President Obama is beefing up the administration’s sanctions on Iran and Syria, issuing an executive order targeting anyone who tries to skirt the crackdown.
The order, issued Tuesday, would allow the government to punish any individuals who either violate current sanctions against the two countries or help facilitate such an evasion by others.
Violators would be publicly outed by the government and effectively barred from entering the United States or participating in the U.S. financial system.
The order “provides Treasury additional means to impose serious consequences on foreign persons who seek to evade our sanctions and undermine international efforts to bring pressure to bear on the Iranian and Syrian regimes,” said David Cohen, the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. “Whoever tries to evade our sanctions does so at the expense of the people of Syria and Iran, and they will be held accountable.”
Once the Treasury identifies someone who is trying to avert the sanctions, anyone under U.S. jurisdiction would be prohibited from doing business with them. The Treasury said the new order helps ensure that Americans do not accidentally undercut the sanctions.
Obama notified Congress of the move in letters sent to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate.
The move marks the latest attempt by the White House to put pressure on the two nations. In February, another executive order levied new sanctions on Iran and its central bank.
Under that order, any Iranian assets held by U.S. citizens or companies were effectively frozen, and any transactions conducted by U.S. citizens with Iranian entities would be seized or frozen. … Full article
The MAG (Military Advocate’s General) Corps informed B’Tselem today that it has closed the Military Police investigation file in the complaint submitted by B’Tselem into the killing of 21 members of the a-Samuni family in the Gaza Strip. The file was closed without taking any measures against those responsible. In a letter sent to B’Tselem and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza (PCHR) that filed a complaint into the matter as well, major Dorit Tuval, from the MAG Corps for operational matters wrote that the investigation completely disproved any claim about deliberate harm to civilians, as well as haste and recklessness regarding possible harm to civilians, or criminal negligence. The military’s response does not detail the findings of the investigation, nor does it provide the reasons behind the decision to close the file or any new information about the circumstances.
In response, Adv. Yael Stein, B’Tselem’s head of research, said: it is unacceptable that no one is found responsible for an action of the army that led to the killing of 21 uninvolved civilians, inside the building they entered under soldiers’ orders, even if this was not done deliberately. The way the army has exempted itself of responsibility for this event, even if only to acknowledge its severity and clarify its circumstances, is intolerable. Shirking the responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of other civilians and the immense damage caused by operation Cast Lead demonstrates yet again the need for an Israeli investigation mechanism that is external to the army.
The a-Samuni Family
On 4 January 2009, soldiers gathered about 100 members of the extended a-Samuni family in the house of Wael a-Samuni, in the a-Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City. The next morning, at 6:30 A.M., when a few members of the family tried to leave the house, the military fired a missile or shell at them, killing one person and wounding two other persons. A few seconds later, the military fired two more shells or missiles that hit the house directly. The house collapsed on its occupants, killing 21 persons, including 9 children and many women, and injuring dozens of other family members. Despite repeated requests by the Red Cross, B’Tselem, and other human rights organization, the army prevented removal of the injured people for two days, until 7 January. After the wounded persons were evacuated, the army demolished the house with the dead bodies inside. It was only possible to remove them from under the debris after the army withdrew, about two weeks later.
No accountability for the military’s actions during Operation Cast Lead
Three years after the end of the operation, the dozens of MPIU investigations opened into cases of harm to civilians have yet to yield results. The Military Advocate General Corps has created a haze around them, preventing any possibility of examining their effectiveness. The Corps’ responses to B’Tselem, combined with media reports, indicate that three indictments have been filed against soldiers who took part in the operation: for theft of a credit card from a Palestinian civilian, for use of a nine-year-old Palestinian child as a human shield, and for “manslaughter of an anonymous person.” In three other cases, disciplinary action alone was taken. Two officers were disciplined for firing explosive shells that struck an UNRWA facility; three officers were disciplined for shelling the al-Maqadmeh Mosque, in which 15 Palestinians were killed, nine of them civilians; and one officer was disciplined for the use of Palestinian civilian as a human shield,
These meager results are not surprising. The investigations were all opened at a very late stage – the first, to B’Tselem knowledge, in October 2009, a full ten months after the operation had ended. At present, three years after the operation, there is hardly a chance that investigations will lead to further indictments.
There has never been a serious investigation into the suspicions raised by B’Tselem and additional Israeli, Palestinian and international organizations regarding breaches of international humanitarian law by the military during the operation. Most of B’Tselem’s demands for investigation were not met. The investigations that were opened did not, to B’Tselem’s knowledge, address the responsibility of high-ranking commanders, but rather focused on the conduct of individual soldiers.
- Israeli commander won’t face charges in controversial 2009 Gaza attack (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
Israeli historian Ilan Pappe begins a speaking tour across Canada tonight in Montreal. The theme of his talk is “The False Paradigm of Peace: Revisiting the Palestine Question.”
Based currently at the University of Exeter in the UK, Pappe will be discussing the history of failed negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. He is the author of nine books including The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, which is the definitive account of the expulsion of close to 800,000 Palestinians in 1948 upon the founding of the state of Israel.
Pappe’s tour is sponsored by the Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME). Freelance journalist Paul Weinberg interviewed Ilan Pappe for rabble.ca about some of the topics he will address on his tour. These questions and answers were conducted by email, just before Pappe boarded his flight to Canada.
Paul Weinberg: Do historians understand the entire story behind the events in 1948 involving the expulsion of the Palestinian residents from what now constitutes Israel? How open are the archives in Israel?
Ilan Pappe: Historians understand in different ways such a contested chapter in history. Much depends on their location of the ongoing conflict, because these events are part of our contemporary reality in Israel and Palestine. There were two basic conflicting understandings of the conflict: one Zionist and one Palestinian. What happened in the last 20 to 25 years is that most of the professional historians and with them large segments of the public tend to regard the Zionist understanding as a false attempt to cover for a crime committed against the Palestinians in 1948 when half of them were expelled by force from their homeland.
The most interesting development in this is the fact that quite a few Zionist historians, unlike their predecessors in the Zionist historiographical establishment, accept that half of Palestine’s native population was expelled, but they see this is a justified act of self defence. So the final stage in the historiographical attempt to understand, as you put it, is a moral debate of whether in the name of a perceived threat ethnic cleansing and massacres can be justified.
The archives in Israel used to be quite accessible. Material which is now considered as potentially damaging to the state’s image is now far more difficult to access. But there is still, for the time being, enough there to substantiate a better understanding of the 1948 situation and beyond.
PW: What are you working on now in your academic research?
IP: I’m working on several projects. One of them is called “the Idea of Israel”. This is a history of power and knowledge in Israel, and another is the early history of the 1967 occupation.
PW: Why are you living in the UK rather than Israel? Is it dangerous for you to live in Israel under the current political circumstances?
IP: I try and live both places in fact, but I have to work in the UK as I was ousted from the Israeli academia. I do not think the danger for people like me depends on where we are, but rather on how desperate the Israelis and their supporters inside and outside are and how far have they given up the charade of democracy.
PW: How do you envision a one-state solution? Is it possible for two hostile nations to live inside a single state? I speak of this as a Canadian living in a bi-national state that works by hook and crook.
IP: There is already a one-state solution in place – there is only one state and one regime controlling the land between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean. So the question is not getting hostile nations to live together but convincing oppressors to end the oppression. So one has to look for a combination of an outside pressure on the oppressor and an educational effort from within to change the power relations in the already existing one state.
PW: Norman Finklestein says that a two-state solution is still doable under international law even with the huge number of Jewish settlers on Palestinian land. He also suggests that the boycott and divestment campaign against Israel hasn’t really worked. What is your response?
IP: I think the two-states solutions are dead. Only someone who has not been for a while in the occupied territories can still think there is the ability to create a state of any kind there, even if the international will to impose this solution on Israel would have existed. If anything there is no such international will because the political elites are reluctant to do this. So the reality is of a one-state as I pointed out. The political elites in the west are also reluctant to stop the oppression on the ground, as they were in the heydays of apartheid in South Africa.
So you needed then, and you need now, a strong pressure from the civil society on the political elites to change course. And this is the essential role the BDS movement play and will play. The only real worry, and indeed the only remaining asset the Palestinians can still have vis-à-vis the Israelis is giving the presence of the Jews in Palestine moral and international legitimacy.
The BDS movement highlights that despite all its power, Israel will never receive legitimacy as long as the Palestinians do no grant it to them (this was understood very well by Netanyahu when he demanded that even the shamble of leadership of the PA would provide the state recognition as a Jewish State). Apart from the new efforts of Palestinian unity and re-arranging the issue of representation (resurrecting the PLO), the BDS is the most important development in Palestine in the last decade.
Paul Weinberg is a Toronto-based freelance writer and journalist. His website is www.paulweinberg.ca
- Zionist group fails to disrupt Ilan Pappe’s tour at California state universities (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- In Israel, democracy sprays you (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
The International Monetary Fund has rejected a call by a US-based anti-Iranian group to cut its ties with the Central Bank of Iran.
The IMF said on Tuesday that its relationship with the Central Bank of Iran is based on its constitution, noting that Iran’s membership does not contravene US or EU sanctions on Tehran, AFP reported.
The anti-Iranian group also criticized IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde over her meeting with Central Bank of Iran Governor Mahmoud Bahmani on the sidelines of the semiannual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington in late April.
The US-based anti-Iranian group consists of former US diplomats and government officials.
IMF spokesman William Murray said, “According to our constitution… the IMF’s holdings of each member’s currency are maintained with the central bank of the relevant member, including Iran… There is nothing in the EU or US sanctions regimes that is inconsistent with these arrangements.”
Headquartered in Washington, the IMF is an organization of 188 countries working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.
- PressTV: Disruption to Iran oil flow to shock global economy: IMF chief (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
- Oil prices to jump 30pct on Iran sanctions – IMF – 260205 – 20 (islamiccivilizations.wordpress.com)
No sooner did a mandatory data retention law go into effect in Austria this month than thousands of Austrians banded together in a swift opposition campaign to overturn it. The Austrian law originated as the misshapen offspring of the 2006 European Data Retention Directive. Led by AK Vorrat Austria, a working group against mandatory data retention, the pushback against this mass-surveillance law demonstrates that opposition remains alive and well six years after the European Union adopted the infamous Directive.
The Austrian data retention law compels all ISPs and telcos operating in Austria to retain everyone’s incoming and outgoing phone numbers, IP addresses, location data, and other key telecom and Internet traffic data. The information is collected for all citizens, rather than just those suspected criminal activity. In many cases, the data is handed over to law enforcement.
Austrian activists took advantage of a two-year delay of the implementation of this ill-conceived Directive in their country by mapping out their opposition strategy in advance. They sought to leverage a two tier strategy to beat back the Data Retention Directive at the European level, and to fight against the Austrian data retention law at the national level.
One day before the law entered into force, Austrian activists organized funeral marches to protest this anti-privacy, anti-anonymity, anti-free expression law.
Now, just weeks after the Directive officially went into effect, its future hangs in the balance as a pair of efforts calling for its reversal speed toward Austria’s Constitutional Court. Austrian activists are seeking to overturn the legality of the Austrian law with a mass complaint filed with Austria’s Constitutional Court. With nearly 7,000 supporters formally signed on and 18,000 declaring their intent to join, that effort that is shaping up to be “the biggest complaint in the history of the republic,” according to European Digital Rights (EDRi), a coalition of 32 privacy and civil rights organizations working in the European Union, including EFF. AK Vorrat Austria initially announced that it hoped to bring 1,000 individuals together to sign onto the complaint – and surpassed that goal in two days’ time.
But activists aren’t stopping there. On a parallel track, AK Vorrat Austria has already gathered 100,000 signatures for a citizens’ initiative calling for their government to work towards the abolishment of the EU Directive. The signatures are enough to meet the required threshold to force the issue to be considered by the National Council, Austria’s legislative branch of government.
This isn’t the first time this Directive has sparked an uproar in Europe. When it first became clear that the EU was going to cave to governmental lobbying interests from the U.S. and UK and enact a sweeping law that would effectively legitimize mass surveillance, the Freedom not Fear movement responded with massive street protests in Germany and across Europe.
The opposition continues, and is only growing. Courts in Romania, Germany, and the Czech Republic have declared their national laws derived from the EU Directive to be unconstitutional, while a court in Ireland has referred a case to the European Court of Justice—the highest Court in Europe for matters related to European Union law—questioning the legality of the overall EU Data Retention Directive. The European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx has called the Directive “the most privacy-invasive instrument ever adopted by the EU in terms of scale and the number of people it affects.” Despite all this, the European Commission is still defending it even though it has not been able to provide any evidence that the Directive is necessary, and therefore legal, in the European Union.
Austrian Association for Internet users (VIBE!AT), the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights and several other Austrian activists are encouraging all concerned Austrians to join this fight. Austrians can join the mass complaint against the Austrian data retention law by filling out the declaration form by May 18, available at verfassungsklage.at.
Meanwhile, all Austrians age 16 and older should support the citizens’ initiative online at zeichnemit.at (in German) to call for the abolishment of the EU data retention directive. Take Action: Sign the citizens’ initiative now. Tell the Austrian government to fight for the repeal of the European Data Retention Directive in Brussels.
- ACTA in the EU: We Can’t Call it Dead Yet (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- European Data Retention Directive At Work: Polish Authorities Abuse Access to Users’ Data (eff.org)
This month Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced the addition of some 1,900 mental health nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers to its existing workforce of 20,590 mental health staff in attempt to get a handle on the epidemic of suicides among combat veterans. Unfortunately, when presidents misuse our military on an unprecedented scale – and Congress lets them get away with it – the resulting stress causes military suicides to increase dramatically, both among active duty and retired service members. In fact, military deaths from suicide far outnumber combat deaths. According to an article in the Air Force Times this month, suicides among airmen are up 40 percent over last year.
Considering the multiple deployments service members are forced to endure as the war in Afghanistan stretches into its second decade, these figures are sadly unsurprising.
Ironically, the same VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was forced to retire from the Army by President Bush for daring to suggest that an invasion and occupation of Iraq would not be the cakewalk that neoconservatives promised. Then Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who is not a military veteran, claimed that General Shinseki was “wildly off the mark” for suggesting that several hundred thousand soldiers would be required to secure post-invasion Iraq. Now we see who was right on the costs of war.
In addition to the hidden human costs of our seemingly endless wars are the economic costs. In 2008, Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote “The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict.” Stiglitz illustrates that taking into account the total costs of the war, including replacing military equipment and caring for thousands of wounded veterans for the rest of their lives, the Iraq war will cost us orders of magnitude greater than the 50 billion dollars promised by the White House before the invasion. Add all the costs of Afghanistan into the mix, wrote Stiglitz, and the bill tops $7 trillion.
Is it any wonder why our infrastructure at home crumbles, healthcare is more expensive and harder to come by, and unemployment together with inflation continue their steady rise? Imagine the productive power of that seven trillion dollars in our private sector. What could it have done were it in private hands; what may have been discovered, what diseases might have been cured, what might have been built, how many productive jobs created?
With the bills coming due for our decade of reckless military action, the cuts rarely come from the well-connected military industrial complex with their lobbyists and powerful political allies. In President Obama’s 2013 budget, troop strength is to be cut significantly while enormously expensive and largely superfluous weapons systems emerge essentially unscathed. As defense analyst Winslow Wheeler wrote this month, costs of the “next generation” fighter, the F-35, will increase by another $289 million. This despite the fact that the fighter is badly designed and already outdated, a “virtual flying piano” writes Wheeler.
The military contractors building monstrosities like the F-35 are politically connected and thus protected. Unfortunately, returning military veterans are less so. In the same 2013 budget, the White House proposes to increase medical and pharmaceutical costs paid by veterans while reducing their cost of living increases. And how many years of increasingly alarming mental illness and suicide statistics has it taken for the modest increase in resources to be made available?
Those who predicted the real costs of our decade of global military conquest were ridiculed, scoffed at, and fired. History has now shown us that much of what they warned was correct. America is clearly less secure after a decade of unnecessary wars. It is more vulnerable and closer to economic collapse. Its military is nearly broken from years of abuse. Will we come back to our senses?
UN Monitors Continue Mission
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday condemned the terrorist bomb attacks in two Syrian cities but said UN observers had brought some improvement in areas where they have been deployed.
The UN chief called on “all parties” in the Syria conflict to halt violence and work with the growing UN Supervision Mission in Syria, UN deputy spokesperson Eduardo del Buey said in a statement.
Ban “condemns” what he called “terrorist bomb attacks” in Idlib and Damascus on Monday, the spokesperson said.
“While noting improvements in areas where UN monitors are deployed, the secretary general remains gravely concerned by reports of continued violence, killing and abuses in Syria in recent days.”
“He calls for armed violence in all its forms by all parties to cease immediately and full cooperation of all parties with the work of UNSMIS as it expands its presence on the ground,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
The UN monitors are scheduled to visit the western cities of Homs and Hama on Tuesday.
The latest UN schedule comes a day after at least 20 people were martyred and scores of others injured in two bomb attacks in Idlib.
Israel Lobby representative Joe Lieberman in Saudi Arabia advocating “substantive military aid” for terrorists
US Senator Joe Lieberman discussed the Syria crisis with Saudi King Abdullah and other senior officials during a visit to the Kingdom.
Lieberman also met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz — who recently held talks at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to discuss the Syria crisis — and General Intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz.
“The senator is traveling in the Middle East this week, focused on the continuing crisis in Syria and other issues related to US national security in the region,” Lieberman aide Whitney Phillips told AFP.
It is the second trip to the region in three weeks for Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee and also sits on the Armed Services Committee.
The Senator has advocated further US intervention in Syria, including the arming of Syrian opposition groups against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. And while he stressed he wanted “no (US) boots on the ground” in Syria, he was “adamant” about the need to provide more “substantive military aid”.
“At some point we simply have to say, ‘we’re going to help them, we’re going to give them weapons to defend themselves,’ and that will make them strong and more organized”, Lieberman said last week at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
On Sunday he was in Qatar, where he met with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khaled al-Attiyah, Phillips said.
- An In-depth Analysis of Lieberman’s Cybersecurity Bill 2011: Giving Birth to Big Brother (nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com)
The International Solidarity Foundation for Human Rights (Tadamon) reported that Israeli soldiers shot and killed five Palestinians, including a 4 year old child, and kidnapped more than 285 Palestinians in April.
The child, Aseel Ara’ra, 4, from Anata, near the central west Bank city of Ramallah, was shot in the neck on October 25, 2011, and was left in a quadriplegic state before dying of her injuries last month.
Also in April, the army shot and killed Hashem Misbah Sa’ad, 17, after claiming that he approached the border fence. Sa’ad is from ash-Shujaeyya neighbourhood, east of Gaza city.
Soldiers also shot and killed Bilal Yousef As-Sa’ayda, 20, also after claiming the he approached the border fence.
Two more Palestinians were killed in the West Bank. One of the deceased, identified as Rashad Shoukha, 28, was seriously wounded after the under-cover forces of the Israeli army broke into his home in Rammoun town, near Ramallah, and died of his wounds a week after he was injured.
Resident Fadi Zeitoun, from Beta village, near Nablus, was killed after a group of extremist settlers of the Yitzhar illegal settlement, south of Nablus, chased him with their guns while he was driving his tractor.
Israeli soldiers conducted dozens of invasions into the occupied territories in April, and kidnapped more than 285 residents, including dozens of women and children, and a number of former political prisoners who previously spent years in Israeli prisons and detention centers.
In the West Bank, soldiers kidnapped 45 children, and three female university students from the southern West Bank city of Hebron.
Tadamon attorney, researcher Ahmad Tubassy, slammed the ongoing and escalating Israeli violations against the Palestinian people, especially the ongoing violations against the political prisoners currently holding an open-ended hunger-strike demanding their legitimate rights guaranteed under international Law.
He stated that targeting civilians, especially women and children, violates all international regulations, and the Fourth Geneva Conventions to which Israel is a signatory.
- 18 year old shepherd shot by Israeli soldiers in Jordan Valley (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Yitzhar settlers attack school children in Urif (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Palestinian Injured After Being Attacked By Boars Released By Settlers (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Four (Incl child) Injured After Being Attacked By Soldiers Invading Their Home (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Israeli Soldiers Invade Homes In Hebron, Jewish Settlers Attack Young Man (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Open letter to Dutch government (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Israeli settlers injure three Palestinians, uproot dozens of olive trees in two separate incidents (alethonews.wordpress.com)