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US promoting arms trade mission organized by settlement firm

Jimmy Johnson, The Electronic Intifada, 18 March 2011

The United States Department of Commerce and the US embassy in Tel Aviv are co-promoting the Israel Unmanned Systems 2011 trade mission from 27 March to 1 April. Their partner — and the primary organizer — is Airlift, inc., an aerospace and consulting firm based in the settlement of Talpiot Mizrach (East Talpiot) in occupied East Jerusalem. This raises troubling questions about why Washington is promoting the Israeli arms trade and why it is doing so with a firm based in an illegal colony which explicitly contradicts official US policy as well as international law.

Airlift was founded in 2007 by Marc-Philippe Rudel, a French-Israeli electrical engineer and businessman, to “promote economic cooperation and the establishment of global partnerships.” The company brings foreign arms industry and military officials to Israel for arranged business-to-business meetings, specially tailored seminars, industry workshops and visits to major Israeli armament firms and research institutes. Airlift’s website states that its “offices are located in the heart of Jerusalem” but the address given puts them in occupied East Jerusalem. Airlift’s Spanish subsidiary, Airlift Iberia, was established in September 2010.

Though considered a mainstream Jerusalem neighborhood by most Israelis — including Rudel, judging by his activism in the secular liberal/centrist “Awakening in Jerusalem” movement — East Talpiot is unanimously considered an illegal settlement by the international community including the United Nations, the International Court of Justice and the US government whose pronouncements consistently oppose Israeli settlements. However, Washington regularly takes actions — such as the recent veto of a UN Security Council resolution condemning settlements — to shield Israel from international condemnation and formerly contributed economic aid that was used directly for settlement infrastructure and construction. Promoting a trade mission with a firm based in a settlement points to the latter as being more representative of US policy, in spite of official pronouncements to the contrary. American sponsorship comes at a time when governments like Norway, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are actively distancing themselves from settlement-related businesses. Requests for comment from the US State Department and Department of Commerce were not answered. … Full article

March 18, 2011 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | Leave a comment

Intervention in Libya May Lead to More Deaths, Not Fewer

By Stephen Gowans | What’s Left? | March 18, 2011

In explaining why his government supported the UN Security Council resolution authorizing all necessary measures to protect Libyan civilians, US president Barack Obama explained: “The U.S. doesn’t want a war. But we want to prevent a slaughter.”

Noble sentiments, but the Security Council resolution could lead to more deaths, not fewer.

Libyan government forces were well on their way to defeating the rebel forces (which may have been the trigger for the resolution.) Had they done so, the conflict would have ended – at least for now.

By authorizing military intervention, the Security Council is seeking to weaken Qaddafi’s forces. In the meantime, arms and other assistance, provided to the rebels by Egypt and other countries, will strengthen the opposition side.

An imbalanced conflict – where weak rebel forces now face stronger government forces—will be transformed into a more evenly balanced one. The government’s wings will be clipped and the opposition will become more robust.

Intervention may prevent a slaughter of rebel forces, but it could lead to a prolonged civil war, with more bodies piling up than would have, had the conflict been allowed to quickly culminate in a resolution. Among the corpses will be the civilian collateral damage that Western bombers are so proficient at producing.

Another possible outcome (perhaps more likely) is that Western military intervention tips the scales overwhelmingly in the rebels’ favor. Others have noted the similarities with Kosovo, where NATO signed on as the KLA’s air force in the guerrilla army’s fight with Serb forces. This time, however, the intervention has UN authorization, though whether it does or doesn’t hardly makes a difference. This one is no more defensible than the Kosovo intervention and is no less motivated by Western geo-political and elite economic interests.

Membership has its privileges

Meanwhile, the firing of live ammunition at protesters by Bahraini forces, backed by Saudi troops and tanks, has drawn no calls for all necessary measures to protect Bahraini citizens. There haven’t even been calls for mild measures. The best Washington can do is “express distress” and urge “the government (in Bahrain) to negotiate with the opposition and pursue change.”

Why the double standard?

As the New York Time’s Helene Cooper and Mark Landler explain, “Bahrain is an American ally. The Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based here and the Khalifa royal family has warm relations with Washington.”

Libya, of course, is neither a US ally (though it has in recent years cooperated with Washington on some matters), isn’t the site of US military bases, and its leader hasn’t had warm relations with Washington.

Had any of these things been true, we can take it that Qaddafi would now be free to slaughter as many Libyans as he pleased (though Washington would publically profess distress, while sitting on its hands.)

For bloodthirsty leaders, membership in the club of US allies has its privileges. The same can’t be said for the people who live under them.

March 18, 2011 Posted by | Militarism | Leave a comment

War and Peace in Colorado and Afghanistan

By KATHY KELLY | CounterPunch | March 18, 2011

Kabul – Before coming to Afghanistan, I spent a week with students and teachers from a Colorado College nonviolence class who invited me to join them for their retreat near Crestone, Colorado, in an area of the Rocky Mountains described as one of the ten most peaceful places on earth. Coyotes, woodpeckers, and songbirds were easily audible.  We reveled in the quiet beauty of an area that is home to 23 spiritual groups, all of whom prize the valley they share as a sacred space.

The area is also home to Canon Air Force Base, Fort Carson and several other military installations.  Before leaving Colorado, I visited the U.S. Air Force Academy’s chapel, one of the state’s largest tourist attractions.  Pasted on the back of every hymnal in the pews of the Protestant chapel is a prayer that reads, in part, “Make me a channel of your peace that I may defend the skies which canopy free nations.”  Ironically, some Coloradans are petitioning the state government to stop the Air Force military flights over their peaceful valleys, and ranchers are likewise insisting that their land shouldn’t be used for combat training.

Peace activists with a long history of opposing war preparations, in Colorado Springs, are protesting a USAF plan to acquire a new Combat Aviation Brigade, consisting of 120 helicopter gunships. To accommodate training operations, 16 landing pads have already been carved out in the mountains surrounding Colorado Springs and Crestone, CO. Two thousand Joint Special Operation Forces (JSOF))are also in these mountains, training for work in rugged winter conditions.  Their activities include organizing and carrying out night raids, assassinations and death squads.

The 120 attack helicopters are requisitioned for use in Afghanistan.  It seems likely that the JSO forces are also training for deployment to Afghanistan.

The Washington Post recently reported  that 75 per cent of the U.S. public supports a drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.  On March 12, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, extending condolences to families of nine children gunned down by a U.S. attack helicopter, expressly asked that the U.S. end operations in Afghanistan.  The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers have carefully documented NGOs in Afghanistan with a long history of humanitarian work who have rebuked the U.S. and NATO forces for human rights abuses and for killing civilians.

The most recent attack against Afghan children happened on March 15, when two children helping their parents clean out irrigations systems were killed by an aerial attack.  On the day following the March 1, 2011 attack that killed nine children who were collecting wood on a mountain side, General Petraeus apologized to the families.  But, the U.S. has yet to acknowledge the deaths and injuries inflicted on civilians in February, 2011, when, according to President Hamid Karzai’s official report, at least 65 civilians were killed by a U.S. assault.  Instead, General Petraeus utterly shocked people in President Hamid Karzai’s presidential palace, on February 19th, 2011, when he suggested that injured children might have been burned by their own parents as a measure of discipline.  A month earlier, on January 19th, General Petraeus had remarked that “we have our teeth in the jugular,” referring to Afghanistan, and the U.S. isn’t going to quit now.

Testifying before the U.S. congress, in mid-March, General Petraeus spoke of the fragile and reversible gains the U.S. has made in Afghanistan.  He asks the U.S. people not to undermine the “progress” the U.S. war is achieving.  We’re urged to treat the military with kid gloves, to handle with care their progress, and not to dwell, unpatriotically, on the war crimes that massacre children.

Twenty seven international peace activists, most of them from the United States, have come to Kabul to hear youngsters whom they’ve begun to regard as brothers and sisters speak about their experiences living in a country ravaged by warfare for the past three decades.

Last evening, they showed us photos of an unusual walk they’d held in the streets of downtown Kabul that morning.  Dressed in white, with the young women wearing sky blue veils and the young men in the same color neck scarves, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers carried sky blue and white banners proclaiming that Peace is a Pre-Requisite for Progress. They are seeking an end to wars in their country.  “Why did you choose sky blue?” I asked.  “Because it shows that there is just one sky over all of us,” Chahara replied.  Although they came from different ethnicities and various provinces, they walked shoulder to shoulder, 40 of them, on a bright, warm day.

I’m guessing that many people in Colorado’s Air Force Academy chapel feel calmed and pleasantly righteous when they read the prayer posted on the back of the hymnal.  “Make me a channel of your peace,” the prayer begins. The line comes from the St. Francis Peace Prayer which prays for the ability to sow love rather than hatred.  The Air Force prayer seeks, instead, to be involved in “defending skies that canopy free lands.”

Rather than invoke the false image of separated skies that distinguish between those who have a right to live and those who live in lands where they can’t escape our terrifying helicopter gunships, drones, night raids, and death squads,  we do well to hear Pete Seeger singing “One blue sky above us, one ocean lapping at our shores, …”

And take a look at youngsters in Kabul, wearing sky blue, who even believe in love of enemy.

On March 19, in Kabul, Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers will hold a candlelight commemoration, remembering the children recently killed in Afghanistan.  Following  this ceremony they will plant saplings as a symbol of their dedication to a nonviolent future. Their compassion extends beyond Afghanistan to young people in other lands, some of whom they will connect with through a “Global Day of Listening,”  a 24 hour Skype communication which they’ll host on the first day of spring, Afghanistan’s “Nau Roz” (New Year’s Day) holiday.  Colorado College students, on their spring break, plan to participate (see:  www.livewithoutwars.org and www.ourjourneytosmile.com or email globaldayoflistening@gmail.com to arrange participation for yourself and/or your community.

~

Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lives, Other Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org

March 18, 2011 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | 1 Comment

Netanyahu Denounces Fateh-Hamas Reconciliation Efforts

By Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies – March 18, 2011

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, harshly slammed the reconciliation efforts between the rival Fateh and Hamas movements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In an interview with the CNN, Netanyahu said that the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank cannot claim to seek peace with Israel while seeking peace with Hamas which, according to Netanyahu, is determined to destroy Israel.

He tried to explain his stance by linking the issue to the Al Qaida terrorist network by asking the reporter “Can you imagine a peace agreement with Al Qaeda? Of course you can’t.

On Wednesday, Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, said that he is willing to head to Gaza in order to hold talks with Hamas leaders in order to boost unity efforts.

Abbas has not been in Gaza for more than four years following violent gun battles between Hamas and Fateh gunmen and security forces.

The Youth Coalition Movement in Palestine is growing and demanding Hamas and Fateh factions put their differences aside and achieve unity.

Social and political activists started a campaign that was also launched on Facebook demanding internal Palestinian unity between all factions, and an immediate end to internal divisions.

The youth are not necessarily connected to any political faction, while their only aim is unity among all Palestinians, in addition to real reforms and reconciliation.

Israel’s Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli officials stating that the protests and changes in the Arab world, and Palestinian-Israeli negotiations cables that were leaked by Al Jazeera, pushed the Palestinians to tougher stances regarding the resumption of peace talks with Israel.

The Post added that this issue was clearly apparent in official Palestinian stances, and the stance of Chief Palestinian negotiator, Dr. Saeb Erekat, during his two meetings with Quartet officials over the past three weeks.

The resumption of settlement activities and the demolition of homes in occupied East Jerusalem, in addition to the ongoing Israeli violations in the occupied territories, pushed the Palestinian Authority to halt talks with Israel.

In addition, Israel and its strongest ally, the United States, regard the Hamas movement as a terrorist group and refuse to hold talks with them.

Hamas garnered an overwhelming victory in the 2006 Legislative elections, and the preceding Local Councils elections. The elections were observed by international monitors, but the outcome that strongly placed Hamas in power angered the United States and Israel who launched a campaign to void the outcome.

Israel also kidnapped dozens of elected officials and legislators in an attempt to obstruct the work of the elected government.

The strict Israeli siege on Gaza also led to the death of hundreds of patients who could not have access to basic medications and medical equipment.

Following the 2007 and most of 2008 deadly clashes between Hamas and Fateh, president Mahmoud Abbas formed a new cabinet in the West Bank while Hamas regarded the new government as illegal as it violated the elections outcome.

Reconciliation efforts were repeatedly conducted by Egypt and other Arab countries, but a unity agreement was never reached.

Israel is threatening that should a new government with Hamas on-board be formed, both Tel Aviv and Washington will boycott it.

March 18, 2011 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | Leave a comment

Venezuela’s Chavez Halts Nuclear Energy Program following Japan Crisis

By Juan Reardon – Venezuelanalysis –  March 16th, 2011

Mérida – Yesterday President Hugo Chávez put a freeze on Venezuela’s nascent nuclear energy program as a result of the crisis underway at Japan’s earthquake-stricken nuclear reactors.

In the aftermath of last Friday’s tragic earthquake, Chávez sent his condolences to the Japanese people and announced his decision to halt a bi-lateral nuclear development agreement signed between Venezuela and Russia in October of last year.

The announcement came just hours after new flames engulfed one of Japan’s damaged nuclear plants and forced authorities to evacuate the last remaining technicians.

“What has been taking place in the last few hours represents an enormous risk and threat to the entire world,” said Chávez late Tuesday evening.

“Even with all of the great technology and advances that the Japanese have…just look at what is happening with some of those nuclear reactors,” he said.

Chávez’s comments came after elevated radiation levels at Japan’s earthquake-stricken Fukushima Daiishi nuclear plant led authorities to suspend all efforts to prevent the plant’s reactors from melting down. Authorities ordered clean-up crews to leave the facilities and cancelled plans for the use of military helicopters to dump water on the plants in efforts to prevent temperatures from rising any further.

Chávez said Japan’s ongoing nuclear crisis would affect the development of nuclear energy programs worldwide. “There is no doubt whatsoever that this has altered, and will alter in a very strong way, all planning for nuclear energy across the globe,” he said.

“For the time being,” Chávez said, “I have ordered the Vice President [and Minister of Energy Rafael] Ramírez to put a freeze on the plans we have been advancing, the very preliminary studies related to Venezuela’s peaceful nuclear energy program.” … Full article

March 18, 2011 Posted by | Nuclear Power | Leave a comment

UN votes for Libya air strikes

By Richard Seymour | LENIN’S TOMB | March 17, 2011

As if I didn’t see this coming a mile off:

10 in favour, zero against, five abstentions. So the vote went exactly as predicted. “The resolution 1973/2011 is adopted.,” says the chairman.

This could get very ugly. The resolution authorises a whole series of military measures short of ground invasion, including air strikes. The worst case scenarios? Not that air strikes will kill civilians – that is absolutely guaranteed, and thus constitutes an aspect of even the best case. Not that the war will escalate – that is not a dead cert, but a strong probability. However, it’s also unlikely to involve a ground invasion, which I need hardly say would be catastrophic. The worst case scenario seems to be that this will fuel the centrifugal forces tending toward partition between a ‘Western’ allied statelet in the east, and a rump dictatorship in the west. Qadhafi has spent years deliberately ‘underdeveloping’ the east to punish these regions and tribal federations for their tendency toward rebelliousness, leaving towns and cities that should be as rich as those in the Gulf states desperately poor, surrounded by shantytowns and slums – and so he has laid the material basis for such divisions. Imperialism creates divisions where none existed before (look at Iraq). This is how it always operates. So it’s implausible that where there already are such divisions, and where such divisions have a direct bearing on the conflict underway, that imperialist intervention would not exacerbate them. This may be the worst thing that could possibly have happened to the Libyan revolution. That’s a worst-case scenario.

The best-case scenario is that people are killed to little avail, and the former regime elements in the transitional leadership have just diverted energies and initiative down a blind alley. I suppose you might object that the best-case scenario is that the air strikes exclusively kill the bad guys, turning the initiative in favour of the revolutionaries, allowing them to seize power, build a liberal democratic state, and the cavalry heads home. And the band played, ‘Believe it if you like’. Look, I’d like to believe it. I’d also like to believe that Obama is a socialist, Hillary Clinton a feminist, and David Cameron a salesman for unsecured personal loans. But the occasions in which imperialism has directly assisted a revolutionary process are rather infrequent, wouldn’t you say? In fact, I suspect you’d be struggling if I asked you to name one.

I’m also afraid that all the talk about the inaction, delaying, dilly-dallying and procrastination of the ‘international community’, not to mention the demonology about Russia and China obstructing the good guys once again, has played straight into a very familiar war narrative. Just when you’ve uttered your last “but why won’t they DO something?”, just when you’re about to give up and lapse into foul depression, the good guys come to the rescue. It’s like 1941 all over again. There was never any doubt, as far as I’m concerned, that the US would support a no-fly zone if it could be suitably internationalized and involve support from the miserable dictatorships of the Arab League. And no one will be tasteless enough to point out that those very same states are currently butchering their populations with the arms and financial assistance of the imperial powers commanding this coalition of the willing. Because that would just be sour grapes.

March 18, 2011 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Mainstream Media, Warmongering | 6 Comments

   

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