In honor of the sixty-third anniversary of Israel’s independence from the proprietors of the land on which it was established, the Israeli embassy in Panama is issuing a four-part magazine series entitled “Israel: 63 years of constant progress”. The first 30-page installment arrived last week with the morning La Prensa and dealt with typical cultural themes such as hummus, shawarma, and the coexistence in the Israeli democratic “oasis” of various ethnicities enjoying equal rights. Cultural trivia items included that “Israelis drink 3.5 cups of coffee per day”, “A cup of coffee costs 4 dollars on average”, and “Because they are adventurous, Israelis love extreme sports”.
Higher-caliber trivia—such as the success of an Israeli invention for an electric hair removal device, which according to Israel’s Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs “makes women happy all over the world” and should thus be used in order to counter “barbs of criticism” levied against Jewish state on account of its barbarous policies—was not on this occasion made available to Panamanians. Nor was it explained whether the multi-ethnic democracy’s Afghan Jewish inhabitants, represented by a photograph of women in blue burqas, had access to alternate ensembles for use during skydiving and other extreme activities, or how vast portions of the Israeli population living below the poverty line can spend 14 dollars a day on coffee.
The theme of the second supplement in the anniversary series, which arrived yesterday, is Israeli-Panamanian relations. The magazine cover features a handshake, with one hand patterned after the Israeli flag and the other after the Panamanian one. Lest there remain any doubt as to economic motives for political obsequiousness to Israel, this installment—like the first—is transparently interspersed with full-page advertisements from Panamanian banks and related institutions congratulating Israel on 63 years of independence. Also interspersed, however, is the detail that the “land of Israel” was in 1947 “also known as Palestine”.
On page 15 of the magazine it is announced that “Panama played an important role in the processes that led to the creation of the state of Israel”, thanks especially to a certain Eduardo Morgan Alvarez who “understood the injustices that the Jews had suffered” and who was appointed by Panamanian President Enrique A. Jimenez to represent the country before the U.N. Palestine Commission. According to the magazine, Morgan’s most important achievement “was to persuade smaller countries, primarily in Latin America, to support the U.N. [partition] resolution”.
Regarding Israeli acquisition of an air force, meanwhile, consider the following paragraph:
“The first planes arrived to [Israel] by way of clandestine operations, due to the arms embargo by the West. One such operation involved transferring 13 planes from the U.S. to Panama, registering them under the name of Líneas Aéreas de Panama, LAPSA, a company that was created precisely for this purpose. The first plane arrived to Israel on June 21, 1948.”
Other bright spots in the history of Israeli-Panamanian relations appear on page 17, where we learn that current Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli’s March 2010 visit to Israel and signing of five accords prompted the Israelis to “issue a page of postage stamps in his honor”.
As for the report that bilateral trade between Israel and Panama increased 35 percent last year and that “Panama is one of Israel’s best trading partners in Latin America”, the sanctity of the arrangement is not without constraints—something confirmed by recently WikiLeaked cables indicating that Martinelli bowed to U.S. embassy pressure to cease providing contracts to the Israeli security firm Global CST. Run by former Head of the Operations Directorate of the IDF Israel Ziv, the firm’s regional accomplishments include employing an Argentine-born Israeli interpreter who endeavored to sell classified Colombian military documents to the FARC.
Of course, such trivia is irrelevant to Israel’s sixty-third anniversary of promoting conflict at home and abroad. Far more important is the recognition that “Israelis understand and appreciate good coffee, and they drink it the same way the Europeans do”, and that “Israel has the most divers per capita in the world, who enjoy world-renowned diving spots”.
-Belén Fernández may be contacted at: email@example.com
With Barada TV, the anti-Assad satellite channel referred to by Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, all roads lead to Israel.
According to an April 18 Washington Post report, the State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) has funneled up to $6 million to Syrian opposition groups such as Barada TV since 2006. MEPI is supervised by Tamara Wittes, a longtime pro-Israel advocate of democratic reform in the Middle East and author of Freedom’s Unsteady March: America’s Role in Building Arab Democracy. The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), where she coordinates democracy and human rights policy for the NEA Bureau, is a former director of the Saban Center’s Middle East Democracy and Development (MEDD) Project. As to the nature of MEDD’s concern for the Middle East, a New Yorker profile of Haim Saban is revealing:
His greatest concern, [Saban] says, is to protect Israel, by strengthening the United States-Israel relationship. At a conference last fall in Israel, Saban described his formula. His ‘three ways to be influential in American politics,’ he said, were: make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets.”
Asked to comment on the Post’s allegations, Wittes responded:
“There are a lot of organizations in Syria and other countries that are seeking changes from their government. That’s an agenda that we believe in and we’re going to support.”
According to the Post, the money was funneled through an LA-based non-profit, the Democracy Council. Jim Prince, the founder and president of the Democracy Council, is also an advisor to CyberDissidents.org, which was launched in 2008 by the Jerusalem-based Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies “to research and focus attention on the online activities of democracy advocates and dissidents in the Middle East, in the hope of empowering them at home and raising awareness of their plight abroad.”
Dissidents who put their faith in such improbable champions of their freedom would do well to remember the words of Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino mogul whose $4.5 million grant set up the institute in 2007. Referring to a conversation he had with Iranian dissident Amir Abbas Fakhravar at a neoconservative 2007 Prague conference on “Democracy and Security,” the Likudnik casino magnate reportedly said, “I like Fakhravar because he says that, if we attack, the Iranian people will be ecstatic.” But when another Iranian pro-democracy activist disputed that assumption, Adelson candidly responded:
“I really don’t care what happens to Iran. I am for Israel.”
Egyptian authorities have reportedly blocked access to the Sinai Peninsula to prevent activists from reaching the Gazan town of Rafah.
Pro-Palestinian activists plan to march to the Gaza Strip on Sunday, to mark the 63rd anniversary of the day of Nakba, or catastrophe, which marks the day when Israel occupied Palestinian lands.
The Egyptian army has warned against rallies at the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip.
However, a convoy left Cairo’s Liberation square on Saturday to head to Sinai.
Organizers say their march is to show that the Palestinian issue concerns all Arabs and supporting it remains a concern for Egyptians. The activists are calling for Palestinian statehood, an end to the Israeli occupation, as well as the release of all Palestinian prisoners.
Egyptians have frequently demanded that their military rulers abandon Israel and lift the blockade on the besieged Gaza Strip.
Egypt’s political parties say the Gaza blockade serves the interests of Israel and the US and threatens regional stability and independence.
Under the US-backed Mubarak regime, Egypt consistently served Tel Aviv’s interests in the region by helping to impose a crippling blockade on the impoverished Strip after the democratically-elected Hamas government took control of the territory in 2007.
Careful examination of numerous reports, and images/video footage, along with eye-witness and victim testimonies, clarify that Afghan civilians are the main targets of deadly attacks by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Although the Coalition forces claim that previous civilian massacres were accidental, Afghan-led peace movements believe that the killings are at best negligent to at worst intentional in nature.
Foreign military presence and intervention in the past ten years has worsened the Afghanistan situation while civilian casualties have increasingly created tension between the Coaliton forces, the Afghan government, and the people of Afghanistan.
These events have further brought into perspective the sheer human and material damages of the war. No one should become accustomed to or believe in this illogical method of bombing the country to peace.
This mentality is not justifiable and should not be the norm. Acts of violence must always be questioned. The people of Afghanistan want justice and accountability. Not surprisingly, they get the usual response from NATO – an initial denial of civilian casualties, a shift of blame on insurgency, occasional investigations with an admittance to a tweaked number of civilian deaths, and rarely a contrived apology. This has become a wanton pattern. Explaining away repeated deadly civilian attacks as “mistakes” is unacceptable. Furthermore, this proves that the military solution to Afghanistan is not a viable option.
NATO-led forces are equipped with the most advanced technology with the capability of zooming in on even the smallest of objects with precise vision. This begs the question as to why so many civilians are dying. To put it into perspective, below is a compiled short summary of recent NATO attacks:
It was reported that a total of three civilian atrocities were committed by the Coalition forces within the last two weeks. The correct estimate is actually four.
- Alahsay district of Kapisa province (5 civilians) Feb 17, 2011
- Khoygani District of Nangarhar province (6 civilians) Feb 20, 2011
- Ghazi Abad District of Kunar province (60+ civilians) Four Day Operation February 17/18/19 (different reports)
- Mountains of Nanglam in Kunar province (9 children/boys) March 1st, 2011
In Kapisa province on Thursday February 17th, Alahsay district Governor Mohammed Omari confirmed that five civilians were killed by an air strke from the NATO-led ISAF. The five civilians- three of them adult males and two children ages 12 and 13 – were reportedly without meat for the last few months and were desperate to hunt, hence why they were carrying bird hunting equipment.
In Nangarhar province on February 20th, an entire family of six was killed by a NATO air strike into their home in the Khoygani district. A photo captured by Reuters shows that the missile directly hit the roof of the family’s home. The parents and their four children were all inside when the reportedly stray missile landed in their residential community. The father was a soldier for the Afghan National Army who died of excessive bleeding after troops delayed his arrival to a hospital.
After a four day operation by ISAF and NATO in the Ghazi Abad District of Kunar over 65 civilians were killed, and this was confirmed by the governor of the province. More than half of the casualties were women and children. Contrary to the abundant evidence, NATO claimed no civilians were killed and later insisted that insurgents were among the deceased, although villagers rejected this assertion.
Two reports from the Afghan investigation team:
“As soon as the villagers heard the shooting and planes roaring overhead, they all struggled to take refuge in an old trench that was used by the mujahedeen during jihad [against the Russians].”
“Those who succeeded in reaching the trenches were killed when the trench collapsed after it was hit by rockets or bombs being fired from coalition helicopters,” he said. “Those who were on their way to the trench were killed by rockets or bullets. I visited the trench. I saw old, dried blood. I saw women and children’s garments. I saw blood-stained walls of the trench. I saw pieces of blankets and cotton from the quilts the villagers wrapped themselves in because of the cold weather.”
In an attempt to hide the news story ISAF detained two Al Jazeera journalists, Abdullah Nizami and Saeedullah Sahel during the investigation of the Kunar massacre. Samer Alawi, the Al Jazeera bureau chief in Kabul, strongly described the detentions of Nizami and Seedullah as repressive acts since it kept them from reporting. Another report released this past month by Columbia Journalism Review, has documented the difficulty of reporting honest accounts of the Afghanistan war.
On March 1st, NATO helicopters killed 9 Afghan boys, and injured one. This occurred without any warning signals as the children were targeted “one after another”. Aged seven to nine years old, the boys were from poor families, and were collecting firewood in the mountains. This is once again an attack on the young children of Kunar. How is it that NATO soldiers, again, confused children for insurgents, and this time by gunfire?
General David H. Petraeus apologized for this killing, yet regarding the previous attack in Kunar (that killed over 65 civilians), he erroneously accused the Afghan parents of intentionally burning their children due to cultural practices of discipline. Hamid Karzai’s spokesman Waheed Omar described the US Generals comments as being “outrageous, insulting and racist.” Karzai, himself, has rejected the apology. Mohammed Bismil, the brother of two of the boys killed, did not care for Petraeus’ apology but said, “The only option I have is to pick up a Kalashnikov, RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] or a suicide vest to fight.”
The father of two of the boys killed cried, “They don’t value humanity and don’t care about our children.”
Waheed Mujda, an Afghan political analyst stated that, “[for international forces], Afghan people’s blood is of no value. For the Americans, apologising for a mistake is a very big deal but for Afghans it is not. ISAF troop actions that raise anger among Afghans are a major reason for people joining the insurgents or Taliban.”
These are the four war crimes committed by the Coalition forces in the past two weeks. Victimization and the feeling of betrayal continues to spread all across Afghanistan.
While this article initially started on the four recent attacks by NATO, it is important to look at the previous events as well. In doing so, we realize that these are not isolated incidents or simply negligence but an ongoing pattern of the failures of the “military solution to Afghanistan”.
Apologies from the Coalition, as rare as they are, mean little to nothing to Afghans. Months earlier in 2010, after initially choosing not to investigate, NATO forces offered an apology for killing a fourteen year old girl. Her father Mohammad Karim simply responded, “Now, what should I do with ‘sorry’?”
Earlier in Nangarhar, in May 2010, when NATO soldiers raided a home shooting at least nine civilians indiscriminately, a mourner said:
“If the Americans do this again, we are ready to shed our blood fighting them. We would rather die than sit by and do nothing. If there was anyone here trying to destroy our country, we would capture them and hand them over to the government. It is our land and our duty to defend it against both foreigners and insurgent infiltrators.”
He spoke further on this by saying, “If the military keeps doing this, the people will go into the mountains to fight them. When I saw my daughter injured, all I could think about was putting on a suicide jacket.”
Last month was the one year anniversary of the killing of two pregnant mothers, men and a teenage girl by a NATO night raid. In an attempt to cover it up, the US forces literally dug the bullets out of the victims bodies. In a Democracy Now interview Glenn Greenwald said, “Here you have an incident that we know about only because of sheer luck with the determination of a single reporter, and again the military lying about what took place.” A recent report on survivors of night raids gives a close look at how foreign troops justify killing civilians. One witness of night raids, Anwar Ul Haq, said, “Whenever they shoot or kill anybody, they call him al Qaeda whether he is or not.”
Without regard for civilians, the Tarok Kolache village in Afghanistan’s Arghandab River Valley was completely destroyed with 25 tons of bombs. Is the destruction of entire villages, which are the support system for the majority of Afghans, a logical tactic in counter-insurgency? Clearly, the Afghans who have suffered due to this disagree. A farmer of the Arghandab district asked “Why do you have to blow up so many of our fields and homes?”, while one angry villager accused the military of ruining his life after the demolition.
In addition to witness and victim testimonies, the Coalition forces themselves have made eye-opening revelations on the target killings of civilians. In September 2010, it was revealed that a dozen US soldiers faced charges in their involvement of not only killing innocent Afghan civilians at random for sport, but also collecting the victims finger bones, leg bones, teeth, and skulls as trophies. The military refuses to release photos that show US soldiers posing with naked, mutilated and charred corpses of their victims. Sound familiar? The father of one of the victims killed was quoted as saying, “The Americans really love to kill innocent people.” In fact, they had planned on killing more civilians had it not been for one soldier, Spc. Adam Winfield, and his father who tried relentlessly to blow the whistle. He had said his squad leader “gives high-fives to the guy who kills innocent people and plans more with him.- I have proof that they are planning another one in the form of an AK-47 (machine gun) they want to drop on another guy.” Instead of honoring Winfield for exposing the truth, he was instead charged with the same crimes. His father had reported Winfeld’s statements to Army officials, but they turned a blind eye. One can’t help but to wonder whether the killing of civilians for sport is more abhorrent or the apparent negligence and silence by the higher ups in the Armed forces.
Speaking of higher ups in the Armed forces, General Mattis, who replaced Petreaus as chief of US Central Command, said “Its fun to kill people…it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot [Afghans].” He continued: “Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.” A bit later he spoke of the “emotional satisfaction you may get from really whacking somebody.”‘ He reportedly even told his troops to “have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
Afghans have been resisting this dehumanizing way of life where they are regarded as savages or merely objects to be killed for sport. A recent poll conducted in Afghanistan shows that more than half of the Afghans interviewed believed NATO-led forces should begin withdrawing from the country in mid-2011 or sooner. Afghans no longer want anything from NATO but to simply leave. Massive protests and demonstrations against the Coalition following recent attacks are now erupting throughout Afghanistan in cities like Kunar, Kabul city and Nanglam, where Afghan demonstrators have been marching in streets chanting, “death to the invaders” and “We don’t want the invading forces.” Another man explained, “We say to ISAF that revenge is part of our culture. We say to our leaders, our government, that this kind of violence should be investigated. Those responsible should be punished.” A woman held a placard that read, “Occupation = Killing + Destruction.” In one demonstration, angry protesters burned a pile of blankets, clothing, and other items donated by Coaltion troops. An independent member in the legislature, Ramazan Bashardost, said “These killings must be stopped or the people will rise against foreigners and we will stand by them.”
Civilians fear not only NATO and ISAF but also suicide bombings by Armed Opposition Groups. Simultaneously with the terror by Coalition forces, recent suicide blasts have taken the lives of around 100 Afghan civilians.
The almost decade long war and occupation has done more harm than good, escalating violence in Afghanistan to its peak, and continues to deteriorate chances of peace for the future. Afghanistan has already been subjected to previous decades of war and now each new generation is haunted with both the memory and reality of endless bloodshed, death, and misery. The fact remains that Afghans continue to live with hunger and worsening poverty, torture and humiliation, planted with weapons, escalating air strikes and night raids.
The responsibility lies on the Afghan government, Taliban, warlords, and especially NATO/ISAF forces, including top commanders like General Petreaus, who must be brought by the people of Afghanistan and the world through a judicial process to account for their crimes, failed military solutions, and indiscriminate killings. Instead, the corrupt system in power continues to leave Afghans helpless and without a voice, and has them convinced that they are incapable of self-determination. However, it must not be forgotten that Afghanistan has a long history of independence and are more than capable of running their affairs. It is vitally important to listen to Afghans. It is the right of the people to decide the fate of their country and there are no exceptions. With the recent revolts in Arab countries, it’s only a matter of time before Afghans follow their lead. This requires immediate change and an honest vision for a truly democratic Afghanistan. In doing so, we must be aware of the ground realities, namely the presence of NATO, Taliban, warlords as well as regional intervention.
Global Afghan-led peace groups such as Afghans for Peace (AFP), Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (AYPV), and the Afghan Canadian Student Association (ACSA) stand in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan in their struggle for justice and freedom. They fully acknowledge and strongly condemn these cruel, targeted massacres of innocent human life. AFP, AYPV and ACSA calls on the people of the world, especially Afghans, to rightfully demand an end to this illegal war and occupation. When children are being killed one by one, as was the case in Kunar last week, all of humanity suffers. When civilians have become the targets, it is time for everyone to stand up.
Wall of Holocaust Denial Begins to Topple: Aboriginal Museum is Forced to Display Evidence of the Canadian Genocide
For the first time in Canadian history, a public museum will exhibit evidence which makes reference to overtly genocidal policies by both the churches and government of Canada towards indigenous people, including in the deadly Indian residential schools.
Relying primarily on the research gathered by Rev. Kevin Annett in his book Hidden No Longer: Genocide in Canada, Past and Present (2010, www.hiddennolonger.com), the aboriginal advisory committee of the new Peel Region Heritage Museum in Brampton, Ontario convinced the Museum designers, Vilnis Cultural Design Works, to establish a display that shows that genocide, according to the United Nations’ definition of the crime, did occur in the Indian residential school system.
The schools were established and run jointly by the Vatican and the Crown of England in 1834, and continued until 1996. According to government statistics, nearly half of the 150,000 children in these schools died because of treatment and conditions there.
The decision to document this genocide in the new Peel Region Museum was forced by the Advisory committee’s chair, Allan Jamieson of the Haudenosaunee Nation, who faced major opposition from Vilnis to include the term “genocide” in the Museum displays.
“We want to tell our story about what happened to our people, and is still happening in Canada, and we want Canadians and others to learn about it, and we don’t want to sugar coat it” said Jamieson to Teka News this week.
“As victims of this genocide, we have a right to characterize for ourselves how we have been, and still are mistreated. The committee’s work does not include having to convince the Vilnis team of genocide in Canada … It is truly tiring and demeaning to have to try to convince learned people about accurate history.”
Allan Jamieson, who has consulted Rev. Annett in the past, has also learned that Canadian government agencies make up about one third of Vilnis’ business. Their list of clients includes companies that also benefit from the dispossession of First Nations lands including a home builders association, a mining association, and a pulp and paper company.
Until now, not a single Canadian Museum has displayed the evidence of the massive mortality level in Indian residential schools or of their deliberate murder and crimes, documented in archived letters and testimonies published by Rev. Annett since 1998.
“It’s an incredible breakthrough” commented Rev. Annett today in London, England, where he is working with an International Tribunal to bring charges against Canada and its churches for genocide.
“Thanks to the persistence of Allan Jamieson and his people, the truth of crimes against humanity in Canada is finally being formally acknowledged, and taught to the next generation. The walls of denial are tumbling, and a huge leap has now been made towards bringing those responsible to justice.”
The London-based International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State (ITCCS) has been endorsed by over thirty organizations, including survivors of child abuse in nine nations, as well as seven different indigenous nations across Canada.
A Palestinian teenager was martyred early Saturday after suffering a critical gunshot by Israeli occupation forces during a demonstration marking the Nakba day in east Al-Quds.
The teenager was identified as Milad Ayache, 17 years old. He was martyred after having emergency surgery at al-Makassed Islamic Charitable Hospital in east Al-Quds.
Maher Ayache, the teen’s uncle, said that his nephew was wounded in the stomach.
“He died after being shot in the stomach, we are taking the body for burial now,” he told AFP news agency from the Hospital.
Israeli occupation police confirmed the details, claiming it was unknown who shot Ayache, adding that they had asked to autopsy the body, but were denied by the family.
Eight other people were injured during clashes in the eastern neighborhood of Silwan.
SALFIT — The Israeli intelligence apparatus said it would not release Palestinian prisoner Rami Suleiman, 31, after he completed serving his five-year prison term and instead would place him under administrative detention without any charge.
Ahrar center for prisoner’s studies and human rights stated in this regard that the Israeli occupation state refused lately to release a number of Palestinian prisoners after they served their terms and decided to extend their detention administratively.
It added, “Israel wants to tell the Palestinian prisoners that they are not in prison according to law and their freedom after they complete their imprisonment terms is decided by the intelligence apparatus.”
In another incident, the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) kidnapped at dawn Thursday Palestinian writer and political analyst Amer Sa’ad, 27, from his home west of Nablus city.
Local sources said the IOF ransacked Sa’ad’s house and took him to an unknown destination.
Sa’ad is a writer and a specialist in the Arab movements and their ideologies, and issued many studies in this regard.