Writing in The National Interest, John R. Schmidt expresses some much-needed scepticism regarding the allegations that Pakistan’s military intelligence service was responsible for the murder of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad:
If ISI was responsible for murdering Shahzad, it may well have been a first. … But why would ISI choose Shahzad as its first victim? He was not a big-name journalist, nor was he among those who raised embarrassing questions about ISI and the army over the Abbottabad raid on bin Laden. His Karachi-naval-base story did not accuse ISI of improper conduct, and it is not clear why it would have killed him over a story that, if it embarrassed anyone, would have embarrassed the Pakistani Navy, a relatively minor player in the nation’s military firmament. […]
But the fact remains that senior U.S. officials told the New York Times they had “reliable and conclusive” intelligence that ISI was responsible.
Schmidt might have asked who those “senior U.S. officials” are, and whether they might also have a motive for discrediting the ISI. As Justin Raimondo pointed out in a recent Antiwar.com piece,
While keeping the heat on for a direct attack on Iran, the powerful pro-Israel lobby — the driving force behind the anti-Iran crowd — is biding its time, confident they’ll win in the end. In the meantime, they are carefully building up momentum for the final push toward war, and a key part of that is agitating for a complete break in US-Pakistan relations.
The Lobby’s fingerprints are all over the latest anti-Pakistani agitprop. It was one Simon Henderson, described as the resident “expert” on Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), who recently released an alleged letter from a top official of the North Korean regime “proving” Pakistan supplied Pyongyang with nuclear technology. WINEP was founded by Martin Indyk, former research director of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), as an “academic” adjunct to AIPAC, the primary conduit of pro-Israel propaganda in the US.
Considering such efforts by the Israel lobby to undermine US-Pakistan relations, isn’t it highly probable that the senior U.S. officials attempting to discredit the ISI also have close ties to Israel? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that the New York Times has served as a conduit for “reliable and conclusive” intelligence from American officials with questionable loyalties that turned out to be false. If Pakistan is to avoid the fate of Iraq, it had better identify clearly the source of its rapidly deteriorating relationship with a United States that has proven itself prone to self-destructive deception from that same source — and take action accordingly.
The Israeli Education Ministry has published new guidelines to Israeli kindergarten school teachers to raise the Israeli flag and sing the Israeli anthem every week with their students. The directive is part of new guidelines for Israeli kindergarten teachers published last week, according to Haaretz.
The plans will not be implemented in Palestinian Israeli schools.
The plans should come into effect come the new school year in September.
Nowhere in the new directive are there guidelines for teachers regarding teaching democratic or liberal values.
Reacting to the news, which comes during a long line of controversial Israeli laws aimed at suppressing dissent in Israeli society including the Boycott and Nakba laws, Prof. Gabi Solomon of the University of Haifa, an Israel Prize laureate for education, said that “it looks like a competition between members of the Likud to see who can push us faster into the arms of fascism”.
Prof. Yaron Ezrahi, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, offering a tongue in cheek analysis of the directive, said it should be implemented earlier. “Instead of wrapping the babies in a white sheet, they should wrap them in an Israeli flag, and hang Israeli flags over every bassinet, and make sure that in the delivery room they play ‘Hatikva’ in the background,” Ezrahi said.
In January Israeli teachers petitioned Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar to take action against the rising levels of racism among Israeli students targeted against Palestinians and Arabs.
Israeli teachers, speaking to YNet, gave personnel accounts of the racism they encountered in Israeli classrooms and spoke of skipping controversial sections in civics class to avoid inciting heated discussion.
“The teachers are truly despaired, they are exhausted, and some of them feel that mentally, dealing with the students is difficult,” said Myriam Darmoni-Sharvit, head of the civics faculty at the Center for Educational Technology. “When they are in the classroom, they feel like they are in a battlefield, which is why they often act to ‘survive’ and choose to skip chapters or teach the material through dry dictation in order to keep the calm.”
The Education Ministry has been working heavily to increase Israeli student’s Jewish and Zionist outlook. Minister Gideon Sa’ar has initiated a range of new programmes in schools towards this goal including school trips to the City of David in the Palestinian district of Silwan in Jerusalem, trips to Hebron as well as adopting a grave of a Israeli soldier killed in combat.
- Arab justice’s refusal to sing Israeli anthem ignites debate on national identity (altahrir.wordpress.com)
For ten days in June, Milan was the site of a promotional event aimed at presenting “the other side of Israel,” in the words of the Israeli Ambassador to Italy Gideon Meir. Known as “Unexpected Israel,” the event was sponsored by both the Italian and Israeli governments, along with local city and provincial authorities.
When details of the event were first announced in December 2010, it was projected to cost 2.5 million euros ($3.6 million US) and to include a 900-square-meter plexiglass pavilion featuring Israeli technological and cultural wonders in Piazza Duomo, Milan’s main square. In the end, Piazza Duomo hosted nothing more than a small multimedia installation: 15 amplified pedestals spouting classics of Israeli hasbara (propaganda) to the few visitors who dared enter the fenced-off, heavily guarded area.
A pedestal dedicated to agriculture boasted, “For thousands of years, this was an arid, barren land, mostly desert. In just sixty years, Israel transformed the desert into an agricultural miracle,” giving credence to the idea that no agriculture — and by implication, no people — existed in the land before the creation of the State of Israel.
The installation on water also talked of transforming “an arid land into a fertile paradise.” There was no mention that this transformation was made possible through water stolen from Palestinians or that Palestinian access to their own water supplies was severely restricted. In the water-rich West Bank region of the Jordan Valley, in what should be a “fertile paradise” for the Palestinians, the land is occupied by the Israeli military: 44 percent has been designated closed military zones and 50 percent has been appropriated by 37 illegal Israeli settlements and plantations, according to a report by the Ma’an Development Center (“Report: Eye on the Jordan Valley,” 2010 [PDF]).
The Ma’an Development Center released another report on the water crisis in the Jordan Valley. They state that since 1967, Israel has blocked Palestinian access to 162 water wells (“Report: Draining Away: The water and sanitation crisis in the Jordan Valley“ [PDF]).
This is happening while the approximately 9,000 settlers in the Jordan Valley consume one-quarter of the resources used annually by all 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, according to statistics from Human Rights Watch (“Separate and Unequal,” 19 December 2010).
The tourism and Holy Land pedestal installations quietly ventured beyond Israel’s boundaries to include Bethlehem, Jericho and Qumran, without ever mentioning that these sites are in the occupied West Bank.
Celebrities used to sell Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv was presented as a non-stop, fun-loving, multicultural city with a “vibrant and classy” gay scene, a city “that loves you just as you are.” Video clips of performances in Tel Aviv by international stars such as Madonna and Paul McCartney were used to present Israel as a normal western-style country, confirming that artists who choose to ignore the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel become its unofficial ambassadors.
Representatives of nearly fifty Israeli companies, along with 150 Italian entrepreneurs, attended the Italian-Israeli Business Forum held at the Milan Stock Exchange, together with the Israeli minister of industry, the Italian undersecretary for economic development and the presidents of the Lombardy region and Milan province. More than 400 bilateral business-to-business meetings were organized in the afternoon, divided into four sectors: water technologies, security, medical and new media.
A look at some of the Israeli companies participating reveals direct ties with the occupation and violations of international law.
According to Who Profits? — a project of the Coalition of Women for Peace in Israel — Magar S3 provides security systems along 150 kilometers of Israel’s wall in the West Bank as well as eight Israeli settlements (“Magal security systems”).
J Gordon Consulting Engineers designed the security systems for Nafha prison, where 94 percent of the incarcerated are Palestinian political prisoners (see its website, “Main activities, by region: Israel”).
Athena GS3 was founded by Shabtai Shavit, a former head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, and boasts a team of “security experts from the Israeli elite intervention units” such as commandos and Navy Seals. Naval commando units carried out the attacks on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May last year, killing nine activists, and have been trained to intercept the current second flotilla.
Netanyahu: Israel has no “better friend” than Berlusconi
As “Unexpected Israel” got underway in Milan, an Israeli-Italian intergovernmental summit was taking place in Rome. Prime Ministers Silvio Berlusconi and Benjamin Netanyahu, along with eight ministers from each country, signed nine bilateral agreements. In the joint statement, Berlusconi also reaffirmed “the Italian government’s firm opposition to any form of delegitimization or boycotts against Israel (“Vertice Intergovernativo Italo-Israeliano,” 13 June 2011).
Among the bilateral agreements, the ministries of foreign affairs from both countries undertook to evaluate exchange programs for young diplomats, public figures and journalists, as well as intensifying youth exchange programs “with the scope of creating friendships among the younger generations of both countries.”
The ministries of education agreed to create a teacher-training program in Holocaust education, with Italian high school teachers taking part in courses at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem.
On 13 June, during a joint press conference in Rome, Berlusconi affirmed: “We have always been and will always be on your side because Israel is the only true democracy in the entire region.” Netanyahu, stating that Israel has “no better friend,” also noted that the bilateral agreements were “not merely technical agreements, they are a bond, a growing bond in modern times, in the beginning of the 21st century between the people of Italy and the people of Israel” (“Press Conference with PM Netanyahu and Italian PM Berlusconi,” Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 14 June 2011).
While Israel endeavored to salvage its image and bond with Italian private industry and public institutions, activists took to the streets in Milan to give visibility to what “Unexpected Israel” tried so desperately to conceal. As Piero Maestri of the campaign group No to the Israeli Occupation of Milan asked, “Would anyone have accepted an event called ‘Unexpected South Africa’ while [Nelson] Mandela was still in prison?”
On Friday, 11 June, just before the official events began, activists dressed in white marched to Piazza Duomo behind a banner that read “322 children killed: Unexpected Israel” and read aloud the names of each child killed in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip in the winter of 2008-09.
A daily presence was maintained at the entrance to the multimedia installation in Piazza Duomo, where an alternative version of “Unexpected Israel” postcards were distributed, including images of the Nakba (the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948), racist t-shirts worn by Israeli soldiers, the destruction in Gaza and graffiti in the West Bank city of Hebron that reads “Arabs to the gas chambers.” Posters for the protests showing the Duomo — Milan’s cathedral — behind Israel’s wall were found throughout the city’s center.
Ambassador Meir soon learned he could not walk the streets of Milan without being challenged. As he walked from Piazza Duomo, surrounded by Italian police officers, an activist managed to slowly work her way into the crowd and confront Meir with photos of demolished houses in Silwan, occupied East Jerusalem. Another unfurled a banner reading “Stop Agrexco: Boycott the Fruit of Israeli Apartheid” behind Meir as he spoke to the television cameras inside the multimedia installation.
Unexpected gift for Agrexco
On Friday, 17 June, an “unexpected gift” was delivered to the Italian headquarters of the Israeli produce exporter Agrexco in Milan. Activists from the Stop Agrexco campaign, which calls for a boycott of the company, delivered baskets of rotten fruit symbolizing Palestinian agricultural products rotting at Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank (“VIDEO: BDS action against the Agrexco headquarters in Milan, Italy,” 25 June 2011).
On Saturday, 18 June, thousands filled the streets of Milan, arriving from Rome, Florence, Bologna and Turin, for a protest march followed by a concert by Gaza rappers DARG Team.
And as “Unexpected Israel” came to a close on 22 June, a replica of the Stefano Chiarini, the Italian boat that is taking part in the second Freedom Flotilla, arrived on the square. In the form of a child’s boat made of newspapers — fitting for the boat carrying the name of the late Italian journalist and Palestine solidarity activist — the three-meter replica “sailed” around the talking pedestals, the megaphone of the protesters drowning out the propaganda.
The ten-day event, while securing the support of Berlusconi’s government and those Italian firms willing to do business with an apartheid state, did little to win the hearts and minds of the people of Milan. Once again — in contrast to the cowardice of governments and institutions — it was a grassroots movement that mobilized to hold Israel accountable for its violations of human rights and international law.
Stephanie Westbrook is a US citizen who has been living in Rome, Italy since 1991. She is active in the peace and social justice movements in Italy. She can be reached at steph AT webfabbrica DOT com.
CAIRO — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has received strong criticism after naming Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
In closing statements, the administrators of Palestinian affairs conference in Cairo addressed UNESCO’s calling Jerusalem Israel’s capital on its website, declaring it a violation of international law and the UN General Assembly’s decision declaring the city a part of the occupied Palestinian territories.
The conference, which stretched over four days, recommended that the Arab League general secretariat follow the situation and try to reverse it. It suggested sending a letter to the UN general secretariat and UNESCO discussing the seriousness of the situation.
It also called for twinning Arab capitals with the holy city and called on educational and cultural organizations to twin with Jerusalem organizations to ensure support for the city and its Palestinian natives.
In addition, the conference called on the Arab League to continue discussing the possibility of prosecuting Israel in national and international courts for its violations against Jerusalem and its people.
The conference also made a focus of the affairs of Palestinian refugees and addressed the UN Relief Works Agency’s removal of the words “relief works” from its title. It said that recent calls for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state were aimed at relinquishing the refugees’ right of return.
The hosting Arab states called on donor states to fulfill obligations concerning UNRWA’s budget, emphasizing the need to cover the agency’s 2010-11 deficit to ensure that it can execute its programs according to previous budgets.
BETHLEHEM — Israeli naval forces attacked an international third party monitor on Wednesday in Gazan territorial waters.
Civil Peace Service Gaza works as part of a non-violent initiative to monitor human rights abuses in Gaza.
Israeli forces fired at the CPS Gaza monitoring boat, the Oliva, with water cannons on Wednesday at 12.05 p.m local time, a statement by the organization said.
There were four people aboard at the time, two CPS Gaza members, the captain and a journalist.
“We were fewer than two miles away from the Gaza coast when they fired at us. We saw them firing water at some fishing boats so we headed to the area. When we got close, the warships left the fishing boats, and turned on us.
“They attacked us for about ten minutes, following us as we tried to head to shore and eventually lagged when we reached about one mile off the Gaza coast,” British human rights worker Ruqaya Al-Samarrai said.
A fishing boat was also fired at and damaged with live rounds.
An Israeli army spokesman said he was unaware of the incident.
The Gazan fishing community is often similarly targeted and the fishing limit is enforced with comparable aggression, with boats shot at or rammed as near as 2 nautical miles to the coast by Israeli gunboats, CBS Gaza added.
A marine blockade imposed by Israel restricts Gazan fisherman from accessing eighty five percent of Gaza’s fishing waters as agreed upon under the Oslo agreements.
Following the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006 the Israeli navy imposed a complete sea blockade on the Gaza Strip for several months.
After Hamas took control of the coastal enclave in 2007, Israel limited fishing access to 3 nautical miles from the coast.
During the Oslo accords negotiators had agreed upon 20 nautical miles of fishing access along Gaza’s coastline.
Rights groups have condemned the blockade of Gaza as a form of collective punishment of the 1.6 million residents.
A recent survey conducted in Germany has revealed that the people of the European country perceive the United States as a more serious threat to global peace than Iran.
Results from the opinion poll carried out by the German social research and statistical analysis, Forsa, indicate that 45 percent of those surveyed believe that the US is a more serious threat to world peace than Iran.
Twenty-eight percent of the respondents deemed Iran a bigger threat than the US, with 27 percent unable to choose between the two.
The survey, which questioned 1,500 German adults on June 17-29, 2011, did not include other choices such as Israel, which analysts introduce as a better-known threat to peace in the world’s public opinion.
The results of the Forsa study come at a time when the US, the only country to have ever used nuclear bombs against another nation, is attempting to put mounting international pressure on Iran to force the Islamic Republic to halt its peaceful nuclear program.
Meanwhile, a new poll released on Wednesday cast light on the dissatisfaction of a vast majority of the people in the Arab world with US President Barack Obama and his administration’s policies in the Middle East.
The poll conducted by the Arab American Institute in the six Arab nations of Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) demonstrated that the Obama administration is viewed less favorably in much of the Arab world today than that of his predecessor George W. Bush during his last year in office.
Only 5 percent of Egyptians surveyed said they have a favorable opinion of the US and its president. The same figure was 10 percent in Jordan and 12 percent in the UAE.
The poll also found that 88 percent of Moroccans think that Obama has not met the expectations laid out in his 2009 “Cairo speech.”
Disappointment with the US was highest in Lebanon, where 99 percent of the respondents disapproved of Obama’s policies. In Saudi Arabia, 77 percent of the respondents said they felt betrayed by the US.