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An Israeli Apology Means Little

By ANN WRIGHT | CounterPunch | April 5, 2013

Representatives of IHH, the international humanitarian organization that organized the passengers on the Mavi Marmara in the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, have told the author that families of the nine murdered by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) commandos on May 31, 2010, consider the “apology” of the Israeli government to the Turkish government as meaning very little until the Israeli government lifts the blockade on Gaza.

Their family members were killed on a non-violent mission to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza and the families do not consider either an Israeli government apology or the offer of compensation for the death of their loved one as any form of fulfillment of their mission—only the lifting of the blockade on Gaza will assuage their deaths.

The IHH representatives also said that a prosecutor’s indictment filed in the Istanbul High Criminal Court on May 29, 2012 against four senior Israeli government military and intelligence officials will continue.  Witnesses have provided sworn testimony in court hearings in November, 2012 and February, 2013.  A third hearing for testimony from remaining witnesses is scheduled for May, 2013.

The four defendants, the former Israeli Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, the Israeli Naval Forces Commander, the Israeli Air Force Intelligence Director, the head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, are charged with willful killing, attempted willful killing, intentional causing serious injury to body or health, plundering, hijacking or seizing maritime vessels, intentionally causing damage to property and instigating violent crime.

A political apology by the Israeli government to the Turkish government cannot stop a legal process underway in the Turkish courts, the IHH representatives said.  The President of Turkey cannot order the Turkish courts to drop the case and to do so would be a violation of Turkish law, they said.

The first criminal complaint concerning the Israeli attack was filed on October 14, 2010 at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Eight Turkish citizens and one American citizen were murdered by Israeli commandos.  While President Obama recently cajoled Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to apologize to the Turkish government for the deaths of their citizens, he apparently did not ask for a public apology for the death of the American citizen, 19 year old Furkan Dogan.

Nor did President Obama authorize a U.S. government investigation into the death of Furkan; instead, the Obama administration in 2010 said that it had confidence in the investigation conducted by the Israeli government, an investigation that almost three years later has now been revealed by the Israeli Prime Minister himself to have discovered “operational mistakes” in the conduct of the raid on the six ships of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

President Obama apparently knew full well that American citizen Furkan Dogan had been executed at close range by Israeli commandos when Turkish President Erdogan, shortly after the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla, showed him photos taken in the Istanbul morgue of Furkan’s body with fatal wounds to his head.  Israeli commandos shot Furkan five times at close range.  Obama reportedly quickly turned away from Furkan’s photo that showed the bullet wound to his face.

In the months following the attack in 2010, President Erdogan apparently showed the photos of some of the murdered passengers to several heads of state, including Italian President Berlusconi, to leave no doubt that Israeli commandos executed the passengers at close range.

Now, almost three years later, we know from U.S. government documents obtained by the Center for Constitutional Rights through a Freedom of Information Action (FOIA) request, that the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv were in frequent contact with the Israeli government concerning the flotilla before, during and after the Israeli attack on the ships of the flotilla.

“Upon learning that American citizens (“Amcits”) would participate in the May 2010 flotilla, several State Department officials expressed concerns that the Americans may be harmed or at least detained by Israeli forces. However, no records have been released reflecting any high level discussions that may have occurred on the need to protect the lives of participants or encouraging opening the flow of aid and commerce into Gaza . To the contrary, despite having been informed by organizers of the non-violent humanitarian purpose of their mission, released records point to a pattern of U.S. officials blaming flotilla participants for “putting themselves in danger” rather than working to reduce the risk of such danger from an Israeli attack.”

IHH representatives also mentioned that the Israeli offer of compensation is to the families of those killed, not to those who were wounded by Israeli commandos.  One passenger has been in a coma for almost three years and many passengers who were also seriously wounded are still suffering from their bullet wounds.  Some of those wounded are from countries other than Turkey and no Israeli apology has been made to them or their governments.

To some, an Israeli “apology” is remarkable as Israel has virtually never “apologized” for any of its actions. And they would say that an “apology” and an acknowledgement of “operational mistakes” are better than silence from the Israeli government.

However, passengers on the Gaza flotilla did not go on the voyage to Gaza for their own self-gratification.  They went to bring attention to the plight of Palestinians.  When Palestinians are routinely killed in the West Bank and Gaza by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), when Palestinians are subjected to inhumane checkpoints and apartheid walls, when the blockade of Gaza continues and when Israel attacks Gaza with impunity as it did in 2009 killing 1400 Palestinians and in 2012 killing over 300 Palestinians, then allowing Israel to escape criminal liability with an “apology” for the nine murders on the Mavi Marmara is essentially giving the Israeli government a “green light” to continue its policies of oppression, occupation, imprisonment, and blockade of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the murder of Palestinians.

If it were any other country in the world that had committed any of these acts, the United States would have withdrawn military and economic aid, but instead, almost three years later, the Israeli government walks away with a mere “apology.”

That’s not right, and virtually everyone in the world, except the United States government, knows it.

Hand in hand with Palestinians, international citizen activists will continue to challenge the inhuman Israeli actions toward Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The next challenge of the naval blockade of Gaza will be Gaza’s Ark which will attempt to break the Israeli quarantine by carrying export products from Gaza out by boat (www.gazaark.org).

Ann Wright spent 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel.  She was a US diplomat for 16 years and resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war.  She travelled to Gaza three times in 2009, helped organize the 2009 Gaza Freedom March and was a passenger on the 2010 and 2011 Gaza Freedom Flotillas.  She was an organizer for the US Boat to Gaza, the Audacity of Hope and is an organizer for the US campaign for Gaza’s Ark. She was a witness in the November, 2012, Istanbul Criminal Court hearing, in which passengers provided sworn testimony describing the 2010 IDF attack on the Mavi Marmara and the Challenger 1.

April 6, 2013 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , , , | Comments Off on An Israeli Apology Means Little

Israeli military court sentences cartoonist to five months in jail

Palestine Information Center – 06/04/2013

DataFiles-Cache-TempImgs-2013-1-images_News_2013_04_06_sabana_300_0JENIN — The Israeli military court in Salem, north of Jenin, has sentenced Palestinian cartoonist Mohammed Sabana to five months imprisonment on the charge of contacting “hostile parties”.

Family members told the PIC reporter on Saturday that the court passed the sentence on Friday and charged Sabana with making such contacts during his visit to Jordan.

They said that the charges were unfounded, adding that the sentence was illegal and proved the summary trials conducted against Palestinian citizens.

The relatives affirmed that Sabana was not involved with any political party or organization and was just an activist who employs his cartoons in exposing the Israeli occupation’s crimes.

Sabana was arrested on his return from Jordan last February and held for interrogation. His brother, Thamer, was also detained for his pro-prisoners’ activities.

April 6, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 2 Comments

The Library of Juma Al Majid

By Ralph Nader | April 5, 2013

DUBAI, UAE – As we walked through the historical collections of books, manuscripts, periodicals, and rare reference materials at the Juma Al-Majid Center for Culture and Heritage in the growing Arab metropolis of Dubai (with the world’s second busiest airport), I kept thinking of a recent book written by my sister, Laura Nader, who teaches anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. A nuanced writing titled Culture and Dignity: Dialogues Between the Middle East and the West (Wiley-Blackwell), it differentiates between the stereotype and reality of East-West relations and how damaging and costly such filters have been since the Crusades.

Room after room at the Juma Al-Majid Center contains materials reflecting the cultural heritage of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. One room is filled with ancient and modern Persian books and tracts of poetry, art and maps. Another room is devoted to the stunning varieties of calligraphy. A third room is filled with workers silently preparing pages of fragile texts for digitalization. The Al-Majid Center’s reading rooms are open to scholars who can stay as long as they need and use these resources freely without prior application. There are about one million books and other literary selections in this remarkable gathering.

When I asked the founder of this institution and many other charities and schools, Juma Al Majid, whether there had been any mishandling of the materials at the Center due to the lack of restrictions on access to the collections, he replied that yes, a couple of times, but it is still better to keep things simple and open.

Mr. Al Majid, now over 80-years-young, seems to have achieved his many accomplishments as a very successful businessman, creating more than 40 companies in engineering, retail, automotive and investment sectors, and as a leading operational philanthropist by keeping things focused, simple and forthright.

For example, his reverence for books of ancient vintage highlighted the problem of deteriorating pages in the Center’s growing international collection. So he developed the Al-Majid Restoration Machine which he gave as a gift to 40 cultural institutions in numerous countries.

He has many librarians and restoration specialists who are kept busy by the 150 acquisition experts searching, especially the Islamic world, for collections. One room is devoted to the private collections that the Center has acquired. Pictures of the original owners adorn the walls of the private collection room with expressions of gratitude.

Mr. Al Majid’s charities revolve around educational facilities where girls far outnumber the boys (educate the ladies first, even before the men, he explained, as the best way to transmit education to a society). He makes sure the needy students receive free education. The number of students in his schools is close to 10,000. The degrees range all the way through college and doctorate (PhD) degrees. His other charities address emergencies ranging from regular assistance and schools for the impoverished Palestinians (eg. thousands of tons of bread are baked in Turkey and sent to the West Bank and Gaza). He housed Kuwaiti refugees during the first Gulf War, and he has established schools in Dubai and in other Arab and Islamic countries.

All these charities and more are funded by the profits from his diversified businesses, which are run by managers, thus freeing him to spend his time collecting, preserving and making available to scholars the literary production of the people of the book – meaning the three major religions that originated in the Arab world.

Repeatedly, he stressed that the fundamental generator of human possibilities was education. As the son of a pearl diver, raised in a very modest community near the Persian Gulf, Mr. Al Majid blends the past, present and future in his planned activities. No withered ancient manuscript nor any futuristic technology fazes him, as a tour of his cultural center demonstrates. But his conversation always comes back to books, to education, to the fundamental verities of life which is “to help humanity.”

Prominently displayed in one corridor of the Center is the Mark Twain observation that “The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” The Center’s work servicing or cooperating with libraries at universities and other institutions in Europe, Asia and Africa is expanding in many dimensions. (See www.al-majid.com.)

As we departed from the Center, Mr. Al Majid spoke of his plans to build a new library to consolidate the sprawling premise that now houses the collections and outreach staff. He already has proven his talent for recruiting talent in Dubai and other countries and in connecting with many unsung charitable institutions in the medical, educational, cultural and emergency assistance areas.

By his dynamic humanitarian networking, Mr. Al Majid has illuminated the civic culture of the Arab and Islamic worlds from the past to the present. It is tragic that Western government and Western media are so occupied with the activities of empires that their people are given so little knowledge of such historic cultures and their strivings for justice, freedom and dignity.

April 6, 2013 Posted by | Book Review, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on The Library of Juma Al Majid

Palestinian Amer Nassar, Aged Seventeen: A Last Poem

Amer Nassar, 17. (Photo: Via Facebook)
Amer Nassar, 17. (Photo: Via Facebook)
By Felicity Arbuthnot | Palestine Chronicle | April 4, 2013

Last night and overnight, two unarmed teenagers, cousins Amer Nassar (17) and Naji Abdul-Karim Balbeisi (18) were shot dead by Israeli Defence Force troops.

The two were from the village of Anabta, near the town of Tulkarm, in Palestine’s West Bank. Tulkarm was founded in the 13th century, its name derived from the Aramaic “Toor Karma” meaning “mount of vineyards.”

Amer died from a bullet in his chest at 22.30 on Wednesday night, according to eye witnesses. Hearing shots, three boys from the village went out and found Amer lying on the ground, with soldiers standing over him. When they tried to reach him, the soldiers opened fire, injuring one, Fadi Abu-A’sr, in the arm, and subsequently hospitalized.

The three say that ambulance crews were prevented from reaching Amer for thirty vital minutes, with threats to shoot anyone attempting to intervene. Deiyaa’ Nasser, who did attempt to reach Amer:“was arrested by the Israeli Army and taken to an unknown location.”

Naji Abdul-Karim Balbisi, was found as dawn broke this morning, lying in a field. He was reported to have been shot from behind.

Tensions have been high in Gaza and the West Bank since the death of Maysara Abu Hamidya in Israel’s Soroko prison on 2nd April. Sixty five year old Abu Hamidya was a former high ranking officer in the Palestinian Authority (PA) prior to his arrest, which took place when the IDA invaded the West Bank, destroying PA Headquarter buildings, in May 2002.

Palestinian authorities have claimed that the prison was withholding treatment for his cancer. On Monday released prisoner Ayman Sharawna alleged that Hamdiya was in a life threatening condition in the prison infirmary – with his hands and feet shackled.

The Director of the Palestinian Prisoner Society has held the Israeli regime fully responsible for his death.

So, as Palestinians mark another onslaught, the massacre in the Jenin refugee camp (April 1st-11th 2002) the mourning, heartbreak, lost lives and lost youth grind on. But so does the spirit, in young and old.

Seventeen year old Amer Nassar left a poem. When others of his age write on Facebook of their dreams, aspirations, exams, plans, dates, travels, on 15th March, his last entry, he wrote (translated):

“Point your bullet where ever you like in my body
I will die today, but my homeland will live tomorrow
Be careful, Palestine is a red line.”

He did not die on March 15th, but just two weeks and three days later, at the hands of “the most moral army” and the “only democracy in the Middle East.”

(The writer is indebted to the resident of Palestine who drew attention to and translated Amer’s poem and to the International Solidarity Movement, for their careful details of another tragedy.)

Felicity Arbuthnot is a freelance journalist specializing in social and environmental issues with a special knowledge of Iraq.

April 6, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Palestinian Amer Nassar, Aged Seventeen: A Last Poem

Nevermind: Headline of Correction for NYT Piece on Projected Cost of Dementia

By Dean Baker | cepr Beat the Press | April 4, 2013

The New York Times ran a front page piece warning readers that the cost of treating dementia is “soaring.” The piece tells readers of the findings of a new study by the Rand Corporation that shows the cost of dementia doubling by 2040 from its 2010 level.

Are you scared? Are you shaking in your boots? Thinking about pulling the plug on these costly old-timers?

Well our friend, Mr. Arithmetic, reminds us that the Congressional Budget Office projects that the size of the economy is projected to roughly double over this period. This means that the Rand study’s finding implies that dementia will impose pretty much the same burden on the economy in 2040 as it does today.

This story follows a common practice among the Washington elite. They continually highlight and exaggerate costs associated with an aging population. Of course as a practical matter there is little that we can do about these costs, although we can redistribute the burden. The implicit and explicit intent behind much of this discussion is that the elderly and their children should bear more of these costs, as opposed to the government.

Keeping the costs of an aging population front and center in public debate obstructs discussion of the massive upward redistribution of income over the last three decades. This upward redistribution has shifted roughly ten percentage points of GDP ($1.6 trillion annually) to the richest one percent of the population at the expense of the rest of the population. The impact of this upward redistribution on the living standards of the bulk of the population dwarfs the impact of any taxes that might be associated with caring for an aging population through Social Security, Medicare, and other government programs.

If issues were treated in proportion to their importance to the public we would be seeing daily pieces on proposals for breaking up the big banks, taxing financial speculation, ending patent monopolies for prescription drugs, free trade in health care services and other measures that would reverse the upward redistribution of income over the last three decades. However, importance to the public is apparently not a major criterion for determining news coverage. Hence we get misleading front page pieces in the NYT on the cost of dementia.

April 6, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Nevermind: Headline of Correction for NYT Piece on Projected Cost of Dementia

The Totalitarianism of Universal Background Checks

By Anthony Gregory | The Beacon | April 4, 2013

Finally, some sanity, and from a somewhat unexpected source. The ACLU is concerned about the civil liberties implications of the new Harry Reid Senate bill to establish so-called “universal background checks” for firearms purchases. The organization has tended toward silence on gun rights, but at least now it recognizes aspects of the problem with this terrible proposal.

Ever since Sandy Hook, the Obama administration and its progressive choir have demanded a new Assault Weapons Ban (AWB). Now it looks like that plan is toast. California Senator Dianne Feinstein blames gun owners and the NRA, and in a sense we should have expected all along that this proposal would get nowhere. Such a ban would mostly target “semi-automatic” rifles—which, despite all the hysterics, simply refers to any standard rifle that fires one round each time the trigger is pulled—that happen to have esthetic elements like the pistol grip that do not in fact add to the weapons’ lethality. This is the nonsensical standard used to ban some classes of weapons instrumentally identical to the ones banned in 1994.

The first AWB devastated the Democrats politically, and probably contributed as much as anything to the Republicans’ crushing victory in the 1994 congressional elections after forty years in the legislative minority. It also hurt Al Gore in his run against George W. Bush in 2000. The ban generally prohibited ordinary but scary looking rifles, which are used in about two percent of violent crimes committed with firearms. The law did not apply to, say, most of the weapons used at the Columbine school massacre in 1999. But it did interfere with Americans’ basic right to own what we can fairly call the modern version of the musket. Millions of Americans own such weapons like the AR-15, the most popular rifle and one targeted by the Democrats’ proposal for a new, robust AWB. These weapons are used for hunting, sport, and self-defense. They are not, despite all the misinformation to the contrary, repeating, military-style rifles.

In any event, the unpopularity of an AWB always doomed this proposal, especially under a Democratic president as distrusted on the right as Obama. The Republicans have the House and too many Democrats in the Senate are loyal to their gun-owning constituents.

So this whole time, the real threat to our firearms freedom has been these less debated, peripheral proposals—proposals that strip people the state deems “mentally ill” of the right to bear arms, proposals that violate the civil rights of released convicts, proposals to increase penalties for violations of current law, and, as disturbing as anything, proposals to institute “universal background checks.”

The gun restrictionists have pointed to polls showing more than 90% approval of such background checks, including among a vast majority of conservatives, Republicans, and gunowners. Liberty is always attacked on the margins, and most Americans don’t go to gun shows and so don’t see the big deal. Surely the state should know who is armed. Surely we don’t want people buying and selling guns freely.

But, in fact, universal background checks are arguably even more tyrannical than banning whole classes of weapons. Why should the government know who is armed? Why shouldn’t people be allowed to freely buy and sell private property without government permission? Half of Americans see background checks as the first step toward full registration then confiscation. Many fear that the new law would create records of these deals that would not immediately be destroyed, which could form databases or enable government in further nefarious purposes. The progressives have tended to regard any of these worries as paranoia, but it looks like the ACLU is now among the paranoid.

There is no need to discuss pure hypotheticals. There have been gun confiscations in the United States. After the Civil War, officials conducted confiscations to disarm American Indians and blacks became the target in the Jim Crow South. Confiscations followed Hurricane Katrina, along with the rest of the government’s martial law response. Since many gun controllers openly say they want a total ban of certain kinds of firearms, or all firearms, why wouldn’t gun owners fear that registration will lead to confiscation? The U.S. president promised that he would not take away Americans’ rifles, then went ahead and proceeded to propose to do just that. Add all of this to the database growth, the warrantless wiretapping, the domestic surveillance drones, the frightening executive power grabs concerning detention, interrogation, and executions, and the overall militarization of policing that has unfolded thanks to the wars on drugs and terror, and it seems fairly appropriate that in the age of Bush and Obama, civil libertarians of all stripes would resist the drive toward universal background checks or anything with such an Orwellian name as that.

This whole matter should also remind us of the interlocking nature of personal liberties. Abolishing the Second Amendment necessarily means abolishing the Fourth as well. Just ask the millions of black and Hispanic young men stopped and frisked in New York City in the name of gun control and with the purpose, as the police commissioner reportedly put it, to “instill fear” of police in these demographic groups. It is the violations of privacy that concern the ACLU, but anyone jealous of her security in her papers, persons, and effects should recoil at the thought of the state collecting these records.

Of course, it should go without saying that when it comes to criminal enterprise, universal background checks are unenforceable. In a country with as many guns as there are people, criminals and the state will always get the weapons they want. Firearms are easier to manufacture than many illegal drugs, and we see how well the state has stamped those out. The rapid developments in 3-D printing makes it even crazier that we’d still be talking about gun control as anything but a threat to the liberty of the law abiding.

The AWB looks defeated for now, but perhaps that was always known to be inevitable by our cynical civilian disarmament fetishists in Washington, DC. Perhaps the real goal was to get what could be gotten now—the beginnings of a national database of every lawful gun owner. The so-called gun show loophole—the freedom of owners to sell firearms to one another with few encumbrances—is a pocket of liberty. Closing this loophole would be a tragedy. We can only hope that civil libertarians across the spectrum ban together to challenge this march to erode these core freedoms.

April 6, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Totalitarianism of Universal Background Checks

Italy’s president pardons US colonel with no justifiable reason

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Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar
Press TV – April 6, 2013

Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano has pardoned, without presenting a justifiable reason, a US Air Force colonel, who has been convicted in absentia of the abduction and illegal imprisonment of an Egyptian Muslim cleric.

Napolitano’s office said in a statement on Friday that the president had granted the pardon “in hopes of giving a solution to a situation to an affair considered by the United States to be without precedent because of the aspect of convicting a US military officer of Nato for deeds committed on Italian soil.”

Napolitano said he had pardoned Joseph Romano because the US and Italy are close allies and share the ‘common goal of promoting democracy.’ This is while the move to pardon the US convict is believed to be unjustifiable in concrete terms.

Romano was one of the 23 Americans tried and sentenced by Italian courts over the operation to kidnap Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, in 2003.

Italian courts convicted 22 CIA personnel in the Abu Omar case. The CIA agents are believed to be living in the United States. They are unlikely to serve their sentences.

Romano was the only American convicted who was not a CIA employee.

Abu Omar, who was abducted in a joint operation by the CIA and the Italian military intelligence agency SISMI, enjoyed political asylum in Italy at the time.

He was allegedly taken to a US air base in northeastern Italy and then transferred to a US base in Germany and subsequently to Cairo.

Romano was the security chief of northern Italy’s Aviano airbase, where Abu Omar was taken to.

The Muslim cleric, who was released in 2007, says he was tortured in prison by his kidnappers.

April 6, 2013 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment