Hebron – Dozens of settlers began building a new illegal outpost in Hebron’s Al-Buweirah neighborhood between the city center and the Kiyrat Arba settlement on Friday.
Witnesses said mobile homes and sheds were placed on the site by morning, with one resident saying “dozens of settlers installed themselves in the area.”
Local and international protesters gathered near the site on Friday morning, but were forced away from the newly occupied area by soldiers, who were reportedly protecting the new area.
Clashes erupted as residents grew angry over the military protection of the outpost, which is considered illegal under both international and Israeli law. Witnesses said two photojournalists and four residents were detained by military officials.
An Israeli military spokesman confirmed three were detained, two journalists and a resident, he said the two journalists were released shortly after their seizure.
Questions about the military plan of action regarding the installation of an illegal outpost on Palestinian lands were directed to Israel’s Civil Administration, representatives of which were not immediately available by phone for comment.
In the Middle East, the link between political machinations, espionage and assassination is either clear as day, or clear as mud.
As for the yet unsolved case of the February 2005 murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, mud might be giving way to daylight.
A crackdown on Israeli spy rings operating in Lebanon has resulted in more than 70 arrests over the past 18 months. Included among them are four high-ranking Lebanese Army and General Security officers—one having spied for the Mossad since 1984.
A significant breakthrough in the ongoing investigation occurred in late June and culminated in the arrest of Charbel Qazzi, head of transmission and broadcasting at Alfa, one of Lebanon’s two state-owned mobile service providers.
According to the Lebanese daily As-Safir, Qazzi confessed to installing computer programs and planting electronic chips in Alfa transmitters. These could then be used by Israeli intelligence to monitor communications, locate and target individuals for assassination, and potentially deploy viruses capable of erasing recorded information in the contact lines. Qazzi’s collaboration with Israel reportedly dates back 14 years.
On July 12, a second arrest at Alfa was made. Tarek al-Raba’a, an engineer and partner of Qazzi, was apprehended on charges of spying for Israel and compromising national security. A few days later, a third Alfa employee was similarly detained.
Israel has refused to comment on the arrests. Nevertheless, their apparent ability to have penetrated Lebanon’s military and telecommunication sectors has rattled the country and urgently raised security concerns.
What does any of this have to do with the Hariri assassination?
Outside the obvious deleterious ramifications of high-ranking Lebanese military officers working for Israel, the very legitimacy of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is now in question. The STL is the U.N.-sanctioned body tasked with prosecuting those responsible for the assassination of the late prime minister. On Feb. 14, 2005, 1,000 kg of explosives detonated near Hariri’s passing motorcade, killing him and 21 others.
It is believed the STL will issue indictments in the matter as early as September—relying heavily on phone recordings and mobile transmissions to do so.
According to the AFP, “A preliminary report by the U.N. investigating team said it had collected data from mobile phone calls made the day of Hariri’s murder as evidence.”
The National likewise reported, “The international inquiry, which could present indictments or findings as soon as September, according to unverified media reports, used extensive phone records to draw conclusions into a conspiracy to kill Hariri, widely blamed on Syria and its Lebanese allies …”
In a July 16 televised speech, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah speculated the STL would use information gleaned from Israeli-compromised communications to falsely implicate the group in the prime minister’s murder:
“Some are counting in their analysis of the (STL) indictment on witnesses, some of whom turned out to be fake, and on the telecommunications networks which were infiltrated by spies who can change and manipulate data.
“Before the (2006) war, these spies gave important information to the Israeli enemy and based on this information, Israel bombed buildings, homes, factories and institutions. Many martyrs died and many others were wounded. These spies are partners in the killings, the crimes, the threats and the displacement.”
Nasrallah called the STL’s manipulation an “Israeli project” meant to “create an uproar in Lebanon.”
Indeed, in May 2008 Lebanon experienced a taste of this. At the height of an 18-month stalemate over the formation of a national unity government under then Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, his cabinet’s decision to unilaterally declare Hezbollah’s fixed-line communication system illegal pushed the country to the brink of civil war.
Recognizing the value their secure lines of communication had in combating the July 2006 Israeli invasion and suspecting that state-owned telecoms might be compromised, Hezbollah resisted Siniora’s plans to have its network dismantled. Their men swept through West Beirut and put a quick end to the government’s plan. Two years later, their suspicions appear to have been vindicated.
Opposition MP and Free Patriotic Movement head Michel Aoun has already warned Nasrallah that the STL will likely indict “uncontrolled” Hezbollah members to be followed by “… Lebanese-Lebanese and Lebanese-Palestinian tension, and by an Israeli war on Lebanon.”
Giving credence to Nasrallah and Aoun’s assertions, Commander in Chief of the Israel Defense Forces Gabi Ashkenazi, predicted “with lots of wishes” that the situation in Lebanon would deteriorate in September after the STL indicts Hezbollah for Hariri’s assassination.
Ashkenazi’s gleeful, prescient testimony to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs Committee betrays what Israel hopes the fallout from the STL’s report will be: fomentation of civil strife and discord among Lebanon’s sectarian groups, generally divided into pro- and anti-Syria factions. Ashkenazi anticipates this to happen, of course, because he knows Israel’s unfettered access to critical phone records will have framed Hezbollah for the crime.
Israel’s agents and operatives in Lebanon and its infiltration of a telecom network have been exposed. At the very least, the STL must recognize that evidence of alleged Hezbollah involvement in Hariri’s death (a group that historically enjoyed good ties with the late premier) is wholly tainted and likely doctored.
The arrest of Qazzi and al-Raba’a in the breakup of Israeli spy rings should prompt the STL to shift its focus to the only regional player that has benefited from Hariri’s murder; one that will continue to do so if and when their designs to implicate Hezbollah are realized.
It is time to look at Tel Aviv.
Rannie Amiri is an independent Middle East commentator. He may be reached at: rbamiri [at] yahoo [dot] com.
Israeli soldiers detained the former Vice President of the European Parliament, Luisa Morgantini, in Bil’in this afternoon, injured on Israeli activist and arrested another.
Sixty nine-year-old Morgantini, an Italian Member of the Euopean Parliament (MEP) has long been an outspoken supporter of Palestinians. She has participated several times in demonstrations in Bil’in and in June 2008 was injured when Israeli soldiers attacked a group of non-violent activists.
Morgantini, who served as Vice President of the European Parliament between 2007 and 2009, today joined over 100 people from the West Bank village in their weekly Friday protest, which began after midday prayers. She was among a group of about 100 internationals supporting the peaceful demonstrators.
Israeli soldiers starting firing tear gas about ten minutes after the demonstration reached the fence that has been built illegally and cuts off villagers from their land. They then chased the protestors and forcefully detained the politician who was held for approximately 30 minutes before being released when her identity became clear to soldiers.
After her release Morgantini said: “I saw Palestinians protesting nonviolently attacked by the army for trying to defend their lands. I strongly encourage the EU to take strong action for the protection of Palestinians and the implementation of their rights.”
One Israeli activist, Kobi Snitz, was arrested while trying to speak to the army in order to secure Morgantini’s release.
Nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, Morgantini is a leading member of the Italian peace movement and a champion of the Palestinian cause.
Many people suffered from tear gas inhalation and stun grenades thrown into the field, caused a fire among the olive trees.
Today’s protest in Bil’in proves once again that the army is continuing its policy of harshly suppressing demonstrations and arresting non-violent protesters. The demonstration called for the release of prisoners, Adeeb Abu Rahma, Abdullah Abu Rahme, Ibrahim al-Bornat, and Ahmed al-Bornat – all Bil’in residents jailed by Israel for resisting the occupation.
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“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men.” (Edward R. Murrow)
The State of Israel has just passed a “loyalty oath” required of all prospective citizens living in Israel illegally to swear allegiance to a “Jewish democratic state.” Concurrently, an academic backlash has erupted in Israel over proposed new laws, backed by the government of Binyamin Netanyahu, to criminalise a handful of Israeli professors who openly support a campaign against the continuing occupation of the West Bank.(Guardian 7/11/10)
It would appear that Israel is in need of a lesson on the virtues of democracy as they are anathema to tyrannical rule. Harry S. Truman vetoed the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950 with this observation: “In a free country, we punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have.” To impose a “loyalty oath” and to criminalize professors who support actions against the government of Israel is to force compliance in thought and act, behavior more of a tyrannical state than a democratic one.
Consider that the Israeli Shin Bet recently interrogated the conscientious objector, Yonatan Shapira, a former Israeli Air Force pilot, who penned the “pilot’s letter” of 2003, continuing a harassment of a man for his dissenting opinions of the State of Israel. Salem-News on July 11 carried an article about another conscientious objector, Shir Regev, who has been given a third prison term for contending “I believe it is my personal duty to refuse and defect from an army whose main purpose is to serve as an occupation police for maintaining ‘Israeli order’ and imposing it on defenseless Palestinians who are denied citizenship.”
“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty,” Murrow writes; nor must we confuse pseudo-democracy with democracy. Israel is not a democratic state; let’s be clear about that. Its citizenship exists solely for those who are members of a religion with one exception, those Palestinians who remained in Israeli controlled land areas after the cessation of hostilities in 1948 and the Declaration of the State of Israel by the Jewish Agency. These Arab Israelis as they are called, to obfuscate the reality of their Palestinian heritage, do not have equality before the law nor do they have access to all the benefits of their fellow citizens who are members of the Judaic faith; they have a passport and a country and even that can be denied if they ride in a Turkish Aid boat to visit their brothers and sisters in Gaza. For all those indigenous to the area of Palestine, accepted as a group by the United Nations and its members, the Palestinians, who live in land occupied by Israel and claimed by Israel, there is no citizenship, thus no equality in concept or in fact. Israel has no constitution; it operates under civic and religious law, especially in matters pertaining to marriage, retaining thereby control of the citizenry, and in land ownership which is essentially available only to Jews. This alone negates the concept of democracy as applicable to the Israeli State. If Israel is anything distinct as a country, it is in its theocratic nature not its democratic nature.
As Israel moves ever closer to a siege mentality by blowing wind on the coals of victimhood, the explosive vapors of Hamas’ determination to drive Israelis into the sea aided and abetted by surrounding Arab neighbors intent on destroying the Jewish State, it desperately grasps for means to control its citizens and force compliance with its policies, hence the “loyalty oath” characterized as early as 1663 by Samuel Butler in Hudibras as “Oaths are but words, and words but wind.” This is the act of a despot desperate to protect self at the expense of his subjects; it is the act of a failed State that resorts to the impossible, to impose the logic of its acts regardless of sense on all its subjects; it is the despair reflected in Macbeth, “Who can be wise, amazed, temperate, and furious, loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man.” No mind perceives the same as another, no heart responds the same, no soul accepts being the same; that fact is the power behind democracy, the uniqueness of each requiring of each respect for all others. Democracy is a concept united in its applicability to provide equity for all its citizens. Loyalty to injustice negates democracy; fidelity to one faith without tolerance for all faiths destroys equality for those excluded; truth determined by the despot or the tyrannical government cannot be truth for all; honor demanded of a citizen against his or her innate principles of belief dishonors that citizen; trustworthiness and faithfulness imposed by an oath undermines the conscience of the citizen forcing compliance regardless of the behavior required. A citizen who swears to an oath of absolute allegiance to any authority has destroyed self by that act and thereby has become but chattel, a beast serving the will of another. So much for the Israeli “loyalty oath.”
America has been there, indeed I have been there. Years ago I took a menial position in the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and witnessed first hand the betrayal of democracy by a demagogue and his followers who set fear before the American citizenry by losing faith in the American people. Year after year this pall of fear lay on the American landscape as citizen turned against fellow citizen, neighbors rose in anger and resentment against artists, entertainers, professors, educators, union members, and even the military as McCarthy lashed his venom at all who opposed his witch hunt or refused to comply with his belief that Communists had infiltrated American society. He did not understand that dissent is not disloyalty; he knew nothing of tolerance of another’s belief; he failed to comprehend that equity necessitates respect and democracy means equity. Margaret Chase Smith spoke before the Senate of the United States in 1950 in a speech titled “Declaration of Conscience,” and noted “some of the basic principles of Americanism: the right to criticize; the right to hold unpopular beliefs; the right to protest; the right of independent thought.” These are the rights Israel would deny to Yonatan Shapira and Shir Regev and the university professors as well as to prospective citizens.
What has brought Israel to this sick state of affairs? Based on the research I have done through the seized documents taken by Richard Catling (Sir Richard C. Catling) when he was Deputy Head of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Mandate Police in the 1940s, in files he saved and marked as Top Secret, it is evident in the words of the leaders of the Jewish Agency, the Zionist leaders of the Consultancy as Ilan Pappe notes, that they intended to impose an atmosphere of fear on the new immigrants to unite them in their (the High Command of the Consultancy) intent to cleanse Palestine of its indigenous people necessitating protecting themselves against the Arabs who were out to destroy the Jewish state. That intent exists to this day. Add to this reality the need to grow the Jewish population to offset Palestinian growth, thus bringing to Israel the fanatical sects of Jews who live by a far right orthodoxy of “chosenness” and animosity against gentiles, especially those from Russia.
This group and others of similar persuasion have grown in strength even to the point where no government can exist without their presence. This has been true since Ariel Sharon held office. Their beliefs control government policy much as AIPAC controls our Congress. They believe that their g-d gave them the land of greater Israel and they have done and will do everything in their power to regain what g-d gave to them centuries ago regardless of historical realities or international law.
Jews of other persuasion, secular and reformed, True Torah Jews, Jews for Peace in Palestine and all others who understand the horrendous crimes being imposed on the Palestinians in their own land by those who have suffered under the brutal Nazi regime, recognize that there festers in the State of Israel a cancer that is spreading beyond its borders, those it has legitimately through the UN partition plan of 1947 and those it has acquired illegally and forcefully, that is destroying the Judaic faith and the principles it has stood for these many centuries. The country is being torn by a minority fanatical group that it cannot control, one that is pushing through legislation that corrodes any semblance of democracy as it pushes to a greater state of theocracy both of imposed behavior and imposed belief.
Creating such a state does nothing to advance democracy in the Middle East, it crushes it. The citizens of such a state become but puppets of those who have garnered power, used by them as wooden soldiers in their youth, as molders of their young tutoring them in the intolerant beliefs of ancient tribal men, and subservient elders that spout the party line in their Knesset. But there is a consequence to such behavior and such imposed control. There is a responsibility they assume when they shackle their people to acts that destroy, maim and kill innocent people as they march their way to their Greater Israel; there is the reality that international law uses as precedent, the trial that brought King Charles I to his death, and has been used now for the trials of Pinochet and Milosevic, the “universal right to punish a tyrant who denies democracy and civil and religious liberty to his people.” Charles was brought to trial by John Cooke who penned the words of indictment and his words continue today. That is a reality that Sharon, Olmert, Livni, Barak, and now Netanyahu and Lieberman face as they attempt to justify what is not justifiable and impose what is not legal not only on the people of Israel but on peoples of all nations that seek redress of the outrages the Israeli government has taken against its neighbors, most especially the Palestinians.
One need only mark the power of the peoples’ flotillas into Gaza. This is not the action of the governments of America or England or any single nation, this is a peoples’ action against tyranny; it is the equivalent of America’s Civil Rights Movement that had the people take to the streets, united in purpose and demands, against their government, state and federal, to right the wrong of segregation. It took time and many died in the quest for justice. But over time as more and more people understood that their government was the criminal, they grew in number and force until the government capitulated to their demands and granted justice to the African American and all who had been denied their civil rights.
The flotillas have grown in number over the months. They have made it known to the government of Israel and America, its puppet, that they will not stop until justice is achieved. This fall a flotilla of 50 to 60 boats from many countries will leave for Gaza. Now the Israeli government, its militarized government not its democratic one, will have to stop multitudes of boats with individuals from many countries and many nationalities all saying the same thing. “Freedom now, freedom now, the people of the world demand freedom now.” The people of the world demand that laws be obeyed, just laws, not laws made by the occupier for the oppressed. Accusation is not proof, guilt by association is not evidence, military might is not what is right for the people. Actions taken out of fear are actions removed from reason—fear erodes reason. “Let us not walk in fear, one of another,” as Murrow says, let us honor each other, recognize dignity in each other, respect each other, and thus treat all with equity, fulfilling the very concept of democracy by our actions.
William A. Cook is a Professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. His most recent book has just been released by Palgrave Macmillan, The Plight of the Palestinians: a Long History of Destruction. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at www.drwilliamacook.com
J Street and its ilk can only conceptualise a racially exclusionary state
“The future of relations with the Muslim world” was the UN-sponsored event hosted at the New York Times building in central Manhattan on 21 July. Filled with journalists from Egypt, China and Turkey and the foreign policy establishment, roughly 150 people came to hear Roger Cohen, Joe Klein, Martin Indyk, Reza Aslan, Dalia Mogahed and Marc Lynch chew over issues related to Barack Obama’s Cairo speech in 2009 and efforts to re-engage the Muslim world. [...]
I didn’t really know what to expect from the evening and there was an air of unreality about the event, a troubling distance from addressing the crux of Washington’s problems in the Muslim world. The presumption of the evening was that America could noticeably change its image while still occupying Iraq, Afghanistan and backing Israeli occupation in Palestine. Most Muslims would regard the premise as a joke.
As Rami Khouri wrote in this week’s New York Times: “One cannot take seriously the United States or any other Western government that funds political activism by young Arabs while it simultaneously provides funds and guns that help cement the power of the very same Arab governments the young social and political activists target for change.”
Pollster Mogahed revealed that a forthcoming Gallup study of the Arab world finds Iraq still topping even Israel/Palestine in issues of concern related to US foreign policy in the region. The open wound of the Iraq conflict, the millions of internal and external refugees – the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948 –and daily brutality put paid to claims that America will soon be withdrawing. Just this week the Obama administration announced an expansion of paramilitary forces in Iraq to replace the forthcoming declining troop numbers.
Roger Cohen, a usually thoughtful writer who has sadly recently embraced Salam Fayyad’s economic “miracle” in the West Bank (essentially a police state with Western aid), was a considered moderator, probing the guests about the profound separation between rhetoric and reality. Time’s Klein was effusive in his praise for Fayyad, called for immediate engagement with Hamas, chastised Obama for not pressuring Israel far more and threatening to cut aid, vehemently opposed a “mad” attack on Iran, damned the colonies in the West Bank and the bullying Zionist lobby. Klein is a colourful and slightly arrogant speaker, proud of telling an audience he’s spent time in the Middle East and mixing with the people there.
The most revealing part of the evening was when Reza Aslan told the crowd, near the end of the event, that a two-state solution was dead due to ongoing Israeli colonisation. He urged consideration of a one-state solution. He wrote strongly months ago about the impossibility of a viable Palestinian state and this week urged more imaginative ways of framing a nation that “would be shared by both Palestinians and Jews.” Aslan also outlined the Likud charter, a racist document that does not allow an independent Palestinian entity in Palestine.
Former AIPAC employee, Vice President for Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution and former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk shook his head and said these were “lies”. He argued that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said last year that he accepted a two-state solution and people should “wait until the end of Obama’s third year and you will see some major progress on Middle East peace.”
Indyk angrily rejected a one-state solution as “guaranteed to bring never-ending conflict” and said the two-state solution was the only game in town. Aslan didn’t give up, reiterating his request for Indyk to explain how two, viable states would develop.
This testy exchange was symptomatic of the anemic state of establishment thinking on the Middle East in America. Indyk was asking to be rewarded for ongoing failure, a man and idea that had been tried for decades and brought increased settlement activity. Like J Street, Indyk and his ilk can only conceptualise a racially exclusionary state, partition in the name of “two states for two peoples”.
I remember thinking during the J Street conference in Washington last year about the blind faith in Barack Obama bringing peace to the Middle East. What happens if he doesn’t deliver? J Street and Indyk have nowhere to go, no intellectual or moral framework from which to offer alternative perspectives.
For them, a Jewish state must be maintained at any cost. Democratic values will always come second.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak described it as “false, distorted, and irresponsible“. Information Minister Yuli Edelstein called it “anti-Semitic“. Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren said it “insidiously… portrayed the Jews as the deliberate murderers of innocents“. Foreign Minister Lieberman argued that its true purpose “was to destroy Israel’s image, in service of countries where the terms ‘human rights’ and ‘combat ethics’ do not even appear in their dictionaries“. And the US House of Representatives banded together in bipartisan harmony to pass a resolution (344–36) that called “on the President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration” of it.
For nearly a year now, vicious attacks on the Goldstone report and on Judge Goldstone himself have been the thing for Israel’s numerous apologists to do.
There is just one not-so-minor problem with this knee-jerk criticism of the report and infinite stream of ad hominem libel against its main author. A majority of the most damning—and damaging—war crimes that are alleged to have taken place have now been confirmed by the IDF’s own investigations into the matter, themselves only conducted in an effort to derail the Goldstone report’s referral to the International Criminal Court.
IDF confirms over 20 gravest findings of the Goldstone Report
Several of the most dramatic instances of war crimes, which previously stirred Israel’s defenders into fits, are now publicly admitted by the IDF in the recent update to its official response (which can be found here).
Some examples of war crimes include:
- White phosphorous in urban areas: This one is probably the most famous admission that emerged after a series of easily disproved lies. Israel’s initial response was one of absolute denial, indeed indignation, that people would suggest it had used banned chemical weapons in densely populated areas. But the steady stream of photos and videos depicting phosphorous burns on children and buildings eventually forced Israel to admit it had used these prohibited weapons.
- The murder of two unarmed Palestinians carrying white flags of surrender.
- The Al-Fakhura Street incident: Israeli mortar fire at a site adjacent to a UN Relief Works Agency compound resulted in multiple civilian deaths.
- The use of innocent Palestinians as human shields: The Goldstone report explains that in order “to carry out house searches as human shields the Israeli soldiers took off AD/03’s blindfold but he remained handcuffed. He was forced to walk in front of the soldiers and told that, if he saw someone in the house but failed to tell them, he would be killed. He was instructed to search each room in each house cupboard by cupboard. After one house was completed he was taken to another house with a gun pressed against his head and told to carry out the same procedure there. He was punched, slapped and insulted throughout the process.” The new Israeli report identifies this anonymous human shield AD/03 and confirms this episode. Other cases of human shield use, e.g. Abbas Ahmad Ibrahim Halawa and Mahmoud Abd Rabbo al-Ajrami, were also confirmed.
- Al-Samouni family massacre: The Israelis attacked two houses of the Samouni family, killing 23 people in total. Subsequently, they prevented the Red Cross and PRCS from providing care to the wounded and dying for three days. Confirmed by Israel and the subject of a military investigation.
- Firing on Al Maqadmah and other mosques during prayer time.
In total, a quick scan through the IDF’s new report provides direct confirmation of more than 20 of Goldstone’s findings.