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Unasur Creates Electoral Council, Moves toward Greater Economic Cooperation

By Ewan Robertson – Venezuelanalysis – December 3rd 2012

Mérida – The Union of South American nations (Unasur) has created an electoral council, as well as moving forward on initiatives for greater economic integration.

At a meeting yesterday between Unasur nations in Quito, Ecuador, the regional bloc’s newest council was formally inaugurated. The twelve Unasur member countries now cooperate through nine different councils, including defence, energy and health.

According to the Unasur electoral council’s pro-tempore president, Francisco Tavara of Peru, the council’s aim will be “to strengthen the role of Unasur observation and electoral accompaniment missions in regional electoral processes”.

He added that, “The [electoral observation] missions will be a substantial contribution to the creation of a climate of confidence and transparency for the peoples of South America”.

The electoral council was created after the experience of Unasur’s electoral mission to the Venezuelan presidential elections earlier this year. The council’s first official mission will be to the Ecuadorian presidential election in February 2013, when Rafael Correa will seek re-election.

The Unasur electoral council will have a rotating presidency and representatives from a variety of electoral organisations, and can only send an observation mission in response to a member state’s request.

Lenin Housse, the international relations director of the Ecuadorian National Electoral Council, claimed that Unasur electoral observation missions would be different from those of the Organisation of American States (OAS) or the European Union (EU), because they will be “attached to South America’s reality,” with the principle “of establishing mechanisms of accompaniment, information, and joint assessment”.

The electoral council is expected to emit a joint declaration of principles today, which will include “inclusive democracy”, “transparency of electoral processes”, and “promoting citizen democracy”.

New Court, New Bank

The Unasur is also expected to establish South America’s own forum for the settlement of investment disputes, to replace the Washington-based International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

“The issue is very advanced, practically all [Unasur] countries agree with this. It was proposed to finish the analysis and begin operating next year,” said Ecuadorian foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, after a meeting between Unasur heads of state in Lima, Peru, last weekend.

Accusing bodies such as the ICSID of having a “colonialist vision and structure”, he said it would be “good for Unasur to have its own organisation for the resolution of disputes, not to have to go to the ICSID or others so that they tell us how to develop our own systems of arbitration”.

In January this year Venezuela announced its withdrawal from the ICSID, citing the court’s bias against Venezuela in its decisions, and the need “to protect the right of the Venezuelan people to decide the strategic orientation of the social and economic life of the nation”. Fellow leftist governments Bolivia and Ecuador left the ICSID in 2007 and 2009 respectively.

Patiño also confirmed that the Bank of the South, which will fund joint projects and promote regional development, should be functioning by April 2013.

“This is one of Latin America’s most important hopes. It’s about regional growth,” he said in an interview with Venezuelan current affairs program Dossier on Friday.

He reported that the bank currently has two-thirds of the necessary capital to begin activities, and that once launched, could support a range of projects, such as regional rail and food storage networks, joint production of generic pharmaceuticals and greater energy integration.

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Australian surveillance ‘out of control’: 20% increase in 1 year

RT | December 3, 2012

Access to private data has increased by 20 per cent by Australia’s law enforcement and government agencies – and with no warrant. Australians are 26 times more prone to be placed under surveillance than people in other countries, local media report.

­In such a way, state structures accessed private information over 300,000 times last year – or 5,800 times every week, figures from the federal Attorney General’s Department showcase.

The data includes phone and internet account information, the details of out and inbound calls, telephone and internet access location data, as well as everything related to the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses visited, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Australian media report that every government agency and organization use the gathered telecommunications data, and those include the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Australian Tax Office, Medicare and Australia Post.

New South Wales (NSW) Police became the biggest users of the private data, with 103,824 access authorizations during the last year – a third of all information accessed by the security forces.

The news triggered massive public outrage, with Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam telling Sydney Morning Herald, ‘‘This is the personal data of hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of Australians, and it seems that just about anyone in government can get it.”

He said the move demonstrated the current data access regime was “out of control” and amounted to the framework for a “surveillance state”.

The reports come as the federal government proposes even wider surveillance powers, including a minimum two-year standard for telephone and web providers – a measure causing public controversy.

The president for the local NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Cameron Murphy, told the Australian Financial Review that, according to the statistics, recent proposals to step up police surveillance powers and keep internet and phone data for two years or more was little more than a “fishing expedition”.

“It’s stunning and completely outrageous that so much interception is going on,” Murphy said. “What seems to be happening now is this is being done as a matter of first course and not as a matter of last resort.”

The statistics gathered by the council demonstrate that Australians are 26 times more likely to be placed under surveillance than in comparable countries.

However, a spokesperson for Attorney-General Nicola Roxon indicated that “these new statistics show telephone interception and surveillance powers are playing an even greater role for police so they can successfully pursue kidnappers, murderers and organized criminals.”

Ludlam, on the other hand, detailed what the expansion should be accompanied by.

“It’s incumbent on the parliament’s national security inquiry to recommend some form of warrant authorization be introduced, and that there be a review and reduction of the government agencies that can access the personal communications data of millions of Australians,” he said.

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

From Soweto 1976 to Gaza 2012: What we need is People’s Power!

PACBI | 3 December 2012

In 2008/2009 Gaza was bombed by Israeli Apache helicopters and F16 and V58 fighter planes for 22 days, ultimately causing the deaths of more than 1400 Palestinians, predominately civilians. Israel, with all the impunity it has enjoyed since its establishment on the ruins of Palestinian society, returned to Gaza two weeks ago and repeated some of the same crimes in 8 days, launching 1800 aerial strikes, killing more than 175 Palestinians — including 34 children, 11 women, 19 elderly — and injuring 1399 people, including 465 children, 254 women, and 91 elderly, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

Israel’s academic institutions have played a key role in the planning, development, implementation and justification of this and many other Israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people. Tel Aviv University, for instance, takes pride in playing the central role in the development of the Israeli military doctrine of “disproportionate force” against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians.[1] Technion, Israel’s institute of technology, takes credit for developing many of the deadly weapon systems used against civilians in Gaza and elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian territory.[2] And the list goes on. This entrenched and fatal academic complicity in the commission of crimes against civilians has made PACBI and its partners around the world intensify their campaign for a comprehensive academic boycott of Israel in light of the latest massacre in Gaza.

Israel’s belligerent and entirely disproportionate air, land and sea bombardment of the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip always damages vital infrastructure and terrifies the civilian population and is therefore considered a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian people. Such war crimes are forbidden under international humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prescribes the manner in which armies must treat civilians during times of conflict.

But Israel has been getting away with these war crimes and crimes against humanity. The “international community,” under U.S. hegemony, seems apathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people. In fact, from diplomatic support to intricate military, academic and economic relations, the US-European establishment has been deeply complicit in prolonging and strengthening Israel’s system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid, as well as in justifying and whitewashing it.

The U.S. president, followed by a chorus of European leaders, duly jumped to Israel’s defense, upholding its “right to defend itself,”[3] ignoring the fact that international law unequivocally stipulates that any injustice or unlawful act cannot give rise to a legal right or entitlement. Missing in such mantras is the right of the Palestinian people, the occupied, ethnically cleansed and oppressed, to self-determination and to defend itself against foreign occupation, a right that is granted by international law, within specific parameters. The British FM William Hague performed skillful acrobatics to spin the blame from the aggressor to the victim of aggression, claiming that “Hamas bears the greatest responsibility for the current crisis, as well as the ability to bring it most swiftly to an end!”[4]

It is crucial to contextualize Israel’s latest war of aggression as part of an ongoing strategy of depriving Palestinians, especially in Gaza, of means of sustenance in order to “sear into their conscience” Israel’s upper hand and the futility of resistance. The hermetic siege imposed on Gaza for more than 5 years, epitomized by Israel’s use of a ‘calorie count’ to limit the flow of food into Gaza, is the most deadly dimension of this patently criminal strategy [5].

This strategy, characterized by a former editor of Haaretz, a leading Israeli daily, as one of “expulsion” as well as “territorial seizure and apartheid”[6] has shaped Israel’s policy for a long time. As far back as 1992, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin wished Gaza“would just sink into the sea” [7]. The overwhelming majority of Gaza is made up of refugees ethnically cleansed by Zionist militias and later the state of Israel during the 1948 Nakba. The fact that Gazans are not born to Jewish mothers – the criterion used by Israel to determine who is Jewish — is enough reason to deprive them of their UN-stipulated right to return to their homes and lands from which they were uprooted and exiled. The deeply colonial and racist Israeli logic views Palestinians, like the Afrikaner establishment viewed the Black natives of South Africa, as an inferior, hostile group of people that must be isolated in Bantustans, in accordance with the Oslo Accords’ terms, without calling them so; and if they show any resistance to this plan, they must get punished severely by transforming these Bantustans into “open-air prisons” or walled ghettos.

As a result of Israel’s blockade on most imports and exports and its other policies designed to punish Gazans, about 40% of Gaza’s workforce is now unemployed or without pay, and about 60% of its residents live in grinding poverty, according to various  United Nations agencies’ reports. About 1.2 million of them are now dependent for their day-to-day survival on food handouts from U.N. or international agencies; an increasing number of Palestinian families in Gaza are unable to offer their children more than one meager meal a day, often little more than rice and boiled lentils. Fresh fruit and vegetables are beyond the reach of many families. Meat and chicken are impossibly expensive. And fish is unavailable in its markets because the Israeli navy has curtailed the movements of Gaza’s fishermen.

The UN, EU and the “international community,” by and large, have remained silent in the face of atrocities committed by Israel. Hundreds of dead Palestinians have failed to convince them to act. We are, therefore, left with one option; an option that does not wait for the United Nations Security Council, namely: people’s power. This remains the only power capable of counteracting the massive imbalance between the oppressed Palestinians and their Israeli oppressors.

The horror of the racist apartheid regime in South Africa was challenged with a sustained campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions initiated in 1958 and given new urgency in the wake of the 1976 Soweto Uprising. This campaign led ultimately to the collapse of white rule in 1994 and the establishment of a multi-racial, democratic state.

Similarly, the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) has been gathering momentum since 2005. Gaza 2012, like Soweto 1976, cannot be ignored: it demands a response from all who believe in a common humanity. Now is the time to boycott the apartheid Israeli state, to divest and to impose sanctions against it. A crucial dimension of BDS that is more urgent than ever is an academic boycott of Israel’s universities, which have once again been shown to be full partners in crime.

[1] http://pacbi.org/pics/file/SOAS-Palestine-Society-Paper-TAU-Military-Complicity-Feb-2009.pdf

[2] http://alternativenews.org/images/stories/downloads/Economy_of_the_occupation_23-24.pdf

[3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2012/nov/18/barack-obama-support-israels-video

[4] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/william-hague-says-hamas-principally-responsible-for-gaza-crisis-but-urges-for-restraint-from-israel-8335657.html

[5] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/17/israeli-military-calorie-limit-gaza

[6] http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/the-necessary-elimination-of-israel-s-democracy-1.397625

[7] http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/pen-ultimate-tempestuous-thoughts-1.294075

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Legal Imperialism” and International Law: Legal Foundations for War Crimes, Debt Collection and Colonization

By James Petras :: 12.03.2012

Introduction

By now we are familiar with imperial states using their military power to attack, destroy and occupy independent countries. Boatloads of important studies have documented how imperial countries have seized and pillaged the resources of mineral-rich and agriculturally productive countries, in consort with multi-national corporations.

Financial critics have provided abundant data on the ways in which imperial creditors have extracted onerous rents, royalties and debt payments from indebted countries and their taxpayers, workers, employees and productive sectors.

What has not been examined fully is the over-arching legal architecture which informs, justifies and facilitates imperial wars, pillage and debt collection.

The Centrality of Imperial Law

While force and violence, especially through overt and covert military intervention, have always been an essential part of empire-building, it does not operate in a legal vacuum: Judicial institutions, rulings and legal precedents precede, accompany and follow the process of empire building. The legality of imperial activity is based largely on the imperial state’s judicial system and its own legal experts. Their legal theories and opinions are always presented as over-ruling international law as well as the laws of the countries targeted for imperial intervention. Imperial law supersedes international law simply because imperial law is backed by brute force; it possesses imperial/colonial air, ground and naval armed forces to ensure the supremacy of imperial law. In contrast, international law lacks an effective enforcement mechanism. Moreover, international law, to the extent that it is effective, is applied only to the weaker powers and to regimes designated by the imperial powers as ‘violators’. The very judicial processes, including the appointment of judges and prosecutors who interpret international law, investigate international crime and arrest, sentence and punish ‘guilty’ parties are under to the influence of the reigning imperial powers. In other words, the application and jurisdiction of international law is selective and subject to constraints imposed by the configurations of imperial and national power. International law, at best, can provide a ‘moral’ judgment, a not insignificant basis for strengthening the political claims of countries, regimes and people seeking redress from imperial war crimes and economic pillage. To counter the claims and judgments pertaining to international law, especially in the area of the Geneva protocols such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, imperial legal experts, scholars and judges have elaborated a legal framework to justify or exempt imperial-state activity.

The Uses of Imperial Law

Empire-building throughout history is the result of conquest – the use or threat of superior military force. The US global empire is no exception. Where compliant rulers ‘invite’ or ‘submit’ to imperial domination, such acts of treason on the part of ‘puppet’ or ‘client’ rulers usually precipitate popular rebellions, which are then suppressed by joint imperial and collaborator armies. They cite imperial legal doctrine to justify their intervention to repress a subject people in revolt. While empires arose through the direct or indirect use of unbridled force, the maintenance and consolidation of empires requires a legal framework. Legal doctrines precede, accompany and follow the expansion and consolidation of empire for several reasons.

Legality is really an extension of imperial conquest by other means. A state of constant warfare raises the cost of imperial maintenance. Force, especially in imperial democracies undermines the sense of civic virtue, which the rulers and citizens claim to uphold. Maintaining ‘law and order’ in the conquered nations requires a legal system and doctrine to uphold imperial rule, giving the facade of legitimacy to the outside world, attracting collaborator classes and individuals and providing the basis for the recruitment of local military, judicial and police officials.

Imperial legal pronouncements, whether issued directly by executive, judicial, military or administrative bodies, are deemed the ‘supreme law of the universe’, superior to international law and protocols fashioned by non-imperial authorities and legal experts. This does not imply that imperial rulers totally discard international law: they just apply it selectively to their adversaries, especially against independent nations and rulers, in order to justify imperial intervention and aggression – Hence the ‘legal bases’ for dismantling Yugoslavia or invading Iraq and assassinating its rulers.

Legal rulings are issued by the imperial judiciary to force states to comply with the economic demands of multi-national corporations, banks, creditors and speculators, even after the local or national courts have ruled such claims unlawful. Imperial law protects and provides sanctuary and financial protection to convicted former collaborator-rulers charged with human rights crimes, pillage of public treasury and destruction of democratic institutions. Imperial judicial and administrative agencies selectively investigate, prosecute and levy severe fines and even jail sentences on banks, individuals and financial institutions of their competitor imperial countries, thereby strengthening the economic position of their own ‘national’ imperial firms.

Judicial officials are not only ‘instruments’ of closely related imperial political and economic powers; they also instrumentalize and, in some cases, override officials from other branches of their own imperial government and economic sectors. Judges, with ties to particular financial sectors, may rule in favor of one group of creditors thereby prejudicing others. In a recent ruling, a New York judge ruled in favor of the demands by minority creditors that the Argentine government make ‘full payment’ on long-standing national debt in, prejudicing already agreed upon payments to the majority of creditors who had negotiated an earlier debt-restructuring arrangement.

Imperial legal doctrine has played a central role in justifying and providing a basis for the exercise of international terrorism. Executives, such as US Presidents Bush and Obama, have been provided with the legal power to undertake cross-national ‘targeted’ assassinations of opponents using predator drones and ordering military intervention, in clear violation of international law and national sovereignty. Imperial law, above all else, ‘legalizes’ aggression and economic pillage and undermines the laws of targeted countries, creating lawlessness and chaos among its victims.

Imperial law and judicial rulings form the basis for imperial subjugation on the assumption that the world legal systems are multi-tiered: Imperial-centered legal systems supersede those of less powerful states. Within each ‘tier’ there are further refinements: Competing imperial legal systems adjudicate in favor of their partisan political and economic elites. Imperial clients who obey their imperial overlords are favored by imperial laws while imperial laws are applied against their adversaries.

Conclusion

Clearly in a world imperial system there can be no independent judicial bodies who abide by universally accepted legal codes. Each set of judicial authorities reflect and actively promote policies favoring and extending their imperial prerogatives. There are rare exceptions where a judge will rule against a particular imperial policy but over the long run imperial law guides judicial opinions

Imperial legal doctrines and judicial decisions set the groundwork for imperial wars and economic pillage. The empire’s legal experts redefine assassinations, coercion, torture and arbitrary arrests as compatible with the ‘constitutional order’ by claiming imminent and constant threats to the security of the imperial state.

Law is not simply part of the superstructure “reflecting” the power of economic or political institutions: it also guides and directs political and economic institutions committing material resources to implement imperial doctrines.

In this sense, imperial rulers are not ‘lawless’ as some liberal critics would argue; they function in accordance with ‘imperial jurisprudence’ and are faithful to the legal doctrines of empire building. It is pointless to argue that most imperial leaders trample on constitutional guarantees and international laws. If an imperial ruler pursued a “constitutional agenda” eroding imperial prerogatives or, even worse, applied international law to prosecute those carrying out brutal imperial policy, he would be quickly condemned for dereliction of duty and/or immoral behavior and impeached or overthrown.

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

We Want it to Stop

By Kathy Kelly | Voices for Creative Non-violence | December 2, 2012

bomb

Young men from Beit Hanoun tell visitors what happened when Israeli rockets hit their neighbourhood on November 15, 2012, killing two children

Across the road, the home of Jamal Abdul Karim Nasser is uninhabitable. The ruins of the home face directly onto the missile crater. Young relatives explained to us that shrapnel from the missiles had killed Odai Jamal Nasser, age 15. We were standing on the edge of the crater when Odai’s brother Hazem, age 20, asked us into what remained of his home.

The missile explosions had shattered every window, and done extensive damage to walls and floors.

Hazem and his family had been sleeping in a hallway, so as to be safer from attack, when suddenly the house was falling down on top of them. “My father’s arm and head were bleeding,” said Hazem, “and he was looking for a flashlight to check on the children.” Hazem’s mother took the two youngest sons out of the house and headed for their uncle’s home. Hazem’s father suddenly realized that the son sleeping next to him, Hazem’s brother Odai, was dead. Hazem’s other younger brother, Tareq, started crying out for help and then lost consciousness. After calling for an ambulance Hazem’s father began heading for the nearby mosque to seek help. But the mosque was ablaze. They waited ten agonizing minutes for the firemen to arrive. The moment the firemen arrived, so did another rocket, injuring several of the first responders.

Only after Tareq was safely at the hospital did Hazem’s father dare tell his mother that her son Odai was dead. The burial was the following day.

“Our area was safe,” said Hazem, “and we couldn’t imagine that this would happen. It was very strange. No one could believe that the Israelis would target our area.” He paused before adding, “They want to clear everything.”

This memory will always be with Hazem. “I will remember what happened to my brother and my house and that will affect my choices in the future.” He asked us to tell this story to others. “Ask them to look at our suffering and how we are slaughtered every day,” he urged, speaking softly.

Outside the home, as we spoke, young men had arrived with a donkey, a cart, and plastic buckets. They were filling the buckets with chunks of debris from the Nasser’s front yard and dumping the buckets into the cart before refilling them. They estimated it will take a week to clear all of the wreckage and debris that surrounds the Nasser home and covers every floor inside.

We asked the young workers, most of whom were relatives of the Nasser family, and most of whom had known Fares Basyouni, if they had any messages they’d like us to convey to people who might see the photos we’d taken or read our account of what happened to this neighborhood on November 15th.

Mohamed Shabat, age 24, who hopes one day to become a journalist, quickly replied: “We want to stop the killing of Palestinians.”

Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org)

Photo credit Johnny Barber

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Tonight I am confused

By Johnny Barber | Voices for Creative Non-violence | December 1, 2012

Tonight I am confused.

I have been in Gaza for five days now and I am having difficulty understanding the 8-day war and the subsequent ceasefire. Let me explain the difficulty I am having. The Israeli Offensive Forces insist they protect civilians in Gaza, only targeting terrorists. They have several methods to protect innocent civilians. One method is to call the civilians on the phone, another method is to drop leaflets telling them to flee for their lives, as an attack is imminent. During the latest offensive, Israeli dropped leaflets in the rural areas telling people to flee to the city. In Gaza City, leaflets were dropped warning people to flee to the rural areas. A new, ingenious method they use to protect civilians is to drop ‘loud, non-lethal bombs’ on a home as a warning for the inhabitants as to what will come. They even have a name for this warning. They call it ‘roof tapping’. Then anywhere from 3 minutes to 20 minutes pass before they bomb the house from F-16’s. These bombs are very large and very lethal. The homes I have seen today have been completely flattened, and the houses around the target are also rendered uninhabitable.

The ‘non-lethal bombs’ penetrate rooftops and can travel through four stories. Children or other civilians sitting under these bombs lose limbs, suffer head trauma, shrapnel wounds, and other injuries. The idea behind these warnings is that inhabitants will flee their homes once they are warned. If elders, small children, newborns, or disabled people are in the home, this can be a difficult endeavor. If a child suffers an amputation, fleeing will take a little more precious time. But lets ignore these complications as they just muddy the waters. I am amazed at the generosity of the Israeli occupiers. You see, they are the “Most moral army in the world,” everyone knows this. The generals and politicians have been saying this for decades!

But this is my consternation. If you are so bent on protecting civilians and killing ‘terrorists’ why warn civilians to leave? Do they think the terrorists, who everyone knows hide behind civilians, will remain behind after the warning?

An even more confounding question remains. Why flatten an empty home?

After the most recent ceasefire agreement, it was stated that farmers would be able to reach their lands in the buffer zone that Israel established after they so generously abandoned their illegal settlements in Gaza. The farmers were thrilled that they would be able to farm on the 300-meter swath of land known as the buffer zone- better known here in Gaza as the no go zone, because if they dared try to access this land they were immediately targeted by Israeli snipers, but I digress.

On Wednesday we accompanied farmers to the buffer zone in Johr el Deek. It was amazing! We walked right up to the razor wire barrier! We watched as 2 Israeli jeeps approached the fence. I was smiling as they got out of their jeeps, but my smile was erased as they lifted their weapons and fired toward us. Of course, they didn’t shoot us, the ceasefire was in effect for an entire week! I was confused though, as they lobbed tear gas canisters at us, and continued firing over our heads as we retreated. Perhaps the soldiers were as confused as I was about the details of the agreement. After all, unfettered access to the land is a little vague. Perhaps the farmers misunderstood.

The fishermen faced a similar dilemma. After the ceasefire was announced, the fishermen were told that Israel, in it’s magnanimity, would allow the fishermen to fish in Gazan waters up to 6 nautical miles from the shore. This was double (yes double!) the limit that has been in effect for the past 6 years. The fishermen were happy. They would have an opportunity to provide for their families. Never mind that the Oslo Accords stated fishermen would have access to 20 nautical miles of the sea. That was way back in 1993. Who could expect agreements so old to be respected now?

The fishermen I spoke with said they had access to the 6-mile limit for two whole days. Two days of fishing without risking their lives to feed their kids! It was great. So I was astonished to learn that on Wednesday, exactly one week after the ceasefire agreement, numerous fishing boats, in waters from 3 nautical miles to 6 nautical miles came under heavy attack by the Israeli Navy. One boat was sunk, 3 boats had their engines destroyed by gunfire, one trawler was confiscated and 9 fishermen were arrested. Of course, the Israeli officers made sure the fishermen stripped and jumped into the sea before they sunk the boat. They were safely in custody on the Israeli gunboat before the Israeli Navy blasted the fishing boat to smithereens.

The fishermen received no warnings. Of course everyone realizes that cell phones don’t work so far from shore and dropping leaflets would be impractical as most of the leaflets would fall into the water. And even I know ‘roof tapping’ at sea would be way too dangerous, as the possibility of harming the civilian fishermen would be high.

The best approach is to simply start firing from hundreds of meters away as the gunboats accelerate toward the fishing trawlers. This gives the fishermen at least 3 minutes to pull up their nets and escape back to port. I am not certain what changed on the third day for these fishermen, but few fish were caught.

We also visited the homes of 2 children who were killed. One was 15 year old, Hassan Jamal Nasser. The other child was 9-year old Fares al-Basyouni. Both were killed in their homes as they slept.

DSC01503_0.preview

The father of Fares stands near where the shrapnel penetrated his home and decapitated his son

Shrapnel that penetrated the wall decapitated Fares. His father described the horrific scene. ‘We didn’t hear the bombs. We woke to the sound of windows shattering and the house shaking. The house was full of smoke. My daughters and sons were screaming as I moved from room to room to find them.’ Fare’s lifeless torso landed on top of his 14-year old brother, who ran screaming from the house into the night.

I thought this was impossible- didn’t they receive the warnings? Hassan’s cousin Mohammed confirmed leaflets fell from the sky 20 minutes after the attack. So, you see, they were warned.

One thing is certain. Israel has a right to defend itself. President Obama said, ‘There’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.’ I agree with this wholeheartedly, who can deny it? I also understand that Israel has to teach its enemies a lesson from time to time, and I imagine the sooner the better. They certainly don’t want the people of Gaza to imagine what it must be like to be free, this would only encourage the terrorists.

So you see my dilemma. What I read in the corporate media and what I hear from my government and Israeli politicians doesn’t quite square with the eyewitness accounts on the ground. Maybe the IOF can drop some leaflets and set me straight.

Johnny Barber Co-coordinates Voices For Creative Nonviolence All photo credits: Johnny Barber

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jewish settlers commit vehicular assaults with impunity at peaceful roadblock protests in the West Bank

International Solidarity Movement | December 3, 2012

West Bank – On two different occasions while Palestinians, accompanied by international activists, peacefully blocked roads leading to illegal settlements to demonstrate against the occupation and settlements, settlers purposefully injured activists in hit and run incidents.

On November 14 while a group of protesters blocked a road leading to an illegal settlement, a settler tried to drive through the crowd, then accelerated, deliberately hitting an international activist, as the activist was trying to get out of the way. The activist hit the front of the car, then bounced off the windshield and hit the ground. The settler then drove away, careless about what he had just done. An ambulance was called, and the activist was treated for injuries to his head and arm.

A similar incident occurred on November 19, as a roadblock protest was held on another settler road. As a settler car approached the crowd, he accelerated into Palestinian popular struggle coordinator Abdallah Abu Rahmah, hitting him with his car, before fleeing the scene. Abdallah was treated in hospital but was released later that day. Israeli army soldiers were present at the scene, but didn’t do anything to prevent the settlers from acting in violent ways, and allowed them to flee the scene.

The settlers seem to be above the law. They continually get away with violence, destruction of property, and constant harassment against the Palestinians, while the soldiers usually protect them, because they have Israeli citizenship. Incidents similar to these happen constantly all throughout the West Bank, while soldiers and authorities turn a blind eye.

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

Site 911 and the Protective Power of Mezuzah

By Maidhc Ó Cathail | The Passionate Attachment | December 3, 2012

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to supervise construction of a five-story underground facility for an Israel Defense Forces complex, oddly named ‘Site 911,’ at an Israeli Air Force base near Tel Aviv,” Walter Pincus reported in the Washington Post a few days ago.

Apart from the extremely high-level of physical security at Site 911, it appears that the top secret facility will not want for less tangible forms of protection either. Describing the latest Corps of Engineers notice regarding the mysterious construction project, Pincus writes:

The Corps offered a lengthy description of the mezuzas the contractor is to provide “for each door or opening exclusive of toilets or shower rooms” in the Site 911 building. A mezuza (also spelled mezuzah) is a parchment which has been inscribed with Hebrew verses from the Torah, placed in a case and attached to a door frame of a Jewish family’s house as a sign of faith. Some interpret Jewish law as requiring — as in this case — that a mezuza be attached to every door in a house.

These mezuzas, notes the Corps, “shall be written in inerasable ink, on . . . uncoated leather parchment” and be handwritten by a scribe “holding a written authorization according to Jewish law.” The writing may be “Ashkenazik or Sepharadik” but “not a mixture” and “must be uniform.”

Also, “The Mezuzahs shall be proof-read by a computer at an authorized institution for Mezuzah inspection, as well as manually proof-read for the form of the letters by a proof-reader authorized by the Chief Rabbinate.” The mezuza shall be supplied with an aluminum housing with holes so it can be connected to the door frame or opening. Finally, “All Mezuzahs for the facility shall be affixed by the Base’s Rabbi or his appointed representative and not by the contractor staff.”

In an article on Chabad.org entitled “The Protective Power of Mezuzah,” Alexander Poltorak, who holds a PhD in theoretical physics and lectures on the intersection of science and Torah, explains:

The word “mezuzah” appears for the first time in the Bible in the account of the Exodus from Egypt. Before the last plague smiting the Egyptian firstborn, the Almighty forewarned the Jewish people to mark their doorposts with the blood of the sacrificial lamb so that the forces of destruction would pass over their houses. The Torah says:

And they shall take of the blood and they shall put it on the two mezuzoth (doorposts) and on the lintel… For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians, and when He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door, and He will not allow the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite [you]. (Exodus 12:7, 23)

This is why the Holiday of the Exodus is called Passover. The Mechilta 1 (as well as the Zohar) states that these verses are the source of the concept of mezuzah:

Now consider: The blood of the Passover sacrifice was but of little weight, for it was required but once, not for all generations, and by night only, not by day; yet He would ‘not allow the destroyer… to strike you.’ How much more will He not permit the destroyer into the house which bears a mezuzah, which is of greater weight, seeing that the Divine Name is repeated there ten times, it is there by day and night, and it is a law for all generations.

We see in this biblical account and the above commentary the direct relationship between the mitzvah of mezuzah and Divine protection. A mezuzah affixed to the doorpost as commanded by G-d at Sinai still has the power to “not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to smite you”.

Interestingly, the article suggests that there may be an esoteric connection between Site 911′s U.S. taxpayer-funded mezuzahs and its odd name. According to Poltorak,

It is easily understood that a non-kosher mezuzah does not possess any protective qualities. Therefore when, G‑d forbid, someone is sick or some other misfortune befalls, the very first thing (after calling 911) is to check the mezuzoth in the house. This has been Jewish custom from time immemorial.

In a footnote on the U.S. emergency number, he adds:

Incidentally, this number, 911, is the sum of the 713 letters, 170 words and 22 lines in the mezuzah together with 6 letters of the Hebrew word mezuzoth, when spelled Mem, Zayin, Vav, Zayin, Vav, Tav as in Deut. XI, 20.

It’s unclear, however, if Netanyahu had the protective power of mezuzah in mind when he foresaw that 9/11 was going to be “very good” for the Jewish state.

Maidhc Ó Cathail is an investigative journalist and Middle East analyst. He is also the creator and editor of The Passionate Attachment blog, which focuses primarily on the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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