Though it has been decades since the Cold War came to a close, the United States government spends more money on nuclear warheads now than it did during its stand-off with the Soviet Union.
As the US vows to cut down its arsenal of nuclear weapons, the amount the country spends annually on maintaining its supply is much more than America invested each year during the Cold War. Estimates suggest that currently the US puts around $55 billion annually into its nuclear weapons program, reports Mother Jones; by comparison, the cost of the nuke complex for the country during the Cold War ran at an average of only $35 billion each year.
Only three months into his presidency, Barack Obama said in April 2009 that he envisioned an Earth in the future fee of nuclear weapons. Just two years later, however, America’s arsenal of those warheads amounts to roughly 2,500 nukes ready to be deployed.
It was only less than two weeks ago that the United States finally dismantled its largest atomic bomb, the B53, which was said to be 600 times more powerful than the nuke that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan towards the finale of the Second World War. As that nuke was dismantled, Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Poneman told NPR that the bomb was a “Cold War relic” and showed the direction of dismantling that the United States was heading towards.
Even if the country is cutting back on its nukes, the United States has a backup stash larger than the active bombs, allowing for the country to in total have 5,113 nuclear warheads in its position. The surplus of not-quite-ready nukes is at 2,600, and though they cannot be deployed at a drop of a hat like the others, they can be reanimated as full-fledged warheads.
Peter Fedewa of the pro-disarmament Ploughshares Fund says that those nukes “could be ‘raised from the dead’ and brought back into deployment with relative ease.”
Under the START treaty that the US signed with Russia last year, both countries vow to soon enough limit their stash of active warheads to only 1,500. The document does not, however, say how many back-up nukes either country can have. In the interim, Mother Jones reports that the Pantex plant near Amarillo, Texas holds around 3,000 warheads that are on the schedule to be dismantled, something America used to do at a pace of around 1,300 per year. Last year, however, both Congress and the White House said that the country would cut back on the cost of dismantling the warheads and instead now invest the money on the upkeep of already dead nukes.
At the country’s current rate, dismantling the thousands of atomic nukes would take longer than a decade Joe Cirincione, a longtime analyst of nuclear weapons policy, tells NPR. Currently, only around 250 warheads are dismantled at Pantex each year.
It doesn’t help that the country is more interested in revamping the retired nukes than pulling the plug on them entirely, either.
In 2012, the country will spend $4.1 billion on the “refurbishment” of retired nukes, while only a fraction of that — $57 million — will be invested in dismantling them. That figure accounts for less than one percent of the country’s total budget for the nuclear program. In all, America’s nuclear program operates at a cost of around $55 billion, which is spread across the Departments of Defense, Energy and Homeland Security. Despite Obama’s instance on curbing the program, the tally of funding is believed to have gone up by around $3 billion since only 2008, which at the time accounted for five times the budget of the Department of State — or 14 times what the Energy Department spends on everything else.
“The same facilities that dismantle U.S. nuclear warheads are also refurbishing US warheads,” Cirincione adds to NPR. “And right now a decision has been made to prioritize refurbishment. So we’re actually building more nuclear weapons than we’re dismantling. That didn’t use to be the case, but it is now.”
When weapons are dismantled at the current snail’s pace, the risks in place are of immense danger as well. “There are very strict manuals on exactly what you have to do,” Hans Kristensen, spokesman for the Federation of American Scientists, tells MSNBC. “How much pressure can you apply to each screw, what kind of glue holds the chemical high explosives together around the spear of highly enriched uranium.”
Both Russia and America have agreed to have an arsenal of only 1,550 deployed nukes come 2018, only a fraction of the 22,000-plus on hand at the end of the Cold War. Obama told an audience in Prague in 2009 he aimed “To put an end to Cold War thinking,” adding that America “will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same.” As the country is investing more money in rebuilding nukes than kicking them to the curb, however, will the president follow through with his plea or will it be added to the list of other promises gone unfulfilled?
Mainly due to our long experience of colonisation, many Irish have been staunch supporters of the dispossessed and oppressed Palestinians. In 2009, Ambassador Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, singled out Ireland as one of the few Western nations to vote for the UN resolution supporting the Goldstone Report detailing Israeli war crimes in Gaza. In June this year, the Irish Ship to Gaza (ISG) campaign claimed that their vessel, the Saoirse (Freedom), was sabotaged by Israel while berthed in the Turkish port of Gocek. And only last Friday, Israeli commandos boarded the Saoirse in international waters off Gaza and detained an Irish Member of the European Parliament on board.
Sadly, some of Ireland’s most prominent institutions appear to be less principled. David Cronin, the author of Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation, has written an important piece in Politico.ie detailing the complicity of one of Ireland’s EU Commissioners, many Irish universities, and Ireland’s “newspaper of record” with Israel’s war industry:
Ensconced in Brussels, the only controversy Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has been embroiled in over the past few years related to her bloated income. While she has displayed remarkable chutzpah in seeking to draw down both a European commissioner’s salary and Oireachtas and ministerial pensions, her personal greed is of little consequence compared to her abetting of Israel’s crimes against humanity.
Israel is the most active non-European participant in the EU’s multi-annual scientific research programme, which Geoghegan-Quinn administers. According to the European Commission’s own data, Israel is currently involved in 800 EU-financed research activities with a total value of €4.3 billion. What the Commission is less eager to spell out is that the beneficiaries of this largesse include weapons manufacturers and technology firms that supply Israel with the tools of repression and occupation.
The Irish Times regularly publishes columns on the EU’s research activities by Conor O’Carroll from the Irish Universities Association. Because the seven universities O’Carroll represents receive funding from the EU’s science programme, he has a direct interest in presenting that programme in a positive light. Although the Irish Times is nominally committed to informed debate, its editors have told me on several occasions that they would not have space on their pages for an article explaining how Irish academics cooperate with Israel’s war industry.
Trinity College Dublin, for example, is taking part in a €14.5 million EU-financed project called Total Airport Security System (TASS), under which new surveillance equipment will be installed in Heathrow Airport ahead of next year’s Olympic Games in London. Among the other participants in the TASS consortium are Elbit, a company that has helped install surveillance equipment in the apartheid wall that Israel is building in the West Bank. Elbit was also one of two makers of the pilotless drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs) with which Israel attacked Gaza in 2008 and 2009.
When ruling that the West Bank wall was illegal, the International Court of Justice stated in 2004 that public authorities throughout the world had an obligation not to render any aid or assistance to its construction. Norway – a country outside the EU – has taken that verdict sufficiently seriously to order that its state-owned pension scheme divest from Elbit. Yet Geoghegan-Quinn and her officials continue to subsidise that same company.
The University of Limerick is involved in a €70 million project called Maaximus for developing “more affordable” aircraft than those currently in use. Other participants in this project include Israel Aerospace Industries, another firm that has worked on the West Bank wall and provided warplanes used to kill civilians in Gaza.
University College Cork, meanwhile, is trying to give credence to the Israeli myth that it is saving the world from terrorist attacks. UCC is the official coordinator of an EU-funded project called CommonSense, which is focused on developing sensors for detecting bombs containing radioactive materials. This project also involves the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Israeli Institute for Technology in Haifa. Better known as the Technion, that institute has been responsible for such innovations as a remote-controlled bulldozer, explicitly intended for use in demolishing Palestinian homes.
The past years have seen a rise in non-violent activism against the Israeli occupation and against the blockade of Gaza. It is quite important to realize that the success or failure of these actions usually does not depend on the achievement of the direct physical aim of the protest, but much more on the indirect symbolical effects of it. Seen from this point of view, we can safely say that most of the protest activities of non-violent activism undertaken for the Palestinian cause in recent times have been quite successful – including the recent Freedom Waves Flotilla.
It is very important to realize this, since the feedback of success can be instrumental in keeping a good thing going. It is also important because it seems as if some of those who either engage in these kinds of activities or support them, sometimes focus too much on the direct aim of the protest, and therefore consider a mission failed when it gets sabotaged by an Israeli response. Let’s have a look at why this is not necessarily the case, and why, in fact, the response of the Israeli military can sometimes be the essential instrument of success when waging a non-violent struggle for Palestine.
Non-violent resistance depends to a large extent on symbolism, in any case much more than it depends on pragmatism. There are many ways in which this can be illustrated, and having a look at some vivid examples will undoubtedly shed more light on these principles.
The Intifada Principle
The Palestinian Intifada of 1987, often called the ‘First Intifada’, was a huge success of non-violent struggle. The world sat in shock as they witnessed the unimaginable lethal cruelty with which the Israeli army responded to stone-throwing youths, using tanks, machine guns, and the most sophisticated weaponry available to mankind in those days. Without the First Intifada, there would today be no worldwide recognition for Palestinian self-determination and independence in the Occupied Territories.
If we had looked at this activity with a pragmatic eye, we would have said: a stone against a machine gun, or even a tank? What fool thinks he can win this way? But the truth is that overall, the First Intifada was a historical feat of mass popular resistance which today still inspires many peoples in the world in shaping their struggles for justice and human rights. One of the main things that made it successful was the lack of Israeli understanding in how to deal with this challenge. They chose the simplistic response of meeting unarmed protests with massive military violence, resulting in thousands of dead and wounded, and thus paving the way for a symbolic victory of Palestinian people power over Israeli military might.
When a person without weapons stands up before a machine gun, his defiance of the deterrent power of the weapon breaks the bonds of that deterrence. If the armed person resorts to using the weapon and shooting the unarmed person, he merely provides further proof that this deterrence is broken. If the use of that violence does not result in reinstating the deterrent strength of this weapon, but brings more unarmed people in who defy it, the basis for non-violent success has been created.
Symbolism versus Pragmatism
Whoever is involved in organizing non-violent activities, should always keep in mind that in a battle against an economically and/or militarily superior force, symbolism counts stronger than pragmatism. The 2010 Freedom Flotilla could be viewed as a failed mission: after all, the goods that were meant for humanitarian support never reached the Gazan shores. Nevertheless, the truth is completely different. Freedom Flotilla 2010 was actually the most successful non-violent endeavor ever undertaken by the outside world for the Palestinian cause, and all of this because of the idiotic Israeli decision of sniping 9 Turkish activists to death.
If the Israelis had murdered no one, and had just allowed the Flotilla to deliver the goods, barely anyone today – except those directly involved – would even remember the activity. The humanitarian goods that would have been delivered, would have been used up by now. But because the Freedom Flotilla functioned the way non-violent struggle does, its impact on the scene of international world politics can still be felt today, and is likely to reverberate for many years to come.
The gist of this is not that people necessarily have to die, in order for non-violent activism to be successful. What is important however, is to understand that it is not the stone itself that has a liberating effect, but the fact that the thrower defies the dangers involved in throwing it. This, in itself, is already a symbolic victory which can have a large impact. In analogy with the example given earlier of how the deterrent effect of a gun can be broken, the mere fact that the 2010 Flotilla Massacre generated only more Flotillas, is a powerful proof of the potential strength of non-violent activism.
Sail on, Freedom Waves
At the time of writing this, 14 Irish activists, 1 Australian, 2 Canadian, and 1 British – 18 in total – remain incarcerated in an Israeli prison for having embarked on the Freedom Waves Flotilla. The ship was seized in international waters by the Israeli Navy and taken to Ashdod. The activists were arrested, in some cases with the use of violence like beating and tasering, and locked up without any due process.
Although the outrage at these Israeli human rights violations and transgressions of international law is hardly at the level where it should be, those who do feel concerned are in some cases voicing their despair at the continued Israeli sabotage of non-violent activist endeavors. In the light of what was said above, they should not feel discouraged, nor should the sailors of the Freedom Waves Flotilla feel as if their brave mission has failed. On the contrary; as long as they are still in Israeli captivity, their mission is still ongoing.
They have already booked the success of launching a Flotilla when no one expected it, What they need now in order for this endeavor to become an increasing success, is a lot of noise from the international community, and growing sounds of appeal to the governments of these nationals to demand their release.
It is of the greatest importance that a comprehensive list of names and photos of the imprisoned activists is compiled, and widely shared through social media. The sailors may be in jail, and the ship may be in the docks, but as far as symbolism is concerned, Freedom Waves is still sailing, and stands a very good chance of reaching its destination.
Tariq Shadid is a Palestinian surgeon living in the Middle East, and has written numerous essays about the Palestinian issue over the years.
On October 25, here at Al Akhbar, I drew attention to Washington Post “Right Turn” columnist Jennifer Rubin’s re-tweet of a call by professional neocon Rachel Abrams for the mass murder of Palestinians. In my post, I urged readers to write Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton and inquire if the Post has a policy regarding staffers who promote mass murder, ethnic violence, and hate speech. Yesterday, Pexton weighed in on the matter in his “Post Roast” column, crediting my post at Al Akhbar with exposing Rubin’s re-tweet.
Pexton asked Rubin if her re-tweet was simply an innocent gesture intended to direct her followers to a widely discussed piece of inflammatory writing, or if it was an explicit endorsement of Abrams’ call for murdering Palestinians, whom she described as “unmanned animals” and “child-sacrificing savages.” Rubin replied matter-of-factly that it was the latter: she supported Abrams’ message. According to Pexton, “But in this case Rubin told me that she did agree with Abrams. Rubin said that she admires Abrams, has quoted her a lot, thinks she’s an excellent writer and endorsed the sentiment behind the Abrams blog post.”
Though Pexton stopped short of calling for Rubin to be fired, he concluded that by endorsing what amounted to a call for mass murder, if not genocide, “Rubin did damage to The Post and the credibility that keeps it afloat.”
Pexton (who has been compelled to protect Rubin before) added in Rubin’s defense that “The Post needs conservative voices to balance its many liberal ones.” However, Rubin is not seen by political conservatives as a standard bearer of their views. Erick Erickson, a prominent right-wing blogger, accurately characterized Rubin as “Likud rather than Republican.” She described herself to Pexton simply as “a pro-Israel blogger.” The only bumper sticker on her car reads: “JERUSALEM IS NOT A SETTLEMENT. It’s Israel’s Eternal And Undivided Capital.” Rubin is nothing more than a Greater Israel fanatic committed above all to the extremist colonies forcibly implanted in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Perhaps the only thing she shares with Tea Party-style conservatives like Erickson is the tendency to exalt American and Israeli violence against Muslims, or those they might call “child sacrificing savages.”
So how does Rubin provide the Washington Post with “balance?” None of the paper’s supposedly liberal columnists are willing to raise a peep in favor of Palestinian rights, and even if they were, they could face harsh reprisals for doing so. Moreover, the Post op-ed page is dominated by neoconservatives and torture enthusiasts whose views on Israel-Palestine are practically identical to Rubin’s. Instead of balancing out the “many liberal” voices at the Post, Rubin simply injects elements of vitriol and Jewish extremism into a droning chorus of ultra-Zionist cant.
To be sure, it is rare for any newspaper ombudsman to call for the termination of a writer. Usually, a withering criticism like the one Pexton published about Rubin would be followed by swift punitive action by the editorial board. At least, that is what would happen inside a decent newsroom where mass murder and hate speech is frowned upon. However, when he was queried by Politico’s Ben Smith about Rubin’s endorsement of Abrams’ genocidal rant, Washington Post op-ed page editor Fred Hiatt rushed to his columnist’s defense.
“I think Jennifer is an excellent journalist and a relentless reporter,” Hiatt declared. “I think because she has strong views, and because she is as willing to take on her home team, as it were, as the visitors, she comes under more scrutiny than many and is often the target of unjustified criticism. I think she brings enormous value to the Post.”
Leaving aside the fact that Rubin’s stated support for mass murdering Palestinians did not seem to trouble Hiatt at all, there are a number of problems with his statement. First of all, Rubin is not a journalist or a reporter, and she never has been. Before Hiatt hired her to blog for the Post, she was a former lawyer who churned out opinion pieces and blog posts expressing stock neoconservative views for movement outlets like the Weekly Standard and Commentary.
Further, Hiatt’s reference to “the home team” and “the visitors” was confusing. Presumably he was alluding to conservatives and liberals, since Rubin often criticizes the Republican opponents of Mitt Romney (Romney is the most pliant marionette the neocons could find among the Republican primary field). But Rubin’s real home team is not the conservative movement or the Republican Party. Her team is called “Judea and Samaria,” and it is comprised of visitors from Brooklyn who intend to displace as many indigenous Palestinians as they can. Contrary to Hiatt’s claim, Rubin is coming under scrutiny for being an advocate of violence and ethnic eliminationism, not for being fiercely independent.
If Rubin had brazenly supported a call for the mass killing of blacks, gays or Jews, the Washington Post would have probably become the target of a boycott campaign organized by a national coalition of civil rights groups. And if Hiatt leapt to her defense, the damage would have spread through the upper echelons of the paper, tainting him and everyone around him. But Rubin was promoting the killing of the Palestinian un-people. And inside the Washington media world, where going along to get along is rule number one, such views are apparently tolerated, if not accepted as legitimate.
But questions remain for the Washington Post editorial board. Does it have a policy on staff writers and opinion columnists promoting violence and hate speech? The editors must assess Rubin’s behavior based on the paper’s ethical guidelines, not the opinions of Hiatt. On the day that Pexton condemned Rubin’s behavior, Rubin retweeted a link to a new tirade by Rachel Abrams. Given her recidivist tendencies, the damage to the Post might only be beginning.
Achieving much needed international recognition of Palestine’s right to exist on one hand, and potentially sealing the disenfranchisement of Palestinian rights, particularly those of state-less refugees, on the other. It’s like being stuck between a rock and hard place, isn’t it?
The Statehood Argument, Bottom-lined
We have what appears to be a well thought-out strategy by the Palestinian government in the West Bank to demand a permanent seat at the UN. Hussam Zomlot, Fatah’s senior official in the Department of Foreign Relations, outlined the strategy clearly on Al Jazeera:
“There are three main benefits that have directed or inspired our move – legal, political, and strategic. Legally: this will establish a legal parity, as a state. The main idea is for defence, to prevent an attack. There is a lot of talk about the ICC and how as a state we can pursue cases through them […] Legally, a Palestinian state is a deterrent weapon […] We are not going to engage in attacks like Israel does. Our deterrent is international law. Soldiers at checkpoints will think twice before hurting a lady at the border. In political terms: we have won half of the exercise […] We have reinforced forcefully on the international agenda the need for a Palestinian state. Now every single activist and journalist has been speaking about Palestine. Thus our political cause has already been achieved. Strategically: our interest is to challenge the status quo. You may ask: ‘How this will challenge the status quo? How has Israel sustained the status quo for nearly twenty years?’ The bilateral process has led nowhere, and one of the tools to sustain the status quo was negotiations themselves. We stopped that, and we stopped that strategically. Negotiations under the previous terms were just prolonging negotiations. The terms of reference were created and accepted by Israel before we even started. We are not going back to the old days of nonsense.”
Sounds like proper stuff. But Israel was never afraid of the legal card in the first place. In fact, its very raison d’etre in the West Bank and Gaza is illegal according to both the UN and the ICC. Strategically, Mahmoud Abbas contradicted Zomlot’s third point by declaring that he is still open to negotiations with the Israelis after his speech.
A few questions, then:
1. Why has the decision been unilaterally taken by Mahmoud Abbas without a consensus from all factions representing the Palestinian people?
2. Why hasn’t the PA been transparent about its plan at the UN with the global Palestinian diaspora, especially with Palestinian refugees and – yes – Palestinians living inside Israel?
3. What about the facts on the ground enabled by Israel’s military occupation– expanding settlements, land annexations, check-points, the Apartheid Wall, and the creation of Bantustans in the West Bank?
4. Why now?
5. Are there other possible motives?
PA Policies: a Brief Reminder
The first question stems from the PA’s consistent, ubiquitous and self-proclaimed title as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian nation. But let’s face it; rhetoric aside, if history were to be the judge, Abbas hasn’t really looked out for the benefit of the Palestinian people since he took office. Chanting all the right slogans is what politicians do. And although many applaud his resilience in pursuing a comprehensive two-state solution, a lot of his policies contradict the rhetoric. The masses remain, like the state of their existence, in the dark.
The Palestine Papers didn’t have to happen to make such statements true. Head to the West Bank and there’s enough evidence to understand why. On many levels, the PA has been accused of corrupt, oppressive and even collaborative behavior, one that has coordinated the occupation with Israel to keep the West Bank tamed and “head-ache free”. More elementally, the PA works to benefit a minority wealthy class within Palestinian society, and destroying the middle-class, while isolating the majority poor. The purpose of the Palestinian resistance is not only to get rid of Israel’s occupation, but to empower the Palestinian nation at all levels of society. So why the UN bid for statehood now? Alot of it has to do with timing. Let’s work our way backwards.
PA officials have openly expressed that they have built the necessary institutions for a state, and thus are ready for statehood. “Institution building”, in this context, means the PA’s security apparatus has been beefed up, the neo-liberalization of Palestine’s economy is ready, and political dominance based on serving the financial interests of corporations can be implemented.
I recently read a fascinating piece by Virginia Tilly reporting from the West Bank. Here’s an excerpt showing what happened in South Africa and its eery similarities with Palestine: “[…] More importantly, the South African comparison helps illuminate why the ambitious projects of pacification, “institution building” and economic development that the Ramallah PA and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have whole-heartedly embarked upon are not actually exercises in “state-building.” Rather, they emulate with frightening closeness and consistency South Africa’s policies and stages in building the Bantustan/Homelands. Indeed, Fayyad’s project to achieve political stability through economic development is the same process that was openly formalized in the South African Homeland policy under the slogan ‘separate development’. […] Under such vulnerable conditions, no government can exercise real power and ‘separate development’ must equate with permanent extreme dependency, vulnerability and dysfunctionality. […] Declaring independence will not solve the problem of Palestinian weakness; it will only concretize it.” Concretize; as in: solidify.
Take the massive security cooperation that took place between Israel and the PA, exposed by both wikileaks and the Palestine Papers. A December 30 2008 cable from Jerusalem details the contacts made between the PA and Israel regarding West Bank protests against the Zionist regime’s assault on their brothers and sisters in Gaza:
“PA commanders said they told IDF officers that President Abbas and PM Fayyad both directed them to avoid situations that could develop into confrontations with the IDF. The security chiefs said Abbas and Fayyad passed a message to all Palestinian factions, at a PLO Executive Committee meeting on December 29, that only peaceful marches away from flashpoints would be permitted. PA commanders noted they have no control over Areas B and C such as Qalandiya and Nil’in, and would need IDF approval to move PA forces to those areas to prevent clashes between protesters and the IDF […] PA commanders said their IDF counterparts agreed to expedite coordination and movement requests and exchange information on possible disturbances, as both sides have an interest in preventing West Bank violence. They said both sides also agreed not to leak substantive discussions about the meeting to the press, given the sensitivity of security coordination in a time of Palestinian outrage over events in Gaza”.
Similarly, why did Abbas’ forces violently chase, capture, beat and torture protesters showing their solidarity with the masses of the Arab world earlier this year? With the recent storming of the Israeli embassy in Cairo, hasn’t the Arab Spring clearly shown that Israeli occupation and Arab dictatorships are both being rejected because they are part of the same order? The fact of the matter is that they feed off each other politically and economically to oppress the masses — whether in Gaza, the West Bank, or even Israel itself. It has been argued that Abbas is part of this same order, proof for which is when he came out to publicly support Mubarak during the Egyptian Revolution.
So the situation on the ground is getting worse. More people are losing their lands, there is more repression of free speech, more disenfranchised youth, and a wider poor-rich gap. One must also ask who benefits with the PA’s UN bid for statehood. With public opinion reaching new lows, it is clear that in order to remain politically legitimate in the eyes of the masses, a bold step needed to be taken, one that will strengthen the PA’s image amongst its people despite the severe realities it has created on the ground.
The Word on the Street
This clear disconnect between the people and the government begs the question “then what?”. The Occupy Wall Street movement in America is the country’s very own intifada against corporate greed and policies that benefit only the rich and disenfranchise the “99%”. Do we need our government to be our own worst enemy serving the interest of the elite, like in the West? Inking the miserable status-quo on the ground mainly benefits two entities– one in the short-term and another in the long-term– while handicapping a third. On the short-term, the PA clearly benefits as it would manipulatively gain the masses’ approval, be able to exercise full control over the West Bank, while receiving all the new privileges of a member state in the UN. And as long as it doesn’t have a right-wing neo-fascist regime at the helm, Israel benefits on the long-term as it effectively seals in the characteristics of a Palestinian state it can thrive on, that is: capitulation and collaboration. A Palestine that turns its people into cheap labor isn’t a free nor liberated Palestine at all.
And here’s the kicker: Although two Israeli lobby groups in the US– the right-leaning Israel Project and the left-leaning J-Street — both came out against the Palestinian move to the UN, they are also against Congress’ proposed bill to cut funding to the PA, reminding us all of what the PA’s actual role in the West Bank is and why US officials like Senators John McCain, John Kerry and Elliot Abrams are becoming increasingly vocal about maintaining aid to the PA.
NYC-based journalist Alex Kane, who focuses his writings on Israel and Palestine, puts it this way: “The PA’s most heralded accomplishment over their decade-plus tenure was the establishment of ‘law and order’ in the West Bank, which in part meant cracking down on political dissidents through the creation of a repressive security force. The PA security forces, which have been accused of detention, arbitrary arrest and torture, have worked hand-in-hand with the Israeli military, the US and the EU to keep the West Bank void of resistance to the occupation”.
We can hear all the rhetoric we want, but the situation on the ground is reflective of the truth. Here’s a quote from a Palestinian blogger in the West Bank who summed it all up:
“Abbas and Co. are pretending (or maybe they actually believe?) that every thing’s alright. Take for example Rawabi, the name a new Palestinian town to be built by ‘Palestinian real-estate’ company Bayti. This is ironic on several levels. Instead of coming to the assistance of Palestinian villages that are experiencing actual real estate theft on behalf of Israeli colonial settlers, the PA has decided to build a new town just outside of Ramallah. The fact is that this new town – praised by Bayti as the first ‘planned’ Palestinian town – is part of Israel’s ‘economic development’ policy (which is essentially the Israeli convergence plan). It also very much in line with USAID’s idea of ‘economic zones’. The added irony is that the PA must ask permission from Israel in order to gain control of the so-called ‘land corridor’ that will link Rawabi to Ramallah. And if that wasn’t enough, a Rawabi initiative entitled Grow for a Greener Palestine, will see the Jewish National Fund (infamous for stealing Palestinian land and supporting right-wing settlers in their quest to confiscate Palestinian land) plant trees in Rawabi. So settlers are uprooting Palestinian olive trees on one hand then planting trees in Bantustans in another. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?”
This is the economics for post-apartheid, I’m afraid. Israel and the PA win no matter what the outcome is, unless the masses from both sides reject their governments and work together to get rid of extremism and build a common, pragmatic future that is defined by justice, freedom and equality for both. The recent tent protests against the increasingly harsh and unequal living conditions in the Jewish state are an opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians to reject their governments and come together in a show of true human solidarity against the elitist establishments on both sides.
One cannot help but feel moved and overwhelmed by Abbas’ evocative and powerful speech at the UN on September 23rd 2011. The standing ovations, the diplomatic and political support of over 140 nations, as well as what appears to be the PA’s last push to pressure Israel into a two-state solution, had a definitely positive resonance in our hearts and minds. But that is how powerful Palestine is emotionally– that we’ll go as far as appreciating, indeed applauding, the PA’s bid for independence, despite the fact that political independence does not necessarily mean freedom, from its own kind of oppression.
The Irish Government are tonight coming under heavy criticism for their inexplicable lack of action in relation to the 14 Irish citizens currently being detained by Israeli authorities. They are being held at the Givon Detention Centre near the port of Ashdod.
The 14 man crew of the Irish vessel the MV Saoirse were taken into Israeli custody on Friday last when their ship was illegally boarded in international waters by Israeli forces.
The ship was en route to Gaza as part of the ‘Freedom Waves’ flotilla, alongside Canadian ship the ‘Tahrir’. This was a humanitarian mission carrying medical aid and supplies, and aimed to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
A number of Irish political figures, including a current Member of the European Parliament, are among those being detained.
The decision by the Israeli authorities to board the vessel in international waters contravenes international law, and amounts to piracy. The subsequent decision to detain the crew of MV Saoirse therefore, can only by described as state sponsored kidnap.
In a three minute phone call from Givon prison in Israel, MEP Paul Murphy described the treatment of the detainees by the Israeli authorities:
“Our boat was almost sunk by the manner in which it was approached and boarded by the Israeli navy. People were shackled and deprived of all personal belongings.
“In Givon prison the authorities tried to disorientate us through sleep deprivation and the removal of our watches and the prison clock recording the wrong time. We have been given no time frame as to how long we will be kept here before the deportation trial.”
Co-ordinator Dr. Fintan Lane who is also among those detained, described the Israeli raid as “dangerous to human life.”
“I was hosed down the stairs of the boat” Dr Lane said. “Windows were smashed and the bridge of the boat nearly caught fire. The boats were corralled to such an extent that the two boats, the Saoirse and the Tahrir, collided with each other and were damaged, with most of the damage happening to the MV Saoirse. The boats nearly sank.”
The Irish activists have so far refused to sign deportation papers which state that they came to Israel voluntarily and entered the country illegally. This is clearly quite absurd, since Israeli naval ships violently seized the MV Saoirse and the Tahrir, and forcibly transported the vessels and all crew on board to Ashdod.
Back home, the Irish Government have remained coy on the matter, and attempts by opposition TD’s to have the issue openly debated in the Dáil have so far failed.
Tonight Deputy Richard Boyd-Barrett described the lack of action by the government as “nothing short of disgraceful”.
Mr Boyd-Barrett said: “We are calling on the Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore and the Government to speak out and condemn what Israel has done; and to demand the immediate release of Irish citizens and to demand an explanation from the Israeli authorities as to why they kidnapped, illegally on international waters, 14 Irish citizens.”
This sentiment is echoed amongst the Irish general public, where there is a growing feeling that Israeli defiance of international law has become habitual, and worryingly appears to be without any consequence whatsoever.
In May of last year, the world was stunned when Israeli commandos murdered 9 Turkish humanitarian activists and wounded many more during the raid on the first ‘Gaza Freedom Flotilla’. This incident also occurred in international waters and involved a number of Irish citizens.
The following June Ireland ordered the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat from the country’s embassy in Dublin. This move was in protest of Israel’s forgery of Irish passports, eight of which were used in the assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai.
This latest incident, the latest of eleven international attempts to break the blockade of Gaza via the sea, is sure to further damage relations between Ireland and the Israeli regime, if only for the time being in the continued disintegration of the Irish public’s regard for Israel.
Some reports are suggesting that up to half of the 14 Irish detainees may be released on Thursday November 10th. There is however no word as of yet to suggest when the remainder of those who have been detained may be released.
This afternoon, 45 year old Abdullah Mutaled Al-Mashni, father of 5, was run over and killed by an illegal settler.
Whilst returning from collecting his olives, Abdullah was last seen riding his donkey back towards his village of Deir Istia – 7km northwest of Salfit.
Soon after the killing, Israeli Occupation Forces arrived to shield the scene from photographers and journalists gathered to report on the crime.
It is believed the settler was a resident in the nearby illegal colony of Revava – established on occupied Palestinian land in 1991.
This attack comes just as a relatively peaceful olive harvest draws to an end. Tomorrow there will be a funeral for the martyr in Deir Istia.
It is Tuesday, the third day of Eid, the Eid of the Sacrifice. We, the Beit Hanoun Local Initiative and the International Solidarity Movement, have gathered near the bombed remains of the Beit Hanoun Agricultural College like we do every Tuesday in preparation for our march into the no go zone. This Tuesday is different though, we are not gathered on the road that leads into the no go zone, but behind the bombed buildings of the College. Like much of Palestine, history is densely packed, every place has a story, today, we would learn the story of this small area. Today marks the five year anniversary of the Beit Hanoun massacre. Before us, lie the graves of its victims.
On November 8, 2006 at six in the morning the Israeli army began shelling Beit Hanoun. The shells landed on the houses of the A’athamnah and the Kafarnah families. Not just one shell, the shelling continued for fifteen minutes. Round after round fell on their houses. Nineteen people were killed, nine children, four women and six men. The youngest was only a baby of a couple of months, the oldest a 73 year old woman. Forty more people were injured. They were all civilians, not even the Israeli army bothers to claim that they were armed; they were sleeping in their beds.
The graves are just off the road, just behind the Agricultural College. They are large; each of them contains several bodies, large gray slabs of concrete with names and prayers inscribed on them. Abu Issa, from the Beit Hanoun Local Initiative speaks; he prays for the dead and asks us to remember the past. This massacre is barely the past though; it is almost the present, even if forgotten in so much of the world. His words end, as they must, on the present, “we did not ask for the occupation, we have always lived here, it came to us, but we cannot accept it, we must continue the struggle until the occupation ends.” We hang a wreath next to the first grave.
We walk slowly down the row of graves; Abu Issa reads us the names of the dead. We reach the grave of Maisa, age six. I cannot help but look away, for I have my own Maisa, who was also six in 2006. She isn’t my daughter, she is my English student. He name is Maisa Samouni. Twenty nine members of her extended family were murdered in much the same way by the Israeli army, herded into a house by soldiers, and then the house was shelled by the IDF. I wonder what this Miaisa would look like today, would she be as smart and kind and beautiful as my Maisa? As we reach the end of the graves we come to the graves that have been destroyed, destroyed by Israeli bulldozers in subsequent invasions of Gaza.
We turn away from the graves and look toward the border. At the concrete towers which line it, full of snipers and computer controlled guns which kill at will. Abu Issa begins to tell us about the area that we see in front of us. It was here that the men of Beit Hanoun were imprisoned during the first week of November 2006. Israeli forces had invaded Beit Hanoun; all males between the ages of 14 and 60 were rounded up and brought here. For six days the slept in the open, in the cold, while the Israeli army took them for questioning. Fifty three people were killed and over 200 injured during the invasion. The day after Israeli forces withdrew; they fired the shells which would kill nineteen more, including Maisa.
After the memorial service we piled into the van and went to the east of Beit Hanoun to visit the Al Jareema family. The Al Jareema’s are Bedouin family that lives right next to the no go zone. They have not always lived there, they used to live in 1948, but they were expelled by the Zionists during the Nakba, them and 750,000 other Palestinians. They settled in Gaza. They lived right next to the border, their houses used to be 50 meters from the border. Then, the Israeli’s decided to impose the buffer zone on Gaza, the family received a notice that they must move. There was no appeal. Israeli bulldozers came and destroyed their houses. They destroyed the pens for the animals. They destroyed the groves of trees that used to thrive in the no go zone.
Now, the family lives in a collection of tents and shacks about 500 meters from the border. As you look toward the border you see a particularly large gray tower, it is from this tower that the Israeli army shoots at them. They have nowhere to go, so they stay living here, surviving as best they can on the land that Israel has not seized. We bring them sweets to celebrate Eid, they serve us tea and freshly made bread. They ask us to stay for lunch, but we must go, there is a wedding going on in Beit Hanoun. Life continues. I pray that the children of the new couple grow up in a more just world, in a free Palestine. This is what we struggle for.
Officials at the University of Pittsburgh attempted to shut down a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) event featuring slam poet Remi Kanazi and journalist Joseph Dana on 2 November, according to student organizers. The university police also forcibly prevented members of the public who had taken part in an Occupy Pittsburgh march from attending the event.
The university initially ordered the event shut down prompting the speakers to decide to continue it outdoors, but the order was rescinded after University of Pittsburgh SJP leaders demonstrated they had followed all the procedures.
The campus newspaper The Pitt News reported that SJP leaders had invited participants in the Occupy Pittsburgh march to the public event “Confronting Apartheid: Voices of the Joint-Struggle.” According to the newspaper:
Students for Justice in Palestine President Ryan Branagan invited the protesters into an SJP event in David Lawrence Hall at 8:30 p.m. following the protest, which was already open to the public. However, Pitt police closed the door to anyone who was not a Pitt student, including Gerhardt [an Iraq war vetaran quoted earlier in the article].
“I think a lot of people just got scared,” Branagan said as to why the police reacted defensively in allowing the protesters to enter the University building for the lecture.
One man was arrested outside of David Lawrence Hall at 9:40 p.m. for failure to leave the building after being told to do so by police.
Pitt Police Chief Tim Delaney said that he needed the proper permit from Students for Justice in Palestine to make sure that the group was allowed to host an event. After Branagan gave Delaney a copy of the permit, he allowed about 10 remaining non-Pitt student protesters to enter the event.
SJP officers provide a fuller account of what happened in this open letter to University of Pittsburgh police chief Tim Delaney and University Executive Vice Chancellor Jerome Cochran:
On Wednesday, November 2nd, Pitt Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) hosted an event titled Confronting Apartheid: Voices of the Joint Struggle. At 8:30pm in David Lawrence Hall, SJP hosted Israeli journalist Joseph Dana and Palestinian-American slam poet Remi Kanazi. SJP had advertised the event through fliers, social media, and designated it as an event free and open to the public, along with Pitt students and faculty.
We received funding through the Student Government Board and reserved the room from 8:30-11:00pm through the proper methods required by the University of Pittsburgh. This event was specifically advertised to many groups, including the Occupy Pittsburgh movement. Earlier that day SJP had posted on the Occupy Pittsburgh Facebook page inviting them to the event after their solidarity march with Oakland, CA being held on Pitt’s campus.
Within the first few minutes of the event, Karina Goulordava, vice-president of SJP, exited the event to discover Pitt police refusing entry to members of Occupy Pittsburgh who had participated in the march. Eight Pitt police officers and about twenty Occupy participants were standing at the entrance to David Lawrence Hall. Quickly Goulordava made an announcement that SJP welcomed all of the Occupy participants to the event and that the decision to deny entry was made by the Pitt police and not supported by SJP. Pitt Police demanded proof to hold the event although SJP had completed all required paperwork.
Nonetheless, Ryan Branagan, president of SJP, provided contracts which were signed with Dana and Kanazi and approved by the University. A member of Occupy Pittsburgh held her laptop to Ustream the entire event and WPTS and the Pitt News were present to document and interview. Executive Vice Chancellor Jerome Cochran was contacted and claimed he was unaware of SJP’s event, demanding that it end within half an hour, despite the room being reserved until 11:00pm.
Before 10:00pm a member of Occupy Pittsburgh was handcuffed and cited when he refused to leave the premises, although the event was free and open to the public, as repeatedly stated by Goulordava and Branagan. Shortly before 10:00pm, SJP along with Dana and Kanazi made the decision to continue the event outside so that member of the community and Pitt students could attend, as was originally intended. However, Branagan was finally able to provide police with a copy of the room reservation and allocation approval from the Student Government Board. Pitt Police Chief Delaney then made the decision that SJP had the remaining hour to continue the event and all members of the public were permitted to enter.
This entire ordeal was incredibly disrespectful to the presenters, audience, and organizers of the event. SJP should never have been faced with this altercation, or been treated as guilty until proven innocent. The organization obeyed all of the rules to reserve the room and host the speakers. In addition, we are deeply disappointed with the brazen profiling of the Occupy Pittsburgh participants by the Pitt Police. The police described some of our attendees as “hooligans” and “knuckleheads,” and Chief Delaney even told our crowd he wished he could “pick and choose who could attend” our event. Their participation in the march should have had no influence on whether they were able to attend the SJP event. The refusal of entry by Pitt Police was blatant discrimination against Pittsburgh citizens who choose to participate in the Occupy movement. Furthermore, we are incredibly troubled by the unnecessary arrest of a member of Occupy Pittsburgh who eventually received a citation.
SJP expects the Pitt Police and the University to respect the rights of SJP to hold our events free and open to the public, especially when all of the rules to hold the event have been followed. Finally, we demand that our attendees are treated with the utmost respect and condemn this unnecessary arrest. The Pitt Police and administration must never pick and choose which policies apply to certain organizations but treat all students fairly; failure to do so undermines not only students’ rights to legitimately organize through the University system, but also the integrity of the Pitt community as a whole.
Students for Justice in Palestine
Ryan Branagan, President
Karina Goulordava, Vice President
Mahmoud Yacoub, Business Manager
HEBRON — Israeli settlers torched three cars Wednesday at dawn in the village of Beit Ummar in the northern West Bank, locals said.
Popular committee spokesman Muhammad Ayyad Awad said settlers from Kfar Etzion settlement torched the cars of Habes Husein Baragheeth, Suheil Muhammad Hussein Baragheeth and his brother Yousef.
He added that the Jewish extremists sprayed racist graffiti in the area.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP the words “price tag” were sprayed on the wall, and said “police launched an investigation and were looking for suspects.”
Hardline Jewish settlers have adopted what they call a “price tag” policy under which they have attacked Palestinians and their property in response to Israeli government measures against settlements.
Overnight, Israeli forces detained at least three Palestinians in the West Bank.
Palestinian security sources said a large Israeli force accompanied by a helicopter raided Qabatiya village in Jenin for over four hours, searching homes and neighborhoods.
Security officials added that Israeli forces detained Anas Atta Camil, 27, and Ahmad Hisham Camil, 26, who is a university student and was released from an Israeli prison two months ago.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said two “wanted Palestinian suspects” were arrested south of Jenin and another man was detained in Hebron. They were taken for questioning by security forces, she added.
Meanwhile in Salfit on Wednesday, Israeli forces stopped farmers from reaching their lands to pick their olives near Revava settlement west of Deir Istiya, the local mayor said.
Nathmi Salman, the mayor of Deir Istiya, told Ma’an that Israeli soldiers prevented Khaled Abdul Latif and Mufeed Abdullah from working on their land claiming they did not have permission.
Salman added that residents were complaining that their lands had been soaked with sewage from the settlement and that they couldn’t harvest their olives.
He called on international bodies to intervene to stop the sewage and demanded that Israeli authorities reined in the settlers. He warned of a humanitarian and environmental disaster if the settlers weren’t stopped.
Local sources reported that the Air force fired a missile at a greenhouse, northwest of Khan Younis, followed by another missile into the same area a few minutes after the initial attack. The two attacks came only hours after Israeli tanks fired several shells into Al Waha area, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip leading to damages.
On Tuesday at night, the army fired artillery shells into As-Sudaniyya area, northwest of the Gaza strip.
Eyewitnesses reported that a number of residents suffered minor injuries, as initial reports revealed that Gaza hospitals did not receive any casualties following the attack.