Hebron, Occupied Palestine – Late Thursday morning, as Palestinian schools in the Old City of occupied al-Khalil (Hebron) were dismissing their students early due to enhanced settler activity, Israeli forces harassed a Palestinian man and denied him his right of movement through the large parking lot near the base of al-Ibrahimi Mosque. The reason for this incident, as well as the increase in settler activity, was due to the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles. Throughout this entire week, Israeli Forces have increased their numbers stationed around the Mosque, and it was one of these members of the occupation forces that decided to harass this Palestinian civilian.
The man, a local tour guide in the Old City of al-Khalil, entered the parking lot in order to reach a group of Turkish tourists who had just arrived. Upon setting foot in the lot, two members of the Israeli Border Police approached him, with one using his hands to physically shove him away from the cordoned off entrance. As he tried to explain that he merely wanted to pass through to reach the tourists, the border policeman raised his voice and shouted at him to get back. When the man asked why he was not allowed to pass through when so many tourists were permitted to, the answer he received was, “You are Palestinian. No Palestinians pass through here during the holiday.” The man had no choice but to turn around and walk around the parking lot.
The denial towards Palestinians of their right to movement by Israeli forces is a fundamental weapon of the occupation. By preventing Palestinians from entering historical and religious sites, and working to minimize their presence around Jewish festivities, Israel uses the excuse of the holidays to continue its process of ethnically cleaning al-Khalil of its indigenous Palestinian population. On Wednesday, Israeli Forces came out in force to block off a road in the so-called Palestinian controlled H1 area to allow settlers from the illegal Israeli settlements to have access to a supposed prayer site in the city. This is merely one of the many examples of how Jewish holidays act as a cover for forceful intimidation of Palestinians.
The harassment of this man this morning is symptomatic of the devaluation of Palestinian life under the Israeli occupation across the land of Palestine.
Latvian border guards have detained Ella Taranova, a chief producer for Russia’s Rossiya Segodnya international information agency, who arrived for the Baltic Forum in Riga. According to RIA Novosti, she was deported late Friday.
It appears Taranova had been blacklisted by the country’s authorities in August 2014 but was never informed about it.
Taranova, who has a valid Schengen visa, arrived in the country by plane on Friday morning, alongside other Russian journalists, and “had no problems when passing border control,” she said.
However, several hours after she checked in to a hotel, she was summoned to the registration desk where two Latvian border guards told her she was on a blacklist and must leave the country, TASS reports.
“It seems from 5 August 2014, I have been on a security services list of undesirable people,” Taranova told RIA Novosti. “I knew nothing about this, only that I had been invited to a conference of the Baltic Forum.”
“I was asked several times with suspicion whether I knew I was on the list, before being told that in theory, I should know,” she added. “It was explained to me that the people on this list pose a threat and security risk to the Republic of Latvia. This is disgusting. I was not and am not involved in any political activity.”
The director of the Baltic Forum, Aleksandr Vasilyev, said Taranova is at a border guards station in Jurmala and will be put on a plane to Moscow later on Friday. He added that a Russian Embassy member of staff and a forum representative are with her.
The Baltic Forum is an annual conference held since 1998. It is due to be held on Saturday in Jurmala. Participants will discuss the nature of the Russia-EU relationship and will include diplomats, experts and politicians from EU countries, Russia, Ukraine, China and the US. Taranova has a long-term partnership with the Forum and had attended several times prior to 2014.
RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, expressed her dismay.
“It is an outrage,” she wrote on Twitter.
The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the incident, saying the incident contradicts Latvia’s international obligations regarding freedom of speech.
“This regrettable event completely fit into the fabric of the anti-Russian actions aimed at suppressing dissent and restricting freedom of expression, of the Latvian alternative media,” an official statement read. “The existence of blacklists, the criterion for inclusion in it, which is being a professional journalist, is unacceptable in a democratic state, and contrary to all international commitments to ensure freedom of speech.”
Meanwhile the Russian State Duma is going to demand an official explanation for Latvia’s actions from the EU, the Council of Europe and the OSCE, Sergey Zheleznyak, a member of the Russian Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters. This is just the latest in a series of attempts to “put pressure on the Russian media, which has become the ‘new normal’ of European policy,” he said, as quoted by RIA Novosti.
Latvian MP Janis Urbanovics, who belongs to the center-left Harmony party, has warned that expelling Taranova is not good for Latvia’s image. “I don’t know why it happened that a person with a Schengen visa could arrive in any other country of the European Union, but turned out to be unwelcome in Latvia,” Urbanovics said, RIA Novosti reported.
Caracas – Venezuela’s Supreme Court (TSJ) issued a ruling Tuesday ordering the country’s the public prosecution to reopen investigations into the case of a law student disappeared in 1966.
Andres Pasquier Suarez, a law student at the Central University of Venezuela, was detained by Venezuela’s national guard on October 10, 1966 and subsequently handed over to the now defunct Armed Forces Information Service.
According to military records, the youth was transferred two days later to the Urica Anti-Guerrilla Camp from which he never returned.
A Maracaibo military tribunal charged with investigating the incident declared the case closed on March 15, 1968, finding that “no crime has been committed in any moment”.
Writing on behalf of the high court, TSJ President Gladys Gutierrez struck down the prior ruling as “contrary to the elemental principles of law and justice”, concluding that the military court had failed to conduct an impartial investigation of the disappearance.
The justice ordered the public prosecutor’s office to reopen the investigation and identify those responsible as mandated under article 19 of Venezuela’s Law to Prosecute Crimes, Disappearances, Tortures, and Other Human Rights Violations for Political Reasons during the Period 1958-1999.
Over the last 17 years, numerous inquiries have brought to light the magnitude of human rights violations committed under Venezuela’s pacted, two-party system known as the Fourth Republic.
This past July, the country’s official Truth and Justice Commission revealed that it had registered a total of 11,043 cases of torture, assassinations, and political disappearances between 1958 and 1998.
The Chicago Reader has put together a massive, must-read investigation into the Chicago Police Department’s secret budget. The Chicago PD has — for years now — used the spoils of its asset forfeiture program to obtain surveillance equipment like Stingrays. This discretionary spending is done off the city’s books, allowing the CPD to avoid anything that might prevent it from acquiring surveillance tech — like meddling city legislators… or the public itself.
Since 2009, the year CPD began keeping electronic records of its forfeiture accounts, the department has brought in nearly $72 million in cash and assets through civil forfeiture, keeping nearly $47 million for itself and sending on almost $18 million to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and almost $7.2 million to the Illinois State Police, according to our analysis of CPD records.
The Chicago Police Department doesn’t disclose its forfeiture income or expenditures to the public, and doesn’t account for it in its official budget. Instead, CPD’s Bureau of Organized Crime, the division tasked with drug- and gang-related investigations, oversees the forfeiture fund in what amounts to a secret budget—an off-the-books stream of income used to supplement the bureau’s public budget.
The Reader found that CPD uses civil forfeiture funds to finance many of the day-to-day operations of its narcotics unit and to secretly purchase controversial surveillance equipment without public scrutiny or City Council oversight.
It sounds like a lot of money — $72 million in civil forfeiture funds — and it is. But it’s not like this money comes from a few large busts that have seriously affected the city’s drug trade. That may be the rationale for the PD’s convictionless seizing of property and cash (just like “terrorism” is often cited when acquiring surveillance tech ultimately destined for plain vanilla law enforcement use). But in reality, the forfeiture’s rarely do anything more than financially cripple a large number of individuals who have little to anything to do with drug trafficking. The Chicago Reader reports that the median seizure in Illinois is only $530 — hardly an amount one associates with criminal empires. In fact, the normal cash seizure probably sounds more like the following than a breathtaking dismantling of a local drug-running crew.
Ellie Mae Swansey, a 72-year-old retiree living on a fixed income, had her 2001 PT Cruiser seized two years ago when Chicago police arrested her son for drug manufacturing. The costs of simply beginning the long, circuitous, extremely-frustrating battle to reclaim her vehicle were prohibitive.
In order to have a chance at getting their property returned, claimants must put down a bond toward their asset when first submitting the official paperwork. This means that Swansey had to pay $140 (10 percent of her car’s value) just to start the process. Then, to appear in court, she had to pay an additional $177 fee.
To Swansey, who lives on a $655-per-month social security check, these costs are substantial. Successful claimants will have 90 percent of their bond returned; unsuccessful claimants get nothing back.
The extensive investigation, compiled from dozens of FOIA requests*, notes that 90% of the seized funds spent by the CPD went to expected, above-board expenses: vehicles, cellphones, etc. But the rest of it went other places, obscured by redactions and withheld documents. Payments to cellphone forensics companies like CellBrite were uncovered, as were purchases of a license plate reader installed near the CPD’s infamous Homan Square
detention center black site, and $417,000-worth of cell tower spoofers.
The Chicago PD will continue to roll over retirees like Swansey because the laws governing forfeiture in Illinois have completely corrupted the incentives. It’s not about law enforcement or crime prevention. It’s about autonomy, power, and a steady flow of spendable cash.
When a government agency is allowed to handle the forfeiture proceeds it brings in—as is the case with both CPD and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office—it controls both “the sword and the purse,” like an army that is also its own taxing authority. This is according to Lee McGrath, legislative counsel for the Institute for Justice, which seeks to reform civil asset forfeiture laws across the country.
* More on how the Chicago Reader managed to get its hands on this stash of documents.
The UK government sidestepped the question on laws governing the use of lethal drone strikes outside armed conflicts, when responding to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’s report, the committee said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
According to the Committee, the UK government could not justify the refusal to answer the question about legal constraints within which it would operate by saying that this was a hypothetical situation, although in the course of the inquiry it stated that “it would be prepared to resort to such use of lethal force for counter-terrorism purposes even outside of armed conflict.”
“The Committee welcomes some clarifications of the Government’s position, but is disappointed that the Government has refused to clarify its position in relation to the use of lethal force outside armed conflict… ,” the statement said.
The committee’s report asked government to clarify their policy on the use of drones for targeted killings, including the interpretation of the UK and international laws pertaining to such strikes and the general principles of their use.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights, which includes members from both Houses of the UK Parliament, checks all government bills for compliance with human rights granted by the UK and international law and examines government responses to court decisions on human rights cases.
B’Tselem’s Hard Hitting Testimony Lost in the Telling
Israeli rights advocate Hagai El-Ad spoke eloquently last week before the United Nations Security Council, appealing to the world body for action on the brutal occupation of Palestine, but according to The New York Times little of what this courageous activist said was fit to print: The real news was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s outraged response.
Thus we find a story on the speech appearing two days after the event under the headline “Settlement Debate Flares Again in Israel’s Quarrel With Rights Group.” The article by Isabel Kershner has much to say about Israeli government criticism of the human rights group B’Tselem, which documents and publicizes Israeli abuses in the West Bank and Gaza.
She says as little as possible, however, about El-Ad’s actual comments. Of his 2,000 word speech she quotes no more than two dozen: “Anything short of decisive action will achieve nothing but ushering in the second half of the first century of the occupation… [Living under occupation] mostly means invisible, bureaucratic, daily violence.”
The heart of the address is missing: El-Ad’s devastating deconstruction of the Israeli justice system as “a legal guise for organized state violence,” the daily indignities and suffering under Israeli military rule, the demolitions of homes, theft of land and water and the impunity surrounding trigger happy security forces.
His words become lost in the framing of this story, glossed over in the tit for tat between attackers and defenders of B’Tselem. Other media reports, however—in Israel and the United States—give readers more substantial excerpts from his address, and they also provide links to the actual speech, something the Times conveniently omits.
The Times also fails to say that amidst the turmoil over B’Tselem’s UN appearance, the U.S. State Department declared its gratitude to the organization for providing information on “fundamental issues that occur on the ground.” Times readers, however, are denied these same benefits.
El-Ad was not the only speaker to criticize Israel at a special session titled “The Settlements as the Obstacle to Peace and the Two-State Solution,” but he bore the brunt of the furious denunciations from Netanyahu and other government officials. He and his organization were also the focus of the Times story.
All this attention is a sign that El-Ad’s performance was a direct hit on Israeli efforts to whitewash their occupation. Much of the time B’Tselem’s reports and press releases, well-buttressed with detailed research, receive no mention either in the Times or in government circles. But now that El-Ad has managed to bring the group’s message to the highest international level, the backlash has been swift and harsh.
The Times has become a willing partner in this effort, working to distract readers from El-Ad’s eloquent appeal to the Security Council by framing the story as a two-sided debate between rival points of view.
Discerning readers will take notice, however, and realize that El-Ad’s speech is worth searching out in spite of the Times’ efforts to draw attention away from his actual words. They can find the text and a video of his address at the B’Tselem website—if they haven’t already found his performance posted on social media.
So it comes to this: Times readers need to read between the lines for clues to the reality deemed unfit to print, and then they must use their skills to search elsewhere for the story behind the words. This is not what we should expect from a newspaper like the Times, with pretenses to the highest standards of ethics and performance, but readers beware: Use this journalistic product with care and a hefty dose of skepticism.
Follow @TimesWarp on Twitter
On 18 October 2011, 477 Palestinian prisoners were released from Israeli occupation prisons in the Wafa al-Ahrar (“Dedication to the Free”) prisoner exchange with the Israeli occupation. One week prior, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners were engaged in an open-ended hunger strike against the solitary confinement and isolation of Palestinian leaders, especially Ahmad Sa’adat, the imprisoned General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The strike was suddenly interrupted with stunning news: a prisoner exchange agreement had been released between the Palestinian resistance and the Israeli occupation, for the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of captured occupation soldier Gilad Shalit. The exchange was completed with the release of 550 fellow Palestinian prisoners in December 2011. In the agreement, among the first set of 477 prisoners released, 131 were released to Gaza and 110 to the West Bank, as well as six Palestinians holding Israeli citizenship returning to Palestine ’48. 203 more were deported from Palestine. This group were the prisoners with lengthy sentences.
This was, of course, not the first time that the Palestinian resistance secured the release of Palestinian prisoners through prisoner exchanges. Throughout Palestinian history, large numbers of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails with lengthy sentences have found freedom in prisoner exchanges negotiated by Palestinian resistance organizations.
Since the 2011 Wafa al-Ahrar exchange, dozens of released prisoners have been re-arrested, many with their original sentences reimposed. 57 former prisoners have been re-imprisoned by the Israeli occupation, out of 74 who have been arrested; 50 prisoners have had their original sentences re-imposed on allegations of “violating their terms of release” through “association or support for” prohibited organizations, including all major Palestinian political parties. Three more re-arrested prisoners are serving sentences lower than their original sentences, including Nael Barghouthi (30 months), Nayef Shawamreh (4 years), and Bassam Natsheh (3 years). Israeli Military Order 1651 allows the re-imprisonment of former Palestinian prisoners on prior charges for arbitrary re-arrests, on the basis of secret evidence.
Palestinian prisoners re-arrested include Samer Issawi, who was previously re-arrested and freed after a 265-day partial hunger strike and then re-arrested once more in the raids in June and July 2014 alongside the Israeli assault on Gaza; Samer Mahroum, originally a co-defendant of Omar Nayef Zayed; and Nasser Abed Rabbo, a Jersualemite ex-prisoner prevented from seeing his newborn son by the re-arrest.
Historical precedents for the release of prisoners through resistance actions have been noted on multiple occasions, including exchanges between the Israeli state and Arab states, Hezbollah, the Palestine Liberation Organization and other Palestinian resistance organizations.
On 23 July 1968, the first exchange was successfully completed between the Palestinian revolution and the Israeli occupation. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked a plane from Rome to Tel Aviv, releasing the passengers in exchange for 37 Palestinian prisoners, some with high sentences imprisoned before 1967.
On 28 February 1971, Palestinian prisoner Mahmoud Bakr Hijazi was exchanged for an Israeli soldier in an exchange agreement between Fateh and the Israeli occupation.
On 14 March 1979, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command conducted an exchange agreement with the Israeli occupation for the release of 76 Palestinian prisoners, including 12 women prisoners.
In 1980, Palestinian prisoner Mehdi Bseiso was released in exchange for a collaborator captured by the Fateh movement.
On 23 November 1983, 4560 Palestinian detained Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in southern Lebanon, including 65 Palestinian women prisoners were exchanged for six Israeli occupation soldiers arrested in southern Lebanon, in an exchange with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
In June 1984, 291 Syrians imprisoned by the Israeli state and 72 Syrians’ remains, as well as 20 Palestinian prisoners, were exchanged for six captive Israeli soldiers and five soldiers’ remains in an exchange with Syria.
On 20 May 1985, 1155 Palestinian prisoners were released in an exchange for three Israeli soldiers captured by the PFLP-GC. Many of the Palestinian prisoners released later became leaders in the intifada that arose in 1987.
In September 1997, the Mossad attempted to assassinate Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Jordan with a poisonous injection. Two Mossad agents were arrested in Jordan and in exchange for those agents, the Israeli state released Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder and leader of the Hamas movement, then serving a life sentence in Israeli prisons. (Yassin had been previously released in the 1985 prisoner exchange.)
In January 2004, the Israeli occupation released 436 prisoners, including 400 Palestinians, 23 Lebanese, two Syrians, three Moroccans, three Sudanese, one Libyan and one German prisoner, and returned the remains of 59 soldiers in exchange for the remains of three Israeli occupation soldiers and the release of drug dealer, businessman and potential intelligence agent Elhanan Tannenbaum, in an exchange with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In 2008, Samir Kuntar of the Palestine Liberation Front and four Hezbollah fighters were released in exchange for the remains of two Israeli occupation soldiers in southern Lebnon, in an exchange with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Today, there are four Israelis, including two Israeli soldiers missing in action, held by the Palestinian resistance. The two soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, were captured by the Palestinian resistance during the massive Israeli assault on Palestinians in Gaza in 2014, when over 2,300 Palestinians were killed, tens of thousands wounded, and hundreds of thousands displaced by the massive occupation assault on the besieged Palestinian strip. The Israeli media originally declared them killed in action after a massive bombardment under the so-called “Hannibal directive” mandating the massive bombardment of the Palestinian civilian population in order to kill any captured soldier; however, Shaul’s status has been changed to “missing in action.” Also captured by Palestinian resistance organizations are Avera Mengistu and Hashem al-Sayyed, who entered Gaza without permission.
In total, over 8,000 Palestinian prisoners have been released through exchanges, which is why the capture of Israelis and especially Israeli soldiers or settlers has been such a high priority for the Palestinian resistance in the past and at present. Palestinian resistance organizations, including Hamas, have demanded the release of the 57 re-arrestees of the Wafa al-Ahrar agreement as a condition to begin negotiations for an exchange of the four Israelis they currently hold. Palestinian prisoners’ organizations and human rights groups have been urging the release of the 57 prisoners since their re-arrest, including calling on Egypt, which served as a mediator in the exchange, to pressure the Israeli state for their release as part of its commitments to Egypt as part of the exchange agreement.
The 57 re-arrestees have been identified as follows:
1. Nidal Zaloum
2. Abd El-Men’em Othman To’meh
3. Majdi Atieh Suleiman ‘Ajouli
4. Ayed Khalil
5. Samer El-Mahroum
6. Alaa El-Bazyan
7. Adnan Maragha
8. Nasser Abedrabbo
9. Safwan Oweiwi
10. Rabee’ Barghouthi
11. Suleiman Abu Eid
12. Ibrahim Shalash
13. Ibrahim Al-Masri
14. Zuheir Sakafi
15. Ahmad Al-‘awawdeh
16. Bassam Na’im Al-Natsheh Abu Eid
17. Mahmoud Al-Swaiti
18. Mu’amar Al-Ja’bari
19. Khaled Makhamra
20. Abbas Shabaneh
21. Rasmi Maharik
22. Nayef Shawamreh
23. Na’eem Masalmeh
24. Mu’az Abu Rmouz
25. Amer Moqbel
26. Ashraf Al-Wawi
27. Muhamad Barakat
28. Ya’koub Al-Kilani
29. Aref Fakhouri
30. Waheeb Abu Al-Rob
31. Muhamad Saleh El-Rishek
32. Mu’amar Ghawadra
33. Imad Mussa
34. Abdelrahman Salah
35. Ashraf Abu El-Rob
36. Wael Jalboush
37. Nidal Abdelhaq
38. Taha Al-Shakhsheer
39. Zaher Khatatbeh
40. Hamza Abu Arkoub
41. Mahdi El-Assi
42. Shadi Zayed Odeh
43. Jamal Abu Saleh
44. Ismail Hijazi
45. Rajab Tahan
46. Samer Issawi
47. Khader Radee
48. Imad Fatouni
49. Muhamad Issa Awad
50. Suleiman Abu Seif
51. Ahmad Hamad
52. Khaled Ghizan
53. Ismail Musalam
54. Yousri Joulani
55. Nael Barghouthi
56. Imad Abdul-Rahim
57. Fahd Sharaya
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes the freed prisoners on the fifth anniversary of their liberation, and joins in the call for pressure and action to free the 57 re-arrested prisoners of Wafa al-Ahrar, and for the liberation of all 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has just issued its report ‘Antisemitism in the UK’ in response to concerns about “an increase in prejudice and violence against Jewish communities” and “an increase in far-right extremist activity”. It was also prompted by allegations of antisemitism in political parties and university campuses.
The following observations are based on the report’s Conclusions and Recommendations, which is as far as most people will read.
- Israel is an ally of the UK Government and is generally regarded as a liberal democracy.
Hardly. It is no friend of the British people. Nor is it remotely a Western-style liberal democracy. We share few if any values.
- Those claiming to be “anti-Zionist, not antisemitic”, should do so in the knowledge that 59% of British Jewish people consider themselves to be Zionists. If these individuals genuinely mean only to criticise the policies of the Government of Israel, and have no intention to offend British Jewish people, they should criticise “the Israeli Government”, and not “Zionists”. For the purposes of criminal or disciplinary investigations, use of the words ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ in an accusatory or abusive context should be considered inflammatory and potentially antisemitic.
The Israeli regime’s inhuman policies are driven by Zionist doctrine. I doubt if justice-seekers are in the least swayed by how many Jews consider themselves Zionists. Or how many Christians do, for that matter.
- Universities UK should work with appropriate student groups to produce a resource for students, lecturers and student societies on how to deal sensitively with the Israel/Palestine conflict, and how to ensure that pro-Palestinian campaigns avoid drawing on antisemitic rhetoric.
For the sake of even handedness, who will ensure that pro-Israel campaigns avoid drawing on hasbara lies and false claims to Palestinian lands and resources?
- Jewish Labour MPs have been subject to appalling levels of abuse, including antisemitic death threats from individuals purporting to be supporters of Mr Corbyn. Clearly, the Labour Leader is not directly responsible for abuse committed in his name, but we believe that his lack of consistent leadership on this issue, and his reluctance to separate antisemitism from other forms of racism, has created what some have referred to as a ‘safe space’ for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people.
The abusers, and others with vile attitudes, may well be provocateurs bent on making Corbyn look bad. In any case why should he or anyone else feel obliged to “separate” antisemitism from other forms of racism?
- The Chakrabarti Report is clearly lacking in many areas; particularly in its failure to differentiate explicitly between racism and antisemitism… [its recommendations] are further impaired by the fact that they are not accompanied by a clear definition of antisemitism, as we have recommended should be adopted by all political parties.
Who needs a special definition or actually cares about differentiating antisemitism from racism? They are two of the same stripe, and I suspect most of us regard them with equal distaste and have no reason to put one above the other. In short, we know racism when we see it and that’s enough.
- The Labour Party and all political parties should ensure that their training on racism and inclusivity features substantial sections on antisemitism. This must be formulated in consultation with Jewish community representatives, and must acknowledge the unique nature of antisemitism.
Unique? Racism is racism.
- The acts of governments abroad are no excuse for violence or abuse against people in the United Kingdom. We live in a democracy where people are free to criticise the British Government and foreign governments. But the actions of the Israeli Government provide no justification for abusing British Jews.
We tend to take a dim view of those who support states that terrorise others. Jews themselves have warned that Jews everywhere may suffer as a result of the Jewish State’s unacceptable behaviour. This is unfortunate as many Jews are fiercely critical of the regime’s misconduct and, to their great credit, actively campaign against it. By the way, how does the Select Committee suggest we treat those inside our Parliament who promote the interests of a foreign military power with an appalling human rights record?
- In an article for The Daily Telegraph in May, the Chief Rabbi criticised attempts by Labour members and activists to separate Zionism from Judaism as a faith, arguing that their claims are “fictional”. In evidence to us, he stressed that “Zionism has been an integral part of Judaism from the dawn of our faith”. He stated that “spelling out the right of the Jewish people to live within secure borders with self-determination in their own country, which they had been absent from for 2,000 years—that is what Zionism is”. His view was that “If you are an anti-Zionist, you are anti everything I have just mentioned”.
The Chief Rabbi is flatly contradicted by the Jewish Socialists’ Group which says:
Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same. Zionism is a political ideology which has always been contested within Jewish life since it emerged in 1897, and it is entirely legitimate for non-Jews as well as Jews to express opinions about it, whether positive or negative. Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews.
Criticism of Israeli government policy and Israeli state actions against the Palestinians is not antisemitism. Those who conflate criticism of Israeli policy with antisemitism, whether they are supporters or opponents of Israeli policy, are actually helping the antisemites. We reject any attempt, from whichever quarter, to place legitimate criticism of Israeli policy out of bounds.
On the Chief Rabbi’s other point, what right in law do the Jewish people have to return after 2000 years, forcibly displacing the Palestinians and denying them the same right? Besides, scholars tells us that most returning Jews have no ancestral links to the Holy Land whatsoever.
- CST and the JLC describe Zionism as “an ideological belief in the authenticity of Jewish peoplehood and that the Jewish people have the right to a state”. Sir Mick Davis, Chairman of the JLC, told us that criticising Zionism is the same as antisemitism, because: “Zionism is so totally identified with how the Jew thinks of himself, and is so associated with the right of the Jewish people to have their own country and to have self-determination within that country, that if you attack Zionism, you attack the very fundamentals of how the Jews believe in themselves.”
The Select Committee is careful to say that “where criticism of the Israeli Government is concerned context is vital”. The Committee therefore need to understand that the so-called Jewish State is waging what amounts to a religious war against Christian and Muslim communities in the Holy Land. Ask anyone who has been on pilgrimage there. And read The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, a joint statement by the heads of Palestinian Christian churches. It says:
We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.
We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine. This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of the world.
We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation…..
In seeking to defend Zionism the Select Committee fails to put the opposing case – for example, that many non-Jews regard it as a repulsive concept at odds with their own belief. There is no reason to suppose that Zionist belief somehow trumps all others.
- Research published in 2015 by City University found that 90% of British Jewish people support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and 93% say that it forms some part of their identity as Jews….
Did researchers ask British Muslims and Christians about the Palestinians’ right to their own state?
This research sounds like a swipe at people who are accused of ‘delegitimising’ Israel by questioning its right to exist. Actually Israel does a very good job of delegitimising itself. The new state’s admission to the UN in 1949 was conditional upon honouring the UN Charter and implementing UN General Assembly Resolutions 181 and 194. It failed to do so and repeatedly violates provisions and principles of the Charter to this day.
Israel cannot even bring itself to comply with the provisions of the EU-Israel Association Agreement of 1995 which makes clear that adherence to the principles of the UN Charter and “respect for human rights and democratic principle constitute an essential element of this agreement”.
In 2004 the International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled that construction of what’s often referred to as the Apartheid Wall breached international law and Israel must dismantle it and make reparation. The ICJ also ruled that “all States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction”. Israel nevertheless continues building its hideous Wall with American tax dollars, an act of hatred against the Palestinians and a middle-finger salute to international law.
Here at home powerful Friends of Israel groups are allowed to flourish in all three main parties in the UK. Their presence at the centre of government and in the fabric of our institutions is considered unacceptable by civil society campaign groups and a grave breach of the principles of public life. The backlash to growing criticism of Israel’s stranglehold on its neighbours and increasing influence on Western foreign policy is mounting intolerance, Hence the Inquisition, which lately has been directed against Labour’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn, an easy target for orchestrated smears given his well known sympathy with the Palestinians’ struggle and his links to some of Israel’s (not our) enemies.
The shortcomings of the Select Committee’s inquiry are obvious. Its report doesn’t properly consider the opposite view. It is half-baked. It is lopsided. It is written in whitewash.
Senegalese agro-pastoralists are striking wins against Senhuile SA, a foreign-owned agribusiness company established in Ndiaël, Saint-Louis Region of Senegal. In 2012, Senhuile obtained a 50 year lease on 20,000 hectares for a sweet potato plantation in a forest and wetland reserve, which was partially declassified to establish agribusiness activities.1 The deal threatened 9,000 pastoralists, who depend on these lands for their livelihoods. In addition to grazing their 100,000 animals (cows, sheep, goats, and horses), these lands also provide them with firewood, fruits, medicinal plants, and saps and resins.
For over four years, 37 villages impacted by Senhuile’s activities have shown fierce resistance. In the latest action, over 350 local opponents to the project gathered on July 29, 2016, to claim their right to farm the reserve lands. Previously, communities had been denied the authorization to cultivate small plots on the grounds that Ndiaël was classified among the Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance. Now that large tracts of the reserve have been declassified and cleared by Senhuile, residents of Ndiaël are determined to start their own agricultural activities in the area.
Prior to 2012, Senhuile had planned to settle in Fanaye, some 30 kilometers away, but was forced to relocate after violent local opposition led to the deaths of two protestors and injuries to many others in 2011. Upon arriving in Ndiaël, Senhuile did not seek the consent of the local communities or provide compensation for the loss of grazing lands. Instead, it carried out aggressive land clearing—religious spaces, cemeteries, schools were destroyed in the process—while protecting its concession with barbed wires and security guards.
Senhuile: Lack of Transparency & Scandals
Senhuile’s project has been opaque since its inception. Although located in a semi-arid area with plans for large-scale irrigation using water from the adjacent Lake Guiers—a crucial reservoir already affected by low water levels, algae proliferation, and pollution—Senhuile conducted its first environmental impact assessment only months after starting to clear the land. The company initially announced its intention to grow sweet potatoes for bioethanol production, but its strategy shifted several times, from sunflower plantations to finally opting in 2016 for rice, maize, and peanut production.
In addition, Senhuile has been involved in scandals repetitively. Held by a murky international conglomerate composed of Italy’s Tampieri Financial Group, Senegalese investors, and a shell company registered in New York, Senhuile has changed directors three times since 2012. Benjamin Dummai, its first CEO, was arrested in 2014 on charges of misappropriating CFA 200 million (over $300,000). Dummai’s successor, Massimo Castelluci, fired a large number of employees. Dismissal-related disputes are now opposing Senhuile in the regional Saint-Louis Court. In July 2016, Senhuile’s latest director, Massimo Vittorio Campadese, barely avoided prison after the company was accused of committing customs fraud and negotiated a CFA 1.1 billion ($1.85 million) fine to settle the matter.
Senhuile’s disastrous track record belies the company’s intentions and initial claims around its contribution to the local economy – Senhuile promised to create 2,500 jobs by 2013 but today employs less than 100 people. Unsurprisingly, initial resistance from the 37 villages impacted by the project has garnered strength as former Senhuile workers and neighboring rice growers, who were recently expropriated from lands previously granted to them by the company, have joined the opposition.
Senegalese authorities, consequently, have been forced to recognize the legitimacy of the local resistance. A few months ago, they announced—and recently confirmed—their intention to reduce Senhuile’s concession by half from 20,000 to 10,000 hectares. The recent mobilization was organized by local communities to build on this successful development. They are claiming their right to over 14,000 hectares of lands in the reserve, including all of Senhuile’s former lands and some other declassified areas. This action has served as a successful catalyst to kick-start a negotiation process in August 2016 between the Senegalese administration, the company, and protestors to demarcate and divide the declassified lands for redistribution.
The residents of Ndiaël hope to soon start using the land for cultivating cash crops including watermelons, sweet potatoes, and cassava. Cattle herding, the area’s traditional occupation, will accompany agricultural activities. Small-scale agricultural plots, contrary to large-scale farms, leave space for cattle routes and preserve animals’ access to water points. In addition, after harvesting, farmers will let the cattle graze leftover fodder from the fields and use the manure to fertilize the soil. These methods of small-scale agriculture will respect the zone’s ecology, feed entire families, and invigorate the local economy.2
While the expectations are high, the struggle isn’t over for the community members. They are still waiting for proper land demarcation and fear unexpected developments, including allocations of concessions to firms participating in the World Bank-funded Inclusive and Sustainable Agribusiness Development Project (PDIDAS). However, their tenacious resistance has voiced an honest appeal to the government to prioritize the future and food security of Senegalese families over the interests of foreign investors. If villagers win, the Ndiaël case may set a precedent for other populations affected by land grabbing in the country. If not, they are ready to scale up the resistance. As local opponent Ardo Sow explains, “this is a fight for survival. We cannot remain bystanders and watch the state run roughshod over the population. […] We will not cede for anything in the world.”
-  The declassification of 20,000 hectares of reserve land for a large-scale agriculture project was surprising considering that, in March 2012, the same month former President Wade issued the decree granting land to Senhuile, the Senegalese government submitted an official financing request to the World Bank for a project to restore the Lac de Guiers area and adjacent wetland ecosystems, particularly the Ndiaël reserve, considered an endangered Ramsar site.
-  Surveys conducted in the area have found that small farms obtain excellent profits from their commercial activities (notably potato and rice cultures) and employ a great number of workers.
UK spying agencies secretly and unlawfully collected and stored personal data of Britons for 17 years, according to a court ruling.
MI5, MI6 and GCHQ collected data on everyone’s communications between 1998 and 2015, according to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the watchdog for intelligence agencies.
The agencies tracked individual phone and web use and other confidential information without having adequate safeguards or supervision, senior judges ruled on Monday.
They did not abide by article 8 protecting the right to privacy of the European convention of human rights (ECHR), they added.
“The BPD (bulk personal datasets) regime failed to comply with the ECHR principles, which we have above set out throughout the period prior to its avowal in March 2015. The BCD (bulk communications data) regime failed to comply with such principles in the period prior to its avowal in November 2015, and the institution of a more adequate system of supervision as at the same date,” the ruling stated.
Spying agencies, however, will still be able to continue to do so due to small tweaks to the law that allow them to flout the ruling.
Millie Graham Wood, legal officer at Privacy International, said “today’s judgment is a long overdue indictment of UK surveillance agencies riding roughshod over our democracy and secretly spying on a massive scale.”
“There are huge risks associated with the use of bulk communications data,” Wood said. “It facilitates the almost instantaneous cataloging of entire populations’ personal data.”
According to Privacy campaigners, the ruling was “one of the most significant indictments of the secret use of the government’s mass surveillance powers” since Edward Snowden, a former contractor of the US National Security Agency, who first released the extent of American and British surveillance of citizens in 2013.
Secret documents leaked by Snowden also revealed that the GCHQ and the NSA had monitored more than 1,000 targets in at least 60 countries between 2008 and 2011 by secretly accessing cable networks carrying the world’s phone calls and internet traffic.
Palestinian student leader and media activist Ibrahim Abu Safiya remains imprisoned after his detention was extended by Israeli occupation forces until 5 November 2016. Abu Safiya, the coordinator of the Islamic Association at Bir Zeit University, was arrested at Beit Ur checkpoint west of Ramallah on 28 September by occupation forces.
The Islamic Association at Bir Zeit issued a statement denouncing the arrest of their coordinator, saying that it “reflects the occupation’s arbitrary policy against Palestinian media, activists and organizers, and punitive actions to cover the crimes of the occupation and the settlers.”
Abu Safiya, 21, is a journalism student at Bir Zeit in his final year, an active member of many popular unions and associations who works with a number of media offices as a freelance journalist and researcher.
He is heavily involved in Bir Zeit student union activities, including the 28-day student strike against tuition increases on the campus, in which he engaged in a five-day hunger strike. Just days before his arrest, he spoke to the media about the success of the student campaign in preventing tuition hikes that make education inaccessible to Palestinian youth, and announcing the agreement to end the student strike. Abu Safiya had been one of the four student spokespeople and representatives during the anti-tuition-hike campaign.
Dozens of Palestinian journalists remain imprisoned by the Israeli occupation, including Omar Nazzal, member of the General Secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate; Hasan Safadi, media coordinator for Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; and Ali Oweiwi, journalist held without charge or trial.
Abu Safiya’s arrest also points to the ongoing targeting of Palestinian student activists and organizers for involvement in student union activities, student protests and other student actions on campus.
Qpress, a media centre specialising in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa affairs, has been closed by Israeli authorities.
After being questioned and banned from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque last week, the head of the news organisation, Dr Hekmat Na’amna, was informed that Qpress was being shut down in accordance with a military decision issued early this month.
He was also informed that the use of the website has been banned, in addition to the use of the Facebook page. He was warned by the Israeli intelligence that any use of Qpress would result in prosecution.
These orders issued by the Israeli military and security forces indicate that the Qpress agency has been banned and completely shut down.
Commenting on this decision, Mahmoud Abu Ata, a journalist specialising in Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and holy site affairs and a former employee of Qpress said that “this closure aims to silence the voice of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem and the holy sites and to censor true facts and the true situation on the ground in occupied Jerusalem.”
“The occupation wants to cover up its crimes and plans against Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem as well as across Palestine. Qpress has always exposed such crimes as part of its media duty in a professional and transparent manner. However, it seems that such objectivity and honourable professionalism that portrayed the events, pictures and videos exactly as they occurred did not please the Israeli administration.”