Press TV – February 2, 2010
Saudi airstrikes continue to target northern Yemen despite Houthis pledging to meet the key condition of not attacking Saudi Arabia set by the Yemeni government.
Houthi fighters said Tuesday that Saudi warplanes had been bombarding the country’s north, including the Al-Saqin district.
According to the fighters, Saudi forces poured rockets and artillery shells on border areas.
The fighters offered an initiative to end a nearly six-month conflict when they announced a “withdrawal from Saudi territory and ending the war,” the office of leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi said in a statement.
He called on both Sana’a and Riyadh to end the conflict, which has so far claimed the lives of countless civilians and displaced thousands of others in the beleaguered northern villages.
Al-Houthi offered on Saturday to accept the government’s five-point truce terms, if the government halts military attacks on the north.
However, the government rejected the offer, pointing to a sixth condition stipulating a Houthi pledge not to attack Saudi Arabia.
Despite the pledge to meet the sixth condition, Riyadh continues to attack Shia-populated areas in the Yemeni north.
By David Cronin | Inter Press Service | February 2, 2010
Defenders of Israel’s aggressive stance have for many years been recognised as a powerful force shaping United States foreign policy. A less well-known fact is that the pro-Israel lobby has been making a concerted effort to strengthen its presence in Europe.
The lobby’s determination to make an impression on European Union policy-makers was exemplified by a new booklet published on Jan. 28.
Titled ‘Squaring the Circle?: EU-Israel Relations and the Peace Process in the Middle East’, the booklet advocates that EU should “rebalance its priorities” and pursue closer relations with Israel regardless of whether progress is made in resolving the conflict with the Palestinians.
Unlike the plethora of publications on EU affairs that quickly fade into obscurity, there are good reasons to believe that this one will not go unnoticed in the corridors of power.
First, it was published by the Centre of European Studies, the official think-tank for the network of Christian Democrat and conservative parties that dominate European governments.
Secondly, its author, Emanuele Ottolenghi, has already demonstrated his capability to catch the eyes of politicians by penning several pamphlets for Labour Friends of Israel, a group that boasts of the top figures in Britain’s ruling party among its members.
Ottolenghi is the director of the Transatlantic Institute. Also styling itself as a think-tank, this Brussels-based institute was set up by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in 2004.
“The AJC is the foreign policy wing of the Israel lobby,” says Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, a researcher in Scotland’s University of Strathclyde, who monitors the activities of hawkish pro-Israel groups for the website neoconeurope.eu “The two places that it has decided to focus on most are Latin America and Europe. This is because it has a sense that American power might be in decline.”
The AJC has been successful in convincing the EU that many criticisms of Israel can be considered as a general slur on Jews. In 2005, the EU’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (which has been subsequently renamed the Fundamental Rights Agency) published a working definition on anti-Semitism, admitting that it had been drawn up in consultation with the AJC and the like-minded Anti-Defamation League.
According to this definition says that criticisms of Israel, which contend that the establishment of that state was a “racist endeavour” or which compare Israel’s attacks on the Palestinians to the behaviour of the Nazis during the Second World War, should be considered as anti-Semitism. Ottolenghi’s new booklet invokes that definition to call on the EU to declare campaigners critical of Israel ineligible for funding from those sections of Union’s budget dealing with the promotion of human rights and democracy. It is “curious,” he argued that EU financial support has gone to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) “whose work depicts Israel as a racist society and an apartheid regime.”
“In other words, EU Commission money is helping certain NGOs spread a message that, according to another EU agency, is considered to be anti-Semitic and thus against EU values,” he wrote.
Ottolenghi has been active, too, in urging the EU to adopt a tough line against Iran’s nuclear ambitions. His book ‘Under a Mushroom Cloud,’ which was published last year, posited the theory that Arab leaders are unconcerned by how Israel had developed nuclear weapons of its own decades before Iran started work on its nuclear programme.
“Arab leaders sleep soundly under the shadow of Israel’s nuclear umbrella; it is Iran’s nuclear quest which gives them nightmares,” Ottolenghi wrote. “They know – they have always known – that Israel’s military prowess serves its survival and does not seek to impose a political diktat on its neighbours. The same cannot be said of Iran, with its hegemonic ambitions, and its desire to refashion the region.”
Yet since the book was published Arab governments sponsored a resolution on Israel passed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The resolution noted that Israel is the only state in the region that has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a 1968 agreement designed to curb the spread of nuclear weapons. This was the first such call directed at Israel approved by the IAEA, an official body of the United Nations, in 18 years.
Along with the AJC, several other pro-Israel lobby groups have opened new offices in Brussels over the past decade. These include the European Jewish Congress and B’nai B’rith. Another group, the European Friends of Israel (EFI), has been formed as a cross-party alliance of members of the European Parliament (MEPs).
During Israel’s offensive against Gaza last year, the EFI circulated briefing papers that defended the killing of Palestinian civilians. According to the EFI, it was impossible for Israel to avoid civilian deaths because Hamas, a Palestinian resistance movement, had ordered its members “to discard uniforms and dress in regular clothes that made them indistinguishable from the civilian population”.
Michael Gahler, a German Christian Democrat MEP who describes himself as pro-Israel, said that such lobby groups have “always been very influential” in Europe. Gahler argued, though, that the groups should not ignore the widespread opposition in Europe to Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territories. “They should be here and listen,” he told IPS. “They should not only be a loudspeaker.”
Luisa Morgantini, a former vice-president of the European Parliament and a veteran Palestinian solidarity activist, said that all forms of racism and anti-Semitism must be opposed.
But Morgantini also suggests that pro-Israel groups are exploiting the history of Jewish suffering in Europe to dissuade its modern-day politicians from taking robust action against Israeli oppression in Palestine. “They are using the holocaust as blackmail,” she said. “It is time for us to stop this blackmail.”
UN team find remains of aircraft-dropped bombs, contradicting Israeli report on military conduct during three-week conflict
Rory McCarthy | The Guardian | February 1, 2010
A new Israeli report defending the military’s conduct in the Gaza war was challenged tonight after evidence emerged apparently contradicting one of its key findings.
Israel submitted a 46-page report to the UN on Friday saying its forces abided by international law throughout the three-week war last year. It was meant to avert the threat of international prosecutions and to challenge a highly critical UN inquiry by South African judge Richard Goldstone, which accused both Israel and Hamas of “grave breaches” of the fourth Geneva convention, war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.
The Israeli report looked in detail at a handful of incidents, including the attack on the al-Badr flour mill in northern Gaza, which was severely damaged.
The UN mine action team, which handles ordnance disposal in Gaza, has told the Guardian that the remains of a 500-pound Mk82 aircraft-dropped bomb were found in the ruins of the mill last January. Photographs of the front half of the bomb have been obtained by the Guardian.
This evidence directly contradicts the finding of the Israeli report, which challenged allegations that the building was deliberately targeted and specifically stated there was no evidence of an air strike. Goldstone, however, used the account of the air strike as a sign that Israel’s attack on the mill was not mere collateral damage, but precisely targeted and a possible war crime.
The flour mill attack was not the most serious incident of the war: although nearly 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in just three weeks, no one died at the mill. However, because it was a civilian building producing food – the only operational mill in Gaza – the incident received particular criticism from Goldstone, who concluded that the building was hit by an air strike, the attacks were “intentional and precise”, and they were “carried out for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population”. He added that the attacks violated the fourth Geneva convention and customary international law and may constitute a war crime.
In its defence, the Israeli report admitted the building had been hit by tank shells but said it was a “legitimate military target” because there were Hamas fighters “in the vicinity of the flour mill”. It said the mill was “not a pre-planned target” and specifically denied it was hit by an air strike.
“The military advocate general did not find any evidence to support the assertion that the mill was attacked from the air using precise munitions, as alleged in the human rights council fact-finding report,” it said. The military advocate general “found no reason” to order a criminal investigation.
But the Guardian visited the mill days after the war last year and on the first floor of the building saw what appeared to be the remains of an aircraft-dropped bomb in the burnt-out milling machinery.
The UN mine action team said it identified an aircraft-dropped bomb at the mill on 25 January last year and removed it on 11 February. “Item located was the front half of a Mk82 aircraft bomb with 273M fuse,” according to the team. “The remains of the bomb were found on an upper floor in a narrow walkway between burnt-out machinery and an outside wall.” The bomb was made safe by a technical field manager and removed.
The team also provided two photographs of what it said were the bomb remains, marked with the date and time it was identified: “25 Jan, 14:38”. The team did not do a damage assessment of the building to see what other ordnance hit because that was not its task.
Asked to explain the new evidence today, the Israeli military referred the Guardian to an Israeli foreign ministry statement that summarises last week’s report and states that the military is “committed to full compliance” with the law of armed conflict and to investigating any alleged violations.
As well as the heavy death toll, the Gaza war damaged a large amount of civilian infrastructure: more than 21,000 buildings and apartments were wholly or partly destroyed, including more than 200 major factories.
The al-Badr flour mill was the largest mill in the strip, with production lines spread over five floors – each of which were hit. Gaza’s largest concrete factory, at a different site a few miles away, was also destroyed, as were several large food processing plants.
Goldstone said the nature of the attack on the flour mill “suggests that the intention was to disable its productive capacity” and said there was no plausible justification for the extensive damage. “It thus appears that the only purpose was to put an end to the production of flour in the Gaza Strip,” his report said. It is not clear why Goldstone did not use evidence from the UN team in his report.
Rashad Hamada, one of two brothers who owns the mill, gave evidence at a public hearing in Gaza last June and said the mill was hit by an air strike. He said the factory twice received phone calls from the Israeli military telling them to evacuate the building in the days before the strike, but the factory was not used by Hamas or other Palestinian fighters.
Both Hamada brothers possess hard-to-obtain businessmen’s permits to enter Israel and were therefore regarded as credible witnesses by the Goldstone team.
“What happened at the mill is total destruction of the whole production line of the factory,” Hamada said. He estimated his losses due to the destruction were $2.5m (£1.7m) and said he believed that the mill had been targeted because it was working.
Four other flour mills in Gaza that were not operational were not targeted, he said. “As for the targeting, it is because [it was] a flour mill that is working,” he said.
Professor in leaked email scandal tried to hide fact that numbers he used were wrong
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor | The Independent | 2 February 2010
The “climategate” controversy intensified last night when the senior British scientist at its centre, Professor Phil Jones, faced fresh accusations that he attempted to withhold data that could cast doubt on evidence for rising world temperatures.
The charges follow an analysis of the emails hacked from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, of which Professor Jones is the director.
The emails, published online on the eve of the recent Copenhagen climate summit, led to allegations that Professor Jones and other researchers had behaved inappropriately in withholding or deleting scientific information to prevent its disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI). Last week the charge became more serious when the Information Commissioner’s Office said that in withholding information, UEA had broken the law.
The university has set up an independent inquiry into the affair headed by Sir Muir Russell, a former vice-chancellor of the University of Glasgow, and Professor Jones has taken leave from his director’s post until the inquiry is completed. But the new allegations go beyond refusing FOI requests and concern data that Professor Jones and other scientists have used to support a record of recent world temperatures that shows an upward trend.
Climate sceptics have suggested that some of the higher readings may be due not to a warmer atmosphere, but to the so-called “urban heat island effect”, where cities become reservoirs of heat and are warmer than the surrounding countryside, especially during the night hours.
Professor Jones and a colleague, Professor Wei-Chyung Wang of the State University of New York at Albany suggested in an influential 1990 paper in the journal Nature that the urban heat island effect was minimal – and cited as supporting evidence a long series of temperature measurements from Chinese weather stations, half in the countryside and half in cities, supplied by Professor Wei-Chyung. The Nature paper was used as evidence in the most recent report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
However, it has been reported that when climate sceptics asked for the precise locations of the 84 stations, Professor Jones at first declined to release the details. And when eventually he did release them, it was found that for the ones supposed to be in the countryside, there was no location given.
Climate sceptics have demanded the two professors now withdraw their heat island paper. Professor Wei-Chyung was investigated by his university, but exonerated, but the emails indicate there was also concern among Professor Jones’ s colleagues at UEA, including from Dr Tom Wigley, his predecessor as head of the CRU, about the Chinese weather station data and Professor Jones’s contuing reliance on it.
No-one was available for comment at the University of East Anglia last night.