Gaza – A factory owner in Gaza was shocked to find that equipment he ordered from overseas, which was held in an Israeli port for several years, has been dismantled, with some parts missing and others broken.
Mohammad Al-Telbani, owner of Al-Auda ice-cream and biscuit factory, hoped to develop new lines of potato chips and biscuits with the equipment, which Israeli authorities have held in Ashdod for the last four years. The damaged equipment was worth more than €1.5 million.
Al-Telbani said, “after all of this suffering and all of these huge losses I received the machines dismantled, broken, and with missing parts from the Israelis who released them after being pressured by International and Israeli organizations.” He added that he will not be able to use the machines.
The businessman said his losses were compounded as he had paid more than 1500 shekels ($400) in storage fees while Israeli authorities impounded his goods.
Israeli officials said they withheld the machinery as its pipes could have been used to manufacture home-made projectiles.
The ice-cream manufacturer noted that Israel’s claims to have eased the siege are misleading attempts to improve its public image, and urged international organizations to pressure the Israeli government to release all of his machinery, including the missing parts, so he can upgrade his factory.
Iranian Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Ali Larijani says Iran takes pride in Lebanon’s Islamic resistance movement for its steadfast Islamic stance.
Speaking in Iran’s northern Mazandaran Province on Thursday, Larijani praised Hezbollah for its resistance against oppression and said, “Hezbollah nurtures the original ideas of Islamic Jihad,” IRNA reported.
The Iranian official further slammed the West for charging Iran with “its support of terrorism” and said, “The real terrorists are those who provide the Zionist regime with military equipment to bomb the people” in the region.
Larijani also made a reference to the Western-brokered sanctions on Iran over its nuclear energy program and said the Islamic Republic has always emphasized negotiations but will not bow down under pressure from the bullying powers.
“They speak of the Iranian threat against the Zionist regime… but never elicit public opinion on the Zionist regime’s atomic warheads and other missiles,” he noted.
The UN Security Council passed a US-sponsored anti-Iran resolution on June 9 that imposes restrictions on the country’s economy and energy sectors.
The move was to pressure the Islamic Republic to resume nuclear talks.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has recently said that Tehran would return to talks only if certain conditions are met.
The Iranian chief executive pointed out that the Western countries should announce their stance on Israeli “bombs” and say whether they abide by the regulations of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The recent announcement that Palestinian communities in Israel will be provided with a bus service for the first time since Israel’s founding – that is, in 62 years – surprised observers who had not realised second-class citizenship also extends to being deprived of a bus line.
People often object to the comparison of Israel within the Green Line to apartheid South Africa. After all, there are no segregated park benches or buses (apart from those kosher lines that the Haredi vigilantes patrol). True enough, but who needs to segregate buses on an ethnic basis if they are simply not provided to Palestinian communities in the first place?
A couple of interesting elements to this story, however, have been missed in the telling.
The first is that – assuming the new bus service actually starts, as promised – it will be restricted to a very small number of Palestinian towns and larger villages. How regular it will be is still far from clear. Compare the minimal service Palestinian citizens can belatedly expect with the service offered to Jews throughout not only Israel but also the occupied territories.
In fact, an Egged bus line is one of the first services provided to small Jewish settlement outposts when they are established in remote West Bank locations. Buses arrive frequently, even though they serve a tiny number of families living there. The outposts, of course, are illegal – not only under international (as are all the settlements) but also in Israeli law. So Egged, the national bus company, and the transport ministry conspire with the settlers in flagrant law-breaking to make the outposts viable places to live.
By contrast, transport officials have grudgingly agreed to provide a very limited service to a few Palestinian communities six decades after Israel’s establishment.
Another point is that the new bus service to Palestinian communities inside Israel will not end Israel’s special type of veiled segregation. The bus lines will effectively serve Palestinians only, running between the main Palestinian towns and villages. From what is known so far, they will not be integrated into the larger “Jewish” bus network. This seriously erodes the significance of the service.
Palestinian communities suffer from very high levels of unemployment, particularly among women, where the rates are among the worst in the world. Israeli Jews tend to take comfort in blaming a “primitive” and chauvinist Arab society for chaining their women to the kitchen sink.
Actually, Palestinian women in Israel generally have a better level of education than the men, and many are keen to work. The chief obstacle is that Palestinian citizens are largely excluded from what is effectively a “Jewish economy”. Men can usually find employment as casual workers on building sites and in agriculture. But most women do not want to engage in hard manual labour, and in any case their communities lack the state-subsidised creche and nursery facilities common in Jewish communities.
The few lucky women who still manage to find an office job, however, need to reach places that provide such employment – which almost always means in a Jewish community. An integrated transport system would make that possible. For the past 62 years it has not existed and the new service looks like it will still do nothing to address this key problem.
A further reason a useful public transport system is so desperately needed in Palestinian communities is that, without it, Palestinians have to own a car to search for and keep their jobs. Why should that matter? Because owning a car automatically disqualifies a worker from receiving unemployment benefit if he or she loses their job or fails to find one. The law applies equally to all citizens but, given the lack of a proper bus service only in Palestinian communities, its effect is chiefly to harm Palestinian citizens.
A related, but little-known catch adds to the precariousness of welfare entitlements for Israel’s Palestinian workforce – and again clearly discriminates against them compared to Israeli Jews. Unemployment benefits are also not available to those who own their own home. Again, the ruling applies to Jewish and Palestinian citizens alike, so why call it discriminatory? Well, that is the beauty of Israel’s apartheid – it looks so clean to the uninitiated.
In fact, as is well known, 93 per cent of the land in Israel has been nationalised – for the benefit of the Jewish people. Apart from a tiny number of wealthy Jewish private land owners, Israeli Jews hold only long-term leases on their land and homes from the state. They therefore qualify for unemployment benefits.
But Palestinian citziens live on private land – about 2.5 per cent of Israeli territory the state has not yet confiscated. Almost all Palestinian citizens own the land on which they have built their homes, often with their own labour. They are therefore denied unemployment benefits.
The lack of proper bus services is one thread woven into a rich tapestry of discriminatory laws and practices designed to marginalise, weaken and exclude Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens. Unpicking them is a vital task.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His website is http://www.jkcook.net.
Neocon Nutballs Ramp Up Campaign
Reuel Marc Gerecht’s screed in the Weekly Standard seeking to justify an Israeli bombing attack on Iran coincides with the opening of the new Israel lobby campaign marked by the introduction of House resolution 1553 expressing full support for such an Israeli attack.
What is important to understand about this campaign is that the aim of Gerecht and of the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu is to support an attack by Israel so that the United States can be drawn into direct, full-scale war with Iran.
That has long been the Israeli strategy for Iran, because Israel cannot fight a war with Iran without full U.S. involvement. Israel needs to know that the United States will finish the war that Israel wants to start.
Gerecht openly expresses the hope that any Iranian response to the Israeli attack would trigger full-scale U.S. war against Iran. “If Khamenei has a death-wish, he’ll let the Revolutionary Guards mine the strait, the entrance to the Persian Gulf,” writes Gerecht. “It might be the only thing that would push President Obama to strike Iran militarily….”
Gerecht suggests that the same logic would apply to any Iranian “terrorism against the United States after an Israeli strike,” by which he really means any attack on a U.S. target in the Middle East. Gerecht writes that Obama might be “obliged” to threaten major retaliation “immediately after an Israeli surprise attack.”
That’s the key sentence in this very long Gerecht argument. Obama is not going to be “obliged” to join an Israeli aggression against Iran unless he feels that domestic political pressures to do so are too strong to resist. That’s why the Israelis are determined to line up a strong majority in Congress and public opinion for war to foreclose Obama’s options.
In the absence of confidence that Obama would be ready to come into the war fully behind Israel, there cannot be an Israeli strike.
Gerecht’s argument for war relies on a fanciful scenario of Iran doling out nuclear weapons to Islamic extremists all over the Middle East. But the real concern of the Israelis and their lobbyists, as Gerecht’s past writing has explicitly stated, is to destroy Iran’s Islamic regime in a paroxysm of U.S. military violence.
Gerecht first revealed this Israeli-neocon fantasy as early as 2000, before the Iranian nuclear program was even taken seriously, in an essay written for a book published by the Project for a New American Century. Gerecht argued that, if Iran could be caught in a “terrorist act,” the U.S. Navy should “retaliate with fury”. The purpose of such a military response, he wrote, should be to “strike with truly devastating effect against the ruling mullahs and the repressive institutions that maintain them.”
And lest anyone fail to understand what he meant by that, Gerecht was more explicit: “That is, no cruise missiles at midnight to minimize the body count. The clerics will almost certainly strike back unless Washington uses overwhelming, paralyzing force.”
In 2006-07, the Israeli war party had reason to believed that it could hijack U.S. policy long enough to get the war it wanted, because it had placed one of its most militant agents, David Wurmser, in a strategic position to influence that policy.
We now know that Wurmser, formerly a close adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu and during that period Vice President Dick Cheney’s main adviser on the Middle East, urged a policy of overwhelming U.S. military force against Iran. After leaving the administration in 2007, Wurmser revealed that he had advocated a U.S. war on Iran, not to set back the nuclear program but to achieve regime change.
“Only if what we do is placed in the framework of a fundamental assault on the survival of the regime will it have a pick-up among ordinary Iranians,” Wurmser told The Telegraph. The U.S. attack was not to be limited to nuclear targets but was to be quite thorough and massively destructive. “If we start shooting, we must be prepared to fire the last shot. Don’t shoot a bear if you’re not going to kill it.”
Of course, that kind of war could not be launched out of the blue. It would have required a casus belli to justify a limited initial attack that would then allow a rapid escalation of U.S. military force. In 2007, Cheney acted on Wurmser’s advice and tried to get Bush to provoke a war with Iran over Iraq, but it was foiled by the Pentagon.
As Wurmser was beginning to whisper that advice in Cheney’s ear in 2006, Gerecht was making the same argument in The Weekly Standard:
“Bombing the nuclear facilities once would mean we were declaring war on the clerical regime. We shouldn’t have any illusions about that. We could not stand idly by and watch the mullahs build other sites. If the ruling mullahs were to go forward with rebuilding what they’d lost–and it would be surprising to discover the clerical regime knuckling after an initial bombing run–we’d have to strike until they stopped. And if we had any doubt about where their new facilities were (and it’s a good bet the clerical regime would try to bury new sites deep under heavily populated areas), and we were reasonably suspicious they were building again, we’d have to consider, at a minimum, using special-operations forces to penetrate suspected sites.”
The idea of waging a U.S. war of destruction against Iran is obvious lunacy, which is why U.S. military leaders have strongly resisted it both during the Bush and Obama administrations. But Gerecht makes it clear that Israel believes it can use its control of Congress to pound Obama into submission. Democrats in Congress, he boasts, “are mentally in a different galaxy than they were under President Bush.” Even though Israel has increasingly been regarded around the world as a rogue state after its Gaza atrocities and the commando killings of unarmed civilians on board the Mavi Marmara, its grip on the U.S. Congress appears as strong as ever.
Moreover, polling data for 2010 show that a majority of Americans have already been manipulated into supporting war against Iran – in large part because more than two-thirds of those polled have gotten the impression that Iran already has nuclear weapons. The Israelis are apparently hoping to exploit that advantage. “If the Israelis bomb now, American public opinion will probably be with them,” writes Gerecht. “Perhaps decisively so.”
Netanyahu must be feeling good about the prospects for pressuring Barack Obama to join an Israeli war of aggression against Iran. It was Netanyahu, after all, who declared in 2001, “I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in the way.”
Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist with Inter-Press Service specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam“, was published in 2006.