by Israeli forces since 2000, the Palestinian Authority
minister of social affairs Kamal al-Sharafi said on Saturday.
In a statement marking Palestinian Children's Day
Sharafi said that 1,520 Palestinian children have been killed and
approximately 6,000 injured by the Israeli military in the past 14
years, the Ma'an Palestinian news service reported.
More than 10,000 Palestinian children have been arrested, al-Sharafi added, and 200 are currently being held in Israeli prisons.
"Protecting and supporting children should be a national
responsibility," he said, calling upon the Palestinian Authority to
ratify a law for the protection of minors.
The United Nations Children Fund said in a 2013 report that some 700
Palestinian children aged 12 to 17, most of them boys, are arrested,
interrogated and detained by the Israeli military, police, and security
agents every year in the occupied West Bank.
In the report, UNICEF said it identified examples of practices that
"amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the
Convention against Torture."
of the Wesleyan Jewish Community 4/2/14
"We, student leaders of the Wesleyan
Student Jewish community, have followed with great interest and concern
the controversy that has swirled around Hillel International's Standard
of Partnership for Israel Activities, which prevent Hillel from
partnering with, hosting, or housing anyone who,(a) denies the right of
Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and
recognized borders, (b) delegitimizes, demonizes, or applies a double
standard to Israel, (c) supports boycott of, divestment from, or
sanctions against the State of Israel.
These policies have resulted in the barring of speakers from
organizations such as Breaking the Silence and the Israeli Knesset from
speaking at Hillels without censorship, and has resulted in
Jewish Voice for Peace and other Jewish organizations not being welcome
under the Hillel umbrella or in the Jewish community that gathers in
At Wesleyan, values of inclusion are
central to our identity both as Jews and as participants in the wider
Wesleyan community. We believe that no one should be made to feel
excluded, marginalized or unsafe in a religious or cultural space
because of their political beliefs, and that welcoming an individual
while censoring their opinions represents little more than probationary
community membership. We reject the idea implicit in Hillel's
guidelines that Jewish plurality gives way to Zionist unanimity, and
are acutely aware that many individuals have formed robust, meaningful
Jewish identities that do not comport with traditional Zionist ideas.
Our community is structured in a way that gives voice to these values.
Student leaders known as Jewish Renaissance Fellows organize Jewish
student life and programming on campus. The Jewish program house (known
as The Bayit) is operated by a student House Manager who also takes a
leading role in organizing student Jewish life. Thus, at Wesleyan,
Jewish life and the place of Israel within that life is shaped and
determined by the students themselves.
We believe that trust is the bedrock of any community that values each
of its members. We are grateful that the Wesleyan Jewish community does
not employ chaperones for our conversations. Students are allowed and
encouraged to introduce and be exposed to the widest possible range of
views, and trusted to make sense of the mosaic before them and form an
informed position. Our community is built on the assumption that such a
process results not in confusion, but in opinions about Israel and
Judaism that are more robust and well-reasoned because of the thought
that has gone into them. We believe that restrictive guidelines such as
the ones Hillel international has adopted are not conducive to
fostering a culture of intellectual exploration and free inquiry.
We believe that dialogue and critical
engagement are central Jewish values. Our community is founded on texts
that are meant to be interpreted, argued over, and debated endlessly.
The talmud, our central body of religious commentary, contains many
differing opinions on how laws are to be interpreted. Hillel draws its
name from the great rabbinical sage who believed that all should be
able to learn, and that discourse should be free and unbound by
guidelines imposed from above. No one has ever suggested that these
values weaken the Jewish community, and we believe Hillel
International's deviation from these principles alienates members of
our community and strays from Jewish tradition.
When Israeli settlers attack and steal, Palestinians now have a strategy
In light of these values, we would like to state explicitly what has
long been the implicit policy of our student campus community: we will
not follow the current formulation of Hillel's Standards of
Partnership. We are committed to neither censoring nor excluding
individuals, groups or speakers from our communal spaces merely because
their political views around Israel or other issues stray from
mainstream opinion. We are committed to a conversation around Judaism
and Israel that reflects the values of the members of our community,
rather than the political preferences of the leaders of Hillel
Therefore, the undersigned student leaders of the Wesleyan Jewish
Community — the vast majority of current student leaders, including
both current Jewish Renaissance fellows and the current Bayit House
manager, as well as many former Jewish student leaders — express our
solidarity with, and support of, the Open Hillel movement. As an
affiliate of Hillel, we call upon Hillel International to reform its
guidelines so as to ensure that no member of the Jewish community is
barred from a space that should be rightfully theirs because of a
desire to critically engage with, and express opinions about, issues
that relate to Israel."
(Daniel Estrin, PRI's The World 3/28/14)
A few weeks ago, in a West Bank olive grove, someone tried to steal a mule.
The incident may seem way too trivial to even bother mentioning. It didn’t make headlines when it happened.
But in the West Bank, an event like this quickly becomes a very high
stakes game. And that offers a glimpse of life against the backdrop of
one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.
Lubban is a Palestinian village surrounded by Israeli settlements on nearly every hilltop.
Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors Israeli settler
activity in the West Bank, said he got a call that a farmer near Lubban
had caught a settler trying to steal his mule.
“The settler was in a car, driving,” Daghlas said. “He saw a mule tied
up to a tree. He thought he would steal the mule. He could get on the
mule and ride it [back to his settlement up the road.]”
But the Palestinian farmer caught the settler, put him in a car, and
telephoned his village council. Soon, a whole group of villagers were
surrounding the farmer’s car with the settler inside. When Daghlas
arrived, he called Palestinian liaison officials, who called their
Israeli army counterparts, who soon arrived.
One villager used his cell phone to film as the farmer told the
soldiers what happened. The trespassing settler, the farmer said, was
named Zohar and was approximately 20 years old. “I told him, ‘Zohar, I
want to put you in my car, you are like my son, do not be afraid,’” the
farmer said on the video.
The Israeli soldiers escorted the settler out, unscathed. End of story.
The same thing happened a few months ago close to the nearby village of
Qusra. A group of settlers in their late teens and 20s were seen
attacking Palestinian farmers in broad daylight.
Palestinian villagers caught them and beat them up, but another group
of Palestinians put the kids on the roof of a house, gave them bandages
and water, and despite a gathering mob, made sure no one harmed them
further. Palestinian officials called Israeli soldiers who escorted the
The residents of Lubban have every reason to be angry with Israeli
settlers. In 2010, settlers were suspected of torching a village mosque
and olive trees. In 2012, a soldier and two Israeli women were arrested
for spray painting “Mohammed is a pig” on a village home.
Capturing someone in the act, however, is rare. Nabbing the mule thief
was like the occupied trapping the occupier, the mouse catching the
cat. It showed a strategy that Palestinian officials are trying to
“If a problem erupts, we need to announce it through the mosque
declaration system. The whole village will know about it,” Daghlas
said. “Secondly, everyone should gather. We need numbers to combat such
"Number three, we need to immediately [alert] people like me, as well
as a Palestinian coordination officer. We need to create a system for
coordination” — for contacting Israeli soldiers to evacuate the
settlers and avoid Palestinians harming them.
March 22 is World Water Day
East Children's Alliance (MECA) Maia Project is now providng
clean water to more than 50,000 children in Gaza every single day
For Palestinians, this is a strategic move, said Daghlas.
“Our people are aware of the repercussions and the punishments that
would fall on their heads if they were to use violence,” Daghlas said.
Settler attacks can happen as frequently as every week, said Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem
These spontaneous vigilante groups — neighborhood watch-style — are the
only real way Palestinians can protect themselves from settler attacks,
she said, because the Israeli security forces aren’t doing their job
“Each and every incident seems minor. I mean, it’s one car here, one
olive grove there,” Michaeli said. “But if you view the series of
attacks that have been perpetrated against Palestinians in specific
areas, every single incident contributes to a very, very large picture
in which people are living in places where they have no protection.”
Dani Dayan, a leader of the settler movement, chastises the Israeli
security forces for failing to prevent and prosecute settlers who
commit the attacks.
Dayan said he has met with Israel’s attorney general, the police
inspector general, the head of the Shin Bet clandestine security
service and the army officer in charge of the area.
“I begged. I would say I demanded of them to be more harsh, and first
and foremost to be more effective,” Dayan added. “I don’t have an
intelligent answer to the question why and how our law enforcement
agencies are so unsuccessful.”
But over the past eight years, according to UN figures, the annual rate of Israeli settler attacks has almost quadrupled.
That sometimes leaves Palestinians feeling that their only recourse is taking law enforcement into their own hands.
fall, MECA installed 14 new water purification and desalination units
in schools and kindergartens bringing the total number of purification
units to 52. You can check the MECA website for a full list of locations and beneficiaries.
Water apartheid in Palestine - a crime against humanity?(Ayman Rabi, stopmekorot.org, 3/22/14)
MECA also announced the addition of Safaa El-Derawi to our team in
Gaza. Safaa is a water engineer born and raised in the Gaza Strip. She
will be making regular visits to all of the schools and kindergartens
where we have installed water units to test the water, oversee any
repairs and maintenance necessary, lead workshops about the water
crisis in Gaza, and explain to staff and students the dangers of
unpurified water to their health.
While MECA celebrates this important milestone in the Maia Project,
MECA would also like to highlight a new call to action from
friends and partners in Palestine.
Today marks the start of the first International Week Against Mekorot,
Israel’s state-owned water company that is responsible for implementing
"water apartheid" on Palestinians.
Today is UN World Water Day
- a day to
remember the billion people who are unable to meet their needs for
safe, clean water due to drought, poverty and official neglect.
But it’s also a day to remember, and fight for, 2.1 million
Palestinians who suffer something different – an artificial water
scarcity deliberately created and sustained by Israel’s military
occupation, and the private Israeli water company Mekorot.
Systematic, acute, malicious discrimination in access to water in the
West Bank and Gaza, combined with massive resource theft, is operated
by the occupation authorities and the private water company Mekorot.
Increased international pressure brings hope that the tide may be
finally turning for Palestinians striving for water justice in the West
Bank and Gaza – in particular, recent investment and partnership
decisons against Mekarot, which runs Israel’s discriminatory water
policy in the West Bank.
The situation in Gaza is especially dire. The tiny, densely populated
territory relies entirely on its depleted, saltwater-contaminated and
sewage-polluted aquifer, and the water it produces is unfit for
consumption. Water has to be bought, expensively, in bottles or from
Moreover restrictions on fuel imports
mean that Gaza’s single power station spends most of its time idle –
and so long as it’s not running, water and sewage cannot be pumped. So
the taps are dry, toilets are blocked, and sewage pollution gets worse.
Not that Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have it a lot better.
As reported on 17th March, the city suffered a long water cut beginning
on 4th March leaving Ras Shehada, Ras Khamis, Dahyat A’salam and the
Shuafat refugee camp – cut off from the rest of the city by the
separation wall – with no running water.
The reason is simple – old and inadequate water infrastructure, which there are no plans to improve or renew.
For West Bank as a whole the facts speak for themselves. The Oslo II
Accords dealt Palestinians a singularly poor hand - limiting the volume
of water it could produce, as well as imposing severe restrictions on
the development and maintenance of Palestinian water infrastructure.
The Accords allow Palestinans to abstract only 118 million cubic meters
(mcm) per year from boreholes, wells, springs and precipitation in the
West Bank. But Israel is allowed to take four times as much – 483 mcm
per year – from the same Palestinian resources.
So not only does Israel now occupy 80% of the area of historic
Palestine, but it – via the water company Mekarot – also takes 80% of
the water resources from the 20% of the land that is left to the
As reported by Amira Hass in Ha’aretz,
“in that agreement Israel imposed a scandalously uneven, humiliating
and infuriating division of the water resources”.
While Palestinian water is piped into Israel at no cost, a fraction of
it is then piped back again, and paid for. In this way Israel is
extracting from Palestinians both their water, and their money.
In some cases Palestinians are forced to pay ten times more for their
water than the price in Tel Aviv – as in the village of Sussia on South
Mount Hebron, where they have to drive to the nearby town to buy
According to the UN Human Rights Council, this all translates into a
wide disparity between water use by Palestinians and by settlers in the
All Palestinian populations receive water volumes far below the level
recommended by the World Health Organization of 100 – 250 l/c/d.
According to the UNHRC:
“Settlements benefit from enough water to run farms and orchards, and
for swimming pools and spas, while Palestinians often struggle to
access the minimum water requirements. Some settlements consume
around 400 l/c/d, whereas Palestinian consumption is 73 l/c/d, and as
little as 10-20 l/c/d for Bedouin communities which depend on expensive
and low quality tanker water.”
These very low levels of water provision fail to meet the water needs
of many Palestinian communities – leaving them with often contaminated
water, and not enough of it.
An estimated 113,000 Palestinians in the
West Bank have no piped water supply, while hundreds of thousands more
have only intermittent supply, especially in the summer.
The restrictions and limitations imposed on Palestinians to access
their own resources and develop them have exacerbated the already
severe water shortages among Palestinian communities.
Among the restrictions are limits on the size of supply pipe, intended
to limit flows as a form of rationing. Typically 30% of the water leaks
from Palestinian supply pipes – because Israel refuses to allow their
In ‘Area C’, which covers 60% of the area of the West Bank, Palestinian
farmers and communities are not allowed to connect to the water network
that serves the growing settlements – and are forbidden even to dig out
The international community considers the establishment of Israeli
settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories illegal under
international law, as set out in the report of the fact finding mission
of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Yet the construction of new illegal Israeli settlements and ‘outposts’,
and the expansion of existing ones, is proceeding apace – and further
reducing the quantity of water allocated to Palestinians.
As reported by the UN in March 2012, another threat arises from settlers seizing springs by force:
“Palestinians have increasingly lost access to water sources in the
West Bank as a result of the takeover of springs by Israeli settlers,
who have used threats, intimidation and fences to ensure control of
water points close to the settlements.”
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) found that:
‘Week of Action Against Mekorot’
“The denial of water is used to trigger displacement,
particularly in areas slated for settlement expansion, especially since
these communities are mostly farmers and herders who depend on water
for their livelihoods.
“A number of testimonies highlighted that the cutting off from water
resources often precedes dispossession of lands for new settlement
Mekorot – at the heart of Israel’s water apartheid
All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are connected to piped water
supplied by Israeli water company Mekorot, which took over
responsibility for the water resources of the West Bank from the
occupying forces in 1982.
As the UN Human Rights Council reports: “In the Jordan Valley, deep
water drillings by the Israeli national water company Mekorot and the
agro-industrial company Mehadrin have caused Palestinian wells and
springs to dry up. Eighty per cent of the total water resources drilled
in the area is consumed by Israel and the settlements.”
Mekorot violates international law and
colludes in resource grabbing -including pillaging water resources in
Palestine. It supplies this pillaged water to illegal Israeli
settlements, and engages in systematic discrimination and denial of
water to the Palestinian population.
For this reason Palestinian
organizations including PENGON / Friends of the Earth Palestine have
co-organised a ‘Stop Mekorot‘ week of action starting today, on World
Why is Palestine taboo at Columbia College?
Eric Ruder reports on an effort to defend academic freedom for a Columbia instructor
The campaign aims to intensify pressure on governments and companies to
boycott Mekorot and hold the company accountable for its discriminatory
water policies and practices in Palestine.
In December 2013 the largest drinking water supplier in the
Netherlands, Vitens, set a precedent when it decided that its
commitment to international law meant it had to withdraw from a
cooperation agreement with Mekorot.
Mekorot suffered another blow this week when authorities in Buenos
Aires, Argentina, suspended a proposed $170m water treatment plant deal.
The decision followed a campaign by local trade unions and human rights
groups which highlighted Mekorot’s role in Israel’s theft of
Palestinian water resources.
Palestinians must have their rightful share of available resources and
be granted full authority to manage them properly. Equitable and wise
use of available resources among all people is the only basis for
lasting peace in the region.
And until then the deliberate, systematic, purposeful water
discrimination and resource theft carried out in Occupied Palestine by
the Occupation and Mekorot must be recognised for what they are –
crimes against humanity.
Ayman Rabi represents Friends of the Earth Palestine / PENGON, the
Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network – established in 1996 to serve
the Palestinian environment by coordinating the scattered efforts of
the different Palestinian NGOs working in the field of environment.
When Iymen Chehade, an instructor at
Columbia College, was summoned last fall for a meeting with the chair
of his department, he had a pretty good guess as to why. "There's
generally been one reason that they ask me to meet," he said in an
Unfortunately, he was right.
Since 2010, Chehade has taught a course about the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict in the department of Humanities, History and Social Science.
He initially taught three sections of the course and then was reduced
to two. But this semester, in the wake of his meeting with department
Chair Steve Corey, he's only teaching one.
So why did Corey want to meet with Chehade? After Chehade held a screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras
his class last fall, one of Chehade's students went to Corey with a
complaint of "bias." Corey told Chehade to teach his class in a more
"balanced" way and then requested that Chehade provide proof that he is
qualified to teach.
It's not difficult to see why anyone might find a viewing of 5 Broken
Cameras to be a jarring experience, but frank discussion of pressing
social issues is precisely why students seek out Chehade's class. The
film provides a firsthand account of nonviolent resistance against
Israel's attempts to destroy the West Bank village of Bil'in as Israeli
troops clear the way for construction of a separation wall.
This apartheid wall snakes it way through Palestinian territory,
separating farmers from their fields and families from one another. In
2004, the Hague's International Court of Justice ruled that Israel's
wall violates international law. Filmmaker Emad Burnat's moving
commitment to document his village's resistance to the wall
provides footage of Israeli troops using arrests, beatings, tear
gas and live ammunition to attempt to break the spirit of Bil'in.
On November 4, just seven days after Chehade's meeting with Corey,
Columbia College posted course offerings for students seeking to
register for the spring semester, including two sections of Chehade's
class. Within hours of posting the courses, however, administrators
pulled one of his sections, leaving him with only one course this
This Isn't the first time that Chehade
has found himself fending off charges of "bias." When Chehade was asked
to moderate a discussion after a public screening of 5 Broken Cameras
at Columbia College last spring, members of the campus Hillel
complained about the lack of a "pro-Israel" speaker. (Lynn Pollack, a
member of Jewish Voice for Peace, was a featured presenter.)
In the fall semester of 2011, eight students from three different
sections of Chehade's course, some of them members of Hillel, signed a
petition also making the charge of "bias" against Chehade. In a
follow-up meeting between the students, Chehade and some Columbia
College administrators, the students cited as examples of Chehade's
bias that he referred to the West Bank and Gaza as the "Occupied
Territories" (they preferred the term "Disputed Territories") and that
he used the term "ethnic cleansing" to describe how Israel drove some
750,000 Palestinians from their land and homes through violence,
intimidation and terror.
In response, dozens of students also in his class rallied to Chehade's
defense, crafting their own petition countering the eight students and
describing Chehade's course as an asset to Columbia College.
Of course, the charge of "bias" is really an attempt to constrain the
way in which the Israel-Palestine conflict is portrayed. In the words
Academic freedom entails not only the right to speak from a particular
perspective, but the freedom from being compelled to engage in a
particular type of speech. The frequent demand from Zionists that any
discussion of the conflict be "balanced" would be considered absurd in
most other contexts. For example, must every presentation about the
African American civil rights movement include a speaker who will
attempt to justify the denial of these rights?
Saudi Arabia Lists Muslim Brotherhood as Terrorist Organization
(Naharnet Newsdesk/Agence France Presse, 3/7/14)
Chehade also notes that when some
student groups at Columbia provided a platform for former Israeli
soldiers to speak in defense of Israel's military occupation of the
West Bank, he announced the event to his students and offered them
extra credit if they attended. He also did not insist on the inclusion
of a "pro-Palestinian" perspective.
Speaking about Chehade's situation, Ali Abunimad
, an internationally renowned advocate of Palestinian rights and author most recently of The Battle for Justice in Palestine
, put it this way:
For too long, teachers and students who want to speak freely about the
situation in Palestine have had to live in fear of retaliation. Calls
for "balance" are often ill-disguised efforts to ensure that
Palestinian voices are not allowed to be heard without supervision, and
that fundamental differences in power between Palestinians and the
Israeli state that occupies and colonizes their land are obscured with
"Fortunately, this is a new day, and more people are standing up
and speaking out against the silencing tactics that have been used on
campuses for so long," said Abunimah.
Prominent intellectuals and artists are adding their voices to this
effort by helping to explain the Israel-Palestine conflict in terms
that so many can relate to. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice
Walker, for example, recently compared Israel's oppression of
Palestinian to the conditions facing African Americans in the South
prior to civil rights movement. "It's so much like the South of 50
years ago, and actually more brutal, because in Palestine so many more
people are wounded, shot, killed, imprisoned," Walker said on Democracy Now!
The campaign to defend academic freedom at Columbia College and Prof.
Chehade's right to teach free of the administration's interference is
one part of this growing movement. In the words of Chehade:
"It is important to provide oppressed and struggling groups with forums
in which they speak for themselves and in their own voices--whether it
is the LGBTQ community, the African American community, or Palestinians
living under occupation. This is precisely what my approach has sought
to bring to the Palestine issue, and professors around the country are
taking a similar approach. The Zionist demand for "balance" is designed
to present the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as symmetrical. However,
the severe imbalance is clear: Palestinians are denied their basic
civil rights, and Israel continues to be in violation of international
law. The demand for "balance" is a simply a tool to muzzle."
Saudi Arabia on Friday listed the Muslim Brotherhood and two Syrian
jihadist groups as terrorist organizations, and ordered citizens
fighting abroad to return within 15 days or face imprisonment.
The move represents a major escalation against the Muslim Brotherhood
of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and indicates rising
concern in Riyadh over the possible return of battle-hardened Saudi
extremists from Syria.
In addition to the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi listed Al-Nusra Front,
which is Al-Qaida's official Syrian affiliate, and the Islamic State of
Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a rogue group fighting in both Syria and
Iraq, as terrorist organizations.
The order penalizes involvement in any of the groups' activities at
home or abroad -- including demonstrations -- and outlaws the use of
"slogans of these organizations", including in social media.
Riyadh is a staunch supporter of the Sunni-led rebels* battling to
overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad but has long feared blow-back
from radical jihadist groups, particularly after a spate of attacks by
a local Al-Qaida franchise from 2003 to 2006.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have
reportedly armed and funded extremist groups that have been responsible
for repeated atrocities according to a Human Rights Watch report.
King Abdullah last month decreed jail terms of up to 20 years for belonging to "terrorist groups" and fighting abroad.
Similar sentences will be passed on those belonging to "extremist
religious and ideological groups, or those classified as terrorist
organizations, domestically, regionally and internationally," state
news agency SPA said at the time.
Supporting such groups, adopting their ideology or promoting them
"through speech or writing" would also incur prison terms, the decree
Rights group Amnesty International
sharply criticized last month's decree in an article on its website titled Saudi Arabia: New terorism law is latest tool to crush peaceful expression
the law used an "overly vague definition of terrorism". Amnesty
International also describes Saudi Arabia's ascendancy to a seat on the
United Nation’s Human Rights Council as showing "utter disregard
for international human right law and the UN mechanisms put in place
for its protection."
Saudi and other conservative Gulf monarchies have long been hostile
towards the Muslim Brotherhood, fearing that its brand of grass-roots
activism and political Islam could undermine their authority.
Saudi hailed the overthrow of Morsi and pledged billions of dollars to
Egypt's military-installed government following his July 2013 ouster,
and in recent months has eclipsed Qatar as the main backer of Syria's
Egypt has launched a sweeping crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and detained reporters from Qatar's Al-Jazeera news network.
Leaked transcripts of a closed-door
meeting between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Prince Bandar bin
Sultan, head of Saudi intelligence, shed an extraordinary light on the
hard-nosed Realpolitik of the two sides.
WikiLeaks cables portray Saudi Arabia
The details of the talks were first leaked to the Russian press. A more
detailed version has since appeared in the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir,
which has Hezbollah links and is hostile to the Saudis.
As-Safir said Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in
Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen
terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no
accord. “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next
year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are
controlled by us,” he allegedly said.
Prince Bandar went on to say that Chechens operating in Syria were a
pressure tool that could be switched on an off. “These groups do not
scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will
have no role in Syria’s political future.”
as a cash machine for terrorists
(then Sec of State) Hillary Clinton memo highlights Gulf states' failure to block funding
for groups like al-Qaida, Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba
(Declan Walsh, Guardian UK, 12/5/2010)
According to the website middleeast.about.com
the United States has long been Saudi Arabia’s leading arms supplier.
From 1950 through 2006, Saudi Arabia bought or was granted from the
United States weapons, military equipment and services worth $79.8
billion. Almost a fifth of all American arms sales during that period
went to Saudi Arabia.
In comparison, Israel has received
$53.6 billion in U.S. military grants between 1949 and 2007. The Bush
administration agreed to a colossal increase in annual military aid to
Israel, however. militaries. Annual military grants to Israel represent
over 20% of the Israeli defense budget. U.S. military aid will increase
from $2.4 billion in 2008 to $3.1 billion a year through 2018. About
75% of the aid is spent on American weaponry and services.
Wikileaks article excerpt:
Saudi Arabia is the world's largest
source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban
and Lashkar-e-Taiba – (which carried out the Mumbai terrorist attacks
in 2008) but the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of
money, according to Hillary Clinton.
"More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial
support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist
groups," says a secret December 2009 paper signed by the US secretary
of state. Her memo urged US diplomats to redouble their efforts to stop
Gulf money reaching extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide," she said.
The cables highlight an often ignored factor in the Pakistani and
Afghan conflicts: that the violence is partly bankrolled by rich,
conservative donors across the Arabian Sea whose governments do little
to stop them.
The problem is particularly acute in Saudi Arabia, where militants
soliciting funds slip into the country disguised as holy pilgrims, set
up front companies to launder funds and receive money from
Washington is critical of the Saudi refusal to ban three charities
classified as terrorist entities in the US. "Intelligence suggests that
these groups continue to send money overseas and, at times, fund
extremism overseas," she said.
Any criticisms are generally offered in private. The cables show that
when it comes to powerful oil-rich allies US diplomats save their
concerns for closed-door talks.
The cables show how before the Mumbai attacks in 2008, Pakistani and
Chinese diplomats manoeuvred hard to block UN sanctions against
Starvation in Al Yarmouk Palestinian Camp
Click here for video
Thousands 'slowly dying' in Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Syria
(Serene Assir, Irish Examiner, 3/1/14)
Thousands queuing for food aid
in Yarmouk camp where fighting off starvation
and death has become a daily reality
Combined excerpt from all articles:
Gaunt, ragged figures fill the streets
for as far as the eye can see in the besieged Palestinian refugee camp
of Yarmouk outside Damascus, where some 40,000 are said to be slowly
starving to death.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)
shocking images this week of thousands of people, their faces
emaciated, desperately flocking to receive food aid that only a few
were lucky enough to collect.
*UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly
in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a
population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees.
“We live in a big prison,” said Rami al-Sayed, a Syrian activist living
in Yarmouk. “But at least, in a prison, you have food. Here, there’s
nothing. We are slowly dying.”
Residents have spoken of eating grass, cats, and dogs in a bid to stay
alive. At least 86 people are known to have starved to death.
After months of shelling and fierce
fighting in and around Yarmouk between rebels and president Bashar
al-Assad’s troops, the camp’s population which was once Syria’s largest
Palestinian camp, has shrunk from 160,000 to 40,000.
Among them are 18,000 Palestinians.
Since last summer, the area has been under choking army siege, creating inhumane conditions for its inhabitants.
“The situation is really tragic. On the streets, all you see are emaciated people, their faces drained of any life” said Sayed.
“There are no more people in Yarmouk, only skeletons with yellow skin,”
Umm Hassan, a 27-year-old resident and the mother of two toddlers
“Why don’t they kill us with chemicals? It would be done in a few
minutes. It’s better than this way,” said Abu Muhamed, an activist.
The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinians is overwhelmed by the crisis.
Since January, the agency has only been able to carry out limited, intermittent food distribution in the camp.
“Gaunt, ragged figures of all ages fill
the streets of the devastated camp for as far as the eye can see,”
UNRWA said, adding that such scenes were the agency’s “daily reality”.
“Humanitarian need has reached profound levels of desperation. Hunger
and anxiety are etched on the faces of the waiting multitudes.”
Since January, UNRWA has distributed only 7,500 food parcels in
Yarmouk, describing that as “a drop in the ocean compared with the
rising tide of need”.
Much of the camp has been reduced to rubble by shelling, fighting and occasional aerial bombardment.
The distribution only began after rebels who had come from outside the
camp agreed to withdraw, following a deal reached with Palestinian
The lack of food in Yarmouk is compounded by medical shortages.
“In the hospitals, there are wounded people who cannot be treated because there are no doctors or medicines,” said Sayed.
After a visit this week, UNRWA chief Filippo Grandi described the “shocking” conditions of life he witnessed in Yarmouk.
He compared the people flocking to the distribution point as “the appearance of ghosts”.
“[They] have been trapped in there not only without food, medicines,
clean water — all the basics — but also probably completely subjected
to fear because there was fierce fighting.
“The devastation is unbelievable. There is not one single building that I have seen that is not an empty shell by now.”
But he said the condition of the camp’s remaining residents “is more shocking even”.
“They can hardly speak,” he said.
Yarmouk is one of several parts of Syria where civilians are trapped
under regime or opposition sieges which prevent freedom of movement and
the entry of food and medicines.
More than 140,000 people have died in Syria since the conflict erupted in March 2011.
When the uprising against Assad erupted in March 2011, most
Palestinians stayed on the sidelines. As the revolt turned into a civil
war that reached Yarmouk in December 2012, most residents backed the
rebels and some even took up arms to fight Assad’s troops and
pro-government Palestinian fighters. (Pro-Assad Palestinian
factions blamed the presence of 2,500 rebel fighters in the camp for
the length of the siege.)
Starving to death in Syria's Yarmouk camp
Fighting has cut off food and medical supplies to 18,000 desperate refugees
(Eric Reidy, Al-Jazeeria, 1/29/14)
background information excerpt:
Innocent, starving, close to death:
Yarmouk is located 8km south of Damascus
and was established for refugees after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war
led to the creation of Israel, and the displacement of hundreds of
thousands of Palestinians.
Over the decades the camp grew into a large Damascus suburb home to
160,000 residents, prior to the outbreak of Syria's civil war in 2011,
according to UNWRA
estimates. Now, only about 18,000 people remain
inside the desolate camp.
The civil war reached Yarmouk in December 2012 when rebel forces
entered the camp attempting to consolidate their positions to the east
and south of Damascus, and push on towards the city centre. Syrian
government forces responded with aerial bombardment, sending thousands
fleeing in search of shelter in other parts of Syria and Lebanon.
Forces loyal to Assad succeeded in surrounding the camp and controlling
access to it in February 2013 (in an attempt to force out rebels).
Military-held checkpoints opened to allow aid to enter and residents to
escape, but in July government forces began blocking access points.
Yarmouk has now been under siege for more than 180 days.
One victim of the siege that shames Syria
(Fernande van Tets, Independent.co.uk, 1/16/14)
Israa al-Masri, who died shortly after this photo was taken, was one of
18,000 Palestinians trapped and starving in the Yarmouk refugee camp in
photo courtesy of AP from activist group Palestinians of Syria
(click above headline for full story)
Israa al-Masri was still a toddler when
she lost her battle to cling to life. But the image of her face,
pictured just minutes before she finally succumbed to starvation, is
becoming the symbol of a wider nightmare.
For Israa, tongue swollen, wearing a chunky sweater and woollen hat
that seem more substantial
than she is, was just one of thousands of
Palestinian refugees trapped and starving in Yarmouk refugee camp,
Once Syria’s largest Palestinian camp,
Yarmouk has been under siege for almost a year. Most of its 160,000
population fled following violent clashes in December 2012, but at
least 18,000 have remained, and months of encirclement by the Syrian
army, cut off from supplies and medical aid, have reduced them to
subsisting on a diet of animal food, water with salt and and leaves.
Lifting the Siege of Yarmouk
(Franklion Lamb, CounterPunch, 2/7-9/14)
Women are shot at by snipers as they try to gather plants to feed their
children. Israa is one of at least 50 to have died from hunger-related
causes since October.
“The people are now eating grass and have started to eat cat and dog
meat as a routine meal,” says Qais Saed, 26, whose last meal was three
days ago and consisted of water with some spices. He cannot recall the
last time he was not hungry.
Pro-Assad Palestinian factions blame the presence of 2,500 rebel fighters in the camp for the length of the siege.
Residents have recounted a scene of devastation and desperation inside
the camp, which was originally built in 1957 to house thousands of
Palestinians displaced by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Over time it
turned into a bustling residential area, with Syrian as well as
Palestinian inhabitants. Downtown Damascus is just five miles away.
“There are no more people in Yarmouk, only skeletons with yellow skin,”
Umm Hassan, a 27-year-old resident and the mother of two toddlers
“Why don’t they kill us with chemicals? It would be done in a few
minutes. It’s better than this way,” said Abu Muhamed, an activist.
A large yellow flat-bed truck arrived on
the morning of 2/5/14 and this observer watched as food parcels were
off-loaded and neatly stacked into six white pick-up trucks that were
then driven into Yarmouk under the watchful gaze of pro and anti-regime
forces and security agents. According to one source from
South Beirut who this observer had met earlier, Jabhat al Nusra, Jabhat
Islam, Daash and Jund al Cham snipers could be observed on rooftops
monitoring the distribution activity with their eyes pressed against
their rifle scopes. One SARCS volunteer who this observer has known for
two years advised that she feared there might be a shootout between
these fighters and nearby Palestinian forces allied with the government
(Ahmad Jibril’s PFLP-GC) suspected Hezbollah fighters with hand radio
phones who were watching and seemingly discussing the events. Frankly,
for this observer, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish which
group is which around here given the proliferation of fighters with
beards and essentially indistinguishable attire.
For many food parcel recipients, their
first act is to open the jar of jam inside the cardboard box and scoop
the confections into the mouths of their children or the nearby infirm
refugees, usually elderly. On 2/6/14, UNWRA also started a polio
vaccination program, its first in Yarmouk and which is urgently needed
by thousands of trapped camp residents. Ten thousand dosages of polio
vaccines are being allowed into the camp with vaccinations currently
underway for the second day running.
The Politics of Starvation in Syria
(Patrick Cockburn, CounterPunch, 1/30/14)
In addition to the so far paltry amount of food allowed into the camp,
approximately 1,600 people have been allowed to leave Yarmouk for
One elderly lady, maybe in her late sixties, explained to this observer
that every day for the past seven months, i.e. since the tight siege of
Yarmouk began last June, she has stood in the same location waiting for
her son Mahmoud to come to her from inside besieged Yarmouk. She has no
idea if he is alive but she explained to me that she believes that God
will deliver him safely to her.
Another view of much needed Divine assistance was articulated by a
lovely young mother who had just exited Yarmouk with her two toddlers
who looked, as she did, to be in fairly bad shape and in need of
immediate hospitalization. A former English literature student, the
lady, whose family is from Haifa, Occupied Palestine, explained to this
observer that she no longer has any belief in God and as she elaborated
why, she lowered her voice so as not to offend the nearby elderly
believer waiting for her son Makmoud.
She told of her experience trapped inside Yarmouk: “For the past more
than five months I have sold my body for one hour to whoever
would give me a kilo of rice which sometimes costs as much as 14,000
s.p. (close to $ 100). I was proud to be a whore for these terrorists
in order to keep my parents alive and who are still trapped and I also
prevented complete starvation of my children.”
“God did not help me and my family but I promise if I live and ever see
one of those dogs I will kill him and he can learn if his God exists or
not. None existed for me!” and she sobbed
as two young lady volunteers
from the PRCS held her as she and her little ones made
their way to
a waiting PRCS ambulance.
“Bread is a dream for children inside
Yarmouk Camp,” says Fuad, a Syrian Palestinian music
teacher who tries
to help bring food to the 20,000 Palestinians besieged inside Yarmouk.
Syria is dotted with sieges and blockades
of cities, towns and districts which in some cases are producing mass starvation.
The siege of Yarmouk, the Palestinian area in Damascus once called
“Little Palestine” and home to 160,000 people, is only one element in
the disaster that has hit the half-million Palestinians in Syria. Fuad,
the music teacher who is trying to emigrate to Egypt, says “it is a
second ‘al-Nakba’ for us”, the first al-Nakba or catastrophe being the
Palestinian expulsion in 1948 from what became the state of Israel.
All the Palestinians in Syria are caught up in this new disaster
because their camps after 1948 were usually built on the outskirts of
cities such as Damascus and Aleppo. They were therefore right in the
path of Syrian rebel forces advancing from the countryside in 2012 and
five camps have some presence of the armed opposition.
Palestinians living in a swathe of camps in south Damascus fled first to Yarmouk and then fled again when the rebels took most
of it over.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians believes that “440,000
Palestinians need help
and half of them are displaced within Syria.”
Between 30,000 and 50,000 have become refugees
What You Can Do:
Founder Barbara Lubin wrote the following earlier this week:
I will be travelling to Palestine and Lebanon in a few weeks to deliver aid and visit MECA’s projects on the ground.
Since I was in Lebanon last year, tens
of thousands more refugees from Syria—Palestinians and Iraqis, as well
as Syrians—have arrived in Lebanon’s already overcrowded refugee camps
and border areas.
Half of them are children.
As the war in Syria approaches three years, with no real sign of
resolution, more refugees arrive each day. They are cold, hungry,
traumatized by the violence they fled from, and in need of the most
basic things to survive with a little dignity.
The best way MECA can help them is for me to go there, meet with our
partner organizations in the refugee camps, and work with them to
purchase and distribute the items that are needed most.
Please make your donation
now so MECA can bring aid to thousands of children and families who fled the catastrophe in Syria.
Founder and Director
An open to Naftali Bennett:
is a United Nations agency established
by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance
and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine
refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon,
Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in
human development, pending a just solution to their plight.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand
for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees,
expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's
General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities are 97% reliant
on voluntary contributions.
The below linked donation page describes where contributions go
including UNRWA's urgently needed work on behalf of the 18,000
Palestinian refugees under siege in Yarmouk.
Unlike you, and most Israelis, water is not something I take for granted. It is a daily existential struggle.
(Nasser Nawajah, Haaretz 2/18/14)
note: Haaretz requires registration
full letter posted below all headlines
Water Torture for the Palestinians
Water discrimination is another tool being used
to wear down the Palestinians socially and politically
(Amira Hass, Haaretz, Opinion 2/18/14)
Why is the Israeli establishment so bent on denying the existence of water discrimination?
The Israeli 'watergate' scandal
facts about Palestinian water; Israel has adopted a drip-feed approach
to providing Palestinians with water instead of letting them control
their own natural resource
Because this time the Israeli establishment cannot wrap it in the usual
security excuses it resorts to with other sorts of blatant
When it comes to the water situation, the Israeli propaganda machine
and its helpers, the Zionist lobbies in the Diaspora, are in big
trouble. As was clearly shown when the German Martin Schulz had the
audacity to inquire in the Knesset – if the rumor he had heard
was true [he queried whether Israelis were allotted four times as much
water as Palestinians].
The systematic discrimination in water allocations to the Palestinians
is no false rumor. Israelis’ water welfare is not dependent upon it,
but without it the whole settlement enterprise would be way more
expensive, and perhaps even impossible to sustain in its current and
No wonder Habayit Hayehudi, the party most identified with the
settlers, reacted so furiously to Schulz’s remarks and walked out of
Water discrimination is another governmental tool being used to wear down the Palestinians socially and politically.
here are the facts:
* Israel doesn’t give water to the Palestinians. Rather, it sells it to them at full price.
Undeniable discrimination in the amount of water
* The Palestinians would not have been forced to buy water from Israel
if it were not an occupying power which controls their natural resource
and if it were not for the Oslo II Accords, which limit
the volume of
water they can produce, as well as the development and maintenance of
their water infrastructure.
* This 1995 interim agreement was supposed to lead to a permanent
arrangement after five years. The Palestinian negotiators deluded
themselves that they would gain sovereignty and thus control over their
The Palestinians were the weak, desperate, easily tempted side and
sloppy when it came to details. Therefore, in that agreement Israel
imposed a scandalously uneven, humiliating and infuriating division of
the water resources of the West Bank.
Some 20 percent goes to the Palestinians living in the West Bank, and
about 80 percent goes to Israelis – on both sides of the Green Line –
who also enjoy resources from the rest of the country.
Why should Palestinians agree to pay for desalinated water from Israel,
which constantly robs them of the water flowing under their feet?
The agreement’s second major scandal: Gaza’s water economy/management
was condemned to be self-sufficient and made reliant on the aquifer
within its borders. Overpumping in Gaza, which causes seawater and
sewage to penetrate into the aquifer, has made 90 percent of the
potable water undrinkable.
allocated to Israelis and Palestinians
Full post of Nasser Nawajah's
Open Letter to Naftali Bennett,
Israel's Minister of the Economy
Dear Minister Bennett:
My name is Nasser Nawajah. Although we
have never met, I am sure that you have visited very close to my home.
My neighbors from the settlement of Susya are very fond of you. In the
last election, 270 of the 381 voters from the settlement of Susya voted
for you and your party.
I understood from your response to the speech of European Parliament
President Martin Schulz that you find dealing with the issue of water —
or, more precisely, the water shortage among the Palestinians living in
the West Bank — to be something of a nuisance. You may be surprised to
hear that unlike you and most Israelis, water is not something I take
for granted. Instead, it is a daily existential struggle. It is no
theoretical matter; it is my family’s life. The war of statistics has
already begun, but I want to tell you about myself and my village.
I live in the village of Susya, which is
located between the settlement of Susya and the archaeological site
that you have named “the ancient Hebrew city.” That “ancient city” was
my home. In 1986,
when I was 4 years old, Israeli occupation forces
came to the village. The soldiers told us that it had been expropriated
“for public needs,” threw us out of our homes, demolished our homes and
forbade us to return there. Without home or property, we moved into
caves on our land and tried to rebuild our lives.
Unfortunately for us, during that time the settlement of Susya was
established very close to my family’s land. Army troops threw us out
again and again. We would build and plant, and everything would be
ruined. In 2001, we were expelled twice. Your Supreme Court ruled that
the second expulsion was illegal. We were told it had been a mistake.
But the destruction was awful: water wells and caves were destroyed and
fields were trampled. We did not give up. We kept living on our land,
holding onto what we could. Our story is one of many in the southern
Hebron Hills region, and one
of thousands across the West Bank.
We live from day to day, never knowing when the next expulsion will
come. But even in the midst
of this uncertain life, one of the major
difficulties we have is the same thing that angered you so much when
Mr. Schulz spoke about it: water.
For generations, my family and community have lived mainly on the
natural water reservoirs on our land. These are wells that my ancestors
dug in the hard ground, and on rainy days we collect our year’s supply
of water in them. The State of Israel, which has complete control over
Area C, treats us differently from our settler neighbors and refuses to
connect us to the water infrastructure. We have two options: buying
water or pumping it from our wells. Does that sound simple?
Access to 70 percent of our water wells
is currently blocked. Demolition orders hang over our heads. To reach
the wells, we need a special permit from the Israeli army. When we are
lucky enough to obtain a permit, we must deal with violent attacks by
settlers, who keep us from the water by force. Dozens of attacks have
taught us to be careful. My children know not to go near the area by
themselves lest the settlers come. When the army arrives, it disperses
us and the settlers, and sometimes arrests a few of us, but in any case
we cannot draw water that day. The water pipe that belongs to the
settlement of Susya passes through our private land, beneath our homes,
but we have no access to the water.
From left, Daniel Boyarin of Berkeley, Corey Robin of Brooklyn College, Rabbi Alissa Wise and
We can buy water in tanks, but we pay 35 shekels (about $10) per cubic
liter for water from the nearby city of Yatta. (You certainly know that
you, like every Israeli, like every settler, pay less than 9 shekels
for the same amount). One-third of my family’s monthly expenses go for
water, but unlike the Palestinians in the southern Hebron Hills, we are
lucky because we live near a road. The inhabitants of the more distant
villages pay more than NIS 50 per cubic liter of water.
I understand that these statistics are hard for you to hear, but
average water consumption among the Palestinians is less than 70 liters
per person per day, while for Israelis (including the settlers), water
consumption reaches 250 liters per day. No matter what the figures are,
I can assure you that we use much less water than the average. I would
like to believe that you, too, understand that no one
should live that
way. No child should have to be afraid to drink a glass of water lest
there be none tomorrow. These are my difficulties. These are my
The writer lives in the Palestinian village of Susya in the southern Hebron Hills.
Charles H. Manekin of the University of Maryland; all observant Jews who have found
that their views on Israel differ from those of family members and friends. (NYT)
A Conflict of Faith, Devoted to Jewish Observance,
but at Odds with Israel
(Mark Oppenheimer, Beliefs, NY Times, 2/14/14)
Hell freezes over
(NYT publishes glowing profile of anti-Zionists)
(Phillip Weis, Mondoweiss, 2/15/14)
short excerpt fr Mondoweiss
We’ve always told Adam we’ll have to
shut this site down when the mainstream media begin doing their job.
Well, here’s a big opening, involving the Jewish community. Mark
Oppenheimer’s “Beliefs” column in the New York Times profiles a number
of Jewish-observant anti-Zionists, in very positive terms. All are
sympathetic or supportive of the boycott, divestment, sanctions
excerpt from Oppenheimer NYT column:
There is no question that Charles H. Manekin
is a rarity. Not because he is an Orthodox Jew who keeps the Sabbath,
refraining from driving, turning on lights, even riding in elevators on
Saturdays. Rather, this philosophy professor at the University of
Maryland is rare because he believes that his Orthodox faith calls him
to take stands against Israel.
Professor Manekin, 61, became Orthodox
in college and became an Israeli citizen in the 1980s. Yet in an
interview this week, he denounced Israel’s “excessive reliance” on
military force, its treatment of Arab citizens and its occupation of
the West Bank. He is “sympathetic” to B.D.S., as the global
movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel is known.
“As a religious Jew,” he said, “I am especially disturbed by the daily injustices perpetrated against
The vast majority of Jews consider themselves supportive of Israel.
They may quarrel with various Israeli policies, but since the state’s
founding in 1948, and especially since the 1967 war, Zionism
has been a
common denominator of world Jewry.
And while there have always been anti- or non-Zionist Jews, today they
cluster on the less observant end of Judaism, among secular or
religiously liberal Jews. In such a world, Professor Manekin — a modern
Orthodox Jew in a skullcap whose religion moves him to oppose Israel —
is exceedingly rare.
Zionism was not always the norm among American Jews. Nevertheless,
those committed to Jewish practice but openly at odds with Israel are
now likely to find themselves at odds with their friends and family.
Since 2007 he has regularly offered criticisms of Israel on his blog, The Magnes Zionist
It is named for Judah L. Magnes, an American rabbi who, until his death
in 1948, argued that a Jewish return to the Middle East did not require
“People look at ‘non-statist Zionism’ as the type that lost,” Professor
Manekin said this week, referring to Rabbi Magnes’s philosophy. “But I
found a lot of what they were saying resonated today, and a lot of
their predictions about endless war had come to pass.”
67, teaches law at Hofstra University, on Long Island. He refrains from
work on the Sabbath, keeps kosher, and studies a page of the Talmud
every day. But his views on Israel have always been unusual.
“My parents were very sensitive to the issues of Palestinians,” Professor Krieger said. “My mom had a book called ‘They Are Human Too
and my memory is she would take it off the bookshelf, as if this was
some sort of scandalous tract she was showing me, and show me pictures
of Palestinians in refugee camps.”
Professor Krieger, who supports the B.D.S. movement, will not rise in
synagogue for the traditional prayer for the state of Israel. “I think
nationalism and religion together are toxic,” he said.
34, grew up in Cincinnati, in what she calls a “modern Orthodox or
Conservative kind of background, a very right-wing Zionist background.”
In 1999, she arrived at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. On her first
day of classes, there was a pro-Palestinian rally on campus.
Rabbi Wise — she was later ordained in
the Reconstructionist branch of Judaism — was shocked to learn of the
West Bank occupation. “I had gone to Jewish summer camp and Jewish day
school my whole life and had no idea,” she said.
Today, Rabbi Wise works for Jewish Voice for Peace
, a group that endorses some boycotts against Israel.
who teaches Talmud at the University of California, Berkeley, attended
Orthodox synagogues for 30 years. He believes that Zionism was always
“The very concept of a state defined as being for one people was deeply
problematic and inevitably going to lead to a moral and political
disaster,” said Professor Boyarin. “Which I think it has.”
Professor Boyarin, 67, is still observant, but he has dropped out of
synagogue life. “I have been so disturbed by the political discourse,”
he said, “that I felt that I couldn’t participate.”
Skepticism toward Zionism used to be common. Before World War II,
Reform Jews tended to believe that they had found a home in the United
States, and that Zionism could be seen as a form of dual loyalty.
Orthodox Jews generally believed, theologically, that a state of Israel
would have to wait for the Messiah’s arrival (a view some
ultra-Orthodox Jews still hold). In the 1930s and ’40s, the persecution
of European Jews turned many American Jews into Zionists. Major
organizations, like the American Jewish Committee and Hillel, the
Jewish campus group, turned toward political Zionism after the war.
was founded, it took a clear non-Zionist position,” said Noam Pianko
who teaches Jewish history at the University of Washington. “What you
see is a shift in the American spectrum: from non-Zionism with a few
Zionists, to a situation, by the 1960s, where the assumption is that
any American Jewish organization is also going to be clearly Zionist.”
, 46, a regular at a Conservative synagogue in Brooklyn, writes a blog
his opposition to Israeli policy and his support for the B.D.S.
movement. “There are lots of ways to be Jewish, but worshiping a
heavily militarized state seems like a bit of a comedown from our
past,” Professor Robin, who teaches political science at Brooklyn
College, said in an email.
He said that he tries not to get into arguments with friends, but he
has become very “vocal and visible” in his writings. In response to
such views, Professor Robin is often accused of despising Judaism.
“As my mother, who is very pro-Israel, will tell you, I love being
Jewish,” Professor Robin said. “I love when I’m walking down the
street, and my 5-year-old daughter’s skipping next to me, singing to
herself some tune in Hebrew that we sang in shul.
“I can’t listen to that tune and the words we sing when we close the
ark without a shudder. I love being Jewish. I just don’t love the state
Rena Netjes, who left Egypt after being accused of spreading false news: '
They want to close down anyone who gives them a voice.'
Photograph: Remko De Waal/EPA
Threats, assaults and arrests...perils of reporting from Egypt
(Patrick Kingsley, The Guardian, UK, 2/7/14)
Al-Jazeera English correspondents Sue Turton and Dominic Kane are among 20 journalists charged
in Egypt with tarnishing the country's reputation abroad, and helping
the former president Mohamed Morsi's now-banned Muslim Brotherhood.
Charges include "spreading false news" and aiding alleged terrorists –
part of a campaign against journalists that has taken many forms in
recent weeks. Turton and Kane are safely out of the country, but
four of their al-Jazeera colleagues are still in jail after being
arrested last year, while one was released this week.
Al-Jazeera is the most prominent target for Egyptian authorities as it is owned by Qatar
which has acted as a safe haven for Brotherhood members since Morsi's
overthrow in July. But all foreign media have come under threat
because, unlike almost all local outlets, international reporters have
tended to question the government narrative that Egypt is on the path
As a result, Egyptian newspapers and
television channels – both public and private – have claimed that all
foreign journalists are funded by the Muslim Brotherhood, or foreign
spies. Government officials have also played their part, attacking
foreign news outlets, including the Guardian UK.
"Egyptians believe they are in a state of war against the Muslim
Brotherhood, and anyone who gives them a microphone is seen as also
wanting to destroy Egypt," said Rena Netjes, a Dutch broadcast journalist who fled Egypt this week
after being accused of spreading false news. "So they want to close down anyone who gives them a voice."
The effect on journalists reporting in public spaces has been chilling.
Covering anti-government demonstrations has always been dangerous
because of the state's frequent use of live bullets and teargas, and
the police's tendency to briefly detain journalists at the scene. But
now correspondents are wary of reporting at state-sanctioned protests
because many members of the public are so hostile to foreign media.
Nadine Marroushi, a British freelancer and former news agency reporter
working in Egypt since 2011, was interviewing pro-government
demonstrators making their way to Tahrir Square on the third anniversaruy of Egypt's revolution on 25 January
when she was suddenly accused of working for al-Jazeera. "He kept
saying 'al-Jazeera, al-Jazeera', and then he said: 'We have to arrest
her,'" Marroushi said, in a story that strikes a chord with anyone
reporting in Egypt.
The crowd's mood shifted instantly. People started to attack Marroushi
and her colleague, "and one woman was basically strangling me with her
scarf". The police sheltered the pair in a nearby building while the
mob banged on the door.
While tourists are welcomed with open arms at Egypt's tourist sites,
most Cairo-based journalists have experienced similar assaults in
crowds, at the hands of both local citizens and police. The weekend
Marroushi was attacked, a German film crew was hospitalised after being
attacked by a mob, and an Italian journalist was also beaten up. On 25
January alone, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) documented 24
infringements against journalists.
Scarlett Johansson Chooses SodaStream Over Oxfam
The crackdown on Morsi supporters and secular activists have been far more brutal,
but some journalists now fear they will be next after Islamists and then leftist revolutionaries were targeted.
Hossam Meneai, an Egyptian documentary-maker, was arrested at his home on 22 January
a shocking incident that frightened many, said Meneai's British
flatmate, Nizar Manek. "They have pulverised the Brotherhood and now
they are going after secular liberals, even non-political actors who
may at some stage pose some difficulty for the regime," said Manek, a
business journalist who witnessed Meneai's arrest, and who has now fled
the country. "Hossam and myself are fairly ordinary people – so the
fact that they can turn up at our door means they can turn up at
What the law says about journalists is often unclear. The authorities
have given only incomprehensible advice on the legality of interviewing
the Muslim Brotherhood, who are now designated terrorists despite
holding public office less than a year ago. Egypt's new constitution
supposedly enshrines free speech, except "in times of war", a term the
government has used to describe the crackdown on Islamists.
Photojournalists are in a particularly precarious position. Not only
does the nature of their work force them closer to the violence, but
their equipment makes them more visible to vigilantes and police, said
Mosa'ab Elshamy, an acclaimed local photojournalist, whose brother
Abdullah is one of four al-Jazeera journalists in jail.
"The atmosphere of fear the government has created has made the public
suspicious of anyone holding a camera – just as they are suspicious of
people looking foreign," he said. "If you're on the streets with a
camera and a gas mask, equipment which is not easy to conceal, it's a
At least four international photojournalists have left Egypt since
December because the environment makes it almost impossible for them to
do their work.
"Possessing a camera is essentially an offence now," said Mosa'ab
Elshamy, "and certainly possessing a camera with protest photos in
After Dispute About West Bank Factory
SodaStream factory is built on a settlement made possible by one of the
largest expropriations of Palestinian land by Israel durng its 46-year
occupation of the West Bank.'
(Robert Mackey, The Lede, NY Times Blog, 1/30/14)
Forced to choose between two endorsement
deals, the actress Scarlett Johansson decided Wednesday to end her
charitable work on behalf of Oxfam
an antipoverty group that opposes trade with Israeli settlements, and
continue as a paid “brand ambassador” for SodaStream, a company that
manufactures products in the occupied West Bank.
Oxfam’s stated position is that “trade from Israeli settlements, which
are illegal under international law,” should be discouraged because
companies profiting from the continued occupation “further the ongoing
poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we
work to support.” Last week, however, Ms. Johansson expressed her
outspoken support for the SodaStream factory in the Israeli settlement
of Maale Adumim, echoing the company’s chief executive in calling the
plant “a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine.”
While the content of the talks between the actress and the charity were
not made public, a statement released on her behalf contained a
significant error about Oxfam’s policy regarding Israel. According to
the statement, Ms. Johansson and Oxfam parted ways because of “a
fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment
and sanctions movement.”
But Oxfam does not support the Palestinian-led campaign known as B.D.S.
seeks to isolate Israel economically until it ends the military
occupation of territories seized during the Six-Day War in 1967 and
allows Arab refugees to return to their former homes in what is now the
Jewish state. The charity objects to the import of goods produced in
Israeli settlements but is not opposed to trade with Israel, an Oxfam
representative told The Lede on Thursday.
Although many Israelis expect that settlement to become a part of
Israel after the land swaps Israeli governments have insisted on in any
future peace deal, “Maale Adumim is nevertheless a settlement
especially loathed by Israeli peace activists. It was made possible in
the 1970s by one of the largest expropriations of Palestinian land
implemented by Israel during its 46-year occupation of the West Bank.”
As the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem explained in 1999
the settlement, including the SodaStream factory, was built on land
taken from five Palestinian towns and two Bedouin tribes evicted by
Perhaps more important, as the Israeli columnist Larry Derfner
explained in 2012, this settlement is already “a stake in the heart of
a prospective Palestinian state,” because it nearly bisects the West
Bank and further construction there threatens to cut off “Palestinians’
access to East Jerusalem, their hoped-for capital.” That appears to be
less by accident than by design. Mr. Derfner noted that Benny Kashriel,
the settlement’s longtime mayor, told The Jerusalem Report in 2004,
“Maale Adumim was established to break Palestinian contiguity.” The
settlement, he added, “is Jerusalem’s connection to the Dead Sea and
the Jordan valley; if we weren’t here, Palestinians could connect their
villages and close off the roads. Maale Adumim necessarily cuts the
West Bank in two.”
While opponents of settlement trade,
like Oxfam, argue that the relatively small number of jobs generated by
factories there do not outweigh the crippling effect of Israel’s
military occupation on the Palestinian economy as a whole, SodaStream’s
defenders contend that the plant is a boon to hundreds of local
workers. The company’s chief executive, Daniel Birnbaum, told The
Forward this week that although the location was “a pain,” and that
SodaStream could move all of its manufacturing to a factory inside
Israeli’s internationally recognized borders, he would not do so out of
concern for the Palestinians who would lose their jobs. “We will not
throw our employees under the bus to promote anyone’s political
agenda,” he said.
Mr. Birnbaum also told a Reuters reporter who visited the factory the
next day that the SodaStream factory was “a dream for activists and
politicians on both sides of this dilemma, because it’s a model for
peace and is proving every day that there can and will be peace between
The reporter, Noah Browning, noted however that a “mid-level
Palestinian employee who spoke to Reuters outside the plant, away from
the bosses, painted a far less perfect picture.”
“There’s a lot of racism here,” he said, speaking on condition of
anonymity. “Most of the managers are Israeli, and West Bank employees
feel they can’t ask for pay rises or more benefits because they can be
fired and easily replaced.”
'A New York Times reporter in Israel is invariably
called an anti-Semite or self-hating Jew'
Haberman reflects on 37 years at the Times, his stint in Jerusalem and
on Israel, then and now: 'Your fencing yoursef in. You're
building your own Warsaw Ghetto.'
(Chemi Shalev, Haaretz 1/16/14)
(above link requires registration)
Clyde Haberman, 68, has just parted ways
with the Times, much to the regret of legions of fans of the smart New
York City columns that he’s written for the past 18 years. Before that
he reported for the Times on several major and historic national and
international news stories, from Japan to Jerusalem, from the fall of
Saddam to the fall of communism, and was also the Times’ bureau chief
in Tokyo and Rome.
But his stint in Israel during the tumultuous days of the Oslo Accords
was undoubtedly special for the Orthodox-born-and-raised Haberman, in
more ways than one.
“Throughout my career,” he says, “I’ve had my fair share of “you’re an
idiot” letters, but many more letters of praise as well. Israel is the
only assignment I ever had in which in four years I never once got a
letter that said "nice job." If I would have gotten one, I would have
had it embossed and put it on a wall, like a business does with the
first dollar bill it makes.”
This, he says, is the lot of most New York Times’ reporters in Israel,
as well as other prominent American journalists who have agreed to an
Israel posting. I ask whether sending a Jewish reporter is hence a good
or bad idea. “All other things being equal,” he replies, “it is
probably better to send a non-Jew rather than a Jew – just as I would
probably prefer to send a non-Indian to India. It’s better to avoid
that extra component.”
But when I point out that a majority of the Times’ representatives in
Israel in the past 30 years have, in fact, been Jewish, Haberman says:
“You may be surprised to learn that there aren’t as many correspondents
clamoring for the job as Israelis would like to think. Every Times
person in Israel has been subjected to non-stop assault. People realize
that it entails a lot of scrutiny, grief and verbal abuse.”
“We’ve had decades of correspondents that, no matter how different
they’ve been one from the other, no matter how talented they are or how
many Pulitzer Prizes they have to their name, always end up being
accused of being either anti-Semites or self-hating Jews. At some
point, this seeps into the DNA of the newspaper: This is what you can
expect if you go there - to have your integrity hurled back in your
face every single day.”
After a while it became clear to me, he
adds drily, “that if I didn’t want to be accused of hating Israel, I
should start every story with: ‘50 years after 6 million Jews died in
the Holocaust, Israel yesterday did one thing or the other.’”
“Jews still don’t believe that the world won’t turn on them. It’s
hardwired into their systems. They can’t accept that the Holocaust is a
distant memory for most of the world’s population and they get upset
when they are not perceived as perennial victims, even though they
hardly look like victims anymore. But historical memory today is almost
an oxymoron. People hardly remember the Vietnam War, and even 9/11 is a
starting to be a fading memory for younger Americans.”
Haberman recounts how impressed he was by Yitzhak Rabin’s inaugural
speech after his second election as prime minister in 1992, when he
told the Knesset that Israelis “have to stop thinking that the whole
world is against us." These words, Haberman notes, “were like a large
gong for me”, and the phrase even made the front page of the New York
Times. “It was such a dose of reality and such a refreshing change from
Yitzhak Shamir, who kept insisting that the whole world was against us
– all 5 billion of them.”
But that was a brief hiatus, I remind him, and it is Shamir’s view that
has prevailed. “I know,” he sighs. “All there is today is ‘we're under
siege, we’re under siege.’ Israel has built fences and barriers and
walls all around it. It has basically built its own ghetto, its own
Warsaw Ghetto, to keep everybody out.” To which he adds, almost
instinctively: “I know I’m going to get into trouble over that.”
...Haberman recounts the time a Jewish lady in a group he was lecturing
asked him about a report written by a Times reporter called David
Cohen. “I wracked my brains,” he says, “but didn’t know who she was
talking about. But then a light came on in my head and I said: ‘it’s
David Chen, not David Cohen.’ She had subconsciously inserted the O.”
“You better get used to it,” he told his
sheepish questioner, “There are less and less Cohens going into this
business and more and more Chens, and Hus, and Lius.” Part of the
problem of Jews and Israelis who habitually complain about the
‘self-hating Jews’ in American journalism," he adds," is that they are
simply behind the times.
Ariel Sharon 2/26/28-1/11/14
AP Photo/Oded Balilty
How Ariel SharonShaped Israel's Destiny
(Max Blumenthal, The Nation, 1/11/14)
excerpt pasted below related articles
I ask him what surprised him most about Israelis. For someone from the
Upper West Side, he says, it was the diversity of the population and
the coarse and rough day-to-day contact with other people. “But while I
may have eaten better in Rome and Tokyo,” he adds, “Jerusalem was the
most viscerally grabbing city I have lived in, perhaps because I’m
“I could see myself happily living there,” he adds, “if I was in
another line of work, if I didn’t have to involve myself in people’s
miseries and conflicts.” And if he didn’t have to be subjected to the
steady stream of animosity and criticism that seems to come with the
territory, I add, as we say goodbye.
The Sharon Doctrine
(Hussein Ibish, Foreign Affairs.com, 1/11/14)
For most Arabs, no Israeli in history is
more synonymous with violence and Israeli expansionism than Ariel
Sharon. His name quickly conjures the worst massacres, deepest
pro-settlement fanaticism, and most extreme nationalistic provocations
in the Palestinian bill of particulars against Israel. Less readily
appreciated by most Arabs is the complexity of Sharon's legacy and the
important lessons, both positive and negative, his final policies
suggest for peace.
Ariel Sharon, Israeli Hawk Who Sought Peace on His Terms, Dies at 85
(Ethan Bonner, NY Times, 1/11/14)
In many ways, Mr. Sharon’s story was
that of his country. A champion of an iron-fisted, territory-expanding
Zionism for most of his life, he stunned Israel and the world in 2005
with a Nixon-to-China reversal and withdrew all Israeli settlers and
troops from Gaza. He then abandoned his Likud Party and formed a
centrist movement called Kadima focused on further territorial
withdrawal and a Palestinian state next door.
Excerpt fr Max Blumenthal piece linked above:
A central player in Israeli affairs
since the state’s inception, Ariel Sharon molded history according to
his own stark vision. He won consent for his plans through ruthlessness
and guile, and resorted to force when he could not find any. An accused
war criminal who presided over the killing of thousands of civilians,
his foes referred to him as “The Bulldozer.” To those who revered him
as a strong-armed protector and patron saint of the settlements, he was
“The King of Israel.” In a life acted out in three parts, Sharon
destroyed entire cities, wasted countless lives and sabotaged careers
to shape the reality on the ground.
The first act of Sharon’s career began after the 1948 war that
established Israel at the expense of 750,000 Palestinians who were
driven away in a campaign of mass expulsion. Badly wounded in the
battle of Latrun, where the Israeli army suffered a bitter defeat at
the hands of the Royal Jordanian Army, Sharon yearned to finish 1948—to
complete the expulsion project he viewed as deficient.
In 1953, Sharon was appointed the head
of a secret commando unit tasked with carrying out brutal acts of
reprisal and sabotage. Following a lethal Palestinian assault on an
Israeli kibbutz, Sharon led his men into the West Bank town of Qibya
with orders from Ben Gurion’s Central Command to “carry out destruction
and cause maximum damage.” By the time they were done, sixty-nine
civilians—mostly Palestinian women and children—lay dead.
In the years after that scandal, Sharon carried out bloody raids on
Egyptian and Syrian territory that inflamed relations with Israel’s
neighbors and led them to seek urgent military assistance from the
Soviet Union. In the 1956 Sinai Campaign, Sharon was accused by one of
his commanders, Arye Biro, of overseeing the massacre of forty-nine
Egyptian quarry workers who had been taken prisoner and had no role in
the fighting (official censorship kept the details from the public for
decades). In the 1967 Six Day War, Sharon ran up the body count on
encircled Egyptian tank units, converting unprecedented kill ratios
into national fame. With the Gaza Strip now under Israeli control,
Sharon orchestrated the razing of Palestinian citrus orchards to make
way for Jewish colonization.
Appointed minister of agriculture, Sharon exploited his seemingly
insignificant position to bring the messianic project of Greater Israel
to fruition. With unbridled vigor, he expanded the settlement
enterprise across the West Bank, He revealed his strategy in a private
chat with Winston Churchill’s grandson: “We’ll make a pastrami sandwich
out of them. We’ll insert a strip of Jewish settlements in between the
Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlements right across
the West Bank, so that in twenty-five years’ time, neither the United
Nations nor the United States, nobody, will be able to tear it apart.”
Sharon entered the Defense Ministry
consumed with dreams of an Israeli-friendly Christian puppet government
in Beirut—the bulwark of a regional Israeli empire. Clamoring for an
invasion of Lebanon, Sharon withheld his true intentions from everyone
except perhaps Begin, claiming he merely aimed to drive the PLO out of
southern Lebanon, where it had staged periodic raids on Israeli
territory. When Begin green-lighted Operation Peace for Galilee in June
1982, Sharon sent Israeli tanks rumbling towards Beirut without the
approval of the rest of the cabinet, whom Sharon had deliberately
deceived. Many of them were outraged, but it was too late to turn back.
Against fierce Palestinian resistance, one of the Middle East’s most
vital and cosmopolitan cities was laid to ruin. Sharon’s forces
flattened West Beirut with indiscriminate shelling, leaving streets
strewn with unburied corpses. With each passing day, disease and famine
spread at epidemic levels. In August, the day after the Israeli cabinet
accepted US special envoy Philip Habib’s proposal for the evacuation of
the PLO, Sharon’s forces bombarded Beirut for seven hours straight,
leaving 300 dead, most of them civilians. The Israeli sociologist
Baruch Kimmerling wrote that the raid “resembled the attack on Dresden
by the Allies toward the end of World War II.”
An Israeli tank patrols the Gaza border.
PLO forces withdrew from Lebanon but the
worst was yet to come. Sharon had stymied a proposal for the
introduction of multinational peacekeepers capable of preventing
reprisals against the defenseless Palestinian refugees who had been
left behind. Thus the stage was set for the most heinous massacre of
the war. Following the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, the Christian
warlord who was supposed to serve as Sharon’s handpicked puppet
president, Israeli forces helped usher Christian Phalangist militias
into the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila, then surrounded by the
Israeli military, providing them with intelligence and operational
support. Sharon and many of his officers were well aware of the
Phalangists’ intention to murder as many women and children as they
could. After days of slaughter, as many as 2,000 civilians were dead,
with countless others raped and brutalized.
In February 1983, Israel’s Kahan Commission found Sharon “indirectly
responsible” for the massacre, urging his dismissal as defense
In July 2001, a Belgian court opened an inquiry into the Sabra and
Shatila massacre when a group of survivors filed a complaint under the
country’s “universal jurisdiction” guidelines. Elie Hobeika, the
Phalangist commander directly responsible for the killings, was
assassinated months later, after informing Belgian politicians that he
would testify against Sharon. In September 2003, with Belgian relations
with Israel at an all-time low, the Belgian court threw out the case,
citing Sharon’s diplomatic immunity
Above excerpt is from an article that appears in The Nation written by Max Blumenthal.
for full article.
British parliamentarians are calling for an end to the blockade that started five years ago.
Photograph: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
Time to end Israel's Gaza blockade
(The Guardian UK, 12/27/13)
UK MPs say time to end Israel's Gaza blockade and collective punishment of Palestinians
The MP's letter:
"Today marks five years since the
Israeli military launched missile and ground attacks on Gaza, which
Israel named Operation Cast Lead. According to the UN, 1,383
Palestinians died as a result, including 333 children."
Dore note: according to B'Tselem -
The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied
Territories, Palestinians killed 9 Israelis during the operation.
Another 4 soldiers were killed by friendly fire.
"And what of the survivors? For the 1.7 million living in the tiny Gaza
Strip, life has become increasingly desperate because of Israel's
continuing blockade, backed by Egypt and with no effective challenge
from governments around the world. The blockade has brought electricity
cuts of 16 hours a day, which means the only street lights visible at
night have been those from Israel's nearby towns. The electricity
shortages have severely affected almost all essential services,
including health, water, sanitation and schooling. With waste plants
not operating, Palestinian children have been wading through freezing
sewage to attend school. The terrible floods in Gaza brought the
promise of increased electricity supplies for a few weeks, but the
international community must demand that supply is constant and
This blockade has also resulted in
unacceptable limits on personal freedom. Most Palestinians are
prevented from travelling outside Gaza, an area of 139 sq miles: about
the same size, but much more densely populated, as Newcastle. It is
deplorable for us to allow this continuing collective punishment
against Palestinians in Gaza. We urge the UK government to take
immediate action to bring an end to the blockade on Gaza."
Baroness Blackstone, Peter Bottomley
MP, Richard Burden MP, Martin Caton MP, Katy Clark MP, Michael Connarty
MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Alex Cunningham MP, Lord Dubs, Mark Durkan MP,
Lord Dykes, John Hemming MP, Julian Huppert MP, Lord Hylton, Hugh
Lanning, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Lord Judd, Caroline Lucas MP,
Sir Gerald Kaufman MP, George Mudie MP, Grahame Morris MP, Sandra
Osborne MP, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, Rt Hon Dame Joan Ruddock MP, Andy
Slaughter MP, Baroness Tonge, Yasmin Qureshi MP, David Ward MP, Mike
UNWRA’s Chris Gunness
“Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a
community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in
human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where
the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man made
to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such
as this. And of course it is the most vulnerable, the women and
children, the elderly who will pay the highest price of failure to end
The crisis in Gaza is escalating daily,
resulting in even greater suffering for the 1.7 million Palestinians
living under siege in just 365 sq km of land bordering the
Mediterranean. Half of the population are under 18, and two thirds are
Until recently, in an inventive attempt to survive despite Israel’s
brutal blockade, much of Gaza’s food and fuel requirements came through
tunnels dug between Gaza and Egypt. But following the coup, Egypt has
blocked the tunnels and closed the crossing at Rafah (the pedestrian
crossing between Egypt and Gaza) to almost all Palestinians.
Israel, supported by the US, UK and EU, has laid siege to the Gaza
Strip since June 2007. Dov Weissglass, acting as advisor to the Israeli
Prime Minister at the time, clarified the plan was to increase
Palestinian suffering as punishment for delivering a majority to the
Palestinian party Hamas after holding democratic elections in 2006.
“The idea,” he said, “is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to
make them die of hunger.”
Palestinians living in Gaza had already been subjected to severe
restrictions in movement, but the Israeli-led siege increased their
suffering – with even foodstuffs, medicines and educational supplies
Palestinians in Gaza are subject to regular Israeli attacks by air,
land and sea . Farmers in the ‘buffer zone’ have been shot and killed.
Israel arbitrarily imposed a limit of 3km for fishing boats – and has
shot at boats, kidnapping fishermen and taking them to Israel.
Israel’s military attacks on Gaza intensified in winter 08/09, and November 2012.
An Interview with Roger Waters
by Frank Barat, Counterpunch 12/6/13
On 27 December, 2008, Israel launched an air offensive, killing more than 200
Palestinians in the first day, followed by a ground invasion on 3
January 2009. By the time that Israel withdrew its ground troops on 21
January 2009, over 1400 Palestinians had been killed, and 13 Israelis.
Between 14 and 21 November 2012, Israel launched another wave of air
strikes against Gaza. The UN Human Rights Council reported that 174
Palestinians were killed – at least 168 of them by Israeli military
action, including 33 children and 13 women. Six Israelis were
Israel’s blockade also targets reconstruction materials to repair
houses and infrastructure, including sewage pipes, damaged by Israeli
strikes. This means that sewage seeps into the water supply in Gaza,
with raw sewage pumped directly into the sea.
90% of the water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption. Electricity
powercuts are frequent, and fuel shortages are only too common.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC)
PSC campaigns for peace & justice
for Palestinians, in support of international law and human rights
& against all racism. PSC is an independent, non-governmental
and non-party political organisation with members from many communities
across Britain, and increasingly throughout the world.
situation in Israel/ Palestine, with the occupation, the ethnic
cleansing and the systematic racist apartheid Israeli regime is
FB: When did you make the decision to make the Wall tour (that ended in Paris in September 2013) so political ?
RW: The first show was October 14th 2010. I had already decided
to make it much broader politically than it had been in 1979/80. It
could not be just about this whinny little guy who didn’t like his
teachers. It had to be more universal. That’s why ‘fallen loved ones’
came into it (the shows are showing pictures of people that died during
wars) trying to universalise the sense of grief and loss that we all
feel towards family members killed in conflict. Whatever the wars or
the circumstances, they (in the non western world), feel as much lost
as we do. Wars become an important symbol because of that separation
between ‘us and them,’ which is fundamental to all conflicts.
it comes to Palestine, you are very open about your support for a
cultural boycott of Israel. People opposing this tactic say that
culture should not be boycotted. What would you answer to that?
RW: I would say that I understand their opinion. Everybody should have
one. But I can’t agree with them, I think that they are entirely wrong.
The situation in Israel/ Palestine, with the occupation, the ethnic
cleansing and the systematic racist apartheid Israeli regime is
unacceptable. So for an artist to go and play in a country that
occupies other people’s land and oppresses them the way Israel does, is
plain wrong. They should say no. I would not have played for the Vichy
government in occupied France in the Second World War, I would not have
played in Berlin either during this time. Many people did, back in the
day. There were many people that pretended that the oppression of the
Jews was not going on. From 1933 until 1946. So this is not a new
scenario. Except that this time it’s the Palestinian People being
murdered. It’s the duty of every thinking human being to ask: “What can
I do?”. Anybody who looks at the situation will see that if you choose
not to take up arms to fight your oppressor, the non violent route, and
the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S) movement, which started in
Palestine with 100% support from Palestinian civil society in
2004-2005, a movement that has now been joined by many people around
the world, the global civil society, is a legitimate form of resistance
to this brutal and oppressive regime. I have nearly finished Max
Blumenthal’s book "Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel"
It’s a chilling read. It’s extremely well written in my view. He is a
very good journalist and takes great pains to make sure that what he
writes is correct. He also gives a voice to the other side. The voice,
for instance, of the right wing rabbinate, which is so bizarre and hard
to hear that you can hardly believe that it’s real. They believe some
very weird stuff you know, they believe that everybody that is not a
Jew is only on earth to serve them and they believe that the Indigenous
people of the region that they kicked off the land in 1948 and have
continued to kick off the land ever since are sub-human. The parallels
with what went on in the 30’s in Germany are so crushingly obvious that
it doesn’t surprise me that the movement that both you and I are
involved in is growing every day. The Russell Tribunal on Palestine was
trying to shed light on this when we met, I only took part in two
sessions, you took part in many more. It is an extremely obvious and
fundamental problem of human rights which every thinking human being
should apply himself to.
scary thing is that the extreme Rabbinate you were talking about with
the extreme right wing views about the Palestinians and the non-Jews
are having a more and more prominent place in terms of the Israeli
society, regime and power structure and that is very scary.
I wanted to follow up on the Cultural
Boycott. You could, as many others do, I guess enjoy the benefits of
your success and lead a quiet, at least politically, non-controversial
life. Why do you do it but more importantly why do you think not more
people are doing it? Why a lot of artists who often take position
against wars, why don’t they touch Palestine?
RW: Well, where I live, in the USA, I think, A: they are frightened and
B: I think the propaganda machine that starts in Israeli schools and
that continues through all the Netanyahu’s bluster is poured all over
the United States, not just Fox but also CNN and in fact in all the
mainstream media. It’s like a huge bucket of crap that they are pouring
into the mouth of a gullible public in my view, when they say “we are
afraid of Iran, it is going to get nuclear weapons…”. It’s a
diversionary tactic. The lie that they have told for the last 20 years
is “Oh, we want to make peace” and they talk about Clinton and Arafat
and Barak being in Camp David and that they came very close to
agreeing, and the story that they sold was “Oh Arafat fucked it all
up”. Well, no, he did not. This is not the story. The fact of the
matter is no Israeli government has been serious about creating a
Palestinian state since 1948. They’ve always had the Ben Gurion agenda
of kicking all the Arabs out of the country and becoming greater
Israel. They tell a lie as part of their propaganda machinery whilst
doing the other thing but they have been doing it so obviously in the
last 10 years . For instance, even after when Obama went to Cairo and
made that speech about Arabs and the Israelis, everybody was like “Oh,
this is a step in a new direction at least”. But as soon as he visited
Israel, they said. “Oh by the way, we are building another 1200
settlements”. Exactly the same when Kerry went last year saying, “Oh I
am going to try to get the sides together and talk peace”. Netanhayu
said “Fuck you. We are going to build another 1500 settlements..”
Is AIPAC losing its clout?
It is a very complicated situation which
is why you and I and all the other people in the world who care about
their brothers and sisters and not just about the people of our own
faith, our own colour, our own race or our own whatever, have to stand
in solidarity shoulder to shoulder. This has been a very hard sell
particularly where I live in the United States of America. The Jewish
lobby is extraordinary powerful here and particularly in the industry
that I work in, the music industry and in rock’n roll as they say. I
promise you, naming no names, I’ve spoken to people who are terrified
that if they stand shoulder to shoulder with me they are going to get
fucked. They have said to me “aren’t you worried for your life?” and I
go “No, I’m not”. A few years ago, I was touring and 9/11 happened in
the middle of the tour and 2 or 3 people in my band who happened to be
United States citizens wouldn’t come on the next leg of the tour. I
said “ why not? Don’t you like the music anymore?” and they replied
“no, we love the music but we are Americans and it’s too dangerous for
us to travel abroad, they are trying to kill us” and I thought “Wow!”.
You know that Shuki Weiss (preeminent Israeli promoter) was offering me
a hundred thousand people at hundred dollars a ticket a few months ago
to come and play in Tel Aviv! “Hang on, that’s 10 million dollars”, how
could they offer it to me?! And I thought Shuki are you fucking deaf or
just dumb?! I am part of the BDS movement, I’m not going anywhere in
Israel, for any money, all I would be doing would be legitimizing the
policies of the government.
If eyes are going to be opened (people) need to either visit the
Holy land, visit the West Bank or Gaza or even visit Israel or any
single checkpoint anywhere and see what it’s like. All they would need
to do is visit or, read, read a book! Check out the history. Read Max
is an English rock musician, singer-songwriter, & composer. Best
known as bass player, co-lead vocalist, lyricist & principal
songwriter in Pink Floyd. He tweets @rogerwaters
Frank Barat is one of the producers of "The Wall has ears, conversation for Palestine."
Two recent defeats bode well for emerging Jewish activist groups
such as Bay Area's Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) (12/14/13)
John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, co-authors of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
wrote in a March 2006 essay
"Jewish Americans have set up an impressive array of organisations to
influence American foreign policy, of which AIPAC (American Israel
Public Affairs Committee aka "America's Pro Israel Lobby") is the most
powerful and best known. In 1997, Fortune magazine asked members
of Congress and their staffs to list the most powerful lobbies in
Washington. AIPAC was ranked second behind the American Association of
Retired People, but ahead of the AFL-CIO and the National Rifle
Association. A National Journal study in March 2005 reached a similar
conclusion, placing AIPAC in second place (tied with AARP) in the
Washington ‘muscle rankings’.
AIPAC forms the core of the Lobby’s influence in Congress. Its success
is due to its ability to reward legislators and congressional
candidates who support its agenda, and to punish those who challenge
But is AIPAC losing its clout?
Two recent defeats bode well for emerging Jewish activist groups such as Bay Area's Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)
Below are two excerpted emails I received this week from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP):
The Prawer Plan has been cancelled!
We've just received the welcome news that the Prawer Plan to forcibly
relocate over 40,000 Israeli Bedouin from their ancestral lands is no
longer under consideration by the Israeli Knesset. The recent
demonstrations on both sides of the Green Line, and throughout the
world, succeeded in raising enough doubt about this plan to help take
it off the table.
Your voices, in concert with the Bedouin communities in the Negev,
Jewish-Israeli activists, and the unanimous Palestinian resistance,
revealed the plan’s lack of integrity and accountability. We now know, if and when a future plan is developed, we have the ability to stop it in its tracks.
As we celebrate the Prawer Plan being scrapped, we understand that this victory is temporary.
This does not mean the Bedouin
communities in the Negev will be treated as equal citizens, or hooked
up to the basic services they require, or have their ancestral land
claims be recognized. Dozens of Bedouin villages remain unrecognized by
the Israeli government, lacking basic infrastructure such as water,
sewage, and electricity, and Bedouins continue to be forbidden from
building, buying or selling a home, receiving full government services,
or running for or voting in local government elections. Many Bedouin
homes and villages are still slated for demolition (the village of
Al-Araqib has already been demolished over 60 times).
Now more than ever, the Union for Reform Judaism
and all of us, must continue to raise our moral voice in favor of equal
rights for the Bedouin and recognition of their ancestral land claims.
We can exhale for now, with relief the Prawer Plan is no more, and then
take a new breath and get ready to continue the work to ensure that the
Negev Bedouin, and all people in the region, have what they need to
Rabbi Alissa Wise
Jewish Voice for Peace
1611 Telegraph Ave, Suite 550
Oakland, CA 94612
AIPAC's Visa Waiver!
Arnon Milchan, center, with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in 2005. Photo by Reuters
Hollywood tycoon Arnon Milchan opens up about past
The House of Representatives left DC for
the year just hours ago, and with it they left behind a terrible bill.
The US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act included admission for Israel
into the US Visa Waiver Program, which would have codified in US law
the right for Israel to discriminate against US citizens on the basis
of religion or ethnicity.
And now that bill is dead!
Jewish Voice for Peace
supporters, working in coalition, played a critical role in this victory:
• Over the past few months, JVP chapter-led
delegations met with their members of Congress in 23 cities to argue
against the bill
• Over 10,000 thousand JVP supporters signed a petition to the State Department
• Hundreds more participated in call-ins
And it worked! Congress just let the bill die without even a vote on the floor of the House or Senate.
The significance of our win cannot be overstated.
As you know, Arab and Muslim Americans are systematically targeted for
harassment, detention, searches, delays, and deportation when trying to
enter Israel. Including Israel in the Visa Waiver program with 37 other
countries would have tacitly approved and rewarded Israel's
The influential Israel lobby group
AIPAC made the bill one of its top priorities for 2013, but it didn't
even get out of committee. AIPAC lost this fight. They lost their fight
against diplomacy with Iran. And they lost the fight on bombing
The lesson here? We can fight AIPAC, and we can win.
P.S This work takes people, time and money. If you are inspired, please make a gift
as Israeli arms dealer andd secret agent
(Allison Kaplan Sommer, Haaretz, 11/26/13)
note: free registration required to access some stories
related Haaretz stories fr 2011-2013:
Did Hollywood bigwigs help Israel buy arms in the 1970's and '80's?
Longtime Hollywod film producer Arnon Milchan says they did
Israeli spy turned Hollywood producer rejects attempts to turn his story into a film
(Haaretz and Yossi Melman, 4/2/12)
Will your book on Arnon Milchan hurt Israeli security? An interview with author Meir Doron (Yossi Melman, Haaretz 7/20/11)
'Hollywood prodcuer was an Israeli nuclear agent'
According to a new biography, Arnon Milchan,
close friend of Israeli prime ministers and Hollywood stars,
was recruited by Shimon Peres to purchase equipment for Israel's nuclear program.
(Yossi Melman, Harretz 7/18/11
The Israeli investigative program “Uvda”
broadcast its season premiere telling the story behind the glitzy
career of one of the most influential figures in Hollywood: Arnon
Milchan, who led a double life as a longtime weapons dealer and
Israeli intelligence agent who purchased equipment for Israel's nuclear
program. He is also the Israeli producer of such hit movies as
"Pretty Woman," “Fight Club” and “L.A. Confidential.”
Though it wasn’t the first time
Milchan’s double life as an arms dealer and Israeli intelligence
operative has been reported, it was the first time the Israeli-born
Milchan, a multi-billionaire, discussed it openly in front of the
cameras, and the first time some of the movie stars and studio
executives who know him spoke about it on the record.
The show traced Milchan's career from the late '60s and early '70s,
when he was a young and successful businessman in the United States who
had a close relationship with Shimon Peres. At the time, Peres was in
the midst of creating the Dimona nuclear reactor, and Milchan began
helping in the effort to acquire equipment and knowledge for Israel’s
nuclear project through the secretive agency Lakam, Israel’s Bureau of
“Do you know what it was like to be a 20-something guy whose
country decided to let him be James Bond? Wow! The action! That was
exciting,” Milchan said. "Uvda" reporter Ilana Dayan described how
Milchan would set up bank accounts and companies, all used to acquire
material and equipment for the agency, while working for spy masters
Rafi Eitan and Benjamin Blumberg. Dayan reported that at the peak of
Milchan's activity, he was operating 30 companies in 17 different
In the 1970s, Milchan brokered deals for hundreds of millions of
dollars between Israel and U.S. companies for helicopters, missiles and
other equipment, "Uvda" reported.
The "Uvda" report does, however,
contain new details about Milchan's work, including claims that
other Hollywood bigwigs like the legendary, late director Sydney
Pollack, the director of “Tootsie” and “Out of Africa,” and at least
one other Academy Award-winning actor, both figured into his work for
Israel. The report reveals that Pollack acquired arms and other
military equipment for Israel in the 1970s.
Milchan also tells Dayan that he used at least one big-name actor's
star quality to lure U.S. scientist Arthur Biehl – an expert on nuclear
weapons and a co-developer of the hydrogen bomb – to a meeting.
According to the report, Milchan invited Biehl to the actor's home
under the pretense that the actor was seeking scientific advice for a
project he was working on.
Milchan said he thought Biehl would cooperate because, "Anyone who
lives in California is a 'star-fucker…' They hear 'star'…they come
The show revealed that Milchan convinced a German engineer to take home
classified documents from a safe where he worked: plans that detailed
how to construct a nuclear facility that Israel desperately needed but
that no state would share for any amount of money. Saying the engineer
"couldn't be bought," Milchan said he persuaded him to leave them on a
table and went out to dinner with his wife on the understanding that
someone would enter the house and photograph them.
The acquisition of nuclear triggers for
Israel by Milchan's company Milco was what nearly got him into serious
trouble when the FBI discovered that they were shipped to Israel
without the proper licensing, which led to the 1985 indictment of
aerospace executive Richard Kelly Smyth, who used one of Milchan’s
companies to ship triggers to Israel.
After the trigger incident, which was followed by the 1986 arrest of
Jonathan Pollard for spying on behalf of Israel, Israel's Bureau of
Scientific Relations was shut down.
Milchan also admitted to having used his Hollywood and media
connections to help the South African apartheid regime in its attempts
to polish its international image, in exchange for helping Israel
When Milchan’s friends and business associates were asked if the rumors
of his activities on behalf of Israel’s military had done anything to
tarnish his reputation in the entertainment industry, they said no.,
adding that the success of his films and his personal charm trumped any
misgivings. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch told Dayan: “Hollywood is a very
Jewish industry. Very pro-Israel. Many would honor him for it. Others
might be a bit frightened by it, but that’s all right.”
"Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan"
, released last year by Gefen Books, contains numerous disclosures about Milchan's involvement in Israel's nuclear program.
Writers Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman say the book is not an authorized
or official biography, and was in fact only shown to Milchan after it
Last year, Doron and Gelman told Haaretz
what they believe to be the most important disclosure of the book: "The
hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars paid in commissions for
defense deals between Israel and the United States. They were deposited
in secret bank accounts all over the world and used to fund Israeli
espionage activities abroad. The money in these accounts paid for
operations that helped Israel to obtain materials, technologies and
equipment that turned it into a nuclear power, with the fifth biggest
nuclear arsenal in the world.”
Bedouin children walk to school in the Negev desert.
"Prime ministers and defense ministers and finance ministers came and
went, but there was only one 'treasurer' of Israel's secret espionage
budget - Arnon Milchan. He collected commission fees from American
security firms that were deposited in the bank accounts of various
companies he set up in several countries where Israeli spy agencies
operate," said Doron and Gelman.
"The investigation into Milchan's life took us all over the world. To
apartheid South Africa and an atomic experiment carried out there by
Israel near the South Pole. To Iran in the era of the Shah and an
almost fantastical project in collaboration with the CIA that Milchan
was involved in. We found Milchan's 'fingerprints' in California, where
a company called Milco had been set up and that obtained technologies,
materials and equipment for the Dimona nuclear reactor and for the
Jericho missiles. We were amazed to discover that the company had
recruited some of the best nuclear experts in the United States, who in
effect worked for Israel."
"We believe Milchan acted out of patriotism. But he also saw great
profits, from transactions that were not carried out for the Israeli
government, including in Iran, South Africa and Taiwan, deals that he
might not otherwise have obtained. His companies made millions from
Photograph: Karen Robinson
Brits protest over Israel plan to remove 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins
More than 50 public figures including Julie Christie and Brian Eno
put names to letter opposing expulsion from historic land
(Harriet Sherwood, Guardian UK, 11/29/13)
More than 50 public figures in Britain,
including high-profile artists, musicians and writers, have put their
names to a letter opposing an Israeli plan to forcibly remove up to
70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their historic desert land – an act
condemned by critics as ethnic cleansing.
The letter, published in the Guardian, is part of a day of protest on
Saturday in Israel, Palestine and two dozen other countries over an
Israeli parliamentary bill that is expected to get final approval by
the end of this year.
The eviction and destruction of about 35 "unrecognised" villages in the
Negev desert will, the letter says, "mean the forced displacement of
Palestinians from their homes and land, and systematic discrimination
The signatories – who include the artist Antony Gormley, the actor
Julie Christie, the film director Mike Leigh and the musician Brian Eno
– are demanding that the British government holds Israel to account
over its human rights record and obligations under international law.
According to Israel, the aims of the Prawer Plan – named after the head
of a government commission, Ehud Prawer – are economic development of
the Negev desert and the regulation of Palestinian Bedouins living in
villages not recognised by the state.
The population of these villages will be removed to designated towns,
while plans for new Jewish settlements in the area are enacted.
But Adalah, a human rights and legal centre for Arabs in Israel, says:
"The real purpose of the legislation [is] the complete and final
severance of the Bedouin's historical ties to their land."
The "unrecognised" villages in the Negev, whose populations range from
a few hundred to 2,000, lack basic services such as running water,
electricity, landline telephones, roads, high schools and health
clinics. Some consist of a few shacks and animal pens made from
corrugated iron; others include concrete houses and mosques built
without necessary but unobtainable permission.
The Bedouin comprise about 30% of the
Negev's population but their villages take up only 2.5% of the land.
Before the state of Israel was created in 1948 they roamed widely
across the desert; now, two-thirds of the region has been designated as
military training grounds and firing ranges.
A member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) speaks into a microphone
Under the Prawer Plan, between 40,000 and 70,000 of the remaining
Bedouin – who became Israeli citizens in the 1950s – will be moved into
seven over-crowded, impoverished, crime-ridden state-planned towns. The
Israeli government says it is an opportunity for Bedouins to live in
modern homes, take regular jobs and send their children to mainstream
schools. They will be offered compensation to move, it adds.
Miranda Pennell, a film-maker and one of the letter's signatories,
said: "Citizenship counts for nothing in Israel if you happen to be an
Arab. Tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouin are being forcibly
displaced from their homes and lands. At the same time, there are
Israeli government advertisements on the web that promise you funding
as a British immigrant to come and live in 'vibrant communities' in the
Negev – if you are Jewish. This is ethnic cleansing."
The actor David Calder said: "The Israeli state not only practices
apartheid against the Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian
territories, but it seems they have no hesitation in practicing
apartheid on their own citizens – in this instance, the Bedouins. When
is the west going to find these actions intolerable?"
urging people to join their fight against the regime, in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
Al-Qaeda's battle for hearts and minds in Syria
Al-Qaeda spreads its gospel in market places and mosques in Syria
as it steps up bid to turn country into new caliphate
(Ruth Sherlock, Kilis, Turkey; Telegraph U.K. 11/20/13)
Al-Qaeda is waging a campaign to
indoctrinate civilians across northern Syria in a fundamentalist
interpretation of Islam, the first step in its ambition to build an
Behind the front lines of the war with the Assad regime, in towns and
villages in rebel-held Syria, the group is quietly working to impose
its ideology, sending its imams to preach in mosques, banning smoking
and beard-trimming and telling women to wear the burka.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Jabhat Al-Nusra –
both linked to al-Qaeda – first became known in the insurgency for
being some of the toughest and best equipped fighters.
For many months, they insisted that toppling President Bashar al-Assad
– not gaining an ideological foothold in Syria – was their immediate
goal. But a week of interviews by The Telegraph with members of
al-Qaeda, civilians living in Syrian towns and villages now under their
rule, and with other rebel fighters in the areas, reveals the
sophisticated strategy that the extremists are using to try to change
the nature of Syrian society.
Speaking from a safe house in Turkey
close to the border, Abu Abdullah, a Jordanian member of the ISIL, said
he had come to “apply Shariah, the rule of Allah” to Syria.
“We do this from the roots up; going through the educational process –
typing out a new syllabus for children in schools, and in the mosques
at Friday prayers,” he said. “We are putting them on the right track of
This regimen, al-Qaeda’s project for the future Syria, is most evident
in Raqqa, in the north-east, and in Dana, close to the Turkish border,
two towns where ISIL rules uncontested.
“They are imposing more and more new rules in the city every day,” said
Ahmed, a resident of Raqqa, who did not want to be identified by his
full name for fear of recrimination. “Last week ISIL put up signs all
round the city giving the order that all women 'must cover their
beauty’ including wearing a head covering. They gave a deadline of four
days by which time everyone had to be covered. There are jihadists in
the market handing out hijabs to passers-by.”
Raqqa’s residents have traditionally observed a moderate form of Islam.
It was not uncommon for women to be seen in public without the veil, or
even wearing skinny jeans. It had also been a hub for Syria’s more
Now, women are told not to visit male
doctors, speak to men outside the family, or even leave the house
unaccompanied by a man. The jihadists are trying to shut down the
mixed-sex schools, local people reported.
In Dana, the group has banned smoking, all shops must close at prayer
times and barbers are forbidden from trimming beards, local residents
Children are taught the new religious practices, and the society operates under the control of the Islamic court.
Signs have emerged warning that thieves will have their hands cut off as punishment for stealing.
Over the past year, the group has positioned itself, strategically, in
towns in Syria close to the Turkish border. From these hubs, its
members have dispatched emissaries to villages across the region,
trying to ensure that no population centre is left without its
Another member of ISIL, agreed to meet The Daily Telegraph in a hotel
in a small town in Turkey close to the border. Using the name Abu
Mohammed, he said he joined ISIL as soon as the foreign “brothers” came
to Syria because he agreed with their ambitions to build an Islamic
Violently sectarian, Abu Mohammed proclaimed that Alawites – the Shia
Muslim sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs – had “no place
It was these views that al-Qaeda was spreading, he said. And to do it
the group was taking to Syria its most eloquent speakers. “We are
sending our sheikhs and imams every week to the mosques in all the
liberated areas,” he added.
The preachers, many of whom operated in
Iraq during the 2003 invasion, are trained in grabbing the attention of
the crowds, in winning their support and whipping them into a frenzy.
Citrus farmer Yusuf Jilal
Arafat stands in front of his home, in which his 5-year-old daughter
Runan was killed when 10 Israeli missiles struck this mostly
agricultural area in the Al Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City, December
2, 2012. Arafat’s wife, four months pregnant, and 8-year-old son Jilal
(black shirt) were found alive in the rubble. His children now suffer
from frequent panic attacks at night. Arafat does not know why his home
was targeted, as no rockets were launched from the area.
In the rural plains of northern Syria, where education levels are low, the speeches are working to great effect.
“I sat in the sermon when one of their sheikhs came to my village
in Idlib,” said a Syrian man who used a pseudonym, Mahmoud.
“He blamed this war on the 'kaffers’, accusing Alawites and the West.
But his speech was eloquent and powerful. The next week when he came
back a bigger crowd had come to the mosque. The week after he had won
Abu Mohammed was confident ISIL would win. “For 40 years we have been slaves to the regime,” he said.
“When we teach Islam you find old men and women cramming into the
classes with the children; this is something they have been missing for
40 years. They want to breathe the Koran.”
With alliances in a constant flux in the Syrian war, it is impossible
to quantify exactly how much terrain groups linked to al-Qaeda fully
control. However, analysts say that, where just over a year ago they
were alien to Syria, they now have “influence in most towns and
villages” in the north of the country.
Charles Lister, a defence analyst for Janes said “The problem is, for
now, ISIL is simply too powerful for civilians to rise up against, and
even for the more moderate groups to fight.”
(photo by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)
A year after 'Pillar of Defense' the nightmare continues
year after 165 Palestinians and 6 israelis were killed, political
leaders have yet to conduct independent, impartial investigations into
allegations of human rights violations.
(Yonatan Gher, +972blog, 11/16/13)
On 21 November 2012, 13-year-old Mahmoud
Abu Khousa was killed when he was struck by a missile fired by an
Israeli drone as he walked to a shop down the road from his home in the
al-Manara area of Gaza City.
Delegates from Amnesty International’s International Secretariat examined the site
of the missile strike a few days later. The missile struck Mahmoud on a wide road
with good visibility from above. Israeli aerial surveillance
should have been able to see that he was a child. Witnesses said there
were no evident military targets in the vicinity at the time.
Mahmoud was killed on the last day of an eight-day conflict between the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups
in the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces had launched Operation Pillar of
Defense on 14 November 2012 by killing the leader of the military wing
of Hamas, following unlawful attacks by both sides in the preceding
Within just over a week, more than 165 Palestinians, including
more than 30 children and some 70 other civilians who were not directly
participating in hostilities, and six Israelis, including four
civilians, were killed. A ceasefire was reached on the evening of 21
The Israeli military has not commented on the killing of Mahmoud
in any of 18 strikes documented by Amnesty International, in which
civilians were killed by Israeli drone-fired missiles during that
Tens of thousands of Gazans fled their homes during the conflict.
While the majority of these families were able to return to their homes
after the ceasefire, they still struggle with the trauma of having had
to flee, often under fire. Hundreds of families in Gaza remain
displaced because their homes
were destroyed in the conflict. A year on, most have been unable
to rebuild because of the continuing Israeli restrictions on the import
of construction materials into Gaza.
In Israel, too, civilians bore the brunt of the conflict.
Palestinian armed groups fired more than 1,500 rockets and mortars
during the eight days. The vast majority of these weapons were
indiscriminate, meaning that they were not capable of being directed at
military targets and therefore their use violated international
One year after the fighting, neither side has conducted independent and impartial investigations into allegations of violations.
Israel’s Military Advocate General has received scores of
complaints from Palestinian and Israeli NGOs, including cases of
civilians who were killed in attacks which may well have been war
crimes, but has yet to open a single criminal investigation to Amnesty
Syrian Kurds with a PKK flag protest against the construction of a wall along the border.
The Hamas de facto administration in the
Gaza Strip has not conducted investigations of any kind into violations
of international humanitarian law by Palestinian armed groups during
The lack of accountability for serious violations of
international humanitarian law, including war crimes, is systemic and
goes well beyond the November 2012 conflict.
Israeli violations in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank
continue on a daily basis, including regular use of lethal force
against Palestinian civilians posing no threat to Israeli forces.
The fear of more bloodshed hangs like a dark cloud over men,
women and children who feel trapped in a cycle of violations fueled by
a climate of impunity. And if the fear of more deadly attacks wasn’t
bad enough, those living in Gaza have to contend with the disastrous
effects of Israel’s continuing land, sea and air blockade of the
territory, together with restrictions imposed by Egypt. Gazans lack
safe drinking water, face 12-hour power outages on a daily basis, and
many struggle to access basic necessities such as adequate food and
These hardships were compounded on November 1 of this year when
Gaza’s sole power plant was forced to shut down due to lack of fuel,
further jeopardizing vital health and sanitation services.
“The world has forgotten Gaza, its women and children. The
blockade is as bad as the war; it’s like a slow death for everyone in
Gaza. We are paying the price for disputes between different powers.
The world haslost its humanity,” ‘Attiyeh Abu Khousa, Mahmoud’s father, told Amnesty International last week.
The world continues to look the other way when it comes to the blockade
on Gaza, which collectively punishes 1.7 million civilians. This stark
violation of international law has been allowed to continue for more
than six years. Unless Israeli and Palestinian leaders demonstrate
political will to protect civilians –on both sides – the cycle of
violations will become a recurring nightmare. And unless the
international community ensures that ending human rights abuses and
impunity for crimes under international law are prioritized, a just and
enduring resolution of the conflict will remain elusive.
Yonatan Gher is the Director of Amnesty International Israel.
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Photograph: Mehmet Engin/AFP/Getty Images
Turkey's new border wall angers Kurds on both sides of Syrian divide
Locals shocked at building of 'unnecessary and divisive' new border wall,
which they claim risks Kurdish peace talks
(Constanze Letsch in Nusaybin, on the Turkey-Syria border; Guardian UK, 11/8/13)
The Turkish authorities have started
erecting a wall on the frontier with Syria in what is being seen as an
attempt to divide the Kurdish majority populations on both sides of the
border, prompting protests and hunger strikes, and jeopardising peace
Without informing the local government in the town of Nusaybin in
south-eastern Turkey, the authorities sent in construction crews
recently to start erecting a two-metre-high wall on the border with
Qamishli in north-eastern Syria. The sudden building project is stoking
fears that more walls are planned.
The Nusaybin mayor, Ayse Gökkan, has spent several days on a "death
fast" at the site this week in protest at what she calls the "wall of
shame". About 50 others joined the hunger strike, according to local
reports, and a big protest march is planned against alleged
According to Turkish newspaper reports on Friday morning, the wall
construction has been stopped temporarily and mayor has stopped her
The Turkish interior ministry said last
month the wall was being built "for security reasons", and to curb
smuggling and illegal crossings, allegations that Kurdish community
leaders on both sides of the frontier dispute strongly.
"There have never been fire fights across this border," Gökkan said.
"The terrain is completely flat and can be easily monitored. There are
landmines. This is probably the safest bit of our border with Syria."
"Why do they not build walls further west, where rebel fighters and
al-Qaida are allowed to cross the border freely?" Gökkan asked.
All Gökkan's inquiries to ministries and government offices went
unanswered. "I learned about the wall from the newspapers," she said.
Most locals strongly oppose what they see as an attempt to divide their
community. "We don't call it Nusaybin and Qamishli, or Turkey and
Syria," said one woman who wished to remain anonymous. "It has always
been 'this side of the fence' and 'the other side of the fence'. We are
all inter-married, we all have family on the other side. Many have dual
citizenship. This wall is an effort to separate Kurds in the region,
and nothing else."
The mayor warned that the anti-Kurdish move could sabotage ongoing
peace talks between Ankara and the Kurdish militants of the PKK aimed
at ending the 30-year-old Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.
"The wall is a declaration of war against Kurds by the Turkish
government," she said. "What kind of peace are they trying to achieve
by driving a wall between us?"
Many on both sides of the frontier see
the wall as the latest evidence of perceived Turkish government support
for Islamist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of
Iraq and the Levant who have been attacking Kurdish villages in Syria,
killing and displacing thousands, while also fighting the Assad regime.
In Syria, Palestinian Refugees Made Refugees Again
(Matt Surrusco, The Daily Beast, 1018/13)
Many Syrian Kurds who have fled to Turkey are angry too.
"We don't want this," a 56-year-old woman explained. "It is reassuring
to know that the rest of your family is right there in Qamishli. The
wall would cut us off completely from our relatives. Three of my
daughters are still in Syria."
" Ismail Boubi, head of a local Syrian-Turkish aid organisation who
fled Syria for Nusaybin 14 years ago, demanded that the wall be halted,
the minefields cleared and the barbed wire dismantled.
"The construction of the wall demolishes democracy. This is not what we need."
With Syria's civil war entering its
third year, 2 million Syrians are displaced internally while nearly
730,000 are refugees living outside Syria. But for the half million
Palestinian refugees who have lived in Syria since 1948, the situation
is even more dire. Jordan denies them refuge as a matter of policy, and
Lebanon restricts entry by a visa fee that Syrian refugees are not
required to pay.
Palestinians are running out of places to go.
More than half of the Palestinian residents of Syria have been
displaced, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency
(UNRWA), the U.N. agency that provides aid and services to 5 million
Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
Speaking from Amman, UNRWA deputy commissioner Margot Ellis recounted a
recent trip to Lebanon, where she visited a family of 23 Palestinians
from Syria who lived in a two-room apartment in the Shatila refugee
camp. They had to sleep in shifts because there wasn't enough room for
everyone to lie down at the same time. Lebanon has allowed in more
Palestinians from Syria than any other country, but it already hosted
490,000 refugees descended from those who fled in 1948.
(Dore Stein note: For Palestinians, 1948 marks the 'Nakba' or the
'catastrophe', when hundreds of thousands were forced out of their
The vast majority is denied citizenship or the right to work in nearly
every profession. They are dependent on international aid.
Jordan hosts the most Palestinian
refugees, with 2 million from the generations displaced in 1948 and
1967, and their descendants. But while nearly 400,000 Syrians have
found refuge in Jordan, the government has officially denied entry to
the Palestinians amongst them since January, citing security concerns
and the country's delicate demographic balance. The 9,200 Palestinian
refugees from Syria who did cross the border into Jordan have been held
in separate facilities, with local relatives prevented from obtaining
In dozens of cases, Palestinians have been sent back to Syria, against
the international norm of non-refoulement, or the principle of not
sending refugees back to the place they are fleeing due to persecution
Last year Israel offered West Bank residency to Palestinian refugees
from Syria, but only on condition they renounce their claim to refugee
status, meaning they would lose the right to UNRWA aid and give up
their right of return. Palestinians have not taken Israel up on its
“Without a just resolution of the refugee question in the context of a
negotiated Palestinian-Israeli settlement, Palestinians have nowhere to
go,” Ellis said.
First flying from Damascus to Cairo, 1,500 Palestinians from Syria have
gone to Gaza, where 67 percent of the standing refugee population of
1.2 million lives with food insecurity. About 6,000 Palestinians
fleeing Syria have stayed in Egypt and less than 1,600 went to Turkey,
both countries in
which UNRWA has no mandate.
The only other alternative is to remain in Syria and risk being killed.
Where Palestinian refugees once lived in large concentrations in Syria, now there are “ghost camps,” Ellis said.
In December 2012, fighting spilled into
the Yarmouk camp, a suburb south of Damascus and once home to the
largest Palestinian refugee population in Syria. Since then, Ellis
said, Yarmouk’s refugee population has declined by approximately
Human Rights Watch New Report on Syria
"You Can Still See Their Blood:
87 percent—from 160,000 to 20,000 or fewer.
Syrian government and opposition forces control different entry points
and areas inside the camp, which has compelled Palestinians to flee.
This phenomenon has been replicated in six of Syria’s 12 UNRWA camps,
where staff members no longer
In a single day in April, Ellis said 6,000 people were displaced from
Ein el-Tal, an unofficial camp near Aleppo, after armed groups swept
through the camp.
“If we can't get access, we can't help Palestinians in need,” she said.
Palestinians call their displacement from Syria “a second Nakba,” Ellis
said. The first Nakba, or catastrophe, was when Palestinians were
displaced in 1948.
But whereas in 1948 Syria greeted them with open arms, today their
adopted home is a war zone and the other Arab states that once welcomed
them are turning them away.
If Israel and the Palestinians reached a two-state solution, there
would be more flight options for Palestinian refugees, Ellis said.
“Palestinians would know what their future held.”
Until that happens, Palestinian refugees are apt to be made refugees many times over.
Executions, Indiscriminate Shootings, and Hostage Taking by Opposition Forces in Latakia Countryside"
(Click to view report, 10/10/13)
Click to View Human Rights Watch Video
Some of the Report's Findings:
Armed opposition groups in Syria killed
at least 190 civilians and seized over 200 hostages during a
military offensive that began in rural Latakia governorate on August
4. At least 67 of the victims were executed or unlawfully killed
in the operation around pro-government Alawite villages.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) Syria researcher Lama Fakih stated that taking
these Alawite villages in Latakia countryside would be a shot into the
heartland of Assad's stronghold. These villages are on the front line
of what is increasingly sectarian war between government forces and
The HRW Report
report presents evidence that the civilians were killed on August 4,
the first day of the operation. Two opposition groups that took part in
the offensive, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and Jaish
al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, are still holding the hostages, the vast
majority women and children. The findings strongly suggest that the
killings, hostage taking, and other abuses rise to the level of war
crimes and crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said.
“These abuses were not the actions of rogue fighters,” said Joe Stork, acting Middle East director
at Human Rights Watch
. “This operation was a coordinated, planned attack on the civilian population in these Alawite villages.”
To provide victims a measure of justice, the UN Security Council should
immediately refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC),
Human Rights Watch said. Human Rights Watch has also documented war
crimes and crimes against humanity by Syrian government forces.
For the report, Human Rights Watch
conducted an on-site investigation and interviewed more than 35 people,
including residents who survived the offensive, emergency response
staff, and fighters and activists on both government and opposition
Human Rights Watch found that at least 20 distinct armed opposition
groups participated in the operation. It is not clear whether all
or most of these groups were in the villages on August 4 when the vast
majority of abuses apparently took place.
However, five groups that were the key fund-raisers, organizers, and
executors of the attacks were clearly present from the outset of the
operation on August 4: Ahrar al-Sham, Islamic State of Iraq and Sham,
Jabhat al-Nusra, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, and Suquor al-Izz.
Through the on-site investigation, witness statements, videos and
photographs, and a review of hospital records, Human Rights Watch
determined that opposition forces unlawfully killed at least 67 of the
190 dead civilians who were identified. For the rest of those killed,
further investigation is required to determine the circumstances of
their deaths and whether the victims died as a result of unlawful
The high civilian death toll, the nature of the recorded wounds
and the presence of 43 women, children, and elderly among the dead
together indicate that opposition forces either intentionally or
indiscriminately killed most of the remaining victims.
The scale and pattern of the serious abuses carried out by opposition
groups during the operation indicate that they were systematic and
planned as part of an attack on a civilian population.
In some cases, opposition fighters
executed or gunned down entire families. In other cases, surviving
family members had to leave loved ones behind. One resident of the
hamlet between Blouta and al-Hamboushieh described fleeing his home
with his mother as opposition fighters entered his neighborhood, and
having to leave his elderly father and blind aunt behind because of
their physical infirmities. He said that when he returned to the
neighborhood after the government retook the area, he found that his
father and aunt had been killed:
CIA ramping up covert training program for Syrian rebels
(Greg Miller, Washington Post 10/02/13)
the below excerpt combines the above story with an opinion piece by Tyler Durden
My mom was here in the house with me. She came out of the house first,
and I was behind her. We saw the three fighters just in front of us,
and then we fled on foot down behind the house and into the valley. The
three fighters that I saw were all dressed in black. They were shooting
at us from two different directions. They had machine guns and were
using snipers. My older brother came down and hid with us as well. We
hid, but my dad stayed in the house. He was killed in his bed. My aunt,
she is an 80-year-old blind woman, was also killed in her room. Her
name is Nassiba.
Fourteen residents and first responders, interviewed separately, told
Human Rights Watch that they witnessed executions or saw bodies that
bore signs of execution, including some corpses that were bound and
others that had been decapitated.
According to opposition sources, including an opposition military
officer from Latakia involved in negotiations, the Islamic State of
Iraq and Sham and Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, are holding over 200
civilians from the Alawite villages as hostages, the vast majority
women and children.
According to Syrian security officials, media reports, Western
diplomats, and observations by journalists and humanitarian workers,
foreign fighters in these groups enter Syria from Turkey, from which
they also smuggle their weapons and obtain money and other supplies,
and to which they retreat for medical treatment.
Public statements by fundraisers and financiers, opposition activists,
and opposition fighters reveal that at least some of the funding for
the Latakia operation came from individuals residing in Kuwait and
other Gulf countries.
The US government is shut down, which means only essential spending is permitted.
So what does the US government, or rather its Central Intelligence
Agency decide to spend precious, mission-critical taxpayer money on?
Why arming the "rebels" in Syria of course.
The Washington Post reports that the CIA is expanding a clandestine
effort to train opposition fighters in Syria amid concern that
moderate, U.S.-backed militias are rapidly losing ground in the
country’s civil war.
The CIA operation was secretly authorized by President Obama in a covert action finding he signed this year.
The CIA effort was described as an urgent bid to bolster moderate
Syrian militias, which have been unable to mount a serious challenge to
Assad or match the growing strength of rival rebel factions that have
hard-line Islamist agendas and, in some cases, ties to the al-Qaeda
The CIA is “ramping up and expanding its effort,” said a U.S. official
familiar with operations in Syria, because “it was clear that the
opposition was losing, and not only losing tactically but on a more
The latest setback came last month, when 11 of the largest armed
factions in Syria, including some backed by the United States,
announced the formation of an alliance with a goal of creating an
Islamic state. The alliance is led by Jabhat al-Nusra, a group that has
sworn allegiance to the al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan.
Those hard-line factions have drained
momentum and support from moderate rebel groups. The most prominent
Islamist groups, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat
al-Nusra, include fighters who have extensive experience from the war
in Iraq, have ties to al-Qaeda and have carried out high-profile
strikes against Assad’s government.
Former deputy CIA director Michael J. Morell said in a recent CBS
interview that the most effective organizations on the battlefield in
Syria are the Islamist factions. “And because they’re so good at
fighting the Syrians, some of the moderate members of the opposition
joined forces with them,” he said.
Islamist factions have lured fighters away with offers of better pay,
equipment and results. A spokesman for the ISIS said the group had
added 2,000 Syrian recruits and 1,500 foreign fighters over the past
“More and more Muslims in Syria and outside are realizing that we are
the only true force able and willing to defend the Syrian people
against this monstrous regime without any Western agenda,” said the
spokesman, Mohammed al-Libi.
Recruiting efforts by militias working with the CIA have sagged, officials said.
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bar Israelis
U.S. officials said the classified program has been constrained by
limits on CIA resources, the reluctance of rebel fighters to leave
Syria for U.S. instruction and Jordan’s restrictions on the CIA’s
paramilitary presence there.
There is also the legal issue known as the Leahy Law that requires a
determination that no recipients of U.S. military assistance had
committed human rights abuses.
CIA veterans expressed skepticism that the training and weapons deliveries will have any meaningful effect.
The program is aimed at shoring up the fighting power of units aligned
with the Supreme Military Council, an umbrella organization led by a
former Syrian general that is the main recipient of U.S. support.
The training is led by small teams of operatives from the CIA’s Special
Activities Division, a paramilitary branch that relies heavily on
contractors and former members of U.S. Special Operations forces.
Some have questioned the wisdom of expanding the CIA’s mission at a
time when many think the agency has become too paramilitary in focus
and should return to its traditional intelligence-¬gathering role.
Officials said the main CIA training effort does not involve
instruction on using high-powered weapons such as rockets and antitank
munitions, which are being supplied by countries such as Qatar and
And where do Qatar and Saudi Arabia get their weapons from?
“What happens when some of the people we trained torture a prisoner?”
said a former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with agency
operations in the Middle East. Even if the CIA can produce records to
defend its training program, “we’re going to face congressional
hearings,” the former official said. “There is no win here.”
from joining Palestinian protest against settler concert
(Mairav Zonszein, 972 mag.com, 9/26/13)
Israeli singer Ehud Banai
gave a concert
Monday night to an exclusively Jewish crowd in the settlement of Susya
in the south Hebron Hills, after initially canceling the gig due to
left-wing protests. Banai stated that he decided to go ahead with the
concert because doing otherwise only “fanned the flames of hatred,” and
because he is committed to “bring people together.”
Nasser Nawajaah, a resident of Palestinian Susya whose family was
kicked out of where the settlement now stands in 1986, wrote an open letter
to Ehud Banai, explaining the significance of his decision to
perform on the ruins of Nawajaah’s native home, for an audience that
includes those responsible for uprooting Palestinian trees,
Palestinian wells, assaulting Palestinian shepherds
The Palestinian local council in Susya,
as well as the popular committees in the West Bank decided to hold a
protest during the concert, inviting Israeli activists to join them.
According to Guy, an Israeli Ta’ayush activist who frequents the south
Hebron Hills, a minivan of 15 Israelis left Jerusalem Monday evening
for the village. But due to the efforts of the IDF, a drive that
usually takes less than an hour took them 2.5 hours.
According to Guy, the people on the bus noticed a car following them
from the moment they set out from Jerusalem, and were stopped several
times along the way by IDF soldiers who appeared to be waiting for them
with a makeshift checkpoint. At one point, they were held for an hour
near the settlement of Kiryat Arba. The officer told them they were
heading to the concert to make trouble, and were endangering themselves
with the settlers. They told the officer that they had no plan of going
into the concert, but were going to protest from “the Palestinian
side.” The officer then demanded to see the signs they brought with
them to make sure there were no incendiary slogans, and later stopped
them again with a bogus military order that claimed they weren’t
allowed to be there.
Out of the 15 Israelis, only seven who got out of the van and walked
quickly through other villages made it to the protest, where about 100
Palestinians were peacefully protesting the concert. The other eight
were turned back by the IDF and held for a while before heading back to
Palestinian civilians sit near the debris of their homes in Makhoul area in the northern Jordan Vally,
(contained within story at
) shows the ordeal. It is yet another document of the
way in which the IDF acts as an occupation police force by restricting
freedom of movement, protest and speech of anyone who wishes to voice
opposition to government policy.
adds: Ehud Banai at first decided to cancel the
concert due to public outcry but he eventually decided to go ahead.
Before the initial decision to cancel the concert was made, a post on Banai's Facebook
page read: "Ehud Banai's opinions against the
occupation in particular, and against wrongdoings in Israeli society in
general, are known to all and are expressed in his songs as well as
various media platforms. Yet, Ehud hassaid more than once that he does not boycott concerts beyond the Green
Line, despite his disagreement with the settlements. Instead of boycott
and ostracism, he is looking for dialogue precisely in a place where
there is controversy. The concert in Susya is not in any way a show of
support or encouragement for acts that cause injustice."
For additional original analysis and breaking news, visit +972
Magazine's Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. Our newsletter
features a comprehensive round-up of the week's events. Sign up here.
where Israeli forces destroyed several houses rendering 48 Palestinians, including 17 children, homeless
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
Weekly Report on Israeli Human Rights Violations
in the Occupied PalestinianTerritory (oPT)
(September 12-18, 2013)
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
is a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) based in Gaza City. The
Centre is dedicated to protecting human rights, promoting the rule of
law and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian
Territory (OPT). It holds Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. PCHR is the
recipient of various awards including the 1996 French Republic Award on
Human Rights and the 2009 Human Rights Prize of Andalucia. The
Centre was established in 1995 by a group of Palestinian lawyers and
human rights activists.
(Hit the above live link for full report which provides day by day details with excellent documentation.)
Israeli forces continue systematic attacks against Palestinian
civilians and property in the Occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
Israeli forces conducted 42 incursions into Palestinian communities in
the West Bank and 4 limited ones in the Gaza Strip during the reporting
At least 41 Palestinian civilians, including 9 children, were arrested in the West Bank.
On 17 September 2013, Israeli occupation
forces killed a Palestinian civilian Islam Hussam al-Tubasi (20) and
wounded 4 others, including 3 children, in Jenin refugee camp in the
northern West Bank. Al-Tubasi was wounded by 2 bullets to the abdomen
when Israeli forces raided his bedroom. They took him out of the house
bleeding and fired at his legs again in front of the building.
During this attack, a number of young men gathered and threw stones at
Israeli military vehicles. In response, Israeli soldiers fired
rubber-coated metal bullets and sound bombs. As a result, 4 civilians,
including 3 children were wounded.
Israeli forces wounded 8 others during incursions in different areas in
the West Bank. Moreover, 3 women, including 2 sisters and their aunt,
one of whom is disabled, sustained bruises when Israeli forces attacked
them during an Israeli incursion into Kherbet Safa to the south of Beit
Ummar, north of Hebron.
During the September 12-18 reporting period, Israeli forces continued
the systematic use of excessive force against peaceful protests
organised by Palestinian, Israeli and international activists against
the construction of the annexation wall and settlement activities in
the West Bank. As a result, 3 civilians, including a
photojournalist, were wounded. Furthermore, dozens suffered tear gas
inhalation and others sustained bruises.
Israeli navy forces continued to target Palestinian fishermen in the sea.
On Wednesday, 18 September 2013, a Palestinian fisherman was injured
and consequently one of his fingers was amputated when Israeli naval
troops opened fire at a Palestinian fishing boat on which 5
fishermen were sailing nearly 6 nautical miles off Gaza Harbor.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the
continuation of Israeli forces’ attacks against Palestinian fishermen
in the Gaza Strip and expresses deep concern over violations of
fishermens' right to work freely in Gaza sea.
Israel has continued its settlement
activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, a direct violation of
international humanitarian law, and Israeli settlers have continued to
attack Palestinian civilians and property.
On Sunday morning, 15 September 2013, a group of settlers from
"Yitzhar" settlement that is established on lands of Madamad village,
south of Nablus, set fire to an under construction house belonging to
Ra'ed Jadallah Nassar. The 120-square-meter house is located in the
northern mountain area.
On Monday, 16 September 2013, settlers from "Eliezer" and "Daniel"
settlements that are established on lands of al-Khader village, south
of al-Kahder village, south of Bethlehem, moved into Zaqandah area,
south of the village. They damaged the main gate of a potable
water well in a land belonging to Taha Ahmed Salah (55). They swam in
the well and polluted the water. Moreover, they performed Talmudic
rituals there. Ahmed Salah, coordinator of the popular committee
against settlement activities, said to a PCHR fieldworker that settlers
walked through lands and
performed their rituals under the trees.
On 16 September 2013, Israeli forces backed with 10 military vehicles
and 3 bulldozers stormed Makhoul area to the north of Tubas town in the
northern Jordan Valley. They immediately started demolishing a
Palestinian residential community where 10 Palestinian families of
farmers and shepherds, comprised of 48 individuals, including 17
children, live. In this operation, Israeli forces demolished 12
tents and tin-made houses, a number of subordinate kitchens and
mobile bathrooms and 28 barnyards.
Maaloula is one of the earliestcentres of Christianity in the world
Al-Qaida-Linked Syrian Rebels
On Tuesday, 17 September 2013, Israeli forces forced dozens of
Palestinian families in al-Burj and al-Maytah area who live in tents in
the northern Jordan Valley to evacuate the area under the pretext of
military training. It should be noted that Israeli forces had
notified those families on 10 September 2013 to evacuate the area under
the pretext of military training.
Israel continued to impose a tightened closure of the Occupied
Palestinian Territory, imposing severe restrictions on the movement of
Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including
thousands of Palestinian civilians from the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip who continue to be denied access to Jerusalem.
The illegal closure of the Gaza Strip, which has steadily tightened
since June 2007, has had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian and
economic situation in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli authorities
impose measures to undermine the freedom of trade, including the basic
needs for the Gaza Strip population and the agricultural and industrial
products to be exported.
The Israeli authorities established Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shaloum) as
the sole crossing for imports and exports in order to exercise its
control over the Gaza Strip’s economy. They also aim at imposing a
complete ban on the Gaza Strip’s exports.
For 7 consecutive years, Israel has tightened the land and naval
closure to isolate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, including
occupied Jerusalem, and other countries around the world. This has
resulted in a grave violation of the economic, social and cultural
rights and a deterioration of living conditions for 1.7 million people.
As part of using military checkpoints and border crossings as traps to
arrest Palestinian civilians under the pretext they are wanted, Israeli
forces arrested at least 6 civilians, including 3 children.
The full report is available here
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
releases a report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPT) every week on its website.
Attack Ancient Christian Village of Maaloula Where Aramaic,
the Original Language of Jesus is Still Spoken
Click on the following links
for Sept 4-6 coverage of story:
Huffington Post (AP)
Al-Qaida-linked rebels from the Jabhat
al-Nusra group have withdrawn from the ancient Christian village of
Maaloula, after launching an attack. The rebels commandeered a
mountaintop hotel and nearby caves and shelled the community below,
said a nun, speaking by phone from
a convent in the village. She spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
The nun said the rebels had taken over the Safir hotel atop a mountain overlooking the village and were shelling from there.
Maaloula is tucked into the honey-coloured cliffs of a mountain range
north of Damascus and is on a "tentative" list of applicants for UNESCO
world heritage status. It is associated with the earliest days of
Christianity and is one of only three places in the world where
Aramaic, a dialect of the language spoken by Christ, is still
used. The village was a major tourist attraction before the civil
war. It is suffering from the lack of pilgrims and tourists
who are normally vital to its economy.
The inhabitants are mostly Melkite Greek
Catholic and Orthodox Christians, but have historically lived
peacefully alongside a Sunni Muslim minority.
The fighting in Maaloula began early Wednesday when Jabhat al-Nusra
fighters stormed in after a suicide bomber struck an army checkpoint
guarding the entrance.
"They entered the main square and smashed a statue of the Virgin Mary,"
said one resident of the area, speaking by phone and too frightened to
give his name. "They shelled us from the nearby mountain. Two shells
hit the St. Thecla convent."
Video footage posted on YouTube showed rebel fighters on a pick up
truck with an anti-aircraft gun mounted on the back firing erratically
from inside the mountain town.
The video appeared authentic and matched Associated Press reporting on the fighting.
Heavy fighting around the village continued throughout Thursday (Sept 5), and heavy artillery echoed in the village.
"The stones are shaking," said a nun at the Mar Takla monastery. "We
don't know if the rebels have left or not, nobody dares go out."
Frightened residents expected the rebels to return to the Safir hotel, she said, adding: "It's their home now."
In Syria, it's a case of all or nothing
(Patrick Cockburn, Independent UK, 9/5/13)
World View: History teaches us that limited Western intervention
The nun said about 100 people from the village took refuge in the St.
Takla convent that she helps run. The 27 orphans who live there had
been taken to nearby caves overnight "so they were not scared," she
Maaloula had been firmly under the regime's grip, despite sitting in the middle
of rebel-held territory east and north of the capital.
The fighting highlighted the delicate position of Syria's Christian
minority who fear the growing role of extremists fighting in the civil
war to topple President Bashar Assad's regime and believe an
alternative to Assad's regime will not tolerate minority religions.
Many fear that if the secular government is overthrown they will be
targeted by Sunni jihadist rebels calling for the establishment of an
Islamic state and that Christian communities will be destroyed, as many
were in Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003.
The nun who spoke to AP said there were reports that the militants
threatened villagers with death if they did not convert. The report
could not be independently confirmed.
Christians, who make up approximately 10 per cent of Syria's
population, have increasingly become targets in the conflict as
sectarian-minded foreign jihadists gain influence in among the rebel
Such fears have allowed Assad to retain the support of large sections
among Syria's minorities, which includes Christians, Alawites, Druze
and ethnic Kurds, throughout the 2 1/2 year civil war. Most of the
rebels and their supporters are Sunni Muslims.
can only inflame this complex war and will do nothing to bring peace
The discredited justifications that
preceded the invasion of Iraq still dominate British and American
perception of military intervention in Syria. In a similar way in the
1930s, popular revulsion at the lies and exaggerations of First World
War propaganda meant that the first accounts of Nazi atrocities were
treated with scepticism.
Unsurprisingly, people who feel they
were swindled into war 10 years ago by bloodcurdling accounts of Saddam
Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction are dubious about
their government's claim that President Bashar al-Assad's army used
poison gas on a mass scale on 21 August. All the questions that should
have been asked in 2003 about Iraq are being asked about Syria
Unlike Iraq, it is known that the Syrian army has large supplies of
chemical weapons such as sarin and that a mass attack took place. A
hundred videos show the dead and dying. Doctors diagnosed the symptoms
of gas poisoning. It is highly unlikely that the opposition had enough
chemical weapons to simulate a government attack in order to provoke
Of course, the use of poison gas was always likely to provoke the
United States into action, something Damascus has been desperate to
avoid for two years. But this does not mean they did not do it.
Stupidity and miscalculation have shaped many wars.
What is curious about the past week is the extent to which so many,
especially the media and the British Government, misjudged the
continuing rawness of the wounds inflicted by the Iraq war. I was in
Baghdad for much of the conflict but I was always struck on returning
to Britain by the lasting sense of outrage over the decision to go to
war expressed even by the most conservative and non-political. As with
the Munich Agreement in 1938, it has entered a deep layer of British
historic memory, perhaps because people feel they were not only misled
but lied to by their own government.
The parliamentary vote and opinion polls show that British governments
have exhausted whatever capital of public trust they possessed when it
comes to military ventures in the Middle East.
Given the way the deceptions and failures of the Iraq war still
resonate, no wonder David Cameron denies that military intervention in
Syria today has anything in common with what happened in 2003. But the
two countries are alike in their political make-up, with deep sectarian
and ethnic divisions giving political convulsions an extra edge of fear
and hate. Both were or are ruled by a single extended family or clan
monopolising authority in a police state in which power is exercised
through the intelligence and security services. They are tough nuts to
In one crucial respect Assad is in a
stronger position than Slobodan Milosovic in Serbia, Saddam Hussein in
Iraq or Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. These three leaders were
internationally isolated, while Assad has powerful and committed
foreign allies. Russia is standing firmly by Assad.as it reasserts its
status as a great power after 20 years of retreats and humiliations
that culminated in the Libyan war of 2011. It feels it was
double-crossed then into agreeing to humanitarian military intervention
by Nato which swiftly became a campaign to overthrow Gaddafi.
Even more committed to the Syrian regime's survival are Iran and the
Shia paramilitary movement Hezbollah in Lebanon. Both are highly
conscious that the attempt to overthrow their long-term ally in
Damascus is aimed at weakening them, and they are determined to repulse
the threat. It makes sense for them to want to fight while Assad is
still in power and not wait until he has been displaced by a hostile
One important aspect of the Syrian conflict as it affects the US and
Britain is lethally similar to the Iraq war. In each case any outsider
intervening becomes involved in several inter-related but separate
So much of what US and British leaders or commentators say about Syria
sounds phoney or unrealistic because they focus on only one of the four
or five conflicts going on in the country as a reason for intervening.
The struggle most often picked as a respectable motive for backing the
rebels is the popular revolt against the brutal Syrian police state
which started in March 2011. But this uprising swiftly became a
sectarian war with the Sunni Arab majority pitted against the ruling
Alawite Shia sect and other minorities, such as the Christians and
If the Syrian political and military battlefield sounds very complex,
it is; and it's getting worse. A savage ethnic war exploded in
north-east Syria last month with the al-Qa'ida-linked al-Nusra Front
and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant driving 50,000 Syrian
Kurds into Iraq.
Matthew Schrier described his abduction in Aleppo on Dec. 31 by fighters with the Nusra Front,
US and British leaders selling military
intervention in Iraq and Syria seldom explained and often did not
understand this mesh of conflicts. But these contradictory alliances
determine the political map of the region and the reality of foreign
involvement in it.
It is easy, for instance, to advocate arming and protecting Syrian
villagers whose children are being incinerated by napalm dropped by
government aircraft. But what if those best able to help those
villagers are the veteran jihadi fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq
and the Levant, who have just chopped off the heads of Alawite
prisoners and shot dead a teenager selling coffee for blasphemy?
For all the disclaimers, US forces attacking the government in Damascus are in de facto alliance with al-Qa'ida.
Likewise in Iraq 10 years ago, the US and Britain were pretending to be
fighting for democracy and against the remnants of Saddam's regime. The
reality was that in 2003-06 they had imposed an old-style imperial
regime and had become participants in a cruel Sunni-Shia civil waron
the Shia side.
What can be done to end the appalling and ever-growing miseries of the
23 million Syrian people? The answer is to make either war or peace
effectively. Limited missile strikes on Syrian military bases are not
going to compel President Assad to negotiate his own departure from
power. The only military action that might do this is a full-scale
assault including a no-fly zone and a no-drive zone. And thus
fighting a full-scale war with the likelihood that Russia, Iran and
Hezbollah will increase their support for Assad.
Limited intervention means that the stalemate will continue. One of the
best chances for peace – the day of mutual exhaustion and realisation
that nobody is going to win on the battlefield – is postponed.
If all-out war is not feasible, could peace come by negotiation?
to read on and access full article.
which is aligned with Al Qaeda.
American Tells of Odyssey as Prisoner of Nusra Front,
Syrian Rebel Group
(C.J. Chivers, N.Y. Times 8/22/13)
Matthew Schrier was helpless. An
American photographer held in a rebel-controlled prison in the Syrian
city of Aleppo, he and a fellow prisoner had been caught trying to
gouge a hole in their cell’s wooden door. The captors took his
cellmate, he said, beat him, and brought him back with blood-streaked
ankles and feet.
Now was Mr. Schrier’s turn.
Wearing masks, his jailers led him out, sat him down and forced a car
tire over his knees. They slid a wooden rod behind his legs, locking
the tire in place. Then they rolled him over. Mr. Schrier was face down
on a basement floor, he said, legs immobilized, bare feet facing up.
“Give him 115,” one of his captors said in English, as they began whipping his feet with a metal cable.
When the torture ended Mr. Schrier could not walk. His captors, he said, dragged him to his cell.
He remembers their parting phrase: “Have you heard of Guantánamo Bay?”
For seven months, Mr. Schrier, 35, was a prisoner in Syria of jihadi fighters opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. Held in
bases and prisons run by two Islamist rebel groups, he said, he was
robbed, beaten and accused of being an American spy by men who then
assumed his identity online.
His captors drained one of his bank accounts. They shopped in his name
on eBay. They sent messages from his e-mail account to his mother and
his best friend assuring them he was fine, but
had extended his trip to do more work.
“I’m doing good man,” read an e-mail to the friend on Feb. 2. “I have
access to Internet for like 5 minutes or so, and I will not be able to
log in my e-mail for at least the next few weeks.”
Mr. Schrier escaped on July 29, he said, by squeezing out of a basement
window and wandering, in shoes too small and with the long beard he had
grown in captivity, through Aleppo until he found other rebels.
These men protected him and drove him the next day to Turkish
authorities at the border. American diplomats soon whisked Mr. Schrier
Now in the United States, Mr. Schrier has returned with a firsthand
account of the descent by elements of the anti-Assad forces into
sanctimonious hatred and crime. His experience reflects the sharply
deteriorated climate for foreigners and moderate Syrians in areas
subject to the whims of armed religious groups whose members roam
roads, staff checkpoints and occupy a constellation
of guerrilla bases.
Mr. Schrier’s detention is one of more
than 15 cases of Westerners, mostly journalists, being abducted or
disappearing in Syria this year. The victims range from seasoned
new freelancers, like Mr. Schrier, who was covering his first war.
Some were abducted in 2012, others a few weeks ago. Many are thought to
be held by two Al Qaeda-aligned groups. At least one is believed to be
a captive of Mr. Assad’s intelligence services.
For many cases there are few leads. The victims have vanished — a pattern that makes Mr. Schrier’s account exceptional and rare.
His experience also suggests the difficult choices for foreign
governments that in principle support the rebels’ goal of overthrowing
a dictatorship accused of using chemical weapons against civilians,
but in practice fear aiding opposition factions that embrace terrorist
tactics, intolerant religious rule or the same behaviors — abduction,
torture, extralegal detention — that have characterized the Assad
Mr. Schrier said his captors were mostly members of the Nusra Front, a
group aligned with Al Qaeda and designated a terrorist organization by
the United Nations and the United States.
But as he was moved from prison to
prison, he said, he and his main cellmate, another American, were also
held by a unit of Ahrar al-Sham, an Islamist group that works closely
with the Free Syrian Army, a rebel umbrella group recognized by Western
and Arab governments.
Their captors neither publicly acknowledged holding them nor issued any
demands. Their abductions were also not disclosed by their families or
the American government.
At his family’s request, The New York Times is withholding identifying
details of the other American prisoner, who did not escape and whose
whereabouts and condition are unknown.
When he set out for Syria last year, Mr. Schrier
was new to war photography. Born in Syosset, N.Y., he had attended film
school at Hofstra, but found no job in his field and opted to work for
nearly a decade in the health care industry, negotiating rates and
The travel and artistry in photography appealed to him, as did the chance at a fresh start.
His plunge into the story was swift. He traveled in November from New
York to Turkey and Jordan, where he photographed convalescing rebels
and ventured across the border to an encampment of displaced Syrian
After an activist offered to take him to
Aleppo, Mr. Schrier returned in December and was brought to a small
rebel group fighting in a neighborhood and at the siege of an Air Force
Mr. Schrier spent 18 days in Syria. His photographs were strong, he said. He was eager to return to Turkey and publish them.
But there was a complication. His expected driver did not arrive. After
waiting for more than a day, his hosts arranged a taxi with a driver
they said he could trust.
Their ride out began at midday on Dec. 31. As they left Aleppo, rebels
halted the taxi at the Sheikh Najjar industrial area, through which
journalists frequently passed.
They forbade the taxi from crossing. The driver tried a route through Muslimiyah, and was passing
a recently captured military school, Mr. Schrier said, when a silver Jeep Cherokee forced the taxi
At least three men stepped out. One wore a black scarf over his face.
They escorted Mr. Schrier out. “They were so nonchalant,” he said. “They didn’t point a gun at me, and moved me very gently.”
Mr. Schrier said he expected that they would look at his photographs,
confirm his work and release him. They directed him to the back seat of
their S.U.V., pulled his knit cap over his eyes, leaned him forward and
pressed a rifle muzzle to his head.
His captivity had begun.
Back in New York. Mr. Schrier’s mother, Lois, had grown deeply worried
over her son’s silence. On Jan. 31 she reported him missing to the
The same day, Mr. Schrier’s interrogations resumed. He was brought
before three young men in masks who spoke perfect English, and who he
suspected were Canadian.
They asked Mr. Schrier if he had ever served in the military and
demanded his Social Security number, credit card information, e-mail
and Facebook passwords and the PIN for his personal bank account.
They returned two days later with a laptop and said the passwords had not worked. They ordered him to log in.
His captors soon were pretending to be
Mr. Schrier online. They e-mailed his best friend and used his eBay
account to purchase laptop and tablet computers, camera equipment and
Attorney General Without Justice
promoting 'jurisprudence without justice' that violates the rights of
Palestinians in the service of Jewish settlements.
On Feb. 2, Mr. Schrier’s mother wrote him a five-word e-mail: “Matt, I WILL FIND YOU!”
His lot was growing bleaker. His jailers discovered gouges on the cell
door on Feb. 6. They tortured the two Americans as punishment and
afterward beat him intermittently, he said. Sometimes they zapped him
with a Taser.
His captors replied to his mother on Feb. 10. “Hi mom, sorry for not
giving news before,” the e-mail read. “I’m working a lot here and
having a lot of fun, think I’ll stay here for a while.”
They were transferred to cells in two other bases, also run by Mohammad
and the Nusra jailers. In mid-July, the jailers removed the Moroccan
and later a dentist they had detained, leaving the Americans alone.
This allowed a fresh opportunity to try to escape. Their cell was in a basement; the mesh and
welding on one window was damaged and had been only partially repaired.
Mr. Schrier said he stood on his cellmate’s back and unraveled wires,
opening a hole. He pushed both arms out and followed with
He passed through. He said he reached in, pulled his cellmate up. The
man had a slightly heavier build than Mr. Schrier. He led with one arm,
then his head, and stopped.
He was stuck. He slid back and tried leading with two hands. He was stuck again.
The street was silent, Mr. Schrier said. A light shone in their jailers’ first-floor office, directly above their cell.
His cellmate dropped back into the basement. Mr. Schrier said, “I’ll get help.”
His cellmate looked up, Mr. Schrier said, and told him, “All right, go.”
With disappointing disregard for his
role as protector of the rule of law, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein
has approved using the Absentee Property Law in East Jerusalem – a
decision that enables the expropriation of property in the city from
Palestinian residents of the territories. Applying the Absentee
Property Law to East Jerusalem is part of an effort to Judaize
Palestinian neighborhoods and create an artificial separation between
the West Bank and Jerusalem, and especially between them and the
Palestinians who live in these areas. This effort has found expression
in other ways as well, first and foremost the separation barrier.
The law, which was problematic from the
start, was applied after the War of Independence with the goal of
enabling the state to appropriate the property of Palestinians who were
living outside the state’s borders, mainly in refugee camps, without
any possibility of entering Israel. The attempt to apply it again
following the Six-Day War, after some of the territory conquered in
that war was annexed to Jerusalem, took place under completely
different circumstances. The owners of these assets became “absentees”
despite the fact that they never left their place of residence, and
even though they lived outside the annexed territory, they still had
access to their property. The attorney general at that time, Meir
Shamgar, therefore ordered that the law not be exercised, on the
grounds that applying it under these new circumstances would constitute
unjustified eviction and violation of property rights.
Iranian president Hassan Rohani at his first official press conference, this week.
In a 2006 ruling, Judge Boaz Okon termed the attempt to apply this law
“a legal trick not backed by any reality” and “a type of jurisprudence
without justice.” Supreme Court President Asher Grunis once asked why
the law shouldn’t also be applied to property inside Israel owned by
settlers, since they too live outside the state’s borders. Former
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz also ordered that the law not be
exercised. In addition, applying this law in territory that Israel
annexed unilaterally after seizing it during wartime would violate
international law, despite the fact that Israel has applied its laws to
In contrast to his predecessor, who was scrupulous about upholding the
rule of law, human rights and the public interest, Weinstein is
promoting “jurisprudence without justice” that violates the rights of
Palestinians in the service of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem
that have taken over the property of these present “absentees.” He
would do better to shelve this procedure, follow in the footsteps of
his predecessor and refuse to apply the law.
Sweet talk and moderate declarations. Photo by AFP
Netanyahu concerned as ever about Iran,
but world powers will not allow strike in coming year
atmosphere created by Rohani's election leaves the international
community with zero tolerance for an Israeli attack - at least until
talks between Tehran and major world powers end.
(Amos Harel, Haaretz, 8/10/13)
Will Iran Get a Bomb-or Be Bombed itself-This Year?
(Graham Allison, the Atlantic, 8/01/13)
Top 10 Reasons Americans should Dismiss
Israel's Netanyahu on Attacking Iran
(Juan Cole, juancole.com 7/23/13)
excerpt combines Haaretz and Juan Cole articles:
This past Wednesday Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu warned that, despite the victory by Hassan Rohani in
the Iranian presidential election in June, Tehran is accelerating
progress toward nuclear weapons capability. According to Netanyahu,
Rohani − who is considered a relative moderate in the West − wants to
exploit a resumption of Tehran’s talks with the big powers to gain
time, even as his country continues with the nuclear project. Only an
explicit military threat will stop the Iranians, said Netanyahu, whose
remarks coincided with a series of recent leaks about that project.
New centrifuges, which enrich uranium quickly, were installed at the
Fordow site and could allow the Iranians to take the world by surprise
by producing the quantity of high-grade uranium needed for a bomb,
without foreign intelligence agencies noticing this development in
time. (Netanyahu himself referred to this explicitly for the first
time this week.) At the same time, Tehran is stepping up work on an
alternative option − plutonium production − which, according to The
Wall Street Journal, could allow the country to achieve full military
nuclear capability by next summer.
Netanyahu’s concern is obvious. He believes that Iran’s spiritual
leader, Ali Khamenei, is using the new president to set a honey trap
for the West. Rohani’s sweet talk and moderate declarations will
convince the Europeans and Americans that he is amenable to a
In practice, however, it is likely that
the talks between the sides will drag on, while Iran continues to move
ahead, and at the end of the process Tehran will present the world with
a fait accompli: either the achievement of nuclear capability and a
declaration to that effect, or being so close to that threshold that no
one will dare threaten the country.
However, in contrast to the past three autumns, this time it is
probably wrong to interpret Netanyahu’s statements as an explicit
military threat per se.
The atmosphere that was created after Rohani’s victory leaves zero
tolerance in the international community for an Israeli attack, at
least until the conclusion of the planned year-end talks between Tehran
and the big powers. The timetable for an attack would thus be deferred
until next spring, when the weather in the skies over Iran’s nuclear
writes in his Top 10 Reasons Americans should Dismiss Israel's Netanyuahu on Attacking Iran
the Iranian electorate did about the most cruel thing possible to
uber-hawk Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It replaced former
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with an eminently reasonable and
personable successor, Hasan Rouhani. Israeli and American politicians
made hay with Ahmadinejad’s quirkiness and foot in the mouth disease.
They also deliberately mistranslated him to make him seem menacing,
even as he kept saying Iran would never launch a first strike.
Below are a few of the reasons cited by Cole not to pay attention to the recent round of saber-rattling by Netanyahu:
An aerial view shows as far as the eye can see the Zaatari refugee camp where
115,000 -160,000 (estimates vary) Syrians call Zaatari home.
Now it is Jordan's fourth largest city. And nobody wants to live there.
(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
The Syrians who prefer war-torn home to Zaatari refugee camp
(click for video)
(Guardian UK, 7/25/13)
Life in Zaatari
(Jordan's vast camp for Syrian refugees)
(Lyse Doucet, BBC 7/29/13)
Enormity of Syria's Refugee Crisis Seen at Zaatari Refugee Camp
(Eline Gordts, Huffington Post, 7/18/13)
1. Everyone knows that the real reason Netanyahu keeps squawking about Iran is that he is trying to take the focus off the Israel campaign of ethnic cleansing
and Apartheid policies toward the Palestinians
living under Israeli occupation. Likewise, Netanyahu takes attention off of Israel’s own 400 nuclear warheads.
2. Everyone in the international community agrees that the new
president of Iran will have to be given at least a year, and maybe
more, to prove he is an earnest negotiator for Iran. The European
powers and the countries of the global South would never accept it.
3. President Rouhani is proposing increased transparency for its civilian nuclear program
, so as to ease Western fears.
4. Contrary to what Netanyahu says, Iran does not have an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States
, and the country is highly unlikely to have one any time soon.
5. The International Atomic Energy Agency does inspections of Iran’s enrichment facilities and according to its most recent report
“the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared material
at these facilities” That is, the IAEA has visited the sites where Iran
does enrichment work, and its inspectors can testify that the enriched
uranium is under seal, is all accounted for, and none has been diverted
to weapons purposes. The IAEA has other complaints, especially that
Iran won’t go beyond its obligations in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty of the 1960s.
6. Iran’s nuclear enrichment program is based on running thousands
centrifuges, which don’t all have to be in the same place. An Israeli
air strike couldn’t possibly destroy all or most of them, and would
only set the Iranian program back a little.
A year ago, it was forbidding desert terrain dotted with empty tents whipped by a scorching wind.
"No-one would want to live here," the UN's Andrew Harper admitted
bluntly when Jordan's first official Syrian refugee camp called Zaatari
Now it is Jordan's fourth largest city and the world's second-largest refugee camp. .
And nobody wants to live there.
Few expected Syria's war to drag on so long, cause so much suffering,
cost so many lives. The death toll is now 100,000 and counting.
According to the U.N., the war in Syria is the worst humanitarian crisis since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Refugees continue to pour over the Syrian border into neighbouring
countries, but despite losing homes and relatives in the conflict, many
would prefer to return to a perilous future in Syria rather than stay
at Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp, where infectious diseases, a lack of
security and soaring desert temperatures make life unbearable.
Up to 3000 refugees attempt to return to Syria each day. But with only 4 buses there is only space for 200 refugees.
Living on the frontline: Ebtahaj Najib, 58, looks over three of her grandchildren.
They share their three-room apartment with eight relatives.
Photograph: Tanya Habjouqa
The New Jerusalem
(Harriet Sherwood, Guradian UK 7/27/13)
the Holy City, Jews are buying up Arab properties, aiming to 'reclaim'
its ancient Muslim Quarter. Harriet Sherwood meets one family
determined not to be moved
A few weeks ago in Zaatari, BBC's Lyse Doucet saw long queues of
families waiting in the baking heat, hoping to find seats on buses to
take them back across the nearby Syrian border in the dark of night.
The demand for transport is now outstripping the supply.
But many more have no choice but to stay. Their homes in Syria are
destroyed, their neighbourhoods too dangerous, after more than two
years of a worsening war.
Most are almost completely dependent on assistance. The arithmetic of
this aid is staggering. The UN's World Food Programme, along with Save
the Children, now distributes half a million portions of bread every
day along with other rations.
And, like any fast-growing city, Zaatari has its security concerns including criminal gangs and local vendettas.
For many, their refuge has troubling echoes of the exodus of
Palestinian refugees in the 1948 and 1967 wars. Palestinians also said
then that they weren't here for long.
This latest influx is also putting significant strain on all of Syria's
neighbours: Turkey, Iraq, and Lebanon in addition to Jordan, who
have taken in about 1.8 million refugees.
The UN says 6,000 more cross one border or another every day.
Jordanians, with their own financial woes, worry about rising prices
and pressure on schools and jobs, from the estimated 400,000 displaced
Syrians who live outside the Zaatari camp.
Nobody wanted to live in Zaatari. And now nobody can say, with any
certainty, how long they will stay, and how many more will come.
The Najibs fear that they and others like them are fighting a battle that may already be lost.
The setting for this battle is the historic Old City: a small walled
enclave of less than one square kilometre within the sprawling city
that is Jerusalem, divided into loose quarters for Muslims, Jews,
Christians and Armenians. It is the heart of the decades-old
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the centre for the world's three great
monotheistic religions, and a magnet for pilgrims and tourists from all
over the world.
But away from the souvenir shops a religious and nationalistic
struggle is ratcheting up tensions. Palestinians say a programme of
"Judaisation" of the Old City is accelerating; ideologically driven and
biblically inspired Jewish settlers insist they are simply redeeming
land gifted to them by God.
Around 1,000 Jewish settlers now live
among 31,000 Palestinians in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, taking
over homes that have been inhabited by Muslim families for decades or
even centuries, and flying Israeli flags from the walls and rooftops of
their properties. They are the frontline fighters in a broader battle –
backed by the Israeli government, city authorities and security
services – to ensure Jewish control of Jerusalem and to drive its
Palestinian population down to a minimum.
Twelve members of the Najib family – eight adults and four children –
live in the three rooms of their first-floor apartment on El-Wad street.
For the past 30 years, a yeshiva – a place for religious study – has
been based in the floors above the Najibs' home. According to the
Najibs, the students, teachers and round-the-clock armed security
guards make noise, throw garbage down the stairwell and intimidate the
children. "Every minute – midnight, midday, evening, morning – they are
singing, praying, playing music, slamming doors, coming up and down the
stairs. But they never speak to us," says Youssef.
Daniel Luria, the spokesman for Ateret Cohanim
the organisation behind the yeshiva, later tells me that none of the
settlers – a term he rejects – in the Muslim Quarter would be willing
to be interviewed. "It's never advantageous. We are always seen as the
occupier – the Palestinians are always seen as the residents," he says.
But Ateret Cohanim is much more than a promoter of religious studies.
It is dedicated to helping Jews buy up Arab properties in the Old City
and East Jerusalem in furtherance of what Luria calls the "physical and
spiritual redemption" of the city.
There is no dispute that Jews were its
earliest inhabitants, but the presence of Muslims and Christians also
stretches back over multiple centuries.
More recently, at the end of the war following the declaration of the
State of Israel in 1948, Jerusalem was divided, with the Old City on
the Jordanian-controlled eastern side of the armistice line, known as
the Green Line. The Jewish population within the ancient stone walls
sank to zero.
Nineteen years later, Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six
Day war, "liberating" – in its terminology – the Old City. Jews
returned to live close to their revered site of the Western Wall and
Israel declared the "reunified, indivisible" city of Jerusalem to be
its "eternal" capital. Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem has
never been recognised by the international community. The Palestinians
want Arab-dominated East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state,
but Israel is determined to resist any division or sharing of the city;
hence the state's policy of establishing Jewish "neighbourhoods" –
settlements, to the rest of the world – in areas across the pre-1967
With little prospect in sight of a peace deal involving a shared
Jerusalem, Ateret Cohanim, one of the key drivers of religiously
motivated settler pockets, is increasing and consolidating the Jewish
presence in the Muslim, Christian and Armenian quarters of the Old City.
A report, Jerusalem, the Old City
, published in 2009 by the International Peace and Cooperation Centre (IPCC)
– a Palestinian civil society organisation – said Ateret Cohanim was
"taking the lead in the process of Judaising the Old City". Properties
were acquired using three different methods, it said: claiming historic
Jewish ownership and securing a court order to evict Palestinian
residents; taking over "absentee property", or using underhand
transactions, in which the identity of the buyer is concealed.
Meanwhile, in the Muslim Quarter, the
daily grind of life is worsening little by little. In the past 30 years
its population has doubled, exacerbating already-high levels of
overcrowding and poverty. A report on the Palestinian economy published
earlier this year by the United Nations said housing density in the
Muslim Quarter was almost three times as high as in the Jewish Quarter,
and many Palestinian homes lacked running water and a proper sewage
system. More than 80% of dwellings require major rehabilitation or
urgent maintenance, according to the IPCC.
Three out of four children in the Muslim Quarter live below the poverty
line, and unemployment is more than 30%. Garbage collection is sporadic
in these back streets, and there are almost no open spaces for children
to play in.
A major reason for the migration into the Old City is an Israeli
requirement for Palestinians to prove that Jerusalem is their "centre
of life" in order for them to keep their valued residency rights in the
city, giving greater access to jobs, education and healthcare. More
than 7,000 Palestinians had Jerusalem residency rights revoked between
2006 and 2011; faced with such a threat, thousands more moved from
suburbs and villages outside Jerusalem back into the city – including
the Old City – to secure their identity papers. Others, who found
themselves cut off from the city centre by the vast concrete separation
wall, moved into the Old City to avoid daily checkpoint ordeals.
In the house on El-Wad street – Youssef Najib shrugs when I ask if he thinks the Jews are here to stay in the Muslim Quarter.
"They won't even give us the West Bank for a state, so you think
they'll give back East Jerusalem?" he says. But he has created his
personal frontline in the battle for the Old City. Many times settlers
have knocked on the Najibs' door to offer the family money to leave the
property. But Youssef says: "If you give me the whole wealth of Israel,
I will not give you my home."
Future agreements with Israel won't apply to territories
(Barak Ravid, Haaretz, 7/16/13)
related articles including more by Barak Ravid:
EU takes tougher stance on Israeli settlements
(Harriet Sherwood, Guardian UK, 7/16/13)
Unprecedented strain on Israel-EU ties;
Netanyahu responds to EU:
"Israel will not tolerate edicts on our borders."
(Barak Ravid, Haaretz, 7/16/13)
stipulate Israel must acknowledge East Jerusalem, West Bank and Golan
as occupied territories before any future agreements signed with member
EU will take further measures against Israeli settlements
if Kerry's peace bid fails
(Barak Ravid, Haaretz, 7/16/13)
Measures could include labeling settlement goods and requiring travel visas for settlers.
Israel's relationship with the European Union has reached unprecedentedly strained levels.
The European Union has circulated a guideline for all 28 member states
forbidding any funding, cooperation, awarding of scholarships, research
funds or prizes to anyone residing in the Jewish settlements in the
West Bank and East Jerusalem. The guideline requires that any agreement
or contract signed by an EU country with Israel include a clause
stating that the settlements are not part of the State of Israel and
therefore are not part of the agreement.
The territorial clause determines that all agreements will be valid
only within Israeli borders recognized by the European Union, meaning
the borders prior to the 1967 Six-Day War.
The guidelines will go into effect on January 1, 2014.
The regulation is both practical and political: From now on, if the
Israeli government wants to sign agreements with the European Union or
one of its member states, it will have to recognize in writing that the
West Bank settlements are not part of Israel.
"The guidelines are in conformity with the EU's longstanding position
that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and with
the non-recognition by the EU of Israel's sovereignty over the occupied
territories, irrespective of their legal status under domestic Israeli
The new guidelines are intended to
prevent a boycott against Israel, and to enable Israel to cooperate in
EU projects and benefit from the funding they bring, the delegation
A senior American official involved in efforts to kick-start peace
talks between Israel and the Palestinians has warned that should U.S.
Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts fail, European Union members
states will adopt additional measures against Israeli settlements in
the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The U.S. administration and the political echelon in Jerusalem surmise
that European countries will blame Israel should Kerry's efforts fail –
and that they will then move ahead with plans to label goods produced
in Israeli settlements across the 28-member union. Other European
proposals that have been raised include requiring visas for Israeli
settlers wishing to travel to the EU.
In Prime Minister's Netanyahu's Office and Foreign Ministry there is
great tension and anxiety over the new regulation and its implications
for Israeli-EU relations.
"We will have to decide what to do from this day forward," a senior
Israeli official said. "We are not ready to sign on this clause in our
agreements with the European Union. We can say this to the Europeans,
but the result could be a halt to all cooperation in economics,
science, culture, sports and academia. This would cause severe damage
The move, described by an Israeli official as an "earthquake", was
hailed by Palestinians and their supporters as a significant political
and economic sanction against settlements.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian
official, welcomed the guidelines. "The EU has moved from the level of
statements, declarations and denunciations to effective policy
decisions and concrete steps, which constitute a qualitative shift that
will have a positive impact on the chances of peace."
Former Palestinian prime minister
Salam Fayyad, right, speaks to Mahmoud Hamamdeh, the chief of Mufaqara
village, which faces multiple demolition orders in al-Mufaqara.
Photograph: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters
Israeli authors fight to stop eviction
of Palestinian villagers from army zone
Israeli novelist David Grossman:
"For the past 20 years, Israel has been actively displacing the
inhabitants of the South Hebron Hills villages. These villages
have always practiced a unique lifestyle...They live in constant fear,
helplessly facing a ruthess power that does everything to displace them
from the home they have inhabitated for centuries."
(Harriet Sherwood, Guardian UK, 6/29/13)
"The Israeli occupation must be held to account, and Israel must comply
with international and humanitarian law and the requirements for
justice and peace."
The ruling determines the parameters for cooperation between the
European Union along with its member states, and Israeli private and
governmental entities between 2014 and 2020.
On the sun-baked, windswept, near-barren
hills of the southern West Bank, a thousand Palestinian villagers are
braced for the final act in a long drama that could sweep away a
tradition of goat-herding and cave-dwelling in an area designated as an
Israeli military training zone.
In a little over two weeks, Israel's
supreme court will hear an appeal on behalf of the villagers against
the planned evacuation of eight communities in the South Hebron Hills.
If the 13-year legal battle over Firing Zone 918 ends in Israel's
favour, the bleat of goats will be replaced by the crack of assault
rifles and the villagers will be moved into a nearby town. The Israeli
government's position is that, as a military training zone including
live fire, the area is not a suitable environment for permanent
In the past week, support for the villagers has come from an unexpected
source: 25 of Israel's best-known authors signed a petition calling for
the communities to be saved. Written by the internationally acclaimed
novelist David Grossman, the appeal's signatories include Amos Oz, AB
Yehoshua, Meir Shalev and Sayed Kashua.
"For the past 20 years, Israel has been actively expelling and
displacing the inhabitants of the South Hebron Hills villages," it
says. "These villagers have always practised a unique lifestyle: most
of them are cave-dwellers and find their livelihood in sheep and
goat-herding and small crop farming. Over these years, they have
suffered unceasing harassment by the Israeli army and settlers ... They
live in constant fear, helplessly facing a ruthless power that does
everything to displace them from the home they have inhabited for
It goes on: "In a reality of ongoing
occupation, of solid cynicism and meanness, each and every one of us
bears the moral obligation to try to relieve the suffering, do
something to bend back the occupation's giant, cruel hand."
The area of 12 square miles was designated a military training zone by
Israel in the 1980s, but it was not until 1999 that action was taken to
clear the land of its inhabitants.
The villagers were forcibly evicted, all structures were demolished and
inhabited caves were filled with rubble and blocked up. But a court
injunction allowed some villagers to return pending a decision on a
legal challenge to the evictions. The case was frozen from 2005 until
last year, leaving the threat of forced removal and demolitions.
It is a remote and undeveloped landscape, rolling towards the Negev
desert. Tarpaulin tents and breeze-block shelters are scattered over
the dry, stony hills. There are almost no paved roads, and none of the
villages is connected to a water supply or the electricity grid. During
the long, arid, summer months, families spend almost half their income
on water for themselves and their livestock.
Meanwhile, hardline Israeli settler
outposts on the edge of Firing Zone 918 are hooked up to water and
power, served by paved roads and protected by the Israeli army. The
Palestinian villagers and their livestock are subject to frequent
intimidation and violent beatings by the radical settlers; For several
years, village children have been given a court-ordered army escort on
their walk to school following abuse and stone-throwing by settlers.
The Egyptian State Unravels
(Mara Rekin, Foreign Affairs.com, 6/27/13)
"This is a group of poor people who are being constantly harassed and
attacked – and my country's army is obeying the command of the settlers
in this area," Meir Shalev, an award-winning novelist and one of the
signatories to the authors' petition, told the Observer. "These people
are being driven away, and if you have some kind of heart it's
something you should protest against."
The villagers' Israeli lawyers say the land's ownership is not in
question. "I have three huge files of land ownership in this area. It's
not disputed that this is privately-owned land," said Shlomo Lecker.
Under international humanitarian law, the transfer of occupied
populations is forbidden unless it is temporary and in the context of
Mahmoud Hamamdeh, the chief of Mufaqara village, which faces multiple
demolition orders, said the communities lived in "dignity and honour"
until "the cancer of settlements began". Using the Arabic word for
steadfast perseverance, he added: "Israel may destroy our cement, but
it will never destroy our sumud."
Shalev said he hoped the authors' petition would awaken the Israeli
public to the Palestinian villagers' plight, but was doubtful of its
impact. "Israeli society has become deaf and blind to the moral aspects
of the occupation. Today there are more Israelis active in the rights
of street cats in Tel Aviv than these poor people in caves," he said.
“Everybody needs a weapon,” said
Mahmoud, a 23-year-old Egyptian arms dealer, as he displayed his
inventory of pistols, machetes, and switchblades on the living room
floor of his family’s apartment in the crime-ridden Cairo neighborhood
of Ain Shams.
With Egyptian government statistics indicating a 300 percent increase
in homicides and a 12-fold increase in armed robberies since the 2011
Mahmoud and other black-market entrepreneurs are capitalizing on a
growing obsession with self-defense and civilian vigilantism among
Egyptians who have lost patience with their government’s inability to
restore security. Frustration with lawlessness is among the numerous
grievances that will drive antigovernment protesters to the streets on
June 30, the one-year anniversary of President Mohamed Morsi’s
Mahmoud is one of many
post-revolutionary lawbreakers who were victims of crime before they
became perpetrators. When I asked him how he made the decision to start
selling black-market weapons, he replied sarcastically, “What decision?
I had no choice.” Mahmoud explained that he used to earn a living
as a taxi driver. But shortly after the revolution, his car was
hijacked at gunpoint by a local gang. Like many of the amateur black
marketeers responsible for Egypt’s current crime wave, Mahmoud is a far
cry from the hardened criminal I had been expecting; he is just a young
man hoping to earn enough money to move out of his parents’ house,
marry his fiancée, and replace his stolen taxi.
Mahmoud’s neighborhood is home to one of Cairo’s most active black
markets in unlicensed weapons, where vendors hawk a variety of small
arms -- stolen police pistols, locally made shotguns, knives,
switchblades and Tasers -- at below-market prices. Although Egyptian
law prohibits the sale of unlicensed weapons, these informal markets
have thrived since the early days of the revolution. They operate
openly and often in plain view of the police, who until recently showed
little interest in regulating the illicit trade, despite soaring crime
Egyptians once lived in fear of the state. Now they fear its absence.
Many of the guns for sale come from the thousands of firearms that were
ransacked from police departments during the revolution. Others are
smuggled across Egypt’s borders with Libya and Sudan.
The proliferation of small arms in Cairo
and across Egypt is just one symptom of the security vacuum that
persists two years after the uprising that shattered Hosni Mubarak’s
seemingly unbreakable police state. Distrustful of a police force known
for being simultaneously abusive and incompetent, and wary of an
increasingly politicized judicial system that rarely delivers justice,
many Egyptians are administering law and order on their own terms.
Meanwhile, facing intermittent strikes by judicial workers and police
officers, Egypt’s overextended government is all too willing to
outsource some of its law enforcement functions to nonstate actors and
informal institutions. Since the revolution, local authorities have
tolerated the expansion of informal Sharia committees that administer
Islamic law, creating what is beginning to resemble a state within a
Egyptians complain that the police never fully redeployed after they
withdrew from the streets during the revolution. Those few who are
present in the streets are doing nothing to combat crime.
The refusal of police to do their job has more to do with apathy and
incompetence than it does with corruption. Convincing the police to
protect people who hate them -- and no longer fear them -- is no easy
Other reports suggest that a much more malignant phenomenon is at work:
direct police complicity in organized crime. Criminal gangs are among
the biggest beneficiaries of post-revolutionary lawlessness. They
function as a substitute for state security personnel in the most
dangerous slums of Cairo, allegedly with the tacit permission and even
encouragement of police. According to Haitham Tabei, an Egyptian
journalist who reports on urban crime, the police have willingly
abdicated control over entire neighborhoods of the city to criminal
gangs. These predatory groups operate illicit fiefdoms of racketeering,
trafficking, and prostitution with total impunity, hiring thugs (and
sometimes even children) to staff their private militias.
Outside of Cairo, the problem is even
more severe. Gangs control entire sections of major highways in Upper
Egypt and Sinai, where they terrorize truck drivers with semiautomatic
weapons and use the threat of carjacking to extort royalties from
companies that rely on ground transport to ship their goods.
US to Leave 700 Troops in Jordan
Although the primary function of the Mubarak regime’s security
apparatus was to protect the state from its political opponents, one of
its few positive side effects was an overall chilling effect on crime.
Before the revolution, Cairo had one of the lowest homicide rates in
Crime waves are to be expected in post-authoritarian transitions, and
the tradeoff between democratic reform and insecurity has been widely
studied in the context of the Soviet Union’s demise. So it is perhaps
unsurprising that violent crime rates have soared since the collapse of
the Mubarak regime.
Meaningful security sector reform, a central demand of the revolution
and one of Morsi’s forgotten campaign promises, has all but fallen off
the political agenda. Egypt’s partially dissolved parliament and
recently reshuffled government are preoccupied instead with mass
protests, the deteriorating economic situation, and a legal battle over
the design of the electoral system that has postponed elections
Without a serious effort to rebuild confidence in Egypt’s security
apparatus and judicial institutions, there are few incentives to abide
by laws that are neither enforced nor respected.
On both ends of an intensely polarized political spectrum, Morsi’s
supporters and his opponents are behaving in ways that make armed
confrontation inevitable. Neither the opposition nor the Brotherhood is
doing much to reduce the probability of a bloodbath on June 30, other
than to engage in a mutually discrediting display of blame-shifting.
in Sign of Deepening Involvement in Syrian Crisis
(Jonathan S Landay and Hannah Allam, Truth-Out.org, McClatchy Newspapers, 6/22/13)
In a sign of deepening U.S. involvement
in the Syrian crisis, the United States isleaving 700 combat-equipped
American military personnel in Jordan following the end of a joint
U.S.-Jordanian training exercise, President Barack Obama told Congress
The decision brings to about 1,000 the number of U.S. troops now
deployed in Jordan. It came a week after the White House announced that
the United States would begin providing light arms to Syrian rebels
fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad.
Obama said the troops would remain in Jordan to help provide that
country with security, but he did not say specificallywhat they would
Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan in recent
months to escape the fighting in their homeland. But, unlike Syrian
neighbors Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, there has been no spillover of
violence into the kingdom.
Rebels told McClatchy in December, however, that they had undergone
trainingin light and heavy weapons use inside Jordan at camps they
believed were overseen by American and British intelligence agents.
The 700 U.S. personnel that Obama said
would remain in Jordan had been participating in military exercises
dubbed Eager Lion. Those exercises ended on Thursday.
The Turkish Media's Darkest Hour
How Erdogan Got the Protest Coverage he Wanted
(Piotr Zalewski, Foreighn Affairs, 6/14/13)
The Americans include the crews of two Patriot anti-aircraft missile
batteries and the logistics, command and communications personnel
needed to support those units. The United States also is leaving behind
a squadron of 12 to 24 F-16 fighter jets that Jordan asked the United
States to keep in the kingdom, Obama said in his letter to Congress.
There already were some 300 U.S. troopsin Jordan whose official mission
is advising the government and training Jordanian forces confronting
the fallout of the brutal 2-year-old Syrian civil war, which has driven
an estimated 560,000 refugees into the tiny kingdom, a key U.S. ally in
the region, severely straining its finances and stability. The
war in Syria has claimed an estimated 96,000 lives.
While the administration publicly declared the regime's alleged use of
a nerve agent known as sarin as the reason for arming the rebels, it
was widely seen as a belated attempt by Obama to bolster the opposition
following the recapture earlier this month of the western city of
Qusayr by regime forces and fighters of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed
Shiite Muslim militia movement from neighboring Lebanon.
The loss of Qusayr, other battlefield setbacks and the inability of a
political opposition coalition to agree on leaders and a platform,
dealt major blows to the badly fractured Syrian resistance and its
foreign backers, including the United States and the Sunni
Muslim-dominated states of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan.
The US deployment is intended to step up pressure on the Syrian regime
ahead of a peace conference that the United States and Russia are
trying to organize.
Two weeks into the protests that have
raged in Istanbul and dozens of other cities across Turkey, a few
things have become clear. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose
authoritarian style of governance has made him the target of the
demonstrators’ anger, has been weakened but remains popular and fully
in charge. Those frustrated with his government's policies, as well as
with the opposition's clumsy attempts to provide alternatives, have
finally found a voice, if not necessarily a leader. One of the
protests’ most tangible outcomes, however, has been to lay bare the
full extent to which Erdogan’s government has brought the Turkish media
Over the past few years, Turkey has made headlines as the world’s top
jailer of journalists. According to Reporters Without Borders, a
nongovernmental organization that supports press freedom, 67
journalists currently sit in Turkish prisons.
The government insists that only a small
fraction of the jailed journalists are behind bars for crimes related
to their reporting. (Most of the journalists are Kurds accused of links
to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, considered a terrorist group.)
Human rights organizations and media watchdogs beg to differ. Of the 67
jailed journalists, a Reporters Without Borders spokesperson said in an
email, “a minimum of 33 journalists and 2 media assistants” have been
detained for their reporting.
Protests have continued in the village of Khashamir against the US attacks
Yet the debate about numbers misses the point. As the last two weeks
have shown, Turkey’s jailed journalists are only the most visible
symptom of a much wider malaise: the cowing
of the country’s free press.
As the scale of the demonstrations became clear, a number of major
newspapers buried the story. And on June 1, as mass demonstrations and
rioting erupted across dozens of cities, the main news channels buried
their necks in the sand.
This is not the first time in recent memory that the media have recoiled under government pressure.
The crisis of the free press isn’t as simple as direct censorship or a
chasm between pro- and anti-government media (although a number of
outlets have been taken over by businessmen with close ties to the
ruling Justice and Development Party, known byits Turkish acronym,
real problem in Turkey is that all mainstream media, sympathetic to the AKP or not, have little
choice but to be on good terms with the powers that be. This is as true now as it was when the
AKP wasn’t around, and when it was the once omnipotent army -- which
managed to bring down four governments since 1960 and which Erdogan’s
government has since brought to heel -- that
ruled from the sidelines. Today, however, it is more visible than ever before.
For most media bosses, newspapers are little more than vehicles to
curry favor with the authorities. Given the amount of cash that
they hemorrhage each year, most media outlets, at least from an economic perspective, are useless
investments. Where the media titans can rake in the big bucks is
through investments in such areas as mining, construction, or port
services, sectors where the
biggest client is none other than the
government itself. With public contracts worth billions of
stake, and with the process for seeking them notoriously opaque, the
bosses have to
tread carefully. Stepping on the government’s toes often
means being left out in the cold. Just ask Aydin Dogan. The media
tycoon, whose newspapers ran a series of articles in 2008 about a
corruption scandal allegedly involving the AKP, was first publicly
shamed by the prime minister and then slapped with a record fine of
$3.2 billion for tax irregularities.
Back when the generals pulled the strings, the taboo issues were the Armenian genocide of 1915,
the Kurdish situation, and the military itself. Today, says Esra Arsan,
a former reporter who is currently a professor of journalism and media
studies at Istanbul Bilgi University, it’s the hard-hitting stories on
government corruption and corporate malpractice that are off limits.
Arsan says the media have become "experts on how to censor themselves.”
The scale of the problem is astounding. Of the journalists Esra Arsan
interviewed for a 2011 study, 95 percent said the government intervened
in editorial decisions, 89 percent said the media bosses did, and 100
percent reported that censorship was common.
In most cases, it isn’t the fear of being jailed that breeds
self-censorship but the fear of being left jobless, branded, and
[Faisal Ahmed bin Ali Jaber/Al Jazeera]
Anger at US drone war continues in Yemen
Psychiological impact mounts in Khashamir where drones killed a family last year;
Residents still feel "terrorized"
(Rebecca Murray, Al Jazeera 6/7/13)
In his counterterrorism speech on May 27, Barack Obama stopped short of
an apology when he acknowledged civilian casualties by American drones,
saying: "Those deaths will haunt us as long as we live."
For Faisal Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, 54, and his rural village of Khashamir, one deadly accident continues to exact a heavy toll.
The circumstances behind the drone strike are tragic. Faisal said his
brother-in-law, a respected, 49-year old cleric called Salem Ahmed bin
Ali Jaber, delivered a forceful sermon denouncing al-Qaeda’s extremism
at the local mosque.
Salem’s worried father feared retribution from pro-al-Qaeda fighters.
He asked Faisal to advise his son to tone down his rhetoric. But when
confronted, the imam bravely said he would rather die knowing he was
preaching the right message.
Salem’s fate was sealed a few days later, on August 29. Three strangers
- in retrospect, suspected fighters - drove into the village, searching
for the outspoken cleric.
They found Salem at the mosque that
night, surrounded by worshippers. They convinced him to talk with them
outside by a palm grove. Faisal’s nephew, Walid Abdullah bin Ali Jaber,
a 20-year old with the traffic police, accompanied him for protection.
"It was after the evening prayer and I was sitting on my balcony,"
Faisal said, recalling that moment. "There was a light and then a big
noise - I thought the mountains would fall."
Four drone strikes in total, a few minutes apart, violently tore Salem,
Walid and the three visitors to shreds. Amidst the pandemonium,
villagers cowering inside the mosque ran out for safety between
strikes, believing they would die inside.
"You cannot imagine what we found," said Faisal, drawing a slow, deep
breath as he described the nighttime chaos that followed. "We found
body parts scattered everywhere. We tried to collect them all, and
brought them to the mosque to wrap in white cloth."
The repercussions were devastating. The villagers marched the next day,
chanting: "Obama, why do you spill our blood?" But Ymen's President Abd
Rabbu Mansour Hadi met their pleas for answers with silence.
Salem’s mother died two weeks later apparently from shock. Faisal’s
sister Hayat, the mother of Walid, refuses to leave her home, and said
she is "waiting to join my son". Faisal’s daughter Heba was so stricken
with fear she didn’t leave her home for twenty days. She still needs
"The people in the village are so afraid now," Faisal sighed. "Everything has changed. They think they can be killed anywhere."
Rights groups say the damage is serious.
"All that local communities see is the damage and destruction," said
Letta Taylor, a counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch.
"Nothing that suggests that the US and Yemeni authorities care about
President Obama declared that the US will continue to "act against
terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American
people" and that before any strike "there must be near-certainty that
no civilians will be killed or injured".
Analysts point to the key terms "imminent threat" and "near-certainty" as some of those that need to be more clearly defined.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there have been up
to 154 strikes by US drones in Yemen since 2002, with up to 97
civilians included in the almost 800 total killed in the attacks.
Both the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pentagon’s Joint
Special Operations Command (JSOC) conduct drone strikes in Yemen. The
CIA operates from a secret base in neighboring Saudi Arabia.
US Attorney General Eric Holder recently admitted that four US citizens
have been killed by drone attacks. While al-Awlaki was directly
targeted, he said that the other three, including al-Awlaki’s 16-year
old son Abdulrahman, were not.
One person who grew up under drones is Entsar al-Qadhi, a
representative with the National Dialogue’s counterterrorism
subcommittee. Her central province of Marib was first hit in 2002, and
has been a common target for surveillance and strikes
in recent years.
Al-Qadhi smiled grimly. "Before, there
was a general interest in listening to Osama Bin Laden’s speech and
finding out what he will do next, and how he will terrorise people
more," she said. "Now, we listen to Obama’s speech to find out how he
will next terrorise us."
Israeli soldiers take part in exercises in the Golan Heights near the border with Syria.
Meanwhile, the psychological scars for drone strike survivors fester.
Peter Schaapveld, a psychologist sent by British Charity REPRIVE to
south Yemen to investigate the symptoms, uncovered some dire statistics.
Out of his pool of survivors, he found 70 percent to be suffering from
formal post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and virtually all were
suffering from some symptoms of PTSD.
Schaapveld warns that as long as they continue living under a drone threat, their symptoms will only worsen.
"There is basically a breakdown of society as a result of this," he
said. "Children were not going to school, or if they were the school
teachers did not understand PTSD and sent them home. They were not
benefiting from an education, and this is storing up problems for
"Where there was a strike on the market area, daily commerce was
starting to break down," Schaapveld added. "People were not going to
the markets, because to meet in those areas meant they might be subject
to another strike."
Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Imagesurtesy Al Jazeera
Golan Heights villages brace for war
as tensions rise between Syria and Israel
(Phoebe Greenwood in Majdal Shams/Golan Heights, Guardian UK, 5/31/13)
A mother in the village of Majdal Shams, on the slopes of the Golan
Heights, who asked not to be named, has been stocking up on rice,
canned food, oil and wheat for the last week. She listens to news
reports of missiles from Russia and Israeli air strikes, she hears the
cracks of gunfire and thuds of mortars just minutes away in Syria and
feels the war coming closer.
"There is an atmosphere of fear now. Everyone is preparing for war, not just me," she says.
As the fast escalating war of words between the Assad regime and Israel
threatens to reignite a conflict that has lain dormant for more than 45
years, villages along the faultline in the Golan Heights are
stockpiling food and medical supplies.
On Thursday Bashar al-Assad threatened to "open a front on the Golan
Heights" should Israel make good the promises of its security chiefs to
prevent Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems becoming
operational on Syrian soil.
"There is clear popular pressure to open a front of resistance in the
Golan and there is Arab enthusiasm and a desire to come and fight
against Israel," the Syrian president told Hezbollah's al-Manar TV.
Many in Majdal Shams, a small Druze village, are convinced that this
political posturing will soon become impossible to back out of. The
community is preparing itself for a war that neither country wants to
The Golan Heights is home to more than 80,000 Druze, an esoteric
Islamic sect whose insular, self-governing communities are accommodated
by governments across the Middle East.
"We are in a very special situation. We
are lucky our village wasn't destroyed in 1967 because Israel considers
us Druze so we are not a target for them. We are Syrian so we are not a
target for Syria or for Hezbollah. We are like an island in this
region," explains Dr Maray Taisseer, a consultant at the Majdal Shams
medical centre and community spokesperson.
Series on the Palestinian 'catastrophe' of 1948 that led to dispossession and conflict that still endures
(Al Jazeera English 5/22/13)
The war, if it comes, may not be a disaster, Taisseer suggests, if it delivers Golan back into Syrian hands.
"Whatever happens in Syria, everyone agrees we should be liberated – it
doesn't matter whether it's by regime or rebel forces. This is Syrian
land and that is clear," he states unequivocally.
The distinctive peaked roofs of Majdal Shams run right up to a new
Israeli military fence, erected at a blistering pace along the 1967
armistice line just six months ago. Families here are divided in their
loyalties to regime and rebel forces but all are committed Syrian
nationalists. The enemy is the Israeli occupier.
The Israeli military has significantly boosted its presence in the
Golan as the Syrian civil war has edged closer. The hilltops are lined
with military outposts and packs of young recruits are drill-marched
along local roads, past fields of Syrian-laid landmines not cleared
since the 1967 war.
If Syrian and Israeli forces do clash on this border, Druze families on
the frontline say they will not leave their homes. Every house has a
bomb shelter and enough food to last several months. They are ready to
weather the next war.
Hussein Khater, 47, is continuing work on a home for his children with a view over the border fence to Syrian hills.
"We still feel Syrian but the most important thing to us as Druze is
our land. This is my land that I am standing on now and I don't care
what government controls it but I won't leave," he says. "I hope there
won't be war here but if there is, it won't be a problem for us."
A message by Dr. Mona el Farra from Gaza
Al-Jazeera English is broadcasting a special four-part series on Al-Nakba
(first broadcast on the Arabic-language network in 2008). The
first 3 episodes can be accessed on demand on Al Jazeera's website. The
4th episode airs Tuesday, May 28 1pm PST and should be added to their
site shortly thereafter.
For Palestinians, 1948 marks the 'Nakba'
or the 'catastrophe'. In human terms, that year saw the mass
deportation of a million Palestinians from their cities and villages,
massacres of civilians, and the razing to the ground of hundreds of
But for Israelis, the same year marks the creation of their own state.
The series attempts to present an understanding of the events of the past that are still shaping the present.
In 1968 British historian Arnold Toynbee stated "the tragedy in
Palestine is not just a local one; it is a tragedy for the world,
because it is an injustice that is a menace to the world's peace."
This story starts in 1799, outside the
walls of Acre (Akka in Arabic) in Ottoman-controlled Palestine, when an
army under Napoleon Bonaparte besieged the city. It was all part of a
campaign to defeat the Ottomans and establish a French presence in the
In search of allies, Napoleon issued a letter offering Palestine as a
homeland to the Jews under French protection. He called on the Jews to
‘rise up’ against what he called their oppressors.
Napoleon’s appeal was widely publicised. But he was ultimately defeated.
Napoleon’s project for a Jewish homeland in the region under a colonial
protectorate did not die, 40 years later, the plan was revived
but by the British.
On 19 April 1936, the Palestinians
launched a national strike to protest against mass Jewish immigration
and what they saw as Britain’s alliance with the Zionist movement.
The British responded with force. During the six months of the strike,
over 190 Palestinians were killed and more than 800 wounded.
Wary of popular revolt, Arab leaders advised the Palestinians to end the strike.
Palestinian leaders bowed to pressure from the Arab heads of state and
agreed to meet the British Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by Lord
In its report of July 1937, the Peel Commission recommended the
partition of Palestine. Its report drew the frontiers of a Jewish state
in one-third of Palestine, and an Arab state in the remaining
two-thirds, to be merged with Transjordan.
A corridor of land from Jerusalem to Jaffa would remain under British
mandate. The Commission also recommended transferring where necessary
Palestinians from the lands allocated to the new Jewish state.
The Commission’s proposals were widely published and provoked heated debate.
As the Palestinian revolt continued, Britain’s response hardened.
Between 1936 and 1937, the British killed over 1,000 Palestinians; 37
British military police and 69 Jews also died.
Few Palestinians, if any, could have imagined they were to become victims of what would later be called ‘ethnic cleansing’.
After 30 years of British rule, the question of Palestine was referred
to the United Nations, which had become the forum for conflict.
On 29 November 1947, the UN General Assembly met to devise a plan for
the partition of Palestine. UN Resolution 181 divided Palestine into an
Arab and a Jewish state, with Jerusalem as an internationalised city.
The Jewish state was granted 56 percent of the land; the city of Jaffa
was included as an enclave of the Arab state; and the land known today
as the Gaza Strip was split from its surrounding agricultural regions.
But making the proposed Arab state all but proved impractical in the eyes of many Palestinians.
When the draft resolution was presented for voting, Arab newspapers ran
a ‘name and shame’ list of the countries that voted for the UN
partition plan, and Arab protesters took to the streets.
Following the partition resolution, Britain announced it would end its mandate in Palestine on 14 May 1948.
Airs Tuesday, 1pm (PST) May 28.
Detained Testimonies from Palestinian children imprisoned by Israel
(+972 Blog, text and photos by Samar Hazboun)
This episode reports on 1948-2008 including the illegal seizure of Palestinian land after the 1967 war.
Dore Stein: Sadly the 'Nakba' is still on going on the ground with
settlement building escalating and Palestinians being forced from their
homes in East Jerusalem, Hebron and elsewhere.
Israel arrests 14 year old U.S. citizen
Mohammad Khaleq is one of more than 8,000 Palestinian children
held by Israel since the year 2000
(Linah Alsaafin, Al Jazeera, 4/15/13)
First (top) story excerpt:
‘Detained: Testimonies from Palestinian Children Imprisoned by Israel’ uncovers
one of the
most painful experiences that Palestinian children endure in the
ongoing Israeli occupation. Through interviews with ex-detainees and
mothers of minors presently in detention, the project documents their
stories and aims to lend a voice to those who are silenced from fear of
past 11 years, according to Defence for Children International, some
7,500 children have been detained in Israeli prisons and detention
facilities. Muhammad Daoud Dirbas, at the age of six, was the youngest
child to have been detained by Israeli soldiers. Such practices are
considered illegal under international law, as are other policies that
children are subjected to, such as solitary confinement.
cases, I (Samar Hazboun) found children who suffer from various
traumas. Some were not able to talk about what had happened in prison;
others burst into tears. Many children agreed to talk “off the
record”; I thus know their stories but was not able to officially
interview them or take their pictures. In some cases, I was able to
talk to the parents once the child left the room, and thus obtained
more detailed information about how the children were dealing with what
had happened to them.
cases, the children suffer from insomnia, involuntary urination,
nightmares, depression, and fear of going out and facing people.
children I interviewed decided not to take further legal action, out of
fear of the repercussions of doing so, and the lack of belief that they
will be guaranteed protection.
It was not
possible to independently corroborate all of the facts told by the
children and their families. These are their stories, in their words.
Dates, names and places have been changed in order to protect the children’s identities.
of Z.S. (17) was attacked on a Thursday night at around 2 a.m. with
stun grenades and tear gas. Six soldiers broke into his family house
and arrested him. The soldiers dragged him to a neighboring settlement
1 kilometer away. During the walk, he was beaten. He was left outside
in the cold, blindfolded, for two hours.
interrogation, he was asked whether he wished to be treated like an
animal or a human being. He responded, “like a human being.” He was
handcuffed and blindfolded, as the interrogator electrically shocked
him several times. He then grabbed his head and banged it against the
wall until a second interrogator came in. The interrogator asked him to
lie on the ground, and started to kick him until he lost consciousness.
Z.S. was released that same day. He has not filed any complaints for fear of the repercussions of doing so.
was accused of belonging to a militant group. He was arrested from his
family home and held in prison for 18 months. He spent 45 days of the
18 months in solitary confinement with his legs and hands tied
together. Various methods of torture were used on him, including sleep
deprivation and emotional blackmail.
When M.K. was moved out of solitary confinement, he endured group punishment. He was not allowed any visits during that period.
raid to arrest M.K., his house was attacked by tear gas and stun
grenades. As a result, his neighbor’s daughter lost hearing in one ear.
M.K. is not allowed to leave the city of Nablus for the next six years.
I.B., 16 years old
cousin was shot dead at an Israeli checkpoint in Nablus at the age of
15. The soldiers suspected he was wearing an explosives belt because of
a wire connected to his ear. It later transpired that it was a mobile
In order to commemorate his cousin, I.B. decided to print posters of his cousin and paste them on the walls of his neighborhood.
This was considered a crime by the IDF.
four days in prison and 18 days in a solitary confinement cell. He was
not able to finish his studies after his imprisonment.
Z.B., 17 years old at the time of his arrest
family was asked by soldiers to immediately evacuate their house with
no prior notice. During the raid on his house, all of the family’s
furniture was broken into pieces.
soldiers finished raiding the house, one soldier twisted his arms while
the second blindfolded him. He and his cousin were arrested. They were
accused of belonging to a Hamas group.
Z.B. has been in prison for nine years now. He is not allowed any family visits.
has been detained seven times so far. The first time, he was arrested
at the age of nine for allegedly throwing stones at settlers.
family is constantly targeted by settler attacks as they live in Hay al
Bustan in Silwan. Their house is slated for demolition as a part of an
Israeli plan targeting the homes (of) Arab citizens in Jerusalem.
attacks are very common in that area. M.O. was attacked by settlers and
beaten up. He suffered from internal bleeding due to the brutality of
5, 2010 M.A. (13) was arrested at 2 a.m. from his family house. He was
accused of damaging settler cars and throwing stones.
was arrested, he was severely beaten. As a result of the torture he
underwent during his time in detention, his trial had to be postponed
because of the visible bruises on his head and body.
was not allowed any visits during his detention. The court ruled to
release him on bail of NIS 5,000 ($1,300), in addition to placing him
under house arrest.
28, 2011 Y.K. (15) went with his father to the fields of the farm they
own, which is located next to an Israeli settlement. The family was
attacked that day by armed settlers who shot Y.K. in the head. He later
His younger brother, 14, was arrested and detained for 45 days.
B.A. (15) was arrested for the first time. Shortly after his release,
he fell ill and was hospitalized. During his stay at the hospital, the
IDF went to his house to arrest him, as he was on a wanted list. When
they did not find him, they arrested his brother instead.
soldiers offered to release his brother in exchange for B.A.,
threatening to raid the hospital. The ”exchange” operation took place
at 6 a.m. and was filmed with the presence of medical staff.
B.A. is in
detention and has attended eight court hearings for participating in a
peaceful protest against the occupation. Under Israeli military law,
all Palestinian protests are illegal.
He is not allowed any family visits.
Documentary photographer and visual artist Samar Hazboun can be followed on Twitter (@Samar_Hazboun).
Her website is here..
Nour Joudah (center) with her class at Friends School
Nour Joudah returns to U.S.,
but continues to fight Israel's arbitrary denial of entry
(Alex Kane, Mondoweiss.net, 4/19/13)
teacher Nour Joudah was denied entry to the West Bank en route to
her only place of employment and has returned to the United States
after fighting the Israeli bureaucracy from Amman, Jordan. Nour Joudah
is a teacher at the Friends School in Ramallah.
Quaker-affiliated school is one of the oldest educational institutions
in Palestine and is an oasis. But the case of Joudah clearly
shows that Israel calls the shots in occupied Palestine. And examining
her story shatters the feeling that the Friends School is worlds away
from a conflict situation.
utterly normal at Friends. Hints of the chaos of the Second
Intifada--when Israeli shells were fired near the school and a bombing
hit a nearby police station--are nowhere to be found. You would be
forgiven if you forgot for a moment that there was an Israeli
occupation. Israeli soldiers, though, still conduct raids in the heart
of Ramallah as they see fit.
Palestinian students who attend the Friends School are well aware of
the occupation and its grip on Palestinian life. The students who
learned English from Nour Joudah are even more viscerally aware of how
Israel controls Palestinian freedom of movement, even if the person has
American citizenship. Israel’s decision to deny Joudah entry left them
without a teacher they adored, and temporarily disrupted their studies.
Izhiman, 14, described Ms. Nour, as they called her, “so friendly...She
makes sure you love to learn,” said Izhiman, in extremely good English.
“I never thought they would do such a horrible thing...This specific
story shows the world how they prevent people from coming home.”
graduate of Georgetown, hails from Clarksville, Tennessee and had been
teaching English at the Friends School since September 2012. She held a
multiple-entry visa from Israel which gave her permission to stay and
work in Ramallah for a whole year. Last Christmas, she traveled to
Amman, Jordan on her way to celebrate the holidays with a friend. But
when she went back to the West Bank in early January, Israeli border
authorities denied her entry for unspecified “security” reasons.
Repeated denials of entry effectively amounted to a revocation of her
Friends School in Ramallah has been funded by USAID, or the United
States Agency for International Development. This, combined with Joudah
being an American citizen, were more than enough reason for American
officials to get involved after Joudah’s first denial of entry. But
Joudah’s citizenship, and her US-government funded place of employment,
didn’t matter to Israeli authorities.
the only place in the world where I feel that it means nothing to be an
American” said Reham Barghouti, a psychology instructor and guidance
counselor at the Friends School who is also an American citizen. She
shared a classroom with Joudah while they both taught at the school.
“If there was any other place that dealt with American citizens in this
kind of way, there would be this whole giant uproar, right? But because
it’s here, I guess, it doesn’t really matter.”
Embassy in Washington D.C. recommended that she try entering at
Ben-Gurion Airport. On February 25, her plane touched down in Tel
Aviv. But despite having a multiple-entry visa, she was again
questioned, detained and denied entry. Judah said Israeli interrogators
asked her for what she called “a list of every young Palestinian that I
knew so that [the interrogator] could create a file of phone numbers to
She was put
back on a plane to Amman the next morning. Joudah denies she was
uncooperative; she says she answered every single question (other than
the request to furnish the names of young Palestinians she knew).
hired Israeli-American lawyer Emily Schaeffer, who is known for taking
on the Israeli government’s discriminatory treatment of
Palestinians. Schaeffer sees Joudah’s denial of entry as evidence
of two trends she has noticed while working as a lawyer: restrictions
on both foreign NGO workers who assist Palestinians as well as
foreigners with Palestinian or Arab backgrounds. Earlier this year,
Haaretz reported that Israel had “renewed restrictions on the
freedom of movement of foreign nationals who live and work in the West
Bank that prohibit them from entering East Jerusalem or Israel.” As for
the other trend, Schaeffer says she has other Western clients who have
had to deal with Israeli discrimination like Joudah has. “Basically,
it’s intended to block the empowerment of the Palestinian community,”
of discrimination is getting renewed attention in the wake of news
reports on a bill sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee (AIPAC) that would grant Israel an exemption from
reciprocating visa-free entries to the country. AIPAC is pushing
legislation that would allow Israelis to enter the U.S. without the
hassle of obtaining a visa. Usually, countries reciprocate this
practice with the U.S. But Israel--and AIPAC--are pushing for an
exemption that would effectively allow Israel to discriminate against
travelers it sees as “security threats”--largely meaning people with
Palestinian or Arab backgrounds. “It’s stunning that you would give a
green light to another country to violate the civil liberties of
Americans traveling abroad,” said a Congressional staffer.
See Glen Greenwald column:
"Barbara Boxer, AIPAC seek to codify Israel's right to discriminate against Americans."
the headaches Israel has caused for her, Joudah still manages to see
some light in her situation. She has no regrets having fought the
denial, and says her students have learned some valuable lessons from
Joudah’s students, Nicole Zakkak, said that “one of the most important
things I learned from Ms. Nour was to speak about my homeland and my
rights as a priority.”
added: “As my mother reminded me, 'honey, the whole nation is in exile,
so you’ve never been any different, you just got a reminder."
Iraq's pain has only intensified since 2003
"The country of my birth, already so damaged, is now crippled by fear of all-out civil war.