London – First Minister Alex Salmond supported economic sanctions against Israel. He described Israel’s massacre of nine Mavi Marmara passengers as an “atrocity on the high seas” and put Israel firmly beyond the pale. “This has implications for example in trading relationships—you can’t have normal relationships if you believe another country has been involved in what Israel has been involved in.”
Scotland’s elections shattered political mould – SNP triumphant. The pro-war and pro-Israel Labour, Tory and Lib Dem parties punished SNP Leader Alex Salmond tried to impeach Tony Blair for war crimes in Iraq. Scottish Government offered open access to Scottish hospitals for Palestinian victims of Operation Cast Lead. Nationalist government must be pressured to match deeds with words Scotland’s elections have shattered the political mould, battered every political party other than the SNP (Scottish National Party) and given us a nationalist majority in the Edinburgh Parliament. The voting system was expressly designed to prevent such an outcome. Unlike Palestinians, though, we do not expect to be punished severely for voting in a way that London disapproves of.
The Labour, Tory and Lib Dem parties that are attacking living standards have been punished and the SNP has reaped the benefits of being seen to oppose the cuts to living standards, services and jobs .
We should also remember that the SNP leader, Alex Salmond, has steered his party over the years to oppose many of the core militarist policies of the other parties: he launched an initiative in 2004 to impeach Tony Blair for war crimes in Iraq, and the SNP opposes the Trident nuclear weapons system.
Salmond, far and away Scotland’s most popular and effective politician, has also been harshly and publicly critical of Israeli crimes. Following Israel’s abuse of British passports to murder a Hamas official in a Dubai hotel room in March 2010, First Minister Salmond supported the idea of economic sanctions against Israel. He dismissed the London Government’s expulsion of a low level Israeli Embassy official when he told a BBC Question Time audience that Israel’s unceasing crimes merited more than a “diplomatic dance” over passport mis-use.
Salmond labelled Israel’s massacre of nine Mavi Marmara passengers as an “atrocity on the high seas”. No UK Government officials would condemn Israel for the killings and David Miliband said he was “seeking clarification” from Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman. Alex Salmond, in contrast, put Israel firmly beyond the pale. “This has implications for example in trading relationships—you can’t have normal relationships if you believe another country has been involved in what Israel has been involved in”.
One newly elected MSP, Humza Yousef, correctly pointed out in a letter to SPSC that there have
“been actions also, hundreds of thousands of pounds have been released in aid to Gaza , and opening our hospitals to treat those who were injured in the horrific assault in 2009 (this was an appeal you made at the time directly to the Scot Gov’t).”
Alex Salmond has also opposed those who seek to conflate political criticism or opposition to Israeli crimes with hostility to the Jewish Community. Addressing a Glasgow Jewish community meeting in May 2010, he was asked “to do what he could to halt” BDS actions outside Glasgow supermarkets. Salmond responded with an elementary distinction:
“I don’t think we should accept as a community that your position in Scottish society should be judged or affected by the policies of Israel. The Jewish community is not liable for those policies. It is possible to be critical of Israel without being anti-Semitic. The Jewish community should not be judged on whether people approve or disapprove of the actions of Israel.”
He also dismissed claims by some Zionists that anti-Semitism was driving Jews out of Scotland, an unfounded claim that serves the Zionist programme to have Jews move to Israel:
“I don’t share the analysis that the Jewish community is suffering a wave of persecution or that anti-Semitism in Scotland is rapidly growing and such a severe problem that it is jeopardising this community..I don’t believe that the Jewish community is under siege nor do I believe that it feels itself to be under siege…Scotland has never had to introduce any laws to deal with anti-Semitism”.
Salmond’s positions have been in sharp contrast to the London Government, which attacked and invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and endorsed every Israeli crime. David Miliband, for example, refused to condemn the Israeli attacks on boats to Gaza with humanitarian aid and David Cameron described himself as “a proud Zionist” supporting Israel, which acted with “great restraint” against Lebanese or Palestinian “terrorists”.
But the Israeli violations of international law, and the ongoing killings, mass imprisonment and dispossession of the Palestinian people, mean that we have to go beyond humanitarian aid and words to support the Palestinian appeal for BDS, boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until Palestinians gain their freedom.
That means that we must pressure the newly-mandated Scottish Government to live up to First Minister Alex Salmond’s words that Israel’s behaviour merits trade sanctions. That must include the rescinding of the £200,000 Scottish Enterprise grant to Eden Springs, the Israeli water cooler company involved in serious human rights violations in the Golan, Syrian territory held by the British Government to be illegally occupied by Israel.
Help us to keep the pressure on the Government to act on First Minister Alex Salmond’s call for trade sanctions against Israel. Join and support the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Chair, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
c/o Peace & Justice Centre
Edinburgh EH2 4BJ
00 44 (0)131 620 0052 / 00 44 (0)795 800 2591
Ongoing construction of the Separation Wall around the Bethlehem-area village of al Walaje (photo by Marta Fortunato)
“Movement will be controlled, not restricted”, declared the Israeli High Court to the residents of al Walaje, a West Bank village four kilometres from Bethlehem which will be soon be completely enclosed by the Separation Wall.
Access to and from the village will be controlled by a gate, manned 24 hours a day by the Israeli army. Over 15000 dunams of al-Walaje’s lands have been confiscated by Israel since 1948, and now just 2800 dunams remain for the village.
The tormented story of al Walaje began in 1948 when the Israeli army occupied the village, confiscated its lands and forced the residents to leave their houses and move into caves. “Since that time our life has changed, family and social connections have started to weaken” Shirin al-‘Araj, one of the leaders of the Popular Committee of al Walaje, tells the Alternative Information Center (AIC). “In one day the residents of the village were scattered throughout different parts of the valley, living in caves. Communication was difficult. My parents, like thousands of other Palestinian refugees, thought they would return to their homes very soon”. On the contrary, time passed and they were prevented from going back. At the same time they didn’t want to leave the caves because “moving in other places was like a defeat for them, because it meant they never would return to their homes” Shirin continues.
However, during the 1960s, al Walaje residents started moving into new buildings located on the land left to the village after 1948. And this is the place where the village is perched today.
The tragedy of al Walaje continued in 1967 when part of the village was annexed by the Jerusalem Municipality, even though West Bank identity cards were given to the residents. In the beginning nobody understood the difference between the identity cards because at that time people were free to move between the West Bank and Israel. “Only from 1994, after the first check points and the first restrictions on our right of movement, we understood the meaning of our identity card: going to Jerusalem would soon be impossible,” Shirin concludes.
Israel’s land confiscation has never stopped: in 1971 more than 4000 dunams of lands were confiscated to build the East Jerusalem colony of Gilo and later, in 1979, the hill where today the colony of Har Gilo is being built, was taken from the village. Over 15000 dunams of al-Walaje’s lands have been taken away since 1948 and now just 2800 dunams remain for the residents of this village, who struggle daily against construction of the Separation Wall. Once the Separation Wall is completed, al Walaje will be totally enclosed by it and a tunnel and gate will provide the only access out, to nearby Beit Jala. This means that al Walaje will be completely closed and all access to and from the village will be monitored and controlled by the Israeli army. “We fear that al Walaje will become a new Qalandya, where the only checkpoint to enter the city closes at 5pm and access is permitted only to residents” Shirin says. “Every day we lose some of our rights and our freedom, including the right to demonstrate in a non-violent way”.
Al Walaje residents are afraid of organizing non violent demonstrations against the Separation Wall because in the past some residents, including several children, were severely injured by the Israeli army and work permits were torn up by Israeli soldiers in front of the residents, who stood in disbelief. Why take this risk? Why render al Walaje’s children innocent victims of Israel’s injustice?
“We don’t want other children injured, we don’t want other innocent people punished just because they take part in non-violent demonstrations. We can’t bear this burden anymore, it’s too much” Shirin continues.
Walking in the village it’s impossible not to notice construction of the Separation Wall: noisy trucks carry sand and stones from one part of the village to the other and there is a gray wall that defines the perimeter of al Walaje and suddenly stops. The Separation Wall won’t be built on the Green Line, here as in many other villages in the West Bank. It is just one of the several ways that Israel uses to occupy Palestinian land and annex it to Israel. To be on the Green Line, the Separation Wall in al Walaje should be built far to the West, on the slope of Gilo settlement, but it will be built on the other side of the valley, close to the village of al Walaje. This means that thousands of dunams will be confiscated.
This plan was further sustained by the Salesian community, whose monastery is located between the settlement of Gilo and al-Walaje, between the Green Line and the rapidly rising Separation Wall. The Salesian community didn’t stand against the Israeli plan and did not support the struggle of al-Walaje community.
It was particularly shocking to hear the story of a family in al Walaje, whose house will be separated from the village and will be on the “Israeli” side once construction of the Separation Wall is completed. However, the Israeli government doesn’t want this family to have free access to Israel, so it is planning to build a four meter high electronic fence all around the house and to establish a personal check point for access to al Walaje. Moreover, the family’s land will be confiscated because it will then be located on the other side of the Separation Wall.
One of the reasons given by the Israeli government for the planned route of the Separation Wall and to justify the annexation of thousands of dunams of land is that the Wall would pass “too close” to the zoo in West Jerusalem if it was built on the Green Line. “Do you understand how serious this situation is?” Shirin asks with indignation. “This means that for the Israeli government, the life of Israeli animals is more important than life of a Palestinian family”.
This past Friday, the Judiciary Circuit in Yaracuy state sentenced retired army general Alexis Ramón Sanchéz to 13 years house arrest due to his participation in the 1986 massacre in Yumare.
On the 8th of May 1986, during the presidency of Jaime Lusinchi, nine revolutionary leaders from the socio-political movement “The Historical Social Current” were tortured and executed by four undercover agents from the now disbanded “Intelligence and Prevention Services Agency” (Disip) under command of Henry Lopéz Sisco.
In an attempt to end impunity the Chávez administration re-opened the case of the Yumare massacre – as well as those of La Cantaura (1982) and El Amparo (1988) – and legal proceedings began in 2006. Charges were officially brought against Sanchéz and other ex-Disip personnel including; Oswaldo Ramos, Eugenio Creassola, Freddy Granger, William Prado, Raúl Fernández, Adán Quero and Hernán Vega in August 2009.
Sanchéz confessed to his role in the massacre, confirming that the killings were part of an ‘intentional’ and ‘planned’ operation, orchestrated by state security forces at the time. In addition, the ex-general collaborated with the Venezuelan authorities by providing the identities of other individuals responsible for the massacre. According to the lawyer acting on behalf of the victims, Adán Navas, Sanchéz asked the families of the eight men and one woman for forgiveness.
Navas highlighted the importance of the judgement, stating that “this proves that, for the first time in Venezuela, justice is being done with regards to this crime.”
Drawing a comparison with other South American countries, Navas stressed that “the fact that a general confessed and denounced (others who participated) sets a precedent in Latin America, since in other legal proceedings against the dictatorships of the Southern Cone (such as in Argentina and Uruguay) no military official has admitted to being guilty”.
Whereas trials against protagonists of human rights abuses committed during military dictatorships have taken place in Argentina, Uruguay and Guatemala, the significance of the Venezuelan case is that the massacres being investigated took place under democratic government.
Owing to his age and ill health, Sanchéz was granted permission to serve out his sentence at home, as well as being given a reduced sentence in view of his cooperation and confession.
The Offical Story
The Historical Social Current, which was formed by social movements, neighbourhood organisations, trade-unions and students in the 1980s, was dedicated to the dissemination of the Bolivarian message and the creation of a nationalist and socialist political project through autonomous community organisation.
According to one of the survivors of the massacre, Luis Machado, the group was infiltrated by Norberto and Alirio Rebanales, Argenis Beracierta and Antonio Rafael Rojas. Machado explains that “they had all been members of the Red Flag (revolutionary group) in 1979, but had been captured by Disip and had then begun to work for the organisation…nobody knew about this situation and they were accepted by the group.”
The group had organised a meeting in order to consolidate the movement’s plans for the 8th of May. Machado describes how the movement’s leaders began to make their way to the designated meeting place on the 7th of May, with the rest of the movement expected to arrive the following day.
“Alirio Rebanales and Antonio Rojas took us to a place in the area, they split us into two groups, one went up with them and the other group, which I was in, waited…There were 9 who went up and 6 of us who stayed…When all of a sudden we heard gun shots and we threw ourselves to the floor. We heard them calling us by our names, telling us to surrender, but what we did was to flee from the area.”
Machado describes how his group managed to escape, spending 16 nights in the mountains, whereas the group of 9 were tortured and then executed.
The bodies of Luis Rafael Guzmán Green, Carlos Silva Rodríguez, Dilia Rojas, Ronald José Morao Salgado, Nelson Martín Castellano, José Rosendo Silva Medina, Pedro Pablo Jiménez García, Rafael Ramón Quevedo Infante and José Romero Madrid were then dressed up as guerrillas by the four agents, who claimed that they had been ambushed by insurgents while patrolling and had acted in self defence – an account which was reaffirmed by Octavio Lepage, Minister of Internal Relations.
An investigation ordered by the Ministry of Defence confirmed this series of events – despite serious discrepancies between the official story and evidence discovered at the scene.
Although the agents claimed they had been ambushed in woodland area, photographs showed an area with few trees, inappropriate for a guerrilla ambush. The backpacks worn by the victims also showed no signs of perforation or damage, despite the fact that many of the bodies had gun-shot wounds in the dorsal region.
Further examination also confirmed that many of the victims had been tortured, several of whom also received an execution-style coup de grace to the head – inconsistent with the agents’ accounts that they acted defensively.
“Motivation” for the Costa Rican Government?
Despite the Bolivarian government’s commitment to ‘no more impunity’, several of the accused have fled the country, greatly hindering the justice process. One of the main figures wanted in connection with the massacre is Henry Lopez Sisco, who was head of Disip at the time.
Sisco has been living in Costa Rica since 2006 and is wanted by the Venezuelan government on various charges including; pre-meditated murder, false testimony, false imprisonment and the falsification of documents.
At the end of 2009 an official request for Sisco’s extradition to Venezuela was submitted to the Costa Rican government, who then released a warrant for his capture in April 2010 in order to ‘examine the request for expedition’.
In a statement to the television station VTV, Navas said that the judgement on Sanchéz would act as ‘motivation’ for the Costa Rican government to extradite Sisco – who is also wanted in connection with the massacres of El Amparo, La Cauntara, the Caracazo of 1989 and the siege of the Cuban embassy during the 2002 opposition-led coup.
Regarding Philip Weiss’s recent post “Lobbying for Syrian dictatorship, Israel leaves no doubt about its support for counterrevolution in Arab world,” I believe there’s far stronger evidence, contrary to the assertions of Ben Wedeman and Ted Koppel, that Israel is actually supportive of revolution throughout the Arab world.
The clearest example of Israeli support for pro-democracy Arab dissidents is an organization called CyberDissidents.org. It was launched in 2008 by the Adelson Institute, then chaired by Natan Sharansky. The Adelson Institute was located at the Netanyahu-linked Shalem Center, financed by Ronald Lauder and on whose board Bill Kristol sits. Directed by Sharansky protégé, David Keyes, CyberDissidents.org was created “to research and focus attention on the online activities of democracy advocates and dissidents in the Middle East, in the hope of empowering them at home and raising awareness of their plight abroad.” Advising Keyes was neocon guru Bernard Lewis, who would have been very much at home at the 2007 Prague conference organized by Sharansky on “Democracy & Security” (whose participants reminded one Middle East analyst of Murder, Inc!). Also in attendance were some of the neocons’ favourite Arab dissidents. All of this is covered in more detail in my article “Arab Dissidents’ Strange Bedfellows.”
Moreover, CyberDissidents.org is only the tip of the iceberg. Check out, for example, the Saban Center’s Project on Middle East Democracy and Development (MEDD), WINEP’s Project Fikra, and the CFR’s Middle East Program to see how keenly pro-Israelis have for some time been promoting “democratic change” throughout the Middle East. Then there’s the prominence of pro-Israelis at “democracy promotion” near-governmental organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House, as well as “NGOs” like the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (a subject which Jeff Blankfort and I recently discussed on his radio programme). There’s also Joshua Muravchik’s 2009 book, The Next Founders: Voices of Democracy in the Middle East. In fact, the list of pro-Israelis who have enthusiastically backed what Shimon Peres approvingly refers to as the Arab “awakening” goes on and on…
The White House’s “death of bin Laden” story has come apart at the seams. Will it make any difference that before 48 hours had passed the story had changed so much that it no longer bore any resemblance to President Obama’s Sunday evening broadcast and has lost all credibility?
So far it has made no difference to the once-fabled news organization, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which on March 9, eight days later, is still repeating the propaganda that the SEALs killed bin Laden in his Pakistani compound, where bin Laden lived next door to the Pakistani Military Academy surrounded by the Pakistani army.
Not even the president of Pakistan finds the story implausible. The BBC reports that the president is launching a full-scale investigation of how bin Laden managed to live for years in an army garrison town without being noticed.
For most Americans the story began and ended with four words: “we got bin Laden.” The celebrations, the sweet taste of revenge, of triumph and victory over “the most dangerous man on the planet” are akin to the thrill experienced by sports fans when their football team defeats the unspeakable rival or their baseball team wins the World Series. No fan wants to hear the next day that it is not so, that it is all a mistake. If these Americans years from now come across a story that the killing of bin Laden was an orchestrated news event to boost other agendas, they will dismiss the report as the ravings of a pinko-liberal-commie.
Everyone knows we killed bin Laden. How could it be otherwise? We–the indispensable people, the virtuous nation, the world’s only superpower, the white hats– were destined to prevail. No other outcome was possible.
No one will notice that those who fabricated the story forgot to show the kidney dialysis machine that, somehow, kept bin Laden alive for a decade. No doctors were on the premises.
No one will remember that Fox News reported in December, 2001, that Osama bin Laden had passed away from his illnesses.
If bin Laden beat all odds and managed to live another decade to await, unarmed and undefended, the arrival of the Navy SEALS last week, how is it possible that the “terror mastermind,” who defeated not merely the CIA and FBI, but all 16 US intelligence agencies along with those of America’s European allies and Israel, the National Security Council, the Pentagon, NORAD, Air Traffic Control, airport security four times on the same morning, etc. etc., never enjoyed another success, not even a little, very minor one? What was the “terror mastermind” doing for a decade after 9/11?
The “death of bin Laden” serves too many agendas that cover the political spectrum for the obvious falsity of the story to be recognized by very many. Patriots are euphoric that America won over bin Laden. Progressives have seized on the story to excoriate the United States for extra-judicial murder that brutalizes us all. Some on the left-wing bought into the 9/11 story because of the emotional satisfaction they received from oppressed Arabs striking back at their imperialist oppressors. These left-wingers are delighted that it took the incompetent Americans an entire decade to find bin Laden, who was hiding in plain view. The American incompetence in finding bin Laden simply, in their minds, proves the incompetence of the US government, which failed to protect Americans against the 9/11 attack.
Those who ordered, and those who wrote, totally incompetent legal memos that torture was permissible under US and international law, thereby setting up George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for the possibility of prosecution, are riding the euphoria of bin Laden’s death by declaring that it was torture that led the American assassins to bin Laden. All of a sudden, torture, which had fallen back into the disrepute in which it had been for centuries, is again in the clear. Anything that leads to the elimination of bin Laden is a valid instrument.
Those, who want to increase the pressure on Pakistan to shut up about Americans murdering Pakistani citizens in Pakistan from the air and from troops on the ground, have gained a new club with which to beat the Pakistani government into submission: “you hid bin Laden from us.”
Those who want to continue to fatten the profits of the military/security complex and the powers of Homeland Security, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, use bin Laden’s second, or ninth, death as proof that America is being successful in its war on terror and that the war must continue on such a successful path until all enemies are slain.
Most ominous of all was the statement by the CIA director that bin Laden’s death would lead to new attacks on America and new 9/11s from al Qaeda seeking revenge. This warning, issued within a few hours of President Obama’s Sunday evening address, telegraphed the inevitable “al Qaeda” Internet posting that America would suffer new 9/11s for killing their leader.
If the Taliban knew in December 2001 that bin Laden was dead, does anyone think that al Qaeda didn’t know it? Indeed, no member of the public has any way of knowing if al Qaeda is anything more than a bogyman organization created by the CIA which issues “al Qaeda” announcements. The evidence that al Qaeda’s announcements are issued by the CIA is very strong. The various videos of bin Laden for the last nine years have been shown by experts to be fakes. Why would bin Laden issue a fake video? Why did bin Laden cease issuing videos and only issue audios? A person running a world-wide terrorist organization should be able to produce videos. He would also be surrounded by better protectors than a couple of women. Where was al Qaeda, which according to former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, consists of “the most dangerous, best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the earth.” Had these most dangerous men alive abandoned their leader?
The CIA director’s warning of future terrorist attacks, followed by a suspect “al Qaeda” threat of the same, suggests that if the American public continues to lose its enthusiasm for the governments open-ended wars, which are conducted at the expense of the US budget deficit, the dollar’s exchange value, inflation, Social Security, Medicare, income support programs, jobs, recovery, and so forth, “al Qaeda” will again outwit all 16 US intelligence agencies, those of our allies, NORAD, airport security, Air Traffic Control, etc. etc., and inflict the world’s only superpower with another humiliating defeat that will invigorate American support for “the war on terror.”
I believe that “al Qaeda” could blow up the White House or Congress or both and that the majority of Americans would fall for the story, just as the Germans, a better educated and more intelligent population, fell for the Reichstag Fire–as did a number of historians.
The reason I say this is that Americans have succumbed to propaganda that has conditioned them to believe that they are under attack by practically omnipotent adversaries. Proof of this is broadcast every day. For example, on March 9, I heard over National Public Radio in Atlanta that Emory University, a private university of some distinction, treated its 3,500 graduating class to a commencement address by Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security.
This is the agency that has goons feeling the genitals of young children and adults and which has announced that it intends to expand this practice from air travelers to shopping malls, bus and train stations. That a serious university invited such a low-lifer, who clearly has no respect for American civil liberty and is devoid of any sort of sense of what is appropriate, to address a graduating class of southern elite is a clear indication that the Ministry of Truth has prevailed. Americans are living in George Orwell’s 1984.
For those who haven’t read Orwell’s classic prediction of our time, Big Brother, the government, could tell the “citizens” any lie and it was accepted unquestioningly. As a perceptive reader pointed out to me, we Americans, with our “free press,” are at this point today: “What is really alarming is the increasingly arrogant sloppiness of these lies, as though the government has become so profoundly confident of its ability to deceive people that they make virtually no effort to even appear credible.”
A people as gullible as Americans have no future.