NEW YORK – The Egyptian government’s crackdown on political opponents continues unabated in advance of parliamentary elections Nov. 28, even as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week hailed the “partnership” between the two countries as “a cornerstone of stability and security in the Middle East and beyond”.
In the latest example of a widespread campaign of media repression, Kareem Nabil, an Egyptian blogger who completed a four-year prison term, was still being detained and beaten at the State Security Intelligence (SSI) headquarters in Alexandria by security officers, according to the New York- based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.
Nabil had been released from Burj al-Arab Prison on Nov. 6. He was subsequently re-arrested by security officers in Alexandria without charges.
A student at Cairo’s state-run religious university, Al- Azhar, Nabil was convicted in 2006 by an Alexandria court of insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak, who he called a dictator.
Nabil’s re-arrest was seen by human rights activists as, in the words of an unnamed opposition figure, “another nail in the coffin of Egyptian democracy”.
The government’s efforts to stifle opposition to the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) have included firing an influential newspaper editor, revoking the licenses of TV channels, arresting bloggers, changing the rules governing political slogans, and fabricating infractions to disqualify opposition candidates from running.
As the government’s campaign continued, Clinton hosted a Nov. 10 visit by Egypt’s foreign minister, Aboul Gheit, and Egypt’s intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman. Gheit confirmed that he and Clinton did not discuss the forthcoming election.
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has come under increasing criticism from both conservatives and liberals for not being forceful enough in speaking out publicly regarding the parliamentary election and the presidential election, which is to follow.
Conservatives – and neoconservatives – are urging Obama to reinstate the “democracy-building” programmes implemented by the George W. Bush administration, Obama’s predecessor. But they appear to be far more concerned about Egypt’s continuing role as “mediator” in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
Liberals are pushing for more unequivocal rhetoric from the White House condemning the renewal of Egypt’s 30-year-old “emergency” laws and the widely-reported harassment of opposition political institutions and individuals.
The country’s 82-year-old leader since 1981, Hosni Mubarak, promised the U.S. he would repeal the emergency laws, which give Egypt’s security services the unfettered right to arrest and detain people without due process or judicial review.
The Obama administration has been most outspoken regarding the emergency laws, whose renewal it regards as a broken promise. It has also publicly condemned the June murder of blogger Khaled Saeed, who was dragged out of an Internet café and beaten to death on the street. He had recently posted a video online exposing police corruption.
Human rights advocates charge that the government has kidnapped bloggers and Internet activists, tortured them, and then imprisoned them until the bruises on their bodies have disappeared so there is no evidence of abuse.
One of those advocates, Hossam Bahgat, told IPS that democracy-building programmes can only be effective if they are “inside-out” – adopted by indigenous people who live and work in a country or a community, and not superimposed on them.
Bahgat, who heads a not-for-profit organization known as the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), was in New York to receive an award from Human Rights Watch (HRW) celebrating the “valor of individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others”.
His group recently won a case against the Interior Ministry on behalf of Egypt’s Baha’i citizens, a minority facing frequent violence and discrimination. Egyptians may now obtain official documents without revealing their religious convictions, or being forced to identify themselves as Muslims, Christians, or Jews.
The EIPR recently launched an advocacy campaign to combat sectarianism in Egypt and “strengthen the values of equal citizenship and shared existence in our common nation without religious or faith-based discrimination”.
“While the movement is being launched by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights as part of our ongoing efforts to defend equality and freedom of religion and belief, we realize that it cannot be successful if it remains ours alone,” Bahgat said.
“We firmly believe that this campaign will not meet with success unless it becomes a voice for Egyptians who believe that we are all in this together and those united by a common fear for our future due to rising social divisions, sectarian tension and a mindset that divides the country into an ‘us’ and a ‘them,’ he said.
The Mubarak regime has been criticized for many years for what opponents call a nationwide campaign of persecution and discrimination against the Egyptian Coptic church. Copts are Christians who make up about five percent of the Egyptian population.
From a U.S. perspective, despite the “cumbaya” diplomacy on display during the Egyptian foreign minister’s visit to the U.S. State Department, Egypt is likely to continue to be the target of both liberal and conservative scorn.
But neither end of the political spectrum believes Washington has the clout to influence the upcoming elections. And Egyptian voters are both powerless and uninformed.
As one prominent activist, Bahey el-din Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, wrote recently, “The outcome of the elections has already been determined – all that remains is the official announcement of the results after 28 November, in favor of the ruling National Democratic Party.”
Soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is desperately trying to explain away the promise he made to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last Wednesday.
Cantor huddled with Netanyahu just prior to the prime minister’s meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton was expected to reaffirm the American commitment to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and opposition to Israeli settlement expansion. Cantor wanted Netanyahu to know that he had his back.
Cantor’s office itself put out a statement bragging about his pledge to Netanyahu:
Eric stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington,” the readout continued. “He made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other.
For now, forget Cantor’s ridiculous assertion that the security of Israel and the United States are “reliant upon the other.” No, the United States provides Israel with the security assistance to survive — it is not the other way around.
But lay that aside. It is Cantor’s statement of loyalty to Netanyahu that is the shocker. Specifically, it is his promise that he would ensure that Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives “will serve as a check” on U.S. Middle East policy.
Almost immediately, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s bureau chief in Washington, Ron Kampeas, declared that Cantor’s statement was “extraordinary.” He wrote that he could not “remember an opposition leader telling a foreign leader, in a personal meeting, that he would side, as a policy, with that leader against the President.”
Kampeas was clearly shocked, but he was understating the enormity of Cantor’s offense. Cantor’s pledge of allegiance to a foreign leader would be remarkable, and deeply offensive, even if the foreign country in question were Canada or the United Kingdom, our two closest allies with whom we have few policy differences.
The United States has major policy differences with Israel, and has had them for decades, most notably over settlements, the occupied West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, etc. Israel is also the largest recipient of US foreign aid in the world, which means that the President of the United States has every right to express those differences firmly and clearly.
On the other hand, no American official — by any stretch of the imagination — has the right to tell the government of Israel, or any foreign government, that he stands with the foreign leader against his own president. It is one thing to oppose particular US policies; it is quite another to tell a foreign leader, “I’m with you, not my president.”
Of course, Cantor was just being honest. Although he does oppose virtually all of President Obama’s policies (he’s a Republican and that is what Republicans do), he supports 100% of Israeli policies. And although an extreme partisan domestically, when it comes to Israel, he supports whichever government is in power. He believes in the right to criticize this government, just not that one.
Cantor’s mistake was not telling Prime Minister Netanyahu what everyone knows is true anyway, but telling the world what he said.
This is the classic Washington definition of a gaffe (i.e., inadvertently speaking an inconvenient truth).
In this case, the gaffe produced a firestorm.
And this is where I consider the possibility that Cantor simply doesn’t understand what he’s doing.
After all, he has been an AIPAC cutout since he first was elected to office. He’s been to more AIPAC meetings than he can probably count. And he should have figured out by now that the lobby is extremely careful, obsessively careful, to always emphasize loyalty to the United States while simultaneously endorsing Israeli policies that undermine our foreign policy objectives.
AIPAC officials never, ever, say that when push comes to shove their loyalty is with Israel not the United States. In fact, the accusation that this is the case is the charge AIPAC hates most.
But the soon-to-be Majority Leader came right out and said it: Israel, right or wrong.
It took a few days for Cantor to understand how utterly offensive his statement was. (He might have heard from a few Tea Party types who, say what you will about them, tend to take their patriotism seriously.)
So today Cantor explained he was misunderstood. His inconvenient truth, his gaffe, was replaced by a laughable untruth.
This is how the Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank reports it:
Brad Dayspring, Cantor’s press guy, tells me Cantor’s promise that the Republican majority would “serve as a check on the administration” was “not in relation to U.S./Israel relations.”
Mmmm. So Cantor’s pledge to stand with Netanyahu against Obama was “not in relation to US/Israel relations” despite the context of Cantor’s statement — just before Netanyahu’s meeting with Clinton — and the fact that the person he was talking to was the Prime Minister of Israel.
So, what was Cantor’s pledge “in relation to”?
Was it in relation to either repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” or the Bush tax cuts for millionaires? Maybe it was about farm subsidies.
Come on, Eric. Don’t make us laugh.
It is eminently clear what you said and what you meant. And this time we will take you at your word.
Recent reports that the Obama administration offered Israel a series of incentives to continue its limited ten-month moratorium on settlement building have sparked an outcry among Palestinians and their supporters. Although the concessions for halting the construction of new settlements for only 60 days are unprecedented, Washington’s inability to maintain consistent pressure on Israel fits into a much broader historical pattern. The conventional wisdom is that when Washington has exerted pressure on Israeli governments they have eventually succumbed to American demands. However, a closer reading of the historical record and declassified American archival documents reveals a more complex dynamic between the two allies.
In this policy brief, Al-Shabaka Co-Director Osamah Khalil examines four major crises in the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel: the 1949 Lausanne Conference; the 1956 Suez Crisis; the October 1973 War; and the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference. He demonstrates that while Israel has on occasion publicly acceded to American demands, privately it has received concessions and agreements that rewarded its intransigence and improved its negotiating position at the expense of Palestinian rights. Khalil argues that American pressure was negligible when compared to the policy options available to the different presidential administrations. Finally, he offers recommendations for Palestinians and their supporters.
The Lausanne Conference
The pattern of public American pressure and private concessions to Israel was established early on. In April 1949, the Lausanne Conference was convened in order to translate the separate armistice agreements between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Transjordan signed after the 1948 Palestine War into a final peace. Among the key issues to be negotiated was the fate of over 750,000 Palestinian refugees who were either expelled by or fled from Zionist militias during the war. In accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194, Washington advocated for a substantial repatriation of Palestinian refugees to their homes. Israel, however, was reluctant to consider repatriating more than a token number of refugees.
Israel’s intransigence at Lausanne led to a sharp exchange of letters between President Truman and Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Truman was incensed by a report that American attempts to negotiate an agreement were being rebuffed by Tel Aviv and that Israeli officials had informed American representatives that they intended to “bring about a change in the position” of the administration “through means available to them in the United States.”1 Truman’s letter warned that should Israel continue to reject America’s “friendly advice,” Washington would “regretfully be forced to conclude that a revision of its attitude toward Israel has become unavoidable.”2
Although the Israelis appeared to reject Truman’s claims, their position at Lausanne softened over the next two months, including an offer to repatriate 100,000 refugees.3 However, the number was still deemed insufficient by the Arab states and by Secretary of State Dean Acheson. Acheson called for the Israelis to repatriate a “substantial number” of refugees — roughly 250,000 — with the remainder to be resettled in the neighboring Arab states where they had sought shelter and to receive some compensation.4
A State Department memorandum drafted after the Israeli reply to Truman recommended four actions for the administration to pursue, including: blocking the release of the remainder of a $100 million Export-Import loan, removing the tax-exempt status that U.S.-based Jewish groups enjoyed to raise funds for Israel, refusing Israeli requests for technical assistance and expertise, and not supporting the Israeli position in international organizations.5 Of these recommendations, the Truman administration opted to delay, but not block, the release of the remainder of the loan. In addition, the State Department decided not to use Israel’s application for membership to the United Nations -– a key Israeli goal -– as an opportunity to pressure Tel Aviv at Lausanne. Rather, Washington believed that Israel’s admission to the UN would compel concessions by the Arab states in the negotiations.6
By late August the loan issue escalated. Responding to an inquiry by the Israeli government, the Export-Import Bank replied that it had approved the loan and the delay was due to the State Department. Eliahu Elath, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., responded angrily to the news, and informed an American delegation at a luncheon in Washington that such actions “could only be interpreted as attempted duress.” Elath added that “such tactics would not succeed. In fact, they could be expected to have the opposite result.”7
Acheson discussed the situation with President Truman the day after the luncheon. By early September, $2.35 million of the $49 million was released to Israel.8 This amateurish attempt at diplomatic pressure was the last one the Truman administration would undertake with Israel. It would also establish a consistent pattern of American behavior toward Israel: although Washington had an array of policy options available, the Truman administration and its successors lacked the political will to employ them effectively and consistently.
Suez 1956: A Successful Example?
The most prominent example of the successful application of American pressure on Israel was during the 1956 Suez War. Using Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal as a pretext, France, Britain, and Israel jointly planned and invaded Egypt in late October. In a rare moment of Cold War superpower agreement, Washington and Moscow demanded that the invasion end and the tripartite forces withdraw. Indeed, the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration considered a series of actions to pressure Israel that were similar to those presented to President Truman. While Israel agreed to withdraw under American and Soviet pressure, far from damaging U.S.-Israeli relations, the Suez crisis led to closer cooperation.9
Of particular importance was the understanding reached between the U.S. and Israel over the Straits of Tiran, the narrow waterway which connects the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles concurred with Israel’s position that it had the right to send ships through the Straits and an attempt by Egypt to renew the blockade would be an act of war, giving Israel the right of self-defense under the UN Charter. The long-term implications of this agreement would be profound. As tensions increased in the spring of 1967, Nasser’s decision to close the Straits would be cited by Israel as the rationale for its surprise attack on Egypt in June 1967.10 During the Suez crisis, Lyndon Johnson was Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate and he opposed the Eisenhower administration’s pressure on Israel to withdraw from the Sinai without a peace agreement.11 Eleven years later as President, Johnson was unwilling to repeat what he viewed as Eisenhower’s mistake.12
In the wake of the Suez War, Nasser’s influence grew dramatically not just in the region but across the “Third World.” However, Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles were convinced that Egypt had become an unwitting pawn of the Soviet Union and were unmoved by Nasser’s claims of a policy of “positive neutrality” in the Cold War. Although publicly aimed at preventing the influence of “International Communism” in the “general area of the Middle East,” what became known as the Eisenhower Doctrine had a much more specific target: containing Nasser. While Ben-Gurion’s hopes for a formal military alliance with the U.S. were never realized during the Eisenhower administration, due largely to American plans for a regional defense pact that was hindered by the Arab-Israeli conflict, the U.S. and Israel found common cause in diminishing Nasser. As Washington sought support throughout the region for the Eisenhower Doctrine, Israel began to develop its “periphery pact,” developing alliances with non-Arab countries, including Turkey, Iran, and Ethiopia.13
The Kissinger Era
Unlike the Suez crisis, the October 1973 War led to a tense superpower showdown. The initial Egyptian and Syrian attack managed to surprise the Israeli military causing heavy casualties, however, Israel counterattacked and eventually took the offensive. When the Egyptian Third Army was almost encircled, Moscow threatened to intervene unless a cease-fire was declared. While the combination of American pressure and Soviet threats finally forced Israel to halt its advance, Washington interceded largely because of the possibility of a superpower confrontation.
Although the cease-fire revealed how effectively American pressure on Israel could be applied when larger American interests were at risk, the U.S.-led negotiations conducted over the next two years demonstrated the implications of such actions on Palestinian rights. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger focused his efforts on Egypt, relying on “step-by-step” shuttle diplomacy rather than a comprehensive negotiation involving all parties, and was reluctant to expand the negotiations to include the Syrians or the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).14 This was more than just a tactical approach. Washington perceived Egypt to be the most prominent Soviet ally in the region, and Kissinger hoped to drive a wedge between Moscow and Cairo. He found a willing partner in Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who also sought to break with the Soviet Union and end hostilities with Israel.15
The negotiations were augmented by significant shipments of U.S. military aid to Israel. Kissinger argued that the aid was designed to make Israel feel more secure and willing to make concessions, especially as Moscow was rearming Syria and Egypt. Yet in negotiating the second Sinai disengagement, Israel’s position hardened. Although Kissinger emphasized the benefits of removing the most prominent and populous of the Arab states bordering Israel from the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Soviet orbit, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was unmoved. By March 1975, Kissinger was frustrated by Israeli intransigence and returned to Washington, leading President Gerald Ford to call for a “reassessment” of U.S. policy in the region.16
Washington’s reassessment lasted roughly three months. Although existing arms contracts were honored, new shipments to Israel were halted during this period and Kissinger met with leading foreign policy specialists to discuss a new comprehensive approach to achieving peace. However, the Israeli government countered with its own pressure. In May, seventy-six U.S. senators signed a letter to Ford, calling on him to be “responsive” to Israel’s request for $2.59 billion in military and economic aid. Ford would later write that although the senators claimed the letter was “spontaneous,” that “there was no doubt in my mind that it was inspired by Israel.”17 In his memoirs, Rabin would concede that the letter was the result of an Israeli public relations campaign.18 Without domestic political support, Ford and Kissinger abandoned the reassessment and resumed negotiations.19
The Sinai II agreement was signed in September, but only after significant concessions by Washington. This included $2 billion in aid to Israel and abandoning any attempts for substantial negotiations on the Syrian or Jordanian fronts. In other words, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Golan Heights were further entrenched not to win an Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula, but merely in order to establish a buffer zone between Israeli and Egyptian forces. In addition, Israel won a commitment from Washington to prevent future Soviet intervention in the region as well as placement of American civilian monitors in the Sinai. Most damaging to Palestinian interests was the secret memorandum of understanding Kissinger signed with Israel related to the PLO. Although the PLO was recognized by the UN and the Arab League as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” Washington agreed not to “recognize or negotiate with” the PLO as long as it refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist and rejected UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions 242 and 338.20 Kissinger’s success helped set the stage for the 1978 Camp David Accords negotiated by President Jimmy Carter.21
From the perspective of Washington, the end of the Cold War and the success of the U.S.-led coalition in expelling Iraqi forces from Kuwait appeared to offer an opportunity to finally resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the spring of 1991, Secretary of State James Baker began galvanizing support for an international peace conference. However, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was reluctant to participate in the conference, and even more resistant to the “land for peace” formula. At the same time, Israel requested $10 billion in loan guarantees to assist with the settlement of Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union. In an attempt to pressure the Shamir government, President George H.W. Bush requested that Congress delay approval of the loan guarantees for 120-days. However, when Congressional leaders rebuffed the request, Bush held an unprecedented news conference in September where he denounced the influence of the Israel lobby on Capitol Hill.22 The gambit appeared to work, as Israel agreed to attend the conference as well as to the presence of a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation.23
Held at the end of October in Madrid, Spain, the conference marked the first time Israelis and Palestinians would engage in direct negotiations. However, with the U.S. unwilling to serve as more than a facilitator of the meetings, the negotiations bogged down and eventually became victim to the Israeli and American political calendars. Shamir’s Likud party was voted from power in June 1992 and the loan guarantees were eventually approved by Congress in October. A month later, Bush lost his bid for reelection.24
Ultimately, the Madrid process would be undone not only by American inattention and Israeli intransigence but also by the PLO, which chose to sign a secret agreement negotiated in Oslo, Norway unbeknownst to the Palestinian negotiating team in Washington. Instead of demanding an end to the occupation and an independent state, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat settled for an interim agreement that initially guaranteed limited autonomy for the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Jericho.25 Final status talks were to be concluded within five years, during which Israel was to maintain overall sovereignty for the OPT.26
Although it is often cited as another example of successful American pressure on Israel, in reality the Bush administration obtained few concessions from Shamir’s government and even fewer tangible results. While the loan guarantees were delayed, they were eventually approved and the Bush administration’s attempts to freeze settlement construction were unsuccessful. Nor did Shamir’s attendance at the conference constitute his acceptance of the “land for peace” formula, as he admitted in an interview with the Israeli paper Ma’ariv after the June 1992 election. Shamir explained that, “I would have carried on autonomy talks for ten years and meanwhile we would have reached a half million people in Judea and Samaria [i.e., the West Bank].”27 Indeed, Shamir’s strategy has been adopted by successive Israeli governments.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
What lessons can Palestinians and their supporters draw by examining these crisis moments in U.S.-Israeli relations? Perhaps most important is to differentiate between the perception that pressure is being applied by Washington and the reality. In each of the historical cases, both the U.S. and Israel had an interest in overstating the political pressure brought to bear. For Washington, the audience was typically the Arab states who looked to the United States as the only power capable of securing concessions from Israel. On occasion, as with Bush’s 1991 press conference, the discussion of the Israel lobby was also for domestic consumption. Meanwhile, Israel’s attempts to exaggerate American pressure have been aimed not just at its own domestic audience and the competition between the major political parties, but toward its American supporters as well.
While the influence of the Israel lobby in these crisis moments particularly on Congress cannot be dismissed, it should not be overstated either. In each case, the different Presidential administrations had an array of policy options available to them, but they were unwilling or unable to muster the political will to adopt more aggressive approaches. This behavior was often driven by the desire of American policymakers for the most politically expedient solution, dictated largely by the political calendar and intensified media attention, rather than a long-term resolution. As a result, Israel benefited from the reticence of the different administrations and their pre-existing biases toward supporting the Israeli position.28 Moreover, Israel used Washington’s desire to achieve its strategic goals regionally and internationally in order to obtain concessions at the expense of the weakest party in the conflict — the Palestinians.
American pressure on Israel has been successful when larger American interests have been at risk. For example, during the 1956 and 1973 Wars in the midst of the Cold War competition with the Soviet Union, Washington had very immediate and definite interests at stake which required it to press its demands in earnest. Moreover, Israel also had an interest in preventing the intervention of Soviet forces into the region, which made it more receptive to American pressure. Without a superpower competitor, the threat to American interests from Israeli actions might be substantial, but from the perspective of Washington they were not unmanageable or insurmountable. In other words, when the Palestinians and their supporters among the Arab states were angered by American policies or actions in support of Israel, once they agreed to a process mediated by the U.S. they had nowhere else to go –- and Washington knew it. This was particularly true of the regimes that relied on American military and economic aid to secure their rule, who found that the price for their participation in the peace process was an increasing number of concessions demanded by Washington in order to placate Israel.
Kissinger’s influence on today’s policymakers cannot be underestimated. His reliance on piecemeal, interim negotiations accompanied by high-level shuttle diplomacy has become the standard for successive administrations. Indeed, the apparent lesson learned is that the U.S. State Department must appear to be actively engaged, even when the results of such public activity are negligible. This has been repeatedly demonstrated in the attempts over the past decade to revive the Oslo Peace Process, in which merely the appearance of process is now considered more important than the actual process or achieving peace.
While Washington was able to extract some concessions from Israel over the years, these were eclipsed by Arafat’s decision to accept the deeply flawed Oslo Accords. Although the PLO was weak as an organization in 1993, the Palestinian cause was arguably at its height in international sympathy and support due to the first intifada and the diplomatic efforts surrounding the PLO’s acceptance of the two-state solution and 1988 Declaration of Independence. Rather than attempting to galvanize popular support among its Palestinian base and internationally around its goals, Arafat and the Tunis-based leadership opted for its own short-term and ultimately self-defeating solution. In short, the Palestinian leadership saved itself and the Israeli occupation at the expense of its own people inside and outside of Palestine.
The historical pattern described in this brief has also been observed with the Obama administration. Both the administration and the Netanyahu government have advanced the perception that President Obama has put unprecedented pressure on the Israelis to halt the construction of settlements in the OPT. Yet over the past year it has become evident that like its predecessors, the Obama administration has sought to reward Israeli intransigence and violations of Palestinian rights by increasing and expanding its support for Israel, rather than curtailing it. This included additional funding for the “Iron Dome” project, Washington’s shielding of Israel at the UN after the assault on the Freedom Flotilla, and supporting Israel’s admission into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).29 Moreover, the recently reported concessions for a mere 60-day extension of the settlement “freeze,” including maintaining Israeli control over the Jordan River Valley, once again demonstrates Israel’s ability to secure private concessions at a time of supposedly heightened American pressure.30
What then constitutes real pressure? As the Truman and Eisenhower administrations determined, the U.S. has a number of ways to pressure Israel, or any other state, which is reliant on it for military, political, and economic support. This includes blocking or suspending the delivery of economic and military aid, removing the tax-exempt status from U.S. based donations for groups that donate to Israel, denying requests for technical or military assistance and expertise, and withholding support for Israel in international and regional organizations. To date, Washington has rarely considered these options. Rather, it has chosen to reward Israel’s intransigence with increasing amounts of aid, in the vain hope that if Israel feels secure it will be willing to make concessions.
At a minimum, Palestinians and their supporters should advocate for the U.S. to deny tax deductible status to organizations that fund and support Israeli settlements in the OPT. They should also continue to insist that Washington hold Israel accountable to U.S. and international law, including continued settlement activity and construction of the wall in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the use of American weapons on Palestinian civilians, the repeated violations of Palestinian human rights, as well as to live up to its commitments as a member of the UN and the OECD, and as a signatory to numerous international treaties. The real pressure that Palestinians must look to and rely on is not from Washington toward Israel, but from the Palestinian people to the world community by continuously asserting that only by realizing their rights can a just and lasting peace be achieved.
 “” (hereafter FRUS, 1949) (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1977): 1061.
 “FRUS, 1949.” 1072-1074.
 “FRUS, 1949,” 1125. The Israeli response further angered Truman, who told Undersecretary of State James E. Webb that he had informed “Jewish leaders who had called him” that “unless they were prepared to play the game properly and conform to the rules they were probably going to lose one of their best friends.”
 “FRUS, 1949,” 1013-1015, 1207.
 “FRUS, 1949,” 1110.
 Admission to the UN was a top diplomatic priority for Israel in 1949. In meetings with Truman and State Department officials, the Israelis stressed their desire to be conciliatory at Lausanne on the question of refugees but noted that UN Membership was needed to secure the precarious position of the fledgling state. See “FRUS, 1949,” 943-948.
 “FRUS, 1949,” 1328-1331.
 In response to complaints by the American representative at the Lausanne conference, who had not been notified of the decision to release the funds, Acheson offered a tepid defense of the State Department’s actions and an empty threat that future reviews of loan allocations could occur and that Israel should not “construe such action as either direct or indirect political pressure.” “FRUS, 1949,” 1375, 1388-1389.
 Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (Boston: W.W. Norton, 2001): 181.
 Shlaim has a fuller discussion of these events and the negotiations between the US and Israel, 178-185.
 “FRUS, Arab-Israeli dispute, 1955-1957,” 139-140. Johnson dispatched a letter to Dulles stating that he was “disturbed” by reports that the UN was considering sanctions against Israel but not the Soviet Union. He called for “a determined effort” by the UN and US to “go to the root causes of the troubles in the Middle East,” which included cross-border raids by Palestinians from Gaza. Johnson stated that “it is not utterly unreasonable for Israel to request guarantees by the United Nations that these attacks against her will not once more be prevalent, once she has withdrawn her troops from” Gaza and the Sinai, (“Letter from Senator Lyndon B. Johnson to the Secretary of State“).
 William Quandt, Peace Process: American Diplomacy and The Arab-Israeli Conflict Since 1967, Third Edition (Washington, Berkeley: Brookings Institute and the University of California Press, 2005): 44-52. Quandt discusses the influence of the Suez War on Johnson’s perceptions of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
 For an analysis of the Eisenhower Doctrine, see Salim Yaqub, Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).
 As National Security Adviser during President Richard Nixon’s first term, Kissinger largely ignored the Arab-Israeli conflict. Already Nixon’s most trusted advisor on foreign affairs, in the second term, serving as both Secretary of State and National Security Adviser, Kissinger’s power and influence was enhanced further by the Watergate crisis, which distracted the President.
 Quandt, 133; Shlaim, 313. In the build-up to the war, one of the signs missed (or ignored) by the United States and Israel was the expulsion of 15,000 Soviet advisers from Egypt in July 1972. Thus, relations between Moscow and Cairo were already strained before the war and Sadat was even more receptive to American overtures in its aftermath.
 Quandt, 159-163. Among Rabin’s demands was that Sadat sign a separate peace and declare an end to the state of belligerency between Egypt and Israel.
 Gerald R. Ford, A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford (New York: Harper and Collins, 1979): 287. In discussing his decision for a “reassessment,” Ford wrote that it “jolted the American Jewish community and Israel’s many friends in Congress. The Israeli lobby, made up of patriotic Americans, is strong, vocal and wealthy, but many of its members have a single focus. I knew I would come under intense pressure soon to change our policy, but I was determined to hold firm” (247).
 Yitzhak Rabin, The Rabin Memoirs (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1979): 261-263. Rabin stated that the reassessment was “an innocent-sounding term that heralded one of the worst periods in American-Israeli relations.” While Rabin’s assessment of the situation may have been dubious, other Israeli officials have sought to emphasize this historical example for their own purposes. For example, in March, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot reported that Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren claimed in a call with other Israeli diplomats that because of tensions between the Obama administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “Israel’s ties with the United States are in their worst crisis since 1975 … a crisis of historic proportions,” (“Israeli envoy sees “historic crisis” with US: Report,” Reuters, 15 March 2010).
 Quandt, 163-166.
 Quandt, 166-169. UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338 were passed in response to the June 1967 and October 1973 Wars respectively. The “land for peace” formula embodied in the resolutions has served as the framework for a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict for the past 37 years. Resolution 242 called for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories in exchange for peace with neighboring Arab states. Because the resolution did not mention Palestinian self-determination or the rights of the Palestinian refugees it was rejected by the PLO, but was adopted Arab states as the basis for a peace agreement. UNSC Resolution 338 called for an end to hostilities and the resumption of negotiations based on Resolution 242.
 There is insufficient space to discuss the Camp David negotiations and agreement but it is worth noting that the benefits to Israel and the implications for Palestinian rights of the Accords far outweighed Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s concessions under pressure by the Carter administration to finalize an agreement.
 In his comments on the loan issue, Bush stated that “we’re up against very strong and effective, sometimes, groups that go up to the Hill working the other side of the question. We’ve got one lonely little guy down here doing it,” “Excerpts from President Bush’s News Session on Israeli Loan Guarantees,” The New York Times, 13 September 1991.
 Quandt, 303-310.
 Quandt, 310-317. The Madrid process was already floundering before Bush lost the 1992 election. It was eventually put on hold after Israel expelled more than 400 Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip into southern Lebanon in December. During the 1992 election, Democratic Party candidate Governor Bill Clinton criticized Bush’s stance on the loan guarantees. In its first nine months in office, the administration of President Bill Clinton was focused largely on domestic issues and was less willing to publicly pressure Rabin’s Labor government.
 See my article “Pax Americana: The United States, the Palestinians, and the Peace Process, 1948-2008,” New Centennial Review 8 (2008), for a discussion of the PLO’s willingness to negotiate on the issue of representation.
 The Oslo accords and their implications on Palestinian rights and aspirations will be discussed in a future al-Shabaka policy brief, but it should be noted that the pattern observed in this brief of public US pressure resulting in private concessions to Israel continued during the Oslo process.
 An English translation of this quote was reported by David Hoffman, “Shamir Plan was to Stall Autonomy,” Washington Post, 27 June 1992. In an interview seven years later with the Middle East Quarterly, Shamir claimed he was misquoted by Maariv. Yet the interview revealed how limited his conception was of what would constitute a “comprehensive agreement” and what autonomy, if any, there would be for the Palestinians. See Daniel Pipes, “Yitzhak Shamir: A Lifetime of Activism, Middle East QuarterlyJune 1999.
 It should be noted that a fuller discussion of the influence of the Israel lobby on US decision making is outside the scope of this brief and additional research is required in order to discuss the cultural, political, economic and strategic factors that influence American policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict.
 In July, US Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro announced that the Obama administration was expanding the amount of security aid Israel will receive in 2010 to $2.775 billion, “the largest such request in US history.” Shapiro explained that that administration hoped its “expanded commitment to Israel’s security will advance the process by helping the Israeli people seize this opportunity and take the tough decisions necessary for a comprehensive peace.” Natasha Mozgovaya, (“ US official: More US aid will help Israel make “tough” decisions,” Haaretz, 16 July 2010).
 Mark Landler, Helene Cooper and Ethan Bronner, “US Presses Israelis on Renewal of Freeze, The New York Times, 1 October 2010). By early November, press reports indicated that the Obama administration negotiated a package of incentives with Netanyahu for a “one-time-only” ninety-day extension of the settlement freeze in the occupied West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem. This reportedly included additional military aid and advanced weaponry, as well as US support at the UN and other international bodies against Palestinian attempts to obtain recognition for an independent state without a final peace agreement. The agreement was pending approval by Netanyahu’s cabinet (Ethan Bronner and Mark Landler, “A 90-day Bet on Mideast Talks,The New York Times, 14 November 2010).
- Romney Breaks With Every GOP President, Pledges To Never Criticize Israel (thinkprogress.org)
A Few Days after AA Flight 587 Crash: Government Covered Up Likely Sabotage and Released Mossad Agents Arrested on 9/11
By now, after nine years, anyone who has seriously looked into the circumstances surrounding 9/11 has read about the so-called “five dancing Israelis“, who, according to reports, had set up across the Hudson River “to document the event” (in their own words) in Manhattan, even before the crash of the first airplane coming from the north into the World Trade Center tower.
These “dancing Israelis”, as we can all surmise, were Mossad operatives, who were involved in operational aspects of the Zionist attack on lower Manhattan that fateful day, September 11, 2001. Two additional “suspects”, who were surely also part of the same Israeli operational team, were arrested on the approach to the George Washington Bridge, and, as was reported live that evening on the televised News (before this aspect to the story was buried), their van was laden with tons of explosives. (Though media reports may not have explicitly identified the people in the vans with explosives as Israeli, there should be little doubt that they were all part of the same team.)
There are two important aspects in conjunction with the 9/11 event in New York that have been virtually ignored even in the alternative media, which deserve closer scrutiny. One point involves the possible large-scale catastrophe that may have been induced by these operatives with explosives if they had not been apprehended as their van was about to drive onto the George Washington Bridge. The second aspect concerns the suspicious circumstances surrounding the crash of Flight 587, on November 12, 2001, more than nine years ago, in conjunction with the inexplicable release, just a few days later, of the “dancing Israelis” and other agents who had been involved in the 9/11 operation, including those who may have been on their way to blow up the George Washington Bridge.
By stalling the van at the middle of the bridge and getting away in time, a directed high-power explosion at that spot along the side might certainly have done some serious damage to a section of this bridge, given the dual cables per side, each slightly less than 36 inches in diameter. Most likely a truck explosion in itself would not have ripped both cables. But then, perhaps such a truck explosion was merely meant to serve as a low-tech trigger – to provide an explanation to the public, for why both cables on one side could have ripped – which itself would have been achieved by detonating a prepared coat of micro-thermite around the cables, just as the WTC towers were detonated by micro-thermite placed at crucial points along the structure weeks in advance, though the Government unconvincingly blamed structural failure caused by impacting airplanes and resulting fires. In light of what is known about the explosive thermite at the three WTC towers that were imploded into their footprint, it is not implausible, that the George Washington Bridge was also targeted for destruction that day, but this aspect of the operation was completely botched due to the van being intercepted. Just a few months earlier, in May, modifications to the George Washingtom Bridge were completed. Who would have ever noticed if coatings of micro-thermite were being applied during this renovation project? Below are some quotes from NYRoads:
The project involved the rehabilitation of girders, columns, bridge decks, drainage and electrical systems, and roadway surfaces. New roadway expansion joints, guardrails, crash barriers, signs and lighting were also installed. The $38 million project was completed in May 2001.
Some pertinent questions arise in this context. Might some “follow-up work” of minor scope have been performed after the reported May completion date, shortly before 9/11, under the guise that something had not initially been done properly and thus needed to be corrected? What companies were involved in that multi-million dollar contract, and which companies were involved in the subsequent project, which would have removed any traces of micro-thermite coating that, according to this presumptive scenario, was applied more than nine years ago?
In 2002, the Port Authority began work to repaint the 604-foot-tall towers and the underside of the upper deck. Workers are removing older coats of lead-based paint, and are applying a three-coat paint system that includes a zinc primer, epoxy intermediate coat and a urethane topcoat. The $85 million project was completed in 2006.
Some investigative scrutiny of this previously neglected topic could certainly help in putting more pieces of the puzzle together, regarding what appears to have been planned as a spectacular and explosive encore on that ‘Demolition Day’, featuring live helicopter video of a major suspension bridge falling into the Hudson River, with only its two towers remaining. If one assumes that these putative Israeli suspects, disguised in Arab clothing, were prevented by their arrest at the on-ramp to the bridge from perpetrating a major crime – this would subsequently have impacted millions of people who commute between New Jersey and Manhattan – one can understand that it would take substantial pressure to get them released from custody. And we know from numerous reports, that they were all released just before Thanksgiving.
But why were these Isareli operatives ever released given their involvement? According to a report written by Christopher Ketcham, the Ha’aretz newspaper claimed that high-level Zionists in America were actively involved in obtaining their release:
Following what ABC News reported were “high-level negotiations between Israeli and U.S. government officials”, a settlement was reached in the case of the five Urban Moving Systems suspects. Intense political pressure apparently had been brought to bear. The reputable Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported that by the last week of October 2001, some six weeks after the men had been detained, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and two unidentified “prominent New York congressmen” were lobbying heavily for their release. According to a source at ABC News close to the 20/20 report, high-profile criminal lawyer Alan Dershowitz also stepped in as a negotiator on behalf of the men to smooth out differences with the U.S. government.
These high-level efforts may not have been sufficient, given that these captured agents were certainly involved in more than event documentation or simply driving moving vans. Perhaps a bit more high-level pressure was required to get these people ‘moving’ again. In this context, an interesting aspect that has not been widely reported is the fact that, just a week before their eventual release, American Airlines Flight 587 crashed after takeoff from Kennedy Airport in Queens. Though it was not widely reported – on the contrary, it appears that once again there was a big cover-up in this matter – the likely cause, according to a credible expert, was sabotage:
Expert Marshall Smith opined, “A single point failure, the in-flight actuation of the left engine thrust reverser, can account for all three observed phenomena of the clean breaking off of the tail and the failure of both pylons holding the engines.”
The mechanical engineer, aviation ground school instructor and former NASA adviser painted this scenario: During the night, a terrorist saboteur disguised as a ground crew mechanic reached up in the back of the left jet engine of the American Airlines Airbus and cut the hydraulic line going to the thrust reverser actuator and the control safety sensor lines.
Knowing the conventional path that the airliner would fly upon takeoff from Kennedy Airport on its course to Santo Domingo in the Caribbean Sea, the saboteurs could be almost certain that the plane would eventually crash into the water, thus making recovery of evidence and probable cause analysis more difficult, along with the minimized possibility of any inconvenient revelations possibly leaking out to the public. As it turned out, the jet crashed onto the narrow land strip, in a neighborhood in Rockaway Park, (“the Irish Riviera“).
Let us look at the timeline of the week long period between the crash of AA587 and the release of the Israeli agents a few days later. Flight 587 crashed on Veteran’s Day, Monday November 12, 2001. According to reports, the Mossad agents were released after “71 days” in custody. Anyone can easily verify the accuracy of the timeline implied by the headline, which indicates the week long period between the crash and the release of the agents: Assuming that September 11 already counts as a day, that yields 20 days in September, 31 days in October and 20 days in November (the last day presumably not a full day), thus Tuesday, November 20. The decision to release them must have come on the day before, Monday, November 19, in order to make arrangements to fly them back to Israel. On that day the New York Times published a prepared story, pushing the highly questionable notion of composite tail fin stress as the presumptive cause of the accident. This unsupported claim appears to be another case of contrived media misdirection (an endeavor the NYT is proficient in), to distract the public from the issue of sabotage.
It is reasonable to assume, however, that if by then the Government had already concocted and propagated a technically unlikely explanation — one that blamed the manufacturer Airbus for an alleged design flaw in conjunction with pilot over-reaction to vortexes from an airplane ahead — the technically far more plausible cause of the crash, which was consistent with observations from witnesses and physical evidence at the crash site, would have already been apparent to investigators and experts, such as the man whose assessment of sabotage is cited in the story cited above. Those who had the opportunity to examine the left engine could easily have corroborated the sabotage. (This raises the question, if one of the numerous investigators became upset that the matter was being covered up and talked about it with others.)
Based on the timeline, these Israeli operatives would have arrived back in Israel not before November 21. They appeared on the talk show sometime before the end of the month, after a few days of intensive de-briefing.
Thanksgiving Day was on November 22, so that any possible news of their release from custody and arrival back in Israel would have easily been drowned out as Americans were focusing on that major holiday.
- 9/11, Mossad, and the Deception (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
- The Lockerbie Bombing Seen as an Expression of a “Strenuous Disagreement” (Aletho News)
Photo: Creative Commons/hdptcar
“You cannot be completely happy with all these wounds—both in your body and in your mind.” — 15 year-old child soldier
The phenomenon of child soldiers, like genocide, slavery and torture, seems like one of those crimes that no nation could legitimately defend. Yet the Obama administration just decided to leave countless kids stranded on some of the world’s bloodiest battlegrounds.
The administration stunned human rights groups last month by sidestepping a commitment to help countries curb the military exploitation of children. Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy reported that President Obama issued a presidential memorandum granting waivers from the Child Soldiers Prevention Act to four countries: Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Yemen. The memo instructed Secretary of State Hilary Clinton that it is in our “national interest” to continue extending military aid to those countries, despite their failure to comply with the rules Congress passed and George W. Bush signed in 2008.
A thumbs-up for child soldiers from the pen of President Obama? Whitehouse spokesperson P.J. Crowley explained it was a strategic decision to ease the 2008 law. The rationale is that on balance, it’s more effective for the U.S. to keep providing military assistance that will help countries gradually evolve out of the practice of marshaling kids to the battlefield, rather than isolating them.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, Crowley argued, “These countries have put the right policies in place… but are struggling to correctly implement them.” The New York Times reported that administration spokespeople also cited the countries’ crucial role in global counter-terrorism efforts.
Strategically granting certain countries a pass on child rights reflects Washington’s warped attitude toward the global human rights regime. The U.S. has failed to ratify, or simply ignored, numerous human rights protocols, and our ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child has languished. Human Rights Watch points out, “Only the United States and Somalia, which has no functioning national government, have failed to ratify the treaty.” (Although we did ratify two optional protocols in 2002, relating to child soldiers and other forms of exploitation.)
Somalia, by the way, is one of just two countries that the White House allowed to be sanctioned under the 2008 law; the second was Burma. Presumably this is because Somalia is not receiving direct military funding, reports the Monitor. Yet the U.S. continues to support Somali government forces as they fight Islamic insurgents—with the help of a large force of child soldiers. (To their credit, Somalia has at least promised the U.N. they”ll stop arming kids eventually, according to the Washington Post).
Maybe you could argue that the U.S. is so “advanced” it needn’t bother with rules about children’s rights to education and whatnot. Obama’s waivers might be seen as realpolitik in areas like Yemen, whose military we support as part of our sprawling counter-terrorism operations. But the bottom line is that the administration has carved out an exception to a law intended to ethically guide the flow of U.S. aid money around the world.
According to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, which holds America to the same scrutiny that countries like Uganda and DRC routinely face in the media, we benefit indirectly and directly from the exploitation of child fighters:
In 2006 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) registered 59 children in detention during 16 visits to five places of detention or internment controlled by the USA or the UK in Iraq. US soldiers stationed at the detention centres and former detainees described abuses against child detainees, including the rape of a 15-year-old boy at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, forced nudity, stress positions, beating and the use of dogs. Following US troop increases in Iraq in early 2007, US military arrests of children there rose from an average of 25 per month in 2006 to an average of 100 per month. Military officials reported that 828 were children held at Camp Cropper by mid-September, including children as young as 11. A 17-year-old was reportedly strangled by a fellow detainee in early 2007. In August 2007 the USA opened Dar al-Hikmah, a non-residential facility intended to provide education services to 600 detainees aged 11-17 pending release or transfer to Iraqi custody. US military officials excluded an estimated 100 children from participation in the program, apparently on the grounds that they were “extremists” and “beyond redemption”.
Omar Khadr, the young Canadian detainee at Guantanamo Bay, remains trapped in a Kafkaesque quasi-judicial system without regard to the fact that he was a child when captured. Rights advocates like Monia Mazigh in Ottowa have called for Khadr to be recognized as a child soldier, but the administration seems to think securing a conviction in Kangaroo Court takes precedence over international law. And because Khadr, like the other Gitmo prisoners, is identified with that faceless dark horde the U.S. has branded “terrorists,” Americans aren’t even inclined to see him as a human being, let alone as a juvenile soldier deserving of sympathy.
So America’s hypocrisy on children in war has many layers. Obama condemns the practice in theory, then undermines federal law by issuing waivers for our partners in Africa and the Middle East. And of course, Washington sees no problem with punishing child soldiers as adults when they’re aligned with the terrorists who are bent on destroying America.
UN Treaties alone obviously won’t demobilize all the world’s child soldiers, but their main role is to put down a legal placeholder. And it’s that moral guidepost that the U.S. undermines every time it waives parallel U.S. laws based on the “national interest.”
Obama’s memorandum may look jarring on paper, but it’s grimly consistent with Washington’s agenda of waging war indefinitely, without boundaries, against an enemy we can no longer really define. The U.S. supports warfare that uses children as weapons, warfare that kills civilian children indiscriminately, warfare that ultimately sends our own children to perish on foreign soil. And so America marches on in a world of conflict where the first casualty is innocence itself.
Footage contradicts arson allegations
BETHLEHEM — International solidarity activists hit back this week at allegations broadcast in Israeli media that they and Palestinian farmers set fire to “state land” in the occupied West Bank.
Ynet news and Arutz Sheva, two Israeli media outlets, reported Sunday that “leftists” and “foreign anarchists” were caught in an arson attempt near an illegal settlement between Bethlehem and Hebron.
“Residents who witnessed the incident said they [believed] the group was planning to blame the arson attack on the Jews,” Arutz Sheva reported alongside video footage it and Ynet broadcast as evidence.
A dozen people “can be seen wandering around the field, stopping occasionally to bend over and set new fires. The group does not appear anxious, and does nothing to extinguish the flames,” the report continued.
Those present, however, have dismissed the reports as nonsensical and point to new footage, filmed on the ground rather than the hillside where settlers taped and later edited their “arson” evidence.
The group was assisting Palestinian farmers clearing weeds on farmland to prepare it for replanting, one international told Ma’an. Part of that work necessitated burning various piles of brush in bundles controlled by dirt and stones, he said noting that the method is typical among farmers across the West Bank.
The new footage from the incident in Saffa village, near the Beit Ummar village and illegal Bet Ayin settlement, shows mostly mundane labor, recorded as background for a series of interviews planned for the day, according to an international who asked not to be named due to fears of retribution from security services.
Faced with accusations of criminality, however, members of the group are releasing the videotape both to clear their names and to shine light on settler harassment against Palestinian farmers and an unquestioning news media across the Green Line.
The way an innocent farming initiative was edited to portray illegal activity “provides real insight into how Israeli media report news,” he said noting the timing, as settlers struggle to explain a recent wave of violence and vandalism against Palestinians.
Since the start of the olive harvest last month, there have been scores of complaints about settlers cutting down trees, stealing olives or preventing farmers from harvesting their crops, rights groups and police say.
A senior Israeli intelligence officer acknowledged that there had been acts of violence and vandalism by Jews in the West Bank, noting in particular recent attacks against mosques there.
“We are not happy about the situation connected with Jewish extremists in the West Bank,” he told a group of foreign journalists on Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
But the witness to the event in Saffa said his footage showed Israeli authorities working with settlers to target farmers. He spotted Bet Ayin settlers on a hilltop overlooking the scene, and he filmed them communicating with others including, according to locals, intelligence officials who routinely operate in the area.
Soldiers soon arrived, and they arrested six of the eight internationals. “None of us was provided an explanation of why we were arrested, but rather just told to get in the jeeps by aggressive soldiers,” the witness said. The internationals were interrogated and lectured, and their passports were photocopied.
Meanwhile, “They called for all of the land owners to come and, in the photos on the digital camera LCD, point out what they owned. The farmers also had their ownership deeds with them,” he added. The Palestinians were not detained; the authorities seemed satisfied with their ownership claims.
In other parts of the footage, an international can be heard asking a soldier why he was being detained. The soldiers never explained why, and none of the internationals was ever charged with a crime.
George Hale and AFP contributed to this report.
A senior Muslim Brotherhood official says Egyptian security forces have arrested over 600 of its members ahead of this month’s parliamentary elections.
Mohammed Mursi says police launched a crackdown on brotherhood members after the group announced plans to run for elections. He added that some 250 members are still detained.
“Arrests are still being made. Someone goes out to campaign, he gets harassed and arrested and then released in a few days,” said Mursi, who heads the group’s election campaign.
The Muslim brotherhood — the country’s largest opposition movement — is fielding 134 candidates for the November 28 polls. The movement is registering them as independents to get around a ban on religious parties.
Egypt’s largest opposition group currently holds one-fifth of the seats in parliament.
The government accuses the group of seeking to take over the country and has passed a series of constitutional amendments in an attempt to curtail the Brotherhood’s ability to participate in politics.
The religious-political organization was banned in 1954 — 26 years after its foundation — but has continued to play a key role in Egypt’s political arena.
In reaction to the recent developments in the country, notable Egyptian opposition figure and former UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei said that Cairo would not be able to retain its increasingly ‘authoritarian’ rule.
“The more unpopular this regime becomes, the more it realizes how much it is hated, the most authoritarian it becomes,” AFP quoted ElBaradei as saying on October 30, 2010. “That’s untenable in the long term, change will come,” he added.
The opposition parties say they want democratic reforms in Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak has had a quarter-century of authoritarian rule.
A coalition of rights groups in Egypt says the government crackdown on opposition candidates will prevent a fair vote.