Would Meryl Streep, Spike Lee, Tim Robbins or Susan Sarandon be willing to swear an oath of loyalty to the United States and its policies in order to receive public funding for feature films that they star in, direct or produce? In Israel, the far-right Knesset member Michael Ben Ari has proposed a bill that would require entire film crews to pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and to declare loyalty to its laws and symbols, as a condition for receiving public funding. It’s just one of more than 10 bills to be discussed during the Knesset’s winter session that several commentators in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz have characterized as proto-fascist.
As in most countries, all new Israeli citizens must declare loyalty to the state and its laws, but the cabinet last month decided to support (22 in favour, eight against) an amendment to Israel’s citizenship law that would require all newly naturalized citizens to declare loyalty to the Jewish character of the state. In Britain, this would be like requiring Jews, Muslims and atheists who wish to become citizens to declare loyalty not only to the laws of the United Kingdom but also to the Church of England.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has warned that this amendment, which will soon become law, is the tip of an iceberg. Some of the bills now going through the Knesset, which have a good chance of being ratified, would make support for an alternative political ideology, such as the idea that Israel should be a democracy for all its citizens, a crime.
A proposed amendment to the existing anti-incitement bill, for instance, stipulates that people who deny Israel’s Jewish character will be arrested. This extension to the penal code, which has already passed its preliminary reading, incriminates a political view. Another bill lays the groundwork for turning down candidates for membership in communal settlements built on public land if they do not concur with the settlement committee’s political views or are adherents of a different religion. The point of this is to make it legal to deny Palestinian citizens of Israel access to Jewish villages.
Still another bill that has already passed its first reading stipulates that institutions marking the Palestinian Nakba of 1948 will be denied public funds. This is like denying public funding to schools in the United States that wish to commemorate slavery or to memorialize the crimes perpetrated against Native Americans.
Then there is a bill against people who initiate, promote, or publish material that might serve as grounds for imposing a boycott against Israel. According to this proposed law, which has also passed a preliminary reading, anyone proven guilty of supporting a boycott will be ordered to pay affected parties about 8000 US without the plaintiff’s need to demonstrate any damages.
Finally, eight Knesset members are proposing a bill to ban residents of East Jerusalem from operating as tour guides in the city, potentially putting hundreds out of work. The rationale behind this is that Palestinian residents of Jerusalem should not be certified guides because they do not represent Israel’s national interest well enough “and in an appropriate manner”.
Shir Hever’s analysis attempts to answer important questions such as why the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories live in poverty, and whether Israel benefits from their condition.
Shir Hever, The Political Economy of Israel’s Occupation: Repression Beyond Exploitation (Pluto Press, 2010), 240pp.
Shir Hever, a radical Israeli economist, recently wrote an article which posed the question: ‘Why does Israel continue to occupy the Palestinians?’ That is also one of the major questions addressed in his new book, an ambitious work on the political economy of the occupation.
Hever is an academic/activist on the Israeli Left with a consistently critical perspective on the Israeli state. As a researcher based at Jerusalem’s Alternative Information Centre, he is able to draw on a wealth of sources for this tremendously well-informed account of the economic dynamics of the Israeli occupation. He provides an invaluable historical perspective, tracing developments since 1967, when Israel massively expanded its occupation of Palestinian land. Perhaps surprisingly considering the topic, Hever’s book is highly accessible to those who don’t specialise in economics.
The analysis seeks to address some important questions: why is it that Palestinians in the Occupied Territories live in such awful poverty? Does Israel benefit from Palestinian poverty, and if so how? A great strength here is Hever’s skillful avoidance of simplification. The focus is on ‘the economic aspects of the relations between the Israeli authorities and the occupied Palestinians’, noting that these are frequently neglected yet just as important as military and geopolitical aspects. Nonetheless, he rejects the reductionist, over-simplistic idea that Israel is driven to maintain its occupation solely by economic factors, narrowly conceived. The reality is more complex. He insists that that ‘profit alone cannot explain the actions of the many actors perpetuating or resisting the occupation.’
Economic inequality is a recurring theme. While it is true that ‘certain Palestinian businesspeople and politicians are much better-off than certain Israelis of the lower socioeconomic classes’, overall inequality lies principally between Israelis and Palestinians. Acute poverty is widespread in the Occupied Territories; the Palestinian economy as a whole is prevented from developing, as part of a broader process of exploitation and subjugation.
Hever never loses sight of the fact that he is writing about a part of the world which, while very small, is the focus for a huge amount of global attention. Israel is famously a recipient of a vast amount of US ‘overseas aid’, while international aid of a different kind is essential for many desperately poor Palestinians. Israeli policy towards Gaza has been ‘to keep it constantly on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe’, as a deliberate policy intended to suppress resistance and self-organisation. But Hever also stresses the persistent, and essentially irrational, contradictions in Israeli policy, which are shaped by the contradictions and irrationality of both capitalism in general and the particularities of the occupation.
For example, while the occupation is certainly now uneconomic from the point of view of the wider Israeli economy and society, there are very particular military and business interests which do well from it. In other respects, Israel has at times in the past allowed a rise in Palestinians’ standard of living in order to ‘make them more docile’, but then it has launched ‘brutal attacks which destroy the infrastructure necessary for the survival of the Palestinian population’. Israel has welcomed international aid to the occupied Palestinians, as it relieves it of some responsibility. Yet Israel then erects a variety of obstacles to this aid actually reaching those for whom it is designed.
Hever also avoids treating the economics of occupation as ahistorical and unchanging. Quite the opposite in fact: I was fascinated to discover how economic relationships have evolved over the forty years or so since the Gaza Strip and West Bank were occupied, though in general it is a miserable tale of worsening conditions for the occupied Palestinians. After 1967 there was a period of relative prosperity, influenced by Israel’s preference for cultivating Palestinian co-operation rather than seeking to subjugate them violently. At that stage, consent was more important than coercion. Nonetheless, Israel prevented the development of a viable independent Palestinian economy, ensuring the occupied population was heavily dependent upon Israeli imports, Israeli financial institutions and employment by Israeli companies. Hever writes:
‘As local sources of income were suppressed by Israeli authorities, the main source of income to the Palestinians became remittances from Palestinian workers living in Israel, in the Jewish settlements in OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories], and in the Gulf states.’
The 1980s saw a change for the worse. Falling oil prices led to falling demand for Palestinian migrant workers in the Gulf states. A collapse in the Israeli stock market led to problems for Palestinian workers in Israel: a fall in income combined with the tightening of work opportunities for Palestinians, accompanied by discrimination and abuse. The growth of Jewish settlements inside the Occupied Territories involved the theft of Palestinian land, damaging the local economy. And Israeli policy became more belligerent, shifting away from seeking consent and accommodation. All these factors influenced the emergence of the first intifada, the militant rebellion by Palestinians against oppression which started in 1987.
Fast forward to the Oslo process, which began in 1993. This did nothing for the Palestinian economy; indeed there was a fall in living standards, which was (again) one factor behind the eruption of resistance in the start of the second intifada in 2000. A major problem in these years was the increasing curtailment of employment opportunities for Palestinians seeking work inside Israel. Growing poverty and discrimination fed bitterness and disillusionment.
A gulf opened up during the Oslo years (1993-2000): while the Israeli economy boomed, the Palestinian economy contracted. For Palestinians, poverty and unemployment grew. Living standards fell still further after 2000, when Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank became increasingly reliant on overseas aid to avoid humanitarian disaster. In the West Bank the Palestinian Authority (PA) has failed to even marginally improve conditions for the local population, but has often colluded with Israeli occupation policies. Neve Gordon has referred to this, in an evocative turn of phrase, as Israel ‘outsourcing the occupation’ to the PA.
Hever highlights how expensive the occupation actually is, especially in terms of vast spending on a complex security apparatus. An assessment of the costs and profits of occupation concludes that three groups pay for its maintenance: Israeli citizens (through taxation), Palestinians (via exploitation of cheap labour) and the US (donating ‘aid’ which helps sustain the fragile Israeli economy). But there are also profits to be reaped. It will come as no surprise to learn there ‘was a rapid rise in the market value and business of the military-surveillance sector of the Israeli economy after the September 11, 2001 attacks.’ International oil companies, arms manufacturers and the ‘security’ industry have all made handsome profits from the occupation.
More generally, the occupation and Israeli policies in recent years have proved good for business: ‘the neo-liberal policies of the Israeli government enable large companies to extract high profits with minimal regulation and taxes, and to buy government assets cheaply while the government is engaged in a rush to privatisation. Those who profit from the Israeli crisis have no incentive to help in resolving it.’
In his conclusion, Hever outlines the cases for a two-state solution and a one-state solution, specifically examining the economic dimensions of the question. He leans heavily towards a one-state solution, i.e. a single secular and democratic state encompassing the whole of historic Palestine. He is realistic about the problems, but writes that it would at least create the framework and tools required for tackling many of the current economic injustices.
He also praises the efforts of the international boycott movement, pointing to the anti-apartheid movement which targeted South Africa as a relevant precedent. It can be effective because Israel’s business sector is so dependent on international trade. The boycott movement is vital in working towards ‘the replacement of the existing system of repression through the creation of a democratic state to represent everyone who lives in the area currently controlled by Israel.’
This time, it’s not just liberty’s lovers excoriating Our Rulers: their persecution of so-called “child-soldier” Omar Khadr has infuriated many international elites, albeit for the wrong reasons.
Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen whose family travelled back and forth between there, Afghanistan and Pakistan throughout his boyhood. Omar’s late father may actually be among the world’s very few genuine terrorists, as opposed to those the Feds manufacture to substantiate their silly war: he was a friend and financier to Osama himself.
In 2002, Mr. Khadr agreed when an associate asked if Omar could travel with him as a translator. Tragically, this adventure put Omar in the wrong place — a “compound with . . . a mud wall surrounding a homestead with buildings and animal pens” outside a small Afghan village — at the wrong time: just as American troops attacked. Their excuse? The handful of men — sorry, militants — the Americans had spied inside with their AK-47s in view refused “our boys’” order to surrender.
The ensuing battle turned Omar the Translator into Omar the Terrorist whom the Feds allege to have murdered — not simply killed — an American sergeant. Reports disagree about exactly what happened during that skirmish eight years ago, but no one disputes that “our boys” initiated things.
What are we doing in Afghanistan? Why are we invading this sovereign country, let alone its citizens’ farms? What gives Americans wearing funny hats and bulky clothes the right to pester villagers on their own turf, let alone disarm them? Oh, of course: might makes right. Well, guys, listen up: you’re already in the wrong here. You were wrong the day you headed to the recruiter’s office and signed up to kill people; you’re still wrong no matter how many Afghanis shoot back when you trespass.
Eventually, at least 100 American troops surrounded the farm while F-18 Hornets flew to their rescue and “dropped two 500-pound bombs” on the place. Yet “our” butchers still failed to massacre everyone inside: 15-year-old Omar and a badly wounded man survived the lop-sided battle.
Some of the hundred troops secured the farm after this glorious victory, while others covered them by tossing grenades. Those reconnoitering the devastation discovered the wounded man “moving” — writhing? — near an AK-47, so one of them finished him off.
That’s according to the shooter himself. The Pentagon suppressed this admission until 2008, when it “inadvertently released” it. No wonder Our Rulers “covered [the report] up“: it contradicts the less-damning “official” account in which Omar “pack[s] a pistol in the rubble of a suspected al Qaeda compound” and hurls a grenade despite the shrapnel in his eyes. That’s why they shot him — in the chest, mind you, not the back.
Despite the “friendly” grenades falling around the troops, the Feds insist the one that killed Sgt. Christopher Speer at this point came from Omar. If so, he’s a boy of remarkable resources, as wearers of contact lenses can attest. When an errant speck finds it way between plastic and eye, the excruciating pain pretty much disables the victim: you can think of nothing else, not even self-defense or survival. Imagine the agony should shrapnel sharp enough to blind you embed itself. Now imagine you’re also 15 and have just survived Armageddon. Are you up for lobbing grenades?
But even if Omar did throw it, since when is self-defense a crime? OK, let’s rephrase that since the anti-Second Amendment wackos have indeed made it so. Since when is firing back at attacking armies a crime? As the New York Times notes, “Usually in war, battlefield killing is not prosecuted. But the United States contended that Mr. Khadr lacked battlefield immunity because he wore no uniform, among other requirements of the laws of war.” Yo, kiddies: if you’re ever caught in the Amerikan Empire’s crossfire, cadge a uniform before defending yourselves.
And so the same sociopaths who dismiss waterboarding as a “dunk in water,” who contend that torture is perfectly Constitutional if the intent is to elicit information rather than to punish, who pretend that 9/11 resulted because Moslems “hate our freedoms” rather than as predictable payback for a century of meddling in other countries’ business — these same sociopaths accused Omar of murder. Then they imprisoned him at Guantanamo Bay.
Meanwhile, they withheld medical treatment (after initial triage and surgery) as well as sunglasses to protect his injured eyes, refused him all contact with his family except for a couple of phone calls, “locked [him] in solitary confinement for more than two years with no relief from the overhead fluorescent lights,” short-shackled his hands and feet to the floor for hours, beat him, ridiculed him, threatened him with dogs, with gang-rape, and with transfer to nations where torture is a blood-sport.
Like Gitmo’s other inmates, Omar endured years there before the Feds bothered charging him. That directly violates the Constitution: its Sixth Amendment orders government to give “the accused” — all accused, without regard to their politically invented and convenient status of “enemy combatant” — a “speedy and public trial.” Ah, the Feds might protest with a crafty smile, but the phrase “the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed” indicates that the Sixth pertains solely to citizens. If so, then the amendment also implies that the government may arrest and imprison only on American soil.
Beginning in 2004, Our Rulers embarked on a series of military tribunals, legal memos, and motions to convict Omar, to justify their abuse of him without the hassles of that “speedy and public trial.” Ever notice that the more illegal, unconscionable, and inhumane police states become, the greater their appetite for legality, rules, and procedures? But our poor, prevaricating politicians hit snag after snag, including the universal outcry against the military tribunals as patent charades.
Then, in 2010, “after working for a year to redeem the international reputation of military commissions, Obama administration officials [were] alarmed by the first case to go to trial under revamped rules: the prosecution of a former child soldier whom an American interrogator implicitly threatened with gang rape.” Yeah, that does tend to undermine a kangaroo court’s credibility. And so Our Rulers indulged in “a complex flurry of negotiations” to save face, not justice. Last week, we saw the fruits of their corruption when Omar, who has steadfastly maintained his innocence, agreed to the Feds’ lies against him.
The government suborned him as it has so many other defendants with a plea deal: “Look, we both know we’re lying, that you’re innocent of what we allege, but save us the trouble of ‘proving’ you guilty, and we’ll steal fewer years from your life.” In this case, no more than an additional 8 years beyond the 8 Omar has already languished in Gitmo, rather than the rest of his life.
Thus did the Feds finally succeed in coercing Omar to lie. He pled guilty “to committing murder in violation of the law of war, attempted murder in violation of the law of war, providing material support to terrorism, conspiracy, and spying.” (Spying? When he’s been incarcerated since he was 15? What exactly are they smoking over there at the Pentagon?) Dennis Edney is a Canadian lawyer representing Omar; he said his client has “‘not much choice’ but to plead guilty to avoid a trial because, he claimed, the proceeding at [Gitmo] would be ‘unfair.’ ‘That’s not my comment; it’s the comment of former military prosecutors,’ he said in reference to two who resigned from the military commission prosecution office in recent years.” Not surprisingly, Mr. Edney added, “There is no justice here.”
Instead, there’s a boy horrifically wounded while defending himself from invaders whom the Feds have imprisoned sans a conviction for eight years despite the Constitution’s insistence on habeas corpus. They’ve tortured him the while, again despite the Constitution. He finally caves to the government’s bribery and confesses to “crimes” that aren’t and that he almost surely didn’t commit. Can the Feds possibly add to their mockery here of all that’s just and decent?
Yes! No evil is too difficult for our subhuman Feds! After Omar’s “confession,” they wasted more of our taxes on the travesty of a “sentencing hearing”: “in all military commissions” the Department of Unlimited War to Extend the Amerikan Empire—sorry, Defense explained, “a panel of military officers known as ‘members” determines the sentence,” — now there’s a model of objectivity– “regardless of whether the plea was guilty or not guilty.” . . .the defense and prosecution will each . . . present evidence and argument to the members to aid them in determining a sentence.”
As if to prove the world’s suspicions of this sham, Our Rulers’ “evidence” included the widow of the sergeant Omar supposedly slew and a “forensic psychiatrist” (sic for “witch doctor”) who read Omar’s mind and assured the “members” that Omar must remain in prison because he seethes with plots against the West. Ahem: can we blame him?
The Widow Speer provided the heart-wrenching spectacle Americans now accept in lieu of justice from courts dispensing “fairness.” She described the “harrowing” horror of telling her daughter, then not even four years old, of her father’s death. She read letters from the girl and her 8-year-old brother that discuss growing up without their dad. The lady herself praised her husband as a “good man.” And she regurgitated the “official” story on Omar despite the conflicting testimony a notoriously deceitful Pentagon stifled and the likelihood of “friendly fire” as her husband’s killer: she denounced Omar as a “murderer” and someone “so unworthy” to have ended Sgt. Speer’s life.
Some will say she’s entitled because she’s lost her husband. But the widow also has $102 million at stake: several years ago, she and the American soldier who claims he shot Omar in the chest filed a lawsuit against Omar’s father, the late financier (apparently, the American genius for making money never sleeps, even among the grieving). Need I add they won? And so “the [Khadr] family’s assets, which are of unknown value, have been frozen by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control [yes, our taxes actually fund such a monstrosity as part of the Treasury Department].” While awaiting the thaw, those hoping to get rich quick toe the line though an innocent man rots in prison.
Mrs. Speer also made much of Omar’s “choice,” by which she meant he could have left the farm at the beginning of the skirmish, as did several women and children. But can’t we say the same of her husband? Sgt. Speer enlisted 9 years before his death, when he was 19; he had plenty of time to reconsider his utterly immoral, inherently dangerous career. Ditto for Mrs. Speer, who could have pleaded against his re-enlisting. And if she “supported” his wickedness, well, widowhood is part of what she’s advocating, not only for herself but for all the women whose husbands died that day.
Just as tainted a witness is the “forensic psychiatrist.” Dr. Michael Welner despises Moslems, according to an article he published in 2005: he compared them to a drug addict “living next door” while condemning their “Islamo-chaos.” As if his own bias weren’t sufficiently rabid, Welner’s statement against Omar relied heavily on the opinions of a Danish psychologist. Nicolai Sennels believes that being “raised in a Muslim environment — with Muslim parents and traditions — includes the risk of developing certain antisocial patterns” and that “the Muslim concept of honor transforms especially their men into fragile glass-like personalities that need to protect themselves by scaring their surroundings with their aggressive attitude.” For the Feds to pay this bigot to babble about Omar is akin to soliciting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s assessment of Anne Frank.
Look closely, and alongside Omar as a victim of the Feds’ atrocities you’ll see our battered, bloodied, dying Constitution.
Just as Israel Intended
“Thanks to Hariri’s killing, Israel was able to launch more than one project in Lebanon.”
– Major-General Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli Military Intelligence, 27 October 2010
“I call on all Lebanese, citizens and politicians alike, to boycott [the Special Tribunal for Lebanon] and end all cooperation with its investigators … Everything they obtain reaches the Israelis. It’s enough.”
– Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, 28 October 2010
You cannot blame Israeli intelligence officials like Amos Yadlin for being unable to contain their glee. After pulling off an operation whose blame will fall at the feet of a hated enemy, it is hard not to.
Imagine their delight too when a U.N.-sanctioned body has been so successfully co-opted as a result that it could lead to the collapse of Lebanon’s government.
Such is the case with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL)—the U.N-backed court established to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the Feb. 14, 2005 assassination of the late Lebanese premier and billionaire Rafiq al-Hariri.
Reports indicate that the tribunal’s upcoming report will indict high-ranking Hezbollah figures in the murder. The STL’s investigation and the question of its financial support—Lebanon funds nearly half its budget—has dramatically increased tension between the country’s two major political coalitions: the Hezbollah-led, opposition March 8 alliance and the United States and Saudi-backed ruling March 14 alliance headed by the late prime minster’s son, Saad al-Hariri.
Hassan Nasrallah’s recent call for Lebanon to boycott the STL came on the heels of a visit by two (male) STL investigators and their translator to a private obstetrics/gynecology clinic in the Shia-dominated, southern Beirut suburb known as the Dahiyeh. They were apparently seeking the mobile telephone numbers of a dozen patients known to be the wives and daughters of Hezbollah officials.
The investigators did not get far. Once their presence was known, they were quickly surrounded by a torrent of angry neighborhood [residents] and driven out under a barrage of insults. The phone records they so coveted were not to be had.
Over the past two years, Lebanese authorities have uncovered multiple Israeli espionage rings operating in the country, leading to the arrest of more than 100 agents working on behalf of the Mossad. A number of them were employed in the telecommunications sector, specifically Alfa, one of country’s two mobile service providers.
As news outlets have reported, the STL is expected to rely heavily on telecom data in issuing their indictments. Despite clear signs they have been compromised by Israeli intelligence, the STL persists in collecting the tainted data, just as they tried to do at the Dahiyeh clinic.
According to the Lebanese daily As-Safir, Alfa was successfully penetrated in the July 2006 war, allowing Israel to target individuals and infrastructure in a conflict which killed 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians.
Yadlin: “We reformulated a large number of Israeli Mossad cells in Lebanon and created tens of new cells to serve Israel … The most important thing for us was to control the telecoms network in Lebanon, something which benefited us even more than we expected” (Al-Manar).
In an August 2010 press conference, Nasrallah made public video footage intercepted from Israeli reconnaissance planes. The aerial clips were of West Beirut’s coastline, the Feb. 14 route of Hariri’s motorcade, and the assassination site.
“We have definite information on the aerial movements of the Israeli enemy the day Hariri was murdered. Hours before he was murdered, an Israeli drone was surveying the Sidon-Beirut-Jounieh coastline as warplanes were flying over Beirut” Nasrallah said.
Statements made by Ahmad Nasrallah (no relation to Hassan), a known Israeli agent arrested in 1996, were also disclosed. At the direction of his Israeli handlers, he admitted to falsely telling Hariri that Hezbollah was planning an assassination attempt. Doing so allowed Ahmad Nasrallah to influence the path Hariri’s motorcade would take.
Israeli collaborators in Lebanon also confessed to having surveilled March 14 leaders, including (vehemently anti-Hezbollah) Lebanese Forces head Samir Geagea. Why? “This is the answer for the people asking why March 14 members were the ones who were assassinated. The answer is that Israel wants the blame to fall on Syria and Hezbollah” Nasrallah replied.
The evidence presented at the press conference was compelling but admittedly circumstantial. However, when assessed in light of Israel’s espionage networks in Lebanon—especially those operating in the sphere of telecommunications—and the matter of false witnesses (“witnesses” who initially fingered Syria for Hariri’s killing but whose testimony was later recanted once determined to have been fabricated), there is little doubt the STL investigators’ time would be better spent exploring Israeli complicity in the crime than rummaging around a women’s health clinic in the Dahiyeh.
Yadlin: “These [spies] succeeded in many assassination operations against our enemies in Lebanon. They also made great achievements in besieging Hezbollah and obliging the Syrian army to withdraw from Lebanon.”
Because it has ignored both Israel’s political and military incentives to incriminate Hezbollah (and corroborative spy testimony and video evidence), the STL and its chief prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, are doing a great injustice to Lebanese who want to see Hariri’s killers brought to justice. Instead, they appear intent on sandbagging the truth and the stability of Lebanon … just as Israel intended.
You cannot blame Israeli intelligence officials for being unable to contain their glee.
Rannie Amiri is an independent Middle East commentator.
Norway is not going to accept US espionage, says an expert, after a TV report accused Washington’s embassy in Oslo of conducting surveillance.
Norway’s TV2 channel said on Thursday that the US embassy in Oslo had employed 15 to 20 people, including police officers, to keep an eye on Norwegians since 2000.
“They [Norwegians] have a long record of objecting very very strongly to foreign countries checking on their residents and behaving with extra-territorial powers. They are not going to accept the US doing that,” Ian Williams, with the Foreign Policy in Focus, New York told Press TV on Friday.
“Norway is a member of NATO, but it is an independent member of NATO, and it is a very wealthy member of NATO… By setting standards, they might send ripples throughout NATO and the rest of the world that you really don’t have to do what the US says all of the time,” he added.
The Norwegian TV2 channel also accused Washington of taking photographs of demonstrators and adding their names to a computer database.
The issue has strained ties between Norway and the United States. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry says it has asked the US embassy for information about the surveillance program.
The US Department of State spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, has confirmed that the operation had taken place, but has also alleged that Norwegian authorities were aware of the situation and were cooperating with the embassy.
UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk holds a press conference on the final report of his mandate, 22 October 2010. (UN Photo)
The following is an oral presentation made by Richard Falk, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967, to the United Nations General Assembly on 20 October 2010:
As this is my last report to the General Assembly in my term as Special Rapporteur on the Situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 it seems appropriate to describe some of the special difficulties that have faced the mandate-holder in discharging the functions of the position. The most salient of these difficulties involves the non-cooperation of the Government of Israel. Israel has refused to fulfill its obligations as a member of the United Nations by its repeated failures to allow the special rapporteur to enter Israel so as to visit periodically the occupied territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza ever since his expulsion on 14 December 2008 from Ben Gurion Airport when attempting to enter the country. This level of non-cooperation greatly exceeds that associated with the efforts of my predecessor, the distinguished South African international lawyer John Dugard who was allowed to enter Israel for purposes of the mandate, but denied access to Israeli political and military officials charged with administering the occupation. It should be pointed out that this record of non-cooperation was extended to such related important UN undertakings, including the “Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict,” widely known as the Goldstone report, and more recently in relation to the fact-finding panel appointed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate the allegations surrounding the flotilla incident of 31 May 2010. In each of these instances Israel reinforced this posture of non-cooperation by engaging in a politics of deflection, defaming the messenger and the auspices rather than contesting and responding to the findings and recommendations of the reports.
The United Nations may also be faulted by its failure to respond more strongly to complaints arising from this Israeli pattern of non-cooperation. It sets a most unfortunate precedent that has been coupled by the unwillingness to implement the recommendation made by my prior reports, as well as in relation to the Goldstone report. Widely-held impressions of Israeli impunity are thereby encouraged, as well as the lack of political will within the United Nations itself to take the obligations of international law seriously, and even those associated with its own Charter.
This mandate has also been hampered to some extent, as well, by the Human Rights Council and by the Palestinian Authority. In my initial report to the Human Rights Council I proposed that the mandate be reformulated to allow for the consideration of Palestinian violations of international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law, but this proposal was widely criticized and ignored. There were understandable concerns about creating the misleading impression that both parties, the occupier and the occupied, were equally responsible in a situation where one side was in control and the other being victimized. The realities of fact and law preclude an indulgence of such a false symmetry, and would only have had the public relations advantage of balancing the apparent scope of inquiry. Such an adjustment would have taken some account of criticisms suggesting that an impression of bias and unfairness was embedded in the mandate, but it was not to be due to strong opposition among the majority of governments represented in the Human Rights Council to making any modifications in the existing language of the mandate. Although in recent months I have enjoyed helpful cooperation from the Palestinian Authority by way of feedback and the supply of helpful information pertaining to the occupation, earlier in my tenure I felt considerable pressure from the Palestinian Authority on my independence as a special rapporteur, particularly with respect to reporting accurately on the situation within Gaza. I was also disappointed by the failure of the Human Rights Council to do more to support my independence, despite my forwarding of a formal complaint to the Coordinating Committee. As with the issue of non-cooperation, there is an unfortunate precedent set if the Human Rights Council is not vigilant in its protection of the independence of its mandate holders.
My latest report itself focuses on several important developments pertaining to the occupation. It points out that due to the very acute issues associated with the persisting blockade of Gaza, there has been a tendency to overlook Israeli encroachments on the rights of the Palestinian people living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It concludes that the cumulative effects of the settlements, the security wall and the extensive settler only road network has been to establish a new political reality — converting the conditions of de jure occupation into a set of circumstances properly understood as de facto or creeping annexation. In a different manner, but with comparable results, the extension of Jewish presence in East Jerusalem by way of unlawful settlements, house demolitions, revocations of Palestinian residence rights, makes it increasingly difficult to envisage a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, another widely-assumed premise of the Quartet Roadmap and expectations associated with past and present inter-governmental negotiations.
Such an assessment is important as it has been assumed that the occupation was temporary and reversible in conformity to Security Council Resolution 242 calling for Israeli withdrawal from territory occupied during the 1967 War and forming the political and ethical foundation for the widely-held assumption that Palestinian rights of self-determination would be satisfied by the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on presently occupied territories. International negotiations, including those presently paused, have proceeded on that assumption. However, if the conditions on the West Bank and East Jerusalem are substantially irreversible for political and practical reasons, it becomes misleading and diversionary to continue adherence to the two-state consensus. To the extent that this annexationist perception is accurate it lends credibility to the assertion that the Israeli occupation has many features of settler colonialism, and if so, runs directly contrary to the rights of all peoples to live free of alien rule, a position affirmed in common Article 1 of both UN human rights covenants and an elemental feature of international customary law. This view is furthered by the apartheid features of the occupation based on dual and discriminatory legal structure for the occupied Palestinians and the unlawfully present settler population, the restrictions on Palestinian mobility, permit and residence manipulations, and roads on which Palestinians are disallowed. To indicate these apartheid features is not intended to set up a comparison with apartheid South Africa, but to call attention to the anti-apartheid norm embodied in the Convention Against the Crime of Apartheid, and then incorporated into the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998) that in Article 7 made apartheid a distinct crime against humanity.
Because so much attention has been devoted to Gaza during the course of the last several years it is often assumed that material conditions in the West Bank are acceptable. Such an impression is strengthened by reports that economic growth in the West Bank reached 8.5 percent in 2009, mainly as a result of capital investment clustered around Ramallah. What is not sufficiently noticed is the actual living realities of the people. For instance, in a 2009 study by Save the Children, UK (STCUK) entitled “Life on the Edge” it was reported that in Area C, which is totally under Israeli military administration and comprises 60 percent of West Bank territory, the conditions of the more than 40,000 Palestinians are worse than in Gaza. According to STCUK 79 percent of the communities in Area C are unable to provide sufficient nutritious food to the Palestinian inhabitants as compared to 61 percent of communities in Gaza. STCUK concluded that the overall situation in Area C for all human necessities including health clinics, food, water and shelter had reached “a crisis point.” Another important set of issues surrounds a surge of settler violence directed against the person and property of Palestinian living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including documented attacks on mosques and the burning, and even poisoning, of many olive trees on Palestinian land. Here, too, the response of the international community to this unlawful violence has been disappointing, as has been consistent failures of the Israeli occupying forces to fulfill their obligations to protect Palestinian and their property and to apprehend Israeli perpetrators.
The situation is Gaza remains disturbing from the perspective of human rights and international law despite the welcome partial easing of the comprehensive blockade in the aftermath of the 31 May attack on the six-ship flotilla carrying humanitarian assistance. As the British Prime Minister observed on 27 July 2010 during a visit to Turkey, “Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp.” According to the latest available information the entry of basic necessities to Gaza remains at one-third the level that existed prior to when the blockade was established in June 2007. Furthermore, the economy of Gaza had depended on the ability to export, and this has continued to be prohibited by Israeli policy, with the resulting destruction of more than 90 percent of Gazan entrepreneurial activity. The blockade is a form of collective punishment, prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and was declared unlawful by the Human Rights Council panel tasked with investigating the flotilla incident on the further reasoning that the suffering inflicted on the civilian population of Gaza was disproportionate to any Israeli security justification. The panel report also found, in conformity with the overwhelming consensus among informed opinion, that the attacks on the flotilla in international waters were contrary to international law and reliant on excessive force. It should be pointed out that the isolation of the 1.5 million residents of Gaza for several years, including the disallowance of study in West Bank universities and normal social contact with family members, exerts enormous psychological pressure that is contrary to the obligations of the occupying power to ensure as much normalcy as possible for the occupied civilian population, subject only to legitimate security concerns.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, it seems relevant to call attention to two of the recommendations in the report that arise from the legal analysis of the occupation. In particular, it is time, after 43 years, to acknowledge the intolerable burdens of prolonged occupation on a civilian population. The report urges a formal study of the human rights aspects of prolonged occupation under either the auspices of the Human Rights Council or of a respected nongovernmental organization such as the International Committee of the Red Cross or Human Rights Watch. Such a study should pay particular attention to the plight of persons confined to refugee camps in the occupied territories and neighboring countries, as well as to overall human rights, which is an aggravated consequence of occupation. The other recommendation that seems responsive to recent developments is to encourage UN support for both efforts to send humanitarian assistance direct to the people of Gaza in defiance of the persistence of the unlawful blockade and the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign that seeks to respond to the failure of Israel to uphold its obligations under international law with respect to the Palestinian people. The BDS campaign represents a recognition that neither governments nor the United Nations are prepared or able to uphold Palestinian rights. In this respect, it should be recalled that the anti-apartheid campaign of the late 1980s was strongly endorsed by the United Nations.
It is important, distinguished delegates, that urgent and tangible attention be devoted by this body to the ongoing ordeal of the Palestinian people whose fundamental rights are being daily violated in numerous and ways. This intolerable, immoral and unlawful occupation must be brought to an end, and there is no present prospect that traditional diplomacy will achieve this goal. The United Nations will be judged now and in the future by whether it contributes, at long last, to the long-deferred realization of the Palestinian right of self-determination, and thereby brings a just peace to both peoples.
A French court has sentenced a retired female teacher to one month in jail for attacking a Muslim woman in a shop for wearing the burka, a face-covering Islamic veil.
The court ruled Thursday the defendant’s “violent behavior reveals an intolerance of others that defies explanation and denies cohabitation and dialogue between people who have different ways of life or opposing beliefs,” Gulfnews.com reported.
The victim of the attack was a 26-year-old United Arab Emirates tourist who was shopping at a luxury Paris boutique last February.
The defendant, 63-year-old Jeanne Ruby, assaulted her by trying to pull off her burka and then proceeded to hit, scratch and bite her.
Ruby was charged with “aggravated violence” and was slapped with a one-month suspended jail sentence, as well as being forced to pay 800 Euros (USD 1,140) in damages to the victim.
“I knew that I was going to crack one day. This burka story was beginning to annoy me,” the defendant told police.
The ruling comes just days after France approved a bill banning the face covering, with punishment of up to 150 Euros (USD 189) in fines or having to go to a “citizenship” class, Reuters reported.
The burka ban will take effect after a six-month period in order to inform veiled women about the law.
France has an estimated Muslim population of six million, the largest community in Western Europe. It is believed that approximately 2,000 women wear a full face veil there.