WASHINGTON – Olli Heinonen, the Finnish nuclear engineer who resigned Thursday after five years as deputy director for safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was the driving force in turning that agency into a mechanism to support U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran.
Heinonen was instrumental in making a collection of intelligence documents showing a purported Iranian nuclear weapons research programme the central focus of the IAEA’s work on Iran. The result was to shift opinion among Western publics to the view that Iran had been pursuing a covert nuclear weapons programme.
But his embrace of the intelligence documents provoked a fierce political struggle within the Secretariat of the IAEA, because other officials believed the documents were fraudulent.
Heinonen took over the Safeguards Department in July 2005 – the same month that the George W. Bush administration first briefed top IAEA officials on the intelligence collection.
The documents portrayed a purported nuclear weapons research programme, originally called the “Green Salt” project, that included efforts to redesign the nosecone of the Shahab-3 missile, high explosives apparently for the purpose of triggering a nuclear weapon and designs for a uranium conversion facility. Later the IAEA referred to the purported Iranian activities simply as the “alleged studies”.
The Bush administration was pushing the IAEA to use the documents to accuse Iran of having had a covert nuclear weapons programme. The administration was determined to ensure that the IAEA Governing Board would support referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council for action on sanctions, as part of a larger strategy to force Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment programme.
Long-time IAEA Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei and other officials involved in investigating and reporting on Iran’s nuclear programme were immediately sceptical about the authenticity of the documents. According to two Israeli authors, Yossi Melman and Meir Javadanfar, several IAEA officials told them in interviews in 2005 and 2006 that senior officials of the agency believed the documents had been “fabricated by a Western intelligence organisation”.
Heinonen, on the other hand, supported the strategy of exploiting the collection of intelligence documents to put Iran on the defensive. His approach was not to claim that the documents’ authenticity had been proven but to shift the burden of proof to Iran, demanding that it provide concrete evidence that it had not carried out the activities portrayed in the documents.
From the beginning, Iran’s permanent representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, denounced the documents as fabrications. In Governing Board meetings and interviews, Soltanieh pointed to several indicators, including the absence of official stamps showing receipt of the document by a government office and the absence of any security markings.
The tensions between Heinonen and the senior officials over the intelligence documents intensified in early 2008, when Iran provided detailed documentation to the agency disproving a key premise of the intelligence documents.
Kimia Maadan, a private Iranian company, was shown in the intelligence documents as having designed a uranium conversion facility as part of the alleged military nuclear weapons research programme. Iran proved to the satisfaction of those investigating the issue, however, that Kimia Maadan had been created by Iran’s civilian atomic energy agency solely to carry out a uranium ore processing project and had gone out of business before it fulfilled the contract.
Senior IAEA officials then demanded that Heinonen distance the organisation from the documents by inserting a disclaimer in future agency reports on Iran that it could not vouch for the authenticity of the documents.
Instead Heinonen gave a “technical briefing” for IAEA member countries in February 2008 featuring a diagram on which the ore processing project and the uranium processing project were both carried out by the firm and shared the same military numbering system.
The IAEA report published just three days earlier established, however, that the ore processing project number — 5/15 — had been assigned to it not by the military but by the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran. And the date on which it was assigned was August 1999 – many months before the purported nuclear weapons programme was shown to have been organised.
Heinonen carefully avoided endorsing the documents as authentic. He even acknowledged that Iran had spotted technical errors in the one-page design for a small-scale facility for uranium conversion, and that there were indeed “technical inconsistencies” in the diagram.
He also admitted Iran had provided open source publications showing spherical firing systems similar to the one depicted in the intelligence documents on alleged tests of high explosives.
Heinonen suggested in his presentation that the agency did not yet have sufficient information to come to any firm conclusions about those documents. In the May 2008 IAEA report, however, there was no mention of any such caveats about the documents.
Instead, the report used language that was clearly intended to indicate that the agency had confidence in the intelligence documents: “The documentation presented to Iran appears to have been derived from multiple sources over different periods of time, is detailed in content and appears to be generally consistent.”
That language, on which Heinoen evidently insisted, did not represent a consensus among senior IAEA officials. One senior official suggested to IPS in September 2009 that the idea that documents came from different sources was not completely honest.
“There are intelligence-sharing networks,” said the official. It was possible that one intelligence organisation could have shared the documents with others, he explained.
“That gives us multiple sources consistent over time,” said the official.
The same official said of the collection of intelligence documents, “It’s not difficult to cook up.”
Nevertheless, Heinonen’s position had clearly prevailed. And in the final year of ElBaradei’s leadership of the agency, the Safeguards Department became an instrument for member states – especially France, Britain, Germany and Israel – to put pressure on ElBaradei to publish summaries of intelligence reports portraying Iran as actively pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.
The active pressure of the United States and its allies on behalf of the hard line toward Iran was the main source of Heinonen’s power on the issue. Those states have been feeding intelligence on alleged covert Iranian nuclear activities to the Safeguards Division for years, and Heinonen knew that ElBaradei could not afford to confront the U.S.-led coalition openly over the issue.
The Bush administration had threatened to replace ElBaradei in 2004 and had reluctantly accepted his reelection as director-general in 2005. ElBaradei was not strong enough to threaten to fire the main antagonist over the issue of alleged studies.
ElBaradei’s successor Yukio Amano is even less capable of adopting an independent position on the issues surrounding the documents. The political dynamics of the IAEA ensure that Heinonen’s successor is certain to continue the same line on the Iran nuclear issue and intelligence documents as Heinonen’s.
The Lavon Affair: When Israel firebombed U.S. Installations to make it appear attacks were by ‘Muslim extremists,’ and how the US media cover it up
Both before and since Nasser’s time, concerns of hard-line Israeli leaders have focused not on the radical Arabs, but rather on moderate Arab leaders who maintain ties to the West. Obviously, if the West ever reached an agreement with the Arabs at the expense of further Israeli territorial ambitions, it would be with such moderate Arabs.
Efforts by the Eisenhower administration to cultivate the charismatic Egyptian colonel [Gamal Abdel Nasser], had been detected by Israeli intelligence operatives, who also were concerned about Nasser’s negotiations with the British for withdrawal of their forces from Egypt’s Suez Canal zone, scheduled for July 1954.
In their 1979 book, The Untold History of Israel, Israeli journalists Jacques Derogy and Hesi Carmel relate that in 1954 Israel’s army intelligence section conceived a plan to attack British personnel seconded to King Hussein’s government in Jordan. The purpose was to sour relations between Britain and Jordan as well as between both Jordan and Britain on the one hand and Egypt, which would be blamed for such attacks.
Shortly afterward, the same Israeli army intelligence organization activated two networks of Egyptian Jews first established in 1948. These young people had been recruited in Egypt, secretly trained in Israel, and then sent back to their homes in Cairo and Alexandria to await orders to carry out acts of sabotage in case of war between Egypt and Israel.
Now the networks were to explode small incendiary bombs in American installations in Egypt, presumably to set off a chain of mutual recriminations to spoil the budding Eisenhower-Nasser courtship. After completing their sabotage of American installations, the same networks next were to bomb public places in Cairo and Alexandria, actions that Nasser would attribute to the Muslim Brotherhood, which supported the deposed General Naguib, and thus create a climate of Egyptian instability during the British-Egyptian Canal Zone negotiations.
An Israeli spymaster posing as a German businessman was sent to Cairo to set the plan in motion. On July 14, 1954, while French-influenced Egyptians celebrated Bastille Day as a symbol of the overthrow of monarchies both in France and in Egypt, incendiary devices exploded in U.S. Information Service libraries and consular offices open to the public in both Cairo and Alexandria.
Although the resulting small fires caused minor property damage, there were no casualties and none of the U.S. government buildings targeted were destroyed. The sabotage of U.S. installations alerted Egyptian police, however. They assigned special patrols to crowded public places in both cities.
Nine days later, on July 23, during Egyptian commemoration of the second anniversary of its revolution, members of the Israeli sabotage network took firebombs to the Cairo railway station and to movie theaters in Cairo and Alexandria.
As one of the young Egyptian Jews, Philippe Nathanson, stood in front of an Alexandria theater, the incendiary device he was carrying ignited prematurely. After bystanders beat out the fire in his clothing, a policeman took him into custody for questioning about the fire that witnesses said had begun in his pocket.
Within days 11 persons were in custody. They included all members of both the Cairo and Alexandria sabotage networks and an additional Israeli spy who was not a part of either network. Only the Israeli spymaster who had set the plain in motion escaped, leading members of competing Israeli intelligence services to question for years afterward why the plan’s instigator had been able to slip out of Egypt, but another Israeli agent, whose identity was known to the instigator, was caught.
Extinguishing Hopes of Moderation
Although the sabotage plan misfired, literally, it succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of its Israeli planners in extinguishing all hopes of moderation—not in Egypt but in Israel. The arrested provocateurs were brought to trial in Cairo on Dec. 11, 1954. Among them was an Egyptian Jewish girl, Victorine Ninio, who had to be assisted into the courtroom after she reportedly twice tried to commit suicide while under Egyptian interrogation. The unaffiliated spy, Max Bennett, had been more successful in avoiding interrogation. The Egyptian press reported he had killed himself with a rusty nail pried from his cell door.
As the trial opened, the Israeli press reported emotionally the details of what it assumed to be a show trial on baseless charges intended to terrorize remnants of Egypt’s once large Jewish community. Assuming the same thing, British and French political leaders begged Nasser in vain to halt the proceedings.
Seemingly most indignant of all was the first moderate prime minister in Israel’s brief history, Moshe Sharett. According to Israeli journalists Derogy and Carmel, Sharett’s indignation was not feigned. This, they maintain, was because when his Egyptian Jewish agents were exposed, the Israeli army intelligence chief, Col. Benjamin Gibli, carefully covered his own tracks.
Although there were others in the chain of command who knew the truth, Gibli’s immediate superior, Gen. Moshe Dayan, seems to have assisted Gibli in assuring that blame for the operation would fall on Dayan’s own direct superior, Defense Minister Pinchas Lavon. Lavon, like Sharett, according to the Israeli journalists, may have known little or nothing about the plan to drive a wedge between Egypt and the West by torching U.S. government facilities in Cairo and Alexandria.
In any case, on Dec. 12, 1954, the second day of the Cairo trial, Sharett angrily denounced “these calumnies designed to strike at the Jews of Egypt.” Later, when death sentences were handed down against some of the conspirators, Sharett vowed, “We will not negotiate in the shadow of the gallows.”
At that moment, the separate Eisenhower, Ben-Gurion and Sharett efforts to establish indirect contacts leading to Egyptian-Israeli peace negotiations all began to unravel. Egyptians, angry at the seeming hypocrisy of the Israeli prime minister’s scathing denials of actions that clearly had originated with the Israeli government, began breaking off contacts.
By Jan. 20, 1955, two of the conspirators had been hanged in Egypt and hopes among moderates for an Israeli-Egyptian rapprochement died with them. Blamed by Sharett’s political rival, Ben-Gurion, for the botched plot, Lavon resigned on Feb. 7 and was replaced as defense minister by Ben-Gurion later in the month.
Ben-Gurion immediately initiated drastic military actions against Egypt. These included a massive Israeli incursion into the Egyptian-controlled Gaza Strip, and the assassination by letter bomb of an Egyptian officer the Israelis said was directing guerrilla raids into Israel from Gaza.
Shaken by the Gaza raid, which he had been powerless to stop, Nasser turned to the U.S. with a request for $27 million in arms. Mindful of a 1950 agreement with Britain and France to maintain an arms balance between Israel and the Arabs, and confident that Egypt was short of funds, the U.S. informed Nasser that he would have to pay cash for the arms.
“Our attitude may, with the advantage of hindsight, appear to have been unrealistic,” Eisenhower wrote later. It was.
The Soviet Union offered Nasser arms for Egyptian cotton instead of cash. Nasser, however, was not eager to loosen ties with the West.
Then, in September 1955, shortly before elections which brought Ben-Gurion back into the prime ministership, Israeli troops raided another Egyptian outpost. This time Nasser accepted Soviet-brokered Czechoslovak arms on barter terms. This set off a punitive move by the United States, which questioned Nasser’s ability, with his cotton and rice crops mortgaged, to repay loans he was seeking from the World Bank to build what became the Aswan High Dam.
The Soviets in turn offered to finance the dam, while the Israelis began pressing their major supplier, France, and the U.S. for arms to offset those being supplied to Egypt. Seeing things were getting out of hand, the U.S. again tried to initiate secret contacts.
This time President Eisenhower’s emissary was his close friend, former Secretary of the Navy Robert Anderson, who shuttled via various European countries between Nasser and Ben-Gurion. Nasser insisted that a personal meeting was unthinkable in the current bitter political climate. Ben-Gurion insisted that only in a face-to-face meeting could he reveal the full extent of the concessions Israel was prepared to deliver.
By February 1956 the Anderson mission had failed, the Egyptians were receiving their Soviet-brokered arms, and Israel, after its arms request was refused by the U.S., was receiving secret deliveries of French aircraft, tanks and munitions.
There followed the withdrawal by U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, largely as a result of Israeli lobbying in Congress, of U.S. funding for the Aswan High Dam. Nasser, in turn, nationalized the British- and French-owned Suez Canal.
That triggered the buildup toward the Oct. 29, 1956 Israeli-French-British attack, only days before the U.S. national election, on Egypt and the Suez Canal. That in turn was followed by Eisenhower’s successful demands that Britain and France abandon their attempt to take back the Canal by military force, and that Israel withdraw from the Egyptian territory it had seized. It was the first and only attempt to link U.S. aid to Israel to a peace settlement until 35 years later in 1991, when the administration of President George Bush tied U.S. loan guarantees sought by Israel to a freeze on Israeli settlements in occupied territories.
The 1954 Israeli plot and coverup that set in motion events leading up to the 1956 Suez War became known as the “Haessek Habish” (Ugly Affair) to Israeli journalists, who have written thousands of words about the coverup, but very little to reveal that the original “security mishap” for which so many Israeli officials sought to evade responsibility had been a sabotage attempt against U.S. diplomatic and cultural offices in Egypt.
Even worse has been the obfuscation in the mainstream American press. Because the affair lingered on for a decade as a running sore in Israeli political life, it could not be ignored. As it took on a life of its own, U.S. and British journalists began calling it the “Lavon Affair.”
Forged Documents and Perjured Testimony
The reason was that Ben-Gurion had hounded Defense Minister Pinchas Lavon from office on the basis of what later were revealed to be forged documents and perjured testimony. Among Ben-Gurion political protegés subsequently implicated in the manufacture of the false evidence were Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres, both of whom later became fixtures of Israeli Labor Coalition governments.
Lavon, however, eventually was rehabilitated. His by then embittered and irascible persecutor, David Ben-Gurion, twice had to leave public office, the last time in 1964, because of the Lavon Affair. Four years later, four surviving Egyptian Jewish provocateurs, including Victorine Ninio and the luckless Nathanson, were released to Israel by Egypt as part of the general exchange of prisoners which took place after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Their arrival in Israel received low-key coverage in the Israeli press and virtually none in the U.S., reflecting the shameful dereliction of the mainstream American media coverage of the story from the beginning. Years after the event, The New York Times finally described in its back pages the real nature of the sabotage operation.
Generally, however, U.S. newspapers continued describing “the Lavon Affair” as a series of internal Israeli government investigations of a highly classified, unspecified “security mishap.” To this day, few American journalists know, or will admit to knowing, about this first detected instigation by the Israel Defense Forces and intelligence agencies of anti-American incidents in preparation for an attack by Israel on its Arab neighbors.
This report was adapted from Chapter Six of A Changing Image: American Perceptions of the Arab-Israeli Dispute by Richard H. Curtiss, which is available from the AET Book Club. Mr. Curtiss, executive editor of the Washington Report, was an officer of the U.S. Information Agency at the time of the Israeli firebombing of its libraries in Cairo and Alexandria.
Hillary Clinton Blasts Steel Vise of Government Crushing Dissent
Not mincing her words, or trying to justify the jackboot, Secretary of State and 2008 presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton roundly condemned government actions that she said are “closing in the walls” on unions, rights advocates and organizations that press for social change or that shine a light on government shortcomings.
“Democracies don’t fear their own people,” she declared in ringing tones. “They recognize that citizens must be free to come together to advocate and agitate.”
Clinton even got the normally taciturn President Obama to join her, releasing a statement in which he said he was concerned about “the spread of restrictions on civil society, the growing use of law to curb rather than enhance freedom, and wide-spread corruption that is undermining the faith of citizens in their government.”
Does this mean that the US government is finally going to reverse course? Will it now stop importing thousands of cops dressed in combat gear when there is a gathering of heads of state, as was done last September in Pittsburgh for the G-20 summit–where hundreds of peacefully assembled students were teargassed, clubbed and arrested in a scene that has now become all too familiar at legal protests? Does it mean a reversal of the latest Supreme Court decision making it a crime to give funds to a charity deemed by the government to be providing aid to “terrorism” even if the donor had no idea where the organization’s funds were going? Will the Justice Department drop the prosecution of NSA, CIA, and military whistleblowers? Will the cynically named PATRIOT Act, with its provisions for arrest for thought crimes, for guilt by association, and for detention without charge, be annulled? Will police-backed union-busting be outlawed? Will the government stop sending undercover spies to monitor the activities of peace organizations and other activist groups? Will the Transportation Security Administration purge its no-fly list of non-violent political activists and focus just on known threats to the safety of planes? Will the National Security Agency finally stop its wireless monitoring of millions of law-abiding citizens’ electronic communications? Will the US Coast Guard stop enforcing a corporate blackout by British Petroleum with threats to arrest on felony charges journalists and others who attempt to photograph, on public land, evidence of the destruction of the Gulf Coast by the BP blowout? Will the Obama Justice Department finally begin a serious campaign to root out the massive corruption in Washington that has caused most Americans to give up on their government as a lost cause?
You’d certainly think so to listen to the pronouncements of Clinton and Obama.
But no. The problem is that they weren’t talking about the USA. They were talking about other countries–China, Venezuela, Cuba, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Iran, for example.
The truth is that as harsh as those countries may be on critics and activists in their own societies, the US, supposedly the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave,” is in sorry shape today in terms of its vaunted freedoms of speech, assembly and press. Police-state tactics are now the norm at peaceful demonstrations. People are being arrested and held without charge with increasing frequency. The president has authorized the extra-judicial state murder of American citizens overseas deemed by himself to be threats to the country. Most Americans simply assume today that their phones and internet use are being monitored by the NSA. And most Americans today clearly see Washington as a cesspool of corruption where money buys not just access but special laws designed to enrich the powerful and screw the “small people.”
If Clinton and Obama were sincere in saying that democracy and political activism were under threat, they’d look to what is happening in their own country before criticizing other countries. This kettle here has gotten pretty black over the past decade and needs a good scouring, before we can go out and start pointing out threats to freedom abroad.
Clinton chose an apt metaphor in her misdirected warning about the threats to democracy and democratic activism. Noting that the Iron Curtain that Winston Churchill famously warned against 60 years ago had fallen, she cautioned that now, “we must be wary of the steel vise in which governments around the world are slowly crushing civil society and the human spirit.”
It is absolutely true that governments the world over are turning the screw on that vise, making use of more advanced electronic surveillance capabilities, and of improved technologies for “non-lethal” force–everything from rubber bullets and tasers to sound “guns” and even microwave beams–for breaking up demonstrations. But this is happening in the US too, where laws and court decisions are also slowly squeezing the margins around what is considered permissible dissent.
We all submit to this creeping fascism at our own risk.
Clinton, speaking at the meeting in Poland of a 16-nation group called the Community of Democracies, Clinton called for an organization to monitor the attacks on freedom, and said the US would continue to fund organizations that challenged such threats in other countries. Neither she nor President Obama said anything about funding some organization to monitor the erosion of democracy here in the US. Perhaps we Americans should take matters in our own hands and start funding the groups that are challenging this ongoing theft of our own freedom.
Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at email@example.com
The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is gaining significant momentum cross the United States and Europe, including at US campuses. In response, opposition to the movement is devising new ways to divert attention from efforts to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and flagrant abuses of Palestinian human rights.
At Stanford University, the school I graduated from last year, the Stanford Israel Alliance has created a counter-divestment campaign called “Invest For Peace.” Cloaked in the language of good intentions, Invest For Peace suggests that their campaign will work to uplift Palestinian society and economy by raising money to invest in micro-finance organizations in Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Their mission states that in contrast to divestment, Invest For Peace makes positive contributions that “move beyond counterproductive rhetoric.” Invest For Peace calls for campus unity by suggesting it aspires to the same goal as the divestment movements, but by different means. This campaign muddies the issue by conflating the goals of campus unity and advancing justice, not to mention aligning itself with the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The goal of divestment is to expose Israel’s oppressive policies and bring pressure to bear on Israel to end them. Stanford’s Invest For Peace campaign utterly denies Israel’s integral role in the debilitation of the Palestinian economy and therefore can have no credibility as a force to ameliorate the conflict. It ignores the fact that Israel has systematically and deliberately devastated Palestinian civil and economic society through its decades of usurpation of resources and military occupation.
The similarity in rhetoric between Invest for Peace and the Netanyahu government is conspicuous. Last year, Netanyahu called for an “economic peace” with the Palestinians, as opposed to a peace based on negotiations, rights and justice. In spite of his talk of improving the standard of living among Palestinians, Netanyahu has continued and expanded Israel’s policy of building settlements on Palestinian land in violation of international law while the siege of Gaza enters its 36th month. Netanyahu’s talk of an “economic peace” is empty rhetoric designed to disguise nefarious policies.
Moreover, investing in micro-finance organizations while demanding continued unquestioned US aid to Israel and its military is like dropping a quarter in someone’s tin cup after you’ve chopped off her hands. When Israel disconnects Palestinian orange groves from their water supplies, uproots its olive trees and cuts Gaza off from any potential trade, it commits intentional acts of destruction to the Palestinian economy. Invest For Peace speaks of the deterioration of the Palestinian economy as though it were a natural disaster, without specific and man-made origins, designed to ensure Palestinian economic dependency and penury.
In her book Failing Peace and other works, Harvard’s Sara Roy chronicles the deterioration of the Palestinian economy as it relates directly to Israel’s occupation and control of trade and borders. Roy identifies Israel’s imposition of closure policies as well as its division of Palestinian land as the principle culprits of the rapidly declining Palestinian economy. She states that “The result is de-development — a process I define as the deliberate, systematic and progressive dismemberment of an indigenous economy by a dominant one, where economic — and by extension — societal-potential is not only distorted but denied.”
Roy is not alone in her assessment. The World Bank has indicted Israel’s system of checkpoints, roadblocks, and obstructions to Palestinian movement as the chief source of the decaying economic life in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In a 2007 report entitled “Movement and Access Restrictions in the West Bank,” the World Bank called for an overhaul in Israel’s treatment of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, prescribing “a fundamental reassessment of closure practices, a restoration of the presumption of movement, and review of Israeli control of the population registry and other means of dictating the residency of Palestinians” (“West Bank Restrictions,” [PDF]).
Considering the brutality of Israeli policies and the clear effects they have on the Palestinian economy, it is hard to take seriously the Invest For Peace campaign’s assertion that it is seeking to take “effective action” to remediate poverty in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. In an op-ed published by the Stanford Daily, Stanford student and member of the Stanford Israel Alliance and Invest For Peace, Yishai Kabaker argued that “In my experience with divestment when applied to this conflict, damage is wrought, but nothing positive comes of it.” He added: “In the past, divestment campaigns helped combat apartheid in South Africa and genocide in Darfur. However, the divestment campaign against Israel is a crass bludgeon, which reduces an incredibly complex situation to euphemisms and demonizations” (“We Choose to Invest,” 4 May 2010). Yet, the dissolution of Israel’s policies is precisely the “positive” outcome that divestment campaigns intend to achieve.
Historically, Israel-allied groups have inhibited Palestinian solidarity groups from gaining prominence on college campuses across the country. But that time is ending. The astonishing mobilization and collaboration that divestment efforts at schools like UC Berkeley, Hampshire College and Evergreen State College are generating reflect the broad support for divestment and the success that it will eventually achieve. Public opinion is catching up to the radical reality of Israeli policies in Palestine. The train for BDS has left the station, and you’re not going to catch it if you’re running in the opposite direction.
Charlotte Silver, a litigation assistant at the American Civil Liberties Union, can be reached at charlottesilver A T gmail D O T com.
Cluster bombs are in the news again, thanks to a recent report from Amnesty International. The human rights agency has confirmed that 35 women and children were killed following the latest US attacks on an alleged al-Qaeda hideout in Yemen.
Initially, there were attempts to bury the story, and Yemen officially denied that civilians were killed as a result of the December 17 attack in southern Yemen. However, it has been impossible to conceal what is now considered the largest loss of life in one single US attack in the country. If the civilian casualties were indeed a miscalculation on the part of the US military, there should no longer be any doubt about the fact that cluster munitions are far too dangerous a weapon to be utilised in war. And they certainly have no place whatsoever in civilian areas. The human casualties are too large to justify. Yemen is not alone. Gaza, Lebanon and Afghanistan are also stark examples of the untold loss and suffering caused by cluster bombs.
Meanwhile, the unrepentant Israeli army will not consider dropping the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas altogether. Instead it is pondering ways to make them ‘safer’. The Jerusalem Post reported on July 2 that the army “has carried out a series of tests with a bomblet that has a specially designed self-destruct mechanism which dramatically reduces the amount of unexploded ordnance.” During the Israeli onslaught in Lebanon in 2006, Israel fired millions of bomblets. Aside from the immediate devastation and causalities, unexploded ordnance continues to victimise Lebanon’s civilians, most of whom are children. Dozens of lives have been lost since the end of this war.
In Gaza, the same terrible scenario was repeated between 2008 and 2009. Unlike Lebanon, however, trapped Palestinians in Gaza had nowhere to go. Now Israel is anticipating another war with the Lebanese resistance. In preparation for this, an Israeli PR campaign is already underway. It seeks to convince public opinion that Israel is doing its utmost to avoid civilian casualties. “Ahead of a potential new conflict with Hezbollah, the IDF has decided to evaluate the M85 bomblet manufactured by the Israeli Military Industries,” reports the Jerusalem Post. Of course, Israel’s friends will be pleased by the initial successes of the Israeli army testing.
Under pressure to ratify the agreement, these countries are only too eager to offer a ‘safer’ version of current cluster bomb models. This would help not only to maintain the huge profits generated from this morally abhorrent business, it would also hopefully quell growing criticism by civil society and other world governments.
In December 2008, the United States, Russia and China, among others, sent a terrible message to the rest of the world. They refused to take part in the historic signing of the treaty that banned the production and use of cluster bombs.
In a world that is plagued by war, military occupation and terrorism, the involvement of the great military powers in signing and ratifying the agreement would have signaled – if only symbolically — the willingness of these countries to spare civilians’ unjustifiable deaths and the lasting scars of war. Fortunately, the refusal didn’t completely impede an international agreement. The incessant activism of many conscientious individuals and organisations came to fruition on December 3 and 4 in Oslo, Norway, when ninety-three countries signed a treaty banning the weapon.
Not surprisingly, the US, Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan – a group that includes the biggest makers and users of the weapon — neither attended the Ireland negotiations of May 2008, and nor did they show any interest in signing the agreement in Oslo.
Most countries that have signed the accords are not involved in any active military conflict. They are also not in any way benefiting from the lucrative cluster munition industry.
But without the involvement of the major producers and active users of the weapon, the Oslo ceremony remained largely symbolic. However, there is nothing symbolic about the pain and bitter losses experienced by the many victims of cluster bombs.
According to the group Handicap International, a third of cluster-bomb victims are children.
Equally alarming, 98 per cent of the weapon’s overall victims are civilians. The group estimates that about 100,000 people have been maimed or killed by cluster bombs around the world since 1965.
Unlike conventional weapons, cluster bomblets survive for many years, luring little children with their attractive appearance. Children often mistake the bomblets for candy or toys.
Recently, some encouraging news emerged from the Netherlands. Maxime Verhagen, Minister of Foreign Affairs, urged his country’s House of Representative to ratify the Convention, which bans the production, possessions and use of such munitions. The ban leaves no room for any misguided interpretations and does not care for the Israeli army’s experimentations. In his speech, Verhagen claimed, “Cluster munitions are unreliable and imprecise, and their use poses a grave danger to the civilian population…Years after a conflict has ended, people – especially children – can fall victim to unexploded submunition from cluster bombs.”
To date, the agreement has been signed by 106 countries and ratified by 36 – and will enter into force on August 1, despite the fact that the big players refuse to take part. The Netherlands’ push is certainly a step in the right direction. But much more remains to be done.
The onus is also on civil societies in countries that are yet to ratify the agreement or sign it in the first place. “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men (and women) to do nothing.” This holds as true in the issue of cluster bombs, as in any other where human rights are violated and ignored.
Ramzy Baroud is a distinguished Arab American commentator and author, most recently, of ‘My father was a freedom fighter’ published by Pluto Press
An investigation into claims that a US nuclear submarine accidentally sank a French fishing boat in 2004, killing five sailors, is to be reopened.
A French appeals court appointed two magistrates to relaunch a probe into the loss of the Bugaled Breizh off the Cornish coast in January 2004.
In particular, they have been asked to try and identify what US submarines were in the vicinity at the time.
The sinking happened a day before Nato military exercises began in the area.
Submarine expert Dominiques Salles said in May the sinking could have been caused by a US nuclear attack submarine.
He suggested the sub may have been spying on a top secret consignment of military grade plutonium, shipped from the French port of Cherbourg to Japan on board a British nuclear transport vessel.
An inquiry in 2008 concluded a nuclear submarine snagging the boat’s trawl was the “highly probable cause” of the sinking, but the judges recommended the investigation be wound up, with no guilty party traced.
Mr Salles’ findings were submitted in a report that had been commissioned by appeal judges in Rennes last November.
The 72ft (23m) Bugaled Breizh, which means “child of Brittany” in Breton, was based at the small port of Loctudy.
Ten years after Bill Clinton guided failed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the idea of a negotiation on equal terms is now defunct
Ten years ago this month, Israelis and Palestinians gathered at Camp David, under the guidance of President Bill Clinton, for negotiations aimed at reaching a final agreement. The talks ended in failure, and by the end of September, the second intifada had begun.
The Camp David talks have largely been remembered in the context of apportioning blame. This was particularly true in the first months and years of the Palestinian uprising, as Israel spun the narrative of a rejectionist Palestinian leadership that had turned down an incredibly “generous offer” and instead opted for a campaign of violence.
A host of western commentators and diplomats embraced this propaganda, despite the wealth of contradictory evidence: the misleading percentages, the Israeli/US intention of annexing illegal settlement blocs, the trickery over Abu Dis, and indeed, according to Robert Malley and Hussein Agha, the fact that “strictly speaking, there was never was an Israeli offer” beyond “orally conveyed” proposals.
With American officials acting, in the words of US state department veteran Aaron David Miller, “as Israel’s attorney”, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Arafat refused the Camp David offer that even former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami said he himself would have rejected.
But simply analysing and debating who was responsible for the lack of a deal at Camp David is not enough; nor is it the most important lesson that the anniversary can offer. In the light of Oslo’s ruined remains, a collapsed peace process and an entrenched occupation, a more profound insight is sorely needed.
The Camp David summit was the fruit of the Oslo years, where the international community believed that mutual “confidence-building measures” would lead to final status talks and a permanent deal. In reality, the winners were successive Israeli governments who oversaw settlement expansion and West Bank colonisation, and a Palestinian political-economic elite.
Some thus concluded that the solution is to try and hash it all out together – including “final status” issues – rather than leave the “sensitive” questions to the end. Others have tried to repackage the approach of incrementalism under occupation as grassroots “state-building”. A sense of déjà vu about Israel “handing over” cities to well-behaved Palestinian Authority forces is understandable.
But the real lesson of the anniversary is not a reworking of the Oslo/Camp David framework, but rather the futility of negotiations between unequals. The common thread running from Clinton through to Obama via Bush is one of US partisanship – the world’s most powerful country aiding and covering for an occupying regional superpower against a stateless people.
A decade on from Camp David, it is clear that there can be no resolution of the conflict through the methods of occupation-lite, temporary borders, and “easing of restrictions”. The concepts of honest broker and envoys are bankrupt; what meaning can there be in a peace process that staggers on while Israel – with total impunity – practises collective punishment and facilitates the accelerated colonisation of East Jerusalem? Furthermore, the majority of the Palestinian people – specifically the refugees and those inside Israel – remain unrepresented in the “peace process”.
In the seven years I’ve been going to Palestine/Israel, I’ve watched illegal settlements expand street by street, and the Israeli mechanisms of control of the Palestinians grow ever more sophisticated and entrenched. The facts on the ground multiply each day, as more acres of Palestinian land are transformed into colonies that “everyone” knows will stay under Israeli control.
Israeli and Palestinian leaders will ultimately need to sit down and talk, but it is time for our understanding of how and when to be radically reshaped by Nelson Mandela’s famous words: “Only free men can negotiate.”
Israeli leaders have no intention of relinquishing control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, nor of recognising fundamental Palestinian rights already spelled out in countless UN resolutions and global treaties. The response of the international community, if it is serious about a sustainable peace, must be enforcement and accountability, not more doomed summits and road maps.
Why Tony Blair is the Most Useless Peace Envoy on the Planet
Ever since a group of ordinary people from more than 40 different countries came together and set sail for Gaza have we seen various world leaders scramble to persuade Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza. Why? To honour the memory of those martyred by Israeli soldiers who shot nine unarmed peace activists at virtually point-blank range? Hell no!
They realize that people power has achieved more in that one heroic action, than any of them have achieved for the people of Palestine. And, despite that brutal episode, they know that more flotillas and convoys are being planned because people power is achieving more than anything else has over the past 60 years for the people of Palestine.
The so-called Middle East Peace Envoy Tony Blair certainly does not want to see any more flotillas sailing for Gaza. It’s not because he lies awake at night thinking about the deaths of those innocent humanitarian activists. No, Blair is afraid – very afraid – that people power will expose him for what he is, probably the most useless peace envoy on this planet. Exactly what has he done for the Palestinians since he took the job? Actually it would be easier to list what he hasn’t done:
*HE HAS NOT stopped the land-grabbing Israelis from building ever more illegal settlements in complete defiance of international law.
* HE HAS NOT managed to lift the Siege of Gaza so that the thousands left homeless after last year’s invasion can start rebuilding their homes.
* HE HAS NOT been able to push ahead with an independent UN investigation in to the Israeli raid on and hijacking of the Freedom Flotilla.
* HE HAS NOT been able to stop babies dying in the hopelessly under-equipped Gaza maternity units.
* HE HAS NOT stopped or even attempted to expose the corruption of the Palestinian Authority.
* HE HAS NOT been able to make one iota of progress in fulfilling his job description.
Apart from the Shah of Palestine – Mahmoud Abbas – I am struggling to think of a more redundant individual than Tony Blair, but I’ll come to Abbas later.
Blair was on television recently boasting about how life is improving in the West Bank for the Palestinians and saying that there’s been a reduction in the number of checkpoints. What a stupid, silly, silly little man he is, almost as blinkered as the journalist who was interviewing him. There are fewer checkpoints because the Israelis are grabbing more land and huge swathes of stolen land are merging into other tracts of stolen land, making some checkpoints redundant. That doesn’t change the fact that the West Bank is now a series of small islands, cut off by Israel and its Apartheid Wall and settler-only roads, as well as the illegal settlements.
The inference during the interview was that if the people of Gaza dumped Hamas and put their faith once more in the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority then everyone’s lives would be so much easier.
What the journalist failed to ask and Blair failed to address is the fact that even with the horrendous hardships facing the people of Gaza and their children, many Palestinians living in the West Bank are actually worse off. The truth is, children living in the poorest parts of the occupied West Bank face significantly worse conditions than their counterparts in Gaza, according to a report by Save the Children UK.
The European Commission-funded study found that in “Area C” – the 60 percent of the West Bank under direct Israeli control – the poorest sections of society are suffering disproportionately because basic infrastructure is not being repaired due to Israel’s refusal to approve the work. Homes, schools, drainage systems and roads are in urgent need of repair, but instead of work being allowed, families are being forced to live in tents and do not have access to clean water. Restrictions on the use of land for agriculture have left thousands of Palestinian children without enough food and many are becoming ill as a result, the study found.
Conditions in Area C have reached “crisis point”, says Save the Children, with 79 percent of the local communities surveyed lacking sufficient food, a greater proportion than in blockaded Gaza, where the figure is 61 percent. Many children living in such communities are showing signs of stunted growth, with the figure running at more than double Gaza’s rate, and more than one in ten children surveyed for the study were found to be underweight.
So there you have it – the Shah of Palestine has delivered nothing but more hardship for his own people in the West Bank while lining his own pockets and those of his enforcers. Abbas has been praised by Tony Blair for making friends with Israel and proving he’s someone the West can do business with. This might be true but in the process he has well and truly sold his own people down the river and I hope they punish him in the ballot box, should there ever be another free and fair election.
No wonder Mahmoud Abbas has no time for the human rights activists and humanitarian aid workers who put their lives on the line to launch the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla. But that’s nothing new. I remember in 2008 being slightly crestfallen after arriving on the shores of Gaza on board one of the first boats in the Free Gaza Movement only to learn Abbas had brushed away our efforts with a shrug of the shoulders. Still, none of us were in it for the glory, we just wanted to raise public awareness about the Siege of Gaza, and I think it’s fair to say that virtually the whole world now knows about the Siege of Gaza and the brutality of the Israeli government. Why? Because of the efforts of those on board the Turkish-led flotilla, that’s why. The reality is that charities like the Turkish IHH and the UK-based Interpal, the Free Gaza Movement, Viva Palestina and other groups such as the International Solidarity Movement, have done so much more for the people of Palestine than the politicians.
That is why we can never leave Palestine to the politicians; if we had done so it would have been wiped off the face of the map completely by now. Instead, thanks to people power, Palestine has a global support movement among hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of ordinary people. We are too many in number to be bought off by the Israeli lobbies, and are too pure in heart to want our palms greased by even greasier individuals. We are people of all faiths and no faith, many cultures, skin colours, nationalities and political beliefs. We are going to cause great pain – as is already evident – through our boycotts of Israeli goods and products and we will continue until the Apartheid State of Israel is a fading memory just like the Apartheid State of South Africa.
It doesn’t matter how many corrupt politicians there are in the pay and sway of Tel Aviv, we, the ordinary people of the world, outnumber you and we are growing in number and strength.
There are more flotillas being planned, more land convoys in the making and more ordinary people prepared to step up to the plate to do what it takes to free Palestine. And we will. When the people lead the leaders must follow or they will become irrelevant and redundant. Just like Mr. Tony Blair.
Yvonne Ridley was on board the first boat to break the siege of Gaza with the Free Gaza Movement and she is one of the founders of Viva Palestina. She is also the European President of the International Muslim Women’s Union.
At The Daily Beast, historian Thaddeus Russell writes:
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the White House Tuesday, President Obama will have the chance to be the first American president since the founding of Israel to ask The Question.
The Question is never addressed by Israel’s supporters and rarely raised by Israel’s detractors. But for those of us who are taxpayers in a nation that has been the state of Israel’s chief benefactor for 42 years — or those of us with Jewish ancestry — it is becoming the only question to ask. It is simple, self-interested, and fundamental: Does the existence of Israel make Americans and Jews safer?
And here is the paradox: Though support for Israel among Americans, and especially Jewish Americans, remains high according to recent Gallup polls, historical evidence says the answer to The Question is “no.”
The history of Israel and its relationship with the U.S. is infinitely complex, but there’s one damning fact that’s ignored as often as The Question: There was not a single act of Arab terrorism against Americans before 1968, when the U.S. became the chief supplier of military equipment and economic aid to Israel. In light of this fact, it’s difficult to credibly sustain the argument that Arab terrorism is spawned by Islam’s alleged promotion of violence and antipathy toward American culture or by a “natural” Arab anti-Semitism. It also suggests that no matter what policies Israel enacts to protect itself — even a withdrawal from the occupied territories or a two-state “solution” — it must be a perpetual wartime state.
Very few Americans today are aware that the question of American and Jewish self-interest was first raised at the time of Israel’s founding by officials in the highest levels of the U.S. government. In 1948, several members of Harry Truman’s Cabinet predicted that the creation of a Jewish state in the Middle East would spur Arab violence against Jews and Americans, advising the president to shun Israel.
These included Secretary of State George Marshall, Defense Secretary James Forrestal, and George Kennan, then the leading policy strategist in the State Department. They argued that if the United States helped to set up an independent Jewish nation it would provoke terrorist attacks on Americans and inaugurate an endless war between Arabs and Jews. “There are 30 million Arabs on one side and about 600,000 Jews on the other,” Forrestal told those in the administration who favored recognizing Israel. “Why don’t you face up to the realities?”
Israel apologists will plead that Thaddeus Russell’s commentary is one more instance among international efforts — rapidly gaining steam — to delegitimize Israel.
Strangely, in response to what is perceived as a campaign of degitimization, there is, as far as I’ve seen, no Israel legitimization campaign. Those mounting a defense, do nothing more than attack their critics — and usually do so with an unbridled viscousness.
For instance, Robin Shepherd, writing in the Jerusalem Post about a decision last week by the Methodist Church of Britain to launch a boycott against goods emanating from settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, says:
Overall, a church that behaves in the manner of the Methodists has buried its credibility under a gigantic dunghill of intransigence, pedantry, lies and distortions.
But let us not allow this matter to rest with a mere recognition of whom and what they have chosen to become.
If the Methodist Church is to launch a boycott of Israel, let Israel respond in kind: Ban their officials from entering; deport their missionaries; block their funds; close down their offices; and tax their churches.
If it’s war, it’s war. The aggressor must pay a price.
While it’s often said that attack is the best form of defense, that principle does not hold in the art of persuasion (and rarely for that matter in national security). The ranks cheering an attack such as Shepherd’s are small and shrinking. Indeed, the more venomous Israel and its supporters become, the less sympathy the Jewish state will evoke and the closer we will move to a critical juncture: where the world has given up on Israel and Israel has given up on the world. At that point, Israel’s isolation becomes the world’s nuclear peril.
ASMARA, Eritrea — Along the nearly barren desert shoreline of the Red Sea there can be found a miracle of green forest stretching over six miles (10 kilometers), the Manzanar Mangrove Project.
Started some 15 years ago on the shoreline of Zula Bay, once home to Africa’s lost civilization of Punt, a lush, green mangrove forest has been reestablished in the middle of thousands of miles of desert and is now providing an estuary for fish and shrimp as well as food for animals. Mangrove leaves and seeds provide almost the complete nutritional needs for goats, sheep and camels, thus providing the people of the area with milk and meat, which along with fish has been their sustenance of life from time immemorial.
All of this is the work of a Japanese American, Dr. Gordon Sato who took his personal fortune obtained through his medical inventions and used it to transform formerly barren sandy silt beaches into an emerald green jungle, 20 feet high, using salt water. That’s right, salt water can be used to reforest arid coastlines. .
All it takes is a little nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer wrapped in plastic with two punctures to allow a time release of the fertilizer. Bury this about two feet under the sand and mangroves can once again grow where they used to flourish, converting a desolate, sand blown coastline into a green miracle of sea life estuary and life sustaining forest.
The lowly mangrove, so often reviled as the source of fetid, insect and disease-ridden swamps, holds the key to fighting drought, coastal desertification, coastal erosion and a host of other problems being experienced by the world’s oceans. Mangroves ordinarily only grow where there is enough nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus not present in salt water that have been brought by fresh water runoff. With the thousands of years long desertification of much of the East and West African as well as West and South Asian coastline, once thriving mangrove forests are now gone, and mangroves are only found in a few isolated spots.
But all of that is changing, though one can only wonder why with all the talk about climate change, Dr. Sato is not the recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to help him spread his miracle throughout the world.
Today, with his personal fortune spent, even though he has received environmental awards from the Rolex Foundation and the Asahi Foundation, funding has dried up and Dr. Sato’s work has reached its limit.
And the reason why may be explained by the three contradictory ideas, Manzanar, mangrove and miracle. First is the name, the Manzanar Project, named after the crime against humanity committed in the USA under the signature of two of the most famous “liberals” in 20th century USA history, Franklin Roosevelt and Earl Warren. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans were victims of ethnic cleansing carried out under the orders of President Franklin Roosevelt, and the governor of California, and later chief justice of the Supreme Court, Earl Warren, at the outbreak of WW2. Arrested, thrown in jail with all their property and possessions stolen from them and eventually imprisoned in concentrations camps, most often in the middle of some pretty nasty deserts, all done by leaders proclaimed as leading lights of liberalism in the USA. One of these camps was named Manzanar and, as a small boy, Dr. Sato found himself and his family imprisoned there, convicted of no crime yet treated as criminals, all for being guilty of having the wrong color skin.
Dr. Sato’s naming his mangrove project after such a crime is sure to anger the powers that be in the USA dominated aid agencies. On top of this mangroves and miracles are two words that are not used together, almost contradictory in concept in the minds of most in the so-called “First World.” Manzanar, mangroves and miracles, three very different concepts to say the least. You put them together inside Eritrea and you have another example of how news of another environmental breakthrough with global importance is being suppressed by those in power in the Western world, both official and non-governmental.
Stay tuned to the Online Journal for more news that the so-called free press in the West refuses to cover.
Thomas C. Mountain was, in a former life, an educator, activist and alternative medicine practitioner in the USA. Email thomascmountain at yahoo.com.
Copyright © Online Journal
Some half a million Israelis are now living over the Green Line: more than 300,000 in 121 settlements and about one hundred outposts, which control 42 percent of the land area of the West Bank, and the rest in twelve neighborhoods that Israel established on land it annexed to the Jerusalem Municipality. The report analyzes the means employed by Israel to gain control of land for building the settlements. In preparing the report, B’Tselem relied on official state data and documents, among them Attorney Talia Sasson’s report on the outposts, the database produced by Brigadier General Baruch Spiegel, reports of the state comptroller, and maps of the Civil Administration.
The settlement enterprise has been characterized, since its inception, by an instrumental, cynical, and even criminal approach to international law, local legislation, Israeli military orders, and Israeli law, which has enabled the continuous pilfering of land from Palestinians in the West Bank.
The principal means Israel used for this purpose was declaration of “state land,” a mechanism that resulted in the seizure of more than 900,000 dunams of land (sixteen percent of the West Bank), with most of the declarations being made in 1979-1992. The interpretation that the State Attorney’s Office gave to the concept “state land” in the Ottoman Land Law contradicted explicit statutory provisions and judgments of the Mandatory Supreme Court. Without this distorted interpretation, Israel would not have been able to allocate such extensive areas of land for the settlements.
In addition, the settlements seized control of private Palestinian land. By cross-checking data of the Civil Administration, the settlements’ jurisdictional area, and aerial photos of the settlements taken in 2009, B’Tselem found that 21 percent of the built-up area of the settlements is land that Israel recognizes as private property, owned by Palestinians.
To encourage Israelis to move to the settlements, Israel created a mechanism for providing benefits and incentives to settlements and settlers, regardless of their economic condition, which often was financially secure. Most of the settlements in the West Bank hold the status of National Priority Area A, which entitles them to a number of benefits: in housing, by enabling settlers to purchase quality, inexpensive apartments, with an automatic grant of a subsidized mortgage; wide-ranging benefits in education, such as free education from age three, extended school days, free transportation to schools, and higher teachers’ salaries; for industry and agriculture, by grants and subsidies, and indemnification for the taxes imposed on their produce by the European Union; in taxation, by imposing taxes significantly lower than in communities inside the Green Line, and by providing larger balancing grants to the settlements, to aid in covering deficits.
Establishment of the settlements violates international humanitarian law. Israel has ignored the relevant rules of law, adopting its own interpretation, which is not accepted by almost all leading jurists around the world and by the international community.
The settlement enterprise has caused continuing, cumulative infringement of the Palestinians’ human rights, as follows:
- the right of property, by seizing control of extensive stretches of West Bank land in favor of the settlements;
- the right to equality and due process, by establishing separate legal systems, in which the person’s rights are based on his national origin, the settlers being subject to Israel’s legal system, which is based on human rights and democratic values, while the Palestinians are subject to the military legal system, which systematically deprives them of their rights;
- the right to an adequate standard of living, since the settlements were intentionally established in a way that prevents urban development of Palestinian communities, and Israel’s control of the water sources prevents the development of Palestinian agriculture;
- the right to freedom of movement, by means of the checkpoints and other obstructions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank, which are intended to protect the settlements and the settler’s traffic arteries;
- the right to self-determination, by severing Palestinian territorial contiguity and creating dozens of enclaves that prevent the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state.
The cloak of legality that Israel has sought to give to the settlement enterprise is aimed at covering the ongoing theft of West Bank land, thereby removing the basic values of legality and justice from Israel’s system of law enforcement in the West Bank. The report exposes the system Israel has adopted as a tool to advance political objectives, enabling the systematic infringement of the Palestinians’ human rights.
The extensive geographic-spatial changes that Israel has made in the landscape of the West Bank undermine the negotiations that Israel has conducted for eighteen years with the Palestinians and breach its international obligations. The settlement enterprise, being based on discrimination against the Palestinians living in the West Bank, also weakens the pillars of the State of Israel as a democratic country and diminishes its status among the nations of the world.
Do we not care about the massacres of our lifetime?
December 1948 was just six months into a 12-year campaign to crush ethnic communists, who were trying to drive British occupiers out of the Malay Peninsula.
From 1874 to mid 1950s, the British struggled to suppress resistance to occupation. The brutality of some British forces in the Malay Peninsula drove many ethnic Chinese to communism. People who supported communists were literally fenced in. People who opposed communism were co-opted and their communities offered food, medicine and protection. The guerrillas were starved out in the jungle with the gorillas.
“Did the soldiers bring you outside all at once or in groups?”
“I cannot remember, I fainted. The spirits pushed me. They shot us.”
He was not well in his 70s. He went to the spot where he fainted and fell from British bullets that killed 24 of his fellow workers 55 years before. The rubber trees these deceased tapped were felled long ago. Only stumps remain of the “rumah kongsi” that was once their communal home. His wife had throat cancer. She could eat only un-spiced fish and vegetables. She remembered the brutalities. She was 16 then, a fiance to the man. Another survivor, in her 80s, could recall seeing her husband, the estate supervisor, led out and shot in cold blood with the others.
“The British said that the man who had a receipt for fruit was supplying communists with food. ” “They shot him.” “I wanted to stay and die with them.”
“So cruel those British, so cruel.”
The British soldiers came in trucks and accused the villagers of helping communists. The men and women of the village were separated. The women were loaded onto trucks to be taken away. The younger woman asked where the men were. The soldiers said the men would have to be shot. She remembered watching as the men were led out in groups of four and five, told to turn around by the waiting troops and shot in the back. After two days, she returned to look for her fiance. The bodies had been mutilated, heads hacked off and genitals smashed.
This was 8 months after the massacre of 250 Palestinians on 9th April, 1948 in the village of Deir Yassin in the district of Jerusalem in British-occupied Palestine. The soldiers who made Batang Kali into a killing field in December 1948 were not illegal illegitimate immigrant thugs of the Haganah, Vladimir Jabutinsky’s Irgon, Abraham Stern’s the Stern gang, Palmach and Golani supported and funded by Anglo-American Zionists in the premeditated and systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. They were British Scots Guards struggling to hold on to imperialism, colonialism and may be even Zionism in the face of widespread resentment and resistance. This killing field in the Malay Peninsular as brutal as the Sharpeville massacre of 69 young demonstrators in apartheid South Africa in March 1960 was not unlike so many killing fields made by Americans up north in late 1960s. It was worse with the massacre of 150 unarmed Vietnamese at My Lai on 16th March 1968. It was so much worse with the massacre of at least 1000 unarmed Palestinian refugees in September 1982 at Sabra and Shatila camps in Lebanon ordered by Ariel Sharon as Israeli defense minister conspiring with Elie Hobeike’s Lebanese Forces militia, and another Israeli proxy, Major Saad Haddad’s South Lebanon Army after the American-backed invasion of West Beirut.
Justice was never seen to have been done about these massacres and many more. The killers are still at it in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan.
Are we not weaklings held to account for indifference or inaction?
These, our deceased, had the right of resistance; they might be labeled communists or terrorists, but they were our people, dead or alive; anytime anywhere they were braver than those people who shot them in the back.