July 31, 2010

Israel continues to keep archives on 1940s expulsions, Mossad operations in foreign countries, nuclear weapons, etc sealed - exposure would reveal criminality

About two weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed regulations restricting access to government archives. As Barak Ravid revealed yesterday in Haaretz, 50-year-old materials that were to be opened to the public for historical study will now remain classified for two more decades.

The Jerusalem convent after the 1948 Independence War. [Courtesy of Soeurs Reparatrices]

The decision was preceded by intense pressure from the defense establishment and intelligence services on the state archivist, Prof. Yehoshua Freundlich. The archivist accepted their position, and said "these materials are not fit for public viewing."

The information that remains classified deals, among other things, with the expulsions and massacres of Arabs in the War of Independence, Mossad operations in foreign countries, surveillance of opposition politicians by the Shin Bet security service in the 1950s and the establishment of the Biological Research Institute in Nes Tziona and the Nuclear Research Center in Dimona.

The material was not accessible to the public previously, and the new regulations merely put a retroactive stamp of legality on the closure of the archives, which until now was sealed illegally. The state archivist warned that some of the classified materials "has implications over [Israel's] adherence to international law."

His words suggest that the state will be seen as an outlaw if the past deeds of the security and intelligence services are made public. But his explanations are not reasonable. Israel, which this year celebrated its 62nd birthday, can and must confront the less than heroic chapters in its past and reveal them to the public and for historical study. The public has a right to know about the decisions made by the state's founders, even if they involved violations of human rights, covering up crimes or harassing political opponents by security means. The country is mature and strong enough to absorb the criticism that could arise if, for example, previously unpublished testimonies are discovered about the events at Deir Yassin.

The role of the security establishment and intelligence services is to protect the state in the present, not to hide the past. The new regulations, prepared in response to petitions by journalists to the High Court of Justice, reverse the trend of openness set in the Freedom of Information Law, which the Supreme Court called "a guiding law." Israelis should study history as it happened and as it was documented, not just a censored and prettified version.


July 30, 2010

Desmond Tutu backs U.S. food co-op boycott of Israeli products

Desmond Tutu at the Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag in Cologne 2007 [Wikipedia]

South African Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu said on Wednesday that he supports the Olympia Food Co-op's boycott of Israeli products.

South African Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu issues statement of support for boycott announced by food co-op in Rachel Corrie's hometown of Olympia, Washington.

The Olympia Food Co-op, located in Olympia, Washington, the hometown of the International Solidarity Movement activist Rachel Corrie who was killed seven years ago in Gaza, announced last week that no Israeli products would be sold at its two grocery stores in the city. 

July 29, 2010

Carter Center expresses 'deep concern' over Israeli deportations of Jerusalem residents; victims seek refuge from Israeli authorities in Red Cross compound

The Carter Center expressed "deep concern" Thursday over  Israel's revocation of Jerusalem residency rights for three Palestinian Legislative Council members and former minister.

A statement issued by the Atlanta-based center said expelling the officials from Jerusalem "is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Expulsion based on political affiliation would set a particularly dangerous precedent."

"Revoking residency rights of these PLC members is another example of Israeli policy designed to change unilaterally the character of Palestinian East Jerusalem," said former US President Jimmy Carter.

"Home demolitions, settlement construction, the separation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and its annexation to Israel, and long-standing efforts to push Palestinian residents out of the city are violations of international law, which may make the creation of a viable Palestinian state impossible. I call upon the Quartet for Middle East Peace to demand that Israel respect international law in East Jerusalem, including reinstating residency for these PLC members."

Ahmad Atoun, Mohammad Abu Teir, Khaled Abu Arafeh, and Mohammad Totah -- all affiliated with Hamas -- were informed in April that they would be deported from Jerusalem after Israeli police confiscated their Israeli ID cards.

The Carter Center noted that in May 2006, then-Israeli Interior Minister Roni Bar-On revoked the residency of the four PLC members, arguing that they were residents of Israel and therefore obliged to be loyal to Israel, and that their membership in the PLC indicated their allegiance to the Palestinian Authority.

Subsequently, all four were arrested by Israeli authorities, prosecuted by military courts, and sentenced to two- to four-year prison terms. Following their releases, they were summoned by Israeli police and had their Jerusalem identification documents confiscated.

Abu Teir is in Israeli custody, while the other three have sought refuge in the International Committee of the Red Cross compound in East Jerusalem.

Israel To Release Three Freedom Flotilla Ships

After a number of Turkish requests for a return of the ships used in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, Israel has agreed to comply.

Israel will release the three Turkish ships carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza and which were subsequently attacked by the Israeli navy who murdered nine people.

Ever since the attacks on the ships they have been docked in Ashdod and Haifa ports, awaiting their fate.

Turkey has in that time made repeated requests to the Israeli government to return the ships in addition to other demands.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman agreed in a meeting on Thursday to release the ships back to Turkish control.

Once close relations between Israel and Turkey have soured since the attacks on the aid ships. 

July 28, 2010

Dozens of Israeli settlers build new outpost; Israeli forces imprison journalists and Palestinian residents

Dozens of settlers began building a new illegal outpost in Hebron's Al-Buweirah neighborhood between the city center and the Kiyrat Arba settlement on Friday.

Witnesses said mobile homes and sheds were placed on the site by morning, with one resident saying "dozens of settlers installed themselves in the area."

Local and international protesters gathered near the site on Friday morning, but were forced away from the newly occupied area by soldiers, who were reportedly protecting the new area.

Clashes erupted as residents grew angry over the military protection of the outpost, which is considered illegal under both international and Israeli law. Witnesses said two photojournalists and four residents were detained by military officials.

An Israeli military spokesman confirmed three were detained, two journalists and a resident, he said the two journalists were released shortly after their seizure.

Questions about the military plan of action regarding the installation of an illegal outpost on Palestinian lands were directed to Israel's Civil Administration, representatives of which were not immediately available by phone for comment. 

Israeli soldiers protect settlers as they burn more than 7 acres of olive trees

Soldiers protected Israeli settlers as they set fire to olive trees in Saffa village near the West Bank city Ramallah on Thursday, witnesses reported.

Residents and firefighters rushed to the scene, eyewitnesses said, but Israeli soldiers would not allow them to access the land.

Yousef Karajah, member of the popular committee against the wall, said more than seven square kilometers of land were burned.

The Israeli Civil Administration did not respond immediately to requests for comment by phone and e-mail.

Gaza's top student studied with oil lamp, light from mobile phone because of blackouts

Gaza's top Tawjihi student felt like she broke the siege against her with determination and the light from her mobile phone, she told Ma'an the day she received the news of her success.

Asma Amin Tubasi from Rafah remembers her father telling her to stop studying using the old oil lamp after a series of accidents in the Gaza Strip saw children injured and homes burned due to unsafe fuel smuggled in from Egypt.

"She would study 18 hours a day, and she has made me so proud today, scoring 99.4 on the literary stream of the Tawjihi, the highest score in all of Gaza," her father said.

From September to January, Asma's family had an average of 2-8 hours of blackouts each day, but in January, when the Palestinian Authority took over fuel transfers to Gaza from the EU, a shortage of funds and fuel lead to blackouts of 8-12 hours day.

"These power cuts exacerbate the already difficult living conditions in Gaza and disrupt almost all aspects of daily life, including household chores, health services, education and water and sanitation services," a special UN report on the electricity crisis in Gaza reported in May.

"I was just hoping for a better ending," Asma said, explaining that when the oil lamp was no longer an option she would use the light on her phone.

Her father, who works for the Ministry of Waqf (religious endowments) in Gaza, said he worried she would damage her eyes reading in such low light, with rolling power cuts spreading darkness over the Gaza Strip by 10 in the evening.

Her achievement is all the more impressive given the troubles plaguing the education system in Gaza. Statistics from the UN have shown that attendance and performance in public schools have declined as a result of aging education infrastructure, overcrowding, and frequent disruptions caused by military operations.

In the first semester of the 2007-2008 school year, only 20% of 16,000 sixth graders in Gaza passed standardized exams in Math, Science, English and Arabic, a study by Gaza's Ministry of Education found.

When Asma saw the result of the exams for which she had spent the year preparing, "I screamed, I cried, I laughed, I could not believe I had done it," she explained.

"She is a dedicated girl, she reads all the time amidst a very difficult situation," her father explained, adding that he believed she was so determined to succeed because she wanted "a better future for herself, and a better future for Gaza."

July 27, 2010

Israel Wiping Out a Bedouin Village

Israeli bulldozers during the demolition of homes in the village of al-Taweel, Negev

Israeli bulldozers demolished forty homes this morning in the village of al-Arakib, in the Negev desert south of Israel and evacuated about three hundred of its inhabitants, under the pretext of building without a permit.
News reports said that thousands of police officers surrounded the village and provided protection for the demolitions.
The bulldozers started demolishing the houses on the corners of the village, before completing their mission of totally erasing the entire village out of existence. Clashes erupted between the inhabitants of the village and the police officers.

The children on the ruins of their demolished homes

Scenes of massive destruction that filled the place, where all the homes were reduced to rubble were captured by Al Jazeera.

Military Barracks:
Thousands of police officers accompanied the demolition operations

The village turned into a military barracks to secure the demolition process using bulldozers surrounded by helicopters to provide additional protection.
Israeli radio reported that the demolition process comes in the wake of orders by an Israeli court last night to demolish these homes. 

It is worth mentioning that the Negev constitutes about 40% of historic Palestine, an area of 12 thousand and 577 km 2, and home to nearly two hundred thousand Palestinians. Israel is seeking to concentrate them in eight towns that turned into centers of unemployment and poverty and are more like refugee camps.


July 26, 2010

U.S. Assists Israel in Enhancing Missiles

An Arrow missile during a test launch from an undisclosed location in Israel (AFP)

The Israeli Defense Ministry announced that the United States and Israel on Sunday evening signed an agreement to cooperate in developing Arrow III interceptor missiles and integrate it into Israel’s missile defense system, the Israeli Arrow II to be able to shoot down missiles from a higher altitude.
The ministry said that the Arrow III missile will give Israel the ability to deal with threats of long-range ballistic missiles, and give Israel the capability to intercept weapons of mass destruction out of the atmosphere of the Earth.
Israeli security sources say that this kind of missiles is in response to the Iranian threat of a Shahab-3 missile attack on Israel. In addition, they said, it can thwart more accurate and dangerous rockets than the Shahab-3.
The Arrow is jointly produced by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and the American firm Boeing Co. and has absorbed close to $1 billion in direct U.S. funds since its 1988 inception.
The Israeli air force said last year that the Arrow III would take more than four years to complete and that would depend on what resources were made available for the project.
According to Israeli media, the U.S. has informed Israel that it will provide financial and technical assistance for the development of a new generation of Israeli-made Arrow III missiles, which Tel Aviv considers as the culmination to its multi-layered air defense system.
It is noteworthy that in parallel with the Arrow system, Israel is developing the "Iron Dome" system, which it says is to counter missile threats from Hamas and Hezbollah, which was approved by the U.S. Congress in May last year and has absorbed 205 million dollars. 

July 25, 2010

Israeli soldiers detain former European Parliament Vice President at nonviolent protest

Luisa Morgantini MEP
WEST BANK - Luisa Morgantini, former vice president of the European Parliament, was arrested by the Israeli army in Bil'in, West Bank, 17 kilometers away from Ramallah, while attending a peaceful demonstration against the separation wall. Five other activists of various nationalities were arrested with her too. One was in a wheelchair. Morgantini was released after an hour.

Every Friday since 2005, the people of Bil'in protest the construction of the wall with a peaceful march from the village to the site of the barrier. A march that has become the occasion of solidarity and participation by peace activists from around the world, who are always present at the demonstration.

Israeli soldiers repeatedly fired tear gas, triggering panic and tension among the demonstrators, and forcing many of them to disperse. Morgantini instead remained at the forefront along with other peace activists, while the Israeli army was approaching.

"60% of our land is on the other side of the wall - said Mohammad Khatib, coordinator of the Popular Nonviolent Resistance - A huge settlement of 45 thousand settlers has been built next to our village, and continues to grow. We started our popular nonviolent struggle when the bulldozers arrived to uproot our olive trees". "The Israeli soldiers shoot not only tear gas - continues Amira Mohammed, coordinator of the nonviolent Committee of Nalin, a village 12 km from Tel Aviv - but also rubber bullets that can kill. So far five people have died. 

International media were present at this week's Bil'in protest

As on numerous occasions in the past, Morgantini is engaged these days in a visit to the Palestinian Territories and Israel in order to reach the members of her group "Peaceful Resistance against the Occupation”. The group’s objective is "keeping the way open for a just peace, for freedom and self determination of the Palestinian people and for coexistence between the two peoples". In the coming days, her group will be in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jaffa and Hebron. A stop in Gaza proved to be impossible to achieve because - she said - "we did not get permission."

July 24, 2010

Israel threatens to target "Mary and Julia"

Julia in the port of Tripoli before sailing for Cyprus (Al Jazeera)
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Plumor said that international law allows Israel to attack the Lebanese aid ships that are being setup to be sent to Gaza, while the Israeli delegate to the United Nations threatened to take “all necessary means” to block the ships, “Mary” and “Julia.”

Plumor announced that his Government was making strenuous diplomatic efforts to prevent the arrival of ships to the Gaza Strip which has been under Israeli siege for the past four years.

In response to a question by Al-Jazeera correspondent on whether Israel may carry out a threat to sink the ships, Plumor said that international law allows Israel to attack the vessels.

He added “If they announced the ship would break the naval blockade, it is allowed to attack. I do not want to threaten anyone, and there is no need for violence, but whoever insists that his head hits the wall he shall not be surprised if afflicted with head pain”

Gabriela Shalev, the Israeli delegate to the United Nations, called on the Lebanese government and the international community to prevent the two ships from sailing into the Gaza Strip, and accused the organizers of the voyage of seeking to increase the tensions in the region.

Shalev said in a letter Thursday to Secretary General of the United Nations and the UN Security Council that Israel reserves the right to use “all necessary means” to prevent ships from violating the sea embargo it imposes on the Gaza Strip and called on the Lebanese government to “take responsibility” and prevent the vessels Mary and Julia from sailing, adding that “Lebanon and Israel are in a state of hostility,” and that such ban would prevent any escalation of the situation.

Julia has already sailed to Cyprus before heading to Gaza.

Israel had been under international pressure after the freedom flotilla massacre on May 31 in which at least nine activists were killed and dozens others were injured in international waters.

July 23, 2010

Report: Anger among Israeli officials after Israeli ambassador kicked out of Cairo restaurant

Yitzhak Levanon
Israeli Foreign Ministry officials are angry after receiving a report from the Israeli ambassador to Cairo, Yitzhak Levanon, about an attempt to throw him out of a popular restaurant in Maadi late Saturday. According to the Kuwaiti al-Jaridah newspaper, the manager of a famous restaurant in Cairo was surprised to see four "European" people sitting around a table in his restaurant surrounded by some six guards, sparking the attention of all the restaurant visitors.

When he asked one of the guards regarding the identities of the guests, he was told it was the Israeli ambassador to Cairo. The manager then asked the ambassador to leave immediately to avoid "embarrassment." Levanon was accompanied by his wife, and another couple.

The Israeli envoy refused to leave. He also called the police for help. Following the arrival of the police, they told the manager of the restaurant to reverse his decision in order "to avoid problems."

This is the first time that Levanon was thrown out of a shop or restaurant in Cairo. The former ambassador Shalom Cohen, was kicked out of public places seven times during his tenure in the Egyptian capital, most notably in February 2009 after the Israeli massacre in Gaza that left more than 1,440 dead, 5,300 injured and 50,800 homeless, when he was asked by the manager to leave the Opera House, as well as all the artists participating in the event who refused to go on stage until after he left the concert hall.

July 21, 2010

(VIDEO) Israeli Occupation Forces Arrest 17-Year-Old Boy

Bil'in — Several heavily armed soldiers entered the outskirts of the village of Bil'in on Monday at 1:30 a.m. to arrest a 17-Year-Old Boy. The reasons for his arrest remain unclear but the child’s mother suspects it’s because of his participation in a peaceful demonstration against the occupation.

At least twelve jeeps were spotted most of which hovered as backup at the nearby Apartheid Wall.

Last Friday's demonstration was peaceful until the protesters were viciously deluged with salvoes of tear gas as soon as they reached the Apartheid Wall which some of the youth resisted with stones.

Unarmed activists are regularly fired at by Israeli forces at the weekly demonstrations in the West Bank village of Bi'lin which are one of the most impressive examples of Gandhi's principles being put into action in today's world.

The occupation forces have deployed a series of tactics to end the protests, including mass arrests, night operations, arresting minors and declaring protest villages a 'closed military area'.

July 19, 2010

Ethnic Cleansing: Israeli Police Destroying Vegetable Fields in Al Baqaa Valley (w/Video)

Photos from the incident are available here

Israeli border police destroyed several Palestinian fields in Al Beqa’a Valley just east of Hebron on 6 July 2010, directly affecting the livelihood of more than one hundred Palestinians.

Landowners said that Israeli border police and the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO), responsible for the coordination of Palestinian civilian affairs in Area C, began implementing the destruction at around 8:30 a.m. Israeli authorities, with the assistance of hired labor, damaged fields of vegetables and destroyed the irrigation systems of those fields.

When Christian Peacemaker Team members arrived in the area at 11:30 a.m., about twenty workers hired by the Israeli border police and DCO had cut and disposed of the irrigation pipes laid in two fields. The fields each measured ten dunams (approximately 40 acres) and included tomatoes, eggplant, cauliflower, and beans. In addition to dismantling the irrigation pipes, the workers also cut the twines that were holding up each tomato plant. A matriarch of the family, Aratiki Karim, said, "These tomatoes are for the kids, for the babies, to feed the kids and to sell them to buy other food for the kids." The Palestinian farmers had planted the tomato plants nearly three months ago and the tomatoes were only twenty days from being ready for market.

The border police, DCO, and hired laborers then moved to another field further along Route 60 in the Al Beqa’a Valley to perform the same procedure. The border police blocked the junction between the residential zone and the nearby fields, shooting tear gas and sound bombs to prevent Palestinians from going to the area where the hired workers were removing more irrigation pipes. Several women and children suffered from tear gas inhalation and required hospitalization.

Badran Mohammed Jabber, looking out onto his destroyed fields uttered in exasperation, "I have spent 43 years under the Israeli reign of terror. I have lived my life in fear, I never know what the Israelis will do tomorrow. They have destroyed my land, they have destroyed my life; these fields are my life."

The 6 July incident is not the first time Israeli authorities have destroyed crops and irrigation equipment in the Al Beqa’a Valley.

See the following links for further reading on demolitions in the Beqa’a Valley:

Fight for survival in the West Bank

This Used to be Paradise


Israel dumps waste on Palestinians

Israeli settlements have been dumping untreated waste directly into a sewage canal that runs through the occupied West Bank, affecting Palestinian villages along its banks.

The hazard posed is compounded by the dumping of toxic chemical waste on agricultural land, with villagers reporting a rash of skin diseases and respiratory problems.

The Israeli government has banned plans by the Palestinian Authority to build pipes and pumps to treat and divert wastewater away from the affected villages.


July 17, 2010

Israel Tortures Detained Children

Child prisoners are being tortured and threatened with rape (Al Jazeera)

By Atef Douglas - Nablus
"We will attach the electricity wires to your testicles and prevent you from marriage and having kids forever, if you don’t tell us exactly what you know."
This is a fraction of what the Israeli interrogator said to the child “A.M.M” of the city of Hebron when he was arrested two weeks ago, who threatened to use "all methods" to force him to confess.
The 14-year-old boy “A.M.M” said that the Israeli occupation forces arrested him from his home at around two o'clock in the morning in a very violent way. He was frightened by the horror of the situation of soldiers storming the house who dragged him handcuffed, shackled and alone in a military vehicle, refusing to tell his parents the reason for his arrest or where they are taking him.
He added that during the interrogation - which lasted eight days - the investigators used tricks and torture to obtain false confessions, and when they did not succeed, they stung him by needles and threatened to attach electrical wires to his testis.
He pointed that they "obtained forced confessions" under psychological and physical torture, after they connected electrical power to the cables and started implementing their threats.
This child's testimony is not the first of its kind, it is one of hundreds of other similar testimonies compiled by Defense for Children International, in a report issued earlier this month.

Sexual Assaults

The legal adviser at Defense for Children International - Palestine section “Khaled Quzmar” said that the main motive behind the issuance of the report is the upsurge in arrests of children (seven hundred children per year) and the diversity of attacks on them, especially sexual assaults, which reached nearly 30% of all forms of abuse.
He stressed that the circumstances of arrest and detention cause harm to their physical and mental health, pointing out that child abuse is a crime, how can you be a child and be imprisoned?

Quzmar: Israel does not respond to any international or local rulings to stop torture of child prisoners (Al Jazeera)

The verbal threat of sexual assault on child prisoners is routine, but it develops sometimes to the point of direct offence by "rape."
Attempts to "insert a stick in the child’s anus to terrorize him" is what has happened a few days ago, as reported by one of the children.
He adds, "They exercised a flagrant violation of the right of a child last week."

Quzmar called on local and international human rights organizations - in particular members of the Fourth Geneva Convention - to lift their voice to compel Israel to cease its violations, especially against children. Quzmar added that "Israel is the only country in the world that is above the law."
Israel has killed more than four hundred children last year (some burned to death by white phosphorus shells dropped in densely populated Gaza areas) and at least eight children since the beginning of this year.

Seven hundred children are arrested by Israel each year (Al Jazeera)
Everyone Is Responsible

Deputy Minister for prisoner affairs, Ziad Abu Ein, said that Israel is practicing the worst forms of terrorism against child prisoners "where there's 335 children in prisons of the occupation."
He added that Israel is the only country in the world that authorizes legislations and laws for detaining children under the age of twelve and holding them accountable, and is not subject to any international law.

According to the report, abuse of Palestinian children detained by the Israeli occupation forces - who are usually detained in the dead of night as a form of intimidation or deterrence - varied between handcuffing, which reached 97%, blindfolding 92%, beating and kicking 69%, verbal abuse, signing confessions in Hebrew, solitary confinement, and many other forms of abuse and torture.


July 15, 2010

Jewish settlers torch Nablus lands

Nablus – Dozens of Jewish settlers from the hilltop Migdalim settlement on Thursday torched fields belonging to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, an official said.

Ghassan Daghlas, who holds the settlements file for the Palestinian Authority in the northern West Bank, said the torched lands were agricultural fields belonging to the Qusra village.

Israeli forces arrived on the scene after the blaze was reported, but by that time the flames had covered several dunums of land, Daghlas said. Civil Defense crews had to wait for the soldiers to arrive before they were allowed to reach the site of the blaze, he added.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said the army was aware of the fire but had no other involvement.

No complaint was filed with the District Coordination Office, an official said.

Rock Throwing At Occupation Soldiers

Pink Floyd reunites for Palestinian benefit concert

Washington – For the first time in half a decade, rock legends Pink Floyd  reunited for a benefit concert in England to raise money for young Palestinian refugees, MSNBC reported Tuesday.

Pink Floyd in 1968 [Wikipedia]

Roger Waters and David Gilmour, joined by a full stage of keyboardists and drummers, both picked up the guitar to play for the more than 200 fans gathered to see the Oxfordshire concert. The reunion was unpublicized prior to the curtain's rise.

The proceeds from the benefit concert went to the Hoping Foundation, an organization that focuses on the “next generation” of young Palestinians, mostly refugees. Their projects include a film workshop, a scouting group in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, and a UN Relief and Works Agency yearbook. The event raised over half a million dollars to benefit the group.

The Pink Floyd duo played a number of classic and fan favorites, including “Wish You Were Here” and “Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two).”

Waters has been involved in pro-Palestinian activism for years. In 2006 he spray painted "tear down the wall" on Israel's West Bank separation wall in the city of Bethlehem. He also worked with the United Nations to produce a short film about the wall's impact on life in the West Bank.

Waters also wrote a song for Gaza.

A slew of musicians, including Elvis Costello and The Pixes recently cancelled concerts in Israel in protest of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians and the deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla on May 31st.

July 14, 2010

Israeli Chase the Gaza Aid Ship

Israel Kills Woman, Injures Several Others, Reportedly Seized Charity Aid Ship

Jimmy Carter Visits An American School Destroyed by Israel

Israel’s Nukes Harm US National Interests

by John Mearsheimer

Transcript of John J. Mearsheimer’s remarks at the IRmep conference at the International Spy Museum "Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal: Espionage, Opacity and Future" Washington, DC, 7/7/2010

What I want to do is ask four questions, and then answer them.

The first is, "why did Israel develop nuclear weapons to begin within the 1950s and 1960s?"  Second, "does it make sense today for Israel to have a nuclear deterrent?"  Third, "does opacity make good strategic sense for Israel?"  "Does it matter for the United States?" And four, "is it in America’s interest for Israel to have nuclear weapons?"

Those are the four questions I want to answer.

You want to remember, when I answer those first two questions about why Israel developed nuclear weapons I’m going to approach it from Israel’s point of view.  This will become clear as I go along, but Israel and the United States are separate countries.  And sometimes what’s good for Israel is not good for the United States.

On the question of Israel and nuclear weapons, let me start with a general point.  The reason that states want nuclear weapons in almost all cases is because they are the ultimate deterrent.  They make it almost impossible for an adversary or an opponent to attack your homeland and threaten the survival of your state for the obvious reason that if you have nuclear weapons and your survival is at risk, that’s one clear circumstance under which you’re likely to use those nuclear weapons.  Many people now argue, here in Washington especially, that nuclear weapons have offensive capability, and if Iran were to get nuclear weapons it could use those weapons to dominate the Gulf and establish hegemony in the region.

This is not a serious argument and of course there are not many serious arguments about Iran that take place here inside the beltway, as you well know.  But the idea that they’re going to use nuclear weapons to dominate the Gulf, it’s a laugher.

It’s also important to understand, that even if you have nuclear weapons, it doesn’t mean other countries won’t attack you.  Again, I’m arguing that if you have nuclear weapons, they won’t attack your homeland and threaten your survival, but you want to remember that in 1973 even though Israel had nuclear weapons and the Syrians and Egyptians understood that Israel had nuclear weapons, those two Arab states did initiate the famous October War, or Yom Kippur War.

So nuclear deterrence has its limits.

I think a powerful case can be made that it made good strategic sense for Israel to acquire nuclear weapons in the 1950s and the 1960s.  Number one because of the strategic environment that they operated in, and number two for historical reasons.  Referring to the strategic environment, at that point in time and again we’re talking about the 1950′s and early 1960′s when this program was set in motion Israel’s conventional force relative to its neighbors was nowhere near as powerful as they now are.  The gap between the Israeli conventional forces and the neighbors’ conventional forces was significant then, but nowhere near as great as it is today.  At the same time both Egypt and Syria for much of that period, had very close relations with the Soviet Union which was supplying them with arms.  And as most of you know, the "special relationship" between the United States and Israel did not get going until 1967.  And I would argue that it was really not until the 1973 war that the special relationship really began to take off.  So relations between the United States and Israel were not very close at the time, the Soviet Union was a key player in the region, and Egypt and Syria were seen as client states of the Soviet Union and were quite formidable adversaries.  I don’t want to overstate the case, nevertheless given that strategic environment and given the history of the Jews, especially in Europe, especially given the fact that the Holocaust was recent history at the time, you could understand full well why the Israelis wanted to acquire a nuclear weapon.

Had I been a national security advisor to David Ben-Gurion, I would have pushed him down the nuclear road, back in the 50s and the 60s.

The question though, and Sasha raised this, is whether it makes sense today for Israel to have a nuclear deterrent.  I think it’s obvious that if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, it would make little sense for Israel to give up its nuclear deterrent.  In fact, you’d never get the Israelis to do that.

But that’s not the interesting question.

The interesting question is "what should Israel do if Iran abandons its nuclear enrichment capability and agrees to a comprehensive inspections regime?"  Would it then make sense for Israel to give up its nuclear arsenal?  I think the answer to that question is not open-and-shut.  But I think, on balance, a powerful case could be made or can be made that Israel would be better off abandoning its nuclear deterrent.

Now why do I say that?

Well, the argument for not giving it up is that they now have the ultimate deterrent.  As you know, all states in the international system worry somewhat about their survival.  The Israelis worry about their survival probably more than any other state in the system for good reasons and bad reasons.  But nevertheless they worry.  And given that they worry, they have the ultimate deterrent; a powerful case can be made that they should not give it up.     But I think there are more powerful arguments on the other side.

First of all, there is a fundamentally different strategic environment today than existed in the 1950s and 1960s.  And it’s much more favorable from Israel’s point of view.  The Soviet Union, as we all know, has gone away.  And it is not supplying either Egypt or Syria, or anybody in the neighborhood with meaningful conventional fighting force.  Furthermore, Egypt has changed its approach to dealing with Israel and is now effectively a relatively friendly state.   It is not an adversary of Israel like it was it the late 1950s throughout the 1960s as well.  If you look at what’s happened with regard to the special relationship it’s blossomed since 1973 and the United States and Israel today are basically joined at the hip.

That wasn’t the case back then.  And related to that the United States has supplied Israel with the most up-to-date conventional weaponry in its arsenal.  And as a result of that fact combined with the fact that the Soviets are no longer supplying the Egyptians and the Syrians the gap between the Israelis on one hand and the Arab states on the other in terms of conventional weaponry is just enormous.

No state in its right mind would pick a fight with the Israelis.  And every time it looks like the Syrians and the Israelis might get into a fight, the Syrians are backtracking like the best quarterback or safety in the NFL.  It’s really quite amazing.  Nobody in their right mind would pick a fight with the IDF.  So I think in terms of the strategic environment, conventional deterrence alone takes care of the Israelis.

The other important reason for thinking about getting rid of Israeli nuclear weapons is to discourage or prevent proliferation in the region.  I think the Israelis understand full well that there’s significant pressure on Iran, there will eventually be significant pressure in Iraq, once we get out of there, especially if Iran develops nuclear weapons of its own, to get nuclear weapons.  You can posit plausible scenarios as to how nuclear proliferation occurs in the Middle East over the next fifty years.

And I think it’s clearly not in Israel’s interest to have nuclear proliferation.  I think given Israel’s conventional superiority number one, number two given its close relationship with the United States that’s not likely to change anytime soon. And given the dangers associated with proliferation, I think the Israelis would be better off in a nuclear-free Middle East.

Of course, that’s not going to happen.

The Israeli government is so far to the right and dominated by hard-liners to the point that’s virtually unthinkable in the near future. But nevertheless, I think a good case could be made for pursuing that policy.  Which brings me to the third question, the matter of opacity.

Does opacity make sense for Israel?

And to a lesser extent, what are the consequences of opacity for the United States?  Just let me say what I think we mean when we say "opacity."  This is where a country has nuclear weapons, but it doesn’t admit explicitly that it has those weapons, and it even hints that it might not have them.  Of course, this is what the Israelis have been doing for decades now.  My first question about opacity is who are you fooling?

A very important question.  Who’s being fooled here?  It seems quite clear to me that the elites in the Arab world, the elites in Europe, and the elites in the United States and by elites I mean policy-makers, experts, and even the informed public (people who pay attention to this when they go home at night and read the newspaper, and read books and magazines) none of them are being fooled.  We all kind of figured out a long time ago that Israel has nuclear weapons. And I’ve never talked to any intelligent person who pays careful attention to Middle East politics who tried to pretend to me that Israel doesn’t have nuclear weapons.  Indeed, we all talk as if Israel had nuclear weapons.  And, in fact, if you think about it, because the Israelis acquired those weapons for deterrence purposes, want policymakers in the Arab world, and want the Americans, and wanted the Soviets during the cold war, to know that they had nuclear weapons.

In fact I think they wanted them to be quite certain they had them, and to let them know that they would use them, because that’s what makes deterrence work.  So I don’t think you were fooling the experts. Now one might argue that one of the advantages of this is just to create a little ambiguity in the minds of elites, and then in a crisis you drag out the weapons and make it clear that you would use them.  One could argue that this is what happened in the 1973 war.  But that’s not a very smart strategy, because if you’re the Israelis, you want to avoid crisis, you want to avoid the 1973 war.  So you want to make it pretty clear if not very clear to the elites that you have these things. And they’ve done that.

So again, the question is "who are they fooling?"

One might argue that this policy is good for allowing the elites in the Arab and Islamic world especially in countries like Egypt, and Jordan and Saudi Arabia to resist pressure from the public.  Because when people down below begin to holler about the fact that Israel has nuclear weapons, the elites can say "it’s not clear that they have nuclear weapons."  So what this policy of opacity provides is "plausible deniability."  I guess you can make that argument.  It was probably somewhat effective in the past.  But I don’t think it’s very effective now, in large part because of the Internet.

I’m a big believer that the Internet has been a game changer.

If you rely on the mainstream media and mainstream publications for your information, you’re not going to learn very much about Middle East politics when it comes to Israel.  But we have all these websites, blogs, and we have the Israeli press, and so forth and so on, we can just learn all sorts of things about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Middle East politics more generally, that you can’t learn in the mainstream media here in the United States.  And the end result is that I think the cat is out of the bag on this one, and everyone kind of understands it.  So the Israelis can pretend, and we can pretend, that it doesn’t matter, and that Israel doesn’t have nuclear weapons.

But I don’t think it buys you much.

Now, to pick up on Grant’s comments.  He indicated that it may help in the United States, because it allows policymakers in Washington to pretend that Israel doesn’t have nuclear weapons.  And he was complaining about the fact that this policy of opacity undermines accountability.

I don’t think so.

I don’t think it matters much at all, because there’s no accountability for Israel on any issue.   You don’t need opacity.  If I went to the Middle East, and visited Israel, and I was killed, somebody shot me, do you think there would be any accountability?  Seriously.  If any of you went to the Middle East and were killed, do you think there would be accountability? There wouldn’t be.  This is how outrageous this situation is.  Just think about the [USS] Liberty, think about Rachel Corrie, think about this Turkish-American who was just killed on the flotilla.

There’s no accountability.

The Israelis can do almost anything and get away with it.  So the idea that opacity matters, I don’t think so.  The lobby believes it can finesse any issue.  They’ve never seen an issue that they can’t finesse. Look at what they did with the Goldstone report.  I’ve followed this issue very carefully, and he asked me to put my strategist’s hat on.

As many of you know, I went to West Point, I was in the military for ten years, I cut my teeth in this business by doing military matters.  The first time I ever went to Israel was to study what happened in the ’67, ’73, 1956, 1953 wars.  I can tell you in great detail how those wars were fought.  I followed what happened in Gaza in 2008-2009.  Judge Goldstone, if anything, was too soft on the Israelis.  Anybody who followed this carefully know that he basically got the story right to the extent that he was wrong, he should have been tougher on the Israelis.  But you saw what happened to Judge Goldstone.

This is how powerful the lobby is.

Alan Dershowitz was correct when he said that "Jews of my generation created what is, perhaps, the most powerful interest group in the history of democracy."  An enormously powerful interest group, so I don’t think you want to put too much emphasis on opacity.  It matters on the margins, or it mattered once on the margins, but not very much.  Which brings me to the final subject.

Is it in America’s interest for Israel to have nuclear weapons?

Now, it’s very important to understand that Israel’s supporters in the United States go to enormous lengths to make the argument that there’s no difference between Israel’s interests and America’s interests.  Because once you open the possibility that the two countries have different interests, then they’re forced to choose, in a very public fashion.  And, of course, they’ll invariably choose Israel’s interests over America’s interests and that is not something that they want to have happen in public.  This is why they’ve gone to great lengths to create this situation where it looks like Obama and Netanyahu have patched up all their differences, to the extent that there are differences they’ll be handled behind closed doors because they don’t want those differences out in the open.

But, of course, as we all know no two countries have the same interests.

This has nothing to do with Israel, or the United States.  It’s just the way international politics works.  There are going to be cases where it’s in Israel’s interest to do certain things, and not in America’s interest to allow Israel to do those things.  And there is no issue I believe­where that is clearer than the nuclear issue.  As I made clear in my opening set of remarks, I do believe it was in Israel’s interest to develop nuclear weapons.  By the way, I think it’s in Iran’s interest today to develop nuclear weapons.  If I was president Ahmadinejad’s national security advisor, and he asked me what to do, I would tell him to acquire a nuclear deterrent.  Is that in America’s interest?

Absolutely not.

Iran and the United States have different interests.  No two states have the same interests.  I believe it was in Israel’s interest to acquire nuclear weapons. I’m hardly surprised at all of the activities the Israelis engaged in, that Grant so eloquently described, that’s the way states behave in the international system, and they go to great lengths to disguise their behavior.

But it was not then in America’s interest for Israel to acquire nuclear weapons and it is not in our interest now for Israel to have nuclear weapons.  This is why, as Grant described, President Kennedy went to great lengths to prevent Israel from acquiring nuclear weapons and to get them to join the NPT.  And president Johnson a very, very interesting figure on this whole subject of US-Israeli relations­president Johnson may have been willing to give Israel a green light, or an orange light, however you want to characterize it but as we can see from Grant’s comments and from reading the literature on this that down below all sorts of people were protesting.  All sorts of people in the national security establishment wanted to go to great lengths to stop Israel from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Because again it wasn’t in our interest.

And the two best examples that show how it’s not in our national interest are what happened during the 1973 war.  During that conflict, the Israelis looked like they were in dire straits for the first few days.  And they wanted the United States to immediately resupply them.  The Nixon administration said "no" because the Nixon administration judged quite correctly that once the Israelis recovered from the initial surprise that they would do very well. And therefore the US government did not what to give the Israelis at that point more arms.  The Israelis then threatened to pull the nuclear weapons out, and began talking about using nuclear weapons. That, not surprisingly, spooked the Americans who immediately began resupplying the Israelis even though they did not what to do that.

That’s a form of nuclear coercion. 

From Israel’s point of view this was smart policy from our point of view it was not good. The second example is what’s been going on with regards to nuclear proliferation.  It’s quite clear, and you see this from the recent review conference, that the fact that Israel has nuclear weapons again we’re not fooling anybody with this opaque rhetoric the fact that Israel has nuclear weapons is making it very difficult for the United States to stem the tide on proliferation and to move to a nuclear free Middle East.  So again, it’s just not in our interest and it would have been much better if from our point of view we could have prevented Israel from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Let me just conclude with a few words on where this situation is headed.

I actually believe the situation is going to get much worse over time.  I believe that we’re not going to have an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.  I believe that talk of a two-state solution and all this talk about moving from "proximity talks" to "direct talks " is a charade.  I find it hard to believe that people in this town take this discussion seriously. I think, at this point in time, that you’re going to get a "Greater Israel," and it either is, or is going to be, an apartheid state.  It is going to cause us enormous problems, in the Middle East, or in the Arab and Islamic world.  It is going to continue to keep relations between Israel and its neighbors in a troublesome state.

On the proliferation front, I would not be surprised if Iran and other countries continue to move down the nuclear road.  You already see the Jordanians expressing an interest in developing a signification nuclear enrichment capability.  It would be interesting to see if Turkey does.  As I said before, I think Iraq will want nuclear weapons if Iran has nuclear weapons.  It would be foolish not to from an Iraqi point of view.  A Middle East where more than one state has nuclear weapons makes me very, very nervous.

What of course all of this is going to point to is the fact that America’s interests and Israel’s interests are going to continue to diverge.    And the end result of that, back here in the United States, is that the lobby is going to have to work overtime to cover that up and make it look like everything is hunky-dory  when in fact it’s not. And that has all sorts of negative consequences for domestic politics.

So I think things are very bad now but I’m sad to say they’re only going to get worse.

Libyan aid ship nears Gaza, but final port in doubt

(Reuters) - A Libyan ship carrying aid for Palestinians in Gaza has asked to dock in Egypt, an Egyptian official said on Tuesday, but mission organizers said the ship was still headed for the Israeli-blockaded territory.

Israel, which had vowed to turn away or seize the Moldovan-flagged Amalthea, had no word on whether it had changed course. But an Israeli official pointed to possible disputes between the chartered crew and passengers over the destination.

"It's far from clear that there is agreement about where the ship is headed," said the official, who had been briefed on the navy's radio exchanges with the Amalthea since contact was made with it some 100 miles from the Gaza Strip's shores.

The Egyptian official said the ship -- renamed "Hope" by activists -- sought and received permission to sail to El Arish port, where authorities would unload its declared cargo of 2,000 tonnes of food and medicine and transfer it by land to Gaza.

But he added: "There is no coordination at the moment with the ship and we do not know where its final destination is."

Israeli state television broadcast a recording of what it said was the captain, after being asked by the navy to declare his final port of call, answering: "El Arish, El Arish. Over."

In Tripoli, the Libyan organizers said the Amalthea would not obey an Israeli order to leave the area on Tuesday night.

"The ship is still heading to Gaza and there has been no decision to change course," Youssef Sawani, Executive Director of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, which organized the aid ship, told Reuters by telephone.

Israel's handling of attempts by pro-Palestinian activists to break the Gaza blockade -- and the blockade itself -- have been under intense international scrutiny since naval commandos killed nine Turks in the botched May 31 boarding of an aid ship.


The Amalthea set sail from Greece on Saturday on a voyage that would normally see it arrive in Gaza by Wednesday. Rerouting to El Arish would still require the ship skirt Gazan waters, with Israeli warships tracking it all the way.

Al-Jazeera satellite channel, citing its correspondent accompanying the aid ship, said four Israeli warships were pursuing the Libyan vessel. It also said the aid ship had a technical problem that engineers were seeking to fix.

"The ship has received an ultimatum from the Israelis that we have to leave the area by tonight. We are not going to do that. Any other news is part of an attempt to distort information and trying to impose a scenario that suits the Israelis," said Sawani, whose foundation is chaired by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.

World outcry at the bloodshed aboard the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara prompted Israel to ease overland trade with Gaza, but it has maintained the naval blockade.

On June 5, the navy commandeered the Irish-owned aid ship Rachel Corrie after it refused orders to turn back or dock in Israel for its cargo to be vetted for possible transfer to Gaza.

Criticism of Israel, led by its former ally Turkey, has focused on the continued plight of Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians, many of whom depend on U.N. aid handouts.

Organizers said the Amalthea, with 12 crew and up to 10 activists on board, complied with international regulations.

July 8, 2010

SF protests Netanyahu's Visit To Washington D.C.

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July 4, 2010

Jewish student caught painting Swastikas on her own door then claiming Anti-Semitic Attack

Jewish student caught painting Swastikas on her own door then claiming Anti-Semitic Attack To Gain Sympathy!

American teacher's home raided by Israeli soldiers

They came to the first house with battering rams, knocking again and again, the commander then gave an order to break down the door.

July 2, 2010

Target Tehran? Israel, US 'prepare to attack Iran'

"God's Chosen" kicking families out of their homes to live on the streets

Chocolate and ketchup flow into Gaza, but still no cement

Israel is still deciding exactly what it will and will not allow into Gaza under a new approach towards the enclave, which it has blockaded for four years.

If you have cash to spare in Gaza, you can treat your children to new varieties of chocolate Israel has just let in for the first time in a few years, or splash out on new tableware it allowed into the territory this week.

If you need cement and steel to rebuild a home destroyed by war, you'll have to wait a bit longer.

Israel is still deciding exactly what it will and will not allow into Gaza under a new approach towards the enclave, which it has blockaded for four years. As it changes the policy, some previously banned goods have started to flow across the border.

Palestinians collect gravel at the airport damaged by previous Israeli air strikes in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Thursday as Israel still bans the entry of building materials into the partly destroyed enclave (AP photo by Eyad Baba)

As yet, there is no sign of the basic materials and machine parts which aid workers and businessmen say Gaza needs if the homeless are to be rehoused and the economy is to be revived to alleviate growing poverty attributed to the blockade.

Facing an international outcry over its lethal raid on a Turkish aid ship that tried to break the embargo last month, Israel announced on June 20 that it would ease the blockade.

The announcement was welcomed by foreign governments which have urged Israel to lift or ease the embargo.

The steps taken by Israel so far have disappointed Palestinians who want ready access to materials such as cement, not consumer goods which are plentiful for the few with spare cash.

Gaza has yet to rebuild from Israel's 2008-2009 offensive that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, more than 400 of them children, more than 116 of them women, wounded more than 5,300, displaced over 50,800 Gaza residents and destroyed over 4,000 Palestinian homes in less than three weeks, while 11 Israelis were killed and 131 wounded.

Over the past two weeks, the easing of the embargo has allowed grocers to fill their shelves with cornflakes, cakes, biscuits, shampoo and razor blades supplied through the Kerem Shalom crossing to Gaza.

Like most items, these goods were available, if expensive, from black marketeers who have been filling the supply gap by bringing in merchandise through tunnels from Egypt, Gaza's main supply route for the past two years.

"The market cannot absorb this," said grocery store owner Emad al-Buzm, as he turned away boxes of vacuum-wrapped cakes that had just arrived from Israel.

"The country needs materials that employ people: cement, metal, raw materials for the factories," he said, alluding to the economic hardship in Gaza. The United Nations' agency UNRWA which cares for Palestinian refugees says 80 percent of the population now depends on its food aid, compared with 40 percent a few years ago.

Palestinian officials say washing machines, refrigerators and bathroom fittings are expected in the next few days. Car parts dealers have been told to expect windscreen wipers and headlamps, but add that Gaza's motorists are in greater need of engine components that will make their cars run.

The prospect of receiving goods via Israel is a relief to dealers such as Khaled al-Nimr, owner of a car parts company whose own vehicle is out of action because of a broken pump that he cannot easily replace.

It has been more than four years since he received stock via Israel. The high cost of importing through the tunnels make Kerem Shalom a far preferable route.

"If a part costs 100 Euros, it reaches Gaza from Egypt costing you double," he said, expressing the hope that Israel would let in the components that would help rehabilitate the dilapidated vehicles that navigate Gaza's worn-out roads.

Traders who have been bringing goods through the tunnels have cut their sales forecasts, anticipating that Israel's new policy will undermine the tunnel trade.

Fearing a drop in demand for the Egyptian-made televisions he has been selling, electrical goods store owner Abu Khaled ordered just a quarter of his usual stock in June.

"I am bringing in a limited amount because I'm worried prices will fall," he said.

Like other goods, cement and steel are available through the tunnels, but not at prices that make them affordable to Palestinians who need to rebuild their homes.

The prospects of Israel allowing such materials to flow freely to Gaza in the near future appear slim.

Under its previous policy, Israel banned all but a list of permitted goods. Now, it is preparing to allow in everything except arms and "problematic dual use" materials. A list of the items has yet to be published.

The Quartet of Middle East mediators -- the United Nations, Russia, the United States and the European Union -- says full implementation of Israel's new policy would be "a significant shift in strategy" towards meeting Gaza's needs.

If it can get the materials it needs, UNRWA says it can immediately start work on construction projects throughout Gaza.

"We have the infrastructure, we have the engineers, we have maps, we have everything. We just don't have cement and iron," said UNRWA spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna.

"Ketchup and mayonnaise will not have any real effect," he said, referring to two of the food items recently allowed through Kerem Shalom into Gaza. "We need hundreds of thousands of tons of cement and iron."

Ali Abu Shahla, secretary-general of the Palestinian Businessmen's Association, says he is concerned by talk of a continued ban on "dual use" items. That will continue to cripple the private sector, he said. "Israel wants to ease the pressure on itself, not the blockade," he said.


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