Jerusalem – In early August, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, quietly passed the first reading of a bill that would turn the country’s “state of emergency” regulations — which have been in use since the state was created in 1948 — into permanent legislation.
The move would cement the use of draconian measures, such as administrative detention orders and politically-motivated deportations, in an Israeli effort to combat an extremely broadly and vaguely defined “terrorist threat.”
According to a statement released by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) following the bill’s first reading, “the Counterterrorism Bill contains sweeping provisions, which broaden the scope of criminality and threaten to turn law-abiding citizens and organizations (with no connection whatsoever to violent acts) into ‘terrorists’” (“The counter-terrorism bill 2011, Position Paper – Executive Summary,” August 2011 [PDF]).
Under the proposed law, individuals who “express solidarity or identification with a terrorist group” either by publicly waving its flag, playing its anthem, or publishing praise or sympathy towards the group, can face up to three years in prison.
The law would also place the burden of proof on the suspect to prove that he or she is not a member of a terrorist organization, while membership in a terrorist organization would extend to anyone who “declares his consent to join a terrorist organization to another.”
“Because the accusation here applies specifically to what a person said to another person, ostensibly in private, there exists a real danger here of incrimination on the basis of a false accusation, against which it would be difficult or even impossible to mount a defense,” ACRI states. “How could a defendant bear the burden of proof in such a situation? Can anyone prove that they never said something to someone in private?”
Origins in the British Mandate period
Shortly after the establishment of the Israel state in 1948, the country adopted the “Defense (Emergency) Regulations,” which had been decreed in 1945 by the British authorities — known as the Mandate — then ruling Palestine. During the British Mandate, these regulations allowed for the establishment of military tribunals, sweeping searches and seizures of property, the demolition of houses and administrative detention for indefinite periods of time, among other measures.
In 1951, the Knesset decided that the Defense Regulations went against the basic principles of democracy and suggested that they be repealed. According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, however, “the Regulations were not abolished [in 1951], apparently because they served as the legal basis for the military rule then imposed on Israel’s Arab citizens” (“Defense (emergency) regulations”).
In his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, historian Ilan Pappe finds that the Emergency Regulations, used to sustain military rule over Palestinian citizens of Israel, were “comparable to the 1935 ‘Nuremberg Laws,’” the set of anti-Jewish laws passed in Nazi Germany that deprived Jewish citizens of their basic rights.
“These regulations … virtually abolished basic rights of expression, movement, organization and equality before the law. They left [Palestinian citizens of Israel] the right to vote for and be elected to the Israeli parliament, but this too came with severe restrictions. This regime officially lasted until 1966, but, for all intents and purposes, the regulations are still in place,” Pappe explains.
Indeed, the outbreak of the 1967 War and the subsequent and ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip also sidelined the cancellation of the Emergency Regulations, which remain in effect to this day; the Israeli Knesset has renewed them annually since the early 1990s.
“Over the years, Israel used these regulations extensively in the Occupied Territories to punish and deter. The Regulations served as the authority for Israel to demolish and seal hundreds of houses, deport residents, administratively detain thousands of persons, and impose closures and curfews on towns and villages,” B’Tselem states in its report.
Targeting Palestinian institutions
The Nidal Center in Jerusalem’s Old City is one of over two dozen Palestinian institutions in the city that have been closed in recent years through the use of Israel’s Emergency Regulations.
Established in February 2000, the Nidal Center for Community Development is affiliated with Palestinian Health Work Committees, an umbrella organization mandated with providing Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza with a “comprehensive, culturally competent, community-based health care system that is committed to serving the needs of the individual and promoting community health.”
The Israeli authorities issued the Nidal Center its first closure notice in July 2009. According to Hazem Abu Seir, the director of the Nidal Center, the Israeli authorities argued that the Palestinian community center was promoting terror-related activities. They have furthermore informed Nidal Center employees that another closure notice will soon be issued, barring the Center from opening its doors until September 2012.
“[The Israeli authorities] said in the beginning that this center is related to terror activities and [to a] terror party,” Abu Seir told The Electronic Intifada. “But the reason [they closed the center] is that we work with youth. [Our activities are] related to our Palestinian culture and this is indirect resistance. When you develop your own identity, it’s something that makes them very worried.”
Abu Seir said that the Nidal Center has no links whatsoever to so-called “terrorist organizations,” and instead, its activities focus on developing cultural awareness and promoting education of Palestinian youth and children, and holding seminars, lectures and classes to empower Palestinian women. “For example, we established and started dabke [Palestinian dance] teams. It was a really good thing and the youth liked to participate in the group. After the closure, all of them and their families called us and asked, ‘Why? Why did you close?’ It was very good opportunity for youth and children to participate in the center in the Old City,” he said.
“I am always hopeful [that the center will re-open] but after they told us that they’re going to renew the closure, the decision disappoints us very much,” Abu Seir added.
Use of Regulations widespread
Israel’s use of administrative detention orders — which authorize the detention of a person without charge or trial, and which can be renewed indefinitely for six-month periods of time — is based on the Emergency Regulations of 1945. As of July 2011, B’Tselem estimated that Israel held 243 Palestinians in administrative detention in facilities run by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) (“Statistics on administrative detention,” July 2011).
According to Addameer, the Ramallah-based prisoner rights group, “administrative detention has been used as a form of collective punishment by the Israeli military against Palestinians, illegal in this form under international law” and “Israeli authorities do not hesitate to violate the standards of fair trial, and fail to take international law or humanitarian dimension into consideration while handling the issue of administrative detention” (“Administrative detention”).
Israel has also used the Emergency Regulations to expel Palestinian political leaders from Jerusalem. Adnan Gheith, a member of the al-Bustan popular committee in the East Jerusalem village of Silwan and the secretary of the Fatah movement in the neighborhood, for instance, was expelled from the city in early 2011 for a period of four months.
Gheith’s expulsion was based on the pretext that he was responsible for clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli security forces in Silwan and thus constituted a security threat to the state. It was the first time that Israel had issued an assigned residence order against a resident of East Jerusalem. “The order against Adnan is not part of a legal process where suspicions, charges or evidence have any part. It is an administrative order that circumvents the rule of law, which forms the foundation of western democracy,” wrote the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC) at the time Gheith’s deportation order was issued (“Help Silwan resident Adnan Gheith stay in Jerusalem,” 23 December 2010).
“In this harsh reality, a person’s rights are taken without due process, with no charges, based on secret evidence and with no possibility to truly defend oneself. It is the essence of a Kafkaesque, legal procedure in the taunting maze of the Occupation’s bureaucracy and power,” PSCC added.
“Unchecked, draconian powers”
Ultimately, ACRI concludes that if passed, the Counterterrorism Bill would not only cement the dangerous measures already practiced by the Israeli authorities, but would legalize their use at all times, not only during a “state of emergency.”
“The bill grants the executive branch unchecked, draconian powers to use harsh measures against individuals and organizations — all this without trial, on the basis of mere suspicion, and without establishing the minimal guarantees for the defense of the rights of the accused,” ACRI explains in its press release.
“The Counterterrorism Bill in its current formula … seeks to perpetuate the improper procedures currently in place, while abandoning human rights concerns. This is all the more grave given that the proposed bill would become a permanent, ‘normative’ law, and not limited to use in a state of emergency.”
Jillian Kestler-D’Amours is a reporter and documentary filmmaker based in Jerusalem. More of her work can be found at http://jkdamours.com.
Yesterday, I attended Rick Perry’s press conference at the W Hotel in New York City, where the Texas Governor and Republican presidential frontrunner denounced President Barack Obama for supposedly “appeasing” America’s enemies in the Middle East and failing to sufficiently support Israel. The Perry appearance was timed to pre-empt Obama’s speech at the UN in which the President would reject Palestinian demands for statehood.
The most remarkable aspect of Perry’s press conference was the cast of characters that assembled behind the Governor while he spoke. To Perry’s immediate right was Assemblyman Dov Hikind, the former leader of the Jewish Defense League, a terrorist group responsible for bombing attacks on numerous Arab-American targets and a conspiracy to murder Republican Rep. Darrell Issa. While Hikind’s collaborator Victor Vancier spent ten years in jail for firebomb attacks, Hikind was suspected by the FBI of numerous terror attacks of his own. After issuing numerous stentorian condemnations of terror, Perry handed the mic over to Hikind, who exclaimed, “I heard the Governor’s speeches and I said to myself, ‘He sounds like me!’” The two engaged in a sustained hug before a giant media gaggle.
To Perry’s left was Dr. Solomon “Joe” Frager, who was listed on official Perry press material as the organizer of the press conference. Frager is the Chairman of the Jerusalem Reclamation Project, a front group for the Ateret Cohanim organization that steals Palestinian property in East Jerusalem and hands it over to fanatically religious Jewish families. They are the spearhead of Israel’s slow motion ethnic cleansing of Silwan and the Old City. For a glimpse at the zealotry, racism and sheer sleaziness behind Ateret Cohanim’s operation, watch Louis Theroux’s excellent BBC documentary, “The Ultra-Zionists,” which follows Ateret Cohanim’s man-on-the-ground Daniel Luria as he personally orchestrates the theft of Palestinian homes.
Surrounding Perry was a sundry assortment of Jewish Israeli extremists, from Knesset Deputy Speaker Danny Danon, who advocates annexing the West Bank to punish the Palestinian Authority for pursuing statehood, to Member of Knesset Nissim Zeev, a settler from the Shas Party who has proposed “rehab centers” for homosexuals.
None of the reporters I talked to afterwards seemed to know who any of Perry’s “pro-Israel” supporters were, and very few even cared. And nothing I have read so far about the event in the mainstream American media noted that it was planned by a key orchestrator of Palestinian home seizures in occupied territory, or that Perry embraced the former leader of a group listed by the FBI as a terrorist organization. To get a sense of the kind of coverage Perry earned from the mainstream press, read Politico’s Ben Smith, who described Perry’s speech as “moderate” and “centrist.” Meanwhile, the liberal groups that howled in protest when Perry hosted a prayer rally in Houston with Christian right leaders have virtually ignored Perry’s embrace of the Jewish extreme right.
It goes without saying that if an American politician meets with any Muslim or Arab leader, they will invite vehement denunciations from their opponents and face intense scrutiny from the mainstream press. This is why Obama has not visited a single mosque during his entire term as President (former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Obama was avoiding Muslims “out of sensitivity to the Jewish vote”). When a politician like Perry who surrounds himself with violent Jewish extremists before the national press corps, however, he is lauded as a “centrist” and treated as a serious contender.
On September 8, Obama’s “American Jobs Act” address to Congress was a thinly veiled campaign speech. More on it below.
On September 19 came Act Two to enlist support for “Living Within Our Means and Investing in Our Future” by cutting $4 trillion over 10 years (for starters with more to come) from Medicare, Medicaid, public pensions, veterans’ benefits, unemployment insurance, the US Postal Service, and other social benefits.
It’s part of a bipartisan plan to destroy America’s middle class, good-paying jobs and benefits, the dream of homeownership for millions, and a nation once fit to live in but no longer.
Economist and regular Progressive Radio New Hour contributor Jack Rasmus commented on the minimum $4 trillion deficit reduction plan, saying:
It’s “not only the consensus deficit target but also the amount by which taxes have been cut for the rich and corporations.”
Moreover, it equals the amount banks and other large corporations “have been hoarding in cash since the bailouts,” instead of using it for economic growth and job creation.
In addition, out-of-control war spending and bailouts applied productively would make austerity cuts unnecessary.
“Who’s going to pay the next $4 trillion (and more trillions after that)….is the central issue,” according to ruling elites?
“It’s not jobs (not created), foreclosures, broke states and cities, students indentured for life, or seniors struggling to stay alive.”
At a time stimulus is needed to revive productive growth, infighting focuses on what more to cut, hitting working households, the poor, retirees and disabled hardest.
Notably, 25 million Americans wanting jobs have none. Nothing is being done to create them.
Instead, proposals focus on tax cuts for the rich, corporate handouts, and austerity to pay for them.
Welcome to America.
Land of permanent war, disproportionate wealth extremes, and spiraling debt.
With growing millions unemployed and impoverished.
With 11 million homes foreclosed and another 20 million under water.
Where 44 million seniors will soon pay double for Medicare and get no cost of living Social Security increases.
Where millions of poor children will lose Medicaid.
Where millions of students are debt entrapped for life.
Welcome to a land where most one day will be better off by leaving because no homeland opportunities exist.
Ask millions of downsized middle class Americans heading for working poor status.
Ask political Washington why members sworn to serve instead betray.
Expect no answer because you’ll get none.
Refuse to take anymore and resist, including about Obama’s shameless new wealth transfer scheme to corporate favorites and super-rich elites called “stimulus.”
On September 8, a New York Times editorial headlined, “The Jobs Speech,” saying:
Obama’s proposal was more “ambitious….robust and far-reaching than expected – that may be the first crucial step in reigniting the economy….”
“(H)e was authoritative in demanding that Congress pass his plan quickly….We hope Mr. Obama keeps his promise to take his proposals all over the country. The need to act is urgent.”
Only the last statement had merit in an editorial best rebuked for not explaining who benefits at whose expense.
On September 20, a Times editorial headlined, “A Call to Fairness,” saying:
Obama “issued an unabashed call for economic fairness in cutting the federal deficit, asking as much from those on the economy’s upper rungs as from those lower down whose programs may be slashed.”
Programs for working Americans will be slashed en route to gutting them entirely in out years. “Economic fairness” won’t happen because Republicans and many Democrats won’t tolerate it. Neither will Obama.
Taxes for the rich won’t be raised because he opposes it. His plan, in fact, backs comprehensive “pro growth” tax reform.
It involves cutting top individual and corporate rates in exchange for eliminating loopholes clever accountants can devise ways to keep.
Yet Times editors call his austerity plan “a well-proportioned mix.”
In fact, it benefits corporate favorites and America’s aristocracy at the expense of working households.
A previous article called it a combination left hook, right cross haymaker, decking workers when they need help.
“It pays for desperately needed jobs” that won’t be created because tax cuts create none.
Recall last December. Despite pledging opposition to extending tax cuts for households earning over $250,000, Obama capitulated.
On December 6, a White House press release said:
While “disagree(ing)” with Republicans, he argued that “without a willingness to give on both sides, there’s no reason to believe (the current) stalemate won’t continue well into next year….I am not willing to let that happen….it would be the wrong thing to do.”
“As a result, we have arrived at a framework for a bipartisan agreement.”
Everyone got a tax cut on income, capital gains, dividends, and the Bush enacted federal estate tax that lapsed at the start of 2010, including the super-rich (who deserve higher, not lower taxes).
As expected, Obama caved to Republicans and deep-pocketed donors who’d likely give less if they paid more.
“Shared sacrifice” for him is transferring maximum wealth from working Americans to Wall Street, other corporate favorites, and super-rich elites already with too much.
Rhetoric aside, he’s got more of the same in mind now.
Times editors love it, saying only that “this plan was far too late in coming. But the public is listening now, and has demanded shared sacrifice. The burden is now on Mr. Obama to sell his plan, and on Congress to buy it.”
He and Congress will indeed agree on a destructive austerity plan harming working Americans most to assure elitist interests know he’s the gift that keeps on giving.
It showed in his September 8 stimulus plan. It includes a laundry list of handouts instead of measures to create jobs, generate growth, reinvigorate Main Street, strengthen America’s middle class, and help growing millions of impoverished, disadvantaged households most in need.
No matter how it’s directed, $447 billion proposed won’t create jobs. It’s more of the same too little, too late for nation in serious trouble in the context of a sinking global economy.
In February 2009, when Obama proposed $787 in economic stimulus, unemployment was about 25 million. Two and a half years later, it’s the same. How then can half a loaf do now what double it earlier couldn’t. It won’t nor is that its intention.
In fact, it’s more a reelection than jobs plan if voters are foolish enough to buy it. Hopefully they’ll understand how it harms them.
Tax cuts can’t create jobs, yet they comprise about 60% of his plan. Despite well over $1 trillion for them in the last two years, zero jobs were created.
In fact, they’ve been less than zero when factoring in the replacement of full-time higher-paying jobs for uncertain lower wage/low or no benefit temporary or part-time ones.
Obama also proposed state subsidies as in 2009 to create jobs. Notably since then, hundreds of thousands of state and local government layoffs followed. They continue monthly.
In 2009, $100 billion was allocated for infrastructure spending to create four million jobs. It didn’t happen. In June 2009, 6.4 million construction workers were employed. Today it’s less than 5.5 million.
Obama’s new plan is no better. Immediate job creation is needed. Construction and infrastructure jobs are long-term and won’t help over any duration when boosted by minimal funding.
Moreover, Washington’s too-big-to-fail bailout didn’t restart lending. Major banks and other corporate giants are hoarding trillions of dollars instead of using them to stimulate growth and create jobs.
Today’s political Washington doesn’t prioritize them so expect none, Obama’s rhetoric notwithstanding. His agenda focuses on permanent wars and shifting maximum wealth to corporate favorites and America’s top 1%.
His new plans are old wine in new bottles, socking it to the constituencies that elected him.
Maybe next time they’ll have second thoughts and reject America’s duopoly entirely.
Unless they do, they’ll keep getting same old, same old no matter which party holds power.
Both represent institutionalized depravity responsible for turning America into a moral swamp.
Changing that is job one for people wanting something better.
It requires tearing down what doesn’t work and starting over.
What better time to start than now.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
Democrats on the committee have received far more money from Pentagon contractors
… Since 2007, Democrats on the supercommittee have received more than $1 million in defense industry donations, while contributions to the Republicans added up to only $321,000. Panel co-chair Sen. Patty Murray, for example, has received more defense industry dollars over that period than the combined total of the top four Republican recipients on the supercommittee. Even so, her haul from the Pentagon’s weapons-makers isn’t the largest by a panel Democrat, a distinction held by her colleague from South Carolina, James Clyburn.
An analysis of official government data paints a disturbing picture of big money, cozy relationships and potential influence that, alongside a concerted lobbying effort by the Pentagon and its powerful defense contractors, makes substantial reductions to the Department of Defense’s budget improbable and steeper cuts to entitlement programs, like Medicare and Medicaid, more likely. …
Call committee co-chairs Sen. Patty Murray (202.224.2621) and U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (202.225.3484). Tell them that war spending costs jobs, and we expect them to cut the war budget.
The United Nations’ annual opening of the General Assembly each September affords heads of state and heads of government the opportunity to meet both formally and informally. The upcoming meeting between President Barack Obama and Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan promises to be particularly contentious. How exactly it plays out will inevitably demonstrate the astonishing power of Israel and its Lobby. Obama is expected to rebuke Erdogan over the issue of Palestinian statehood, which Turkey supports, and over the willingness of Ankara to use its own warships to protect Turkish vessels in international waters that are seeking to sail to Gaza. They have good reason to do so. In June 2010, the Israelis boarded a Turkish ferry in international waters and killed nine Turks, one of whom was also an American citizen, most of whom were shot execution style.
Turkey: Ally since 1949
Turkey has been a NATO ally since 1949, hosting numerous American bases and the key intelligence listening post at Sinop, which had unique ability to monitor Soviet ballistic missile launches. Turkish soldiers in the Korean War were regarded as some of the finest engaged in that conflict. And they have fought and died to save American lives. The 5,000 men of the 1st Turkish Brigade were attached to 2nd then to the 25th US Infantry Divisions. In 1950, after the Chinese breakthrough, they fought a series of bloody rearguard actions covering the retreat of the American troops in which they suffered more than 3,500 casualties.
But American congressmen and pundits, particularly those who are particularly enamored of Israel, seem to have forgotten their history, if they ever knew it. In September 16th Washington Post Morton Abramowitz, a former US Ambassador to Turkey, opined the following:
Erdogan “now directly challenges our major alliance in the Middle East, and how far he will go is unclear…By threatening to militarily contest Israel’s blockade of Gaza…the Turkish government has laid down a serious challenge to American policy…Obama’s meeting with Erdogan on Tuesday is crucial. He can take a few important steps. He should immediately deploy 6th Fleet ships from Norfolk to the Eastern Mediterranean to signal that the United States will not tolerate even inadvertent naval clashes. He needs to make clear to Erdogan that the United States will not side with Turkey against Israel and that Turkey’s current strategy risks undermining regional stability.”
And there’s more. Seven United States Senators have sent a letter to President Obama stating that “Turkey is shifting to a policy of confrontation, if not hostility, towards our allies in Israel and we urge you to mount a diplomatic offensive to reverse this course. We ask you to outline Turkey’s eroding support in Congress…and how its current ill-advised policy towards the State of Israel will also negatively reflect on U.S. Turkish relations and Turkey’s role in the future of NATO.” The Senators are Mark Kirk, Charles Schumer, Mark Warner, Scott Brown, Joe Manchin, Joe Lieberman, and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Comparing Turkey to Israel
Abramowitz and the Senators reveal their own ignorance apart from anything else. Turkey is an ally. Israel is not. Turkey has served United States strategic interests. Israel has not. Turkey has hosted American bases and committed its soldiers to support their American counterparts in combat. Israel has not. Israel has done little more vis-à-vis the United States’ real interests than take more than a hundred billion dollars in taxpayer provided largesse, use Washington as a veto machine to protect its own interests, and betray all of that by spying and stealing defense secrets which were later traded to the Russians and sold to the Chinese.
Abramowitz wants to use the US Navy to protect Israel against the consequences of its own actions and is willing to attack an alliance member which is insisting on freedom of the seas and some accountability for the killing of its own citizens.
Americans were once proud of the US Navy when it acted in that fashion, but apparently no longer, at least not in the White House nor among some retired ambassadors. The Senators are threatening to use all means possible to punish Turkey not because it has done damage to the United States but because of its strained relationship with a third country, Israel. The Senators even threaten reducing Turkey’s role in NATO. Excuse me, but NATO is an alliance with equal partners, isn’t it, not an American fiefdom?
Sacrificing US interests for the Israel Lobby
So why all the defensiveness about Israel when Israel is a liability and Turkey a valuable asset strategically? Well, there’s an election coming up, which means that President Obama will do everything he can to appease Israel and its Lobby without any regard for the United States national interest or for old allies like Turkey. He will ignore world opinion by vetoing Palestinian statehood at the UN and he will make clear to the Turks that Israel always comes first, the single immutable factor in American foreign policy. Israel will always come first. And there will be plenty of congressmen and Morton Abramowitzes that will stand up and say that he is right to do so.
Protesters of the Greek trade union PAME march during a rally against the government’s plans for new austerity measures in Athens on Wednesday
Greeks in Athens have reacted angrily to the government’s tougher austerity measures by staging a strike in the capital over further taxes and public spending cuts.
Athens was brought to a standstill on Thursday by a 24-hour public transport strike while teachers and municipal workers also staged walkouts. A four-hour work stoppage by air traffic controllers also forced airlines to cancel or reschedule flights.
“We are obliged to resist. Not even Greece’s German and Turkish conquerors imposed such taxes,” AFP quoted the head of Athens’ subway employees Antonis Stamatopoulos as saying.
The Greek government has announced pension and tax break cuts and put 30,000 state employees on temporary layoffs after pledging to do ‘anything’ to stay in the Eurozone and unlock bankruptcy-saving EU-IMF loans.
On Wednesday, the government announced cuts to pensions above 1,200 Euros ($1,650) per month, a furlough for 30,000 state employees and a drastic reduction to revenue exemption on annual taxes to 5,000 Euros, from 12,000 Euros currently.
Greece has been struggling to convince the European Union and International Monetary Fund that it can bring its tough economic overhaul program back onto track despite delays and targets slipping due to a deeper-than-expected recession.
EU and IMF auditors have agreed to resume a review of Greek finances needed to unlock 8 billion euros in rescue funding.
The audit had been suspended in early September, with sources citing lack of progress with reforms, placing in jeopardy the release of funds needed to prevent Athens running out of cash next month.
The additional cuts, on top of a controversial property tax that could be extended to 2014, have raised dissent in the ruling party with backbenchers and former ministers doubting their effectiveness after two years of recession.
The main private sector union GSEE and the Adedy syndicate representing civil servants have called for strikes next month against the austerity measures.
The public sector will shut down on October 5 and a general strike will be held on October 19.