A woman has been killed and a soldier seriously injured after an unexploded cluster bomb detonated in Nabatiye Governorate in southern Lebanon, Press TV reports.
The incident occurred on Tuesday when a bomblet exploded in Bint Jbeil, the second largest town in the in southern Lebanon.
The injured soldier was rushed to the nearest hospital.
US reports say Israel dropped some 4.5 million cluster munitions in Lebanon during the last days of its military offensive on the country in 2006.
The move made Lebanon one of the worst affected countries by the internationally-banned arms, along with Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya.
Six years after the 2006 war, Lebanon has not yet finished clearing the cluster munitions and landmines in the south, with Israel refusing to provide UN authorities with maps of the locations of the munitions it dropped.
- Canada turns blind eye to cluster bomb treaty (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli troops steal 1000 goats from southern Lebanon (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Two Serbian Soldiers Killed By Old NATO Cluster Bomb (rferl.org)
Australians are fending off threats to their right to privacy from all directions. First, there was Australian Attorney General Nicola Roxon’s push to expand government online surveillance powers, submitted to Parliament in a package of reforms sought in a National Security Inquiry.
Then, on Aug. 22, the Australian Senate approved the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011, granting authorities the power to require phone and Internet providers to store up to 180 days worth of personal communications data. The purpose is to aid in investigations by both foreign and domestic law enforcement agencies, making it especially controversial since it can result in granting foreign governments access to Australian citizens’ communications data. The legislation only allows for data retention in the cases of specifically targeted individuals.
The bill is based on the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime – which we’ve flagged in the past as one of the world’s worst Internet law treaties – and the passage of the bill opens the door for Australia to join the Convention.
At least we can welcome the news that one of the most controversial aspects of Roxon’s National Security Inquiry proposal, a vague mandatory data retention provision that would have required service providers to retain all users’ communications data for up to two full years, seems to have been placed on hold – for now, anyway.
Yet at the same time, the newly approved Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 is viewed by some in Australia as a kind of “data retention lite,” and a precursor to the mass, untargeted surveillance that the more extreme proposal may yet usher in. An outcome of the approval of this bill, after all, is that providers will now have to install systems enabling data retention for up to 180 days – and pay for it themselves.
Public Fights Back
Despite the steady march toward expanded online snooping powers for law enforcement in the name of “national security,” a hefty pile of submissions landed in Parliamentary chambers last week, reflecting strong public opposition to the proposed reforms. A total of 177 submissions, representing thousands of individuals and organizations, flowed in to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security even though the government allowed only a brief time frame for comment.
Below, we collected some reactions of various Australian stakeholders who drafted lengthy submissions to convey their serious concerns. Civil liberties advocates aren’t the only ones worried about where this is going. The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association and Communications Alliance, a telecom industry group, also chimed in to express concerns about costly new requirements for telecoms that would come attached to these surveillance measures. Since data retention disproportionately burdens smaller ISPs affected by requiring expensive equipment upgrades, the measure has the potential to hamper innovation by discouraging new startups from entering the market.
Re: Making it a Crime to Refuse to Aid in Decryption
One of the worst ideas contained in the National Security Inquiry package is the creation of a new crime under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act of 1979: Refusing to aid law enforcement in the decryption of communications. That interception law granted law enforcement agencies, such as the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), the ability to legally intercept communications for the first time. Reactions to the proposal hinged on the threat it poses to Australians’ right to silence.
Senator Scott Ludlam, speaking on behalf of the Australian Green Party, had this to say:
While the integrity of Australianʹs right to silence has been damaged by the anti‐terrorism laws, with regard to other criminal offences it remains intact. This proposal further degrades the right to silence, presumably to pre‐trial investigations and undermines the privilege against self incrimination. … The Committee should oppose this proposal as a serious erosion of the legal and human rights of Australians.
Electronic Frontiers Australia, a digital civil liberties organization (which is not formally affiliated with EFF), pointed out a number of problems with this idea:
EFA is concerned about the possible creation of an offence for failing to assist in the decryption of communications for the following reasons:
- it undermines the right of individuals to not cooperate with an investigation
- it poses a threat to the independence of journalists and their sources, particularly in circumstances involving whistle-blowing activity related to cases of official corruption
- it could undermine the principles of doctor-patient and lawyer-client confidentiality and other trusted relationships
- there are foreseeable and entirely legitimate circumstances in which decryption of data is not possible, such as where a password has been forgotten and is unrecoverable.
EFA therefore believes that the Committee should reject this proposal.
Re: Extending the Regulatory Regime to “Ancillary Service Providers”
A discussion paper submitted as part of the National Security Inquiry proposal makes it clear that the Australian government is “considering the need for a new interception regime that better reflects the contemporary communications environment,” i.e. a total overhaul of existing legislation to allow law enforcement to pry into communications taking place over platforms like Facebook or Twitter. The discussion paper defines “ancillary service providers” as “Telecommunications industry participants who are not carriers or carriage service providers.” Ultimately, this suggests the government is angling to bring all forms of online communications into the reach of interception laws.
The Australian Privacy Foundation cited the privacy concerns inherent in this proposal.
Telecommunications legislation already goes much further than regulation in most other sectors in mandating a role for private sector businesses as agents of the state in surveillance and law enforcement (banking and finance is the other main area where this has happened). These proposals would see a further significant extension of this role. Online intermediaries in particular host our communications with our friends, relatives, co-workers etc. They host a vast amount of information, the volume and scope of which is growing exponentially as we move to the cloud, use social networks, etc. Using online intermediaries as an agent of the State dramatically impacts on the state’s surveillance capabilities. Even minor changes in what they are required to do on behalf of government agencies can have very broad implications for people’s privacy.
Ludlam, of the Australian Greens, also blasted the idea.
The Attorney Generalʹs paper does not explain how covering ʹancillary service providersʹ – the many and ever increasing forms of social media – in legislation will address ʹcurrent potential vulnerabilities in the interception regime that are capable of being manipulated by criminalsʹ. The Greens believe it is excessive to extend the reach of surveillance into the retention of all social media exchanges. Does this include all business exchanges on video conferencing platforms?
And EFA pointed out that this proposal could expose anyone to law enforcement scrutiny, not just people suspected of wrongdoing.
Central to many of the services that Australians deliberately sign-up for— e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Apple iCloud, etc.—is the concept of sharing across networks. In surveilling a target’s activities in such services, shared friends or media objects connect target and non-target individuals such that following one surveillance target inescapably involves collateral surveillance necessarily breaching the privacy of non-targets. …. Indeed, “cloud computing” itself underlies “social networking”. As such, the information flows pertaining to individuals cross and recross such services to the point where, again, separating surveillance of a particular target is almost inevitably going to encounter that of other individuals, but in this case in ways that cannot be anticipated and very deeply undermine Australians’ reasonable expectation of privacy.
- Roxon edges towards keeping online data for two years (smh.com.au)
- Roxon backs new online data powers (theage.com.au)
- Australian Government Moves to Expand Surveillance Powers (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Australian customers could pay for govt spying (zdnet.com)
Diatribes and Curious Silences
The Democrats just put out their platform on Latin America, and it demonstrates only the loosest connection to reality. Thus, while praising the “vibrant democracies in countries from Mexico to Brazil and Costa Rica to Chile,” as well as “historic peaceful transfers of power in places like El Salvador and Uruguay,” the Democrats continue to point to Cuba and Venezuela as outliers in the region in which the Democrats plan “to press for more transparent and accountable governance” and for “greater freedom.” Of course, it is their Platform’s deafening silence on critical developments in the region which says the most about their position vis a vis the Region.
Not surprising, the Democrats say nothing about the recent coups in Honduras and Paraguay (both taking place during Obama’s first term) which unseated popular and progressive governments. They also say nothing about the fact that President Obama, against the tide of the other democratic countries in Latin America, quickly recognized the coup governments in both of these countries. Also omitted from the platform is any discussion of the horrendous human rights situation in post-coup Honduras where journalists, human rights advocates and labor leaders have been threatened, harassed and even killed at alarming rates.
As Reporters Without Borders (RWR) explained on August 16, 25 journalists have been murdered in Honduras since the 2009 coup, making Honduras the journalist murder capital of the world. In this same story, RWR mentions Honduras in the same breath as Mexico (a country the Democrats hold out as one of the “vibrant democracies” in the region) when speaking of the oppression of journalists and social activists, as well as the general climate of violence which plagues both countries. As RWR stated, “Like their Mexican colleagues, Honduran journalists – along with human rights workers, civil society representatives, lawyers and academics who provide information – will not break free of the spiral of violent crime and censorship until the way the police and judicial apparatus functions is completely overhauled.” And indeed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 38 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 1992, and it has been confirmed in 27 of these cases that the journalists were killed precisely because they were journalists. Meanwhile, in Mexico, over 40,000 individuals have been killed due to the U.S.-sponsored drug war – hardly a laudable figure.
Of course, in the case of Honduras, and Paraguay as well, things are going fine for U.S. interests post-coup, with Honduras maintaining the U.S. military base which President Manuel Zelaya, overthrown in the coup, had threatened to close. Similarly, in Paraguay, one of the first acts of the new coup government was agreeing to open a new U.S. military base – a base opposed by Porfirio Lobos, the President (and former liberation Bishop) overthrown in the coup. The other act of the new coup government in Paraguay was its agreement to allow Rio Tinto to open a new mine in that country, again in contravention of the deposed President’s position. The Democrats simply do not speak of either Honduras or Paraguay in their Platform.
Instead, the Democrats mostly focus on their alleged desire to bring freedom to Cuba, saying nothing about the strides already made by Cuba itself where, according to a January 27, 2012 story in the Financial Times, entitled, “Freedom comes slowly to Cuba,” “there are currently no prisoners of conscience.” This is to be contrasted with Colombia, the chief U.S. ally in the region, which houses around 10,000 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. The Democrats, shy about such unpleasant facts, simply say nothing about Colombia – this despite the fact that Colombia just announced historic peace talks with the guerillas which have been engaged in a 50-year insurgency in that country. Apparently, this does not deserve a mention amongst the Democrats’ anti-Cuba diatribe.
Meanwhile, the Democrats also single out Venezuela as a country which it is hoping to free from its alleged chains. What the Democrats fail to note is that Venezuela already has a popular, democratically President in Hugo Chavez who is making life better for the vast majority of Venezuelans, and who appears poised to receive the majority of the votes of the Venezuelan people in the upcoming October elections as a consequence. Thus, according to Oxfam, “Venezuela certainly seems to be getting something right on inequality. According to the highly reputable UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, it now has the most equal distribution of income in the region, and has improved rapidly since 1990.” Again, contrast this with the U.S.’s chief ally Colombia and with Mexico, the two countries with the worst problems of inequality in the region. As the Council on Hemispheric Affairs noted earlier this year, “both Colombia and Mexico suffer from some of the world’s most unequal distributions of wealth. In 1995, Colombia was ranked the fifth most unequal country (of those with available statistics), with a Gini coefficient of 0.57, while Mexico was ranked the eighth worst with a Gini coefficient of 0.52. Between 2006 and 2010, Colombia’s inequality ranked 0.58, while Mexico’s coefficient was 0.52, qualifying them as two of the lowest ranked countries in the world.” The Democrats, uninterested in such trivialities as social equality, simply ignore such inconvenient data.
For its part, U.S. labor, as represented (albeit very poorly) by the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center, continue to march in step with the U.S. government and the Democrats in their imperial delusions about the Region. Thus, while for some time simply hiding the fact that it has been working in Venezuela at all, the Solidarity Center, in response to pressure about this issue, has recently admitted on its website that it has been continuously working in Venezuela these past 13 years – i.e., to and through the coup in 2002 which the Solidarity Center aided and abetted by funneling monies from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to the anti-Chavez CTV union which was a major player in the coup.
Stinging from the just criticism over this, the Solidarity Center now claims — reminiscent of George W. Bush who fancied himself a “uniter” as opposed to a “divider” – claims that it is in Venezuela to unite the divided labor movement. Thus, the Solidarity Center states: “[g]iven the political fragmentation and divisions between unions in Venezuela, Solidarity Center activities work to help unions from all political tendencies overcome their divisions in order to jointly advocate for and defend policies for increased protection of fundamental rights at the workplace and industry levels. The Solidarity Center currently supports efforts to unite unions from diverse political orientations (including chavista and non-chavista, left and center) to promote fundamental labor rights in the face of anti-labor actions that threaten both pro-government unions and traditionally independent unions.” In its statement, the Solidarity Center says nothing about the progressive labor law which President Chavez just recently signed into law without any help from U.S. labor. This law, among other things, outlaws outsourcing and subcontracting, shortens the work week, increases minimum vacation time, increases maternity leave and requires employers to provide retirement benefits.
The Solidarity Center statement about Venezuela is laden with irony as well as hubris. The U.S. labor movement is itself greatly fragmented, with two competing houses of labor (the AFL-CIO and Change to Win) as well as divisions even within these two confederations. That the Solidarity Center would presume to be able to unite any union movement outside its borders is laughable. Indeed, only imagine the reception from the labor movement in this country if China’s labor confederation purported to intervene in the U.S. to help unite the labor movement here. Aside from wondering how exactly the Chinese unionists planned to do this, many would wonder about the ends to which such unity, once miraculously created, would be applied. And, one must wonder the very same about this in regard to the Solidarity Center’s role in Venezuela. First of all, the so-called “chavista” unions want nothing to do with the Solidarity Center, funded as it is by the NED and U.S.-AID, especially after the 2002 coup. Again, they would have to question what the Solidarity Center, which just received a massive grant of $3 million for its work in Venezuela and Colombia, would want to “unify” the Venezuelan union movement to do. The question appears to answer itself, and it is not a pretty one.
A modest proposal for the AFL-CIO and its Solidarity Center is to focus on uniting the labor movement at home in the U.S. to challenge the power that capital has on our political system; pressing for better U.S. labor law (on this score it could learn a lot from Venezuela and its labor movement); abandoning its labor paternalism (if not imperialism) and leaving it to the Venezuelans to unite their own labor movement. Similarly, the Democrats, instead of worrying about ostensibly bringing U.S.-style democracy (more like social inequality and militarism) to other countries in the Region, should spend more time trying to make this country less beholden to corporate and monied interests, and thereby more democratic in the process. But again, this is not what the Democrats are about. What the AFL-CIO is about, aside from blindly supporting the Democrats, is anyone’s guess.
Alberto C. Ruiz is a long-time labor and peace activist.
A report says the Egyptian government has announced the retirement of 70 army generals, weeks after President Mohamed Morsi replaced Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi as defense minister with Major General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
The new defense minister made the announcement, adding that six members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) have also been dismissed, according to a report by the Egyptian daily al-Shorouk.
The six SCAF members will however remain in the armed forces, the paper said.
On August 12, Morsi dismissed Tantawi from his post, canceling a constitutional declaration issued by the military that restricted presidential powers.
Tantawi was Egypt’s defense minister for nearly two decades under former dictator Hosni Mubarak. He headed Egypt’s SCAF, which took power in February 2011 after Egyptians launched a revolution against Mubarak’s regime in January, which eventually brought an end to the dictatorship.
Morsi also ordered the retirement of the military chief of staff, Sami Anan, replacing him with Sedqi Sobhi Sayyid Ahmed.
On August 22, Egyptian lawyer Assem Kandil filed the first legal complaint against several officials in the African state including Tantawi.
“I did so because I accuse them all of killing protesters during the series of bloody protests in Egypt following last year’s uprising along with wasting public money in the state’s spending on the parliamentary election,” the lawyer said.
Blaming the Victim
On Tuesday, Judge Oded Gershon of the Haifa District Court dismissed the civil lawsuit I brought on behalf of Rachel Corrie’s family against the State of Israel for the unlawful killing of their daughter, an American peace activist and human rights defender who legally entered Gaza to live with Palestinian families in Rafah whose homes were threatened by demolition.
While not surprising, the verdict is yet another example of impunity prevailing over accountability and fairness and it flies in the face of the fundamental principle of international humanitarian law – that in a time of war, military forces are obligated to take all measures to avoid harm to both civilians and their property.
It is not the first time courts have denied victims of Israeli military actions the right to effective remedy. Just ask the many Palestinians who have faced a myriad of legal hurdles and fought for decades simply to have their day in court. Thousands of legitimate claims continue to be denied based on the controversial legal theory – which Judge Gershon adopted – that soldiers should be absolved of civil liability because they were engaged in military operational activities in a war zone.
Rachel’s case is unique because she was the first foreign national to be killed while protesting Israeli occupation, though she was hardly the last. Tom Hurndall, a British peace activist, was shot in the head and killed by an Israeli sniper less than three weeks after Rachel was killed. And less than a month after that, James Miller, a British cameraman was also shot and killed by the IDF in Rafah.
In reaching his decision in Rachel’s case, Judge Gershon accepted virtually all of the government’s legal arguments and either ignored or distorted critical facts in order to reach his decision. For example, he concluded that Rafah was a closed military zone, as declared by the Israeli military’s southern command (never mind that no such order was presented in court, and the ground unit commander testified he was unaware of the area’s designation as a closed zone). And that conclusion had implications.
When the former Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade Commander Colonel Pinhas (Pinky) Zuaretz, who was in charge in 2003, testified, he confirmed that the rules of engagement at the time Rachel was killed were to “shoot to kill any adult person on the [Philadelphi] route.” As another Israeli colonel who testified put it: “There are no civilians in a war zone.” By accepting the testimony of Zuaretz and others, Judge Gershon essentially accepted that the “shoot to kill” order was acceptable, which violates the fundamental tenets of international humanitarian law, mandating that soldiers distinguish between combatants and civilians.
We knew from the beginning that it would be an uphill battle to find truth and justice, but we are convinced that this verdict not only distorts the strong evidence presented in court, but also contradicts fundamental principles of international law with regard to protection of human rights defenders. In denying justice in Rachel Corrie’s killing, this verdict is part of a systemic failure to hold the Israeli military accountable for continuing violations of basic human rights. As former U.S. President Jimmy Carter put it: “The court’s decision confirms a climate of impunity, which facilitates Israeli human rights violations against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territory.”
The Corrie family has always stressed that the purpose of this lawsuit was larger than compensation for their loss. For them, it was about understanding exactly what happened to Rachel and exposing the injustices their daughter and her friends in the International Solidarity Movement stood against. They filed suit on advice of Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who, on behalf of the State Department, told the family in 2004 that the United States did not consider the investigation into Rachel’s death to be “thorough, credible and transparent.”
The U.S. government has repeatedly reiterated its position regarding the failed investigation, and after nearly seven years of mounting evidence since the case was initially filed, it has become even clearer that the military conducted its investigation not to uncover the truth of what happened, but rather, to exonerate itself of any blame.
In his decision, Judge Gershon concluded that because Rachel put herself in harm’s way, she is to be blamed for her own death. That conclusion puts at serious risk the lives of human rights defenders and it creates yet another dangerous precedent regarding the protection of civilians in war. Not surprisingly, the court avoided any analysis of international law obligations.
The verdict ensures that the Israeli culture of impunity will continue unchecked. Rachel Corrie lost her life standing non-violently with those who have been subject to Israel’s systematic policy of destruction and demonization. Like the Freedom Riders in the United States who, during the civil rights movement, joined oppressed black communities in their struggle for equality, Rachel and her friends in the ISM presented a new challenge and model of non-violent activism, solidarity and resistance to the longest military occupation in modern history.
In a country in which the judicial system has enabled the occupation for almost 50 years, I suppose it’s not surprising that the judicial system blamed the victim for her own death.
Hussein Abu Hussein is a human rights lawyer and co-founder of the Arab Association for Human Rights. He represented the Corrie family in their case against the Israeli government and the Israeli Ministry of Defense.
- International Solidarity Movement’s response to the Rachel Corrie verdict (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Rachel Corrie and the Kosher Legal Stamp (alethonews.wordpress.com)
A guarantee of support for a strike against Iran overlooks the lessons of the First World War
Israel’s attempt to steer American foreign policy has been nowhere more evident than in the sustained campaign to move the United States in the direction of war with Iran, a war that serves no American interest unless one believes that Tehran is willing to spend billions of dollars to develop a nuclear weapon only to hand off the result to a terrorist group.
The most recent overtures by the Israeli government have pushed the United States to make a declaration that negotiations with Iran have failed and will not be continued. For Israel, this is a necessary first step towards an American military intervention, as failed negotiations mean there is no way out of the impasse but by war, if the Iranians do not unilaterally concede on every disputed point.
Two recent op-eds have elaborated the argument, promoting the necessity of convincing the Israelis that the United States is absolutely serious about using military force against Iran if the Iranians seek to retain any capacity to enrich uranium. One might note in passing that this new red line, sometimes also called the abstract “capability” to create a nuclear weapon, has been achieved by moving the goal posts back considerably. At one time Iran was threatened with a military response if it actually acquired a nuclear weapon (which is still the official position of the Obama administration), but earlier benchmarks within that policy saying that enrichment should not exceed 20 percent or that the enrichment should not take place on Iranian soil have been abandoned in favor of what now amounts to zero tolerance. Those who note that Iran, which is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is under IAEA inspection, has a clear legal right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes have been ignored in favor of those who believe that Iran is somehow a special case.
On August 17, the Washington Post and The New York Times featured op-eds explaining why the United States must do more to convince Israel not to attack Iran this year. Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel’s military intelligence who is believed to be close to the country’s political leadership, argued in the Post that Obama must basically convince the Israelis that he will use force against Iran if sanctions do not convince the country’s leadership to abandon enrichment of nuclear fuel. Over at the Times, Dennis Ross, a former senior U.S. diplomat who has been described as Israel’s lawyer, made pretty much the same arguments. Both advocated giving Israel refueling tankers and special munitions that would enable an attack on Iran to be more effective, thereby widening the window of opportunity for sanctions to work, in light of Israeli arguments that hardened Iranian sites might soon be invulnerable to attack. Ross advocates giving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu effectively a blank check, asking him what he will need to attack Iran and granting the Israeli government commitments for a full range of U.S. military support. Both Yadlin and Ross argue that it is necessary to create the conditions for Israel to delay a possible attack until 2013. As Yadlin puts it, “if the United States wants Israel to give sanctions and diplomacy more time, Israelis must know that they will not be left high and dry if these options fail.”
Assuming that Ross and Yadlin are speaking for the Israeli government, which is almost certainly the case, Israel is essentially demanding a commitment from Washington to attack Iran unless the issue of Iran’s ability to enrich uranium is resolved through negotiation or through Iranian surrender of that right. In return, Israel will not attack Iran before the American election. So in effect, Washington would be promising to fight a war later if Israel does not start one now.
Israel knows it cannot successfully attack Iran unilaterally and must have the United States along to do the heavy lifting. It also knows that the threat to attack Iran before the election is a powerful weapon, with neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama welcoming such a potentially game-changing diversion from their debate on the economy and jobs.
Critics like Arnaud de Borchgrave have correctly noted that many former generals and intelligence officers in the United States and Israel have, in fact, decided that the basic premise is wrong. Iran does not pose a threat that could not be contained even if it does some day make the political decision to obtain a crude nuclear device. Launching a new war in the Middle East to prevent it from doing so would create “mayhem” throughout the region, guarantee a breakdown in Egypt-Israel relations, and create a perfect breeding ground for the civil war in Syria to spill out and lead to turmoil among all of its neighbors. American ships in the Persian Gulf would be attacked, unrest in Bahrain would turn to revolution, and the Palestinians would stage a new intifada. Israel would be bombarded from Lebanon and from Iran. Gas prices would soar, economic recovery would stall worldwide, and European nations now struggling to deal with unprecedented unemployment levels would watch the eurozone collapse before the rage of hundreds of thousands protesters in the streets. Americans would again become the targets of international terrorism.
And there is another serious objection to going along with the Israeli government’s thinking. Israel is by its own volition not an ally of the United States in any technical sense because alliances are troublesome things that require rules of engagement and reciprocity, limiting the partners’ ability to act independently. If Israel obtains a virtual commitment from the United States to go to war in 2013, it would mean enjoying the benefits of having a powerful patron to do its fighting without any obligation in return, beyond delaying unilateral military action until a more suitable time. A guarantee from Washington for Israel’s security which still permits unilateral action by Netanyahu is all too reminiscent of the entangling arrangements that led to World War I. The fact that the murder of an Austrian Archduke in the Balkans led to a world war that killed tens of millions was due to promises not unlike what Israel is demanding today.
If the United States commits to unconditional support for an Israeli attack on Iran, it will be a surrender of one of the defining attributes of national sovereignty: the power to choose when and where to go to war. Amos Yadlin suggests at one point that President Obama go to Congress and get approval in advance to take military action “to prevent Iran’s acquisition of a military nuclear capability.” Such a pre-approval for war certainly raises constitutional issues, but it also creates a virtual casus belli because Iran already has the “capability” to enrich uranium for potential military uses. A guarantee precludes any consideration that the United States might actually have an overriding national interest to avoid a war. It denies that the United States should be able to exercise complete sovereignty over the issue of Iran, and it also freezes the status quo, as if new ways of looking at the problem of the Iranian nuclear program could not evolve over the next few months.
Washington should make no commitment to anyone about what it will do vis-à-vis Iran in 2013 no matter what inducements are offered. As the 19th-century British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston put it, “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” Let America’s actual interests dictate U.S. foreign policy.
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.
- Peace is War: How Israel Induces America into War with Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
GAZA — The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) documented thirteen violations against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip perpetrated by the Israeli navy forces, during the past two months.
PCHR documented the Israeli violations against Palestinian fishermen during the reporting period 26 July to 01 August 2012 including 10 incidents in which the IOF fired at fishermen.
The center also confirmed the arrest of two fishermen by the Israeli forces while fishing at a distance of 300 meters from Gaza port.
The center considered the Israeli attacks against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip as a flagrant violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, especially the right to life and security of the person, in accordance with Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the State of Israel is a party.
The IOF perpetrated violations against Palestinian fishermen in the sea, when these fishermen did not pose any threat to Israeli naval troops. The fishermen were practicing their right to work and seek their livelihood within the territorial waters of the Gaza Strip when the IOF indiscriminately fired at them.
During the reporting period, PCHR documented 11 cases in which the IOF fired at Palestinian fishermen in the sea off the Gaza shore, and the arrest of 2 Palestinian fishermen, including a 16-year-old boy
These attacks took place within the 3 nautical miles allowed for fishermen to sail and fish in. PCHR also noticed that these firing incidents against fishermen and their boats took place in the context of seeking their livelihood, and the imposition of more restrictions to terrify and prevent the fishermen from practicing their work freely.
The report pointed out that Israeli gunboats fired on August 28 Palestinian fishing boats in front of the coast of northern Gaza Strip, causing damage to Palestinian boat, an issue that pushed the fishermen to go back to the shore.
Despite the fact that the fishermen were trying to steer their boats back to the shore, the Navy boats continued to target them.
- Israeli Navy Chases Fishing Boats, Tries To Sink Them (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- IOF gunfire targets fishermen and farmers in Gaza (altahrir.wordpress.com)
Israeli soldiers physically attacked, on Monday at night, a Palestinian nonviolent activist after stopping his vehicle, in Hebron city, in the southern part of the West Bank. The soldiers forced him out of his car and brutally attacked and kicked him.
Tamer al-Atrash, media spokesperson of the Youth Coalition Against Settlements, stated that several soldiers stopped his car and forced him out of it before they started shouting at him, in addition to kicking and punching him.
Al-Atrash said that he recognized the soldiers who attacked him as he previously filmed them while they were assaulting a number of residents in the Tal Romedia neighborhood in Hebron.
“This is an act of revenge; it seems they think they are settling a score”, Al-Atrash stated. “We always expose their violations and abuse practiced against the civilians on a daily basis in Tel Romeida”.
Israeli settlers illegally reside in the neighborhood in privately-owned Palestinian property, in Tal Romeida and in several parts of the city.
Settlers who reside in the heart of the occupied city of Hebron are responsible for dozens of attacks against the residents and their property.
- French activist injured as Israeli troops attack Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Hebron: Over 30 detained (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Jewish Settler’s Vehicle Rams Child in Hebron Hit and Run (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Hebron: Palestinian streets closed for Israeli settlers (alethonews.wordpress.com)
AL-KHALIL — Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) condemned the Israeli Ministerial Committee’s decision granting stores in the ancient vegetable market in Hasba neighborhood, located in the center of al-Khalil, to the Jewish Settlements Council.
HRC warned of the seriousness of consequences of such ministerial decision on the demographic, geographic, political and economic reality.
It considered in a statement that the decision “comes in the framework of a settlement scheme to Judaize the Old City of al-Khalil, to strengthen the presence of settlers there, and to deport its indigenous population after seizing their properties without legal justification.”
It also warned that this decision aims to eliminate once and for all legal and political possibilities to re-open the shops and the confiscated vegetable market, considered the main commercial center in the city of al-Khalil.
The committee noted in its statement that the HRC and Peace Now Movement had obtained last March a resolution from the Israeli Supreme Court imposing on the settlers to immediately evacuate al-Oweiwi shops located in the ancient vegetable market Hasba near “Abraham Avenue” outpost.
The Israeli Ministerial Committee has issued a new decision under which the settlers have to evacuate the shops which they seized from their Palestinian owners in al-Hasba vegetable market to be granted to the Jewish Settlement Council.
- Hebron: Over 30 detained (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Jewish Settler’s Vehicle Rams Child in Hebron Hit and Run (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli ministers order Al Khalil (Hebron) shop handed to settlers (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
In the vein of its previous documentary project presenting a montage of 24 hours of life in Berlin, the German Zero One film production company has been planning a similar venture on Jerusalem.
Berlin-based Zero One Film will work alongside Palestinian producer Daoud Kuttab and newly founded Israeli prodco 24 Communications. The latter is a joint venture between Israeli prodcos Pie Films and Inosan, which worked on the original version of HBO hit In Treatment.
Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg and Jerusalem Film Fund are backing 24h Jerusalem and the producers hope to secure the remaining €400,000 (US$500,000) of its €2.4m budget at MipTV this week.
Palestinian directors have now pulled out of the project – they were unaware of the presence of the Israeli production company, nor of backing from the Jerusalem Film Fund, which is in turn funded by the Jerusalem Development Authority. Current activities of the JDA include expropriating Palestinian land in East Jerusalem for parks. The JDA received “40 million NIS in 2005 to develop green spaces around the Old City of Jerusalem”.
Designating urban space as a national park is not only easier but cheaper too, the state having no obligation to compensate owners.
The Jerusalem municipality leaves the creation of these parks to the National Planning Authority (in the Ministry of Interior), Bimkom noted, which deals more with the protection of nature and heritage than the rights of Jerusalem’s residents.
The disparity between the management of space for West Jerusalemites compared to their counterparts in the east is stark, with national parks notably absent from the west.
“The Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are crowded and they suffer from extreme neglect and shortage of public infrastructure,” Bimkom architect, Efrat Bar-Cohen, said in a statement.
“The residents are in desperate need of space by which they can improve their quality of life, even if slightly.”
The building of the park will have ramifications beyond the strangling of Issawiya and A-Tur residents.
It will stretch into the E1 area of the West Bank, which represents an important reserve of space for Palestinian development, creating a string of Jewish Israeli-only settlement between the Old City and Ma’ale Adumim settlement.
Elad Kandl is director of the Old City projects at the Jerusalem Development Authority, whose website describes their work as rehabilitating and conserving the Old City.
He expressed succinctly Israel’s aim of curbing Palestinian development in Jerusalem. “When you make it a national park,” he told The Jerusalem Post in reference to open space, “you keep the status quo.”
The JDA, which operates under the 1988 Jerusalem Development Authority Law, was established to further entrench Israeli control over the city and is also involved in the Jerusalem light rail project.
Indeed, the Prime Minister’s Office and the mayor of Jerusalem sponsored a JDA program to work toward this goal. On its website the JDA is very clear about the role of the Jerusalem light rail project, stating that “The investment in the light railway project was one of the government’s key strategies to empower Jerusalem as a capital.”
The JDA is also an instrumental actor in the proposed construction of 1,400 new housing units in the Gilo Jewish settlement colony, located near Bethlehem in occupied East Jerusalem.
In this light, the involvement of the JDA in the 24h Jerusalem project clearly designates the film as unacceptable normalisation with the Israeli occupation.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has defined normalization specifically in a Palestinian and Arab context “as the participation in any project, initiative or activity, in Palestine or internationally, that aims (implicitly or explicitly) to bring together Palestinians (and/or Arabs) and Israelis (people or institutions) without placing as its goal resistance to and exposure of the Israeli occupation and all forms of discrimination and oppression against the Palestinian people.”  This is the definition endorsed by the BDS National Committee (BNC).
One Palestinian participant in the 24h Jerusalem project, Enas aL-Muthaffar, made clear his objections to the film project in an open letter on August 25th. He reveals that he was not informed at all about the Israeli production partner. Nor were the Palestinian directors to be involved in the editing process.
To whom It May Concern,
When Kuttab Productions first contacted me early July, it failed to mention that Israel is part of this project, although I specifically inquired about this issue. And then again, you sent me an email on July 9th, which also failed to mention that Israel is in fact part of your film production. I only knew about Israel being a co-producer of Jerusalem 24 when I asked specific technical questions about the characters, crew and the editing phase. I was surprised to know that the selected filmmakers are only requested to film on September 6th and that we have no say in the editing phase. Then, you said: The editing phase will happen in Germany where the Palestinian and the Israeli films will be edited in one feature length documentary. This is not information that can simply be passed on in such a way!
I reject to be part of Jerusalem 24: a German/ Israeli/ Palestinian co-production for the following two main reasons:
· I respect and support Palestinian civil society campaign for Boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with International law and respects Palestinian rights.
· I refuse to be part of a peace propaganda machine that continues to ignore Israel’s cruel colonization of Palestine.
There is a longer list of reasons related to the current steps undertaken by Israel that aim at changing the demographic, social and cultural composition of the city of Jerusalem – to name few:
· Advocating the largest act of de-population of East Jerusalem since 1967.
· Continuing expansion of illegal settlements.
· Renewal of closure of East Jerusalem Institutions.
· Building restrictions and home demolitions.
· Revoking residency rights and denying family reunification.
· Continued illegal diggings under al-Aqsa mosque compound.
There is no way in which I can separate my art from who I am, from my life, from my duty to resist everything and anything that doesn’t acknowledge my right to exist on my land in freedom and dignity.
Enas I. aL-Muthaffar
Enas’ stance is confirmed in an Al Akbar piece [Google translation]:
Yesterday, I sent a group of Palestinian institutions and individuals working in the field of culture and art message to «Book of production» declare the absolute rejection of various forms of normalization with the occupier and «standing in the face of attempts to penetrate the cultural front as the line of the clash with the basic occupation, and intellectuals were and will remain the spearhead in the clash of cultures and civilizations with brute occupation force.
Haidar Eid further affirms terms of the PACBI boycott relevant to the joint film project [Google translation]:
That all meetings and projects that combine between the Palestinians and the Israelis must be placed in the proper context against the occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, and most importantly that these meetings be pro-boycott by directives issued by the National Committee of the province.
According to Amira Hass, 20 directors, including Israelis, have now pulled out of the film project in support of the cultural boycott and filming, scheduled for September 6, has been halted.
- Israeli settlers move into Silwan home (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Analysis: Is Israel’s permit policy political, or economic? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel to Annex More of East Jerusalem (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- New Israeli military complex planned in Jerusalem (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Army To Demolish Homes In Silwan (imemc.org)
- Settlers Hurl Stones At Palestinian Homes In Jerusalem (imemc.org)