In a move that comes as gesture of deep gratitude, the Israeli government permitted an extreme rightwing Israeli association to name a new settlement Obama. The building of settlements makes the establishment of a connected Palestinian state an impossible task.
Bulldozers started to pave the way for the settlement a day after Obama gave his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference. The construction of the settlement comes in the larger context of a Zionization project that aims to link Jerusalem to the city of Ma’ale Adumim, north east of Jerusalem.
The location of the Obama settlement is along the main road that connects the West Bank’s northern and southern regions; a consequence of building the settlement would therefore be to separate those territories permanently.
In order to make concrete the reality of settlement in these territories, the Israeli government has decided to move its police headquarters next to the Obama settlement.
Israeli radio reported that this step came to honour Obama’s positions in solidarity with Israel which he disclosed to his audience at the AIPAC conference.
Israeli official sources mentioned that the Israeli step comes in the framework of the strategy “Greater Jerusalem,” which aims to change the demographic nature of Jerusalem, raising the number of Jews to one million, a project put forth by former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.
Boats of Palestinian fishermen at the port in Gaza City May 9, 2010
GAZA CITY — Gaza fishermen said one skiff was hit and sunk Wednesday night by an Israeli naval boat off the Rafah coast.
Fisherman Ahmad Abu Salmiyeh, 20, was injured after sinking with his boat following the collision, which took place near Tal As-Sultan in the southern Gaza Strip, his colleagues told Ma’an.
A group of fellow fishermen rushed out to rescue him, Ma’an’s correspondent reported.
An Israeli military spokesman said the army was not familiar with the incident, and denied that the navy sank a boat or caused injuries.
Yacoub Odeh, a Palestinian who fled from Lifta, west Jerusalem in 1948, shows film-maker Mat Heywood around his deserted home village, now under threat from Israeli plans to build a luxury resort.
What Does the ICC Stand For?
Last May 16, Luis Moreno Ocampo, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, officially sought an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Moammer Kadhafi for “crimes against humanity”. Also accused were the leader’s son Seif al-Islam Kadhafi and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi.
U.S. jurist David Scheffer told Agence France Presse: “NATO will doubtless appreciate the ICC investigation and indictment of top Libyan leaders, including Kadhafi.”
Well, yes. And nobody is better placed to know what NATO appreciates than David Scheffer.
The day before, Tripoli had made yet another offer of a truce, calling for an end to NATO bombing and for peace negotiations with the armed rebels based in Benghazi. NATO’s response took the form of the ICC indictment. When NATO bombs a country to unseat a leader, the targeted leader must be treated like a common criminal. His place cannot be at the negotiating table, but behind bars. An international indictment handily transforms NATO’s military aggression into a police action to arrest “an indicted war criminal” – an expression that evacuates the presumption of “innocent until proven guilty”.
This is a familiar pattern.
On March 24, 1999, NATO began bombing Yugoslavia in support of armed Albanian rebels in Kosovo. Two months later, in mid-May, as the bombing intensified against Serbia’s infrastructure, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, Louise Arbour, issued an indictment against Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic for crimes against humanity. All but one of the alleged “crimes against humanity” took place in Kosovo during the chaos caused precisely by the NATO bombing.
On March 31, 2011, NATO began bombing Libya, and this time the International Criminal Court was even faster. And the charges were even less substantial. Ocampo said that there was evidence that Kadhafi personally ordered attacks on “innocent Libyan civilians”.
In Libya as in the Kosovo war, the accusations are those made by armed rebels supported by NATO, with no discernible trace of independent neutral investigation.
In the spring of 1999, David Scheffer, who was then U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s Ambassador at large for War Crimes, visited Louise Arbour and provided her with NATO reports on which to base her indictments. Indeed, Scheffer had earlier helped set up the ICTY as instructed by Ms Albright. The May 1999 accusations served their main immediate purpose: to block negotiations and to justify NATO’s continued bombing. As Madeleine Albright put it, “We are not negotiating with Milosevic… The indictments, I think, clarify the situation because they really show that we are doing the right thing in terms of responding to the kinds of crimes against humanity that Milosevic has perpetrated.” (See Michael Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder, PlutoPress, 2004, pp.141-145.)
To sum up, in both cases an “international criminal tribunal/court” intervenes in the midst of a NATO bombing to accuse the leader of the country being bombed of “crimes against humanity” based on flimsy evidence provided by NATO itself or by its rebel clients.
Thus the International Criminal Court turns out to be a continuation of the ICTY, that is, an instrument not of international justice but the judicial arm of Western intervention in weaker countries. The ICC could well stand for Imperialist Crimes Cover-up.
It certainly does not deserve its official title, since it studiously ignores truly “international” crimes, such as U.S. and NATO aggression or the many massacres of civilians that result. Rather, so far the only alleged crimes it has undertaken to prosecute have all been the result of internal conflicts taking place in countries on the African continent. In short, the ICC so far acts mainly as a way of putting political pressure on, or justifying military action against, weak governments the Western powers want to replace with leaders of their choice.
Concerning the Kadhafi indictment, Scheffer is quoted by AFP as saying that the move might increase pressure on Kadhafi to think about finding refuge in a country that has not agreed to ICC jurisdiction. This is a senseless remark, since Libya itself has not agreed to ICC jurisdiction. Nor has Sudan, which has not prevented the ICC from going after its president, Omar Al Bashir, even though the ICC is supposed to apply only to countries that have recognized its jurisdiction. But non-recognition of ICC jurisdiction proves to be of no protection for weak countries.
Just as NATO and the ICC continue to pursue Kadhafi on the pretext that he is “killing his own people”, in Afghanistan NATO armed forces continues to kill people who are not their own, with impunity.
The ICC has developed into one of the most blatant illustrations of double standards. The United States manipulates the ICC without recognizing its jurisdiction, and having further protected itself by bilateral agreements with a long list of countries that provide immunity for United States citizens as well as by Congressional laws to protect U.S. citizens from the ICC.
Other NATO countries have recognized ICC jurisdiction, but there is no sign that they will ever be troubled by the international court.
Last Sunday, two notoriously nonconformist French lawyers, Jacques Vergès and former foreign minister Roland Dumas, announced that they intended to bring a lawsuit against President Nicolas Sarkozy for “crimes against humanity” in Libya. At a press conference in Tripoli, Dumas deplored that the NATO mission to protect civilians was killing them, and said he was ready to defend Kadhafi at the ICC. Meanwhile, the two lawyers intend to represent the families of victims of NATO bombing in litigation against Sarkozy in French courts. “We are going to break through the wall of silence,” announced Vergès.
There is more solid evidence of the civilian victims of NATO bombing, including the three baby grandchildren of Moammer Kadhafi, than of the “crimes against humanity” attributed by Ocampo to the Libyan leader. But the French public has been mesmerized by the propaganda portraying Kadhafi as a bloodthirsty ogre whose only desire is to “kill his own people”. Since most people in the West know absolutely nothing about Libya, anything goes.
On Monday, as France and Britain prepared to send in combat helicopters to support the armed rebels and hunt down Kadhafi, NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced that Kadhafi’s “reign of terror is coming to an end”. The real “rain of terror” is the rain of NATO bombs falling on defenseless Tripoli, with the clear intention of terrorizing Libyans into surrendering to the NATO-backed rebels. And there is no sign of it ever coming to an end.
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Opposition protesters in Spain keep tents erected in main squares throughout the country’s major cities in defiance of a government warning.
The protesters have set up a large encampment stretching across Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol plaza and vowed to continue their sit-in until their demands regarding unemployment, corruption and the government’s austerity measures are met.
In Barcelona, more than 1,000 protesters vowed to remain in the Plaza Catalunya square in a vote late on Wednesday.
They also pledged to find other ways to ensure that the spirit of the nationwide movement continues.
The decision comes despite a government warning that activists cannot continue their protests.
“It cannot be that some citizens cut off the rights of others,” Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told Cadena Ser radio, adding that police action would be proportionate to avoid making things worse.
The protests, which began on May 15 and soon spread to city squares nationwide, have, at times, turned violent.
The massive protests came after the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero introduced a slew of drastic austerity measures.
These include the cutting of civil servant wages among other things as part of the government’s plans to curb the budget deficit from 11 percent a year earlier to within three percent of the GDP by 2013, a limit set by the European Union.
Spain’s M-15 movement has as well inspired other European countries, including France and Greece, where people have been protesting austerity measures.
Following Saturday’s easing of the blockade on Gaza through opening the Rafah border crossing, Palestinian officials claim that some of the old restrictions on travellers have been reimposed
Egyptian authorities have reneged on some of the facilitation it had agreed upon and started providing at the Rafah border crossing last Saturday, according to the Palestinian director of the borders and crossings police in Gaza, Salama Baraka.
Following a meeting with Egyptian General Intelligence, Baraka told reporters that Egypt has decided to reduce the number of travelers crossing the border to between 250 and 400, the same number that passed through the crossing before restrictions were lifted.
Baraka clarified that the Egyptian intelligence representatives have asked the Palestinian side to provide the names of those crossing the border a day in advance. This is another practice carried out before Egypt pledged to ease passage through Rafah.
In addition, Egypt requires that any sick traveler coming from Gaza be medically examined by an Egyptian medical committee.
Egypt guaranteed facilitating passage across the border crossing for Palestinians as recently as Wednesday, added Baraka. This included allowing those caught in the transit area between the Egyptian and the Palestinian territories to pass as well as those traveling in vehicles cleared to cross.
Of Palestinian students, only those currently studying at Egyptian universities will be granted entry, said Baraka.
Palestinian sources claim that Egyptian security authorities have begun to slow down procedures at the crossing on Tuesday, as evident from the small number of travelers who were able to cross.
While the composition of the new Palestinian Authority technocrat government is meant to be announced on 6 June, on the ground, the Palestinian Authority collaboration with the Israeli occupation and the persecution of Hamas activists continues as usual.
Ma’an News Agency reported on Sunday that the Fatah Central Committee’s Nabil Shaath said in a meeting with the Gaza government’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh that the issue of political arrests in the West Bank would soon be resolved:
“The number of prisoners has already been reduced to so few,” he said, that the underway process of setting up mechanisms for their release ahead of the unity government’s installation should be swift.
However, Hamas’ ranks in Israeli prison are swelling.
Ma’an News Agency reported today that the Israeli government extended the administrative detention of former minister and legislator Nayef Rujoub for a further six months. The lawmaker, who has been held without charge since last December, had been scheduled to be released yesterday.
On Tuesday, Israeli forces detained a car carrying four Palestinian lawmakers at a checkpoint near the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Ma’an News Agency reported:
Aziz Dweik, Nizar Ramadan, Bassem Zaareer, and Anwar Zboun were held at a checkpoint near Bethlehem, Hamas officials said. Nizar Ramadan was taken to an undisclosed location and Dweik was freed, Hamas officials and the Israeli military said. All four lawmakers represent Hamas in the Palestinian parliament.
Hours later, Israeli forces arrested senior Hamas official Hussein Abu Kweik. According to the Hamas-affiliated website The Palestinian Information Center:
Israel’s intelligence agency Shin Bet called Abu Kweik’s cell phone the night before and ordered him to appear at headquarters in the Ofer prison near Ramallah city.
The Hamas leader told the PIC before meeting with the Shin Bet officials that Israel is targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials in a bid to suppress their influence in the West Bank and to torpedo the recent Palestinian reconciliation accord.
He said Israel also wants to thwart Naksa day protests [on 5 June] and Hamas’s recovery in the West Bank after the reconciliation.
Abu Kweik has spent a total of 12 years detained in Israeli prisons. He survived an Israeli assassination attempt in 2002 that claimed the lives of his wife and three of his sons.
Meanwhile, Ma’an News Agency, citing the Israeli publication Maariv, reported last weekend that PA President Mahmoud Abbas – whose elected mandate expired in January 2009 – met in secret with his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres in April.
A brand-new song and music video entitled “Freedom for Palestine” hit the internet this week, and has already received tens of thousands of hits and an endorsement from Coldplay, one of the top pop-rock bands in the world.
The video features Maxi Jazz and Dave Randall from Faithless, the British electronica band that publicly endorsed the Palestinian-led call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel by canceling a planned gig in Tel Aviv and issuing a public statement explaining their political position. Also lending their talents to the song are musicians from LSK, the Durban Gospel Choir, members of the London Community Gospel Choir, Jamie Catto of 1 Giant Leap, and other international artists. Those in the musical collective are calling themselves “OneWorld.”
The project is being supported by a number of well-known human rights organizations working for justice in Palestine. OneWorld states on their webpage that proceeds will go towards the UK charity War on Want, “for projects in Palestine.”
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) said Wednesday that Zainab al-Khawaja has been summoned to appear at the police department in the capital Manama on Thursday.
The daughter of a prominent Bahraini opposition figure, al-Khawaja went on a ten-day hunger strike in April to protest the detention of her close relatives amid the government’s brutal crackdown against anti-regime demonstrators.
The rights center also stated, “The summoning raises concern as her father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaj, told his family a few days ago that security forces inside the prison kept threatening that they had arrested and raped his daughter Zainab.”
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a former president of BCHR, was arrested on April 9 and put on trial with 20 other detained activists over allegations of attempting to topple the Bahraini government. He has also been threatened with rape by the prison guards after he refused to apologize to Bahrain’s king on camera. … Full article