This petition is in protest of Columbia College’s decision, following a student complaint about “bias,” to cancel one of the two sections of a course about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The course is well grounded in fact and presents a diverse overview of Israeli/Palestinian history, including interviews with both Israelis and Palestinians. The class receives overwhelmingly positive evaluations by students, and many report having to wait to get in to the class. After registration opened last November, however, Columbia College removed its second section of the course only hours after it was posted.
After Professor Chehade’s in-class screening of the Oscar-nominated film 5 Broken Cameras, which depicts life under and popular resistance to Israeli military occupation, a student complained about “bias.” Dr. Steven Corey, the chair of the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences, then held a meeting with Professor Chehade informing him that he should address the subject matter in a more “balanced” way.
Showing a movie depicting popular resistance to Israeli occupation does not constitute bias, and retaliating against a professor for engaging students about pressing social issues is a blatant violation of academic freedom. Furthermore, professors are not obligated to present an opposing view to every opinion or fact presented in class. Columbia College’s own academic freedom policies protect professors against such interference. The cancelation also restricts Columbia students from participating in learning and discussion about Israel-Palestine, a topic for which they have demonstrated a clear interest.
Help defend academic freedom by signing this petition telling Columbia College to reinstate and maintain the course offerings of Professor Chehade’s Israeli-Palestinian Conflict class.
To: Dr. Louise Love, Provost, Columbia College
Dr. Deborah Holdstein, Dean, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Dr. Steven Corey, Chair, Dept. of Humanities, History, & Social Sciences
We, the undersigned, wish to express our grave concern about Columbia College’s retaliation against Professor Iymen Chehade for the content of his course, The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
The circumstances suggest that the college’s decision was not based on legitimate academic considerations, but rather avoidance of controversy and the desire to keep Columbia courses from straying from the mainstream discourse.
This attempt to stifle the discussion of Israel and Palestine is a violation of academic freedom and a disservice to the academic community and to Columbia’s students. As such, we, the undersigned, urge the administration at Columbia College to uphold its commitment to academic freedom and to its students by reinstating and maintaining the course offerings of Professor Chehade’s Israeli-Palestinian Conflict course.
The agreement with MEKOROT in La Plata has been suspended! Now we continue, in the rest of Argentina…
CTA, ATE, Federación de Entidades Argentino-Palestinas (Federation of Argentinian-Palestinian Entities) and Stop the Wall announced the suspension of the shady business with Mekorot, a water treatment plant that would have fuelled Israeli apartheid in Palestine and sought to export it to La Plata in Argentina.
On January 11 2011, the governor of Buenos Aires province, Daniel Scioli, announced, after visiting Israel, that they would tender the building of a regional water treatment plant in La Plata. The contract worth US$170 million was awarded to a consortium of business conformed by the Israeli Water Company MEKOROT, ASHTROM BV (Spanish-Israeli firm) and the Argentinian “5 de Septiembre SA”, a company in which members of the Sindicato de Obras Sanitarias de Buenos Aires (SOSBA), which owns the 10% of the national and provincial Aguas de Buenos Aires (ABSA), participate.
Since 2011, Palestinian organizations, ATE-CTA unions, other civil society organizations and MPs mobilized against this contact. During more than 3 years, they informed the public about Mekorot’s criminal actions in Palestine and investigated the consequences that Mekorot would cause in Argentina.
In a joint effort, they denounced that public Argentinian money would benefit Mekorot and, through this, finance Israeli apartheid in Palestine. The accusations that Mekorot implements apartheid in Palestine are based on reports by Palestinian organizations, the United Nations, and Amnesty International.
Mekorot has been responsible for water right violations and discrimination since the 1950s, when the national water carrier was built which is diverting the Jordan river from the West Bank and Jordan to serve Israeli communities. At the same time, Mekorot deprives the Palestinian communities from access to water. The average consumption in the occupied Palestinian territories is about 70 liters per capita per day – well below the 100 liters per capita per day recommended by the World Health Organization -, while the Israeli consumption per capita per day is around 300 liters. Mekorot has refused to supply water to Palestinian communities inside Israel, despite a decision by the Supreme Court of Israel recognized their right to water. Mekorot is a proud partner of the Jewish National Fund “Blueprint Negev” plan, which will expel 40,000 Bedouin Palestinian citizens of Israel uprooting them from their homes and forcibly moving them to reserves while their lands will be used for Jewish-only settlements in the Naqab/Negev.
Mekorot’s support for illegal settlements is vital and has continued since 1967 when the company took monopoly control over all water sources in the occupied Palestinian territories and caters to the Jewish settlements to the detriment of Palestinian communities. Mekorot participates in the international crime of pillage of natural resources operating about 42 wells in the West Bank, which mostly cater to Israeli settlements. Mekorot also works closely with the Israeli army in the confiscation of irrigation pipes from Palestinian farmers and destruction of sources of water supply for Palestinian communities.
Beyond the street protests and work in the media, the more than 1000 pages of research and technical details compiled by ATE-CTA, served to substantiate questions in the provincial parliament and allow interventions in front of federal human rights organizations. In late 2012, the construction of Mekorot water plant was suspended.
The organizations insisted that Mekorot intended to export its model of discrimination, squandering of water and illegitimate profits developed in Palestine, now to the detriment of the population of Buenos Aires.
To start with, the entire bid was based on a work plan that had previously been designed by Mekorot, which expectably proposed the lowest price.
The expenditure of public money for water treatment plant and the consequent debt of the city with multinationals is unnecessary as the province of Buenos Aires has excellent aquifers. Puelches Aquifer is saturated and to stop drinking its water – as the Mekorot project envisaged – would have produced the elevation of the water table, bacterial contamination, basement flooding and damage to housing foundations. Reports from the ABSA state that the main problem of drinking water lies in the distribution network for which Mekorot wouldn’t have provided a solution.
For the installation in the region, Mekorot required an increase in water tariffs, until almost tripling the costs. The construction of the plant, also implied a further increase of service that would have exceeded 30% and would be paid by all the users in the region.
In terms of water quality, it would have been below the standards determined by the Argentine Food Code. Only part of the population would have had access to safe drinking water while poorer people would have received only tap water posing a risk to their health.
CTA, ATE, Federación de las Entidades Argentina-Palestinos and Stop the Wall thank to all social and political organizations, experts and individuals who contributed to the campaign ‘Mekorot Out of Argentina’. Together we won an important victory for justice in Palestine and the right to water! We continue to fight for our sovereignty over water, against the violence of multinationals and in solidarity with the Palestinian people for freedom, justice and the return of refugees to their homes.
We ask everyone to continue supporting the global movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel and to fight and prevent other Mekorot contracts in Argentina.
We ask everyone to join the International Week against Mekorot – from 22 to 30 March: “No to water apartheid, Yes for water justice!”
The Israeli water company Jihon said on Friday that 80,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem have been without water for more than three days.
In a statement Jihon said: “About 80,000 Palestinians in four Arab neighbourhoods in Jerusalem and its outskirts have been suffering from complete loss of water for three days.”
The Israeli company said that it would like to supply water for all consumers in Jerusalem, including Jewish and Arab citizens, but the water infrastructure in the Arab areas is decaying. It also said that the increasing number of inhabitants contributes to the problem.
Meanwhile, the Arab inhabitants at the Palestinian refugee camps of Su’fat, RasKhamis and Ras Shihadeh, as well as Al-Salam Suburb, said they have been suffering from a complete water shortage for several days.
The residents said in a statement issued on Saturday that tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees and citizens in the three residential gatherings in Jerusalem have been without water since the beginning of last week.
According to the statement the Palestinians said that they did not know the reason why the water supply stopped.
The statement also blamed the company Jihon, which is the only body that has a permit to supply water to Jerusalem, for the water shortages. “It started reducing water portions two weeks ago,” the statement said. “And in the end it completely stopped the water.”
Deputy head of the Popular Committee in Su’fat Refugee Camp, Khalid al-Khaldi said: “There are about 23,000 Palestinian refugees and citizens in the camp and they have not had water for three days. In Ras Shihadeh, there has been no water for 20 days.”
He reiterated that there has been no water in Ras Khamis and Al-Salam Suburb for a long time either.
Al-Khaldi blamed the UNRWA, which is responsible for the Palestinian refugees, for the water problem. He called for it to immediately move to solve the problem.
According to reports by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), there are roughly 600 known cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, many of them unsolved. Loretta Saunders, an Inuit woman from Labrador whose family reported her missing on 13 February 2014, is one of the latest. The RCMP discovered her body along a New Brunswick highway on 26 February. That Saunders was in the middle of finishing her PhD in Halifax— on Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women—makes her death particularly harrowing, yet each of these women’s deaths is reprehensible.
CPT attended the ninth Annual Strawberry Ceremony honoring missing and murdered Indigenous women on 14 February, when over 200 people gathered at the downtown Toronto police headquarters for a rally and march. Many individuals in the crowd held up signs bearing names, dates, and occasionally photos. Several dozen people carried black silhouette-style signs cut in the shape of women’s profiles, with names in white lettering on one side, and dates—usually preceded with the word “murdered”—on the other.
Each of these sign bearers had lost someone to violence: a sister, a daughter, a grandmother. More than that, though, this ceremony was in honor of Indigenous women. Those marching were survivors of their individual griefs and losses, and the collective oppression and violence of a system set entirely against them.
Author and activist Arundhati Roy has said, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” In CPT, we often talk about “amplifying voices,” and when I give presentations I make sure to emphasize what this means: I am not seeking to speak for anyone. I am seeking to hold up a figurative microphone to those who are already speaking. It’s a thing I’m still figuring out, time after time. But Roy’s words are a guide.
During the ceremony on 14 February, the women who spoke described how long it took them to “find their voices,” to share the stories of women in their lives who’d been taken by violence. One mother who raised her grandson from his infancy, said it took her over two decades from when her daughter was killed to when she could start speaking about it. It struck me that every single person there holding a sign or a banner was a person who could speak. The voiceless ones were the women whose names and dates were on those signs. Their daughters, and mothers, and sisters, and brothers and fathers and sons (because there were many men there too)—these relatives were all speaking for them.
The question is, are we listening? When several NDP Senators introduced the need for an inquiry to Parliament about missing and murdered Indigenous women in late February, Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch responded by turning the call into a partisan argument, and stated that, “Our government has taken action. I encourage the opposition to join us in that action.”
Such statements, at their root, only demonstrate a desire to dismiss and delegitimize Indigenous women’s voices. If the Harper administration was earnest in its professed concern for Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women, it would not turn calls for a national inquiry into partisan finger-pointing, but initiate real, measurable action to end this tragedy now.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he did not commit to freezing settlement construction during his meeting with US President Barack Obama and that he will reject any agreement with the Palestinians that does not meet Israel’s security needs.
Israel Radio quoted Netanyahu on Friday, on his way back to Israel, telling Israeli journalists that he considered extending the negotiating period between the Israelis and Palestinians in US Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework agreement unlikely to make a difference for the Israeli coalition government, as most of its members reject the idea of establishing a Palestinian state.
He added that he will reject any agreement with the Palestinians that “does not meet Israel’s needs and poses a threat to its security, even if there are attempts to impose such an agreement on Israel.”
Netanyahu refused the possibility of unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank territories if the negotiations fail, stating that he does not prefer this possibility and that “the unilateral withdrawals (from south Lebanon and the Gaza Strip) have not justified themselves nor did they provide security stability for Israel”.
Netanyahu returned to Israel today following his visit to the US which started on Sunday in which he met with Obama in the White House and gave a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Tuesday.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced, while receiving a delegation from the Israeli left-wing party Meretz a few days ago, that he is not opposed to extending the negotiations period, but demands that settlement construction is suspended and prisoners are released.
Housing demolitions carried out under the pretext of unlicensed construction are a common occurrence in occupied East Jerusalem. Palestinians are rarely granted permits by the Israeli authorities to build houses in the city. Apartments prices have risen drastically in Jerusalem — 120 m apartment would cost approximately $350,000. As a result, they are forced to build without a permit, which often results in the Israeli authorities issuing demolition orders on unlicensed buildings.
In 2013, 82 houses owned by Palestinians in Jerusalem were demolished, effecting 281 people. In recent years, self-demolition of houses has become common in East Jerusalem as the Palestinian owners of “unlicensed” houses are forced to choose between demolishing the houses themselves or paying the Jerusalem municipality to do so for them.
In this video Muhammad ‘Amireh speaks of his experience of having to demolish his own house.
A 14 year old boy goes to meet friends. He comes home with bullets in his neck and hand. The IDF considers that to be “a minor infraction”
At the end of July 2013, J., a boy from the village of Silwad, set out with his brother and two other boys to visit a family of friends in the western side of Silwad, a distance of about a kilometer from his house. One of the boys was asked to deliver a bundle of clothes to the family. They reached the house, gave the bundle over, and headed back. On their way, they met a friend shepherding his flock, and sat down next to him. And then J.’s world turned upside down.
He noticed three soldiers coming out of the trees behind them, blocking the path they had intended to take home. Soldiers on the village roads are not a common sight, so the group changed its course, and started climbing the nearby mountain.
As they reached a bend in the path, they heard gunshots. The group scattered instantly. J. himself says he went into shock, since this was the first time he had heard gunshots so close to him. He was slower than the others. He heard a second volley, and then felt a hit in his right arm; a third volley, and he was hit by a bullet in the neck. J. managed to walk a few more steps, and then collapsed by the wall of a house. He was evacuated to a hospital in Ramallah, where it was determined that the bullet entered the right side of his neck, and existed through the left. He was hospitalized there for four days.
We wrote to the IDF, demanding an investigation into the incident. Four months later, we received an answer that can only be described as infuriating. The debriefing of the incident, wrote the Prosecution for Operational Affairs, showed that on the same date there were clashes between IDF forces entering the village and residents who allegedly threw stones at its forces. The Military Advocate General reached the conclusion that the shooting took place in accordance with the rules of engagement, “with the exception of a minor infraction at the end of the incident.” Nowadays, that is how the IDF refers to the shooting of a live bullet into the neck of a 14 year old boy. Accordingly, we were informed that disciplinary procedures were undertaken against the commander of that force. Not that we were informed of the results of that procedure.
Um, no, no. Firing live ammunition, even at protesters, is not in accordance with the orders, unless the soldiers’ lives are in danger. The IDF doesn’t even try to claim that J. and his friends were threatening the lives of its troops. Also, this wasn’t one shooting; J. counted three separate volleys. Furthermore, from the description given by the IDF, it seems J. and his friends weren’t even in the area were the IDF soldiers were attacked, assuming they were indeed attacked.
The firing of live ammunition at uninvolved civilians is a crime, all the more when minors are involved. Such an incident should not end with a disciplinary procedure, but with a criminal investigation. Accordingly, our attorney, Emily Schaeffer, appealed and demanded the opening of an MPCID investigation ASAP. Recently, we learned that the appeal was rejected. The prosecution is of the opinion that though firing after the first volley – as J. and his friends fled – was improper, given that the officer in question was dealt with in a disciplinary procedure and was even fined, the very fact of the disciplinary procedure exhausts the need for a criminal investigation. We’re uncertain whether the sum of the fine was 10 cents, as per the infamous fine of the colonel responsible for the Kafr Qassem massacre – and we don’t know because the prosecution didn’t mention the sum.
But, even if the fine was serious and not a joke – though if it was serious, why didn’t the prosecution note the sum? – We cannot accept a disciplinary procedure as a replacement for criminal law. After all, if the bullet that hit J. would have deviated just a few millimeters from its course, and the boy would have joined the long rank of minors killed by the IDF, a criminal investigation would obviously have been opened. How can putting a bullet in the neck of a person, agreed to have been uninvolved, end with a disciplinary procedure and a fine?
During the Vietnam War, a common phrase among American soldiers was the “Mere Gook Rule”, meaning that whatever you may do to the foreign population, nothing will happen to you. These aren’t humans, these are merely Vietnamese. When the IDF subscribes to the notion that shooting a 14 year old boy in the neck is just “a minor infraction at the end of the incident,” it sends that same message to its troops: These are mere Palestinians. Do with them as you will. Nothing will happen to you. At worst, you’ll face a disciplinary procedure.
And when that’s the message conveyed by the military prosecution to its ground troops, it itself becomes an accomplice to the crime.
Below are the remarks of US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew before the 2014 Policy Conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee(AIPAC) These are clearly the remarks of the banker for the Empire. It should be noted that Lew’s remarks on Ukraine appear to be in line with those of Rand Paul and though Lew’s comments clearly show that he considers Israel as the 51st, and most important state, his views on sanctions are more moderate than those of Rand.
Read the remarks only if you have a strong stomach. Note the re-introduction of the IMF as key financial enforcer. During a stop over in SF, Lew admitted that the IMF is a tool of the US.
I want to thank President Kassen, incoming President Cohen, the Board of Directors, and everyone for inviting me here today. There are so many familiar faces in this room—friends of many years from my time in Washington, New York, and around the country. It is truly wonderful to be with you.
Before turning to the focus of my remarks, let me say that we are closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine with grave concern. As President Obama told President Putin yesterday, Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity is a breach of international law. I have spoken several times to the Ukrainian Prime Minister who assures me that the government is prepared to take the necessary steps to build a secure economic foundation, including urgently needed market reforms that will restore financial stability, unleash economic potential, and allow Ukraine’s people to better achieve their economic aspirations.
The United States is prepared to work with its bilateral and multilateral partners to provide as much support as Ukraine needs to restore financial stability and return to economic growth, if the new government implements the necessary reforms.
An IMF program should be the centerpiece of the international assistance package, and the United States is prepared to supplement IMF support in order to make successful reform implementation more likely and to cushion the impact of needed reforms on vulnerable Ukrainians.
Now the reason we are all here is because for more than 40 years, AIPAC has been the indispensable leader in keeping the alliance between the United States and Israel unbreakable. And you have done that through your powerful example of advocacy and activism—you make your voices heard, you take your case to your representatives here in Washington, and you stand up for what you believe in. This is not just your right as Americans. It is your responsibility. It is the essence of our democratic system.
And as everyone here recognizes, the future of the United States is tied to the future of Israel. This is something that every President since Harry Truman has understood.
In fact, in 1948, it took President Truman only 11 minutes to recognize the Jewish state of Israel. And from then on, the American-Israel relationship has not been a Democratic cause or a Republican cause, it has been an American cause.
President Obama has remained true to this proud legacy since the first day he took office, and he has made it clear that for him and for this Administration, America’s commitment to Israel is ironclad. As he said as President-elect, before he even took office: “Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is nonnegotiable.” And he has never wavered from that position.
Like the President, Israel’s security is not only a public policy conviction for me, it is a personal one. As many of you know, no one grew up with a deeper appreciation for the state of Israel than I did. And I have no doubt that a strong and secure Israel is vital to America’s strength and America’s security.
As we meet, America’s support for Israel’s security has never been stronger. And over the next three days, you’re going to hear about all the things that the Administration is doing to advance Israel’s security—from promoting a lasting peace with the Palestinians to preserving Israel’s military edge so it can protect itself against any threat.
Today, I will discuss one of the most pressing national security concerns for Israel and the United States—and that is Iran’s nuclear program.
Let us not forget that when President Obama took office, Iran was strengthening its position throughout the region and the international community was unable to provide a unified response. But because of President Obama’s leadership, Congressional actions, American diplomacy, which AIPAC has supported, we put in place a historic sanctions regime and Iran now finds itself under the greatest economic and financial pressure any country has ever experienced.
Initially, many claimed sanctions on Iran would never work, but we have proven exactly the opposite. From the beginning, this sanctions program has had one purpose: Persuade Iran to abandon its pursuit of a nuclear weapon. There can be no alternative.
To be clear, we never imposed sanctions just for the sake of imposing sanctions. We did it to isolate Iran and sharpen the choice for the regime in Tehran. And we did it by bringing the community of nations together. We are talking about China, Russia, India, Japan, Europe, Canada, South Korea, and the list goes on.
Having the international community united in opposition to Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon made an enormous difference.
We now have in place the most sweeping, most powerful, most innovative, and most comprehensive sanctions regime in history. And because of the impact of these unprecedented, international sanctions, Iran finally came to the negotiating table seeking relief and fully aware that to get relief, it had to take concrete steps to curtail its nuclear program. Those negotiations led to the Joint Plan of Action, which went into effect in January.
Today, for the first time in a decade, progress on Iran’s nuclear program has been halted and key elements have been rolled back.
The temporary deal struck in Geneva provides us with a six-month diplomatic window to try to hammer out a comprehensive, long-term resolution, without fear that Iran, in the meantime, will advance its nuclear program. Now, I want to emphasize something: Before we agree to any comprehensive deal, Iran will have to provide real proof that its nuclear program, whatever it consists of, is—and will remain—exclusively peaceful.
This deal will only be acceptable if we are certain that Iran could not threaten Israel or any other nation with a nuclear weapon.
Yet make no mistake: Even as we pursue diplomacy, and even as we deliver on our commitments to provide limited sanctions relief, the vast majority of our sanctions remain firmly in place. Right now, these sanctions are imposing the kind of intense economic pressure that continues to provide a powerful incentive for Iran to negotiate. And we have sent the very clear signal to the leadership in Tehran that if these talks do not succeed, then we are prepared to impose additional sanctions on Iran and that all options remain on the table to block Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
We are under no illusions about who we are dealing with. Iran has threatened Israel’s very existence, supports terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, and has failed to live up to its promises in the past.
Still, it is critically important that we give negotiations, backed by continuing economic pressure, a chance to succeed. I have sat with two presidents as they weighed the enormous decision to send men and women into harm’s way to protect our nation. And while all options must remain available, I believe it is our responsibility to do as much as we reasonably can to reserve force as a last option.
This is as much a strategic obligation as it is a moral one. You see, maintaining the sanctions regime that has crippled Iran’s economy requires international cooperation. No amount of U.S. sanctions would have the same crippling power as this international effort. For other nations to continue to remain steadfast with us, they need to know that we have given negotiations every chance to succeed. And if the moment comes when we have to use force, the whole world needs to understand that we did everything possible to achieve change through diplomacy.
To that end, we do not believe that now is the time to adopt new sanctions legislation. We do not need new sanctions now – the sanctions in place are working to bring Iran to the negotiating table and passing new sanctions now could derail the talks that are underway and splinter the international cooperation that has made our sanctions regime so effective. But as I have said, and as President Obama has said, we continue to consult closely with Congress, and if these talks fail, we will be the first to seek even tougher sanctions.
Now, in the next two days or so, you may hear some say that the very narrow relief in the interim agreement has unraveled the sanctions regime or eased the choke-hold on Iran’s economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. And I want to take a few moments to go through a few basic facts.
The Treasury Department, which administers and enforces the sanctions, monitors the numbers carefully. And when you consider the ongoing sanctions that remain in place, the temporary, targeted, and reversible sanctions relief is extremely limited—totaling an estimated $7 billion. To put that into context, during the same six month period, Iran will lose roughly $30 billion in oil sales alone from the sanctions that remain in place.
Put simply, this relief will not enable Iran’s economy to recover from the deep economic damage inflicted by the sanctions program. The bulk of this relief does not come from suspending sanctions on economic activity like manufacturing or exports. It comes from the measured release of Iran’s own funds that are now impounded in overseas banks. The fact is, because of years of sanctions enforcement, Iran has about $100 billion locked up in overseas banks. The interim agreement allows Iran to access $4.2 billion of these funds.
I want to underscore that Iran’s access to this limited relief is neither immediate nor instantaneous. It will be provided in separate installments on a rolling basis over the six-month period of the Joint Plan, and it will only flow if Iran demonstrates week by week that it continues to comply with its agreement to freeze and rollback its enrichment program.
Other measures amount to less than $2 billion — the limited suspension of sanctions on the export of plastics, the import of parts for Iran’s automotive sector, and tuition assistance for students studying abroad. And the core architecture that makes the program work, oil and financial sanctions, remains in effect fully.
If at any point Iran fails to fulfill its commitments under the Joint Plan, the money will stop, and the suspended sanctions will snap right back into place. And when the six-month deal expires, so does the relief.
The bottom-line is: Promises are not enough—Iran must meet its obligations. This is not a case of trust and verify. This is a case of verify everything.
No matter what, Iran’s economy will continue to feel severe economic pressure from our ongoing sanctions regime. For example, our oil sanctions that remain in place have forced Iran’s oil exports to drop by more than 60 percent over the last two years. And we will continue to enforce them.
All told, the crushing sanctions have deeply damaged economic conditions in Iran. There are four key indicators that tell the whole story: first, last year the economy shrunk by 6 percent and it is expected to shrink again this year; second, the value of its currency, the rial, has plummeted, having lost about 60 percent of its value against the dollar; third, the unemployment rate is over 15 percent; and finally, the inflation rate is about 30 percent, one of the highest in the world.
The economic sanctions have crippled Iran’s economy on many fronts.
Claims that Iran’s economy is undergoing a recovery because of the Joint Plan of Action are just plain wrong. After the election of President Rouhani last June, and well before the Joint Plan took effect, there was a slight drop in the country’s very high inflation rate and small improvements in other economic indicators. This was due to a wave of public optimism that greeted the election of a new president, the appointment of a more capable economic team, and the hope that a deal to lift sanctions would soon materialize.
But the slight improvements in these indicators only mean that a badly wounded economy is not getting worse. It does not mean the economy is getting better. And it certainly does not mean that the Joint Plan has led to a recovery.
Further, if Iran fails to reach a deal with us, business and consumer confidence will quickly erode as will many of the gains the economy has seen over the last few months.
Iran’s economy suffered a serious blow from sanctions, and the impact of sanctions is not being reversed. Iran’s economy remains in the same state of distress that brought the government to the table in the first place. Imagine how any economy would feel, if, by a recovery, it meant leveling off at the bottom of a recession. That is what is happening in Iran today.
There is no question that the relief provided under the six-month plan will not steer Iran’s economy to a real recovery. It is a drop in the bucket. In fact, there will be a net deepening of the impact of sanctions when you consider the new damage that will be inflicted like the $30 billion in additional lost oil sales.
What this relief will do is give the people of Iran and their leaders a small taste of how things could improve if they were to take the steps necessary to join the community of nations. This is a choice for Iran to make. If it wants to pull its economy out of the deep hole it is in, it must remove any doubt that its nuclear program is peaceful and come to a comprehensive agreement with the international community. Until then, we will remain steadfast in our enforcement of U.S. and international sanctions.
Now, when I say we remain firm in our enforcement of sanctions, these are not just words, we are talking about action. For instance, shortly after the Joint Plan went into effect, we moved against more than 30 Iran-related entities and individuals around the globe for evading U.S. sanctions, for aiding Iranian nuclear and missile proliferation, and for supporting terrorism. As President Obama recently said, if anyone, anywhere engages in unauthorized economic activity with Tehran, the United States will—and I quote—“come down on them like a ton of bricks.”
I have personally delivered that message to hundreds of business and banking executives in America and around the world, and we are in regular contact with our international partners—including Israel—to sustain the pressure on Iran’s government.
On top of that, our enforcement officials at the Treasury Department who have been responsible for crafting and implementing this historic sanctions regime have been traveling around the world and putting their expertise and unremitting effort to bear to keep Iran isolated.
Even though I have said this before, it bears repeating: Iran is not open for business. Have no doubt, we are well aware that business people have been talking to the Iranians. We have been very clear that the moment those talks turn into improper deals, we will respond with speed and force. Anyone who violates our sanctions will face severe penalties. Our vigilance has not, cannot, and will not falter.
In closing, let me say, this is a time of great uncertainty. But during difficult times like these, the bonds between the United States and Israel do not grow weaker, they grow stronger.
The U.S.-Israel relationship, which is rooted in our shared story of people yearning to be masters of their own destiny, is as vibrant as ever. And that vibrancy is very much on display here. As I look out across this room, I am reminded of how every year hundreds of young people come to this conference from every corner of the United States. They travel to our nation’s capital because of their boundless hope, their sense of duty, and their unshakeable belief that the future can be brighter, better, more prosperous and more secure. And I am confident that by all of us working together, we can make that happen.
The self-proclaimed government in Kiev has appointed two of Ukraine’s richest men to govern large industrial regions in the defiant east. One of the reasons for the Maidan protest was the influence the rich have on politics in the country.
The appointments of new governors of Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk Regions are among 18 made on Sunday by Kiev, which is struggling to consolidate power after the coup which ousted President Yanukovich last month.
The newly-appointed Dnepropetrovsk governor is Igor Kolomoysky, Ukraine’s third-wealthiest man, with an estimated fortune of $2.4 billion. He co-owns the informal commercial group Privat, which includes Ukraine’s largest bank Privatbank, which Kolomoysky heads, as well as assets in the oil, ferroalloys and food industries, agriculture and transport.
A former ally of Yulia Tymoshenko, Kolomoysky reportedly had a falling out with her and refused to finance her election campaign in 2010, which the ex-prime minister subsequently lost to Yanukovich. Kolomoysky was reported to be a principal sponsor of the UDAR party, which is one of the three fueling the street campaign to oust Yanukovich. Kolomoysky has a dual Ukrainian-Israeli citizenship and controls his business empire from Switzerland.
The new governor of Donetsk Region is Sergey Taruta, who is estimated to worth around $2 billion, putting him among the top-10 wealthiest people in Ukraine. He heads ISD, one of the biggest mining and smelting companies in the world, and also own Donetsk-based Metallurg Football Club.
Not a stranger to politics, he used to sponsor Viktor Yushchenko, who came to power in Ukraine after the Orange Revolution of 2004. Among his personal habits is a reputed love for luxurious jewelry and ostentatious gold statues, reports RT’s Peter Oliver.
The appointments will have “a positive effect on the regional aspect,” believes Vladimir Groisman, who was appointed vice-president for regional development in the self-installed government.
“They are well-known and wealthy people. They had a choice – they could buy a plane ticket or fly their own plane and go to another country and wait for the developments there. Or they could take responsibility. I respect their choice,” he said.
Among the accusations mounted on Yanukovich by protesting crowds in Kiev was the charge that he used his presidential power to take over assets of Ukrainian businessmen and make an illegal fortune for himself and his allies. Some Ukraine observers suggested that the oligarchs, threatened by presidential greed, financed the Maidan protests, seeing them as leverage on the government.
After his ouster, photos from Yanukovich’s opulent residence of gilded furniture and a private zoo in suburban Kiev made headlines worldwide. There is little doubt that many of those who sought to topple him for being corruptly enriched would eye the appointment of affluent businessmen to offices of power with a deal of suspicion.
The feeling is palpable in many comments in Ukrainian media.
“That’s good news. I’m tired of those businessmen in power,” said one sarcastic commenter at the site of the Ukrainskaya Pravda a leading online news service.
“It’s OK. The oligarchs have been controlling the regions anyway. I think they will provide order, because only they have the authority, unlike some middle-rank appointees,” soothes another one.
“Are they handing out fiefs? I’m sick of it. Is that what the people died for at the Maidan?” another commenter says.
There is also the regional aspect, which Groisman mentioned. The better-developed industrial east of Ukraine depends on business ties with Russia and would be hurt badly by the EU association agreement, which the new government wants to sign as soon as possible. Mistrust towards Kiev is growing in the east, with several regions already declaring they would not be taking orders from the capital.
The defiant regions seek greater autonomy from the central authorities. Having the right to elect their own governors, as opposed to have them appointed in Kiev, is one of the demands regularly voiced at the protest rallies in eastern and southern Ukraine.
The US Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, has told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that all options against Iran “remain on the table.”
Lew, who is the highest ranking Jewish member of the administration of President Barack Obama, made the remarks on the opening day of AIPAC’s annual meeting which began on Sunday in Washington, D.C., and will end on Tuesday.
He also assured the most powerful pro-Israel lobby group in the US that “the vast majority of” Washington’s sanctions against Iran “remain in place,” adding “all options remain on the table.”
“You may hear some say that the very narrow relief in the interim agreement has unraveled the sanctions regime or eased the choke-hold on Iran’s economy,” Lew said at AIPAC’s 2014 Policy Conference. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
In an interview with HuffPost Live earlier this year, Noam Chomsky said Washington’s threats of war against Iran are a violation of the United Nations Charter and there is no justification for the US sanctions against Iran as the US intelligence reports do not prove Iran is pursuing non-civilian purposes in its nuclear energy program.
AIPAC is currently pressing the Obama administration to take a tougher stand against Iran. Prior to its annual meeting, the lobby group distributed a position paper to congressional offices that demanded the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear energy program in order for a final agreement to be reached between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia, and the US – plus Germany.
AIPAC also released a letter from a bipartisan group of senators to Obama, which said US Congress needed “to rapidly and dramatically expand sanctions” against Iran.
This comes as a new study published by The Iran Project shows that new sanctions against Iran sought by hawkish senators on Capitol Hill would undermine the ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear energy program and “would increase the probability of war.”
Iran and the P5+1 group signed an interim nuclear agreement in Geneva, Switzerland, last November. The deal is aimed at setting the stage for the full resolution of the West’s decade-old standoff with Tehran over its nuclear energy program.
In exchange for Iran’s confidence-building bid to limit certain aspects of its nuclear activities, the six world powers agreed to lift some of the existing sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
The two sides continued their talks in the Austrian capital Vienna last month in order to reach a final agreement. According to Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, the talks concluded on February 20 with “an agreement on the framework and plan of action for the comprehensive nuclear talks.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has already stated that Iran’s nuclear energy program “will remain intact” while the country is willing to address international concerns about its nuclear activities.
It is sometimes instructive to learn a bit of history to reflect on current events because if we do not learn from history, we are bound to repeat the tragic history of useless wars. This came to me as I read about the escalating situation in Ukraine, where the US and western countries invested heavily to dislodge the Ukraine (strategically located on the Black Sea) from Russian influence. The coup that toppled the elected government in the capital and Russia’s strong influence in the mostly Russian Speaking Crimean peninsula of the Ukraine threatens to ignite another Crimean war (a prelude to many more European wars).
The Crimean war 1854-1856 was a devastating and useless conflict that was started with a with an incident here in Palestine (then under Ottoman Rule). The British were in the midst of an industrial economic boom (at least for the elites, the workers were essentially enslaved). To fuel this industrial boom, Britain (and to a lesser degree France) were aiming to expand their empires. The weak Ottoman empire seemed a target. Russia’s influence on the religious Holy Places was high. This was understandable considering that most Palestinian Christians at the time and even still today are Orthodox (especially around the holy sites of Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem).
Russian intellectuals had gone through a period of Westernization before the 1850s and then grew disillusioned with the west and its hypocrisy. Those who considered themselves Patriotic Russians thus became increasingly oriented towards Czar Nicholas and the Orthodox Church and increasingly opposed to the Western Encroachments on the borders of Russia.
When France instigated a provocation by Catholic supporters challenging long standing Orthodox traditions at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, a fury of high level diplomatic lobbying ensued with threats and counter threats that escalated to the Crimean war. Alyce Mange wrote that “The Crimean War (1854-1856) was a war fought ostensibly for the preservation of the Ottoman Empire but actually for the curtailment of Russian encroachment.”
The war was costly to all sides concerned even though the Russian empire lost to the alliance of the three empires (Britain, France, Ottomans). But the origin of the problem remained here in Palestine where competing Russian, British, and French interests remained until the first draft of the Sykes-Picot agreement (which divided their influences). Russia withdrew and so it remained for Britain and France to divide the spoils of WWI in the “Near East/Middle East” (I prefer the term Western Asia to these colonial terms). In parallel, there was the growth of the world Zionist movement that got from France and Britain the infamous Jules Cambon and Arthur Balfour Declarations (1917) partially as quid pro quo for the Zionists lobbying the US to enter the war.
Fast forward from 1854 to 2014 and we see again the beating of war drums for hegemony with triggers in Palestine. The circumstances differ but I am afraid this could also degenerate into a useless devastating war.
The Zionist movement was unhappy about the lack of progress in their efforts (using others) to destroy the Iran-Syria-Lebanon axis. A big part of their failure to achieve success in pushing for more conflicts (as they did with Iraq) is due to the fact that Russia (and China) refuse to go along and realized that the end-game is total Western hegemony in Western Asia (with Israel assuming even more power over Western foreign policies). The Russians and Chinese also took lessons from the disastrous US attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan and NATO attacks on Libya which had terrible consequences (including spreading radicalism and terrorism around the area). They calculated that they must draw a line.
The Zionist movement became involved (as they do frequently) because their key members are in the US State Department and also heavily influential in France and Britain. They thought that we must break Russia’s will to resist encroachment in Western Asia.
Ukraine seemed like an ideal “soft belly” for Russia. It seems possible that reports such as this one on Israelis involved in the protests in Kiev may have some basis. But most Israeli meddling is not done via Israelis but via their now obedient people working for the US government.
It is not a coincidence that protests escalated in Ukraine and Venezuela. I do not know what will happen, but suggest that all wars are useless and counterproductive (to all sides); the history of the 1854 Crimean war should give us pause.
What I suggest is that the talk about democracy by Western leaders like Kerry, Obama, Hollande and company is wearing thin. Most people know that democracy is not achieved by coups against elected governments (whether in Egypt or Ukraine) and certainly not done on behalf of countries who support dictatorships everywhere that are friendly to their interests (see Saudi Arabia as a glaring example).
For the good people of Ukraine (both in the East and the West), do not let your country be used for power politics again. But also I suggest that they remember who their neighbors for the next few hundred years will be (hint it is not Israel or the US or England). But even those countries will not remain immune from destabilization and change if they do not learn to share this planet earth and respect other people. Remember might does not make right and even great empires fell before. This brings me back to the point I always emphasize” READ HISTORY (objectively and not tribally).
MOSCOW – Russian leader Vladimir Putin told US President Barack Obama in a telephone conversation Sunday that Moscow reserved the right to protect its own interests and those of Russian speakers in the event of violence breaking out in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
The Kremlin press service said Putin responded to Obama’s expression of concern over possible Russian plans to deploy troops in Ukraine by drawing attention “to the provocative, criminal acts of ultranationalist elements being effectively encouraged by authorities in Kiev.”
Putin said that there was a real threat to the life of many Russians on Ukraine’s territory, the press service said.
Russia’s upper house of parliament voted Saturday to approve military action on Ukraine, citing the same motivations as those mentioned by Putin.
There is already a substantial Russian military presence in southern Ukraine, courtesy of the leased Black Sea Fleet naval base in the Crimean Peninsula.
Large movements of Russian troops have been reported around the peninsula, which is in defiance of express instructions from Ukrainian authorities this week for Russian soldiers to remain confined to their quarters.
In the 90-minute conversation with Putin, Obama condemned Russia’s military intervention, calling it a “clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity” and describing it as a breach of international law.
The US leader urged Russia to minimize tension by pulling back troops to bases in Crimea and refrain from any involvement in affairs anywhere else in Ukraine.
In a gesture aimed at signaling the degree of its distress over the course of events, the White House said it is suspending planned participation in preparatory meetings for a G-8 summit due to be held in June in the southern Russian city of Sochi, which last month hosted the Winter Olympics.
“Going forward, Russia’s continued violation of international law will lead to greater political and economic isolation,” the White House said in a read-out of the conversation between Obama and Putin.
Crimea is home to a large ethnic Russian community, which has reacted with alarm to what it sees as the aggressively nationalistic government that has taken hold since last month’s ouster of President Yanukovych. Eastern Ukraine, which was another political stronghold for Yanukovych, also has a substantial Russian-speaking population and saw many anti-government protests Saturday.
Obama said that the United States understood the need to protect the ethnic Russian minority in Ukraine and that it would push Kiev to ensure their rights weren’t hindered.
“The Ukrainian government has made clear its commitment to protect the rights of all Ukrainians and to abide by Ukraine’s international commitments, and we will continue to urge them to do so,” the White House said in the readout.
Russia’s Federal Migration Service said it has noted a sharp spike in applications from Ukrainian citizens seeking refuge.
The head of the migration service’s citizenship department, Valentina Kazakova, said 143,000 people had applied for asylum in the last two weeks of February alone.
“People are afraid for the fate of those close to them and are asking not just for protection, but also to help them receive fast-tracked Russian citizenship,” Kazakova said. “A large number of applications are from members of Ukrainian law enforcement bodies and government officials fearing reprisals from radically disposed groups.”