Yousef Ikhlayl, top left, attending a demonstration in Beit Ommar less than six months before he was killed by Israeli settlers. (Palestine Solidarity Project)
On 28 January 2011 at 6:30am, Yousef Ikhlayl, 17, went with his father Fakhri to their farmland on the outskirts of the West Bank village Beit Ommar, where they prepared the land around their grapevines. At approximately 7am, two groups of Israelis from the illegal settlements Bat Ayn and Kiryat Arba were taking a “hike” in the privately-owned Palestinian agricultural land belonging to the residents of Beit Ommar (“Palestinian killed in clashes with settlers near Hebron,” The Jerusalem Post, 29 January 2011).
There was no indication that the settlers were planning on shooting. Yousef’s father reported that the first shot fired by the settlers hit his son in the head. The settlers then began shooting in the air and the surrounding areas to prevent others from approaching, as his father screamed desperately for help.
Yousef was carried to a car that drove him out of the agricultural valley and to the main road, where an ambulance “rushed” him to the hospital in Hebron, passing two Israeli military checkpoints on the way. At the hospital, Yousef was put on a respirator, though he had no brain activity. He passed away soon after.
At his funeral the following day, as is common practice with the Israeli military involving martyr funerals, soldiers numbering in the hundreds invaded Beit Ommar and attacked the funeral with tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and even live ammunition, as the Palestine Solidarity Project reported (“Funeral of Yousef Ikhlayl attacked by Israeli military, dozens injured,” 29 January 2011).
The murder of Yousef Ikhlayl, the impunity with which the settlers acted and the military’s behavior at the funeral are common occurrences in the occupied West Bank. The death of a Palestinian, even a child, is rarely noted and quickly forgotten in much of the world. The killing of Yousef was, however, a profound event for myself, the Palestine Solidarity Project (PSP, the organization I co-founded) and popular resistance in the Hebron district as a whole.
PSP began farmer-accompaniment programs in the areas surrounding Beit Ommar — particularly the areas near Bat Ayn settlement — in 2006. We did so because of the extreme violence and the regularity with which settlers from this colony would attack farmers, particularly in the Saffa valley near where Yousef was killed.
Yousef was a regular participant in all of our activities, including demonstrations, farming actions, summer camps, English classes and even a photography workshop we held in 2010. He was a fixture at PSP events, volunteering to set up for conferences and often babysitting my young daughter as we held meetings and tours for international activists. I have vivid memories of Yousef carrying my baby, Rafeef, around the yard of my house, pointing out tree leaves and flowers while my husband, PSP co-founder Mousa Abu Maria, and I met with international delegations and the local popular committee.
Yousef was quite familiar with the Israeli settlers from the area and their potential for violence. Perhaps it was because of this familiarity with them that he did not run when they arrived in the area. He had been with PSP dozens of times as we accompanied other farmers to their land, as settlers watched from the hillside or hurled rocks at us from hundreds of meters away. Perhaps he assumed this time would be no different; but maybe it would have been different if we had been there with his family. I wonder about what he thought when the settlers approached. I have often thought in the last year if things would have been different if international activists had been there; if I had been there.
Our farmer-accompaniment program in the area throughout the years, though it had led to literally dozens of arrests of Israeli and international solidarity activists, was completely successful in deterring settler violence during the accompaniment.
In the end, the settlers roamed the area freely, shooting at residents and youth who began throwing stones for two hours. Two hours before Israeli soldiers, who are responsible for the security of Area C — 60 percent of the West Bank under Israeli military control — could persuade the residents to return to their homes.
The aforementioned Jerusalem Post article adds that twenty settlers were detained at the scene by the military — a highly unusual occurrence, possibly due to the presence of international and Israeli activists who had arrived in the area after the shooting — but were all released the same day.
During the two hours that the settlers stayed in the area, PSP activists arrived and began taking pictures of them to provide to the Israeli police responsible for investigating attacks by settlers on Palestinians in the West Bank. Shortly after the murder, Yousef’s father and the activists who took the pictures went to the Israeli police station (located in the settlement Kfar Etzion, next door to Bat Ayn) and filed a formal complaint.
Yousef’s father provided the photographs to the police and even identified a few individuals he saw closest to him and his son when he was shot. In a democracy, one would think this level of evidence, combined with the heinousness of the crime, would lead to a thorough investigation and speedy indictment. But, as we all well know, that is not what happens when settlers attack Palestinians.
In December 2011, Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization that monitors the criminal accountability of Israeli civilians and Israeli military forces in the West Bank, released an updated report on the rate of which Israeli civilians are prosecuted for crimes committed against Palestinians in the West Bank.
Yesh Din discovered, after researching the progress of 700 individual complaints filed with the Israeli police in the West Bank by Palestinians, that 91 percent of all complaints end with the investigation being closed without an indictment, including 85 percent of cases involving violence. The most common reason for closing a case (which can be done either by the police or by the police prosecutor) is “perpetrator unknown,” though a full 2 percent of all cases were closed because of a “lack of public interest,” which begs the question, “which public?” (“Updated data monitoring hundreds of investigations: 91% of cases closed without indictments,” 15 December 2011).
The report reveals that only 7.4 percent of cases involving settler crimes committed against Palestinians from 2005 to 2011 actually ended in an indictment. The statistic regarding crimes committed by Israeli military personnel against Palestinians, which are investigated by a separate entity, is a negligible 3.5 percent ending in indictments.
Yesh Din’s full report shows a series of failures, from the process of filing an initial complaint, to the police investigation, to the process inside the prosecutors’ office for initiating an indictment. In Yousef Ikhlayl’s case, Yesh Din discovered that while an investigation was conducted by the police (which may have only constituted the interview with Yousef’s father) and the file was turned over to the prosecution, the case has inexplicably been stalled for months because the prosecution’s office has refused to assign the case to an individual attorney, a step necessary before a final decision can be made on whether an indictment will be handed down.
It is obvious that individual justice for Palestinian victims of settler crimes — even when the victim is an unarmed child — remains elusive. Perhaps, as was suggested in an op-ed that appeared in Israeli daily Haaretz about the murder of Mustafa Tamimi, knowing the individual perpetrator, and pursuing a case against the individual, only serves to alleviate the responsibility of the system as a whole (“A courageous Palestinian has died, shrouded in stones,” 13 December 2011).
However, violent, ideological settlers, and their counterparts in the Israeli military, will only continue to act with total disregard for the basic human rights of Palestinians if they are assured that they will not face consequences. The death of a civilian, particularly a child, should result both in a black mark on the society that condones it, as well as the prosecution of the individuals responsible.
A call to action
Yousef Ikhlayl’s murder was overshadowed by world events taking place in January 2011. Activists and sympathetic journalists alike were focused on the massive uprising in Egypt that had just erupted, as well as other developments during the Arab uprisings. Beit Ommar, Yousef’s hometown, had fallen into the background as settler violence had decreased in previous months and the demonstrations in Nabi Saleh were gaining attention.
The community of Beit Ommar and the Palestine Solidarity Project have called for an international day of action on Saturday, 28 January, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Yousef’s death and ensure that he will not be forgotten.
People all over the world will hold demonstrations in front of Israeli consulates, and will plaster their cities with posters of with his face (which can be found on the website).
We are calling for an end to Israeli impunity, and the world to remember that behind statistics and policy reports, the victims of Israel’s murderous policies are real, live people. It is imperative that the international community not only hold Israel accountable for its criminal acts, through movements including boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), and solidarity work in Palestine, but also to humanize the victims of these crimes. Yousef Ikhlayl was a goofy, quiet and dedicated boy. He had a sheepish smile and made my daughter laugh. We will not forget him.
Bekah Wolf is a co-founder of the Palestine Solidarity Project, and has worked in the West Bank since 2003. Further details on the day of action to demand justice for Yousef Ikhlayl can be found on the PSP website, www.palestinesolidarityproject.org. PSP can be followed on Twitter at @PalestinePSP.
- International Solidarity Movement volunteers encounter settler attack and sexual harassment in Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- No jail for Jewish extremists in “price tag” attacks (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Child in critical condition after being hit by Israeli settler bus (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Saudi Arabia will recognize the Syrian National Council (SNC) as the “official representative” of the Syrian people amid a joint Western-Gulf Arab push to have President Bashar Assad removed, a senior member of the opposition group said on Friday.
“Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told an SNC delegation he met in Cairo last week the kingdom will recognize the Council as the official representative of the Syrian people,” SNC executive council member Ahmad Ramadan told Kuwait’s Al-Rai newspaper.
Ramadan did not specify when Saudi will make the call, or whether it will be backed by its Gulf Arab allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
It was also reported in the UK’s The Times newspaper on Friday that Saudi Arabia and Qatar will begin funding the SNC as well as armed groups fighting the regime.
Gulf Arab states have taken a leading role in trying to oust the Syrian president, having this week announced the withdrawal of their members from the Arab League monitoring team in Syria.
Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani is to officially present a Western-backed plan to UN Security Council ambassadors in New York that will request Assad hand over power to his deputy, while a unity government is formed to oversee a full transition.
The improving ties between the GCC and SNC has aroused concerns among some corners of the Syrian opposition that fear Gulf states will turn Syria into a battleground against arch rival Iran.
The GCC oppose the democratic aspirations of the Arab Spring protests engulfing the region, and sent troops into neighboring Bahrain last year to crush a similar uprising there.
It is also unclear how representative the Istanbul-based SNC is of the protesters within Syria, and the level of contact between the internal revolution and external opposition groups.
Meanwhile, Russia has preempted the West and the GCC by already declaring its proposed UN resolution as “unacceptable.” … Full article
- Arab League plan ‘outrageous meddling’ in Syria (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- UN security council to discuss Arab-backed Syria plan (guardian.co.uk)
- Discord among Arab monitors as Russia warns of Syria intervention (alethonews.wordpress.com)
By the tone of some of the media coverage, you might have thought Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced a plan to slash military spending yesterday. On the front page of USA Today (1/27/12), under the headline “Panetta Backs Far Leaner Military,” readers learn in the first paragraph:
The Pentagon’s new plan to cut Defense spending means a reduction of 100,000 troops, the retiring of ships and planes and closing of bases–moves that the Defense secretary said would not compromise security.
The piece quotes critics of the cuts like Sen. Joe Lieberman and an analyst at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute. And the article talks about the most commonly cited figure of $487 billion in cuts over 10 years. As economist Dean Baker writes about such coverage–”Military Budget Cuts: Denominator Please”–there is no way people can assess the significance of what sounds like a lot of money if they don’t know how much the Pentagon is planning to spend over the same 1o-year period–roughly $8 trillion.
The PBS NewsHour did little to clarify the issue. The broadcast began with Jeffrey Brown announcing, “The Pentagon today outlined almost half a trillion dollars in budget cuts that would shrink the size of the U.S. military by trimming ground forces, retiring ships and planes, and delaying some new weapons.” PBS aired clips from Republicans Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich denouncing the budget cuts, and then interviewed a Pentagon official.
Even coverage of the Pentagon’s new “austerity” that managed to include some helpful context didn’t make things very clear. “The Pentagon took the first major step toward shrinking its budget after a decade of war” was how a New York Times story by Elisabeth Bumiller (1/27/12) begins. In the fourth paragraph, readers found this:
Even though the Defense Department has been called on to find $259 billion in cuts in the next five years–and $487 billion over the decade–its base budget (not counting the costs of Afghanistan or other wars) will rise to $567 billion by 2017. But when adjusted for inflation, the increases are small enough that they will amount to a slight cut of 1.6 percent of the Pentagon’s base budget over the next five years.
So the “first major step” in cutting the military budget… isn’t really a cut?
A Washington Post piece by Craig Whitlock (1/27/12) had a more accurate lead–”The Pentagon budget will shrink slightly next year”– but later tries to make a 1 percent cut sound more significant: “While the difference may sound small, it represents a new era of austerity for the Defense Department.”
To make matters even more confusing, the Post points out later that
Although the defense budget will decline next year, to $525 billion from this year’s $531 billion, under Obama’s current projections it will inch upward in constant dollars between 1 percent and 2 percent annually thereafter.
Kudos to Nancy Yousef of McClatchy for writing a piece (1/26/12) that took a different tack. Under the headline “Defense Budget Plan Doesn’t Cut as Deeply as Pentagon Says,” Yousef led with this:
Pentagon officials on Thursday announced the outlines of what they called a pared-down defense budget, but their request would increase baseline spending beyond the projected end of the war in Afghanistan, even as they plan to reduce ground forces.
To Yousef, the Pentagon was ” employing a definition of the term ‘reduction’ that may be popular in Washington but is unconventional anywhere else.”
And activist/writer David Swanson pointed out that the first question at Panetta’s briefing got right at this question of whether the cuts are really cut. From the transcript:
Mr. Secretary, you talked a little bit on this, but over the next 10 years, do you see any other year than this year where the actual spending will go down from year to year? And just to the American public more broadly, how do you sort of explain what appears to be contradictory, as you talk about, repeatedly, this $500 billion in cuts in a Defense Department budget that is actually going to be increasing over time?
Yeah, I think the simplest way to say this is that under the budget that was submitted in the past, we had a projected growth level for the Defense budget. And that growth would’ve provided for almost $500 billion in growth. And we had obviously dedicated that to a number of plans and projects that we would have. That’s gotta be cut, and that’s a real cut in terms of what our projected growth would be.
See the new release from the Institute for Public Accuracy for more of the context largely missing from the Pentagon budget coverage.
- Humans Lose, Robots Win in New Defense Budget (wired.com)
President Barack Obama blew a kiss to Apple in the State of the Union speech, praising the entrepreneurial spirit of its founder, the late Steve Jobs, as the cameras panned to his widow in the audience.
Obama’s timing couldn’t be weirder. In the last month, Apple has released a damning audit which found that almost 100 of Apple’s supplier factories force more than half their workers to exceed a 60-hour week. The company announced responsibility for aluminum dust explosions in Chinese supplier factories that killed four workers and injured 77. Hundreds more in China have been injured cleaning iPad screens with a chemical that causes nerve damage.
Apple was just subjected to a “This American Life” radio special reporting on its abysmal factory conditions in China (Jon Stewart gigged ‘em on the issue, too). Last weekend a front-page New York Times story asked why the company offshored all of its manufacturing, mostly to China. (The answer is found in the what its executives call “flexibility.” Tens of thousands of workers there live in factory dorms on-site, where, the Times reports, they are woken in the middle of the night and forced onto 12-hour shifts when Apple decides a product needs tweaking.)
In the face of all this bad press, the tech darling’s response has been to reveal its supplier factories and to announce a partnership with the Fair Labor Association to do stepped-up factory inspections. The FLA is the partly corporate-funded group that until now only monitored apparel factories, and which Nike helped establish after its own scandals in the ’90s.
In sum, Apple is now doing what Nike has been doing for nearly 15 years: the apology-plus-transparency formula, straight out of the manuals offered by “reputation management” consultants.
This was certainly enough for most mainstream media and even some activists. Some were a bit more dubious but still pinned their hopes for stemming the abuses on the chimera of “consumer pressure.” For those who may believe that rich-country consumer pressure should not be so summarily dismissed, I believe that it’s useful to turn to Jeffrey Swartz, until mid-2011 the CEO of Timberland, who says that consumers don’t care at all about workers’ rights. In a late-2009 article he wrote, “With regard to human rights, the consumer expectation today is somewhere in the neighborhood of, don’t do anything horrible or despicable… if the issue doesn’t matter much to the consumer population, there’s not a big incentive for the consumer-minded CEOs to act, proactively.” In a 2008 interview he mused about his desire to “seduce consumers to care” so that Timberland’s CSR report was not mere “corporate cologne”.
It must be said that Apple looked more serious this week than it did two years ago, when it shrugged off 18 worker suicides at its main supplier, Foxconn, in China. Steve Jobs told the press that the high number of suicides was about average for the Chinese population as a whole. Just last week, Terry Gou, CEO of Foxconn, referred to his workers as “animals” during an appearance at the Taipei City Zoo—not a lot of empathy there, either.
Change the Image, Not the Actual
When anti-sweatshop campaigners in the ’90s relentlessly called Nike out for its miserable, toxic factories around the world, sneaker-buying Americans did have an impact on Nike.
U.S. sales fell for four successive years, despite billion-dollar marketing outlays every year. So CEO Phil Knight rented the National Press Club and told reporters his shoes were “synonymous with slave wages, forced overtime and arbitrary abuse.” He vowed to put things right.
Since then, Nike has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on factory “monitoring” and hired on a “corporate social responsibility” staff of over 200. Nike became a charter member of the FLA in 1999, and has a representative on its board.
What has it wrought? Very little. Richard Locke, a highly-regarded business professor and long-time observer of Nike, has been granted extraordinary access by the shoe giant. “A decade’s-worth of high-profile efforts to change sweatshop conditions in overseas apparel factories hasn’t worked,” Locke concludes.
Why hasn’t it? He who pays the piper calls the tune. All these new workers’ rights experts work for the corporations they’re monitoring—either directly, as on Nike’s social responsibility staff, or in NGO mode. NGOs sell their monitoring services to the big brands that are seeking cover while their supplier factories continue the same profitable patterns of worker abuse.
The most recent example where this kind of voluntary monitoring has proved ineffective comes from Indonesia. An Indonesian union won in court a $950,000 settlement this month for 4,500 workers at a factory that supplied Nike. They were forced to work seven days a week without overtime pay—at a big factory supposedly under FLA monitoring for a decade. (It’s easy to miss 570,000+ unpaid overtime hours, right?)
A decade’s-worth of high-profile efforts to change sweatshop conditions in overseas apparel factories hasn’t.
This is not to say that these high-profile monitoring operations are worthless. Just ask the shareholders who saw Nike bounce back from being equated with slavery to join the top rankings of “responsible” companies. “Corporate social responsibility” has proved invaluable at repairing brand images and wrong-footing the anti-sweatshop movement – maybe what Bill Clinton had in mind when launching the Apparel Industry Partnership, precursor to the FLA.
In fact, one could argue that the FLA has made the situation worse. It has been monitoring and certifying “compliance” for Nike and other apparel giants for more than a decade, apologizing for the corporations as they continue to squeeze suppliers, crush worker organizing, and cheat workers out of severance pay when their factories flee to lower-cost havens.
FLA CEO Auret van Heerden has excused Nike and its other corporate “partners” for the below-subsistence prices paid to sweatshop contractors, saying “simply blaming buyers and the prices they pay is too simple.”
Meanwhile sportswear companies unabashedly gloat over the power they have to dictate prices paid to supplier factories.
When Reebok and Adidas merged in 2006, an executive bragged on an investor call about negotiations “with all our key footwear and apparel suppliers to lock in cost savings for 2007 that should be in the double-digit million range.”
A New Hope?
With Apple, however, we may be able to turn the FLA’s involvement to the workers’ advantage.
An independent Hong Kong-based group, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), has years of experience interacting with Foxconn workers.
The situation is similar to what we’ve seen happen with United Students Against Sweatshops, which has developed on-the-ground relationships with garment worker organizations in Latin America for a decade.
USAS and the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent factory monitor funded by its member colleges, have used a combination of pressure inside boardrooms and outside retail stores.
When companies that supply garments to colleges close their contracted factories in the face of worker organizing, or subject workers to unsafe working conditions, the WRC investigates and USAS students agitate.
Through pressure on the corporations at the top of the supply chain, several factories have reopened and hired back workers—with a union.
In China, it is quite possible that SACOM could bird-dog the FLA, insisting on real-time sharing of its reports, for example.
So far Apple, following Nike’s playbook, has produced audits that say violations are occurring, but does not reveal in which factories they’re happening. The FLA also doesn’t insist on that level of transparency, essentially saying “trust us.”
The WRC, by contrast, insists on knowing where the factory is and what’s happening, so it can gauge progress. The FLA could use some pressure to do the same.
One of the most refreshingly honest voices in the global worker rights field is the business professor, Prakash Sethi. For years he was the architect of Mattel’s supply chain code-and-monitoring apparatus and has done consulting work in this field for several other Fortune 500 firms (including – ugh! – Freeport McMoRan). He says that the major global players – the World Bank, OECD countries and the International Labor Organization – have failed to apply pressure on low-cost producing countries that do not protect workers’ human rights or health and safety. He has also called on corporations to pay restitution to developing-world workers for ‘years of expropriation’ enabled by corrupt, repressive regimes. (Particularly poignant was his brusque assertion in a New York Times interview that ‘bigotry’ was at the root of most companies’ refusal to even try to grapple with some of these issues.) Mattel ended its supplier-factory monitoring in 2009 and there were no untoward consequences, such as negative press reports.
In any case, more attention paid to Apple’s supplier factories will further anti-sweat groups’ communications with workers, and help build networks through social media and texting. It’s not the UAW in the ’30s yet, but it’s a beginning.
Jeff Ballinger is a researcher and writer on sweatshop monitoring. He is a member of Worker Rights Consortium’s advisory council. Follow his tweets @press4change & email@example.com is the e-mail
- Apple’s ‘bood diamond’ moment | Talton (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Apple Opens Its Suppliers’ Doors to Labor Group After Suicides (businessweek.com)
The country that has long been known to abuse its powers and privileges in the United Nations is now leading a campaign to reform the same organization. While UN reforms are welcomed, if not demanded, by many of its member states, there is little reason to believe the recent US crusade is actually genuine. Rather, it seems a clear attempt to stifle any semblance of democracy in the world’s leading international institution.
Most American politicians actually despise the UN. While the Security Council is directed or tamed by the US veto (often to shield the US and its close ally Israel from any criticism), other UN bodies are not as easily intimidated. When the UN education and science agency, UNESCO, accepted Palestine’s bid for full membership last October, following a democratic vote by its members, the US could do little do stall the process. Still, it immediately cut funding to the agency (about 20 percent of its total budget).
The move was devoid of any humanitarian considerations. The UNESCO provides vital services to underprivileged communities all over the world, including the United States. Yet, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, insisted on sugarcoating what was an entirely injudicious political act. “Today’s vote by the member states of UNESCO to admit Palestine as member is regrettable, premature and undermines our shared goal of a comprehensive just and lasting peace in the Middle East,” said Nuland (CNN, October 31).
The fact is, there has been much sabre-rattling in the US Congress targeting the UN. The campaign, led by Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, is threatening the UN with all sorts of punishment if the organization does not cease its criticism of Israel and tighten the noose around Iran. Naturally, the UN is not meeting the expectations of Ros-Lehtinen and her peers. It happens to be a body that represents the interests of all its member states. Some US politicians, however, see the world through the distorted logic of former president George W. Bush: “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
The late British author and humanitarian doctor Theodore MacDonald showed that the US actually has a love-hate relationship with the UN. In his final book, Preserving the United Nations; Our Best Hope for Mediating Human Rights, MacDonald reveals a strange reality: that the US and its allies labor to undermine the UN, while also using it to further their own military, political and economic objectives. Expectedly, successive US governments had mastered the art of political manipulation at the UN. When successfully co-opted to accommodate US military designs, the UN suddenly becomes true to its mission – per Washington’s account, of course. However, when US pressures failed to yield a unified front against Iraq in late 2002, President Bush asked in his first address to the United Nations, on September 12, 2002: “Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?”
The Bush years were rife with such ultimatums – to the UN and the whole world. However, a similar attitude continues to define the administration of Barack Obama. The US latest assault on the UN is now happening under the guise of reforms, but no ‘reforms’ are possible without first creating the needed polarization aimed at pushing for an American agenda. Joe Torsella, the US Deputy Ambassador for Management and Reform of the United Nation, spoke of the latest US efforts at reining in the 47-nation Geneva-based Human Rights Council. “The US will work to forge a new coalition at the UN in New York, a kind of ‘credibility caucus’ to promote truly competitive elections, rigorous application of membership criteria, and other reforms aimed at keeping the worst offenders on the sidelines,” he said (Reuters, Jan 20).
UNHRC is an outspoken critic of human rights violations. As of late, the organization has been particularity vocal regarding the rights violations underway in Syria. It is also very critical of Israel and its one-sided wars and human rights violations in Gaza and the rest of the occupied territories. For years, the US has conspired to undercut, intimidate and silence this criticism.
The Reuters report on the US latest push for the supposed reforms states: “Council members include China, Russia and other countries where rights groups say abuses are commonplace.” To offset the seeming inconsistency – between UNHRC mission and its members’ records – the US, according to Torsella, wants to “hold Human Rights Council members to the same standard of truly free and fair elections that the U.N. promotes around the world, and insist on the highest standards of integrity for the Council and all its members.” Viewed without context, it is a noble endeavor indeed. However, it becomes a tainted statement when one considers that the US status at the UN has been achieved through the least democratic of all means: a disproportionate political power (the veto) and money (used for arm-twisting).
Attempting to curb and contain the UN, as opposed to punishing and boycotting the international body, is basically what sets Democrats apart from Republicans. Unlike Republicans, “the other side of the debate (mostly Democrats) believes that achieving these reforms requires strong American leadership – and strong leadership is demonstrated by paying dues on time and in full. You can call this side ‘constructive engagement,’” wrote Mark Leon Goldberg in the UN Dispatch (January 20). Practically, both approaches are aimed at achieving similar outcomes: realizing US policies, rewarding allies and punishing foes – even at the expense of the noble mission once championed by the UN over 65 years ago.
While the latest push for ‘reforms’ is being hailed by Washington’s media cheerleaders, no honest commentator could possibly believe the US campaign against UNESCO, UNHRC and the UN as a whole represents a genuine democratic endeavor. In fact, the truly urgent reforms required right now are ones that aim at correcting what MacDonald described in his book as the UN’s “foundational defects”.
MacDonald counseled for immediate addressing of the “issue of permanent membership and the use of the veto”. He also recommended the granting of greater power to the General Assembly and eliminating the “imposed use of the US dollar” in mediating UN transitional affairs. MacDonald’s guidelines for reforms are comprehensive, and rely on the concept of equality, guided by humanitarian and moral urgencies.
The same can hardly be said of Washington’s latest UN intrigues and shady politics.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).
The human body is an amazing creation. It’s not only the most complex system known to mankind, but it embodies within it signals that tell its owner that something has gone wrong. A similar signaling system exists in political bodies. Those tasked with reading the signals–be they individuals, physicians or politicians–can choose to consciously ignore the warning signs. The Middle East peace process between Palestinians and Israelis has been emitting SOS signals for decades, but only recently are those signals being received and analyzed for what they are transmitting–a clear and irreversible message that the entire paradigm of “two states for two peoples” has collapsed.
Like doctors who peddle medications instead of practicing medicine, many politicians are under the influence of their narrow political interests and prefer not to call situations by their name. After so many years of failure–political, legal, diplomatic and economic–those who are paid to diagnose and treat reality are being replaced with voices from all corners of the world, voices convincingly making the case that the entire premise undertaken by the Palestine Liberation Organization, starting as far back as 1974, is no longer feasible.
Some will say that the PLO was tricked by the West into a path that was never intended to succeed. Others may claim that the PLO had no option but to acquiesce to the pressures placed upon it to enter, more recently, the Oslo peace process, in hopes that the West (mainly the US) would then pull its weight in bringing Israel in line with international law and UN resolutions. Regardless of the analysis of the past, very few people on the ground who are intimately involved in the attempt to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli “conflict” would venture to spend any additional political credit on the notion that two independent states, Israel and Palestine, remain a way out of this man-made tragedy.
The measures were many, each of them a warning signal that sounded over and over again, but largely fell on deaf ears. The ignoring of a refugee population. A prolonged military occupation, unaccountable to the Fourth Geneva Convention. The launching of the illegal Israeli settlement project. The continued use of military force against Palestinians wherever they reside: Jordan, Lebanon, inside Israel, or the occupied territory. Assassinations and mass murder of Palestinians, from Lebanon to Tunis to every Palestinian city, in broad daylight for all to see. Seven hundred and fifty thousand Palestinians arrested and detained, many without charge and many tortured. A lopsided peace agreement (Oslo) that merely institutionalized the reality of military occupation. The election of Israeli prime ministers who, one after another, represented political programs that explicitly forbade the emergence of another state between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River. The list goes on and on. Each one of these signals emitted a deafening sound that was heard by all, and ignored by all who could change the course of events.
One of Israel’s founding ministers of education and culture, Professor Ben-Zion Dinur, said it most sharply, according to the book “History of the Haganah”: “In our country there is room only for the Jews. We shall say to the Arabs: Get out! If they don’t agree, if they resist, we shall drive them out by force.” With this theme as its explicit backdrop, it is no wonder that newly-established Israel had little chance of being a normal state among the community of nations. These words rang out long before the creation of the PLO and long before the unacceptable phenomenon of suicide bombings entered the scene.
Israel was founded on the infamous fallacy that it was built on a “land with no people, for a people with no land.” Instead of acknowledging that this fallacy is a form of outright racism, Israel is legislating it into its laws. Since its inception, Israel has arrogantly refused to address the most crucial prerequisite of its establishment as a conventional state: accepting the Palestinians, those people that just happened to be living in that “empty” land that Israel was created on.
After over six decades of conflict and dispossession of the Palestinians, and after two decades of Palestinian political recognition of Israel on part of their lands, the Israeli people choose to sustain the conflict. They are bent not only on keeping their boot of occupation on the necks of Palestinians living under it, but on embarking on an accelerated path to disenfranchise, yet again, Palestinians who remained in Israel and assumed Israeli citizenship.
Today, Israel seems determined, more than ever, to forcefully prove the original premise of its statehood–an Israel with moveable borders and a Jewish-only population. Twelve Israeli prime ministers before Binyamin Netanyahu, six of them after the signing of Oslo, have failed at this nonsensical endeavor. He, too, will fail. If Israel cannot produce a leader to move the country from being a pariah to being a member of the Middle East, only Israel’s Jewish population will be to blame.
This should not come as a surprise for Israelis who have studied their own history. Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, understood it well when he said, “Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we came here and stole their country. Why should they accept that?” The fact of the matter is: Palestinians even accepted “that” and are still being rejected and punished.
It is clear that Israel has no plans to reach any form of lasting peace with Palestinians or concede to a two-state solution. Its spread of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory has created new facts on the ground that make it impossible to form a contiguous Palestinian state, even on the 22 percent of historic Palestine that Palestinians have been reduced to and agreed upon.
In light of this continuing Israeli policy of outright aggression and negation of Palestinian rights, Israelis should prepare themselves for the next generation of Palestinians, a much more savvy generation interlinked with a global world and a region that values rights over an artificial border. Soon, if the current trajectory continues, Palestinians will tell Israelis: “You win! You get it all–the West Bank, Jerusalem, Gaza, the Jordan Valley, the settlements, all the water, and guess what? You get us too! Now, where do we sign up for our health care cards?”
There are distressing signs that some antiwar progressives are withdrawing support for Obama as the 2012 election draws near. A few have gone so far as to whisper a begrudging respect for Ron Paul, although they have scrupulously refrained from acting on it. It is high time to stem this tide carrying votes away from our president, to take a stand, to show some ovarian fortitude and to slog on for Obama. In just such a spirit this pledge is offered for anti-interventionist progressives, a term redundant under Bush but edging closer to oxymoronic under Obama.
I pledge in the year 2012 to link the fight against war to the fight for justice and to do so without exception. With equal vigor I pledge to fight for justice with total disregard for the fight against war whenever it suits me. I pledge to follow the MoveOn segment of the Occupy Wall Street movement in so doing. I pledge that this will be the cornerstone of my approach, to be known henceforth as Van Jones Logic.
I pledge to exclude potential allies who do not share my notions of justice from the antiwar movement. After all the antiwar movement belongs to progressives. I pledge to keep at bay libertarians, paleoconservatives and, above all, the average American Jane and Joe, with an unscalable Chinese Wall of political correctness. Let’s keep out the riff-raff. For this I pledge to look for leadership to “Progressive” Democrats of America, UFPJ, Peace Action and Juan Cole.
I pledge neither to sponsor nor to join any large antiwar marches or demonstrations this election year. For if there are antiwar marches, it is a sure sign that there are wars. I pledge, if forced into such marches of folly in order to preserve my credibility or my donor base, to censor any mention of Obama. I pledge to treat impeachment as a taboo subject.
I pledge until November 7, 2012 to keep far from my consciousness the unspeakable suffering being visited on the darker peoples of the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia by my president with his sanctions and bombs. These sufferings are as nothing compared to the purity of my movement and the hollow promises of Obama for better social programs.
I pledge to avoid like the plague any consideration of Ron Paul. I pledge to tear him down with bogus charges of racism based on guilt by association. I fully recognize that Ron Paul is especially dangerous, because every day he converts more to the antiwar cause and thereby threatens a breach in the wall that keeps antiwar barbarians out of the movement we own. I thought libertarians respected property rights. If pressed, I may whisper a word or two of praise for Ron Paul but never a full throated endorsement – and never, ever anything good without walling it off with airtight condemnation. I pledge most of all never to aid Ron Paul by money or action. After all, what would my friends say?
I pledge never to think tactically when it comes to Ron Paul, as many progressives do with their favorite candidates, forgiving piddling shortcomings – like voting for DoD funding.
I pledge to work with others to keep a serious challenge to Obama from emerging in the Democratic primaries. I recognize that this work is largely done with the passing of the New Hampshire primary and Iowa Caucuses; and I find myself on occasion smiling with satisfaction at this feat. I pledge to remain vigilant nonetheless. If our man, Obama, becomes even more embarrassing to the antiwar movement, I pledge to support a candidate from the moribund Green Party or some other entity cobbled together quickly, with no extensive organization and no hope of winning. If we cannot bring ourselves to vote for Obama, let’s get out there and waste our votes.
I pledge in the year 2012 to hold fast to wishful thinking – Obama is our man. I pledge to remind one and all that Obama is keeping secret his loyalty to the progressive cause to avoid criticism by Republicans. And he is proving damned good at it. I pledge to believe that combat troops left Iraq because Obama wanted it, not because Bush signed an agreement to do so (and to ignore the fact that Obama wanted to stay but Maliki refused). I pledge to believe that those troops returned to the US (and ignore the fact that most of them were transferred to other countries). I pledge to believe that the NDAA is the Republican McCain’s idea (and ignore the fact that is was Obama’s baby according to Carl Levin). In general, I pledge to ignore reality, and to believe in the virtual world presented to me by the progressive authorities and gatekeepers. It will be as easy as doing my yoga or meditation. And besides Obama is sure to change course in his second term.
In sum, I pledge to ignore Obama’s Patriot act, his numerous wars, his bloated military budget, his deficit, his service to Wall Street and to the insurance industry. This is his dazzling plan to protect us from Republicans by tricking them into thinking that he is their man, so they will vote for him – our man! It is nothing less than brilliant.
John V. Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Skewed Coverage by Democracy N ow! (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Prison Planet.com ” Oliver Stone: I Would Vote For Ron Paul Over Obama (gunnyg.wordpress.com)
- 10 reasons why even democrats, liberals and progressives are choosing Ron Paul over Obama (ephraiyim.wordpress.com)
Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who along with his wife, has donated $10 million dollars in recent weeks to Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, has said that he wishes he had served in the Israeli army instead of the US military and that he wants his son to grow up to “be a sniper for the IDF.”
Gingrich himself has also doubled down on anti-Palestinian comments, asserting during a CNN debate last night that they were “invented” in the 1970s.
Adelson’s explosive comments are reported this morning by NBC’s Michael Isikoff:
Adelson owns a newspaper in Israel, ‘Israel HaYom,’ that backs conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and adamantly opposes any peace settlement with the Palestinians.
But while Adelson and Gingrich have bonded on the issue of a hawkish Mideast policy, especially over the threat of a nuclear Iran, some of the casino mogul’s comments could prove embarrassing.
In a talk to an Israeli group in July, 2010, Adelson said he wished he had served in the Israeli Army rather the U.S. military–and that he hoped his young son will come back to Israel and “be a sniper for the IDF,” a reference to the Israel Defense Forces. (YouTube video of speech)
“I am not Israeli. The uniform that I wore in the military, unfortunately, was not an Israeli uniform. It was an American uniform, although my wife was in the IDF and one of my daughters was in the IDF … our two little boys, one of whom will be bar mitzvahed tomorrow, hopefully he’ll come back– his hobby is shooting – and he’ll come back and be a sniper for the IDF,” Adelson said at the event.
“All we care about is being good Zionists, being good citizens of Israel, because even though I am not Israeli born, Israel is in my heart,” he said toward the end of his talk.
Adelson is a major backer of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and has been a major factor in pushing for confrontation with Iran. His support for Gingrich has given rise to speculation that the latter’s ever more strident anti-Palestinian positions including that Palestinians are an “invented people” are inspired by that support.
The revelations also come amid a fierce debate in Washington about whether some supporters of Israel can be described as “Israel Firsters.”
Palestinians “invented” in the 1970s, says Gingrich
In last night’s Republican candidates debate in Florida, Gingrich doubled down on his comments that the Palestinians were an “invented people” alleging that they were “invented” as recently as the 1970s. He also called on Palestinians to give up their right of return.
This is from the CNN transcript of the debate:
BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich, you got into a little hot water when you said the Palestinians were an invented people.
GINGRICH: It was technically an invention of the late 1970s, and it was clearly so. Prior to that, they were Arabs. Many of them were either Syrian, Lebanese, or Egyptian, or Jordanian.
There are a couple of simple things here. There were 11 rockets fired into Israel in November. Now, imagine in Duvall County that 11 rockets hit from your neighbor. How many of you would be for a peace process and how many of you would say, you know, that looks like an act of war.
You have leadership unequivocally, and Governor Romney is exactly right, the leadership of Hamas says, not a single Jew will remain. We aren’t having a peace negotiation then. This is war by another form.
My goal for the Palestinian people would be to live in peace, to live in prosperity, to have the dignity of a state, to have freedom. and they can achieve it any morning they are prepared to say Israel has a right to exist, we give up the right to return, and we recognize that we’re going to live side-by-side, now let’s work together to create mutual prosperity.
And you could in five years dramatically improve the quality of life of every Palestinian. But the political leadership would never tolerate that. And that’s why we’re in a continuous state of war where Obama undermines the Israelis.
On the first day that I’m president, if I do become president, I will sign an executive order directing the State Department to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to send the signal we’re with Israel.
- Gingrich funder brings additional baggage (firstread.msnbc.msn.com)
- Gingrich’s Major Backer Arch-Zionist Sheldon Adelson (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- The Purchase of a Presidential Candidate (lewrockwell.com)
- Gingrich comments on Palestinians a “play” for “Jewish” money, former strategist says (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The United States has urged Pakistan to abandon the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project promising Washington will help Islamabad with the consequences of the decision.
Spokeswoman of the US State Department Victoria Nuland said on Friday that Pakistan was “one of the countries that we’re working with, primarily from the US Embassy,” to stop buying gas from Iran.
On December 31, 2011, US President Barack Obama signed into law new sanctions against Iran, which seek to penalize foreign institutions that do business with Iran’s central bank and oil sector.
“We’re talking to countries around the world about the implications of this legislation and our efforts to cut global dependence on Iran,” Nuland added.
Asked if Washington is encouraging Pakistan to buy cheaper gas from US companies, she said, “I don’t have anything specific on where those conversations are leading, but we are talking about all kinds of diversification.”
An article published by the International Herald Tribune on Wednesday noted that Washington is trying to lure Islamabad away from the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project by offering cheaper gas to the country.
The article added that the US has stepped up efforts to lobby Pakistan to abandon not only the IP gas pipeline project, but also liquefied natural gas (LNG) purchases from its western neighbor in return for cheaper gas from US.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office announced on Thursday that the gas pipeline project between the country and Iran did not come under the sanctions imposed on Tehran because of its nuclear program.
“Pakistan is committed to the Pak-Iran gas pipeline and sanctions do not cover this project,” Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit added.
The multi-billion-dollar Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline aims to export a daily amount of 21.5 million cubic meters (or 8.7 billion cubic meters per year) of Iranian natural gas to Pakistan.
Maximum daily gas transfer capacity of the 56-inch pipeline which runs over 900 km of Iran’s soil from Asalouyeh in Bushehr Province to the city of Iranshahr in Sistan and Baluchestan Province has been given at 110 million cubic meters.
Iran has already constructed more than 900 kilometers of the pipeline on its soil.
- Pakistan defies US, honors Iran gas deal (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- US enticing Pakistan with cheap gas (haroonhaider.com)
- Pak-Iran gas pipeline to bring industrial revolution: Envoy (nation.com.pk)
- Pakistan to renegotiate gas prices with Iran (nation.com.pk)