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Vengeance—Not a very Enlightened Strategy for Success

By Richard Edmondson |  War and Politics | February 22, 2013

Today, nearly nine years after his release from prison, Israeli nuclear whistle blower Mordechai Vanunu still has not been granted the one wish he desires now more than any other—the freedom to leave Israel and live elsewhere. Does the Israeli government plan to continue this policy forever? Or perhaps until the man is aged and sick and approaching death? Will he finally be granted his freedom then?

10_jpgIsrael insists it must keep Vanunu a prisoner of the Jewish state out of fear he might disclose further nuclear secrets. But come on. The man hasn’t seen the inside of a nuclear plant since 1986. That was the year he was charged with turning over photographs of Israel’s Dimona facility to a British newspaper. After serving an 18 year sentence, Vanunu was released in 2004, but still today government officials refuse to grant his petitions to leave the country. It’s hard to view this as other than an Israeli thirst for vengeance against any and all deemed enemies.

With two films currently up for Oscar nominations in the “best documentary” category—both highly critical of Israeli policies—you would think those running the Jewish state would have figured out by now that vengeance—against Palestinians, or nuclear whistle blowers, or anyone else for that matter, even the bogeyman—is not overall a very enlightened strategy for success. And of course, what else can you call the repeated destruction of Palestinian infrastructure and demolishing of peoples’ homes other than a campaign of vengeance? What else can you make of Vanunu being forced to spend most of his 18 year sentence in solitary confinement than that it was an impious exercise of wrath?

Eileen Fleming has written an article offering quite a bit of insight into Vanunu’s struggle for freedom and also announcing a global day of action on the whistle blower’s behalf. Fleming is the author of the recently-released book Imagine: Vanunu’s Wait for Liberty, and her newest article offers revealing quotes from letters written by Vanunu during his years of solitary confinement and sent to Australian priest David B. Smith. As you’ll see, Vanunu is in fact quite a prolific letter writer, and Fleming also provides us with links to some of his poetry.

Vanunu’s Latest Message and 2nd Annual Global Day of Action

February 23, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Comments Off on Vengeance—Not a very Enlightened Strategy for Success

Israel instructs Obama: “Iranian and Syrian sanctions are not painful enough!”

… impose an international blockade now!

By Franklin Lamb | Al-Manar | February 23, 2013

On 3/26/2013 Iran is expected to meet other world powers in Astana, Kazakhstan to discuss its nuclear program. Discussions that the occupiers of Palestine fervently hope will not be successful. It is toward this end that their key demand this week to the US Congress, the White House and the European Union is “to cast responsibility on the Iranians by blaming them for the talks’ failure in the clearest terms possible.”

According to the Al-Monitor of 3/19/13, Israel also demands that the countries meeting in Kazakhstan “make it perfectly clear that slogans such as ‘negotiations can’t go on forever’ are their marching orders to the White House, and they want the Kazakhstan attendees to act “so severely that the Iranians realize that they face a greater threat than just Israeli military action.” “The message must be that this time the entire west, behind Israel’s leadership, is contemplating the launch of a massive military action.” Unsaid is that “the entire West” is expected to confront Iran militarily while Tel Aviv’s forces will mop up Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Syria if necessary.

Pending the above arrangements, Israel this week is further demanding that the Obama White House issue another Executive Order dramatically ratcheting up the US-led Sanctions against Iran and Syria while it prepares for a hoped for “game changing international economic blockade, including no-fly zones enforced by NATO”.

To achieve yet another layer of severe sanctions, and at the behest of AIPAC, a “legislative planning” meeting was called by Congressman Eliot Engel, who represents New York’s 17th District (the Bronx) and who is the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (Florida’s 27th District), Chair of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. The session was held in a posh Georgetown restaurant and participants included representatives from AIPAC, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain plus half a dozen Congressional staffers.

Congressman Engel has co-sponsored virtually every anti-Arab, anti-Islam, anti-Palestinian, anti-Iran, and anti-Syrian Congressional broadside since he entered Congress a quarter-century ago. His campaign literature last fall stated: “I am a strong supporter of sanctions against those who repeatedly reject calls to behave as responsible nations. [Israel excepted-ed]. I have authored or helped author numerous bills which have been signed into law to impose sanctions against rogue states including Iran and Syria.” Ros-Lehtinen and Engel led all members with AIPAC donations on the House side in last fall’s Congressional elections. They are ranked number one and two respectively as still serving career recipients of Israel-AIPAC’s “indirect” campaign donations.

Some Congressional operatives accuse Rep. Ros-Lehtinen of being a bit lazy and neglecting the bread and butter needs of her Florida constituents. But others argue that it depends on which constituents one has in mind. Her election mailings and her Congressional website claim that the Congresswoman “led all Congressional efforts tirelessly to generate votes to block what she views as anti-Israel resolutions offered at the former UN Commission on Human Rights.”

A big fan of US-led sanctions against Iran and Syria, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen introduced the Iran Freedom Support Act on January 6, 2005, which increased sanctions and expanded punitive measures against the Iranian people until the Iranian regime has dismantled its nuclear plants. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen also introduced H.R. 957, the Iran Sanctions Amendments Act, which she claims “will close loopholes in current law by holding export credit agencies, insurers, and other financial institutions accountable for their facilitation of investments in Iran and sanction them as well.” In addition, H.R. 957 seeks to impose liability on parent companies for violations of sanctions by their foreign entities. She also co-sponsored H.R 1357 which requires “U.S. government pension funds to divest from companies that do any business with any country that does business with Iran.” Her campaign literature states that, “She was proud to be the leading Republican sponsor of H.R. 1400, the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act. This bill applies and enhances a wide range of additional sanctions.”

In addition, last year Illeana introduced H.R. 394, which enlarges US Federal Court Jurisdiction regarding claims by American citizens their claims in U.S. courts. Unclear is whether she realizes that one consequence of her initiative would be to open even wider US courtroom doors to Iranian-Americans and Syria-Americans who today are being targeted and damaged by the lady’s ravenous insatiable craving for civilian targeting economic sanctions.

But Ileana and Elliot appear to be fretting.

So is Israel.

The reasons are several and they include the fact that the US-led sanctions have failed to date to achieve the accomplishments they were designed to produce. These being to cripple the Iranian economy, provoke a popular protest among the Iranian people over inflation and scarcity of food and medicines, weaken Iran as much as possible before adopting military measures against it, and, most essentially, achieving regime change to turn the clock back to those comfortable days of our submissive, compliant Shah.

Zionist prospects for Syria aren’t any better at the moment. Tel Aviv’s [schemes] to intimidate the White House into invading Syria have not worked. Plan A has failed miserably according to the Israeli embassy people attending the Engel-Ros Litinen’s informal confab. Neither did the “how about we just arm the opposition” plan that originated last year with David H. Petraeus and was supported by Hillary Clinton while being pushed by AIPAC. The goal was to create allies in Syria that the US and Israel could control if Mr. Assad was removed from power. Moreover, the White House believes that there are no good options for Obama. It has vetoed 4 recent Israeli proposals including arming the rebels and is said to believe that Syria is already dangerously awash with “unreliable arms.”

The recent shriveling in Israeli prospects for a dramatic Pentagon intervention in Syria reflect White House war weariness. And also Israel’s predilection to bomb targets itself in Syria, as it did recently to assassinate a senior Iranian officer in the Quds force of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Hassan Shateri. Contrary to the false story that Israel attacked a missiles convoy, some unassembled equipment was damaged but that was not the primary target according to Fred Hof, a former U.S. State Department official. Gen. Shateri was.

Making matters worse for Tel Aviv, the Israeli military is reportedly becoming skittish due to its deteriorating political and military status in the region and its troops have recently completed subterranean warfare drills to prepare them for a potential clash with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, the Jerusalem Post reported on 2/20/13. “Today during training, we simulated a northern terrain, that included what we might encounter,” Israeli Lt. Sagiv Shoker, commander of a military Reconnaissance Unit of the Engineering Corps, based at the Elikim base in northern Israel near the border with Lebanon explained. Shoker added that his units spent a week focused on how to approach Hezbollah’s alleged underground bunkers and tunnels in South Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley quietly and quickly. Israeli forces commander Gantz has been complaining recently to the Israeli cabinet that Hezbollah Special Forces are gaining much valuable experience in Syria fighting highly skilled and motivated al Nusra jihadists and his troops may not be prepared to face them on the battlefield if a conflict erupts. It has been known since 2006 that Israeli soldiers “are having motivation deficits” as Gantz and others have complained.

February 23, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Israel instructs Obama: “Iranian and Syrian sanctions are not painful enough!”

Killings Continue in Bajo Aguán as New Report Documents Abuses by U.S.-Trained Honduran Special Forces Unit

By Alex Main | CEPR Americas Blog | February 22, 2013

A few days ago two more land rights activists were murdered in the Bajo Aguán, a region of Honduras where dozens of campesinos have been killed over the last three years. On February 16, Jacobo Cartagena, member of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (or MUCA, by its Spanish initials), was shot and killed as he waited for a bus.  Hours later, José Trejo Cabrera, was shot down while driving a motorcycle near the town of Tocoa. Trejo was the brother of Antonio Trejo Cabrera, a lawyer who had defended small farmers’ land claims who himself was shot to death last September as he was leaving a wedding. Amnesty International has called on the Honduran government to “urgently investigate” José Trejo’s killing and noted that “the day before he was shot dead [he] had been in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, to meet with officials in an effort to ensure justice for his brother’s murder and visiting media outlets to keep the spotlight on the case.”

In an interview with the Associated Press, José Trejo had said “if they killed my brother, what will they not do to me?” He and others blamed the powerful businessman Miguel Facussé for his brother’s murder.  Facussé and a handful of other wealthy landowners in the region have hundreds of armed security guards who are believed to be responsible for many of the numerous killings and other attacks targeting campesino activists. Honduran authorities have failed to bring those responsible for the killings to justice or to take effective measures to protect the activists.  As the AP notes, “no one is serving time in prison for any of the 89 assassinations of campesinos committed in the Aguán Valley since December of 2009 when land occupations began…”

Since August of 2011, hundreds of Honduran soldiers have been stationed in the Bajo Aguán as part of the so-called Xatruch Intervention Force, ostensibly to mitigate the ongoing violence taking place there. But targeted killings of campesinos have continued unabated and representatives of land rights movements have accused military personnel of being involved in attacks on their members.  A new report authored by Annie Bird of Rights Action adds significant weight to these allegations.  It documents 34 cases of abuses directly involving members of Honduras’ 15th Battalion, a special forces unit of the Honduran army that has been present in the region for decades and has played a central role in the Xatruch Force.

The report describes in detail specific instances of torture, threats, forced disappearances and killings in which members of the 15th Battalion have been reportedly involved, often in tandem with police and private security forces operating in the Aguán.  Only a small handful of these abuses have been partially investigated and none of those responsible have been prosecuted.

The report also examines how military officials have sought to criminalize the region’s campesino movements, associating them with terrorism and drug-trafficking, while steadfastly defending the property claims of powerful landowners.

Those who have reported on the abuses of security forces in the Aguán have also been criminalized by military officials. On February 18th the Commander of the Xatruch Intervention Force publicly accused various journalists, human rights defenders by name of “denigrating the actions of the armed forces” and of “besmirching the image of the Honduran nation.” Following the incident, Reporters Without Borders issued a release stating that the accusations were “a clear attempt to intimidate and censor” and that “this kind of public stigmatization directly exposes those concerned to significant risks, given the human rights situation in Aguán in particular and Honduras in general, where those who dare to provide information about land disputes and environmental problems are systematically criminalized.”

As Rights Action notes, the 15th Battalion reportedly receives training and assistance from the U.S. government.  The Honduran media has reported that U.S. Army Rangers have trained personnel from the Battalion and that U.S. Special Operations South has funded the upgrading of the Battalion’s Rio Claro base.

provision attached to the annual U.S. Foreign Operations Appropriations Act – known as the Leahy Amendment, after the U.S. Senator who first introduced it – prohibits U.S. military assistance to foreign units that commit gross human rights violations with impunity.  The provision states: “No assistance shall be furnished under this Act or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible evidence that such unit has committed gross violations of human rights.” The only exception being if the “Secretary determines (…) that the government of such countries is taking effective measures to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice.” A similar provision can be found in Defense Appropriations Acts, though it only deals with the funding of training activities for foreign troops.

Rights Action’s report appears to provide “credible evidence” that the 15th Battalion and other Honduran authorities are involved in gross abuses and there is no indication that Honduran authorities have pursued any form of judicial action to address these abuses.  If the U.S. government has plans to fund further military assistance to the unit there may well be cause for the Secretary of State to cut off assistance until abuses are adequately investigated and any responsible military personnel are brought to justice.

Other recent incidents involving Honduran security forces have also appeared to be within the realm of Leahy Amendment action. Last November the AP reported on how Honduran soldiers trained and vetted by the U.S. murdered an unarmed teenager who ran through a check point last May. The same month, four Honduran villagers in the Moskitia region were killed in the course of a counternarcotics operation carried out jointly by the DEA and a special Honduran police unit trained and vetted by the U.S. As a joint report and previous posts have explained, the Honduran investigation of the incident was flawed and inconclusive, a fact which the State Department still appears unwilling to acknowledge.

February 23, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Comments Off on Killings Continue in Bajo Aguán as New Report Documents Abuses by U.S.-Trained Honduran Special Forces Unit

Palestinians clash with Israeli troops across the West Bank

Ma’an – 23/02/2013

RAMALLAH – Clashes erupted across the West Bank after the Friday prayers between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters who rallied to show solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners.

Dozens were hurt as Israeli soldiers fired tear gas heavily to disperse the protesters.

Similarly, worshipers in Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem demonstrated in the compound after the Friday prayer before Israeli troops broke into the squares and clashed with the protesters.

According to Israeli radio station Reshet Bet, Israeli soldiers fired stun grenades to disperse the worshipers. The report highlighted that demonstrations started near the Moroccan Gate through which the soldiers stormed the compound and started to chase protesters.

In Ramallah in the central West Bank, 12 young men were hurt by tear gas and rubber-coated bullets during clashes with Israeli troops after the Friday prayers. Locals told Ma’an that the soldiers detained one Palestinian. The sources highlighted that the Friday prayer was performed near the main gate of Ofer detention center west of Ramallah.

They said about 100 Palestinians preformed Friday prayers near Ofer before Israeli soldiers showered them with tear gas as soon as they finished prayer.

As a result young men started to hurl stones at the soldiers and police officers. A Ma’an reporter said the soldiers directed their tear gas to journalists who gathered in the area to report about the event. He added that the soldiers fired live ammunition at a car for journalists, but nobody was hurt.

Further clashes took place in al-Arrub and al-Fawwar refugee camps in Hebron district.

Witnesses said young Palestinian men in al-Arrub camp north of Hebron pelted Israeli soldiers with stones. Clashes erupted first at the main entrance to the camp on the main road between Hebron and Bethlehem. Then the clashes extended to camp’s alleys resulting in more victims of tear gas as some canisters fell inside houses.

One owner of these houses was identified as Nayif Nimir al-Badawi. Four people were hurt by tear gas. Three others were hurt in house of Khamis Awad al-Badawi.

Israeli forces shut down the main entrance to al-Fawwar camp north of Hebron after young men hurled stones at Israeli soldiers. The soldiers responded with tear gas before they closed the main entrance to traffic.

In Tulkarem in the northern West Bank young Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops in the western part of the city. Soldiers fired tear gas as the young protesters pelted them with stones. The clashes erupted after hundreds of young men rallied after the Friday prayer chanting slogans against Israel’s treatment to Palestinian prisoners.

The northern West Bank city of Jenin also witnessed confrontations between young Palestinians and Israeli soldiers after the Friday prayer. Nine Palestinians were detained during the clashes and dozens were hurt by tear gas and rubber-coated bullets.

Jenin’s clashes started after young men marched from mosques toward al-Jalama checkpoint expressing solidarity with hunger striking Palestinian prisoners. A Ma’an reporter said Israeli forces fired hundreds of tear gas canisters at the protesters in addition to rubber-coated bullets and foul smelling liquids.

Local and security sources told Ma’an that Israeli soldiers detained nine young men. The sources identified one detainee as 14-year-old Amir Majid Irqawi. They said the soldiers assaulted him beating him brutally before he was detained.

February 23, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Comments Off on Palestinians clash with Israeli troops across the West Bank