The Long Road to Damascus
In 1996, an Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, prepared “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” for incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In that seminal report, the Richard Perle-led study group suggested that Israel could “shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria.” Comprised mainly of American-based pro-Israel advocates, the group stressed, “Most important, it is understandable that Israel has an interest supporting diplomatically, militarily and operationally Turkey’s and Jordan’s actions against Syria, such as securing tribal alliances with Arab tribes that cross into Syrian territory and are hostile to the Syrian ruling elite.”
Although Netanyahu didn’t act on their advice at the time, Perle and two of his co-authors, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser, found George W. Bush more receptive to “securing the realm” – for Israel – after September 11, 2001. Nine days after that “catastrophic and catalyzing event,” Perle signed a Project for a New American Century letter to President Bush, urging the United States to “consider appropriate measures of retaliation” against Iran and Syria if they didn’t “immediately cease all military, financial, and political support for Hezbollah” – whose presumably unforgivable crime was that it had “humiliated Israel by driving its army out of Lebanon.” Explaining the Bush administration’s subsequent decision to invade Iraq in 2003, Patrick Buchanan famously wrote in The American Conservative, “In the Perle-Feith-Wurmser strategy, Israel’s enemy remains Syria, but the road to Damascus runs through Baghdad.”
Notwithstanding Syria’s initial cooperation with the Israeli-inspired but American-fought “war on terror,” the Israel lobby ensured that there would be no long-term rapprochement between Washington and Damascus. A September 5, 2002 document, “Working to Secure Israel: The Pro-Israel Community’s Legislative Goals,” declared AIPAC’s intention to “sanction Syria for its continuing support of terrorism” by working “with Congress to pass the Syria Accountability Act.”
In October 2003, Representative Eliot Engel, who sponsored the legislation, proudly reported the bill’s imminent passage to the inaugural Jerusalem Summit, organized by Ariel Sharon’s government and its diehard American supporters (including the ubiquitous Perle) “to work out a joint strategy of resistance to the Totalitarianism of the Radical Islam, and to the moral relativism which in vain tries to placate this Totalitarianism by sacrificing Israel.” Confusing the ultimate target of the AIPAC-crafted legislation with Israel’s more southerly bête noire, the Jewish Democrat from New York informed the summit, “It’s no secret that the people on Lebanon’s southern border, the terrorists, Hamas, are wrecking [sic] havoc and causing all kinds of destruction and could be stopped tomorrow if Syria wanted it. This is Hamas, the group which blew up over 200 US marines. This is the group that goes out not only to destroy Israel, but would destroy the United States as well.”
With Iraq proving to be less of a “cakewalk” than America’s pro-Israel warmongers had breezily predicted, Syria managed to survive two Bush terms. The failure of Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon to dislodge Hezbollah, however, added significantly to the impetus for regime change in Damascus. When Israel’s friends in Washington concluded that the Syrian corridor to Iran was “Hezbollah’s achilles heel,” Bashar al-Assad’s days were increasingly numbered. The Arab uprisings of 2011 provided them with their long-sought opportunity for “rolling back Syria.”
Writing in the Guardian, Alistair Crooke describes how the “great game” of “losing Syria” is currently being played out with the cooperation of the absolute monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the also predominantly Sunni secular Republic of Turkey; and France, arch-promoters of Libya’s NATO-backed “revolution” and Syria’s short-lived former colonial rulers, i.e. “set up a hurried transitional council as sole representative of the Syrian people, irrespective of whether it has any real legs inside Syria; feed in armed insurgents from neighbouring states; impose sanctions that will hurt the middle classes; mount a media campaign to denigrate any Syrian efforts at reform; try to instigate divisions within the army and the elite; and ultimately President Assad will fall.”
Enforcing those AIPAC-endorsed sanctions has been the happy task of the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. Created in early 2004 after intensive lobbying by AIPAC and its associated think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the TFI unit has been aptly described as “a sharp-edged tool forged principally to serve the Israel lobby.” With David S. Cohen succeeding Stuart Levey as Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in January 2011, a leading journalist on the Middle East was later prompted to call the position “a job which seems reserved for pro-Israeli neo-cons to wage economic warfare against Tehran.”
In recent days, Cohen’s TFI unit has been eagerly waging economic warfare against Damascus. Daniel L. Glaser, the Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing, has just completed a tour of Lebanon and Jordan to secure their compliance with economic sanctions against the Assad government. In Beirut, the U.S. Embassy announced that Glaser was pressing the authorities to “remain vigilant against attempts by the Syrian regime to evade U.S. and EU sanctions.”
In a recent policy alert, WINEP’s executive director, Robert Satloff, urged that “with the strategic opportunity of contributing to the demise of Iran’s premier Arab ally, Washington should be working overtime to act in defense of the Syrian people.” Considering the long road to Damascus pursued by Satloff’s fellow-travellers, it should be clear for which country regime change in Syria presents a “strategic opportunity.”
As though there weren’t already enough clowns in the cast, the beloved king of Jordan took the stage to call on the Syrian president to stand down. The hawker of Jordan’s public assets – scion of a dynasty whose monthly payments from the CIA continue to this day, and whose upbringing and education is supervised by British intelligence’s finest instructors – judged that the Syrian crisis makes it necessary for Assad to go. One wonders if the man might one day face a mirror.
Whatever the case, the drama continues to unfold as scripted. To pump up the excitement, it has apparently been decided to screen more than one episode per day. Syrian film-making will be dealt a blow. Neither extra episodes of home-made TV dramas, nor the dubbing of more Turkish soap operas, can hope to compete with the rolling blockbuster being brought to us by US-Franco-Qatari Revolutions Inc.
The producers have so far made do with the blood already being shed in Syria. But later, and perhaps soon – for the production schedule is tight – some bloodier scenes may have to be loaded onto the reel. But what exactly is required? Bombings in public markets? Assassinations of regime leaders? More sectarian killings? Nobody is yet sure what pitch will have the right effect on the relevant international human rights organizations, whose executives have begun rubbing their hands in anticipation of a new boon. But give it another day or two and Nabil al-Arabi will summon them to come over immediately and without delay. The oil states will pay the expenses. Hamad bin-Jasem has assured his Arab counterparts, and informed the Arab League secretariat not to worry about the funds needed for the planned foreign intervention aimed at toppling Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
One act in the spectacle was supposed to have been wound up on Tuesday in Cairo —though there was no guarantee against hitches. This was to feature Syrian opposition figures uniting in a single organization so they can then be recognised as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. The Syrians who support the regime and those who oppose foreign intervention do not count. For once, the intellectual colossus Ahmet Davetoglu will have been correct in his analysis. Assad’s supporters will be treated as irrelevant: a ‘zero problem’.
In Cairo, a special kind of adhesive tape had to be used. It is not designed to last long. It only has to stick things together for now, and hold them in place for a few weeks or months to make a structure that can be called the unifying framework of all sections of the Syrian opposition. Someone or other will then select a name and logo for it, and it will have a seat reserved at the Arab League. Many are competing to fill that seat. But while the photographers will focus on the occupant, nobody will wait to listen to his or her views, as the decisions have already been made. However, they will have the honour of reading them out. Those who cooked the decisions up think they’ll suffice to topple the Assad regime.
Meanwhile in Rabat – where Arab foreign ministers are due to discuss upping the pressure – there will also be much verbal one-upmanship about human rights and the incessant blood-letting in Syria. But everyone there, too, will be waiting for further decisions. It is unlikely that any will have an answer to Syria’s request for the convening of an emergency Arab summit.
The series will carry on until further notice. The Arab and Western capitals concerned believe that a lot can be achieved between now and the end-of-year holiday season. They’re hoping for scenes of rejoicing as Bashar al-Assad’s downfall is celebrated on the streets of Damascus, Aleppo and other Syrian cities, as well as the world’s capitals. They certainly don’t want the TV cameras to be tracking the plane flying the last American occupation troops out of Baghdad, and the accompanying celebrations in Syria as well as Iraq itself, Lebanon and Iran. The US and its Arabs want the cameras focused on Syria’s towns. They do not care what images they convey, provided they feature anguish, pain and blood. All is fair game in the service of the shared objective: for Syria’s opposition to US-Israeli hegemony to cease.
The Arab and Western players involved in this lunacy assume that the Syrian regime will be unable to bear a combination of diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions, and acts of sabotage and destabilization. They are counting on armed groups – which have been or are being put in place – to mount extensive military actions in border areas adjoining Turkey, or even Lebanon. This will then be used to move on to the ‘protected areas’ phase. Some border incident will be sufficient to trigger the creation of such enclaves, without awaiting permission from the UN Security Council or anyone else. The only impediment is that the planners are still waiting for a final decision from Turkey on whether to allow such a step to be taken.
The movie has already become tiresome, but it seems as though viewing it will be both compulsory and lucrative. All expenses paid out of the blood and sweat of the Syrians themselves, and of fellow Arabs too. But this film has yet to be completed by the production company, which is also doing the promotion and casting.
One wonders whether the shareholders in this venture have paused to consider how the other side might react. Do they really think that the fact it has avoided causing problems is a sign of weakness, and that it has no tricks of its own up its sleeve?
Ibrahim al-Amine is editor-in-chief of al-Akhbar.
Joby Warrick’s Washington Post article (11/14/11) on the new International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran goes wrong from the first sentence:
When the Cold War abruptly ended in 1991, Vyacheslav Danilenko was a Soviet weapons scientist in need of a new line of work.
Well, no. Danilenko is allegedly a nuclear weapons scientist–but neither the IAEA or Warrick present any actual evidence that he was any such thing.
Rather, the documents disclosed so far suggest that Danilenko is what he says he is: an expert on the use of explosions to make tiny, industrial-grade diamonds known as nanodiamonds. His area of specialization goes back half a century, to the early 1960s, when the scientist was in his mid-20s (Inter Press Service, 11/9/11).
Warrick’s story is a step forward from his earlier article (11/7/11) on the IAEA report, which refers to Danilenko as a “former Soviet nuclear scientist” without mentioning the field he’s actually been publishing in for decades at all. Still, Warrick works hard to give the impression that the scientist’s career-long interest in nanodiamonds is some kind of fly-by-night cover story:
Danilenko struggled to become a businessman, traveling through Europe and even to the United States to promote an idea for using explosives to create synthetic diamonds…. The scientist’s synthetic-diamonds business provided a plausible explanation for his extensive contacts with senior Iranian scientists over half a decade…. Danilenko’s work in Iran initially centered on his diamond-making scheme. But over the course of a six-year relationship, UN investigators later concluded, he provided expertise that would help Iran achieve something of far greater value.
OK–so what’s the evidence that Danilenko was helping the Iranians make bombs, not diamonds?
The IAEA’s report cites “strong indications” that the unnamed “foreign expert” [apparently Danilenko] assisted Iran in developing a high-precision detonator as well as a sophisticated instrument for analyzing the shape of the explosive pulse.
Right–because creating industrial diamonds requires high-precision detonation, which you would presumably want to monitor and analyze. The evidence that this is actually a cover for nuclear weapons research boils down to a lack of proof that it is not a cover for nuclear weapons research. Or as weapons analyst David Albright puts it–who is a major source for the Post story, both directly and through his Institute for Science and International Security think tank–“It remains for Danilenko to explain his assistance to Iran.”
There’s such a degree of spin in the Post’s case for Iranian nuclear research that it really makes you want to check to be sure your wallet is still in your pocket. After relaying Danilenko’s assertions that he had nothing to do with a nuclear program, Warrick adds, “In private conversations, however, the scientist allowed that he ‘could not exclude that his information was used for other purposes,’ the ISIS report said.” Of course, no scientist can guarantee that their information was not repurposed, so the admission has zero evidentiary value–but it does function as an effective tension-raiser, like mood music in a horror movie.
The Post story concludes: “‘Synthetic diamond production is unlikely to have been a priority’ for Iran, ISIS said. ‘Although it has obvious value as a cover story.'” Actually, Iran has a serious, long-standing nanotechnology program (Moon of Alabama, 11/7/11)–and one of the chief uses for nanodiamonds is in oil drilling, an activity that provides the bulk of Iran’s exports earnings, so it’s not actually all that remarkable that the country would be interested in producing them.
Of course, the Post should be skeptical of Iranian claims–but where is the same skepticism of assertions that an official enemy state is secretly researching weapons of mass destruction–particularly given the very recent history of such claims being manufactured and distorted for political ends? It’s worth recalling that Albright, the Post’s main witness for the idea that Danilenko is not what he says he is, was taken in by the last major WMD propaganda campaign, telling CNN (10/5/02; Extra!, 7-8/03): “In terms of the chemical and biological weapons, Iraq has those now. How many, how could they deliver them? I mean, these are the big questions.”
We need the news media to be asking bigger questions this time around about the Iranian nuclear allegations.
Israel’s Knesset (parliament) is set to discuss a number of bills in its winter session which Palestinians regard as racist, continuing a policy of “unprecedented racist legislation in 1948 Palestine” aimed at undermining the very existence of Palestinians in their own land.
As part of the “Judaisation” process, a proposed law calls for the end of Arabic as an official language of the state of Israel, a move which would marginalise ever further one-fifth of the population for whom Arabic is the mother-tongue. Indeed, Arabic was the official language of Palestine during the British Mandate period before the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe). The former head of Israel’s internal security agency, Shin Bet, has drafted the proposed law. Avi Dichter, MK for the Kadima Party, has included the language stipulation in a bill headed “Israel as the national state of the Jewish people” in collaboration with the Strategic Institute for Zionism, and supported by one-third of the Jewish members of the Knesset.
Dichter’s law would force every citizen to pledge allegiance to “Israel as a Jewish and democratic state”; anyone refusing to do so would be “liable to punishment”. His vision of the democratic system in Israel is linked to the Jewish religion.
Massoud Ghanayem MK accused the main Israeli political parties of vying with each other to see which one can be the most “nationalist” to capture the Zionist vote. Speaking to Aljazeera, Ghanayem said, “The challenges facing Israel and the failure of the road map for peace are behind this racist legislation, especially since the Palestinians [in Israel] have exposed, through their struggle, the myth of Israeli democracy and the Jewish character of the state.”
According to Mr Ghanayem, Israel and its political parties have adopted policies for the marginalisation of the Palestinians, narrowing the scope of democracy to impose what he called “the new rules of the game” in which Israel’s Arab citizens are supposed to embrace the concept of Zionism and Jewish citizenship. Dichter’s law, Ghanyem explained, will also have an impact on the education system. “While the Education Ministry claims that it is teaching young people to respect pluralism, recognition and respect for others,” he said, “the message from the legislators tells them the opposite.”
If passed, Dichter’s law would follow a series of “racist laws”, including one which prohibits commemoration of the Nakba, pushing the Israeli narrative as the official version of what happened in 1948. Another law allows Jewish towns to vet those wishing to live there. This is to stop Palestinians from moving in, even if they have historical roots in the district. Any land which has been confiscated by the state for more than 25 years will not, according to yet another law deemed to be racist by the Palestinians, be returned to its original and lawful owners. This, of course, has a major impact on Palestinians trying to recover their family property and land.
Jamal Zahalka MK has accused Israeli politicians of inciting racism against the Palestinians in an effort to gain the trust of the wider public in Israel. He told Aljazeera that laws such as that proposed by Dichter are “like a declaration of war” on Palestinian civilians, “pouring oil on the fire of Israeli racism”. Zahalka pointed out that the parties may use different terminology to justify their case, but they all agree on the basic essence and principles behind such laws.
A Professor of Arabic who resigned his post believes that the new laws are intended to marginalise the Arabic language and its speakers. Professor Ziad Shelyot said that the latest attack on Arabic is part of a strategy to deprive Israeli-Palestinians of their identity, heritage and, ultimately, citizenship. Prof. Shelyot warned of the effect that this law will have emerging Palestinian generations and students, pointing out that if it makes it onto the statute books it will lead to the teaching of Arabic to be banned in Israel. “This,” he added, “will create a generation with no personal or national identity; one that is defeated and lives in internal conflict as a curious blend of races and cultures which have lost their uniqueness.”
Police State Tactics: Signs Point to a Coordinated National Program to Try and Unoccupy Wall Street and Other Cities
The ugly hand of the federal government is becoming increasingly suspected behind what appears to be a nationwide attempt to repress and evict the Occupation Movement.
Across the country in recent days, ultimatums have been issues to groups occupying Portland, OR, Chicago, IL, San Francisco, Dallas, TX, Atlanta, GA, and most recently New York, NY, where the Occupation Movement began on September 17. The two most recent eviction efforts, in Oakland and New York, have been the worst.
The police attacks have had a lot in common. They have been “justified” based upon trumped up pre-textural claims that the occupiers are creating a health hazard, or a fire hazard, or a crime problem, generally on little or no evidence, or there has been a digging up of obscure and constitutionally questionable statutes, for example laws outlawing the homeless. Then the police come in, usually in dead of night, dressed in riot gear and heavily armed with mace weapons, batons, plastic cuffs and tear gas, or even assault rifles in some cases and so-called flash-bang stun grenades–all weapons to be used against peaceful demonstrators.
So violent has been the response that some returned veterans have condemned the police for using weapons and tactics that are not even permitted by occupying troops in war-torn countries.
“We definitely feel, especially in a movement like this that has arisen so quickly in a number of cities, that there will be a coordinated national effort to try and shut it down,” says Heidi Bogosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, which has been playing a key role providing legal services to the new movement.
“We see the scapegoating of these movements, the attacks at night, and in general tactics designed to terrorize and to scare protesters away. I can’t see this as anything other than centrally coordinated.”
One indication of that coordination may have been a conference call among 18 city mayors which was confirmed by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in a radio interview on San Francisco station KALW. Dan Siegel, an Oakland attorney who worked as an advisor to Quan, but who resigned in disgust after Oakland police and law enforcement personnel from a number of surrounding jurisdictions brutally drove occupiers there out of their park using tear gas, supposedly non-lethal ammunition (bean bags and rubber bullets) and flash-bang grenades in a night-time raid in the early hours of November 14, says that phone conference call took place, significantly, while Quan was in Washington, DC.
Remember this image: it’s the national police state on the march
Shortly afterwards, on Oct. 25, Quan authorized the first brutal police assault on Occupy Oakland. It led, among other things, to the critical wounding of Scott Olsen, an Iraq War veteran who was among the protesters, and was hit in the forehead by a police tear gas cannister fired at close range.
Who organized that critical conference call? Was it Quan or one of the other mayors, or was it someone in the federal government? Siegel says he doesn’t know, and Quan isn’t saying.
But both Siegel and Boghosian say they strongly suspect federal involvement in the planning of the recent spate of police violence against occupiers. Says Siegel, “It’s only logical to assume that the ‘Fusion Centers’ are involved, especially after the Oakland occupiers shut down the port in Oakland.”
Some 72 Fusion Centers, located around the US and funded by the US at a cost of half a billion dollars, are a post 9-11creation of the new Homeland Security Department. Bringing the FBI together with local law enforcement departments, they both collect and share domestic intelligence, and can serve as command centers to direct local law enforcement in helping implement national law enforcement goals. There are also many Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which directly link the FBI with urban police departments.
Says Boghosian, “What we are seeing here is the Miami model, with various levels of law enforcement, local, state and federal, all at work. It would be shocking if federal law enforcement were not seeing this occupy movement now as a national security threat.”
Mara Veheyden-Hilliard, co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild’s National Mass Defense Committee, based in Washington, agrees. “These crackdowns on the occupation movement certainly appear to be part of a national strategy to crush them,” she says. “We haven’t yet found overt evidence of federal involvement, but the fact that in rapid succession local authorities have taken action raises the specter of coordination.”
She adds, “There is absolutely no legal justification for the involvement of the Joint Terrorism Task Forces in this movement. These demonstrations are not terrorist activities, and police should not be treating them as such, yet all over the country the police are treating the protesters as if they are criminals. The similarity of the response everywhere to the movement makes it appear that there is a coordinated strategy.”
Meanwhile, Siegel, now back in private practice, says that since the riots that followed the killing of Oscar Grant by a BART transit cop, who shot Grant fatally in the head after he had been arrested, subdued and handcuffed for a turnstile jumping violation, federal law enforcement officials have been observed actively involved in police activities in the Oakland area.
Some Oakland residents have reported seeing federal vehicles and possibly also National Guard equipment during the police actions against occupation demonstrators, too, though National Guardsmen can only be legally activated by a governor, and California Gov. Jerry Brown, a former mayor of Oakland, has not publicly issued any such order.
Rick Ellis, a journalist with the Minneapolis office of the news outlet Examiner.com, is reporting that an unidentified US Justice Department official has confirmed what Boghosian, Siegel and Veheyden-Hilliard say they suspect is the case: that each of the recent brutal police evictions and attacks on occupation groups “was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.”
Ellis writes, “According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.”
According to an AP story published early Wednesday, mayors and city leaders in as many as 40 cities were communicating about coordinating an attack on the occupy movement. Again, this hardly seems like it was on their own initiative.
Given how things have played out, it certainly looks like the suspicions were correct, and that Ellis’s source is telling the truth.
President Obama has a lot to answer for. So do the mayors who have been overseeing the repressive operations locally.
Sound familiar? This is from neoconservative Bill Kristol and liberal Lawrence Kaplan’s 2003 call for a war on Iraq: The War Over Iraq: Saddam’s Tyranny and America’s Mission:
Saddam… likens Israel to “a cancerous tumor that should be excised from Palestine.”
Unlike some of his fellow Arab leaders, Saddam really means it. With the help of the French, he began construction on a nuclear power plant shortly after his rise to power. Its purpose was clear: foreign countries “should assist the Arabs to obtain… the nuclear bomb in order to confront Israel’s existing bombs,” Saddam declared in 1981. When the Israel air force laid waste to the Osirak nuclear plant that same year, the Iraqi dictator only stepped up his threats to destroy the Jewish state…
In the years since Desert Storm , Iraqi officials have stated explicitly that Iraq maintains biological weapons for use against Israel. Saddam’s son Uday boasts that Baghdad possesses “weapons of comprehensive destruction” for this purpose and that “the extinction of the Zionist entity was a necessity dictated both by the will of God, and the need to recover exclusive Arab rights to Palestine.” …
Israel is not the only country against which the Iraqi dictator wields this peculiar brand of aggression. The United States also has been affected by Iraqi-sponsored acts of terror… American officials have recently documented contacts between Iraqi and Al Qaeda agents, as well as “solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of Al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad,” according to CIA director George Tenet…
The United States should… conceive of itself as at once a European power, an Asian power and, of course, a Middle Eastern power. It would act as if threats to the interests of our allies are threats to us, which indeed they are. It would act as if the flouting of civilized rules of conduct are threats that affect us with almost the same immediacy as if they were occurring on our doorstep…
An off-duty Israeli soldier looks out the window, choosing to ignore the act of civil disobedience. When the Alternative Information Center asks her how she is feeling, she replies that she doesn’t have the energy to discuss it. While many Jewish Israelis were angered by the action–openly cursing the activists–a few said they were okay with it. Others stayed quiet, looking away, and refusing interviews.
As Palestinian activists stood at a bus stop in the Occupied West Bank yesterday, Jewish settlers made racist remarks. While the Israeli reaction to the Freedom Rides was overwhelmingly negative, the Freedom Riders presence on the bus sparked a debate between two young girls.
After a short press conference in Ramallah early Tuesday afternoon, journalists followed a van of six Palestinian Freedom Riders to a bus stop in the Jewish settlement of Psagot, which is located in the West Bank.
There, activists—who included Dr. Mazin Qumisyeh, a professor and the author of Popular Resistance in Palestine and Huwaida Arraf, a founder of the Free Gaza Movement—waited for a Jerusalem-bound bus. The Egged line they hoped to ride, 148, would pass through the Hizma checkpoint, entering the Jewish settlement of Pisgat Zeev, which is located in East Jerusalem, outside of the Green Line.
The Jewish Israelis who had been standing at the bus stop—a middle aged woman and an off-duty soldier—quickly distanced themselves from the activists, who were wearing keffiyeh and t-shirts bearing the words Freedom, Justice, and Dignity in Arabic and English.
Magi Amir, a resident of Rimonim, explained to the Alternative Information Center (AIC) that she moved away from the crowd because she heard people speaking Arabic.
“I don’t think they need to be here,” Amir continued. “They can be in their villages and their houses, why are they in our area? Can we go to Ramallah? If we go into Ramallah, they’ll kill us. Can we go into their villages or their areas? We can’t enter.”
Amir added that, in her opinion, Jewish Israelis can’t trust Palestinians or believe in them. “They’ll do terror attacks,” she said.
Other Jewish settlers who came and waited for the bus echoed Amir’s sentiment, remarking that they feared for their safety.
A 16-year-old Jewish Israeli, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the Freedom Riders shouldn’t be able to board the bus because, “It’s an Israeli bus.”
“We live here, this is our land,” he said.
When asked about those who feel differently, the boy replied, “Those who say this is Palestinian land don’t have proof.”
He added that Palestinians enjoy a lot of freedom. “We give them identity cards and they can do whatever they want.”
AIC asked the boy, a resident of Maale Adumim who wished to remain anonymous, if Palestinians can do whatever they want, then why can’t they ride a bus to Jerusalem?
“Okay,” he said. “They can do what they need to… I don’t want them boarding the bus.”
Two Egged buses slowed but passed. When the third stopped and opened its doors, the six activists boarded, as did an Israeli policeman and some two dozen journalists.
A teenage girl with long, curly, blonde hair talked to a friend as she watched the activists get on the bus. “What are they doing? They have their own [buses]?” she said. She moved the phone away from her mouth and yelled at the male activists, “You sons of bitches!”
“You whore,” she said shouted at Arraf, the only female Freedom Rider.
On board, the Palestinians’ presence sparked an argument between two young Jewish Israelis girls, aged 13 and 17.
“They’re animals,” the younger said.
“No, not everyone,” the older answered.
When the younger mentioned that a family member had been injured in a terror attack, the older girl said that a friend of hers had been, as well.
The younger insisted that violence is “Arabs; it’s the people.”
“So you’re Jewish and you also have your people. What’s the connection?” the older said, rolling her eyes.
The bus was stopped at Hizma and was not allowed to continue through the checkpoint. Israeli forces took the activists’ identity cards and tried to remove Badia Dweik, an activist who was arrested during the First Intifada when he was15 years old. Dweik resisted nonviolently and ended up lying on the stairs of the rear exit for awhile.
After remaining at the checkpoint for some time, the vehicle was directed towards a parking lot.
As the sun set outside, Israeli forces boarded and told the six activists that they had been arrested and that they could choose to go quietly or they would be forcefully removed from the bus. Each of the activists refused to leave the bus. Police and border patrol carried them off. There was an audible thumping sound as one activist’s head hit the stairs as Israeli forces him dragged him out.
The six activists were put in a military jeep and were taken to Atarot prison.
Mohamed Jaradat, a Palestinian journalist based in Ramallah who holds a green ID card, was detained by Israeli police. As they walked to the car, the AIC reminded police that Jaradat is a journalist and a member of the media.
A policeman replied, “So?”
Jaradat said that the police were going to take him to the checkpoint and drop him off. Later that evening, however, Hurriyah Ziada told the AIC that Jaradat had been arrested.
Filipino demonstrators attacked US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s convoy with paint bombs to show their opposition to her visit to the Philippines.
About 50 protesters hurled red paint at Clinton’s security detail near the presidential palace in Manila on Wednesday, forcing her convoy to detour. The demonstrators also threw their placards at the vehicles, AFP reported.
Filipino security officers and at least one American jumped out with automatic rifles drawn. However, no shots were fired.
Protesters in the Philippines urge the annulment of the Visiting Forces Agreement. Under the military pact, US troops are given legal safeguards when they visit the Philippines.
The pact has been contentious in the Philippines. There have been cases of crimes committed by US troops in the Southeast Asian country, and some Filipino groups are opposed to the presence of any US troops in their country.
Filipino anti-US protesters also marched towards the US Embassy on Wednesday to protest the visit.
The US military presence is a sensitive topic in the Philippines due to colonial legacy.
Clinton arrived in the Philippines on Tuesday to shore up military cooperation with the Filipino defense officials.
Last week, the US Secretary of State said that the United States was “updating” relationships with its five treaty-bound regional allies – Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand.