RAMALLAH – “I’m sick with worry about my daughter,” Yehiya al-Shalabi says. “I’m afraid of what they are doing to her. She has done nothing to deserve this. If they have anything against her why don’t they bring her to trial?”
Hana al-Shalabi, Yehiya’s 27-year-old daughter, has been languishing in Israeli administrative detention for more than two years. She is the longest serving Palestinian female political prisoner in administrative detention.
According to her lawyer, the young woman from Jenin in the northern West Bank does not know why Israeli soldiers arrested her several years ago. She also does not know how long they will keep her in jail or what they will charge her with.
Shalabi, like nearly 200 other Palestinian prisoners, is being held in Hasharon prison. A senior Israeli military officer has just renewed the administrative detention order against her for the fourth time.
Israel’s “administrative detention” policy states that Palestinian political prisoners can be held for six months without trial or charges being brought against them. The detention order can be renewed every six months.
According to the official narrative, the policy of administrative detention is used by the Israeli military when they have “classified and secret” information against Palestinian prisoners. Both the prisoner and their lawyer are forbidden from seeing the classified information, and therefore are unable to challenge accusations or to question those who made the accusations.
The administrative detention policy is used when Israeli authorities have “secret witnesses” such as Palestinian informants, or has obtained intelligence in a clandestine manner which would not stand up in an Israeli civilian court but are par for the course in Israeli military courts.
No fair trial
“It’s a primitive and racist way to hold a trial and no civilized country in the world uses such methods. Needless to say Israel’s legal system could never do this to an Israeli Jew. Even the Israeli settlers who carry out acts of terror against Palestinians in the West Bank are not treated in this manner,” Qadura Fares, the president of the Palestinian Society Prisoners’ Club in Ramallah, said.
“Administrative detainees are not given a fair trial. Basically the Israeli military prosecutor and the military judge are in agreement. It is very rare for a judge to disagree with the military prosecutor,” Fares says.
In the 1970s Ali Jamal, also from Jenin, spent seven years in administrative detention. He holds the record for the longest administrative detention to date.
“At that time the Israeli military courts relied on confessions from Palestinian prisoners for convictions,” Fares explained. “But Jamal wouldn’t confess so the laws were changed to allow the ‘secret witnesses and secret files’ to be used by the IDF [Israeli military] to convict political prisoners.”
The soldiers came for Hana al-Shalabi in the middle of the night over two years ago. “They ransacked the house and assaulted me when I tried to stop them from taking my daughter away,” Yehiya al-Shalabi said. “My daughter had finished her studies and was engaged to get married. She was very diligent and stayed home most of the time except for when she helped tend our agricultural crops. She had no social life outside and wasn’t political in any way.”
However, Israeli special forces assassinated Hana’s 24-year-old brother several years ago after they accused him of being a member of Islamic Jihad, Yehiya said. “They had shot and wounded him. He phoned us, as he lay badly injured on the ground. But before he could finish the call the death squad moved in and shot him at close range, several times in the head and in the eye.”
The conditions in administrative detention are harsh, just as they are for all Palestinian prisoners.
Confessions through coercion
“Confessions are coerced through physical and verbal humiliation, torture, emotional blackmail such as bringing in elderly or sick relatives who are held as hostages until the prisoner confesses,” Fares said.
Imani Nafa, aged 47, spent ten years in an Israeli jail as a young woman, from 1987 to 1997 during the first Palestinian intifada. Nafa had everything going for her. She had finished university and was working as a nurse. But, she became politically involved and had planned to carry out a shooting and bombing attack against Israeli soldiers.
Nafa was caught and kept in a filthy, cramped cell with no window. Fluorescent lights were kept on permanently, causing sensory deprivation and the inability to distinguish between day and night.
“I was beaten and held in stress positions while handcuffed for several days, unable to move. I was deprived of sleep and when the interrogation finished I was forced to drink from the drain in my cell and eat mouldy food,” Nafa said. “I was told that if I worked with them to spy on other prisoners I would be freed, but if I refused to do so I would be imprisoned for a very long time and harshly treated.”
Compensate Victims of US Chemical Warfare in Vietnam
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the chemical warfare program in Vietnam without sufficient remedial action by the U.S. government. One of the most shameful legacies of the Vietnam War, Agent Orange continues to poison Vietnam and the people exposed to the chemicals, as well as their offspring. H.R. 2634, the Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2011, which California Congressman Bob Filner just introduced in the House, would provide crucial assistance for social and health services to Vietnamese, Vietnamese-American, and U.S. victims of Agent Orange.
From 1961 to 1971, approximately 19 million gallons of herbicides, primarily Agent Orange, were sprayed over the southern region of Vietnam. Much of it was contaminated with dioxin, a deadly chemical. Dioxin causes various forms of cancers, reproductive illnesses, immune deficiencies, endocrine deficiencies, nervous system damage, and physical and developmental disabilities.
In Vietnam more than three million people, and in the United States thousands of veterans, their children, and Vietnamese-Americans, have been sickened, disabled or died from the effects of Agent Orange/dioxin.
Vietnamese of at least three generations born since the war are now suffering from disabilities due to their parents’ exposure to Agent Orange or from direct exposure in the environment. The organization representing Vietnam’s victims, the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, has set up some ‘peace villages’ to care for the severely disabled, but many more such facilities and services are needed. Dioxin residues in the soil, sediment, and food continue to poison many people in 28 “hot spots” in southern Vietnam.
Many U.S. veterans suffer from effects of Agent Orange due to their exposure in Vietnam, as do their children and grandchildren. Vietnamese-Americans exposed directly to Agent Orange and their offspring suffer from the same health conditions.
The bill, which the Vietnamese Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign assisted Congressman Filner in writing, defines “victim” as “any individual who is a Vietnamese national, Vietnamese-American, or United States veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange, or the progeny of such an individual, and who has a disease or disability associated with this exposure.” In addition to compensating the victims of Agent Orange, H.R. 2634 would also clean up the toxic hot spots in Vietnam.
One provision of the bill would expand programs and research for the benefit of U.S. vets and establish medical centers “designed to address the medical needs of descendants of the veterans of the Vietnam era.” This creates a presumption that certain birth defects that children and grandchildren of exposed victims suffer would be considered the result of contact with Agent Orange.
While the U.S. government has begun to fund environmental cleanup in Vietnam, it has refused to recognize its full responsibility to heal the wounds of war and provide assistance to Vietnamese, Vietnamese-American, and U.S. victims for the serious health and environmental devastation caused by Agent Orange.
There has been some compensation for U.S. veteran victims of Agent Orange, but not nearly enough. In spite of President Richard Nixon’s 1973 promise of $3.25 billion in reconstruction aid to Vietnam “without any preconditions,” the Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American victims of the disgraceful chemical warfare the United States conducted in Vietnam have not seen one penny of compensation.
Fifty years is long enough. It is high time to compensate the victims for this shameful chapter in our history. H.R. 2634 will go a long way toward doing just that.
Marjorie Cohn is a professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and co-coordinator of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign (www.vn-agentorange.org). She is the author of Rules of Disengagement.
How to Save a Quarter Trillion Dollars
In the midst of the current stampede to slash federal spending, Congress might want to take a look at two unnecessary (and dangerous) “national security” programs that, if cut, would save the United States over a quarter of a trillion dollars over the next decade.
The first of these is the Obama administration’s plan to spend at least $185 billion in the next ten years to “modernize” the U.S. government’s nuclear weapons arsenal. At present, the U.S. government possesses approximately 8,500 nuclear warheads, and it is hard to imagine that this country would be safer from attack if it built more nuclear weapons or “improved” those it already possesses. Indeed, President Barack Obama has declared—both on the 2008 campaign trail and as president—that he is committed to building a world without nuclear weapons. This seems like a perfectly sensible position—one favored by most nations and, as polls show, most people (including most people in the United States). Therefore, the administration should be working on securing further disarmament agreements—not on upgrading the U.S. nuclear arsenal in preparation for future nuclear confrontations and nuclear wars.
In late June of this year, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, wrote: “It is deeply troubling that the U.S. has allocated $185 billion to augment its nuclear stockpile over the next decade, on top of the ordinary annual nuclear-weapons budget of more than $50 billion.” Not only has the International Court of Justice affirmed that nations “are legally obliged to negotiate in good faith for the complete elimination of their nuclear forces,” but “every dollar invested in bolstering a country’s nuclear arsenal is a diversion of resources from its schools, hospitals, and other social services, and a theft from the millions around the globe who go hungry or are denied access to basic medicines.” He concluded: “Instead of investing in weapons of mass annihilation, governments must allocate resources towards meeting human needs.”
Another project worth eliminating is the national missile defense program. Thanks to recent congressional generosity, this Reagan-era carryover, once derided by U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy as “Star Wars,” is currently slated for an increase in federal spending, which will provide it with $8.6 billion in fiscal 2012.
The vast and expensive missile defense program—costing about $150 billion since its inception—has thus far produced remarkably meager results. Indeed, no one knows whether it will work. As an investigative article in Bloomberg News recently reported: “It has never been tested under conditions simulating a real attack by an intercontinental ballistic missile deploying sophisticated decoys and countermeasures. The system has flunked 7 of 15 more limited trials, yet remains exempted from normal Pentagon oversight.”
Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, reported that his committee was “deeply concerned” about the test failures of the nation’s missile defense program. He also implied that, given the disappearance of the Soviet Union, the United States might not need such a system to deter its potential enemies, which have a far inferior missile capability. “The threat we have now is either a distant threat or is not a realistic threat,” he remarked.
Why, then, do other nations—for example, Russia—fiercely object to the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system near their borders? Perhaps they fear that, somehow, U.S. scientists and engineers will finally figure out how to build a system, often likened to hitting a bullet with a bullet, that makes the United States invulnerable while they are left vulnerable. Or perhaps they think that, one day, some U.S. government officials might believe that the United States actually is invulnerable and launch a first strike against their own nations. In any case, their favorite solution to the problem posed by U.S. national missile defense—building more nuclear-tipped missiles of their own—significantly undermines the security of the United States.
Projecting the current annual cost of this program over the next decade, the United States would save $86 billion by eliminating it.
Thus, by scrapping plans for nuclear weapons “modernization” and for national missile defense—programs that are both useless and provocative—the United States would save $271 billion (well over a quarter of a trillion dollars) in the next ten years. Whether used to balance the budget or to fund programs for jobs, healthcare, education, and the environment, this money would go a long way toward resolving some of the nation’s current problems.
Dr. Lawrence S. Wittner is Professor of History at the State University of New York/Albany. His latest book is Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement (Stanford University Press).
In this time of economic austerity, when jobs are being slashed and Americans are fearful about their future, the Congressional recess is the time for our elected representatives to be home in their districts, reaching out to their constituents and servicing the people they are paid to represent. Instead, this August one out of every five representatives will be taking a junket to Israel, compliments of an affiliate of the Israel lobby AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) but still clocked in on the taxpayer’s dime.
Americans who have lost their jobs and seen their life savings evaporate because Congress can’t seem to get it together deserve an explanation of how this crisis will be solved. Following the recent debt debacle, the public is hungry for information about the mysterious 12-person “super committee” that will slash over one trillion dollars from the federal budget. But instead of opening their doors to their constituents, 81 members of Congress will be getting briefings from Israeli government officials, touring historic religious sites, and perhaps “seeking a salty dip in the Dead Sea.” Representative Steny Hoyer, who is leading the Democratic delegation, said he is pleased members of Congress have this opportunity “to gain a deeper understanding of the issues involved in increasing stability in the region.” One has to wonder whether our elected officials are more concerned about the stability of Israel or the well-being of American families.
Not surprisingly, trip expenses are being paid by an affiliate of the all-powerful AIPAC lobby, the American Israel Educational Foundation. AIPAC lobbies hard to ensure that Israel is kept on the U.S. dole, with $3 billion of US taxpayers’ dollars a year going to the Israeli military. Without AIPAC and the financial contributions to Congressional campaigns made by its affiliate organizations, our representatives would be freer to speak out against funneling precious taxdollars to this already wealthy nation. This junket goes to show that those who claim AIPAC has a stranglehold over our Congress are not far off the mark.
Going on an AIPAC-sponsored trip to Israel is the moral equivalent of using an Anglo-Boer travel company to visit apartheid-era South Africa. Although they claim to be visiting leaders “across the political spectrum”, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, you can bet your bottom dollar that AIPAC will not be giving these 81 Congresspeople a fair and balanced view of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. They won’t observe one of the weekly demonstrations in Bi’lin or Nabi Saleh, where Israeli soldiers routinely tear gas and arrest non-violent protesters. They won’t spend time with grieving Palestinians whose homes have been demolished to make way for more Jewish-only housing. They won’t spend a few hours at a checkpoint to witness how Palestinians are detained, abused and humiliated, or how this “thriving democracy” forbids Palestinians from driving on Jewish-only roads. They won’t go to Gaza, where 1.5 million people are suffering under an unbearable siege, unable to travel freely, conduct business transactions across borders or even rebuild their homes destroyed by the Israeli invasion. And they won’t likely be visiting the burgeoning tent cities in Tel Aviv where hundreds of thousands of Israelis are currently camped out protesting the lack of affordable housing, gas and food.
With the disapproval rate for Congress at a record 82%, now is not the time for our representatives to pander to AIPAC. Now is not the time for “free” junkets to Israel—with an implicit promise of $3 billion of our taxdollars in return. Now is the time to stop the freefall of the American economy. If our representatives want to earn more respect from the American public, they better prove that their allegiance is not to a foreign government or a group that lobbies on behalf of a foreign government, but to their constituents back home.
It is impossible to observe the outbreak of Black rebellions on the streets of Great Britain without a comparison with the United States. In many respects, the confrontations with police that began in the Tottenham district and quickly spread to neighborhoods around London and to the cities of Liverpool, Nottingham, Bristol and Birmingham, England’s second largest city, followed patterns that would be familiar to any Black American.
Just as with virtually every U.S. urban rebellion over the past 75 years, the London police set off the violence when they shot to death a young Black man. African Americans would also immediately recognize the institutionalized racism that pervades the British criminal justice system. Black Brits are six times more likely than whites to be stopped and searched on the street by police, and are incarcerated at about seven times the rate of British whites, although studies show that whites are just as likely to commit crimes as Blacks. Racial reformers in the United Kingdom point to many of the same social imbalances as highlighted by their counterparts in the United States. For example, “for every African Caribbean male on [college] campus, there are two in jail.” People of African descent in Britain are heavily ghettoized and clustered in relative poverty.
Black Brits and Black Americans are, indeed, in many ways, in much the same boat. But the difference is in the scale of racial repression in the two countries. When it comes to state violence against people of African descent, Britain isn’t even in the same league with the United States. At the time of this writing, besides the initial Black victim, possibly one person had died in days of disturbances in London and other cities. In contrast, the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion left 54 dead, thousands injured and 7,000 people arrested. There can be no doubt that, had London’s current disturbances occurred on a similar scale in New York City, with outbreaks across the various boroughs, the police would have unleashed a bloodbath. And if the disturbances were to spread to Chicago and other cities, a post-911 United States would likely declare a kind of marshal law.
British police struggle to cope with young people linked by instant-message technology who move from neighborhood to neighborhood in “flying squads” of mopeds and bicycles to find the best looting opportunities. But authorities were reluctant to impose curfews, and rejected the use of rubber bullets or water cannon. British Home Secretary Theresa May explained: “The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon. The way we police in Britain is through consent of communities.”
You will never hear a cabinet-level officer of the United States government speak of respecting the “consent of communities” while imposing order – certainly not the consent of African American communities. In Philadelphia, at the same time that parts of London were burning, the Black mayor slammed a curfew on the city in reaction to a couple of incidents of “flash mobs” that caused little more than public anxiety, and promised harsh measures if people did not go home and stay home. In the U.S. of A., that means deadly force.
So, yes, the workings of racism in Britain bear many similarities to the United States. But the Brits don’t come close to matching the Americans in the sheer scale of racist violence and repression.
Photo: Mohammad Popal/IRIN
KABUL – Ongoing drought in northern, northeastern and western Afghanistan is likely to push 1.5-2 million more people into food insecurity this autumn, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
This is in addition to the seven million country-wide already facing food shortages.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) is reporting a failure of the rain-fed wheat crop, which accounts for about 55 percent of the total domestic wheat yield.
Irrigated wheat, which tends to yield more per hectare, has also been affected by the drought. The average wheat yield (without fertilizers) on irrigated land is about 2.7 tons per hectare (3.5 tons with fertilizer), versus only 1.1 tons on rain-fed land, according to MAIL.
In a normal year Afghanistan produces 4.5 million tons of wheat and around one million tons are imported. The shortfall of 1.9 million tons of wheat this year means more will either have to be imported or secured from other sources.
“Satellite derived rainfall estimates indicate that most of Afghanistan had an untimely and inadequate rain and snow season this year. As a result, there will be heavy losses in rain-fed wheat crops, underperforming irrigated wheat crops, poor pasture conditions, and low income earning opportunities in northern Afghanistan and the central highlands this year,” said the US Agency for International Development’s FEWSNET.
Increased need due to the drought comes as WFP is already facing a severe funding shortage for its existing programmes in Afghanistan.
“WFP had originally planned to feed more than seven million Afghans this year, but currently has the resources to reach less than four million,” WFP spokesman Assadullah Azhari told IRIN in Kabul.
He said additional funds would be required to cover the new drought-related needs.
President Hamid Karzai also expressed concern about the drought at a cabinet meeting on 30 July: “The current drought in certain provinces is hugely damaging to the life of people and their livestock.”
Sultan (he goes by only one name), 35, a farmer in Paghman District not far from Kabul, has been trying to truck in water for his wheat crop from a water source more than 10km from his village.
“All the water sources including the underground water have dried up in my village and now I need to pay a tanker to bring me water,” he told IRIN in Kabul. “I feel so sad… After two months my wheat is still only 20cm tall.”
He said that if he had had sufficient water for irrigation, his wheat crop would have been almost ready for harvest now. Even with expensive trucked-in water he would only get 20 percent of his normal crop, he added.
Assessments under way
According to MAIL officials, assessments are under way in drought-affected areas of the north, northeast, the west and the central highlands to determine exactly how many people will require food assistance and for how long.
Much of the looming wheat shortfall will be covered by government reserves and commercial imports. But additional humanitarian assistance may be required to support an estimated 1.5 to 2 million drought victims, according to WFP.
Karzai called on the ministries of commerce, finance and MAIL to take extra measures, and import wheat from India to try to meet needs.
WFP said the USA had cut its funding of WFP activities in Afghanistan by more than two-thirds since 2009. “But we continue to appeal to donors for the support that will allow us to ensure all those in need of help in the coming months are assisted,” said Azhari.
“The areas affected by drought are hard or impossible to reach by road during the winter. So it is critical to get food assistance in place early, before those people are cut off by snowfall,” he warned.
Nearly nine days after an obvious execution in front of hundreds of commuters, which was subsequently shown on local Bay Area television to hundreds of thousands of viewers, the perpetrator has not only not been questioned about the incident, he has also not even been charged with a crime by the district attorney’s office.
This seemed rather odd, but with a bit of quick research into the matter a likely explanation surfaced that makes everything fit into place.
The execution was very similar to that of the Brazilian immigrant, Carlos Mendes, that took place in the summer of 2005 in the London Tube. According to reports, Mendes was shot in the back of the head by a group of officers that had just been “psyched up” by special Israëli counter-terrorism training. The method is very basic: simply shoot to kill any dark-skinned guy whom you could imagine to possibly be a “terrorist” in the back, after he has been subdued, lest he possibly activate his [imaginary] bomb belt. During training this must be rehearsed so often to become purely instinctive, so as to preclude any rational assessments. If the wires dangling from his shirt or pocket happen to merely connect earpieces with an IPod, well, it’s preferable to determine this later after the suspect is already dead.
Where did this cop most likely get his brainwashing?
Check out this web page of an Israeli run SWAT and Counter-Terrorism training operation:
Here’s a news story that initially appeared at the UC Berkeley campus paper (but seems to have disappeared from its online archives), confirming BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police participation with IMS:
UC Berkeley:Israeli Expert Helps BART Conduct Counterterror Training
by Emma Guiterrez
As part of a four-day training session with an Israeli counterterrorism expert, the BART Police Department SWAT Team demonstrated how to take down a potential suicide bomber last week. BART police hired Aaron Cohen, founder and managing director of the Israeli Military Specialists, following increased concerns about public transportation becoming the target of terrorism after bomb attacks on public transit systems in Madrid and London in 2004 and 2005, respectively. (Daily Californian)
Here’s a puff-piece on the IMS training outfit:
Here’s a puff-piece about the kid from Beverly Hills who started the outfit:
Cohen, 26, likes to tell people he was “born and raised here, but grew up in Israel.” After graduating Beverly Hills High School in 1995, he went to Israel, volunteered for the IDF and was selected for counterterrorism work. He won’t give details of training or assignments, which adds to the mystique. He will say he spent three years undercover in the disputed territories, then he came home. …
The Israelis have a method: If you attack them, they not only fight back, they make sure you’re dead before they leave. Again, it adds to the mystique. A dramatic demonstration for our cameras? Yes, but at the same time, very impressive.
There is competition from larger established companies, but Cohen thinks he has an edge that comes with the “I” in the company name. He says it’s not about the money.
Additional research will show that this outfit is also much engaged in the Hollywood celebrity bodyguard scene.
In light of this, it seems understandable, that certain people are very keen to not have all this information come out. Imagine all the other police officers out there who have also already been subjected to these four-day brainwashing excursions, at taxpayer’s expensive, their mind imprinted with this perverse Zionist Paranoia mindset. These people don’t want to deal with the outrage that the general population might feel.
GAZA CITY — Gaza Interior Ministry deputy Kamel Abu Madi said Wednesday there had been no improvements at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
“The working procedures at the Rafah crossing are as usual and no improvement has occurred,” Abu Madi said.
He added that Egyptian authorities were still preventing Palestinians who had fled Libya from entering the Gaza Strip.
The official said there were serious discussions with Egyptian authorities over ongoing issues which he hoped would be resolved soon.
Egypt permanently opened the Rafah crossing for Palestinians in May 2011 in a significant change of policy from the previous Mubarak regime.
The Rafah border with Egypt is Gaza’s only crossing that bypasses Israel, although it is still lacks the infrastructure required to transport large quantities of goods into the Gaza Strip.
Egyptian and Gazan authorities have struggled to cope with huge demand and coordinating procedures, leading to travel delays.
Late Tuesday night, residents throughout Gaza lost internet, cell phone and landline phone service, creating a communication blackout similar to one which occurred just before a massive Israeli invasion in 2008. The blackout sparked fear among Gaza residents that an Israeli invasion might be underway.
Just before the communication blackout began, residents of northern Gaza witnessed Israeli armored bulldozers mobilizing along the northern border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
The main Palestinian cellphone company, Jawwal, told reporters with Ma’an News Agency that they were aware of problems with service, but did not know what was causing it.
During the 2008-9 invasion of Gaza, Israeli forces bombed the main power plants, plunging Gaza into a sea of darkness. Due to the ongoing Israeli siege, the electricity infrastructure of the Gaza Strip has been unable to fully recover, and fuel shortages have prevented the power plants from operating at full capacity. Since the 2008 invasion, Gazans have been on rolling electricity blackouts most of the time – in most parts of Gaza, people receive just six hours of electricity a day.
The Israeli military did not issue any statement or comment on the communication cut-off.
According to local sources, telephone landlines run by Paltel, the Palestinian Telecommunications Agency, were cut off, along with cell phone service by all of the major cell companies.
The source of the blackout is still unknown.