In what may well be a temporary aberration, the Obama Administration appears to be sticking by Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko, even though the nuclear industry most definitely wants him out. The current assault on Jaczko has come in the form of a “confidential” letter from Jaczko’s four fellow commissioners sent in October to White House Chief of Staff William Daley complaining that the NRC Chairman pays scant attention to their views and generally runs the Commission as a one man show. Should the attack succeed, the new Chairman will most likely be William Magwood, long a tireless promoter of nuclear power as Director of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy where he promoted the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, a program to restart reprocessing of nuclear waste.
Obama himself has had a long and unpleasing record of engagement with the nuclear industry, notably the Exelon Corporation, which has been making generous provision to Obama’s campaign chest ever since his days in the Illinois Senate, where he performed various useful services on the corporation’s behalf. It should therefore have come as no surprise that when a vacancy arose on the NRC board early in his administration, Obama nominated Magwood.
The nomination was opposed by over a hundred organizations which vainly cited Magwood’s shameful record as a tout for the industry he was now supposed to regulate. Once installed early in 2010, he showed every sign of a zealous commitment to advancing the priorities of the nuclear power industry.
Back in those happy pre-Fukushima days, the future appeared bright for nuclear power. The public obloquy that followed Three Mile Island, condemning the industry to years of stagnation, was at last dissipating, thanks to artful invocation of the specter of global warming and concurrent recasting of nuclear power as a “clean” energy source and toast of the environmental movement.
One problem remained: longterm disposal of high level nuclear waste. In 1987 it had seemed that this particular issue had been settled with the passage in Congress of the “Screw Nevada” bill nominating Yucca Mountain, 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas, as the sole suitable site that could be considered for the permanent interment of 72,000 tons of lethal waste currently stored at reactors around the country. The selection had little scientific validity, given that the site marks the juncture of two seismic fault lines and in any case is volcanically active and composed of porous rock, through which flows drinking water for one of Nevada’s most important farming areas, as well as an Indian reservation. The mountain is also sacred to the Western Shoshone people.
Opposing the infamous bill was freshman Senator Harry Reid. Outraged and humiliated by the way that legislators from Washington state and Texas, the two other nominees for a waste site, had effectively consigned Nevada to be the radioactive trash dump, Reid, a former amateur boxer, remarked that “sometimes you have to go round the back of the bar” to finish a fight.
In ensuing years, as the construction crews tunneled away into the depths of the mountain, Reid took several initiatives to ensure that Yucca Mountain never opened for business. First, he advanced through the Democratic leadership to become Majority Leader in 2006. Second, he maneuvered successfully to move Nevada’s Democratic caucuses to January, thus rendering them potentially crucial in the nomination race. This had the natural consequence of generating fervent pledges from Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton in 2008 that, so long as there was breath in their bodies, Yucca Mountain would never hold nuclear waste. Thirdly, Reid recruited as his appropriations director and science policy adviser Gregory Jaczko, a former aide to veteran anti-nuke congressman Ed Markey. Fourth, he induced George W. Bush in 2005, to nominate Jaczko as a Commissioner to the NRC in exchange for dropping Democratic opposition to a number of federal judgeships. Following Obama’s presidential victory, Reid demanded and secured Jaczko’s appointment as Chairman of the NRC.
Once at the helm, Jaczko moved with commendable dispatch to shut down Yucca Mountain once and for all even while fellow commissioners echoed the nuclear industry in pushing for a mere suspension of the project. Then came the Fukushima disaster. As the reactor buildings exploded and US military radiation monitors in Japan ticked remorselessly upwards, the US government began to panic. “I’ve lived through many crises in the decades I’ve been in government,” one national security official intimately involved in the Fukushima response told me, “but this was the most frightening week of my professional life, by far. We thought we were going to lose half of Japan.”
While the Japanese government reacted to the catastrophe with criminal quiescence – enjoining evacuation merely from an area within 12 miles of the plant – Jaczko took more decisive action, telling Americans within 50 miles to move out. This was anathema to the industry, a sentiment emphatically mirrored in the four commissioners’ letter of complaint to the White House. Further initiatives irksome to Magwood and the others included a push to enjoin additional safety measures on US reactor operators in light of Fukushima.
“He’s not ‘our guy’ by any means, he has voted to re-license plants that should probably be shut down” says Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear. “But he does care about safety, in ways that the others do not.”
So far at least, the White House, conscious no doubt of Nevada’s electoral votes, is backing Jaczko. But, even while Jaczko confronts his assailants, a Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future has been chewing on the problem of what to do with the radioactive waste filling up pools at reactors around the U.S.. Headed by that perennial placeman, former congressman Lee Hamilton, the commissioners include Obama’s old pal, Exelon CEO John Rowe, who, as Beyond Nuclear’s Kamps points out, “has created more nuclear waste than anyone else in America.”
Senator Reid’s work may not yet be done.
ANDREW COCKBURN is the co-producer of the feature documentary on the financial catastrophe American Casino. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He can be reached at email@example.com
Act against corporate interests, and become a target for personal destruction.
WASHINGTON — Under a withering assault from the industry, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko is stepping down, effective upon the confirmation of his successor, according to a statement from Jaczko.
The resignation follows months of bureaucratic knife-wielding by the four industry-backed members of the five-person panel. Like something out of Dumas, the passionate infighting stretched back decades. The industry effort was spearheaded by Democratic Commissioner Bill Magwood. [...]
HuffPost reported that Magwood, who spent his career moving in and out of the private sector, had done nuclear safety consulting for the company that owns the Fukushima nuclear power plant. … Read full article
NRC Oversight Hearing, Dec. 14, 2011
Newt Gingrich’s jaunt to New York early this month was well-covered in the media, but one crucial aspect went unexplored: the Israel lobby angle. But good reporting from The Jewish Week‘s Adam Dickter makes clear that Gingrich came to New York looking for right-wing Jewish campaign donors who are hardline supporters of Israel.
Dickter reports that Gingrich has only raised around $52,000 from New York campaign donors, a paltry sum compared to Mitt Romney’s New York totals. So Gingrich came to New York in search of some much-needed funds in order to compete with Romney, his chief rival for the Republican nomination.
Not coincidentally, Gingrich’s controversial remarks on Palestinians came only a few days after a major New York meeting with donors.
Who did Gingrich meet with? Dickter reports:
On Dec. 6, at the Hyatt in Midtown, Gingrich met with some 30 prominent Jewish New Yorkers, including Daily News publisher Morton Zuckerman, an ex-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; developer and Republican Jewish Coalition co-founder George Klein; Presidents Conference executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein; National Council of Young Israel Executive Director Rabbi Pesach Lerner and Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind.
Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein, who lives in Pennsylvania, also attended.
“[Gingrich] was extremely impressive,” said Hikind, a Democrat, who has been said to be considering an endorsement of Gingrich, whose views are in line with many constituents of Hikind’s heavily Orthodox Borough Park and Flatbush district. “There are a lot of people from my part of the Jewish community that are pro-Israel that really like the guy. There’s no question that he is refreshing.”
Gingrich’s meeting was an effort to broaden his appeal to donors who are right-wing on Israel, and his remarks about Palestinians are part of that effort. Already in Gingrich’s corner is “Lawrence Kadish, a Long Island-based real estate investor and co-founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition,” reports Dickter. “Kadish is president of First Fiscal Trust and a resident of Old Westbury. He serves on the board of the conservative think tanks Hudson Institute and Claremont Institute and supports the pro-Israel media-watch organizations CAMERA and MEMRI.” But Gingrich needs more money, and so he’s pandering hard to the right on Israel. It will also help in Iowa, where Gingrich wants to capture the Christian evangelical vote, a vote that is solidly Zionist.
Note that his meeting in New York was bipartisan. It’s not just Republican Jewish donors Gingrich is looking to for help; it’s also Democrats like Dov Hikind (who is quite conservative for a Democrat) and Mort Zuckerman. And they’re all about Israel. It’s another example of how the Israel lobby crosses party lines.
Thomas Friedman today said that Congress’ standing ovations for Benjamin Netanyahu was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” He could also extend that line of thinking to include the presidential candidates, including Obama. Sure, Gingrich is tapping into genuine support for Israel among some Americans. But the financing of his campaign is a core reason why Gingrich continues to run to the hard right on Israel. Perhaps now, with an opening in the discourse, we can talk frankly about why Gingrich, and Obama, come to New York and talk about Israel.
The U.S. administration is in talks with Congress on the establishment of a new organization supporting NGOs in Russia, Philip Gordon, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, said on Wednesday, December 14.
“As part of our democracy strategy, the administration has been consulting with Congress on an initiative to create a new fund to support Russian non-governmental organizations that are committed to a more pluralistic and open society,” Gordon said.
“The fund would not require an additional appropriation, as necessary funding would be drawn from the liquidated proceeds of the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund – an example of successful U.S. foreign assistance to Russia,” he said at a meeting of a subcommittee in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Gordon said the United States provides financial support to Russian civil society.
“Since 2009, the U.S. government has given approximately $160 million in assistance to support programs on human rights, rule of law, anti-corruption, civil society, independent media, good governance, and democratic political processes,” he said.
“Most recently, U.S. funding was used to support independent Russian monitoring of the [State] Duma elections and education for independent media on professional and unbiased reporting, encourage informed citizen participation in elections, and enhance the capacity to conduct public opinion polling,” Gordon said, RIA Novosti reported.
On December 8, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed toughening responsibility for those who interfere in Russian political life on foreign orders.
“When money from abroad is invested in political activities inside another country, this concerns us,” he said, adding that “hundreds of millions of dollars” of foreign money have been spent to influence the election process in Russia.
“We are not against foreign observers monitoring out election process,” Putin said. “But when they begin motivating some organizations inside the country which claim to be domestic but in fact are funded from abroad… this is unacceptable.”
The ruling United Russia party won the Russia’s December 4 parliamentary elections, gaining about 50 percent of the vote. Tens of thousands of people went to the streets to protest the vote results, which they say were rigged.
In The New Yorker that came out Monday, David Remnick wrote that Newt Gingrich’s goal is the Jewish “vote.” He didn’t say it once, but four or five times (emphasis mine):
Late last week, as part of a Republican pander-fest for the Jewish vote… Newt Gingrich… called the Palestinians an “invented” people…
The Palestinian vote will not decide swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, or, above all, Florida; a considerable shift in the Jewish vote could.
Gingrich and his fellow Republicans have sensed a potential softening in the Jewish vote. In 2008, only African-Americans were more solidly behind Barack Obama, who, according to exit polls, won seventy-eight per cent of the Jewish vote. But the Republicans are hoping to woo at least the more conservative sector of Jewish Americans—those who feel that Obama has been too hard on Benjamin Netanyahu.
Chemi Shalev of Haaretz, the leading Israeli newspaper, then interviewed Remnick about his story and ran an interview Tuesday. Here’s Shalev’s first question and the beginning of Remnick’s answer. Emphases mine.
Q. How do you view the extraordinary presence of Israel in the Republican race?
Remnick: Well, it’s not unprecedented. Israel even figures into things like New York mayoral races, as if the New York mayor had a foreign policy. So it’s not surprising that it would make an appearance to some degree or another, but you’re right, it’s a larger one this time around.
The reason is very simple: it is the hope of the Republican Party that the criticism of Obama regarding the Middle East and Netanyahu and everything related to it will somehow translate into a softening Jewish vote, that last time gave Obama 78%, second only to the African American community.
The Republicans won’t get a majority [of the Jewish votes] but they hope to get more votes in swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and especially Florida. And I think they are also hoping to see if they can get some money from the obvious corners in the Jewish community. It’s not a secret to them that in terms of campaign contributions, Jewish Americans give quite a lot of money.
Remnick has been a leading voice on the issue in the last year, but in his New Yorker piece he is obfuscating, and the reason is obvious; Remnick is concerned that talk about Jewish money will arouse anti-Semitism in the United States. NPR’s Robert Siegel did the same obfuscation last May. These men don’t trust their audience. I’m reminded of Tom Friedman’s interview with Ari Shavit in 2003, in which he said that the Iraq war was the war that a neoconservative “elite” wanted, something he wasn’t going to write in his column: “I could give you the names of 25 people (all of whom are at this moment within a five-block radius of this office) who, if you had exiled them to a desert island a year and a half ago, the Iraq war would not have happened.”
The question of why Republicans are pandering on Israel is not a trivial question, it’s an important one. A lot of us, including Remnick, went into this business because we thought the American people had a right to know.
Tehran – In what seems to be nothing but US-style barefaced arrogance, President Barack Obama has demanded the return of a spy drone which violated the airspace of the Islamic Republic but which was to the humiliation of the US officials downed by the Iranian army.
The top-secret RQ-170 Sentinel drone, which was used by Washington as part of the covert operations the US officials have already vowed to conduct inside Iran, was hunted down by an electronic ambush and landed with a minimal degree of damage over the city of Kashmar about 140 miles inside Iran.
Consciously blind to the realities of Washington’s abysmal policies, the Western media treated the report with a predilection for suspicion and disbelief and used the somewhat innocuous-sounding term ‘reconnaissance drone’. However, when Pentagon later acknowledged the “mysterious loss of a surveillance drone”, they had no choice but to face the truth.
What strikes as bizarrely ridiculous is the fact that Washington has demanded the return of the drone which they have confessed was sent on a secret mission for gathering information.
”We have asked for it back. We’ll see how the Iranians respond,” Mr. Obama has said.
Nonetheless, Iran says that it has no intention of returning the drone and that Washington should compensate Tehran for violating the country’s airspace.
Brushing aside the possibility of returning the drone, Chairman of Iran’s Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi said on Tuesday that the White House must face the consequences of violating Iran’s airspace.
Washington’s insistence on having the drone returned springs from some secret concern over the nature of what the Iranians would glean technologically from the spy drone.
Iranian military experts are reportedly in the final stage of extracting information from the drone. The extracted information will be used to sue the United States, an Iranian official says.
When asked at a White House news conference if he was concerned that Iran could weaken US national security by obtaining intelligence from the downed drone, Obama said, “I’m not going to comment on intelligence matters that are classified.”
Without directly referring to the spy drone, Obama had earlier repeated the same old threat that ‘all options are on the table in dealing with Iran’, saying, “Today Iran is isolated, and the world is unified in applying the toughest sanctions that Iran has ever experienced. They can break that isolation by acting responsibly and forswearing the development of nuclear weapons . . . or they can continue to operate in a fashion that isolates them from the entire world.”
Obama’s threatening words against Iran evidently reek of the literature of his predecessor George W. Bush. In fact, he is following in the footsteps of Bush and has metaphorically metamorphosed into the belligerent personality of the latter.
It is manifest that Washington has recently ramped up its espionage activities in Iran.
On May 21, 2011, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry arrested an espionage network comprising of 30 individuals who were working for the CIA and another 42 CIA operatives who had links with the network. The CIA-linked network deceived citizens into spying for the agency under the pretext of issuing visas, assisting with US permanent residency, and offering job and study opportunities in American universities.
According to Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, the disbanded network was chiefly focused on targeting the country’s nuclear plants, energy fields, and sensitive oil and gas centers with the main purpose of sabotaging these areas.
Iranian intelligence officials have learned that the CIA agents had gathered information from universities and scientific research centers in the field of aerospace, defense and biotechnology industries.
Also, on November 24, 2011, Iran arrested another 12 CIA agents who were working with Israel’s Mossad and targeted the country’s military and nuclear program. Member of the Iranian Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Parviz Sorouri said that the CIA and Mossad espionage apparatuses were making efforts to damage Iran both from inside and outside and deal a heavy blow with the help of regional intelligence services.
“Fortunately, with the swift reaction of the Iranian intelligence department, their attempts proved abortive,” Sorouri said.
If truth be told, the downing of the spy drone has surely delivered a heavy blow to the intelligence apparatus of the CIA and rustled many feathers in Washington. In an atrociously antagonistic manner, former US Vice President Dick Cheney unleashed his anger on President Barack Obama, saying that he should have doubled down on being caught spying with an overt attack on Iran.
“The right response would have been to go in immediately after it had gone down,” Cheney said.
Confusing Iran with Iraq and Afghanistan, he suggested that this could have been done either with a land invasion to recover the lost drone or by bombing the area until the drone was destroyed.
“The right response to that would have been to go in immediately after it had gone down and destroy it. You can do that from the air. You can do that with a quick airstrike, and in effect make it impossible for them to benefit from having captured that drone. I was told that the president had three options on his desk. He rejected all of them. They all involved sending somebody in to try to recover it, or if you can’t do that, admittedly that would be a difficult operation, you certainly could have gone in and destroyed it on the ground with an airstrike. But he didn’t take any of the options. He asked for them to return it. And they aren’t going to do that.”
The fury of poor Mr. Cheney is quite perceptible and pathetic and the predicament of President Obama is not hard to imagine.
However, it would be better if the US officials confessed to the military prowess of Iran instead of attributing the desperate loss of their drone to their President’s ineptitude.
The downing of the spy drone is a sign that Iran is militarily powerful and efficient. However, the secret mission of the drone, which is purported to have been the collection of secret data on the Iranian nuclear sites, consolidates the idea that Washington is more than ever bent on carrying out secret black operations inside Iran and that it is harboring a malicious plan to orchestrate an attack on the Iranian nuclear sites if not an Armageddon in the region.
- Dr. Ismail Salami is an Iranian author and political analyst. A prolific writer, he has written numerous books and articles on the Middle East.
Cairo – Just in case there was an iota of doubt left in your mind, Israel was officially declared an apartheid state during a session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in Cape Town on 7 November.
Among depositions, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza cited the Fourth Geneva Convention and the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which prohibits “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
This was just in time to honour the UN-endorsed International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, marked on 29 November to coincide with the anniversary of the UN vote for the Partition Plan, and first celebrated in 1976. Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists in 10 European countries staged more than 60 actions as part of a Day of Action calling on supermarkets and governments to “Take Apartheid off the Menu”.
In the UK, 26 November was declared a national BDS Day of Action targetting Britain’s largest supermarket chain Tesco, the only supermarket in the UK that is openly selling illegal settlement goods. Activities ranged from street protests, e-lobbying, relabelling, flash protests and internetworking. While Agrexco may be kaput as Israel’s largest supplier of fresh produce to Europe, Mehadrin has taken its place and was the target of the European Day of Action Against Israeli Agricultural Produce Exporters.
Demonstrators in the US boarded buses run by Veolia to educate passengers about Israel’s apartheid policies. Boston activists launched a campaign challenging the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail Company’s contract with Veolia. In Baltimore, activists demonstrated at Penn Station during rush hour, singing a freedom song and drawing connections between the Palestinian and American struggles for equality, linking Veolia’s profiteering from racism and exploitation in Israel/Palestine to the City of Baltimore’s contracts with its own workers.
In a cynical rearguard bid to attract Christmas shoppers, Israel Lobby activists launched Buy Israel Week November 28, hastily put together to counter the growing BDS tide. Luke Akehurst, director of We Believe in Israel, called for two BUYcott days, featuring discount coupons, sponsored by StandWithUs, El-Al, the Jewish National Fund and other such pillars of Israeli apartheid.
While American sympathisers were politely tolerated in their protests against Veolia’s transport activities in Israel, their compatriots in Palestine proper were violently arrested for confronting Veolia and Egged, the two major culprits, and targets of BDS activists in Europe.
Inspired by their Western supporters, six Palestinian Freedom Riders emulated the legendary Freedom Riders of the American south of the 1960s, riding settler bus 148 near the illegal settlement of Psagot. Much like those courageous black and white Americans (including many Jews) of yesteryear, the Palestinians were forcibly removed and arrested.
This new generation of Freedom Riders will further inspire Westerners for whom “It is a moral duty to end complicity in this Israeli system of apartheid,” according to arrested Hebron resident Badee Dwak. Fellow arrestee Basel Al-Araj minced no words: “The settlers are to Israel what the KKK was to the Jim Crow South — an unruly, fanatic mob that has enormous influence in shaping Israeli policies today and that violently enforces these policies with extreme violence and utter impunity.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker wrote: “Board the buses to Everywhere. Sit freely. Go into Jerusalem with my blessing. Like many of my country people, I have witnessed this scenario before and know where it can lead. To a straightening of the back and a full breath taken by the soul. Some of us have shed blood, others have shed tears. Some have shed both. All sacred to the cause of the dignity we deserve as beautifully fashioned citizens and Beings of this Universe.”
Sadly, as he honoured the Freedom Riders of the 1960s for their courage and dedication fifty years ago, President Barack Obama had no such words for the equally brave ones in Israel today.
In the Arab world, 29 November activities took BDS the logical extra step, with 7,000 Jordanians gathering in the Jordan Valley and marching to the Israeli border to condemn Israel’s settlement expansion, calling for the liberation of Al-Quds (Jerusalem), home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is the second holiest site for Muslims. “We sacrifice our souls and blood for Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Quds,” the Jordanians chanted after noon prayers, calling on Jordanian authorities to scrap its peace treaty with Israel.
Even as 100,000s of Cairenes gathered to defend the Egyptian revolution in Tahrir Square 26 November, a rally co-sponsored by Al-Azhar and the Union of Muslim Scholars attended by 5,000 called on Muslims to fight “Jerusalem’s Judaisation”. Al-Azhar Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb said: “We are telling Israel and Europe that we shall not allow even one stone to be moved there.” Activists chanted: “Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, judgment day has come.”
In other boycott news, a victory for a clutch of brave and principled tennis fans arrested for protesting at the New Zealand Women’s Tennis Open last December, which featured Israeli Shahar Peer. After a year of trials, they were finally exonerated in a landmark decision by High Court Justice Paul Heath, who said “Disruption of an individual’s enjoyment of a sporting event was not the same as disruption of public order.” Quipped a free John Minto, “Annoyance is not a crime, annoyance is part of being in democracy.” The judge said it was clear the protest was meant to convey to the tennis player the concerns at the way Israel treated the Palestinian Territories.
In contrast to the tidal wave of Western artists now boycotting Israel-linked events (the Yardbirds just cancelled a scheduled Tel Aviv show), iconic singer and actor Barbra Streisand performed at a fundraising gala in Los Angeles for Friends of the IDF. Streisand supports OneVoice, which promotes a two-state solution that fails to address structural injustices and has long been discredited. Guests of honour included media magnate Haim Saban and former Israeli Military Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who commanded the attacks on Gaza in 2008-09 which killed 1,400 Palestinians. An Israeli propaganda video about Streisand’s appearance at the gala features armed Israeli soldiers running in a scenic sunset. A shameful sunset in her own career.
In a wonderfully shocking divestment move, Israeli powers-that-be are furious at BNP Paribas for shutting down its operations in Israel. Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Banks Supervisor David Zaken believe the bank’s board of directors caved to pressure groups, in the first case in years of a foreign bank leaving Israel. BNP Paribas has had operations in Israel since 2003. The bank claims it sustained serious damage from the Greek crisis, yet the only foreign branch it is closing is its Israeli one.
Unfortunately, as yet, no international governmental sanctions against Israel have been imposed in the past few months. On the contrary, the US continues to oppose attempts to boycott Israel, putting great pressure especially on Arab League states, which officially support BDS. Under US antiboycott legislation enacted in 1978, US firms are prohibited from compliance with any such boycott directly or for a third party, and are required to report any such request to the US Department of Commerce. The WTO is an accomplice, as Israel is supposed to be treated as a Most Favoured Nation by member states.
This pressure has unfortunately had its effect. Morocco and Gulf Coordination Council members, especially Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, acceded to US arguments that boycotting Israel harmed the “peace process” and turn a blind eye to third-party economic relations with Israel and even quietly conduct direct trade.
But the Arab Spring is forcing these truant governments to wake up to their people’s demands. And the US showpiece for its vision of the new Middle East — Iraq — doesn’t dare end boycott activities, which were the hallmark of Iraqi politics prior to the US invasion.
A group of fanatic Israeli settlers burnt a mosque in Borqa village, east of the central West Bank city of Ramallah and wrote racist graffiti on its walls on Thursday at dawn. The incident is the latest of a series of attacks against Palestinian mosques and property.
According to eyewitness accounts, the settlers burnt the first and second floors of the mosque, after writing offensive graffiti regarding Arabs, Palestinians and Islam.
A resident of Borqa village told the Arabs48 News Website that a group of fanatical armed settlers invaded the village at dawn, and burnt the mosque, causing considerable damage.
The attack comes one day after a similar arson –attempt targeted Okasha historic mosque in Jerusalem. Before setting parts of the mosque ablaze, the settlers spray-painted racist graffiti targeting the Palestinians and the Muslim prophet.
Several mosques were attacked and burnt over the last few months in the occupied West Bank, in addition to an arson attack in Tuba-Zangaria, in the Galilee, in which the settlers destroyed the town mosque, and wrote ‘price tag’ graffiti in Hebrew.
On Wednesday, the settlers burnt four Palestinian cars in Nablus and Salfit districts.
Israeli media have reported that the settlers engaging in the price tag campaign no longer fear repercussions from the Israeli police for their attacks on Palestinian mosques and other holy sites.
The Price Tag attacks are carried out against the Palestinians, their property and holy sites, and against peace groups and leftist figures in Israel.
The settlers hold the Palestinians and Israeli peace groups responsible for the evacuation of illegal outposts in the West Bank.
Earlier on Thursday, the Israeli army dismantled two structures in the illegal Mitzpeh Yitzhar settlement in the West Bank.
In related news, Israeli troops closed the Huwwara and Za’tara roadblocks on Thursday morning, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, under the pretext of preventing settler attacks against Palestinian vehicles in the area.
Soldiers also installed roadblocks in the northern West Bank districts of Qalqilia and Tulkarem.