A legal fight is underway in Minnesota over the state’s investment in Israeli bonds that are used to support settlements and other Israeli actions in the West Bank deemed illegal under international law. Sylvia Schwarz, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, explains why she’s demanding the state’s divestiture.
“I do not think this is a radical call,” says Ronnie Barkan, of Boycott From Within (BFW), an Israeli human rights group that advocates boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel until it complies with international law and human rights consensus.
“Simply by investing in the State of Israel, Minnesota inadvertently supports the criminal policies of the State [of Israel], which are detrimental to both the Palestinians and the Israelis.”
Boycott From Within is one of three organizations and 24 individuals listed as plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the State of Minnesota for illegally investing in Israel bonds, bonds which are used to fund projects such as the Separation Wall (ruled illegal in 2004 by the International Court of Justice) and illegal settlement construction and infrastructure (a violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Minnesota is one of more than 75 state and municipalities which holds Israel bonds. Most of these bonds were purchased in the last decade, when the Development Corporation of Israel made a major sales push.
The Minnesota State Board of Investment (SBI) is a state agency which is charged with investing state retirement and pension funds. The SBI members are Gov. Mark Dayton, State Auditor Rebecca Otto, State Attorney General Lori Swanson and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
Boycott From Within members are all Israeli citizens living in Israel. They have publicly and enthusiastically endorsed the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for BDS against Israel to force the state of Israel to comply with international law. For this act of free speech (recognized under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), they face lawsuits and civil penalties under Israel’s recent “anti-boycott law.”
Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign (MN BBC), which also endorses the Palestinian call for BDS, was formed in 2006 in response to that request for international solidarity. Made up of a diverse group of people from varying occupations, histories of activism, and levels of involvement with the Palestine/Israel issue, members of MN BBC all agreed that providing accurate information to the public was a major obstacle in ending Israel’s colonialism and oppression of the Palestinians.
In every respect, the news media, schools and universities, and even culture and entertainment have, until recently, ignored the Palestinian side of the issue. Palestinians, when portrayed in the media at all, have been demonized, equated with terrorists, and dehumanized.
Few stories of Israeli violence against Palestinians are reported in the media, while reports of Palestinian violence against Israelis are repeated over and over again, giving the impression that the latter occur more often than the former. (The UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs website shows accurate statistics. See a report comparing incidents of violence versus the number of reports in the mainstream media.)
Three Main Goals
MN BBC has three main goals. The first is to persuade Minnesota to divest from its Israel bonds investments. The second goal of MN BBC is to educate every Minnesotan about the state’s involvement in the human rights abuses in Palestine. Since every Minnesota taxpayer pays for the SBI’s investments, every Minnesotan is actively involved in the international law violations committed by the Israeli government.
The third goal is to serve as a model for organizations in other states and municipalities that are attempting to divest of Israel bonds. MN BBC is one of the first organizations that have targeted these investments and a vast amount of knowledge and experience has been accumulated within the group.
In early 2011 it became clear to the legal minds in MN BBC that the State Board of Investment had invested in Israel government bonds in violation of Minnesota statutes, which allow investment in government securities of only one foreign country: Canada, and then only with certain restrictions.
Although this seems like an unexciting legal technicality, it is actually a stunning discovery. From available records it appears that the SBI broke the Minnesota law for Israel alone, in order to show solidarity with Israel and to single it out for special favored treatment.
Regardless of the human rights and international law violations that the money buys, regardless of the international community’s disapproval of the financing of these crimes, and regardless of the prohibition under Minnesota’s own statutes, the SBI showed its favoritism towards Israel by its zeal to invest Minnesota taxpayer funds in a clearly illegal enterprise.
Minnesota has trade relationships and commercial partnerships with many other countries, but in no case (until this lawsuit was filed) did the SBI break Minnesota law to invest in non-Canadian foreign government bonds, except for Israel bonds.
Israel defenders often ask why we single out Israel for condemnation. Other countries have equally poor human rights records. Why not decry China’s or Iran’s abuses? But for which other country are our own state’s laws broken to make Minnesota taxpayers complicit in these human rights violations?
We repeatedly demanded that the State Board of Investment divest from Israel bonds on moral and legal grounds but it refused and even purchased more bonds. Because the law prohibits this type of foreign government investment, we filed a lawsuit. The lawsuit has three counts.
The first count states that the investments are illegal according to Minnesota statutes. The second count states that by investing in activities which are clearly illegal according to international law, the State Board of Investment is acting contrary to the U.S. and Minnesota Constitutions which state that international treaties and conventions signed and ratified by the United States, like the Geneva Conventions, are laws of the land.
The third count states that these investments expose the SBI and the Minnesota taxpayers and pensioners, who would foot the bill, to lawsuits brought against them by individuals who have been harmed by Israeli policies under the Federal Alien Tort Statute. In other words, the investments are supplying material support for oppression and Minnesota could be liable for these damages.
It is important to understand how these investments are used. The Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, another plaintiff on the lawsuit, is a direct victim of investments made in Israel Bonds.
Since 2004 the Bil’in Popular Committee, which is comprised of villagers from the West Bank town of Bil’in, has been holding weekly non-violent demonstrations to protest the illegal annexation of the village land by Israel for illegal settlements and an extension of the separation wall.
The annexations began in the early 1980s and now more than 60 percent of Bil’in’s arable land and several water wells have been confiscated to make way for the wall and Israeli settlements. Although the protests are non-violent, they have been met with extreme violence from the Israeli Defense Forces.
Several demonstrators have been killed (including Bassem Abu Rahmah who died when Israelis fired a tear gas canister directly at his chest, and his sister, Jawaher, who died from inhalation of tear gas). Many injuries have resulted from IDF violent responses to these non-violent protests, and many people, including children, have been arrested and held without charge or trial in “administrative detention.”
The confiscation of Palestinian land and resources and the movement of Israeli civilians into occupied territory are clear violations of international law. This is undisputed and acknowledged by the U.S. State Department and when U.S. loan guarantees were given to Israel between 1992 and 1997 to settle immigrants from the Soviet Union, they were expressly forbidden to be used to fund settlement activity in the West Bank.
When Israel violated this provision, the loan guarantees were cancelled. In other words, the U.S. acknowledges that Israel violates international law.
The Geneva Conventions were signed and ratified by the United States. Under the Supremacy Clause, Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, Minnesota, as well as every other State, is obligated to uphold international treaties ratified by the federal government.
Since the money invested in Israel bonds finances projects which are in violation of a signed and ratified convention, the investments violate both the state’s and the U.S. Constitution. Again, Israel is favored for special treatment. Minnesota would violate a provision of the U.S. Constitution for no other country.
The Fourth Geneva Convention is not the only international law which Israel violates. Israel was admitted to the UN by Resolution 273, which called for the implementation of Resolution 194, including the return of (or compensation to) the 750,000 refugees who had been ethnically cleansed from their homes within Israel between 1947 and 1949.
The call for the return of the refugees has been reaffirmed many times within the U.N. and by human rights organizations. The personal right to return to one’s home is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet Israel has never allowed any of the expelled refugees to return. This is an enormous unhealed personal and national wound for Palestinians which is expressly written into the Israeli system of law (Israel has no constitution) in order to create and maintain a Jewish majority.
A Palestinian Refugee
One of the 750,000 refugees from 1948, and another plaintiff on the MN BBC lawsuit, is my husband, Nadim Shamat. After growing up in Beirut, Lebanon, and attending the American University of Beirut, he immigrated to the United States, where I met him. As a former employee of a state agency, he is a recipient of pension funds managed by the State Board of Investment.
When Nadim was born, in 1945, my maternal grandmother was being liberated from Bergen Belsen, the Nazi concentration camp, after two horrific years of slave labor and starvation. She and my mother, the only survivors in her family, spent the next few years trying to salvage what was left of their former lives and finally made their way to British Columbia, where my parents met.
Understanding the personal and family trauma through which my family lived makes me very aware of the pain of unhealed traumas.
Because of Israel’s racist laws granting special privileges to Jews and denying those privileges to non-Jews, I have the “right” to “return” to Israel any time I want (even though my background is European and the most recent of my ancestors to live there were there at least 2,000 years ago) and take citizenship there.
I can purchase property managed by the Jewish National Fund and held for Jews only. I can live in a Jewish-only community within Israel, the West Bank, or the Golan Heights. But my husband, who was born in Jaffa, who left involuntarily, who lost all his possessions, and the community that would have supported him as he grew up, is not allowed to return to his actual homeland. Before funding Israel’s racist and colonialist policies, Americans should consider the fundamental unfairness of this situation.
Each of the 27 plaintiffs on the lawsuit against the SBI gives a unique reason for the state to divest from Israel bonds (see some of the stories here.) The judge, however, has only to rule on one count in our favor: the mundane legal technicality that foreign government securities are illegal investments according to Minnesota law, and order the SBI to divest from its Israel bonds.
It appears to be such a clear legal case, and if it were any other country, it would never have required a lawsuit. But this is Israel, the country to which the U.S. gives military aid of more than $3 billion per year, more than any other country in the world.
This is Israel, whose international law violations the U.S. upholds and protects in the UN Security Council. This is Israel, to which the I.R.S. grants tax-exempt charitable status to finance ethnic cleansing through the Jewish National Fund . This is Israel, whose prime minister received overwhelming applause and 29 standing ovations in Congress that were, in the words of Thomas Friedman, “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”
So this lawsuit, though clear and solid in its legal foundation, might not win in court. Judges are elected in Minnesota. They are subject to the same types of pressures as other elected officials. But we don’t believe that a loss in court is necessarily a setback. We have made enormous strides in educating people around the state and the country about Israel and Palestine.
Our membership is growing and we have even had a presence in the mainstream media. We believe our goals of reaching out across the state and the country and bringing forth the Palestinian side of the story can only be furthered by this effort. We are committed to justice, freedom, and equal rights for all and we believe our efforts will bring Palestinians closer to this goal.
Sylvia Schwarz is a member of the Core Team of Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign and a plaintiff on the lawsuit against the State. She is married with two children and works as an engineer in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Yemams father did not have time to respond to his son before the bomb exploded. Ripping through three layers of clothes and even more layers of skin, his father had to watch the tragedy unfold before his eyes. Yemam Mohammad Fatah Azam is just eight years old. He was enjoying a Friday afternoon with his father in the olive groves.
Situated between the illegal Israeli settlements of Shilo, Eli, and Suvat Rachel, Qaryut is not new to military and settler violence. Yamam’s story however is the first incident of its kind and has shaken the community. As floods of school children come to visit Yamam in his home, it is clear that all the parents are aware that the bomb could have been in their loved one’s hands. The children show they are upset with a handshake and sit next to Yamam in silence.
Bashar, a member of the Popular Commitee explains that the planting of un-exploded ordinance (UXO) ”… is an act to intimidate us from going to our land.”
Efforts by violent Zionist settlers have been well underway to intimidate farmers from visiting their land, and recently the village has joined the popular resistance with a Friday demonstration in protest of the closure of their road by Israeli military. The road runs through the land in which many farmers reside. One farmer explained, “It brings us much comfort to have cars passing through the road, we know if anything was to happen a car would stop and support us.”
As Yamam lays in bed, not able to move much due to the wound constantly re-opening, causing pain beyond comprehension, four more bombs lay on the land near by. This case has reached The United Nations group, OCHA, who has reported this in their “Protection of Civilians Weekly Report, 21-27 March 2012.” The Palestinian Authority is also addressing the issue as well. Both have been informed of the bombs which still reside on the land of the farmers, but have not been able to make the area safe. Due to the olive groves being in Area C, the Palestinian Authority has no permission to enter the land.
- Kufr ad-Dik and Burqin march against boars, pollution, and violence by Israelis (alethonews.wordpress.com)
In 2010, the UN special representative on extrajudicial executions Philip Alston released a 29 page report on the growing use of deadly drone, or unmanned, aircraft by the United States. In a statement that accompanied the report, Alston described the political problem for the US, “I’m particularly concerned that the United States seems oblivious to this fact when it asserts an ever-expanding entitlement for itself to target individuals across the globe. But this strongly asserted but ill-defined license to kill without accountability is not an entitlement which the United States or other states can have without doing grave damage to the rules designed to protect the right to life and prevent extrajudicial executions.”
In the sedate chambers of the UN, such language is rare: it asserted that the continual US use of drones is not only a violation of current norms, but it is a threat to the architecture of conflict resolution and the rules of war. Alston wanted to convene a conference of the “key military powers” to consider new rules for the drones. No-one was interested.
The US response was unsurprising: it was at war, and in war, such attacks are legal. Since the US has claims that its War on Terror has no identifiable battlefield, it feels emboldened to use its drones to attack targets in regions where it is not directly at war, such as Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and so on. It is this inflation that worried the UN. In March 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder dismissed Alston’s commitment to legality. He decreed it constitutional (in US terms) for his government to even kill its own citizens without judicial review in very specific circumstances (in mind was the New Mexico-born Anwar al-Awlaki, killed in the deserts of Yemen, in 2011). President Obama signed a law on February 14, 2012 to extend drone use in the United States for commercial purposes (crop dusting, monitoring oil spills) and eventually for law enforcement. More, not less, drones are on the horizon.
The $5.9 billion drone industry looks to double its size. There is a Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus (co-chaired by Henry Cuellar and Buck McKeon). The US used to have fifty drones in the arsenal before 9/11, but the airforce now has 7,500 in use. Northwestern Michigan College has pioneered drone studies to prepare “pilots” for a lucrative career. A recently released Air Force Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan, 2009-2047 notes, the drones are essential “to increasing effects while potentially reducing cost, forward footprint and risk.” To reduce the risk to nothing, the Air Force has developed the X-47B which is not only unmanned but is also unpiloted. It is a robot, which will determine on its own where to go and what to strike. The Northwestern Michigan College graduates might face redundancy before they finish their degrees.
Since 2005, the US drones have killed 2175 people in Pakistan. Those killed are always characterized as “suspected militants.” There is little verification about their real identities. Court cases by civilian victims of the drone attacks, helped along by the campaigner Reprieve, have not been able to make much of a dent. In a rare case of flexing its sovereignty, the Pakistani parliament in late March called for an end to drone strikes, with a parliamentary committee asking the US to respect the “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity” of Pakistan. Pakistani noise has little impact on US policy. The drone attacks continue.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) has recent reported that the US has increased its use of drones in Yemen, despite the change of its president (from Saleh to his deputy Hadi). The US has consistently denied that its cruise missile killed forty-four civilians on December 17, 2009 in southern Yemen (eight families were wiped out by the attack). A Wikileaks-released cable tells us otherwise. General David Petraeus rushed to Sanaa, where he met Saleh who told him, “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.”
Subsequent to Saleh’s removal, the Yemeni parliament formed a commission to study that attack. A spokesperson for Sheikh Himir Al-Ahmar, the commission’s chairman and now Yemen’s deputy speaker, told the BIJ, “The families of the victims were indeed paid appropriate compensation by the Yemeni Government (according to the standard of compensations given out to victims in Yemen). The American authorities did not get involved in this process in any way.” The Americans like the “can’t confirm or deny” stance regarding what is taking place in plain sight. This is the reason that the Obama administration has blocked the requests by the ACLU to gain information on the CIA’s use of drones for targeted assassinations.
The US media is forced to report massacres when these are conducted by troops on the ground. The most recent story concerns the killing of sixteen Afghan civilians by Army Staff Sgt Robert Bales. Even here the story was followed with limited depth. As Alexander Cockburn reported this weekend, it was Australia SBS’s Yalda Hakim who went beneath the surface and produced a remarkable report that suggested that Bales likely did not act alone in the villages of Alkozai and Najiban (a view supported by the investigation conducted by General Karimi for the Afghan president). At least reports of these massacres come to the press. Nothing of the kind happens when drones kill civilians. There is little consideration of drone strikes, and little anger at the murder of ordinary people by drones.
Drones create little global outrage. The drones have no names like Bales (and his confreres). Their pilots are faceless young people who sit in Nevada or upstate New York. They drink a Coke, play with their computers which send kill messages to their drones. They will have nightmares. With drones there are no stories. No narratives to create outrage. Just bodies of dead people. They have no history.
Last week, a US drone killed four people in Miranshah in northern Pakistan. The Pakistani authorities claim that these are Uzbek militants. There is no confirmation. They might have been anyone.
In the 1920s, Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan, had a British base, from where RAF planes went out on frequent bombing raids against the Afghans and the Waziris. It was from Miranshah that Arthur “Bomber” Harris ran some of his most vicious sorties. A rather miserable T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia) sat in his room on the base bemoaning his fate while Harris went on his celebrated runs. Lawrence had his own views on the bombings. “I have a bird,” he wrote. “It looks like a sparrow. It nests over my shelf of files. A dirty bird: I have brought in varnished fabric cover to shield the files from its droppings. A misanthropic bird; a solitary bird; a silent bird. It comes in at sunset & departs at dawn. Plop, plop. Our bombing machines can only drop six bombs, at full war load. This my sparrow puts the RAF to shame. Since sunset it has made eleven hits.” Lawrence had his eyes on the bird, and on the horizon. “Miranshah is busy,” he wrote as the bombers returned. “A moral operation is being carried out in the hills to the SW.”
- Obama Apologizes For Kandahar Massacre But Not For His Own Killings (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Hague to be sued for aiding US drone attacks in Pakistan (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- “Drones also targeting mourners and rescuers” (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The decision of the United States and several Persian Gulf monarchies to create a fund that would pay “salaries” to opposition fighters in Syria and provide the rebels with Western “communication equipment” removes the last remnants of legality from the foreign involvement in Syria.
At the conference of the so called “Friends of Syria,” held in Istanbul in the beginning of this week and not attended by representatives of Russia, some astounding figures were mentioned. Molham al-Drobi, a member of the Syrian National Council, said his organization had pledges of $100 million in “salaries” for the militants inside Syria, which would help them to prolong the fighting for the next three months. The other motive for handing salaries is to encourage Syrian army soldiers to “defect” (a Syrian legalist worm would say – break his soldier’s oath) leaving the army ranks for greener pastures in the so called Free Syrian Army. Burhan Ghalioun, the head of the Istanbul-based Syrian National Council, promised to organize and keep this army together at the expense of sponsors from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and… the United States.
How very interesting! How would the United States react to a pledge by some “friends of the US” from foreign governments to pay salaries to deserters from the American army in case they join some “liberation struggle” against a bad guy in the White House? Wouldn’t it be a bit too much even for the greatest liberal in Washington D.C.?
There can be a legal basis (albeit a very shaky one) for providing humanitarian aid to the people in Syria’s regions which were devastated by the war. But even on that issue, a pledge of $176 million in humanitarian assistance made in Istanbul is a very arguable one, since the aid will go to Syrians via the hands of the Syrian National Council. An aid to victims of a civil war made via one of the sides in that war is a questionable method of charity activities. One should not forget also that the SNC is just one of many Syrian opposition groups and its source of legitimacy lies outside Syria – it was recognized as a “legitimate representative of the Syrian people” by those same “Friends of Syria” at their meetings in Tunisia and Istanbul.
What is even more stunning is the fact that participants of the conference in Istanbul plan to purchase the weapons for the Syrian rebels on the international “black market” for weapons, as the Washington Post reported. So, what about all the warnings we heard from Washington about the dangers of “black markets” for military equipment and technologies? Weren’t whole countries (such as Iraq) invaded with the official purpose of curbing those black markets?
“The interesting feature of today’s world is that the most unpredictable countries in it are not some God-forsaken Oriental dictatorships, as it was the case earlier, but modern Western states, with their elected governments, modern armed forces and seemingly disparate media,” said Igor Maksimychev, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Europe in the Russian Academy of Sciences.
“Communication equipment,” which US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is planning to provide to the rebels, looks (or, rather, sounds) suspiciously like military equipment, as, in Mrs. Clinton’s own words, it “will help activists organize, evade attacks by the regime, and connect to the outside world.” Obviously, “activists” will need this organization not for Friday night parties. And, since the times of Chinese strategists, “evading attacks” of the enemy is the primary part of warfare, probably an even more important one than actually striking the enemy.
In this situation, Russia seems to be the only heavyweight international player opposed to the trend of arming, wining and dining the anti-government fighters in Syria. A statement issued by the Russian foreign ministry said that the intention of “the friends of Syria” to provide the Syrian opposition military aid goes against the aims of a peaceful settlement of the conflict. “The meeting in Istanbul, unfortunately, retained a unilateral character, its participants did not include the representatives of Syria’s government and many influential groups of Syria’s political opposition,” said Maria Zakharova, deputy head of the department of information and media at the Russian MFA.
Georgy Mirsky, senior research fellow at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, does not see a positive logic in the Western actions against the Syrian government. These actions can be explained only by Damascus’s traditionally close ties to Iran, now perceived in Europe and the US as a hostile country. “Assad personally did not take any Western lives and did not inflict on the West any substantial economic damage,” Mirsky explains. “But talking about Assad Americans have in the back of their minds Iran, and that explains a lot in their attitude to Tehran.”
Interestingly, the current Iranian regime is the result of what is usually termed in the US as a “revolution gone wrong.” The toppling of an authoritarian shah (a sort of an “Iranian spring” in 1978-1979) ultimately brought Islamists to power. Now Islamists are slowly moving to complete power in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia (in Egypt the Christian Copts yesterday left the Constitutional Council, where they were hugely outnumbered by Islamists). So, how many more “aborted revolutions” is the West going to correct via arms from the black market, “defensive” communication equipment or outright interventions?
- Russia: “Friends of Syria” Meeting One-Sided, Contradicts Goals of Peace (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Syria conference: Gulf countries to fund rebels (altahrir.wordpress.com)
A Dutch woman and several Palestinians were violently arrested today during an attempt to reclaim a Palestinian house at the entrance of the old city in occupied Al Khalil (Hebron).
About 30 Palestinians and international ISM activists from Canada, Finland, United States and the Netherlands entered a Palestinian house that was taken over by the Israeli army around eight years ago. The re-occupation of the house was an attempt to return the house it’s rightful owner and a response to the takeover of a Palestinian house on Shuhada street by settlers under the protection of the Israeli army and border police.
The windows of the house had been broken and the house was filled with trashed furniture, reminders of the families who had lived there. Stars of David and other graffiti covered the walls, and the floor was littered with the casings of rubber coated steel bullets and a tear gas canister. From the front window the watchtower of the settlement Beit Romano is visible.
As activists started cleaning the house and preparing to spend the night there, the Israeli army prepared to invade the house with sound bombs, skunk water and soldiers in full riot gear. Over 50 soldiers and 5 border police blocked the road and cleared the surrounding area before entering the house that was being reoccupied, claiming that the house was now Jewish property.
The soldiers then entered the house and began to forcefully remove the non-violent protesters by punching, hitting with batons, kicking, pulling people by their hair and grabbing them by their throat before pulling them out of the house.
“I was dragged out down a flight of stairs by my ankle by a soldier” said an ISM activist from Canada. “The soldier had his boot on my face,” said an ISMer from Finland.
One Palestinian was beaten until he became unconscious. He was taken to hospital in an ambulance with another injured person. When internationals and Palestinians attempted to help the unconscious man, the Israeli army threw sound bombs near his head and then dragged him away by his feet.
The Israeli army threw sound bombs and sprayed skunk water at the crowd that had gathered to support the Palestinians and internationals.
The Dutch activist and Youth Against Settlements leader Issa Amro are still being held by police. The whereabouts of the Dutch activist is unknown currently, and an emergency hotline for the Dutch Embassy only suggested that an email be sent to detail the event.
The embassy employee commented that, “We can see to it that she is fed, bathed, and if she needs medicine.” When asked if he can attempt to locate her, he mumbled a comment about her attending a demonstration, and stated “Israel is a friend of the Netherlands, and we respect the law of the land.” He then suggested to call the Dutch Consulate during its working hours and to send information about the woman to its email address.
ISM is working vigorously to determine the whereabouts of its volunteer, yet is fearful that while the Israelis deny that she is held in one of their imprisonment facilities despite dozens seeing her physically taken away by Israelis, that they may be attempting to deport her without fair trial or an accusation as they did with a British volunteer in July 2011.
- Israeli settlers storm into Palestinian home, occupy residence (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Hebron teen ‘shot by Israeli settler’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- International Solidarity Movement volunteers encounter settler attack and sexual harassment in Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Settler Violence: Broken Glass on Shuhada Street (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Settlers Attack Two Towns Near Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Under Attack – the Golani Brigade’s war on the Palestinian population of Al-Khalil/Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a prominent Palestinian family could not claim ownership of a landmark and now derelict building in East Jerusalem.
The Husseini family said the Shepherd Hotel, now partially demolished, is a symbol of the Palestinian rights to their land and to East Jerusalem, and strongly criticized the court ruling.
The Shepherd Hotel was built in the 1930s and served as the home of Jerusalem grand mufti Haj Amin Husseini.
It was declared “absentee property” by Israel after it was captured and annexed to East Jerusalem in 1967. The title was transferred to an Israeli firm, which sold it in 1985 to Irving Moskowitz, a Florida businessman and patron of Jewish settlers.
The “absentee property” law has been enforced by Israel since 1948 which allowed the Israeli authorities to confiscate land and property of Palestinians who were prohibited to return to their land and property after 1948.
- Israeli settlers storm into Palestinian home, occupy residence (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel excitedly rejects cooperation with UN over settlements (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Ethnic Cleansing in a Zionist Fairyland (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Jerusalem is at the heart of the Palestinian struggle (altahrir.wordpress.com)
JERUSALEM – Israeli forces raided the Jerusalem office of a university media institute on Monday, shutting down the launch of an online media network and detaining employees.
Plainclothes police shut down the launch of the Hona al-Quds news site in the al-Khalidiya neighborhood of Jerusalem’s Old City, and confiscated equipment and files, network director Harun Abu Arrah told Ma’an.
Two employees — Adel Ruished and Mohannad Izheman — were detained, and guests attending the launch were blocked from entering.
Employees were presented with an order signed by the Israeli minister of internal security forbidding the event as a banned initiative of the Palestinian Authority, director of Al-Quds University Institute for Modern Media Lucy Nusseibeh told Ma’an.
The university, which launched Hona al-Quds, has been registered as an independent non-governmental organization with Israeli authorities for decades, Nusseibeh added.
The launch was intended to take place simultaneously with the institute’s Ramallah office by Skype.
Izheman, a university security guard, has since been released with a summons to return to police offices on Tuesday, and Ruished, the university’s Administrative Director of Jerusalem Affairs, is still being held, a university statement said.
Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said the facility was “closed until further notice,” on suspicions of use for Palestinian official activity in Jerusalem.
“This is the second attack on our media institution in five weeks — this is education and not a political project,” Nusseibeh said.
In late February, Israeli forces raided the institute’s Al-Quds Educational TV in Ramallah-district Al-Bireh and confiscated its broadcasting equipment, claiming it was interrupting legal broadcasting.
The same day, Israeli forces also raided Watan TV’s newsroom in Ramallah and seized transmitters.
Reporters Without Borders said at the time it was “deeply shocked” by the raids.
“These arbitrary and illegal operations served yet again to intimidate Palestinian media and journalists, the victims of repeated attacks by the (Israeli army),” the group said in a statement.
- Israel raids Ramallah TV stations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli forces attack press with ‘total impunity’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Union condemns Israel extending journalist detention (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Due process and judicial process are not one and the same. The Founders weren’t picky. Trial by jury, trial by fire, rock-paper-scissors – who cares?
— Stephen Colbert, March 6, 2012
The policies around the assassination program of the United States are surreal.
Trafficking in murder while espousing noble things is a habit regimes fall into, though the more sinister ones tend to use weasel words to conceal that fact. The Obama administration, having long abandoned its role as the knight in shining armour, is now rusting away with the effects of realpolitik.
The ACLU has been trying through Freedom of Information channels to force a disclosure of the guidelines the administration uses in targeting foreign nationals or American citizens through the infamous drone program that has become de rigueur in military circles. The CIA has insisted that it cannot confirm or deny the existence or non-existence of those records that cover the targeting of individuals, or whether it is even employing such vehicles in the first place. They are “intelligence sources and methods information that is protected from disclosure by section 6 of the CIA Act of 1949, as amended”. In such circles, the response is termed the Glomar response, after the CIA’s refusal in 1976 to confirm or deny its relationship with Glomar Explorer, a drill ship created at the direction of Howard Hughes for the agency to recover the sunken Soviet submarine, the K-129.
In the words of Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU, as reported by Salon (March 26). “At this point, the only consequence of pretending that it’s a secret program is that the courts don’t play a role in overseeing it.” With the courts left out in the cold, the administration can run riot. This, of course, is its self-appointed prerogative.
The Obama administration is engaging in a lexical game of murder, a game that has certainly silenced many of those who would have expressed outrage at the assortment of abuses perpetrated by the Bush administration. Tinker with the words, and the result is considered perfectly justifiable in the name of a higher state interest. This is Cheney with the gloss, Rumsfeld with the polish. Adjust the terms of reference, and assassination is an entirely rum thing.
Obama’s front man in this entire business, in true tasteless fashion, is Eric Holder. Instead of defending the law as is the incumbent duty of any Attorney General, he has a nasty tendency to get sick on it. He brings in his broom to clean up, and in its place he leaves the slime of gibberish. At Northwestern University Law School, he clearly repudiated the position he had taken regarding the Bush administration, whose policies in the ‘war on terror’ had occasioned ‘needlessly abusive and unlawful practices’. That, however, was in 2008. The new Holder was a different beast, more prone to splitting hairs. ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’, we are made to realise, ‘are not one and the same’. The President, according to Holder, is not required to seek permission from any court before targeting American citizens abroad (Washington Times, March 12).
Supposedly, the targeting of such individuals is constrained by guidelines. The problem with such dangerous talk is that guidelines are merely points on paper, the scrawl of the moment. They have a tendency of disappearing as quickly as they appear. These guidelines tend to revolve around the nature of the target (an operative of a terrorist group seeking to actively kill American citizens, for one; that the target poses an imminent threat to the US; that the capture of the target is impractical; and that the target is to be eliminated on the basis of ‘relevant law of war principles’ (Washington Times, March 12). Such determinations do not lie in the legal domain. They are rather matters of political expediency.
An administration up to its eyeballs with legal rhetoric is bound to eventually be told it has no clothes, that its efforts are simply acts of distortion. The time it seems, courtesy of the ACLU’s efforts, is now.
Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He can be reached at email@example.com
Reuters has failed to provide its viewers with a solid explanation on the publication of a manipulated report by the London-based news agency on female Iranian ninjas.
On February 18, Reuters showed a number of Iranian girls practicing martial arts in a city near Tehran, claiming Iran was training more than 3,000 female ninjas to kill any possible foreign invaders.
The report claimed that the athletes are undercover assassins in the service of the Islamic Republic.
Following Press TV’s contact with the Tehran office of the British news agency, Reuters posted an advisory with some corrections on February 26 but refused to apologize for slander.
Editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler said that the error “was promptly corrected the same day it came to our attention,” but failed to mention the eight-day interval between the first publication of the story and the posting of the advisory with minor corrections.
During the eight-day interval, the distorted Reuters report was picked up by other British media outlets, thus adding to the damage already caused by the misleading report.
The advisory was posted in Reuters Video Point, which is an accompanying website for Reuters broadcast video service.
The athletes have condemned the report, saying the misleading report can definitely be a problem to their professional sport career.
“It can harm our chances to travel to other countries to take part in global tournaments and international championships because Reuters is considered by many to be a reliable source,” Raheleh Davoudzadeh said.
Akbar Faraji, who established Ninjutsu in Iran over 22 years ago, condemned the British media accusations, saying his students will pursue their legal action against Reuters to the end.
“We have filed a defamation lawsuit against Reuters and we intend to pursue it as far as necessary because it is a matter of reputation,” he said.
Over the past years, it has been happening with frightening regularity that U.S. diplomats and CIA agents were caught pulling off operations involving illicit weapons supply in Latin America. The inescapable impression is that the U.S. Department of State has irreversibly learned to regard the Vienna Convention and various national legislation as rules which it has unlimited freedom to overstep.
Pressing for unchallenged hegemony in the Western Hemisphere, Washington keeps the populist regimes in Latin America under permanent pressure. Outwardly, the U.S. Administration pledges not to resort to military force to displace the ALBA governments in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, or Cuba, but in reality Washington’s efforts to undermine them are a constant background of the continent’s political picture. The activity began under president G. Bush and shows no signs of subsiding under president Obama. Supposedly, plans are being devised in the White House that a series of color revolutions will erupt across Latin America in 2013-2014 and derail the continent’s advancement towards tighter integration in security and other spheres. As the fresh experience of Libya showed with utmost clarity, Washington’s new brand of color revolutions will – in contrast to the former coups which used to be accompanied with outpourings of pacifist rhetoric – involve ferocious fighting and massive fatalities figures.
The above should explain why U.S. embassies in Latin America increasingly often become epicenters of political scandals related to illicit weapons supplies. In a recent incident in Bolivia, the country’s mobile patrol service (Umopar) intercepted in Trinidad, the capital of the department of Beni, a vehicle owned by the U.S. diplomatic mission and driven by two Bolivian nationals – chief of U.S. Embassy security Maj. Costas and Sgt. Garcia, a driver – which was found to be heading for the capital of Santa Cruz province with three shotguns, a 38-caliber revolver, and a load of ammunition. Bolivian Interior Minister Carlos Romero announced shortly thereafter that the U.S. embassy had not requested a permit for transporting weapons and, therefore, acted illegally and put Bolivia’s National Security in jeopardy. It remained unknown who was going to secretly receive the weapons seized in the district located hundreds of kilometers away from La Paz.
The Bolivian administration has serious reasons to be on the alert – slightly over a year ago, Ecuador’s police which had been armed, funded, and otherwise courted by the U.S. embassy, used to launch missions directed by U.S. advisers – and gradually evolved to think of the national administration’s control as purely nominal – organized a mutiny and, as the plot unraveled, president Rafael Correa narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. An investigation that followed when law and order were restored in Ecuador failed to clarify the origin of the sniper rifles used to fire on the president, which likely means that the CIA professionals left no trace of their involvement in the coup.
The US embassy in La Paz reacted to the Trinidad incident by releasing a statement to the effect that the Beni police had actually been notified about the supply of firearms to Santa Cruz and that the plan had been to pass them to Bolivian nationals employed as guards by US institutions. Minister Romero was as a result forced to reiterate that no license had been issued on the occasion and said that a probe would be opened into how the firearms and ammunition had crossed the Bolivian border.
For anyone familiar with the scope of the activity of the US intelligence community in Bolivia, the context of minister Romero’s invectives is not hard to grasp. A shocking episode took place in Santa Cruz, a city with a reputation of a hotbed of separatism, in April, 2009 – back then, Bolivian special forces raided the Las Americas hotel and mowed down a group of terrorists who had arrived to the country from Western Europe with the goals of fueling armed resistance to the populist regime and assassinating president Evo Morales. It transpired that the uninvited visitors had a record of fighting against the Serbs in the Balkan region, where the bunch of militants had formed strong links with Western intelligence services. The Bolivian counter-espionage agency’s investigation into various aspects of the case of the group’s leader Eduardo Rózsa-Flores – particularly the part of the probe meant to shed light on the channels through which firearms, grenades, explosives and ammunition had been smuggled into the country – is still underway. In a rather predictable development, a number of individuals who had assisted Rózsa-Flores, including Human Rights Foundation representative Hugo Acha (a.k.a Superman) – fled to the U.S. The Bolivian security service got a hold of e-mail exchanges between Rózsa-Flores and Belovays, a U.S. national and, reportedly, a career CIA officer whose profile also features a stay in the Balkans.
The U.S. van with firearms on board ended up in the hands of the Bolivian police a month after the U.S. and Bolivian administrations penned a deal normalizing the diplomatic relations between the two countries and exchanged ambassadors. The lesson that Morales has to relearn under the circumstances is that – shifts in diplomacy notwithstanding – the staff of the U.S. embassy in Bolivia has no intention to stop playing its totally unfair game.
There’s hardly a country in Latin America where U.S. agents have not been spotted trafficking firearms. A U.S. national was taken in custody last April in the proximity of the Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires for carrying three rifles, two of them with telescopic sights, in a vehicle with a diplomatic license plate. The U.S. embassy somehow explained away the incident with a reference to an unspecified emergency (no doubt, getting away with a similar offense so easily would have been out of question in the U.S.), and the perpetrator, a U.S. embassy contractor, in his own description, immediately hopped on a plane to the U.S. Argentina’s police were keenly interested in the man’s “hunting” trips to the regions of the country bordering Bolivia and Chile, considering that Argentinian laws strictly prohibit the conduct of intelligence operations, including those against drug trafficking, by foreign agents.
Speaking of Argentina, the loudest story played out about a year ago when boxes containing undeclared firearms, reconnaissance equipment, and narcotic substances were discovered aboard a U.S. Air Force Boeing in the Ezeiza airport. The U.S. mischief was impossible to deny, but, as in the majority of cases, the U.S. easily solved the problem, this time by asserting that all of the above was necessary to train Argentinian police.
It is a recurrent theme in the media that sizable arsenals are stored in U.S. embassies across Latin America. These days, given that the ostensibly anti-terror war has been raging globally for over a decade, nobody is taken aback when this type of information surfaces. The perceived risks are pervasive, be it Mexico, Central America, Columbia, Brazil, or even Uruguay, and alarmist forecasts evidently proliferate. That must be the reason why, in just about every Latin American country, the U.S. embassies increasingly resemble military bases, with reinforced concrete walls, tiny windows, and underground shelters.
Moscow said on Monday that the “Friends of Syria” meeting in Istanbul was one-sided, adding it contradicted the goal of a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis.
“Unfortunately, the meeting in Istanbul was as one-sided” as previous such gatherings, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Its list of participants did not include either the Syrian government or many of the influential groups of the Syrian political opposition”, the statement added.
“The promises and intentions to deliver direct military and logistical support to the armed… opposition that were voiced in Istanbul unquestionably contradict the goals of a peaceful settlement to the civil conflict in Syria”.
As it slammed Istanbul meeting, Russia reaffirmed its support for Annan’s initiative and said it would continue “trying to achieve an immediate ceasefire and an end to violence from all sides”.
The meeting on Sunday recognized the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) as the “legitimate representative” of all Syrians and the “leading interlocutor for the opposition with the international community.”
- Syria and the Annan Plan: The Devil in the Details (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Turkey Should Have Thought Twice on Syria (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- RT: ‘Friends of Syria’ threaten Assad with ‘consequences’, pledge sanctions (jhaines6.wordpress.com)