US Secretary of State John Kerry was in the Zionist entity on Thursday for talks aimed at calming tensions with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu over a nuclear deal sealed between Iran and world powers last month.
“I can’t emphasize enough that Israel’s security in this negotiation is at the top of our agenda,” Kerry told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in occupied al-Quds (Jerusalem).
“And the United States will do everything in our power to make certain that Iran’s nuclear program of weaponization possibilities is terminated.”
Earlier on November 24, Iran and world powers reached a deal in Geneva on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. In which Tehran agree to roll back parts of its nuclear program in return for limited relief from Western sanctions. The deal was roundly condemned by Netanyahu, who called it a “historic mistake”.
“We agreed on what the goal of the final status agreement (with Iran) ought to be, and in the days ahead we will consult very closely and continuously with our Israeli friends in order to bring about a comprehensive agreement that can withstand everybody’s test,” Kerry said.
Kerry landed in the occupied territories late on Wednesday for a trip aimed at giving momentum to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which have made little apparent headway since they began under his patronage in late July.
Three Lebanese were cleared of terrorism charges in Nigeria on Friday.
“The Nigerian authorities released Mustapha Fawaz and Abdallah Thahini, while Talal Ahmad Roda’s trial is still ongoing for possessing weapons,” Lebanese charge d’affaires in Nigeria told FM Adnan Mansour.
Federal High Court Judge Adeniyi Adetokunbo Ademola said Hezbollah “is not an international terrorist organisation in Nigeria” and therefore membership is not criminal.
He said there was “no evidence” that the group was planning an attack or had received “terrorism training” as the prosecution alleged.
There are so many words written about the “root causes” of the Arab-Israeli conflict, you might think the underlying issue is difficult to understand. But you’d be wrong. For all the mythology that interested parties want to wrap this conflict in, it’s really not difficult at all to understand the confrontation that has been going on in Palestine for more than a century now. All you have to do is try to imagine that what happened to Palestine happened instead here in the U.S. Then ask yourself, “What would Americans do in this position?”. And at that point, you find it miraculously stops being difficult to understand.
The problem with this approach is that American Exceptionalism has left us barely able to imagine being in other people’s shoes. So we explain the world to ourselves through ridiculous platitudes like we’re good and they’re evil, that actually explain nothing and leave us as confused as when we started. We just don’t do empathy very well.
But let’s try anyway. Let’s try imagining that what has been going on in Palestine for the last 100 years is going on instead here in the U.S., right now.
According to Wikipedia, Jewish Americans currently comprise about 2.5% of the population of the United States. Imagine that tomorrow morning some well-financed and politically connected Zionists in Europe will announce to you – the American people – they are going to build a “Jewish state”. Americans aren’t known for being overly-curious about what goes on in the rest of the world, so probably wouldn’t really care one way or another about what Zionists in Europe are up to. In fact, you might well just shrug your shoulders and say “well, good luck with that”, right up until the moment they tell you that they’re going to build it … here, in the United States.
After picking yourself up off the floor, you might point out to them that the U.S. is already populated thank you very much, and that 97.5% of that population happens not to be Jewish. And that those 97.5% are going to be very strongly opposed to the suggestion that a minority, sectarian state – which automatically excludes them from equal citizenship solely because they don’t have a Jewish mom – should be forcibly imposed on them.
At first, your Zionist interlocutors might respond with some really bizarre justifications for what they’re proposing to do to you. They tell you that Canada is right next door, and suggest you should leave your home and go and live there instead. They tell you that Canadians speak English, just like Americans; and Canada was settled by the British, just like the U.S., so you’d really be just as much at home there as in the U.S. And Canada’s huge, there’s plenty of room for you to relocate there!
Then, when they can tell you’re not really buying these arguments about why you should vacate the only home you’ve ever had and live instead in some place you’ve never been to in the frozen north, they tell you it really doesn’t matter what you think as you’re not going to be consulted anyway. They have powerful foreign allies and enough firepower to create the “Jewish state” in America whether you like it or not, and so they do… by expelling about half of the U.S population to Canada and inviting Jewish immigrants to live in their vacated homes, and by disenfranchising most of those indigenous Americans who stubbornly remain.
Imagine if that happened here. And imagine if it went on happening for 100 years, because the sheer persistence of the remaining non-Jewish population meant that their numbers had to be constantly culled in order to maintain the sectarian regime’s preferred “demographic balance”. What do you think those 97.5% of Americans who are excluded from equal citizenship just because they have the “wrong” ethnic-religious background are going to think of the sectarian regime that can exist in their homeland only through their own continuing dispossession? What do you think they might do? What do you think this sectarian state in America will end up looking like?
I know exactly what it would look like. It would look just like this:
An injured Palestinian is helped from the rubble following an Israeli missile strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. (Hatem Omar, AP)
Religious Jews from the volunteer ZAKA organization collect body parts at the blood-stained scene of a Palestinian suicide bombing February 4, 2008 in the southerm Israeli town of Dimona. (David Silverman/Getty Images)
A sectarian state of America, existing in a land where many different kinds of people live, but granting the full benefits of citizenship to only one of them, would look just like this, and no American would find it difficult to understand why. If the great Zionist experiment were happening at our expense, we would not find this conflict to be complicated, nor would we be inventing silly stories about alleged ontological defects in non-Jewish Americans to explain why so many people are dead, why our conflict is seemingly endless, and why our homeland looks like a moonscape. If this were happening to us, we would understand perfectly well that it is absurd to establish a “Jewish state” in a land where 2.5% of the population is Jewish, and to expect that the disenfranchised 97.5% is going to be just fine with that.
And now, welcome to Palestine.
The analogy I’ve just outlined isn’t as far-fetched as you might assume. When the first Zionist settlers arrived in Palestine, they claimed they were settling “a land without a people for a people without a land”. But that wasn’t true. And we know it wasn’t true (quite apart from the testimony of the people who lived there) because starting in 1876, the Ottoman Empire compiled annual counts of the population in its subject provinces, including Palestine.
The Ottomans counted their subjects in order to tax them, and in order to conscript them. The really interesting thing is that under the Ottoman Turks your tax rate and your liability for military service were linked to your religion. Jewish and Christian subjects paid extra taxes, but their sons were exempt from military service. Muslim subjects didn’t pay the extra taxes, but their sons were liable for mandatory service in the army. So population counts in Palestine during the late Ottoman Empire didn’t record just the number of people there, they also recorded their religion. Which, for the purpose of countering Zionist mythology, is remarkably helpful.
So, let’s have a look at the official statistics of the Ottoman government, to see what the “empty land” of Palestine really looked like when the first Zionist settlers arrived there to pioneer their Jewish state. The information I’m posting is from The Population of Palestine: Population Statistics of the Late Ottoman Period and The Mandate (Ch 1, Table 1.4D) by Prof Justin McCarthy (Columbia University Press, 1990):
The year of the first aliya was 1299 (Muslim calendar), or 1881/2 of the Common Era. And you can see at a glance that despite what you’ve been told, Palestine at that time was very far from being a land without a people. In fact, there were 462,465 people living in Palestine: 403,795 Muslims; 43,659 Christians; 15,011 Jews. In other words, Zionists were settling in a land where the pre-existing population was just 3.3 per cent Jewish, where a “Jewish state” could not possibly be established and maintained without the dispossession and disenfranchisement of those 96.7 per cent of the population that happen to have the “wrong” ethnic-religious origin, and where that dispossession would have to continue generation upon generation because of the majority population’s ability to replenish itself through its high birthrate.
And suddenly, my comparison with the U.S., with its tiny Jewish minority of 2.5%, and the question of how most Americans would react to the imposition of a minority, sectarian state in their midst, doesn’t seem so far-fetched after all.
Despite the endless propaganda we are subjected to, about Palestinians (and Arabs and Muslims) being people who are “not like us”, whose values are inimical to our own, and with whom we are condemned to be engaged in an endless clash of civilizations, the conflict in Palestine is actually rooted in the fact that Palestinians are exactly like us.
Palestinians do not accept that equal citizenship in their own homeland should be denied them because of their ethnic/religious background, any more than Americans would accept ethnic justifications for denying them equal citizenship in the United States. Palestinians do not accept that a population that is 96.7% Muslim and Christian should be ethnically cleansed to make way for a sectarian Jewish state, any more than we would accept that the 97.5% of Americans who happen to be not-Jewish should be ethnically cleansed to make way for a Jewish state here. In short, Palestinians reject and resist Zionism because they do not accept being treated in ways that we, likewise, would never accept for ourselves.
This is not difficult to understand. And yet we wrap the Arab-Israeli conflict in complex, ontological constructs about “The Arab Mind”, about “Islamofascists” who “hate us for our freedoms”, and about mindless, irrational anti-Semites who hate Israel just because it’s Jewish and not because the overwhelmingly non-Jewish population there has to be destroyed in order to make it, and keep it, Jewish. Complicated existential explanations to hide the simple fact that the Palestinians are doing exactly what we would be doing if we found ourselves in their situation.
I understand that if you’re a Zionist you have a vested interest in not understanding all this, and in persuading others that it’s really very complicated. But for the rest of us, really, how difficult is this to grasp?
Norway’s Health Ministry is considering a proposal on regulating the circumcision of boys. Some political parties are calling on a complete ban of the practice on minors, a possibility that would affect Jewish and Muslim communities.
Two years ago, the ministry was tasked with reviewing circumcision and how it should be practiced in Norway. It is yet to finalize its stance, but intends to submit its legislative proposal before Easter next year, Health Minister Bent Hoie told Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper.
The issue was brought to public attention after the recent call by Norway Children’s Ombudswoman Anne Lindboe to ban circumcision of boys before age 16, unless the procedure is warranted by medical needs.
“This is not due to any lack of understanding of minorities or religious traditions, but because the procedure is irreversible, painful and risky,” she argued.
Lindboe’s position is shared by some members of the Labor Party, which currently holds the largest share of 55 seats in Norway’s 169-strong legislative and is in opposition to the ruling Conservative-Progress coalition.
“As a modern society, we should work to eliminate practices that expose children and people to unnecessary suffering,” said Labor’s Ruth Mari Grung, who is a member of the parliamentary Committee on Health and Care Services.
A ban is also supported by the Center Party, which has 10 seats in the parliament.
Other parliamentary parties are yet to formulate their official position on the issue. Hoie, a Conservative member, who used to chair the Health Committee before getting his ministerial appointment, voiced concerns that a ban would force the groups practicing ritual circumcision underground, where the procedure would be performed by non-medics and pose greater health risks to the children.
The Norwegian lawmakers also disagree on whether circumcision should be covered by the budget under the national healthcare system. Some parties insist that ritual circumcision should be paid for by parents.
According to the newspaper, an average of about 2,000 Muslim and seven Jewish newborns are circumcised in Norway each year.
Regulation of ritual circumcision in Europe made the headlines in June, when a German court ruled that the procedure constitutes a minor bodily harm and outlawed performing it on minors. The decision sparked nationwide debate on the conflict between religious freedoms and protection of children.
The issue was further stressed in early October, when the Council of Europe branded the practice “a violation of the physical integrity of children” and called on EU members to protect children. The latter should include a ban on performing circumcision on those who cannot consent to it, the non-binding resolution said.
Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Greenland are among the European countries where public debate on ritual circumcision of boys is hotly debated.
Getting shot has been made that much worse in New York City, where officials have taken a hard-line with bystanders caught in the line of fire of police officers.
Sixteen bystanders have been struck by police bullets in the city since 2011. Time and again, city lawyers have fought lawsuits brought by those wounded in these incidents. They adamantly refuse to settle cases and aggressively act to have them thrown out prior to trial.
NYC’s legal defense is rooted in a 2010 State Court of Appeals ruling that tossed a lawsuit by a bystander shot by police.
“The state’s highest court has recognized that police officers’ split-second decisions to use deadly force must be protected from this kind of second-guessing,” Michael A. Cardozo, who is in charge of the city’s Law Department, said in a statement, after a woman wounded outside the Empire State Building sued.
That incident took place on August 24, 2012, when nine pedestrians were shot by police trying to take down a gunman outside the famed building.
The most recent bystander shooting occurred in September, when two officers near Times Square fired at a man they mistakenly believed had a gun. The man was not wounded, but two female bystanders were, one of whom is now preparing to file a lawsuit.
The lawsuits that are filed by innocent bystanders as a result of officer shootings are referred to by New York City as “no-pay cases,” an indication of how black-and-white city lawyers view these incidents.
Cities across the U.S. handle such cases differently, according to the The New York Times. In Philadelphia in 2008, a $1.8 million dollar settlement was reached after a bystander was fatally wounded as police shot at an armed suspect. A 2010 police shooting of unarmed individuals in Harlem brought about several settlements, including one for $850,000 due to a fatality. The city of Chicago spent six years battling a 13-year-old girl who was hit in the shoulder by police gunfire, before her case made it to trial in 2010.
Legal experts say the cases present a challenge for police trying to protect the public, while not causing more harm than good.
“On the one hand they’re trying to protect people,” Jeffrey L. Seglin, an ethicist and lecturer on public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, told the Times. “On the other hand, you think they would try to take care of people who get hurt in that process. The legal thing isn’t always the right thing.”
To Learn More:
Bystanders Shot by the Police Face an Uphill Fight to Win Lawsuits (by J. David Goodman, New York Times)
Five City Officers Cleared In Shootings of Bystanders (by Ray Rivera, New York Times)
- Police face lawsuits in shootings of three emotionally disturbed people (theguardian.com)
Mass surveillance isn’t something only being conducted by the likes of the National Security Agency anymore. Despite growing concerns brought on by the Summer of Snowden, cities around America are adopting high tech spy tools.
Never mind the negative press the NSA has received in recent weeks after Edward Snowden began leaking top-secret documents to the media pertaining to the United States’ spy group’s broadly scoped surveillance programs. Law enforcement agencies and local leaders in major American cities are nevertheless signing on to install new systems that are affording officials the power to snoop on just about anyone within range.
Seattle, Washington and Las Vegas, Nevada are among the latest locales in the US to acquire surveillance tools, the likes of which were both discussed in regional media reports over the weekend that are making their rounds across the Web and causing privacy advocates around the world to raise their voice.
Neither West Coast city has announced plans to acquire telephone metadata or eavesdrop on email traffic, and combined their operations likely pale in comparison to what the NSA has accomplished. Civil liberties activists are sounding the alarm regardless, however, after new reports revealed what kind of information city officials could collect using newly installed equipment.
In Seattle, a city of around 635,000, the police department recently used a Department of Homeland Security grant for $2.6 million to purchase and put up a number of wireless access devices that together create “mesh networks” which law enforcement officials can connect to and in turn more quickly share large chunks of data, such as surveillance camera recordings and other high-res information.
Those access points, or APs, do more than just transfer data from one node to another, though, and actually spend large amounts of time scouring for every Internet-capable device in the area that may be searching for a Wi-Fi signal — such as any smart phone that can connected to the Web. Although the mesh network is being made for emergency responders to be able to interact with ease and provide them with a widespread wireless system to share information, the APs acquire basic information about every electronic device that even momentarily makes a connection, in theory allowing officials to see much more than the average Washingtonian might want to willfully hand over.
The Stranger, a Seattle alternative-weekly, spoke to the city’s police department about the recently installed mesh network but wasn’t given many answers. Law enforcement officials insisted that the system isn’t fully functioning yet — and little more — but the Stranger learned that authorities can log the MAC (media access control) address of any iPhone, Android, laptop or Internet-able device that’s within reach of its signal, which could then provide authorities with information that even a seasoned investigator might have a hard time obtaining otherwise. Just as how telecommunication companies ping devices almost constantly from nearby towers to test signals, learning the specific location of a MAC address at any given date and time can then be coupled with other location data in order to triangulate a subject’s movements up to even just a few inches away.
Speaking to the Stranger, the Seattle Police Department admitted it does not yet have a policy to govern the use of the multi-million dollar system, but said it is “actively collaborating” with the American Civil Liberties Union, contrary to claims made by the ACLU that the SPD has been anything but speedy when responding to its questions and concerns.
“We definitely feel like the public doesn’t have a handle on what the capabilities are,” Jamela Debelak of Seattle’s ACLU office said to The Stranger. “We’re not even sure the police department does.”
Should a policy not be put in place quickly enough, many fear the results could be ravaging for the privacy of the city’s half-a-million-plus residents, many of whom surely wouldn’t suspect that the phone in their pocket it silently sending personalized information to the Seattle Police Department anytime they walk within reach of an AP’s signal.
In Las Vegas, the latest tool there might be even more Orwellian.
Sin City is one of the latest locales to purchase a line of highly-functional lampposts sold by Michigan’s Illuminating Concepts under the branding of “IntelliStreets.” As RT has reported in the past, however, the devices do much more than light up sidewalks. These lampposts are also Wi-Fi-ready to stream passers-by localized information and even audio and graphics, but it’s what Intellistreets collect that’s really shocking. In addition to broadcasting information, the lampposts are equipped with microphones and cameras that can record anything within an earshot and send it to a server to be analyzed.
On the IntelliStreets website, the company says, “Intellistreets provides a platform and many developed applications to assist DHS in protecting its citizens and natural resources.”
“We want to develop more than just the street lighting component,” Neil Rohleder of the city’s Public Works Department told KSNV News. “We want to develop an experience for the people who come downtown.”
As the technology spreads in cities unopposed, however, it could lead the other towns to journey down a slippery slope that ends with relinquishing even more personal information down the road.
“This technology, you know is taking us to a place where, you know, you’ll essentially be monitored from the moment you leave your home till the moment you get home,” local civil rights activist Daphne Lee told the network.
“At what point do we say this is the land of the free,” Lee said. “People have a right to a reasonable amount of privacy.”
As the NSA scandal has shown the world, however, one person’s idea of privacy might vastly differ from another’s. Revelations made possible through Mr. Snowden’s leaks have shown that the US government routinely collects information about the dialer and recipient of nearly every phone call made in the country, and even America’s allies, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are subject to NSA-issued surveillance.
Meanwhile, other cities along the West Coast are seeing a surge in surveillance tools that started before the first Snowden leak but are still being set in place. Federal grants totaling around $7 million to Oakland, California are being used to ensure that the city has an eye on seemingly everything by next summer, and requests by a growing number of law enforcement agencies for spy drones is expected to involve eventually equipping bureaus across the country with unmanned aerial vehicles by the dawn of the next decade.
Israeli forces Monday demolished a property in occupied East Jerusalem owned by the Roman Catholic Church, displacing 14 Palestinians. At a press conference held by the ruins of the home, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Tawwal condemned the demolition in the presence of senior church officials, foreign diplomats and journalists, saying “there is no justification for the demolition” and accusing the Jerusalem “municipality and the Israeli government” of “increase[ing] hatred” through its policies.
Tawwal claimed that it was the first time Israel had demolished property belonging to the church, and promised “legal action in appropriate courts” in response.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that hundreds of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem have recently received demolition orders, notices which give residents 30 days to appeal.
Palestinian-owned properties in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem are routinely demolished by the Jerusalem municipality on the grounds of lacking the right permit – permits that are notoriously difficult to get. For example, just 13 per cent of the Jerusalem housing units granted building permits in the period 2005-’09 were in Palestinian neighbourhoods.
The Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Resistance movement, Hamas, said its fighters managed to down the drone.
This is the second time the resistance in Gaza manages to down an Israeli drone, as the Al-Qassam Brigades declared during the latest Israeli war on Gaza, a year ago, that it managed to down an Israeli drone, and documented the incident.
An Israeli military spokesperson stated Sunday that the drone fell inside the Gaza Strip, effectively falling in the hands of the resistance.
He said that the drone landed and crashed due to a “malfunction”, an issue that the resistance challenged.
American defence secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday that Israel would be the first US ally to receive the American V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor military aircraft.
The deal was negotiated between Hagel and Israeli defence minister Moshe Ya’alon during the former’s last visit to Israel. According to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, the estimated cost of one V-22 Osprey is $69 million.
A senior Pentagon official told NBC that the Pentagon agreed to reallocate the next group of aircraft to come off the production line, though it had been previously assigned to the Marines, to meet the order.
He justified that Israel should get the efficient military aircraft as soon as possible because it faces threats from Iran, Syria and the Sinai Peninsula.
Whilst speaking to the anti-defamation league in New York, Hagel said that delivery would be “expedited.” NBC said that he meant: “Israel will get six V-22s out of the next order to go on the assembly line, and they will be compatible with other [Israeli defence] capabilities.”
NBC said that the announcement comes less than a year after pro-Israeli activist groups in the US expressed deep reservations about Hagel’s nomination for defence secretary.
Pro-Israeli lobbies said that in 2008 Hagel criticised the “Jewish lobby” for “intimidating” US officials.
All of Syria’s declared chemical arms production equipment has been destroyed ahead of a Friday deadline, a source at the world’s chemical weapons watchdog said.
“Syria has completed rendering inoperable its chemical weapons production and assembly installations,” the source at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said, asking to remain anonymous ahead of an official announcement later Thursday.
Inspectors had until Friday to visit all of Syria’s chemical sites and destroy all production and filling equipment in accordance with a timeline laid down by the Hague-based OPCW and backed by a UN Security Council resolution passed last month.
The resolution was agreed by the US and Russia to avert military strikes on Syria after deadly chemical weapons attacks outside Damascus in August, which the West blamed on President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian government has categorically rejected such accusations.
A first monthly report of the inspectors, covering their work on the ground since October 1, has been sent to the UN Security Council by UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
The OPCW’s Executive Council will use the Syrian declaration to decide by November 15 on “destruction milestones” for Syria’s arsenal.
Syria has also sent in a declaration of its chemical weapons activities and facilities, meeting its obligations as a new state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
A “diplomatic embarrassment” has arisen following the refusal of Pope Francis I to meet with Israel’s prime minister at short notice. Benjamin Netanyahu’s office had already announced that a meeting would take place during his visit to Italy, reported Haaretz, but the pope has no plans in this regard.
According to Haaretz, the Vatican became aware of Netanyahu’s visit to Rome and his supposed meeting with Pope Francis through the media. “The Prime Minister’s Office worked hard to hold the meeting and to avoid any embarrassment but to no avail,” claimed the newspaper.
The Vatican informed Israel’s ambassador to Italy, Naor Gilon, on Sunday that the prime minister will not meet the Pope; Netanyahu’s advisors are said to be “outraged”. Gilon said that the Vatican protocol for meetings is very complex. “To arrange for such a meeting within a week is regarded as an insult, so it has never happened,” he explained.
Israel Radio reported that a new date for a meeting is to be set “as soon as possible”.
The US is considering a proposal to unfreeze billions of dollars of Iranian assets to reciprocate Iran’s confidence-building measures over its nuclear energy program, a senior administration official says.
The administration of US President Barack Obama is weighing the possibility of easing sanctions against Iran in the wake of the recent promising talks between Tehran and six major world powers in Geneva, The New York Times website on Thursday quoted an unnamed source as saying.
The official said the proposed plan, under which Washington could free up Iran’s frozen overseas assets in installments, would “avoid the political and diplomatic risks” of repealing the international sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear energy program.
The move, still under discussion by the White House and the State Department, would also give President Obama the flexibility to respond to Iran’s proposals made during the recent Geneva talks without unraveling the sanctions, the official added.
Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, China, Russia, France and Britain – plus Germany held two days of negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear energy program behind closed doors in the Swiss city of Geneva on October 15-16.
Both sides sounded an upbeat mood following the meetings, where Iran tabled its proposals to end the nuclear standoff, and agreed to meet again in Geneva on November 7-8.
The United States, Israel and some of their allies claim that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program, with the US and the European Union using the allegation as a pretext to impose illegal sanctions on Iran.
Iran categorically rejects the allegation, arguing that as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.