The Israeli press is ablaze this morning with the news that the killers of the Fogel family in the illegal colony of Itamar in the occupied West Bank have been found. After several weeks of besieging the village of Awarta, arresting virtually all of its inhabitants, and causing extensive property damage, the Israeli authorities have announced that two teenagers from the village have admitted to carrying out the killings.
This particular case has been quite interesting, because of the fact that all Palestinian factions publicly distanced themselves from it and denied responsibility for carrying it out. Despite the Israeli government immediately blaming it on Palestinian ‘terror’ without any proof and using the death of the Fogels as an excuse to further expand the illegal colonization of the West Bank, a gag order was placed on the investigation as rumors and theories grew about who the actual culprit may have been.
Itamar is a heavily fortified settlement overlooking the surrounding Palestinian villages on whose land it is illegally built. The colony is notoriously well fortified to ensure intruders do not enter; it is completely surrounded by 8 foot high electrified wire fence with 2 feet of razor wire on top, sensors to determine if the fence has been cut, automatic cameras that cover the entire perimeter, 24 hour security guard presence and protection provided by the Israeli military. All of its inhabitants are heavily armed, and like almost all Israeli settlements it is surrounded by hundreds of meters of empty buffer land that Palestinians cannot step foot in.
The fact that Itamar probably has more security than the White House led many to conclude that whoever killed the Fogels could not have simply snuck in and snuck back out again.
But now the Israeli security authorities, that bastion of transparency and human rights, say they’ve extracted confessions from Amjad Awad, 19, and Hakim Awad, 18, both from Awarta. According to Haaretz, the teens decided on a whim to go to Itamar armed with nothing but wire cutters and a prayer. They walked across the buffer zone without being noticed by the cameras, security guards, soldiers or residents of the colony. They reached the electrified fence, where they spent ten minutes cutting the wire. The automatic cameras and sensors seemed, by a stroke of anti-semitic fortune, to be asleep that day.
Once they’d cut the fence, the two teenagers walked into the colony, where again nobody noticed them. They found a house which by sheer luck was 1) unlocked, 2) empty and 3) had an M16 rifle and ammunition lying about. Amjad and Hakim picked up the gun and the bullets, and stepped out of the empty house. There, they moved to the Fogels’ residence. They walked in, and killed four family members-one with the gun, the others with a knife.
Having defied all odds, the teenagers now left the house and went back outside. They still hadn’t been noticed. Neither the gun shot nor the screams had been heard (the security services here explain that the weather wasn’t conducive to carrying sound waves that evening). While realizing they STILL hadn’t been noticed by any of the residents, soldiers, security guards or cameras, Amjad and Hakim spotted the Fogels’ 3 month old baby through the window. So they decided to go back inside and kill the baby.
Insatiable Arab thirst for blood and all that.
Now the teens, armed with a big stolen M16 rifle, ammunition, and a knife simply walked back out of the colony, again unnoticed by the cameras, soldiers, guards, colonists, sensors and maybe even God himself. They walked across the buffer zone, back to their village, and thought they had gotten away with their dastardly crime. Of course, they had forgotten to factor in the tireless efforts of the Israeli army and intelligence apparatus, who laid siege to their village for days, barring the entry of food and medicine, rounding up villagers en masse, savagely beating others and destroying extensive property in Awarta.
The story presented by the Israeli security forces has more holes in it than a hunk of Swiss cheese treated with birdshot. As Ali Abunimah points out, they can’t even get their claim right about whether or not Amjad and Hakim acted alone or on behalf of the PFLP. And Israel’s penchant for using torture and threats to coerce confessions doesn’t really do much for its credibility here. If 6 year old girls are beaten and 60 year old women are violently detained in Awarta, your brain doesn’t have to go far to guess what the Shin Bet did to extract confessions from the young men.
And before the seething masses of indignant Zionists could finish wringing their hands, out comes the family of Hakim Awad with the inconvenient revelation that their son had recently undergone testicular surgery that made it impossible for him to walk long distances and needing the toilet every hour, and was at home recovering the night the Fogels were killed. Oops.
Zionism really is losing its lustre: They decided to frame a guy who can barely walk for trekking across a buffer zone, through an electrified fence, breaking into two houses, killing an entire family then jogging merrily home.
Orthodox Jews walk past Israel’s wall near Rachel’s Tomb in the occupied West Bank. (Inbal Rose/MaanImages)
Moves by the Israeli government and settler movement to appropriate historical sites undermine Palestinian cultural rights and highlight how Israel exploits archaeological claims for colonial ends.
Last spring, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the Ibrahimi Mosque/Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and the Bilal Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb outside Bethlehem to be “Israeli national heritage sites.” As The Electronic Intifada has reported since, the State of Israel seems to have two approaches to Palestine’s ancient sites. If, like the sites Netanyahu claimed or the remains at Sebastia, they fit into Israeli narratives about the Jewish history of the region, they are appropriated, renovated and incorporated into “archaeological parks.” If, like excavated finds and important buildings in Gaza, they highlight ancient Philistine or more recent Islamic periods of history, they can be bombed along with Gaza’s residents, or simply allowed to decay as vital conservation chemicals are excluded by the blockade. As an American-accented tour guide, overheard in Jerusalem’s Haram al-Sharif in October 2010, put it: “Having worked on two or three archaeological digs here [in Jerusalem], I can tell you that if anything is between 200 and 500 years old, it just gets tossed. It’s nothing.”
It’s against this setting that in October 2010, while researching a guidebook to Palestine, I found myself increasingly confused about a number of historical sites scattered around the occupied West Bank. None of them had the religious and historical importance of the Ibrahimi Mosque or Rachel’s Tomb, but they had their own place in Palestinian history and architecture. They were places mentioned in Palestinian tourism publications such as the locally-published Alternative Tourism Group travel guide Palestine and The Palestinians, the official Palestinian Authority Ministry of Tourism website, Jericho Municipality’s tourist listings or the “Places to Visit” section of the PA’s diplomatic mission to Japan website. This implied that they were recognized by Palestinian sources as being part of the country’s heritage. But the information about them was hazy, as if their existence was being acknowledged but at the same time they weren’t being incorporated into the itineraries of the growing Palestinian cultural tourism industry. Palestinian tour organizers I spoke to dismissed my inquiries, saying only that “I’ve never been there” or “we don’t take groups there.” There was, I soon found, a very good reason for this.
The first site that mystified me is a cluster of remains south of Jerusalem, close to the recently-expanded highway that runs through the occupied West Bank desert toward Jericho and the Jordan River. This comprises three buildings (or groups of buildings), only one of which was visible from the main road. This is an Ottoman caravanserai (most of the building is 16th century, although it may have older Mamluk elements), where merchants and their baggage-trains once took refuge for the night on the bandit-ridden road. It’s known as the Khan al-Ahmar or, in the way that many buildings in Palestine pick up Biblical names, as the Inn of the Good Samaritan, a reference to one of Jesus’ parables.
The other two buildings in the cluster are the monasteries of St. Euthymius and St. Martyrius, both founded in the fifth century. Along with other cells, monasteries and lavras (groups of isolated hermits’ dwellings) of the Desert Fathers, these are some of the most ancient Christian monasteries in existence and immensely important to Palestine’s historical, architectural and religious heritage. In the 2008 edition of The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide From Earliest Times to 1700, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Professor of New Testament at the Ecole Biblique et Archeologique Francaise, Jerusalem refers to the Monastery of St. Euthymius as a “forlorn ruin surrounded by graceless factories.” The factories Murphy-O’Connor mentions are those of Mishor Adumim, the industrial section of the sprawling and illegal settlement of Maale Adumim, which is a key part of Israel’s division of the occupied West Bank into unviable bantustans. Assuming that Murphy-O’Connor, researching the 2008 edition of his guide, saw it “forlorn” and abandoned in perhaps 2007, St. Euthymius’ monastery was not to remain a “ruin” for much longer.
Maale Adumim is apparently, like some of the Etzion Bloc settlements (which are increasingly selling themselves as wine tourism destinations), seeking to add heritage tourism to its economic activities. In 2009 an invitation to the opening of a “mosaic museum” at the Inn of the Good Samaritan was circulated around Israeli ministries and media. “On Behalf of the Head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories,” it offered a range of activities at the 4 June launch, including tours by “Civil Administration’s Staff Officer of Archeology and Antiquities.” Tellingly, descriptions of the attractions on offer emphasized Second Temple-era and Byzantine Christian remains, but made no mention of the Ottoman and possibly earlier Islamic buildings of the caravanserai which is the core of the Khan al-Ahmar site. If there was ever any doubt on the subject, Israeli archaeology was exposed as being entirely complicit with the occupation, sidelining Palestine’s Islamic heritage, appropriating its Christian sites (and in doing so also sidelining Palestine’s own historic Christian communities) and highlighting its Jewish remains above those of the main other cultures which have enriched this land.
The website of the Maale Adumim settlement offered an insight into the activities at the three sites over the last couple of years. It declared that “The Municipality of Maale Adumim is developing the Good Samaritan’s Inn and the hills surrounding it as a tourist complex, aiming to meet the demand for modern tourism services without losing the site’s unique ancient nature” (“The Good Samaritan Inn”). The site details plans for “restoration of the existing building to accommodate incoming groups, including a praying and religious studies section. Development will include a motel and restaurant modeled in an authentic ‘khan’ style.” In the future, a 150-room “ecological hotel” will be built on the cliffs overlooking the site.
By February 2011, the final pieces fell into place when the website of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) declared “New Sites’ Opening – The Inn of The Good Samaritan and more.” The INPA runs nature reserves and archaeological parks in both Israel and the occupied West Bank, including the one at Sebastia, which was previously reported on by The Electronic Intifada. According to the website, the Inn of The Good Samaritan, and the Euthymius and Martyrius monasteries are due to open to the public in July 2011. In addition, the mosaic museum and archaeological remains at these sites will also be opened to tourists. The entrance fees for the sites will pour into Israeli state coffers and, as they are situated within a settlement and will very possibly be run by settler staff, Palestinians will most likely be denied even the privilege of paying the 21 shekel ($6 US) ticket price to the Israeli occupation authorities to visit their own heritage.
A second example lies in the green, intricately curving hills of the central West Bank. On the road between Ramallah and Nablus, near the village of Luban al-Sharqiya and the small town of Sinjel, is Khirbet Seilun, or Tel Shilo. The layers of habitation deposits at the tel (an archaeological term referring to a hill made up of centuries of building remains) show that people have lived there since at least the Canaanite Bronze Age, and there are significant Roman, Byzantine and Islamic remains. Khirbet Seilun is regarded as sacred by some Jews because is has been identified by some historians as the Biblical Shiloh, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept for a period on its travels north from Mount Sinai. Excavations in the early 1980s uncovered remains from the Canaanite and Israelite periods, but nothing resembling the Tabernacle, the building which may have housed the Ark at Shiloh. More recent archaeological digs have been controversial because they have uncovered a spectacular Byzantine mosaic which some settlers want to move so they can continue searching for the Israelite sacred remains they believe lie beneath the three Byzantine churches and two small mosques on the site.
Unlike the Khan al-Ahmar and monasteries of St. Euthymius and St. Martyrius, a visitor center at Tel Shilo is already functioning. Rather than being managed by the INPA, the Tel Shilo site is run by the extremist settlers of Shiloh who, journalists and human rights groups report have been responsible for innumerable attacks, including shootings and arson, against neighboring Palestinian villages and olive farmers. The Shiloh settlement was founded in the 1970s by the Gush Emunim terrorist group, which exploded car bombs against the mayors of several Palestinian cities in 1980, seriously injuring Bassam Shakaa, then mayor of Nablus (see “Shiloh: An Obstacle to Peace,” Time, 13 February 1978 and Nur Masalha, Imperial Israel and the Palestinians, 2000, p 123). Shiloh and the archaeological remains it has appropriated are now marketed as a destination for pilgrimages and religious tourism but, perhaps unsurprisingly given the beliefs of the settlers here, some non-Jewish tourists report being turned away.
Controversy over the archaeological heritage of Khirbet Seilun looks set to escalate. Last month, The Jewish Press reported that the Israeli government had authorized large-scale new excavations at the site. The aims of the excavations were explicitly said by the paper to be “to showcase the life and times of ancient Israel,” which suggests that the archaeologists carrying them out have specific intentions as to what they will find – or not find (“New archaeological effort seeks to unearth Mishkan’s secrets,” 23 March 2011). The article did not name the director of the new excavations, but previous digs at Khirbet Seilun have been led by Rachel Ehrlich, a hard-line settler who, in a profile on one Christian Zionist website, was described as being “determined to put the site [of Shiloh] on the map [as] the place where the people of Israel first entered the land, where religious life for the Jewish people was centered for the 369 years the Tabernacle stood there” (“Uncovering our Past, Christian Friends of Israel Communities).
Tzofia Dorot, the manager of the Shiloh visitor center, made some telling comments to The Jewish Press about the importance to settler public relations of Israel’s appropriation of heritage sites. She claimed that Shiloh has been “seeing more and more local and foreign visitors” and that three companies with proposals for a “major visitor center” had visited the settlement. This activity occurred in spite of the skepticism from archaeologists about whether Dorot’s “headline-making discoveries” were really likely to be made.
Tzofia Dorot’s comments to The Jewish Press illustrate why the expropriation of Palestinian heritage sites – whether by the State of Israel or by settler groups acting as its proxies – has a significance well beyond the loss of individual buildings or artifacts. In the eyes of settlers and their supporters, in Israel and beyond, stealing Palestinian archaeological and architectural heritage isn’t just about attracting tourists with open wallets. It’s about asserting settler claims to the land, by emphasizing Jewish history over and above that of the peoples and faiths who came before and after them in Palestine. It is also about presenting the Jewish people as the legitimate custodians of Palestine’s Christian heritage, diverting attention from Israeli oppression of the world’s oldest and longest-lived Christian communities and reinforcing misconceptions about the Palestinian struggle as a religious rather than anti-colonial movement. As Dorot sees it, the international “effort to discredit and delegitimize our connection to the Land of Israel is gathering steam.” Thus, showing settler archaeology to gullible tourists, she believes, will be vital in countering “the international community’s clamoring for Israel to make concessions.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian heritage organizations such as PACE and Riwaq are increasingly using models of community participation to raise awareness of the value of archaeological remains and the importance of protecting them (Ghattas J. Sayej, “Palestinian archaeology: knowledge, awareness and cultural heritage, Present Pasts, Vol 2, 2010). In Jerusalem, the Centre for Jerusalem Studies and Emek Shaveh are fighting official and settler expropriation of cultural and historical sites. But defending Palestine’s cultural heritage from the Israeli state and settlers is still low on the priority list.
Archaeologists, including Hamdan Taha, director-general of the PA’s Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage, have voiced their concerns. And in March 2010 Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Tunisia submitted a provisional agenda item on Netanyahu’s claims at the Haram al-Khalil and Rachel’s Tomb to the UNESCO executive board meeting, noting that “much of the settlement enterprise is concentrated around archaeological areas where Israel makes claims of exclusive heritage, including the settlements of Shilo, Bet El and Kiryat Arba” (see UNESCO Executive Board, Hundred and eighty-fourth session, Item 37 of the provisional agenda, 19 March 2010 [PDF]). After initial failure to reach an agreement, UNESCO declared that it “regretted” Israel’s inclusion of the Haram al-Khalil and Bilal ibn Rahmeh Mosque on a list of its heritage sites and urged it to remove it; it also “regretted” Israel’s “unilateral actions” regarding historical sites in Jerusalem; no mention was made of Tel Shilo (see UNESCO Executive Board, Hundred and eighty-fifth session, Decisions adopted by the executive board, 19 November 2010 [PDF]). But much greater international recognition of and opposition to Israel’s cultural colonialism is needed, if Palestine’s heritage is to be preserved, both for its cultural significance and economic potential.
Sarah Irving is a freelance writer. She worked with the International Solidarity Movement in the occupied West Bank in 2001-02 and with Olive Co-op, promoting fair trade Palestinian products and solidarity visits, in 2004-06. She now writes full-time on a range of issues, including Palestine. Her first book, Gaza: Beneath the Bombs, co-authored with Sharyn Lock, was published in January 2010. She is currently working on a new edition of the Bradt Guide to Palestine and a biography of Leila Khaled.
In many Jewish circles today it has become more important to believe in Israel than to believe in God. – Richard Forer
Richard Forer joined the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for the same reason that most Jews joined this Israel lobby. He refers to what he calls “the primal fear of many Jews around the world — the fear of another holocaust.”
He felt strong support for Israel at the time of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and the capture of Israeli Gilad Shalit. However, some of his friends disagreed.
Retelling a story of his discussion with a friend, Forer raises every single argument and justification ever offered for the occupation of Palestine.
As a result, Forer decided to study the history, “something I’d never really done. What I found astounded me and blew all of my beliefs apart”.
He found out that everything he, as a Jewish American, had grown up believing was false.
He discovered that the propaganda about Israel wanting peace was not true. What Israel really wanted was more land. “That’s always been their primary objective; peace is secondary to that.”
He learned that Israel’s pre-emptive attacks on Egypt, Syria and Jordan in 1967 were based on a falsehood that they would have attacked Israel.
Forer discovered that stories put out by Bill Clinton and Dennis Ross after the 2000 Camp David summit were also lies about how Yasser Arafat “would not go along with a very fair and generous offer made by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak“.
The entire history of Israel and the Palestinians put out by Israel is deceitful, according to Forer.
Growing up, “I identified more as a Jew than as an American… I felt that Israel was the one place where Jews could go if ever they were persecuted again.”
In his book, Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion, Forer tells of how he changed his thinking about Israel as a benign and democratic state to a tribe of people dominated by fear.
“If Jews looked at the history and not at the fictions, their fear would crumble,” says Forer.
“They would realize that the Palestinians were not only human but that the Jews have dehumanized the Palestinians through their indoctrination.”
Forer’s transformation took place at the time of the second Lebanese war. The typical response to his transformation was to call him a self-hating Jew.
Forer makes the important point, after his visit to the West Bank, that the Palestinians and Arabs are not angry at Jews but at the Zionist ideology and the government of Israel that oppresses them.
“Every single person I met [in the West Bank] said it’s not about Jews or Muslims, it’s about human beings, it’s a human rights issue.”
Interestingly, Forer notes that the government of Israel does not represent the Jewish people. “That’s just an excuse they make.
Most of the Jewish people in Israel are apathetic. They don’t know what’s going on.”
They don’t even know that the Separation Wall is built mostly in Palestinian territory.
“They just live in denial. If the Israelis were honest, they’d say if the Palestinians would just lie down and do what we tell them to do, then we’ll have peace and maybe we’ll give them 8 to 10 per cent of Palestine.”
In his book, Forer debunks all of the arguments that people make to defend Israel against criticism.
He talks about Hebron, the only Palestinian community with a Jewish presence. He writes about the Separation Wall and about settlements and the seizure of land by Israelis.
Virtually any argument that he heard before his transformation Forer goes into and shows what the truth really is.
A Jew, brought up on Israeli propaganda, had his early beliefs challenged by friends. His honest study of the facts resulted in a monumental transformation.
His courageous decision to share that experience led to the publication of his book Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion.
The blind will continue to label Forer a self-hating Jew. This will come from apathetic Israelis and Zionists who have fed on fear and falsehood.
Those who read his book may discover that integrity is an antidote for fear of the truth.
Israeli army report relies on confessions of “tortured” teenagers and does not excuse Awarta’s collective punishment.
Yesterday, the Israeli government released what they called “a breakthrough” in the Itamar case, the murders of five members of the Fogel family in the West Bank settlement of Itamar last month. The headline from Ynet news called the Itamar case “solved.”
Since the March 11th murders, the Shin Bet, the IOF and the police have routinely raided and besieged Awarta, the nearby Palestinian village, continually if sporadically detaining villagers, enforcing curfews, and curtailing media access. Immediately following the murders, the entire village was declared a “closed military zone” and drones flew over head as the village rationed water, food and gas.
Between 600 and 700 villagers have been arrested, Ma’an news reported. The human rights advocacy group Addameer denounced the campaign in Awarta as one of indiscriminate collective punishment and called for intervention from the international community. There were hundreds of arrests and “no arrest warrants were presented,” the advocacy group said.
Ghassan Khatib, a representative from the Palestinian Authority called the events in Awarta, “endless campaigns of barbaric acts committed by the Israeli occupation army against the people of Awarta.”
There was no official Israeli news coming out of Awarta due to a media gag-order, but on Sunday, April 17th Israeli authorities announced their breakthrough. Two young men (who share the same family name but are not directly related), Amjad Awad, 19, and Hakim Awad 18, admitted to committing the murders.
The IOF’s report, picked up by Haaretz, the New York Times and Arutz Sheva without scrutiny, offers a play-by-play accounting of the murders. The two suspects were brought to the Fogel family home where they, according to the military, detailed their crime. After stealing a Itamar neighbor’s M16, they stabbed two sleeping children, shot the Fogel parents, and silenced their crying baby with a knife.
Their confessions took place after prolonged interrogations, however, and may be the result of coercion.
“Five months ago Hakim underwent surgery,” said Nawef Awad, Hakim’s mother to Ynet. “I’m sure he was tortured and forced into confessing.”
Hakim was unable do carry out such a gruesome crime, said Nawef, because he was still recovering from a November testicular surgery. She also stated that on March 11th, the night of the murders, “he was at home and went to bed at 9:30.”
Hakim’s sister Julia was also detained, interrogated and put under “severe psychological pressure,” Nawef said.
Itamar is one of 121 Israeli colonies located in the Palestinian West Bank which, under international law, are illegal. Among Palestinians, Itamar has a reputation of being one of the more rigid, Orthodox settlements.
Following the murder of our comrade and friend Viktor, we, activists of the International Solidarity Movement, would like to reiterate our commitment to remaining in Gaza. We will continue to work with and live among the Palestinian population as we continue the work which Vik was so committed too.
In these days of mourning, Palestinians have organized numerous memorials for Vik; they constantly remind us how sorry they are to have lost him, of how they loved him, his closeness, his affection, and his indignation at what is happening here in Gaza. We know that the group that perpetrated this horrible crime does not in any way represent the Palestinian society. The Palestinians of Gaza are our friends, our colleagues, and our reason for being here; we will continue to stand by their side.
As we had done when Vittorio was with us, we will continue to stand alongside the Palestinian people, we will continue to struggle against the occupation, we will continue to accompany farmers to their lands along the border, we will continue to participate in demonstrations, and we will continue to tell the world what happens here in the Gaza Strip, Palestine. We think that Victor would agree with Che Guevara when he said, “Don’t cry for me if I die, do what I was doing and I will live on in you.” The best way to honor Vik is to continue the work that he was doing. In particular we will soon begin crewing a boat whose mission is to monitor the violation of human rights in Palestinian waters. This boat will have its maiden voyage on April 20: Vik had strongly backed this project and he had enthusiastically participated in its realization. Vik has been an inspiration to all of us, we all hope to live up to his example. In a documentary about him, Vik said he would have liked to be remembered by Nelson Mandela’s quote; “A victor is merely a dreamer who never stops dreaming.” Your dreams are our dreams; we will never forget you, Vik.
Adie Mormech (In Switzerland, English and French) 0041799407215
Inge Neefs (In Gaza, English, French, Dutch) 00972597738436
Silvia Todescini (In Gaza, Italian) 00972595447660
Mohammed Al Zaeem (In Gaza, Arabic) 00972597355082
An Israeli gunboat has entered the Lebanese territorial waters in a fresh violation of the country’s sovereignty, the Lebanese army says.
The army said in a statement that the gunboat entered illegally at 7:30 a.m. local time on Monday, a Press TV correspondent reported from Beirut.
The Israeli gunboat entered the Lebanese territorial waters on the coastline of the southern border town of Naqoura before returning, the statement said.
On Friday, six Israeli fighter jets violated Lebanon’s airspace and flew over the Shebaa Farms, Nabatieh, Marjayoun, Hasbaya and Kfar-Kila, said the Lebanese army.
Meanwhile, Israeli tanks made an incursion into the Lebanese territory on Thursday.
Two Israeli Merkava tanks infiltrated four meters across the Blue Line in the vicinity of al-Adeisseh before withdrawing.
Israel violates Lebanon’s sovereignty on an almost daily basis under the pretext that the infringements have surveillance purposes.
The Lebanese government, the Hezbollah resistance movement, and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) have repeatedly criticized Israel over its violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty.
UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which brokered a ceasefire in the war of aggression Israel launched against Lebanon in 2006, calls on Israel to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
True we are a Republic with elected president and members of both houses, Senate and House of Representatives (not House of Lords). However when it comes to the “people’s houses” there is no president, there is only a King, and the King is always the Israeli Prime Minister. Welcome to America’s Knesset. So far Israel has cost the US tax payers over $ Trillion ($1,000,000,000,000,) just imagine what this $ Trillion could do for our country, in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Montana, Michigan, Vermont and New Hampshire not to mention all the other states.
In two separate statements coming out of Tel-Aviv and Tel-Aviv West (Washington-DC) both the Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and House Speaker John Boehner announced that Bibi Netanyahu is invited to speak before a Joint Session of Congress, an honor that is afforded to very few heads of state. For Netanyahu this will not be the first but his second time before a Joint Session, the first was on July 10, 1996. Bibi is the fourth Israeli prime minister invited to speak at the Joint Session of the American Knesset.
John Boehner who represents a poor and “working class district” much run down, can only hear the “cash register” as he announced through his spokesman “America and Israel are the closest of friends and allies, and we look forward to hearing the Prime Minister’s views on how we can continue working together for peace, freedom and security”.
Nancy Pelosi also an ardent and loyal Zionists seconded the statement of John Boehner as she “Looks forward to the Prime Minister’s address to the Joint Session during this critical time in history for the Middle East”.
For his part Bibi Netanyahu announced to his Likud members that his speech before the Joint Session of Congress will cover two fundamental issues and priorities for Israel stating “The two most important are, first of all, Palestinians recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people and the second principle is real security arrangements on the ground”. Of course Netanyahu said nothing and will say nothing about ending the Jewish Occupation that began in 1967, will say nothing about the eviction and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, will say nothing about house eviction and house demolitions to make room for “Jewish Settlers” and will say nothing about the 600 “security checkpoints” with daily humiliations of Palestinians choking their freedom and economy. Only Israel can ask for things (Chosen People) but not the Palestinians, they can only accept what the Jews give them.
Of course Netanyahu knows he is at home in the American Knesset, with political support far more than he has in the Israeli Knesset where he is often hounded by the opposition, as opposed to the American Knesset where members of both houses will wait in line to kiss his ring if not his behind. In the words of Aluf Benn “they love him there or at least scared of the lobby that supports him”. Of course we all know that AIPAC, the American Jewish Party is the majority party in the American Knesset that counts on 90 Senators among its members and counting on some 300 members of the House as members also. The American Jewish Party is the true majority party in the American Congress with no apposition, and if there is an opposition, no one dares to speak up.
Netanyahu’s invitation to the Joint Session is orchestrated to thwart international efforts by the Palestinians to gain official recognition in the UN for a Palestinian State within 67 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital, an effort that will for sure be opposed by the American Knesset if not by the White House.
To preempt this effort, Netanyahu will most likely announce a limited deployment of the Occupation Army from the West Bank, a deployment similar to the one that took place in Gaza, making sure the areas evacuated by the Jewish Army are put under siege, increasing the number of security checkpoints. Of course there is never any talks of evacuating the settlements (Israel for sure will ask the American Knesset compensation exceeding $2 million dollars for each person evacuated and at least $5 million for each “trailer caravan” evacuated, making sure Israel milk the American tax payers as it expand settlements and as it evacuate “illegal settlements” and with the American Knesset more than happy to foot the bill for and on behalf of poor American tax payers who are held hostage by the American Jewish Party and its members in Congress.
Of course Netanyahu knows he is the Boss in the American Knesset and he wants Barack Obama to know that very well. When it comes to the American Knesset, it is Bibi, the Israeli Prime Minister and not the President of the United States that has a say so.
Obama who is often being accused by Israelis and their partners in the US and among Zionist and Christian Evangelical circles as Anti-Israeli and Anti-Semite and lacking birth credential to become the president of the United State, notwithstanding that his entire Middle East team is made up of Israeli loyalists if not agents. And as president has the most “Zionists” in his cabinet and his inner circles of advisers.
It is this close circle of Zionists that made it impossible for Barack Obama to deliver on his promise in Cairo to bring about peace, and it is this close circle of Israel loyalists that has backtracked on the issue of settlements, offering Israel tens of billions to stop moving few trailer caravans with one F-35 for each Israeli caravan removed from the West Bank.
Don’t worry about Barack Obama, he does not have what it takes to bring about peace in the Middle East based on a two state solution one is Israel and the other is Palestine within 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. No one sitting in the White House dares to announce such principle and continues to remain president of the United States for 24 hours, and President Obama knows that too.
That is why the Palestinian leadership must and could not count on the US supporting their demands to the UN General Assembly and for sure the US will not dare even abstain and will for sure “Veto” such a resolution. It vetoed the UN Security Council Resolution calling for an end to the Israeli settlements, and does Ramallah really think that Washington with its American Knesset could support an independent free state in Palestine? We all must remember, the US was never a fair and honest broker, and the US was never fully committed to Israel ending its Occupation that began in 1967, and the US not only gives political support to Israel at the UN it also gives it money and weapons to keep its occupation and to use such weapons to kill and murder innocent Palestinians as it did in its War on Gaza and as it continues to use American weapons and planes to bomb Palestinians on a daily basis. As long as there is an American Knesset in Washington forget about the US being a partner in any peace in the Middle East. The US must first be free from Israel before it can bring freedom to the Palestinians.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sami Jamil Jadallah is born in the Palestinian city of El-Bireh (presently under Israeli Military and Settlers Occupation). Immigrated to the US in 62. After graduating from high school in Gary, Indiana was drafted into the US Army (66-68) received the Leadership Award from the US 6th Army NCO Academy in Ft. Lewis, Washington. Five of us brothers were in US military service about the same time (Nabil-Army), (Lutfi-Marines), (Sam-Army) and (Taiseer-Marines) with two nephews presently with US Army. Graduated from …Read Full Bio
Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy sent a message to the African Union in their jointly written April 14 op-ed: They’ll block any attempt to negotiate peace in Libya that doesn’t include Gaddafi’s ouster and the opening of Libya’s economy.
On April 14 US president Barak Obama, British prime minister David Cameron and French president Nicolas Sarkozy wrote an op-ed titled “Libya’s pathway to peace.” Appearing in the International Herald Tribune and two other newspapers, the op-ed set out US, British and French goals for Libya. One would be peace, but the pathway was to be Gaddafi’s exit, and his replacement by the Benghazi rebels.
While not presented as such, the op-ed was in fact a rejection of an African Union proposal for a negotiated settlement.
The AU had dispatched a delegation to Tripoli to meet with Gaddafi four days earlier, on April 10. The delegation proposed an immediate cease-fire, delivery of humanitarian aid, and negotiations between the Libyan government and the Benghazi rebels. Gaddafi accepted. But when the delegation arrived in Benghazi the next day, the rebels let it be known that the only peace they were interested in was one that saw Gaddafi, “his sons and his inner circle leave immediately.” (1)
US secretary of state Hilary Clinton quickly echoed the rebels’ position. Nothing could be resolved, she said, without “the departure of Gaddafi from power, and from Libya.” (2)
Peace was impossible in Libya without Gaddafi’s exit, the leaders insisted in their op-ed, because Gaddafi was the main threat to peace. It was “impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Gaddafi in power” they wrote, and added that “so long as Gaddafi is in power, NATO must maintain its operations.” Their case was based on the fiction that the conflict in Libya isn’t a civil war between rebels in the east and loyalists in the west but between the state and the people, as was true in Tunisia and Egypt and is true in Bahrain and Yemen.
As for Gaddafi being an obstacle to peace, that was belied by his acceptance of the AU peace proposal. But the armed uprising has, from the beginning, had nothing to do with peace. It has always been about regime-change.
Gaddafi is wrongly fit by the three leaders, as well as by supporters of the Western military intervention, into the mold of Bahrain’s Khalifa regime, which has used armed force to violently suppress a popular peaceful revolt. The uprising in Libya was armed, not peaceful, and while it may be popular in the east among tribalists, royalists, and radical Islamists led by neo-liberals connected to the United States, it has little popular support elsewhere in the country.
Despite casting the Gaddafi government in the role of the Khalifa regime, the leaders make no reference to the latter, which remains largely invisible in discussions of the “Arab spring” and which provides the Pentagon with a headquarters for its Fifth Fleet and runs a low-tax, no minimum-wage, foreign investment-friendly economy. If the US, British and French leaders were truly interested in protecting civilians they would have long ago imposed a no-fly zone over Bahrain and ordered the Saudi monarchy, surely the most regressive force on the planet, to withdraw its troops from Bahrain. But what they’re really interested in achieving in Libya is what was long ago achieved in Bahrain: a neo-colonial puppet regime that opens its country to Western military bases and unconditional exploitation by foreign corporations and investors.
And so Obama, Cameron, and Sarkozy used their op-ed to declare that there must be “a genuine transition” in Libya “led by a new generation of leaders” and that “in order for that transition to succeed, Gaddafi must go and go for good.” Significantly, the transition would usher in the new Western puppet. There are two indications of this.
The first is the nature of the rebel leadership. Its key members have important connections to the United States. Khalifa Heftir, a former Libyan Army colonel, has spent the last 25 years living seven miles from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia with no obvious means of support. (3) Mahmoud Jibril “earned his PhD in 1985 from the University of Pittsburgh under the late Richard Cottam, a former US intelligence official in Iran who became a renowned political scientist specializing on the Middle East.” Jibril “spent years working with Gaddafi’s son Saif on political and economic reforms … (b)ut after hardliners in the regime stifled the reforms, Jibril quit in frustration and left Libya about a year ago.” (4) Jibril has been out of Libya since the uprising began, meeting with foreign leaders. (5) Then there is the rebel government’s finance minister, Ali Tarhouni, who has been in exile for the last 35 years. His latest job was teaching economics at the University of Washington.
The second indication is provided in the three leaders’ op-ed. Libya, they write, must “develop the institutions to underpin a prosperous and open society.” Revealingly, the three leaders tell Libyans what institutions they should develop. But what if Libyans don’t want an open society at this point in their development? What if they want what the United States, Britain and France have had through long parts of their history (and still do have): a society closed to outsiders in strategic areas?
While the institutions of an open society aren’t exclusively economic, an open society is understood to be one whose doors are open to unconditional integration into the global economy. This differs from the Gaddafi government’s strategic integration, based on linkages aimed at increasing real wages in Libya rather than maximizing returns to foreign investors. This isn’t to say that Libya hasn’t welcomed foreign investment where it makes sense for the development of the country, but it is likely that the open society Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy foresee for Libya, has little to do with what makes sense for Libya, and everything to do with what makes sense for US, British and French investors and corporations.
1. Kareem Fahim, “Truce plan for Libya is rejected by rebels”, The New York Times, April 11, 2011.
2. David E. Sanger, “Possible Libya stalemate puts stress on U.S. policy”, The New York Times, April 11, 2011.
3. “Professor: In Libya, a civil war, not uprising”, NPR, April 2, 2011. http://www.npr.org/2011/04/02/135072664/professor-in-libya-a-civil-war-not-uprising
4. Farah Stockman, “Libyan reformer new face of rebellion”, The Boston Globe, March 28, 2011.
5. Kareem Fahim, “Rebel leadership in Libya shows strain”, The New York Times, April 3, 2011.
The news and entertainment media love anniversaries. So it is strange that the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War has been so low key. The BBC has a regular item each evening explaining the Secession crisis, in contrast to the shrugs of the US channels. The New York Times has been the only publication to pay some attention but on April 12 it ran a piece by Ken Burns, co-director of the celebrated PBS series, pointing out that notwithstanding its centrality in the national story the conflict does not always receive the attention it merits. He compared this phenomenon to the ‘acoustic shadow’ noticed during the Civil War itself whereby towns quite close to a battlefield were bathed in silence while quite distant locations could distinctly hear the roar of the fusillades and the canon’s bark. PBS is airing a re-run of the Civil War programmes but extensive cuts have reduced the fascinating and acute commentaries of the featured historians.
Harold Meyerson has argued in the Washington Post (14/04/11) that the issues that sparked the mighty conflict continually re-appear in new forms. In the 1860s the roots of the clash lay in rival labor systems, with Northerners fearing the expansionist longings of the ‘Slave Power’. Today, Meyerson points out, the Republicans – the then champions of an expansive ‘free labor’ regime embracing public education and the right to organize, are now the sworn foes of public expenditure and trade union rights.
While this observation is on the mark it still does not explain why so many avoid the topic. Apparently – even a century and a half later – there is no commonly-agreed narrative of the meaning of the war. What can still be called Northern opinion insists that the war was about slavery and race, something that many Southerners will not accept. Those South Carolinians who observed the anniversary of their own state’s secession last December portrayed it as a brave blow for state’s rights and minimal government.
It is easy for Northerners to see the bad faith in Southern denials that the glorious cause was no more than a wretched defense of racial bondage. The most insistent secessionists were indeed the large slave-owners, and the Confederacy’s very belated recourse to the freeing of some slaves to form a Confederate regiment cannot alter the fact that the rebellion was animated by the desire to insulate slavery from the peril of a Republican president and the persisting contempt of so many Northerners. Slavery was a delicate institution that could not be subjected to the rough and tumble of party politics.
But if Northerners can spot the beam in the eyes of the Southerners they don’t notice the mote in their own. This is the more difficult to do because it requires simultaneous attention to two considerations. Firstly, in April 1861, and for many months thereafter, slavery remained entirely lawful in the Union. Secondly, so long as both sides remained attached to slavery, the Union case against secession would remain flawed at best. Modern liberal and democratic theory allows for a right of self-determination and each of the seceding states had agreed the fateful step only after the deliberation of a representative body as determined by the prevailing authorities. Of course the slaves themselves had no say in the matter, but neither did they at most places in the North.
Indeed in February 1861 the Congress had endorsed a Thirteenth Amendment – never subsequently ratified by the states and very different from the later one — which would have renounced any right or ability to challenge slavery and reserved to the slave states themselves the entire responsibility for regulating slavery. Lincoln gave his support. Many urged that the Constitution itself already entailed such a concession but it remained unfortunate nevertheless. Lincoln wished to re-assure loyal slaveholders that they had nothing to fear from his administration.
Until president and Congress could agree initiatives to suppress slavery they could not offer abolitionism as the justification for making war against the rebels. Of course the Union had the right to condemn and deplore Secession, and even to refuse to recognise it, and to devise peaceful ways of dissuading them. But Lincoln himself in his first speech to the House of Representatives had insisted in the most emphatic terms that all peoples have a right of revolution and that this extended to communities that were in a minority nationally so long at they had a local majority.
In fact nineteenth-century democrats generally supported national secessions where this received local support, as it did when Belgium seceded from the Netherlands in 1830 or Norway from Sweden in 1905. However Lincoln was to specify an exception to this rule in his speech in Peoria in 1854. In that speech he says that slaveholders cannot claim this right as against a free community. In the US case acquiescence in secession would have allowed the North and the West to become a large and progressive state, a sort of vast and diversified Canada, hospitable to free labor, social protection and gun control. The Confederacy meanwhile, would have become a republican version of the ramshackle Brazilian Empire, a major slave society that eventually managed to shed slavery in a largely peaceful manner.
So the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment had a bearing on the legitimacy of the war against the secession, clearly putting the Union in the right. The virtuous measures taken in 1863 and after lent a quite new purpose to the struggle, rescuing it from its deficiency deficit. Karl Marx went further, since he was confident that the slavery issue could not be kept out of the conflict and the North would be driven to attack slavery since it was the very basis of the Confederate regime.
The coming months and years are going to furnish a succession of thorny topics for the commemoration industry – dating from Reconstruction as well as the War – and it will be fascinating to see how they are navigated. The terrible destructiveness of the war and its very unsatisfactory ultimate outcome for African Americans are issues that will have to be addressed.
But however the later sequence of events is addressed it remains highly unsatisfactory to allow the war’s inception to be enveloped by the ‘acoustic shadow’. We live in a world where the US and other Western governments believe themselves entitled to resort to military intervention almost at will, though the more scrupulous crave the rubber stamp of the UN Security Council, notwithstanding that the stamp of approval is issued from a supine position.
In this context a willingness on the part of the United States to admit the possibility that the war was not the best response to Secession would be a healthy sign. (Recent books by Drew Gilpin Faust, — This Republic of Suffering – and Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club is encouraging auguries.) A willingness to grant this, even if combined with the severest stricture on slavery and Jim Crow, could help the US to find a post-imperial vocation and to defeat threats to free and thriving labor. It would also help to clarify how Washington would react to any future wish of a state to withdraw from the Union. If that wish was reached by clear majorities, after democratic debate, is it really conceivable that anyone would wish the matter to be settled by tanks and aerial bombardment.
Robin Blackburn teaches at the University of Essex in the UK and is the author of An Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln, and The American Crucible, both Verso 2011. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org