Helen Keller’s pithy observation about American democracy being little more than a choice “between Tweedledum and Tweedledee” was never more true than in the upcoming midterm elections in the ninth congressional district of Illinois.
In a district which includes the affluent northern suburbs of Chicago along the shore of Lake Michigan, the central issue is not the two wars—or is it now three?—the country is fighting, nor is it the tanking economy, in great part caused by those debt-inducing wars. No, the burning issue here is… who cares more about Israel? … continue
Between 20:00 and midnight in Karmiel in the Galilee, vigilantes watch over the entrances to the town, they don’t want any Arabs to visit.
Israeli human rights activists Peace Now (Gush Shalom) said the guards are a “racist right militia” and argue every citizen, regardless of ethnicity, has the right to freedom of movement and do not need explanations to enter a town. The city guards target Arabs living in the surrounding villages, blocking them from enjoying Karmiel’s night life.
The city guards were created by deputy mayor Oren Milstein, whose rise to power began with a “Save the Jewish character of Karmiel” campaign.
“Milstein was elected on a purely racist platform,” said Gush Shalom founder Uri Avnery. Along with screening Arabs visiting Karmiel, Avnery said the deputy mayor is trying to keep Arabs from settling in the city by “agitating for Jewish inhabitants to inform on other Jewish inhabitants who are renting or selling [housing] to Arabs.”
In an interview with the right-wing newspaper B’sheva, Milstein said that for Arabs to live in Karmiel “is not correct” since the stated goal of the city, founded in the sixties, was “cutting off Arab settlement.”
Zoning laws keep Arab communities confined and their expansion illegal: they are not permitted to expand or build their own villages. Growing populations have forced them to seek homes outside of their own restricted neighbourhoods, and many have moved to “Jewish” towns, Averny said.
Fatma is a resident of an Arab village neighboring Karmiel. Her sister’s experience is indicative of the problems faced by Arabs in the Galilee. Living in Karmiel, she wanted to buy a house but it proved impossible. When people heard her name and realised she was Arab, they either stated “we don’t sell to Arabs” or doubled the price of the property. Now her sister rents an apartment in Akka but faces the same racism.
“If you want to buy a nice home in a good neighbourhood, you can’t find it,” Fatma said. The only option is to buy in Arab neighbourhoods, which are generally rougher and more deprived than their Jewish counterparts. Most Arabs do not protest to the authorities because they fear the violence from Jewish people. “If you want to live in Karmiel, you have to be quiet and not make problems.”
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Gush Shalom leader Uri Averny worries more racist militias could spring up in northern Israel
Averny said Karmiel was founded on territorial racism: the original Bedouin inhabitants were driven off by Jewish settlers.
“Karmiel was built expressly to Judaize the Galilee,”Avnery said. “It is sitting on a plot of land that previously contained Arab villages… the more [Karmiel] grows, the more it dispossesses Arabs.”
Currently, deputy mayor Milstein frets that the Western Galilee is only thirty two percent Jewish. He said in the B’sheva interview, “if we examine the range of only 5 miles around Karmiel, it’s found to be surrounded by 180,000 Arabs.”
“Jews are living in mortal fear that Arabs will become the majority in the Galilee’, Avnery said, and at regular intervals local authorities voice the need to strengthen regional Zionist zeal. He cites How to Judaize the Galilee, a report published in the sixties which caused a scandal at the time but which continues to resurface, as an example of the traditional roots of racist militias and requirements for housing in Israel. Averny predicts the blossoming Arab population of Nazareth will spill into Upper Nazareth and the Jewish community will respond by creating a local militia like Milstein’s ’city guards.’
Avnery and Gush Shalom advocate Alex Keller wrote a letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein protesting Karmiel’s guards, but Averny doesn’t have much hope. He believes Weinstein “will do nothing [since] racism has been tolerated for decades in Israel.”
Israeli Journalists have done little, too. No national Israeli paper has covered the creation of Karmiel’s city guards and their prevention of non-Jews entering the city unless completely necessary.
“This covering up by the media is further evidence of the growing acceptability of racism in Israel,” Avnery said. “Four decades ago, people were careful not to mention fascism because of its association with the Holocaust, but now people speak of it openly. [Israeli Welfare Minister] Isaac Herzog has warned fascism is touching the margins of Israeli society but actually it has reached the centre.”
Gush Shalom may go to the Supreme Court to pursue the demand for a criminal investigation of policy clearly violating the law “in its incitement against parts of the population.”
A hundred year old church was burned Friday by right-wing Israeli settlers, who broke a number of windows of the church and hurled Molotov cocktails inside.
The damage to the church was substantial, with burn damage throughout the first floor of the building.
The church was built in Jerusalem in 1897, and housed the Palestinian Bible College until 1947, when parishioners were pushed out by armed Jewish gangs during the violence accompanying the creation of the state of Israel.
Christians make up 2% of the population of both Israel and the Palestinian Territories – the number used to be around 15%, but many Christians from the Holy Land have emigrated due to the harsh conditions of the Israeli occupation, and discrimination against them by the Israeli state.
This is not the first time that Israeli right-wingers have destroyed churches and church property – a number of Christian churches were destroyed during the second initfada (uprising) that began in 2000, and many more were destroyed by Israeli forces during the 1948 and 67 wars.
In 2006, an Israeli couple tried to firebomb an ancient church in Nazareth, the city where Christians believe that Jesus Christ lived 2000 years ago. An Israeli court which tried the case failed to convict the couple of any charges.
A leader in the church attacked on Friday, Zachariah al-Mashriqi, told reporters that the attack on the church was a clear attempt to provoke Palestinians to respond in anger. He urged Palestinian Christians to respond to the attack with virtue and patience.
Al-Mashriqi urged the Israeli government to act responsibly and condemn the attack, and work on investigating the attack to find out who was involved and actually file charges in the case. He asked the Israeli government to protect holy sites in the city of Jerusalem, as these sites come under increasing attack by Israeli settlers.
The assassination of Hariri served the interests only of the US and Israel
The extraordinary scenes this week at a gynaecological and obsetrics clinic in the southern suburbs of Beirut have again cast light on the work of the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), set up to investigate the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. STL investigators went to Dr Inam Charara’s clinic with a demand to be given access to the files of patients dating back to 2003. More specifically, they wanted the addresses and phone numbers of 17 patients. The presence of STL investigators in her clinic disturbed women waiting for appointments. Other women arrived from other clinics in the building and a fracas broke out. Eventually the investigators were driven off, but not before a computer, a briefcase, mobile phones and notebooks had been snatched from them. The episode raises fresh questions about the role of the STL. The southern suburbs are predominantly Shi’a and many of the patients in Dr Charara’s clinic are the wives, daughters and mothers of Hizbullah officials. What the STL hoped to find remains known only to itself.
The demand for information from medical records would cut across the principle of doctor-patient confidentiality in any country and would never be allowed in the US or any EU country, if allowed at all, except on the basis of a successful application to a court. In Lebanon it was not even made by a government agency but by an extra-territorial organisation which arrived with nothing other than the authority of the UN. The demand was further outrageous in the context of a conservative Muslim culture. Muslim men will not even allow their women to see male doctors. Most Muslim women would only want to be seen by a female doctor and this invasion by men of a gynaecological clinic was extraordinarily intrusive and insensitive.
In an address made immediately after these events, Hasan Nasrallah called for a complete boycott of the STL. He said that it had sought and been given access to the data base of all students (Lebanese and foreign) at private universities in Lebanon from 2003-2006, but left open the question of whether student records at public universities had also been given to the STL. He said it had sought the fingerprint and passport details relating to all Lebanese nationals but because of a dispute between government officials had succeeded in getting the data of only 893 people. The STL had also sought all telecommunications records, including sms messages, as well as DNA records held by government agencies, topographical surveys covering the entire country and even lists of electricity subscribers. Nasrallah said there was no sector in Lebanon the STL had not penetrated. He claimed, furthermore, that all material being gathered by the STL had been passed on to western intelligence agencies and Israel. On the basis of the known transmission to Israel of information gathered by the UN arms inspection teams sent to Iraq in the 1990s, there is no reason to doubt the possibility that what he is saying is true.
Lebanon has again become the focal point of a region-global power struggle. On one side is the unusual combination of Syria and Saudi Arabia, trying to preserve stability between Sunni, Shia and Christians and on the other is Israel and the US, which are doing their best to destroy Hizbullah through the destabilisation of Lebanon. The indictment of Hizbullah members is the chief weapon in their arsenal.
Questions about the role of the STL – what some see as its true role as opposed to its declared role – have been asked since the beginning. The report of the first prosecutor, Detlev Mehlis, was a hatchet job, a grotesque parody of a proper investigation. There was not even an attempt to look at all possible suspects, which would naturally have had to include the US and Israel. He went straight for Syria. His ‘evidence’ was mostly based on speculation and loose connections. Where his report had some appearance of solidity was in records of mobile phone calls made by those alleged to have been involved in the assassination of Hariri. On this basis, four senior Lebanese security and intelligence officials were prosecuted and jailed for four years, only to be released the moment they were transferred from the custody of the Lebanese government to the custody of the STL because the evidence did not stand up. It was at this point that the STL turned its attention to Hizbullah.
It has now turned out that the STL was either duped by false witnesses or chose to use them against Syria. It has also turned out that Israel, by the time Hariri was assassinated, had penetrated the networks of Lebanon’s two main telecommunications providers and actually had its own agents inside these organisations. This penetration not only allowed Israel to monitor all mobile phone calls in Lebanon but to fabricate them, and on this basis all communications evidence collected by the STL would have to be regarded as tainted. Furthermore, Hizbullah recently produced intercepts of Israeli aerial surveillance showing that Hariri had been tracked as he travelled between his homes in West Beirut and the mountains and the parliament building right up to the day he was killed. This surveillance included his movement along the coastal road where he drove into the trap set for him. Nasrallah has also claimed that an Israeli AWACs plane was circling over West Beirut at the time of the assassination and that an Israeli agent, who later fled the country, was actually at the scene when the bomb went off.
The STL’s claims to credibility and impartiality have clearly been undermined – lethally undermined as many would say – by its reliance on false witnesses and evidence from a subverted communications system. Yet it has not dealt with these issues. Neither has it dealt with the clear proof that Israel was monitoring Hariri’s movements across West Beirut up to the day he died, and indeed the claim that it had an agent at the scene of the bombing. Ignoring all this, it has gone straight for Hizbullah, in the full knowledge that the issuing of indictments has the potential to tear the country apart. Whether the evidence is again based on false witnesses won’t matter, because by the time the truth is established the damage will have been done.
Senior US officials, including Hillary Clinton, have made numerous visits to Lebanon in recent months. Of course they are cooking up something. They want Hizbullah’s head on a platter as soon as possible. Any Lebanese who thinks they have Lebanon’s best interests at heart is a fool. Unable to destroy Hizbullah in battle, the Israeli-US strategy now is to destroy it from within, even if the cost, which, of course, they would not have to pay, is a return to turmoil in Lebanon. Its chief assault weapon is the STL, which, by refusing to deal with issues that call into question its credibility, has only heightened the perception that, willingly or otherwise, it is a tool of US policy. The assassination of Hariri was a master stroke which served the interests only of the US and Israel. Even if the identity of the people who killed him, or the state which planned his killing, still remains unknown, that much at least can be said to be true.
- Jeremy Salt is associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Previously, he taught at Bosporus University in Istanbul and the University of Melbourne in the Departments of Middle Eastern Studies and Political Science. Professor Salt has written many articles on Middle East issues, particularly Palestine, and was a journalist for The Age newspaper when he lived in Melbourne.
Iran has criticized the United States for allocating $100 billion to proliferation of its nuclear weapons, saying it contradicts Washington’s claim of supporting a nuke-free world.
Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Khazaei condemned the US nuclear double standard, saying Washington advocates a nuclear-free world on the one hand, while it continues to develop and modernize its nuclear arsenal on the other.
“The US plan to develop and modernize nuclear weapons … to which a budget of more than one hundred billion dollars is allocated, is in direct contradiction to White House slogans of a nuke-free world,” Khazaei told the UN General Assembly’s Disarmament Committee.
The Iranian envoy also referred to the US nuclear bombardment of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, saying the existence of thousands of nuclear warheads in the arsenals of nuclear countries continues to cast a “shadow of fear” over the world.
The UN General Assembly’s Disarmament Committee in a meeting in New York on Friday discussed a new nuclear disarmament treaty between the United States and Russia.
During the meeting, the member states of the Non- Aligned Movement (NAM), in a statement, criticized the new START pact, citing inadequate measures to counter nuclear threats.
The statement, which was proposed by Iran and read aloud at the meeting, called on the US and Russia to stick to their commitments regarding the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on the destruction of all their nuclear weapons.
The US and Russia were also urged to adopt a transparent nuclear policy and to meet their international nuclear verification obligations in order to ensure global denuclearization.
The statement said that the reduction of nuclear weapons was no substitute for their destruction, as the only way to protect the world against a nuclear threat was complete denuclearization.
The NAM members states also voiced deep concern over NATO’s nuclear policies that seek to justify the use of nuclear weapons.
The US and Russia, both signatories to the NPT, are major possessors of nuclear weapons.
The two countries signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) on reduction and limitation of nuclear weapons in 1991.
It was renamed START I after negotiations began on the second START treaty, which became START II or the New START.
The START I treaty expired in December 2009. In April 2010, the New START was signed by the US and Russia.
Under the new treaty, each side within seven years would be barred from deploying more than 1,550 strategic warheads or 700 launchers but neither side would have to eliminate large numbers of weapons to meet the new limits.
Arms control advocates say the treaty does not go far enough in reducing the dangerous weapons on both sides.
The Pentagon’s move to spend billions to rejuvenate its nuclear warheads runs counter to the White House’s “nuclear free world” motto.
The Forward’s Nathan Guttman has a new piece of reporting up…
Our politics are broken:
… Citing the sanctions bill as an example, New York Democrat Gary Ackerman, argued that Israel’s best bet for addressing any concerns about Obama’s policy would be for Democrats to retain power. “I’m not saying that if the Republicans take the House it would be doomsday for Israel, but if they want positive influence on the White House, that’s us,” said Ackerman, who chairs the subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Ackerman and other Jewish Democrats point to the forceful criticisms they conveyed to the White House when they thought that Obama was leaning too hard on Israel.
“If you need the president, you need us as chairs of the committees,” Ackerman said as he listed what he called the “first-class team” of Jewish pro-Israel Democrats who chair key House committees: Berman at Foreign Affairs, Barney Frank at Financial Services, Henry Waxman at the Energy and Commerce committee, Sander Levin at Ways and Means, and Ackerman himself in his role as head of the Middle East subcommittee. “We are all pro-Israel and we all have major, major, major influence in the executive branch.” …