Little by little, in the name of fighting terrorism, our Bill of Rights is being repealed. The 4th amendment has been rendered toothless by the PATRIOT Act. No more can we truly feel secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects when now there is an exception that fits nearly any excuse for our government to search and seize our property. Of course, the vast majority of Americans may say “I’m not a terrorist, so I have no reason to worry.” However, innocent people are wrongly accused all the time. The Bill of Rights is there precisely because the founders wanted to set a very high bar for the government to overcome in order to deprive an individual of life or liberty. To lower that bar is to endanger everyone. When the bar is low enough to include political enemies, our descent into totalitarianism is virtually assured.
The PATRIOT Act, as bad is its violation of the 4th Amendment, was just one step down the slippery slope. The recently passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) continues that slip toward tyranny and in fact accelerates it significantly. The main section of concern, Section 1021 of the NDAA Conference Report, does to the 5th Amendment what the PATRIOT Act does to the 4th. The 5th Amendment is about much more than the right to remain silent in the face of government questioning. It contains very basic and very critical stipulations about due process of law. The government cannot imprison a person for no reason and with no evidence presented or access to legal counsel.
The dangers in the NDAA are its alarmingly vague, undefined criteria for who can be indefinitely detained by the US government without trial. It is now no longer limited to members of al Qaeda or the Taliban, but anyone accused of “substantially supporting” such groups or “associated forces.” How closely associated? And what constitutes “substantial” support? What if it was discovered that someone who committed a terrorist act was once involved with a charity? Or supported a political candidate? Are all donors of that charity or supporters of that candidate now suspect, and subject to indefinite detainment? Is that charity now an associated force?
Additionally, this legislation codifies in law for the first time authority to detain Americans that has to this point only been claimed by President Obama. According to subsection (e) of section 1021, “[n]othing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.” This means the president’s widely expanded view of his own authority to detain Americans indefinitely even on American soil is for the first time in this legislation codified in law. That should chill all of us to our cores.
The Bill of Rights has no exemptions for “really bad people” or terrorists or even non-citizens. It is a key check on government power against any person. That is not a weakness in our legal system; it is the very strength of our legal system. The NDAA attempts to justify abridging the bill of rights on the theory that rights are suspended in a time of war, and the entire Unites States is a battlefield in the War on Terror. This is a very dangerous development indeed. Beware.
After the Boycott Divestment Sanctions campaign opened his eyes to the harsh reality of the occupation, British dubstep artist Joker cancelled his Tel Aviv show. The small but significant victory for BDS shows the inroads the movement is making around the globe.
Joker (photo: flickr/Passetti)
Let’s start with the bottom line: the British dubstep performer Joker canceled his show in Israel. And it’s possible to say that he did so because of a campaign by Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) activists, who created a Facebook group and contacted Joker.
Compared to other artists who have cancelled appearances in Israel or have supported BDS – such as Devendra Banhart, Elvis Costello or Roger Waters – Joker is not a “big name.” But his cancellation is highly significant for a number of reasons.
A young English dubstep producer who hails from Bristol, Joker has become one of the genre’s biggest international stars and performed in Tel Aviv several years. But this time around, a cultural boycott campaign was waged in the UK, indicating that the BDS movement has expanded and is now taking on lesser known artists and not just those who in the mainstream.
Joker’s cancellation exemplifies the power of new social networks. At a certain point, there seemed to be a “war of words” between those who support the boycott and those who are opposed to it, with Joker in the middle. In such a “battle,” which is a debate between activists, right and left, it is possible that boycott supporters have an advantage over officials or diplomats representing states or organizations.
The Israeli responses to the call for boycott have been almost solely based on the claim that “there’s no connection between music and politics.” Joker emphasized that he is, indeed, only a musician and that all that interests him – other than dubstep – is riding bikes and nothing else. His reasoning for the cancellation, as published on his Twitter account, was that the cultural boycott campaign opened his eyes to certain things. He said that while he had indeed appeared in Tel Aviv in the past, he didn’t have the information about racism that he does now, after the campaign.
Joker’s reaction is consistent with his non-political position. It should be a lesson to Israelis: Joker, as opposed to many Israelis, did not know about the reality which takes place in the Occupied Territories, just a short distance from Tel Aviv. The new information, however, led him to act in a non-political manner. Joker did not proclaim support for the BDS movement, but he also did not arrive in Israel. He apparently understood, unlike the Israeli clubbers who tried to fight the boycott with the “separation between politics and music” argument, that once the question of boycott was raised, a performance in Israel would become a deeply political act.
In the wake of the cancellation, the Israeli event organizers claimed that Joker had received threats on his and his girlfriend’s life. Since the Israeli organizers are the only source of this claim—Joker’s Twitter feed, the BDS campaign, and no news source hinted at this–it can be assumed that this is a lie intended to excuse the artist’s cancellation. The fact that someone – and an appreciated international artist at that – objectively chose to boycott Israel is apparently still a taboo that most Israelis cannot accept.
Translated by the Alternative Information Center.
Demonstration in commemoration of the killing of Mustafa Tamimi, Nabi Salih, West Bank (16 December 2011). (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)
If we had a wish list for 2012 as Palestinians and friends of Palestine, one of the top items ought to be our hope that we can translate the dramatic shift in recent years in world public opinion into political action against Israeli policies on the ground.
We know why this has not yet materialized: the political, intellectual and cultural elites of the West cower whenever they even contemplate acting according to their own consciences as well as the wishes of their societies.
This last year was particularly illuminating for me in that respect. I encountered that timidity at every station in the many trips I took for the cause I believe in. And these personal experiences were accentuated by the more general examples of how governments and institutions caved in under intimidation from Israel and pro-Zionist Jewish organizations.
A catalogue of complicity
Of course there were US President Barack Obama’s pandering appearances in front of AIPAC, the Israeli lobby, and his administration’s continued silence and inaction in face of Israel’s colonization of the West Bank, siege and killings in Gaza, ethnic cleansing of the Bedouins in the Naqab and new legislation discriminating against Palestinians in Israel.
The complicity continued with the shameful retreat of Judge Richard Goldstone from his rather tame report on the Gaza massacre — which began three years ago today. And then there was the decision of European governments, especially Greece, to disallow campaigns of human aid and solidarity from reaching Gaza by sea.
On the margins of all of this were prosecutions in France against activists calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and a few u-turns by some groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Europe caving in under pressure and retracting an earlier decision to cede connections with Israel.
Learning firsthand how pro-Israel intimidation works
In recent years, I have learned firsthand how intimidation of this kind works. In November 2009 the mayor of Munich was scared to death by a Zionist lobby group and cancelled my lecture there. More recently, the Austrian foreign ministry withdrew its funding for an event in which I participated, and finally it was my own university, the University of Exeter, once a haven of security in my eyes, becoming frigid when a bunch of Zionist hooligans claimed I was a fabricator and a self-hating Jew.
Every year since I moved there, Zionist organizations in the UK and the US have asked the university to investigate my work and were brushed aside. This year a similar appeal was taken, momentarily one should say, seriously. One hopes this was just a temporary lapse; but you never know with an academic institution (bravery is not one of their hallmarks).
Standing up to pressure
But there were examples of courage — local and global — as well: the student union of the University of Surrey under heavy pressure to cancel my talk did not give in and allowed the event to take place.
The Episcopal Bishops Committee on Israel/Palestine in Seattle faced the wrath of many of the city’s synagogues and the Israeli Consul General in San Francisco, Akiva Tor, for arranging an event with me in September 2011 in Seattle’s Town Hall, but bravely brushed aside this campaign of intimidation. The usual charges of “anti-Semitism” did not work there — they never do where people refuse to be intimidated.
The outgoing year was also the one in which Turkey imposed military and diplomatic sanctions on Israel in response to the latter’s refusal to take responsibility for the attack on the Mavi Marmara. Turkey’s action was in marked contrast to the European and international habit of sufficing with toothless statements at best, and never imposing a real price on Israel for its actions.
Do not cave in to intimidation
I do not wish to underestimate the task ahead of us. Only recently did we learn how much money is channeled to this machinery of intimidation whose sole purpose is to silence criticism on Israel. Last year, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs — leading pro-Israel lobby groups — allocated $6 million to be spent over three years to fight BDS campaigns and smear the Palestine solidarity movement. This is not the only such initiative under way.
But are these forces as powerful as they seem to be in the eyes of very respectable institutions such as universities, community centers, churches, media outlets and, of course, politicians?
What you learn is that once you cower, you become prey to continued and relentless bashing until you sing the Israeli national anthem. If once you do not cave in, you discover that as time goes by, the ability of Zionist lobbies of intimidation around the world to affect you gradually diminishes.
Reducing the influence of the United States
Undoubtedly the centers of power that fuel this culture of intimidation lie to a great extent in the United States, which brings me to the second item on my 2012 wish list: an end to the American dominance in the affairs of Israelis and Palestinians. I know this influence cannot be easily curbed.
But the issue of timidity and intimidation belong to an American sphere of activity where things can, and should be, different. There will be no peace process or even Pax Americana in Palestine if the Palestinians, under whatever leadership, would agree to allow Washington to play such a central role. It is not as if US policy-makers can threaten the Palestinians that without their involvement there will be no peace process.
In fact history has proved that there was no peace process — in the sense of a genuine movement toward the restoration of Palestinian rights — precisely because of American involvement. Outside mediation may be necessary for the cause of reconciliation in Palestine. But does it have to be American?
If elite politics are needed — along with other forces and movements — to facilitate a change on the ground, such a role should come from other places in the world and not just from the United States.
One would hope that the recent rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah — and the new attempt to base the issue of Palestinian representation on a wider and more just basis — will lead to a clear Palestinian position that would expose the fallacy that peace can only be achieved with the Americans as its brokers.
Dwarfing the US role will disarm American Zionist bodies and those who emulate them in Europe and Israel of their power of intimidation.
Letting the other America play a role
This will also enable the other America, that of the civil society, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the progressive campuses, the courageous churches, African-Americans marginalized by mainstream politics, Native Americans and millions of other decent Americans who never fell captive to elite propaganda about Israel and Palestine, to take a far more central role in “American involvement” in Palestine.
That would benefit America as much as it will benefit justice and peace in Palestine. But this long road to redeeming all of us who want to see justice begins by asking academics, journalists and politicians in the West to show a modicum of steadfastness and courage in the face of those who want to intimidate us. Their bark is far fiercer than their bite.
The author of numerous books, Ilan Pappe is Professor of History and Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter.
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barakat has announced that the city Municipality will now classify 70,000 citizens of Jerusalem as non-residents, furthering the right wing Israeli campaign to achieve a Jewish majority in East Jerusalem. Seventy thousand Palestinian residents already cut off from the rest of Jerusalem by Israel’s Apartheid Wall will now be cast out on paper as well, with their affairs turned over from the Municipality to the Israeli military’s West Bank civil administration.
Palestinian Jerusalemites vehemently reject the segregation of their city, criticizing the “false justification of security that Israeli authorities peddle in order to take over our lands and separate us from our families – amidst a disgraceful silence from the international community.”
One of the lingering controversies of the Iraq war is how beneficial it was to Israel, and whether those benefits were considered by the war’s promoters. Some grist for the mill: A JPost analysis by Yaakov Katz says that the American withdrawal from Iraq has created a security concern for Israel, on the “Eastern Front.”
Then head of the IDF Planning Directorate Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan, the author of the multi-year plan, explained that as long as the US remains in Iraq, Israel has little to be concerned about in terms of a military threat from that country. But, he said, who knows what will happen when America leaves.
Today, Nehushtan is commander of the Israel Air Force and in April, he will step down after a four-year term, leaving behind a force that might not only have to deal with Iran’s nuclear program but also with a potential future threat from Iraq….
The second concern is the possibility that Israel will once again have to take into consideration what is referred to in the IDF as the “Eastern Front,” another term for Iraq as a military threat. Iraq was in fact the primary threat that the IDF believed it faced until the mid-1990s following the First Gulf War, when Israel began to shift its focus to the evolving missile and nuclear threat in Iran.
While Iraq is not believed to be strong militarily today, that could and is already beginning to change. By 2015, Iraq will take receipt of 18 F-16 fighter jets. Israel, for its part, is not actively lobbying Washington against the deal as part of an understanding that it is in the US interest to bolster the Iraqi government
Well– the neoconservatives also wanted the U.S. to stay in Iraq forever. From Ali Gharib at ThinkProgress in September. Emphasis his.
[Bill] Kristol’s new “letterhead organization” — the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) — released a letter yesterday about the Obama administration’s reported plan to drop troop levels in Iraq to a mere several thousand.
After lauding U.S. efforts in Iraq so far, the FPI letter, signed by 40 mostly-neoconservative analysts, said:
“We are thus gravely concerned about recent news reports suggesting that the White House is considering leaving only a residual force of 4,000 or fewer U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of this year. This number is significantly smaller than what U.S. military commanders on the ground have reportedly recommended and would limit our ability to ensure that Iraq remains stable and free from significant foreign influence in the years to come.”
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu criticized Western powers for ineffective sanctions against Iran, telling a Foreign Ministry gathering certain unnamed countries are not backing their “tough rhetoric on Iran with a willingness to apply crippling sanctions.”
According to The Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu told Israel’s ambassadors and head of missions abroad meeting in the Foreign Ministry in a closed address Monday that the expressed desire by certain countries, led by the US, to strengthen sanctions on Iran was “welcome and important”, but the test of stiffening the sanctions is to take action against both Iran’s petrochemical industry and central bank, he said.
“There is no possibility of talking about crippling sanctions without these steps being taken immediately and with force,” he said.
Netanyahu said that while he didn’t know whether such “crippling” sanctions would stop Iran’s nuclear program, he was certain they would make things “difficult enough for the Iranian government that it would have to reconsider its actions.”
“But if the sanctions were not imposed, it would be interpreted by the Iranians as a sign the West did not truly have the will or intent to stop them,” Netanyahu added.
Netanyahu’s National Security Council head, Yaakov Amidror, addressed the same gathering Monday, and said Israel’s “number one mission” was to prevent Iran from “obtaining nuclear arms”. If Iran gets the ‘bomb’, he warned, it would be a different Middle East and a different world.
The Los Angeles Times is selling an old story as news.
Syria refugees find sanctuary in Libya
By Ruth Sherlock, Los Angeles Times
December 26, 2011
Reporting from Benghazi, Libya— Even as it recovers from its recent civil war, Libya is fast becoming a place of sanctuary for thousands of refugees fleeing the bloodshed in Syria.Buses from Damascus, crammed with Syrian families, are arriving daily in the eastern city of Benghazi, the cradle of the effort to oust the late Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi.
“Up to 4,000 Syrian families have sought refuge in Libya in the last weeks, and the numbers are increasing every day,” said Mohammed Jammal, a Syrian community leader in the city. “The buses arrive full and go back empty. There used to be two a week, but now there are two a day.”
That story is somewhat familiar to me. Where did I read it before?
The Daily Telegraph:
By Ruth Sherlock in Benghazi
9:00PM GMT 09 Dec 2011
Buses from Damascus, crammed with Syrian families, are arriving daily into the east Libyan city of Benghazi.”Up to 4,000 Syrian families have sought refuge in Libya in the last weeks, and the numbers are increasing every day” said Dr Mohammed Jammal, a Syrian community leader in the city. “The buses arrive full and go back empty. There used to be two a week, but now there are two a day.”
Except for a bit of editing the story in the LA Times and the Telegraph are identical but were published seventeen days apart. The writer, Ruth Sherlock, is: “a freelance journalist and an intern for Haaretz.com” or whatever.
The LA Times seems to believe that such news deserves publishing even weeks beyond it sales date. The editors probably kept it canned so they could publish something over the holidays without having to leave their homes.
The story itself is, by the way, fishy. It is clearly written to hype the success in Libya and to plant grueling tales about Syria.
But the reality is something else. Further down into it we find that the whole issue is likely less about Syrians fleeing to Libya but about Syrian expats, who worked in Libya and fled from there when the civil war broke out, returning to their workplaces. The December 26 LA Times version:
Before the Libyan civil war, thousands of Syrians worked in the country. The Libyan Red Crescent Society estimates they numbered about 12,000 when the war began.”Many left, but now they are returning and bringing their families with them,” said Ziad Dresi, a refugee coordinator for the Libyan Red Crescent Society.
The December 9 Telegraph version:
Prior to the Libyan civil war thousands of Syrians had worked in the country. The Libyan Red Crescent estimates that 12,000 Syrians were in the country at the start of the Libyan uprising. “Many left but now they are returning, and bringing their families with them, ” said Ziad al Dresi, a refugee coordinator for the Libyan Red Crescent.
Back to the LA Times. It is supposed to be a daily newspaper. How long does it expect their customers to continue paying when they find out that it is selling stale propaganda pieces as news?
Egyptian authorities have charged two Israelis as well as a Ukrainian national with smuggling weapons into Egypt.
Egypt’s State Prosecutor said in a statement on Monday that the three would be put on trial in a security court usually used for terrorism cases, although no date has yet been set for the trial.
According to the statement, the smuggled weapons were to be used in “illegal operations aimed to implicate Egyptian security.”
In June, Egypt arrested an Israeli for spying during the revolution. The Israeli spy was later freed in a swap deal with Tel Aviv.
The development comes as more than one hundred people have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces as well as in sectarian violence since former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February.
The deaths, coupled with the brutality committed by army forces against the protesters, have prompted some activists to consider suing the ruling generals in local courts or have them put on trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
“When they rape you don’t object”
Jerusalem Post editor and US neocon group behind hate video
LatmaTV is popular in Israel and is run by Jerusalem Post deputy editor Caroline Glick. She is an American who grew up in Chicago, settled in Palestine in 1991, and served five and a half years in the Israeli army.
Glick told Robert Mackey who edits The Lede blog at the The New Times last year that LatmaTV is a project of the neoconservative US-based “Center for Security Policy” (CSP) to which Glick is an advisor.
Glick was also behind the notorious “We con the world” video which mocked victims of Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara also using crude racist stereotypes.
But the latest video, which seems to affirm the beliefs of mass killer Anders Breivik, may have reached a new low, even for such extremists. If the targets of this hate propaganda were Jews instead of Muslims, it is not difficult to imagine what the outcry would be.
27 December 2011 | Palestinian Center for Human Rights
Khawla and Faris Al Ashi photographed next to the picture of their deceased father. (Photo: Palestinian Center for Human Rights)
On the morning of 27 December 2008, at approximately 11:30, Israeli F-16’s targeted a Gaza police initiation ceremony being held in the forecourt of “Arafat City”, a government complex located in Gaza City. The attack resulted in over 60 deaths and 150 injuries. This incident formed part of the wave of attacks which marked the commencement of Israel’s 23 day offensive on the Gaza Strip codenamed “Operation Cast Lead”. Amongst those killed was 33 year old Faris Al Ashi, a member of the Gaza police force who was on duty at the time of the attack.
Like many of the wives who lost husbands during the offensive, Amna Al Ashi was left with sole responsibility for bringing up her and her deceased husband’s young children, Khawla, 6, Osama, 5, Yomna, 3, and Faris, 2, whom she was five months pregnant with at the time of the attack. Amna’s reaction to her challenging circumstances has been defiant, “I am a woman and I have the right to live my own life, many men have proposed but I choose to dedicate myself entirely to the cause of my children”. Discussing the last three years of her life, Amna is keen to press upon the mini victories that have kept her going along the way.
It is clear that Amna has thought carefully about the solutions to the problems faced by her children following the loss of their father. “After he lost his father Osama was very traumatised”, says Amna, “he didn’t want to interact with others and he developed speech problems as a result. Even though he was very young I enrolled him in a local martial arts course. At first he didn’t not want to go, but slowly he gained confidence and now he is an orange belt and has overcome a huge amount of his shyness”. Likewise, Amna has found a novel means to allow her children to express their trauma. “I registered Osama and Khawla in a course for movie animation. Of course their movies are based around their lives and those of their siblings and reflect a lot of what they are thinking and feeling. The movies give me an insight into their problems and allow me to talk with them about it”. She plans to enrol all the children in traditional Palestinian Dabka (Dance) classes to make sure they grow up strong and healthy.
Nevertheless, Faris’ killing has left an empty space in the family life of the children and Amna . “My children see their cousins with their fathers, they hear them calling him “Baba” and they are deeply aware of the absence of a relationship with their own father” says Amna, “sometimes I try to make up for this by getting them to call me Baba, but it’s not the same, they need the feeling only their father could give them”. The loss of her husband has also led to feelings of loneliness and isolation for Amna. “During the day I am strong for the children but at night I become weak, I need the arms of Faris, I need everything he gave to me”.
Amna describes the initial year after Faris’s death as being the most traumatic. “At first I had huge trouble sleeping. The problem thankfully improved but I still find it difficult at times to sleep at night”, says Amna. One way Amna has looked to keeping her outlook positive is to keep busy on projects and hobbies. “I want to keep myself busy with good goals for my life. Currently I’m busy setting up a Kindergarten, which I have already received funding for.” “For the upcoming anniversary of the war, me and other women who lost husbands in the attack plan to give gifts to orphans who lost their fathers during the war. The gifts will be inscribed with the words “On this day you are the beloved ones of your mother”. We want children to remember they still have their mothers and they will always love them”.
During the offensive, Israel illegally classified members of the civilian police force as combatants: this classification constitutes a wilful violation of the principle of distinction, a key component of customary international law. Hamas is a multi-faceted organisation, exercising governmental control of the Gaza Strip. As an organisation, it cannot be considered an armed group. Rather, a distinction must be made between Hamas’ armed and political/civil components. The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades are the military wing of the Hamas organisation, they are an armed group, and are considered combatants according to IHL. However, Hamas’ political and civil wings are comprised of civilians, who are legally entitled to the protections associated with this status, provided they do not take an active part in hostilities. Civil police, and governmental officials cannot be considered combatants. Attacks intentionally directed against these individuals constitute wilful killing, a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, and a violation of customary international law.
PCHR submitted a criminal complaint on behalf of Fares Al Ashi on 5 May 2009. To-date, no response has been received.
Arab monitors visited Homs on Tuesday. Syria’s third largest city that has witnessed fierce clashes between security forces and militants.
The Arab League mission met Homs governor Ghassan Abdel Al, Syria’s Dunia television reported.
The mission also due to travel to the central city of Hama and Idlib in the northwest, close to the border with Turkey, the television added, without giving a timetable.
The head of the mission, Sudanese military intelligence officer General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, said that the authorities were so far affording every assistance.
“Till now, they have been very cooperative,” Dabi told AFP.
Last week Syria signed with the Arab League a protocol in which it permitted the observers to examine the situation in the country.
Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi said the observer “mission has freedom of movement in line with the protocol”. Under that deal, the observers are to be banned only from sensitive military installations.
The mission is part of an Arab plan endorsed by Syria on November 2 that calls for a halt to violence and the release of detainees.
For his part, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has said he expects the observers to vindicate his government’s contention that armed terrorists are behind the violence.
What is Stephen Zunes, the well-paid chair of the academic advisory committee of Peter Ackerman’s International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, doing on the radio show of Antiwar.com, whose self-proclaimed “initial project was to fight against intervention in the Balkans”?
As William I. Robinson, the author of the seminal critique of the democracy-manipulating establishment, Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony, has written:
That Ackerman is a part of the U.S. foreign policy elite and integral to the new modalities of intervention under the rubric of “democracy promotion,” etc., is beyond question. There is nothing controversial about that and anyone who believes otherwise is clearly seriously misinformed or just ignorant.