"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

10 U.S. Sanctioned Chemical Weapons Attacks Washington Doesn’t Want You To Talk About

In Uncategorized on September 6, 2013 at 10:28 am
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Shaking Hands: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983.

Oldspeak: ““For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” –Noam Chomsky

By Wesley Messamore @ Policy Mic:

Washington doesn’t merely lack the legal authority for a military intervention in Syria. It lacks the moral authority. We’re talking about a government with a history of using chemical weapons against innocent people far more prolific and deadly than the mere accusations Assad faces from a trigger-happy Western military-industrial complex, bent on stifling further investigation before striking.

Here is a list of 10 chemical weapons attacks carried out by the U.S. government or its allies against civilians.

1. The U.S. Military Dumped 20 Million Gallons of Chemicals on Vietnam from 1962 – 1971
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

Via: AP

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed 20 million gallons of chemicals, including the very toxic Agent Orange, on the forests and farmlands of Vietnam and neighboring countries, deliberately destroying food supplies, shattering the jungle ecology, and ravaging the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Vietnam estimates that as a result of the decade-long chemical attack, 400,000 people were killed or maimed, 500,000 babies have been born with birth defects, and 2 million have suffered from cancer or other illnesses. In 2012, the Red Cross estimated that one million people in Vietnam have disabilities or health problems related to Agent Orange.

2. Israel Attacked Palestinian Civilians with White Phosphorus in 2008 – 2009
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Via: AP

White phosphorus is a horrific incendiary chemical weapon that melts human flesh right down to the bone.

In 2009, multiple human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and International Red Cross reported that the Israeli government was attacking civilians in their own country with chemical weapons. An Amnesty International team claimed to find “indisputable evidence of the widespread use of white phosphorus” as a weapon in densely populated civilian areas. The Israeli military denied the allegations at first, but eventually admitted they were true.

After the string of allegations by these NGOs, the Israeli military even hit a UN headquarters(!) in Gaza with a chemical attack. How do you think all this evidence compares to the case against Syria? Why didn’t Obama try to bomb Israel?

3. Washington Attacked Iraqi Civilians with White Phosphorus in 2004
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

Via: AP

In 2004, journalists embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq began reporting the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah against Iraqi insurgents. First the military lied and said that it was only using white phosphorus to create smokescreens or illuminate targets. Then it admitted to using the volatile chemical as an incendiary weapon. At the time, Italian television broadcaster RAI aired a documentary entitled, “Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre,” including grim video footage and photographs, as well as eyewitness interviews with Fallujah residents and U.S. soldiers revealing how the U.S. government indiscriminately rained white chemical fire down on the Iraqi city and melted women and children to death.

4. The CIA Helped Saddam Hussein Massacre Iranians and Kurds with Chemical Weapons in 1988
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CIA records now prove that Washington knew Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons (including sarin, nerve gas, and mustard gas) in the Iran-Iraq War, yet continued to pour intelligence into the hands of the Iraqi military, informing Hussein of Iranian troop movements while knowing that he would be using the information to launch chemical attacks. At one point in early 1988, Washington warned Hussein of an Iranian troop movement that would have ended the war in a decisive defeat for the Iraqi government. By March an emboldened Hussein with new friends in Washington struck a Kurdish village occupied by Iranian troops with multiple chemical agents, killing as many as 5,000 people and injuring as many as 10,000 more, most of them civilians. Thousands more died in the following years from complications, diseases, and birth defects.

5. The Army Tested Chemicals on Residents of Poor, Black St. Louis Neighborhoods in The 1950s
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In the early 1950s, the Army set up motorized blowers on top of residential high-rises in low-income, mostly black St. Louis neighborhoods, including areas where as much as 70% of the residents were children under 12. The government told residents that it was experimenting with a smokescreen to protect the city from Russian attacks, but it was actually pumping the air full of hundreds of pounds of finely powdered zinc cadmium sulfide. The government admits that there was a second ingredient in the chemical powder, but whether or not that ingredient was radioactive remains classified. Of course it does. Since the tests, an alarming number of the area’s residents have developed cancer. In 1955, Doris Spates was born in one of the buildings the Army used to fill the air with chemicals from 1953 – 1954. Her father died inexplicably that same year, she has seen four siblings die from cancer, and Doris herself is a survivor of cervical cancer.

6. Police Fired Tear Gas at Occupy Protesters in 2011
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The savage violence of the police against Occupy protesters in 2011 was well documented, and included the use of tear gas and other chemical irritants. Tear gas is prohibited for use against enemy soldiers in battle by the Chemical Weapons Convention. Can’t police give civilian protesters in Oakland, California the same courtesy and protection that international law requires for enemy soldiers on a battlefield?

7. The FBI Attacked Men, Women, and Children With Tear Gas in Waco in 1993
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At the infamous Waco siege of a peaceful community of Seventh Day Adventists, the FBI pumped tear gas into buildings knowing that women, children, and babies were inside. The tear gas was highly flammable and ignited, engulfing the buildings in flames and killing 49 men and women, and 27 children, including babies and toddlers. Remember, attacking an armed enemy soldier on a battlefield with tear gas is a war crime. What kind of crime is attacking a baby with tear gas?

8. The U.S. Military Littered Iraq with Toxic Depleted Uranium in 2003
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Via: AP

In Iraq, the U.S. military has littered the environment with thousands of tons of munitions made from depleted uranium, a toxic and radioactive nuclear waste product. As a result, more than half of babies born in Fallujah from 2007 – 2010 were born with birth defects. Some of these defects have never been seen before outside of textbooks with photos of babies born near nuclear tests in the Pacific. Cancer and infant mortality have also seen a dramatic rise in Iraq. According to Christopher Busby, the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, “These are weapons which have absolutely destroyed the genetic integrity of the population of Iraq.” After authoring two of four reports published in 2012 on the health crisis in Iraq, Busby described Fallujah as having, “the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied.”

9. The U.S. Military Killed Hundreds of Thousands of Japanese Civilians with Napalm from 1944 – 1945
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Napalm is a sticky and highly flammable gel which has been used as a weapon of terror by the U.S. military. In 1980, the UN declared the use of napalm on swaths of civilian population a war crime. That’s exactly what the U.S. military did in World War II, dropping enough napalm in one bombing raid on Tokyo to burn 100,000 people to death, injure a million more, and leave a million without homes in the single deadliest air raid of World War II.

10. The U.S. Government Dropped Nuclear Bombs on Two Japanese Cities in 1945
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Although nuclear bombs may not be considered chemical weapons, I believe we can agree they belong to the same category. They certainly disperse an awful lot of deadly radioactive chemicals. They are every bit as horrifying as chemical weapons if not more, and by their very nature, suitable for only one purpose: wiping out an entire city full of civilians. It seems odd that the only regime to ever use one of these weapons of terror on other human beings has busied itself with the pretense of keeping the world safe from dangerous weapons in the hands of dangerous governments.

Crucial Issues That Obama & Romney Avoid

In Uncategorized on October 16, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Oldspeak: “There are two issues of overwhelming significance, because the fate of the species is at stake: environmental disaster, and nuclear war…  Elections are run by the public relations industry. Its primary task is commercial advertising, which is designed to undermine markets by creating uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices — the exact opposite of how markets are supposed to work, but certainly familiar to anyone who has watched television. It’s only natural that when enlisted to run elections, the industry would adopt the same procedures in the interests of the paymasters, who certainly don’t want to see informed citizens making rational choices.”Noam Chomsky. Chomsky brilliantly elucidates 2 major issues of a constellation of vital issues that are largely ignored by corporate controlled political parties. The reason is that both candidate have similar positions on many more issues than they most think . Privatization (education, health care, politics, war, public sector, etc) , dirty energy, cutting the social safety net, poverty, currency devaluation, “free trade”, militarization, stripping of civil liberties, warrantless surveillance, deregulation, targeted assassination, regime change, covert/perpetual war.  etc etc…. Corporate controlled media dutifully ‘reports’ on the differences between the selected candidates, not asking any questions challenging status quo worldview and ideology.  Focusing the ovine populace on inane minutiae like how often a candidate drinks water, facial expressions, flag pin size, way of standing, competence of the moderator,  etc etc etc… never once questioning the waves of bald-faced lies, exaggerations, misrepresentations and mangled-truths that come out of the candidates mouths.  Then they switch coverage to “spin rooms” where corporate approved “surrogates” “allow the campaigns to coordinate their message and serve it up as a buffet-style meal for news reporters: All the quotes you can eat“. All this effort expended to perpetuate a blinding illusion of choice. “Ignorance is Strength”

By Noam Chomsky @ Chomsky.info:

With the quadrennial presidential election extravaganza reaching its peak, it’s useful to ask how the political campaigns are dealing with the most crucial issues we face. The simple answer is: badly, or not at all. If so, some important questions arise: why, and what can we do about it?

There are two issues of overwhelming significance, because the fate of the species is at stake: environmental disaster, and nuclear war.

The former is regularly on the front pages. On Sept. 19, for example, Justin Gillis reported in The New York Times that the melting of Arctic sea ice had ended for the year, “but not before demolishing the previous record — and setting off new warnings about the rapid pace of change in the region.”

The melting is much faster than predicted by sophisticated computer models and the most recent U.N. report on global warming. New data indicate that summer ice might be gone by 2020, with severe consequences. Previous estimates had summer ice disappearing by 2050.

“But governments have not responded to the change with any greater urgency about limiting greenhouse emissions,” Gillis writes. “To the contrary, their main response has been to plan for exploitation of newly accessible minerals in the Arctic, including drilling for more oil” — that is, to accelerate the catastrophe.

This reaction demonstrates an extraordinary willingness to sacrifice the lives of our children and grandchildren for short-term gain. Or, perhaps, an equally remarkable willingness to shut our eyes so as not to see the impending peril.

That’s hardly all. A new study from the Climate Vulnerability Monitor has found that “climate change caused by global warming is slowing down world economic output by 1.6 percent a year and will lead to a doubling of costs in the next two decades.” The study was widely reported elsewhere but Americans have been spared the disturbing news.

The official Democratic and Republican platforms on climate matters are reviewed in Science magazine’s Sept. 14 issue. In a rare instance of bipartisanship, both parties demand that we make the problem worse.

In 2008, both party platforms had devoted some attention to how the government should address climate change. Today, the issue has almost disappeared from the Republican platform — which does, however, demand that Congress “take quick action” to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency, established by former Republican President Richard Nixon in saner days, from regulating greenhouse gases. And we must open Alaska’s Arctic refuge to drilling to take “advantage of all our American God-given resources.” We cannot disobey the Lord, after all.

The platform also states that “We must restore scientific integrity to our public research institutions and remove political incentives from publicly funded research” — code words for climate science.

The Republican candidate Mitt Romney, seeking to escape from the stigma of what he understood a few years ago about climate change, has declared that there is no scientific consensus, so we should support more debate and investigation — but not action, except to make the problems more serious.

The Democrats mention in their platform that there is a problem, and recommend that we should work “toward an agreement to set emissions limits in unison with other emerging powers.” But that’s about it.

President Barack Obama has emphasized that we must gain 100 years of energy independence by exploiting fracking and other new technologies — without asking what the world would look like after a century of such practices.

So there are differences between the parties: about how enthusiastically the lemmings should march toward the cliff.

The second major issue, nuclear war, is also on the front pages every day, but in a way that would astound a Martian observing the strange doings on Earth.

The current threat is again in the Middle East, specifically Iran — at least according to the West, that is. In the Middle East, the U.S. and Israel are considered much greater threats.

Unlike Iran, Israel refuses to allow inspections or to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has hundreds of nuclear weapons and advanced delivery systems, and a long record of violence, aggression and lawlessness, thanks to unremitting American support. Whether Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, U.S. intelligence doesn’t know.

In its latest report, the International Atomic Energy Agency says that it cannot demonstrate “the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran” — a roundabout way of condemning Iran, as the U.S. demands, while conceding that the agency can add nothing to the conclusions of U.S. intelligence.

Therefore Iran must be denied the right to enrich uranium that is guaranteed by the NPT and endorsed by most of the world, including the nonaligned countries that have just met in Tehran.

The possibility that Iran might develop nuclear weapons arises in the electoral campaign. (The fact that Israel already has them does not.) Two positions are counterposed: Should the U.S. declare that it will attack if Iran reaches the capability to develop nuclear weapons, which dozens of countries enjoy? Or should Washington keep the “red line” more indefinite?

The latter position is that of the White House; the former is demanded by Israeli hawks — and accepted by the U.S. Congress. The Senate just voted 90-1 to support the Israeli position.

Missing from the debate is the obvious way to mitigate or end whatever threat Iran might be believed to pose: Establish a nuclear weapons-free zone in the region. The opportunity is readily available: An international conference is to convene in a few months to pursue this objective, supported by almost the entire world, including a majority of Israelis.

The government of Israel, however, has announced that it will not participate until there is a general peace agreement in the region, which is unattainable as long as Israel persists in its illegal activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. Washington keeps to the same position, and insists that Israel must be excluded from any such regional agreement.

We could be moving toward a devastating war, possibly even nuclear. Straightforward ways exist to overcome this threat, but they will not be taken unless there is large-scale public activism demanding that the opportunity be pursued. This in turn is highly unlikely as long as these matters remain off the agenda, not just in the electoral circus, but in the media and larger national debate.

Elections are run by the public relations industry. Its primary task is commercial advertising, which is designed to undermine markets by creating uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices — the exact opposite of how markets are supposed to work, but certainly familiar to anyone who has watched television.

It’s only natural that when enlisted to run elections, the industry would adopt the same procedures in the interests of the paymasters, who certainly don’t want to see informed citizens making rational choices.

The victims, however, do not have to obey, in either case. Passivity may be the easy course, but it is hardly the honorable one.

Chomsky: Why America & Israel Are The Greatest Threats To Peace

In Uncategorized on September 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm

A thunderstorm surrounded the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as it sailed in the Persian Gulf during the early days of the Iraq war in March 2003. The carrier battle group has been in the Persian Gulf since April, 2012. The United States has quietly moved significant military reinforcements into the Persian Gulf to deter the Iranian military. (Photo: Vincent Laforet / The New York Times)Oldspeak:””It is dangerous in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosities that we call the Middle East, one nation should arm itself with nuclear weapons, which inspires other nations to do so.” -General Lee Butler. Imagine if Iran — or any other country — did a fraction of what America & Israel do at will. “It would be far more preferable if the United States could cite an Iranian provocation as justification for the airstrikes before launching them. Clearly, the more outrageous, the more deadly, and the more unprovoked the Iranian action, the better off the United States would be. Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to goad Iran into such a provocation without the rest of the world recognizing this game, which would then undermine it. (One method that would have some possibility of success would be to ratchet up covert regime change efforts in the hope that Tehran would retaliate overtly, or even semi-overtly, which could then be portrayed as an unprovoked act of Iranian aggression.) –“Which Path To Persia?”, Brookings Institution, 2009

By Noam Chomsky @ AlterNet:

It is not easy to escape from one’s skin, to see the world differently from the way it is presented to us day after day. But it is useful to try. Let’s take a few examples.

The war drums are beating ever more loudly over Iran. Imagine the situation to be reversed.

Iran is carrying out a murderous and destructive low-level war against Israel with great-power participation. Its leaders announce that negotiations are going nowhere. Israel refuses to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty and allow inspections, as Iran has done. Israel continues to defy the overwhelming international call for a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the region. Throughout, Iran enjoys the support of its superpower patron.

Iranian leaders are therefore announcing their intention to bomb Israel, and prominent Iranian military analysts report that the attack may happen before the U.S. elections.

Iran can use its powerful air force and new submarines sent by Germany, armed with nuclear missiles and stationed off the coast of Israel. Whatever the timetable, Iran is counting on its superpower backer to join if not lead the assault. U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta says that while we do not favor such an attack, as a sovereign country Iran will act in its best interests.

All unimaginable, of course, though it is actually happening, with the cast of characters reversed. True, analogies are never exact, and this one is unfair — to Iran.

Like its patron, Israel resorts to violence at will. It persists in illegal settlement in occupied territory, some annexed, all in brazen defiance of international law and the U.N. Security Council. It has repeatedly carried out brutal attacks against Lebanon and the imprisoned people of Gaza, killing tens of thousands without credible pretext.

Thirty years ago Israel destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor, an act that has recently been praised, avoiding the strong evidence, even from U.S. intelligence, that the bombing did not end Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program but rather initiated it. Bombing of Iran might have the same effect.

Iran too has carried out aggression — but during the past several hundred years, only under the U.S.-backed regime of the shah, when it conquered Arab islands in the Persian Gulf.

Iran engaged in nuclear development programs under the shah, with the strong support of official Washington. The Iranian government is brutal and repressive, as are Washington’s allies in the region. The most important ally, Saudi Arabia, is the most extreme Islamic fundamentalist regime, and spends enormous funds spreading its radical Wahhabist doctrines elsewhere. The gulf dictatorships, also favored U.S. allies, have harshly repressed any popular effort to join the Arab Spring.

The Nonaligned Movement — the governments of most of the world’s population — is now meeting in Teheran. The group has vigorously endorsed Iran’s right to enrich uranium, and some members — India, for example — adhere to the harsh U.S. sanctions program only partially and reluctantly.

The NAM delegates doubtless recognize the threat that dominates discussion in the West, lucidly articulated by Gen. Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Command: “It is dangerous in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosities that we call the Middle East,” one nation should arm itself with nuclear weapons, which “inspires other nations to do so.”

Butler is not referring to Iran, but to Israel, which is regarded in the Arab countries and in Europe as posing the greatest threat to peace In the Arab world, the United States is ranked second as a threat, while Iran, though disliked, is far less feared. Indeed in many polls majorities hold that the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons to balance the threats they perceive.

If Iran is indeed moving toward nuclear-weapons capability — this is still unknown to U.S. intelligence — that may be because it is “inspired to do so” by the U.S.-Israeli threats, regularly issued in explicit violation of the U.N. Charter.

Why then is Iran the greatest threat to world peace, as seen in official Western discourse? The primary reason is acknowledged by U.S. military and intelligence and their Israeli counterparts: Iran might deter the resort to force by the United States and Israel.

Furthermore Iran must be punished for its “successful defiance,” which was Washington’s charge against Cuba half a century ago, and still the driving force for the U.S. assault against Cuba that continues despite international condemnation.

Other events featured on the front pages might also benefit from a different perspective. Suppose that Julian Assange had leaked Russian documents revealing important information that Moscow wanted to conceal from the public, and that circumstances were otherwise identical.

Sweden would not hesitate to pursue its sole announced concern, accepting the offer to interrogate Assange in London. It would declare that if Assange returned to Sweden (as he has agreed to do), he would not be extradited to Russia, where chances of a fair trial would be slight.

Sweden would be honored for this principled stand. Assange would be praised for performing a public service — which, of course, would not obviate the need to take the accusations against him as seriously as in all such cases.

The most prominent news story of the day here is the U.S. election. An appropriate perspective was provided by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who held that “We may have democracy in this country, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”

Guided by that insight, coverage of the election should focus on the impact of wealth on policy, extensively analyzed in the recent study “Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America” by Martin Gilens. He found that the vast majority are “powerless to shape government policy” when their preferences diverge from the affluent, who pretty much get what they want when it matters to them.

Small wonder, then, that in a recent ranking of the 31 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in terms of social justice, the United States placed 27th, despite its extraordinary advantages.

Or that rational treatment of issues tends to evaporate in the electoral campaign, in ways sometimes verging on comedy.

To take one case, Paul Krugman reports that the much-admired Big Thinker of the Republican Party, Paul Ryan, declares that he derives his ideas about the financial system from a character in a fantasy novel — “Atlas Shrugged” — who calls for the use of gold coins instead of paper currency.

It only remains to draw from a really distinguished writer, Jonathan Swift. In “Gulliver’s Travels,” his sages of Lagado carry all their goods with them in packs on their backs, and thus could use them for barter without the encumbrance of gold. Then the economy and democracy could truly flourish — and best of all, inequality would sharply decline, a gift to the spirit of Justice Brandeis.

 

What If Kobe Bryant Were An Imprisoned Palestinian Football Player?

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Oldspeak:”The newest heroes of the Palestinian cause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons.”-Jodi Rudoren

By Dave Zirin @ The Nation Magazine:

Imagine if a member of Team USA Basketball—let’s say Kobe Bryant—had been traveling to an international tournament only to be seized by a foreign government and held in prison for three years without trial or even hearing the charges for which he was imprisoned. Imagine if Kobe was allowed no visitation from family or friends. Imagine if he was left no recourse but to effectively end any future prospects as a player by terminating his own physical health by going on a hunger strike. Chances are we’d notice, yes? Chances are the story would lead SportsCenter and make newspaper covers across the world. Chances are all the powerful international sports organizations—the IOC, FIFA—would treat the jailing nation as a pariah until Kobe was free. And chances are that even Laker-haters would wear buttons that read, “Free Kobe.”

This is what has happened to Palestinian national soccer team member Mahmoud Sarsak. Sarsak, who hails from Rafah in the Gaza Strip, was seized at a checkpoint on his way to a national team contest in the West Bank. This was July 2009. Since that date, the 25-year-old has been held without trial and without charges. His family and friends haven’t been permitted to see him. In the eyes of the Israeli government, Sarsak can be imprisoned indefinitely because they deem him to be an “illegal combatant” although no one—neither family, nor friends, nor coaches—has the foggiest idea why. Now Sarsak is one of more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike to protest their conditions and lack of civil liberties. As the New York Times wrote last week, “The newest heroes of the Palestinian cause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons.”

But no organization has claimed Sarsak as a member or issued fiery calls for his freedom. All we have is a family and a team that are both bewildered and devastated by his indefinite detention. His brother Iman said, “My family never imagined that Mahmoud would have been imprisoned by Israel. Why, really why?”

His family doesn’t understand how someone, whose obsession was soccer, not politics, could be targeted and held in such a manner. But in today’s Israel/Palestine, soccer is politics. Sarsak is only the latest Palestinian player to be singled out for harassment or even death by the Israeli government. In 2009, three national team players, Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshtahe, were killed during the bombing of Gaza. The National Stadium as well as the offices of the Palestinian Football Association were also targeted and destroyed in the Gaza bombing. In addition, their goalie, Omar Abu Rwayyis, was arrested by Israeli police in 2012 on “terrorism charges.” If you degrade the national team, you degrade the idea that there could ever be a nation.

More than police violence is a part of this process of athletic degradation. Currently the Palestinian soccer team is ranked 164th in the world and they’ve have never been higher than 115th. As one sports writer put it delicately, “Given the passion for football that burns among Palestinians, such lowly status hints at problems on the ground.”

These problems on the ground include curfews and checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza that often mean the forfeiting of matches. If Palestinians living in Israel’s borders want to play for the team, they have to give up any benefits of Israeli citizenship. The end result is that the Palestinian national team becomes dependent on the Diaspora, relying heavily on Palestinians who have lived for two and three generations in South America and Europe. This is why many of the key players on Palestine’s national team are named Roberto or Pablo.

In 2010, Michel Platini, president of European football’s ruling body—Israel plays in the European qualifiers—threatened Israel with expulsion from FIFA if it continues to undermine football in Palestine. Platini said, “Israel must choose between allowing Palestinian sport to continue and prosper or be forced to face the consequences for their behaviour.” Yet Platini never followed through on threats and quite the opposite, awarded Israel the 2013 Under-21 European Championships.

On Wednesday, the British organization Soccer Without Borders, said that they would be calling for a boycott of the tournament, writing:

Football Beyond Borders, a student-led organisation which uses the universal power of football to tackle political, social and cultural issues, stands in solidarity with Mahmoud Sarsak and all of the Palestinian political prisoners currently being detained by Israel on hunger strike, as together we protest the injustices being inflicted upon Palestinian prisoners in Israel, and draw attention to their plight. [We] take this opportunity to announce our official boycott of the UEFA 2013 Under-21 European Championships, which Israel has been awarded the honour of hosting.

Soccer Without Borders joined forty-two football clubs and dozens of team captains, managers and sports commentators in Gaza who submitted a letter to Platini in 2011 demanding that European football’s governing body reverse its decision to allow Israel to host the under-21 tournament.

Amidst all this tumult is Mahmoud Sarsak, a threat for reasons no one can comprehend and Israel will not reveal. As long as Sarsak remains indefinitely detained and as long as Israel targets sport and athletes as legitimate targets of war, they have no business being rewarded by FIFA or the UEFA, let alone even being a part of the community of international sports. If Sarsak is to see the inside of a courtroom and if Israel is to, as Platini said, “face the consequences for their behaviour,” silence is not an option. After all, even a Celtic fan would surely agree, we’d do it for Kobe.

 

State Department Travel Warning: If You Try To Sail To Gaza, Israel May Kill You

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Oldspeak:”What a sad irony it is that an Administration that WOULD NOT HAVE EVEN BEEN POSSIBLE without citizen protest, sacrifice, struggle, and eventual elimination of state-sanctioned discrimination and apartheid right here in the USA is discouraging Americans’ practice of  citizen protest, sacrifice, struggle, with the goal eventual elimination of state-sanctioned discrimination and apartheid in Israel? Where would African-Americans be in this country today if our elders accepted their governments centuries old refusals to recognize their human and civil rights? 3/4ths human? Second class citizens? Freedom and dignity are birthrights, not conditions to be negotiated in some “peace treaty”. Those brave souls should have named their ship “The Audacity of Nope.” Free Gaza.

By Ali Gharib @ Think Progress:

The State Department today released an updated travel warning for Israel and the Occupied Territories. The update signified that it was issued “to warn against participation in any attempt to reach Gaza by sea.” The warning is likely in light of the so-called “Freedom Flotilla” of humanitarian activists setting out any day now to break the blockade of Gaza enforced by the Israeli military.

Last year, a similar attempt to break the blockade ended in the deaths of nine people, including an American.

The State Department warning said:

The security environment within Gaza, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and volatile. U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea. Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution, and deportation by the Government of Israel. […] On May 31, 2010, nine people were killed, including one U.S. citizen, in such an attempt.

The U.S. citizen killed was Furkan Doğan, a 19 year old permanent resident of Turkey who witnesses said was shot five times by Israeli commandos that made an early morning raid against the ship he was aboard. (Eight others, all Turkish nationals, were also killed.) The U.S. did not undertake or ask for any special investigations and seemed to accept the validity of Israel’s own investigations, which cleared the Jewish State’s armed forces of any wrong doing.

Both the blockade of Gaza and the raid on ships in international waters have had their legality questioned. Yesterday, the Israeli military attacked two Palestinian fishing boats off the Gaza coast, but within the limits Israel set for them.

State Department spokesperson Mark Toner recently said U.S. citizens who partook in the flotilla to break the Gaza blockade were putting themselves at risk:

We have made clear through the past year that groups and individuals who seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that entail a risk to their safety.

During his recent visit to Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked that “America has no better friend than Israel.” As Matthew Yglesias pointed out, the statement is “absurd.” This seems borne out by a travel warning that tells citizens not to try to get to Gaza by sea so that they don’t risk getting shot by their country’s “best friend.”

Are Palestinians The Last Zionists?

In Uncategorized on December 8, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Oldspeak: “Interesting perspective.”

From Daniel Gavron @ Newsweek:

Are the Palestinians the last Zionists? It would seem so. The situation of Israel has become surreal. Just as we Israelis are making a stupendous effort to ensure the dissolution of the Jewish state, envisioned by Theodor Herzl in 1896, by hanging onto the occupied territories, the Palestinians, led by President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, are working to ensure the survival of the Zionist enterprise by striving to establish a Palestinian ministate in the West Bank and Gaza.

Let us be very clear on just what is happening here: the Palestinians are doing their best to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza on a mere 22 percent of British Mandate for Palestine, which would afford us Zionist Jews a predominantly Jewish state on the remaining 78 percent. This is surely more than we could ever have envisaged when we set out to create a Jewish state and guarantees the survival of the state of Israel. Against this, we Israelis are fighting to keep the West Bank, which will soon result in an Arab majority and the end of a Jewish majority state.

Moreover, the Palestinians are supported by the Arab and Muslim nations, who are offering, via the Arab initiative, normal relations with the Jewish state. They are even prepared to accept our settlement folly by means of land swaps, which will leave a majority of the Israeli Jews who settled illegally in the West Bank during the past four decades inside the state of Israel.

The Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinians are, of course, backed by virtually the entire population of the planet, led by the United States. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is devoting a significant portion of her time to finding a formula for peace, including an agreement with Syria in return for our withdrawal from the Golan Heights. This will result not only in our dreamed-for Jewish state, but also will go a long way toward neutralizing the threats to Israel posed by Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas.

And how are we Israelis responding? We are mobilizing every possible means of obstruction and delay. We are continuing to build in locations in the West Bank that will preclude the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state and in East Jerusalem, which is scheduled to be the Palestinian capital—as opposed to West Jerusalem, Israel’s capital. Furthermore, the so-called Israeli majority for peace—the 60-plus percent who support a two-state solution—is so apathetic that we must be regarded as accomplices in the anti-peace path that our right-wing government is currently taking.

We are demanding that the Palestinians declare their support for Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people,” which is totally unnecessary, as Israel’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence, already defines the state as “Jewish and democratic.” Thus it is adequate for the Palestinians to recognize the state of Israel, which they already do.

We are insisting that the Palestinians and other Arabs agree in advance to give up the “right of return” of the Palestinian refugees to their former homes in Israel. This also is superfluous, as the Arab initiative makes it clear that the solution to the refugee problem must be just, fair, and (most significantly) “mutually agreed.” It is generally accepted that if there is a significant return of refugees, it will be to Palestine, not to Israel.

And now our latest demand: that the Americans put in writing their promises of aid and support. After decades of firm American support, this last demand is the very personification of chutzpah, and the U.S. administration is calling our bluff by giving us this document.

Following the Holocaust and the wars to establish Israel, it is understandable that we Jews deal cautiously with our Arab neighbors. But we have moved into the realm of paranoia. It is time to seize the remarkable opportunity before us. Peace with Egypt, the strongest Arab state, laid the foundations; peace with Palestine and Syria, backed by the Arab and Muslim nations, will finally place the roof on the Jewish house. The Obama administration’s effort to establish a small Palestinian state, accompanied by withdrawal from the Golan Heights and peace with Syria, will finally ensure survival of the state of Israel. Why are we Israeli Jews trying so hard to prevent it?

Gavron is the author of nine books on Jewish history, Israel, and the Palestinians. His latest is Holy Land Mosaic.


Obama Warned Israel May Bomb Iran

In Uncategorized on August 4, 2010 at 11:47 am

Oldspeak:“The objective is regime change. Creating synthetic fear of Iranian nuclear weapons is simply the best way to “justify” bringing about regime change. Worked well for Iraq, no? Pre-emptive/illegal wars are all the rage now.”

From Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity @ Consortium News:

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: War With Iran

We write to alert you to the likelihood that Israel will attack Iran as early as this month. This would likely lead to a wider war.

Israel’s leaders would calculate that once the battle is joined, it will be politically untenable for you to give anything less than unstinting support to Israel, no matter how the war started, and that U.S. troops and weaponry would flow freely. Wider war could eventually result in destruction of the state of Israel.

This can be stopped, but only if you move quickly to pre-empt an Israeli attack by publicly condemning such a move before it happens.

We believe that comments by senior American officials, you included, reflect misplaced trust in Israeli Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu.

Actually, the phrasing itself can be revealing, as when CIA Director Panetta implied cavalierly that Washington leaves it up to the Israelis to decide whether and when to attack Iran, and how much “room” to give to the diplomatic effort.

On June 27, Panetta casually told ABC’s Jake Tapper, “I think they are willing to give us the room to be able to try to change Iran diplomatically … as opposed to changing them militarily.”

Similarly, the tone you struck referring to Netanyahu and yourself in your July 7 interview with Israeli TV was distinctly out of tune with decades of unfortunate history with Israeli leaders.

“Neither of us try to surprise each other,” you said, “and that approach is one that I think Prime Minister Netanyahu is committed to.” You may wish to ask Vice President Biden to remind you of the kind of surprises he has encountered in Israel.

Blindsiding has long been an arrow in Israel’s quiver. During the emerging Middle East crisis in the spring of 1967, some of us witnessed closely a flood of Israeli surprises and deception, as Netanyahu’s predecessors feigned fear of an imminent Arab attack as justification for starting a war to seize and occupy Arab territories.

We had long since concluded that Israel had been exaggerating the Arab “threat” — well before 1982 when former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin publicly confessed:

“In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”

Israel had, in fact, prepared well militarily and also mounted provocations against its neighbors, in order to provoke a response that could be used to justify expansion of its borders.

Given this record, one would be well advised to greet with appropriate skepticism any private assurances Netanyahu may have given you that Israel would not surprise you with an attack on Iran.

Netanyahu’s Calculations

Netanyahu believes he holds the high cards, largely because of the strong support he enjoys in our Congress and our strongly pro-Israel media. He reads your reluctance even to mention in controversial bilateral issues publicly during his recent visit as affirmation that he is in the catbird seat in the relationship.

During election years in the U.S. (including mid-terms), Israeli leaders are particularly confident of the power they and the Likud Lobby enjoy on the American political scene.

This prime minister learned well from Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon.

Netanyahu’s attitude comes through in a video taped nine years ago and shown on Israeli TV, in which he bragged about how he deceived President Clinton into believing he (Netanyahu) was helping implement the Oslo accords when he was actually destroying them.

The tape displays a contemptuous attitude toward — and wonderment at — an America so easily influenced by Israel.  Netanyahu says:

“America is something that can be easily moved. Moved in the right direction. … They won’t get in our way … Eighty percent of the Americans support us. It’s absurd.”

Israeli columnist Gideon Levy wrote that the video shows Netanyahu to be “a con artist … who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes,” adding that such behavior “does not change over the years.”

As mentioned above, Netanyahu has had instructive role models.

None other than Gen. Brent Scowcroft told the Financial Times that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had George W. Bush “mesmerized;” that “Sharon just has him “wrapped around his little finger.”

(Scowcroft was promptly relieved of his duties as chair of the prestigious President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and told never again to darken the White House doorstep.)

If further proof of American political support for Netanyahu were needed, it was manifest when Senators McCain, Lieberman, and Graham visited Israel during the second week of July.

Lieberman asserted that there is wide support in Congress for using all means to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power, including “through military actions if we must.” Graham was equally explicit: “The Congress has Israel’s back,” he said.

More recently, 47 House Republicans have signed onto H.R. 1553 declaring “support for Israel’s right to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by Iran … including the use of military force.”

The power of the Likud Lobby, especially in an election year, facilitates Netanyahu’s attempts to convince those few of his colleagues who need convincing that there may never be a more auspicious time to bring about “regime change” in Tehran.

And, as we hope your advisers have told you, regime change, not Iranian nuclear weapons, is Israel’s primary concern.

If Israel’s professed fear that one or two nuclear weapons in Iran’s arsenal would be a game changer, one would have expected Israeli leaders to jump up and down with glee at the possibility of seeing half of Iran’s low enriched uranium shipped abroad.

Instead, they dismissed as a “trick” the tripartite deal, brokered by Turkey and Brazil with your personal encouragement, that would ship half of Iran’s low enriched uranium outside Tehran’s control.

The National Intelligence Estimate

The Israelis have been looking on intently as the U.S. intelligence community attempts to update, in a “Memorandum to Holders,” the NIE of November 2007 on Iran’s nuclear program. It is worth recalling a couple of that Estimate’s key judgments:

“We judge with high confidence that in fall of 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program. … We assess with moderate confidence Tehran has not restarted its nuclear program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons …”

Earlier this year, public congressional testimony by former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair (February 1 & 2) and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Gen. Ronald Burgess with Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. James Cartwright (April 14) did not alter those key judgments.

Blair and others continued to underscore the intelligence community’s agnosticism on one key point: as Blair put it earlier this year, “We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build a nuclear weapon.”

The media have reported off-the-cuff comments by Panetta and by you, with a darker appraisal — with you telling Israeli TV “… all indicators are that they [the Iranians] are in fact pursuing a nuclear weapon;” and Panetta telling ABC, “I think they continue to work on designs in that area [of weaponization].”

Panetta hastened to add, though, that in Tehran, “There is a continuing debate right now as to whether or not they ought to proceed with the bomb.”

Israel probably believes it must give more weight to the official testimony of Blair, Burgess, and Cartwright, which dovetail with the earlier NIE, and the Israelis are afraid that the long-delayed Memorandum to Holders of the 2007 NIE will essentially affirm that Estimate’s key judgments.

Our sources tell us that an honest Memorandum to Holders is likely to do precisely that, and that they suspect that the several-months-long delay means intelligence judgments are being “fixed” around the policy — as was the case before the attack on Iraq.

One War Prevented

The key judgments of the November 2007 NIE shoved an iron rod into the wheel spokes of the Dick Cheney-led juggernaut rolling toward war on Iran. The NIE infuriated Israel leaders eager to attack before President Bush and Vice President Cheney left office. This time, Netanyahu fears that issuance of an honest Memorandum might have similar effect.

Bottom line: more incentive for Israel to pre-empt such an Estimate by striking Iran sooner rather than later.

Last week’s announcement that U.S. officials will meet next month with Iranian counterparts to resume talks on ways to arrange higher enrichment of Iranian low enriched uranium for Tehran’s medical research reactor was welcome news to all but the Israeli leaders.

In addition, Iran reportedly has said it would be prepared to halt enrichment to 20 percent (the level needed for the medical research reactor), and has made it clear that it looks forward to the resumption of talks.

Again, an agreement that would send a large portion of Iran’s LEU abroad would, at a minimum, hinder progress toward nuclear weapons, should Iran decide to develop them. But it would also greatly weaken Israel’s scariest rationale for an attack on Iran.

Bottom line: with the talks on what Israel’s leaders earlier labeled a “trick” now scheduled to resume in September, incentive builds in Tel Aviv for the Israelis to attack before any such agreement can be reached.

We’ll say it again: the objective is regime change. Creating synthetic fear of Iranian nuclear weapons is simply the best way to “justify” bringing about regime change. Worked well for Iraq, no?

Another War in Need of Prevention

A strong public statement by you, personally warning Israel not to attack Iran would most probably head off such an Israeli move. Follow-up might include dispatching Adm. Mullen to Tel Aviv with military-to-military instructions to Israel: Don’t Even Think of It.

In the wake of the 2007 NIE, President Bush overruled Vice President Cheney and sent Adm. Mullen to Israel to impart that hard message. A much-relieved Mullen arrived home that spring sure of step and grateful that he had dodged the likelihood of being on the end of a Cheney-inspired order for him to send U.S. forces into war with Iran.

This time around, Mullen returned with sweaty palms from a visit to Israel in February 2010. Ever since, he has been worrying aloud that Israel might mousetrap the U.S. into war with Iran, while adding the obligatory assurance that the Pentagon does have an attack plan for Iran, if needed.

In contrast to his experience in 2008, though, Mullen seemed troubled that Israel’s leaders did not take his warnings seriously.

While in Israel, Mullen insisted publicly that an attack on Iran would be “a big, big, big problem for all of us, and I worry a great deal about the unintended consequences.”

After his return, at a Pentagon press conference on Feb. 22 Mullen drove home the same point. After reciting the usual boilerplate about Iran being “on the path to achieve nuclear weaponization” and its “desire to dominate its neighbors,” he included the following in his prepared remarks:

“For now, the diplomatic and the economic levers of international power are and ought to be the levers first pulled. Indeed, I would hope they are always and consistently pulled. No strike, however effective, will be, in and of itself, decisive.”

Unlike younger generals — David Petraeus, for example — Adm. Mullen served in the Vietnam War. That experience is probably what prompts asides like this: “I would remind everyone of an essential truth: War is bloody and uneven. It’s messy and ugly and incredibly wasteful …”

Although the immediate context for that remark was Afghanistan, Mullen has underscored time and again that war with Iran would be a far larger disaster. Those with a modicum of familiarity with the military, strategic and economic equities at stake know he is right.

Other Steps

In 2008, after Mullen read the Israelis the riot act, they put their pre-emptive plans for Iran aside. With that mission accomplished, Mullen gave serious thought to ways to prevent any unintended (or, for that matter, deliberately provoked) incidents in the crowded Persian Gulf that could lead to wider hostilities.

Mullen sent up an interesting trial balloon at a July 2, 2008, press conference, when he indicated that military-to-military dialogue could “add to a better understanding” between the U.S. and Iran. But nothing more was heard of this overture, probably because Cheney ordered him to drop it.

It was a good idea — still is. The danger of a U.S.-Iranian confrontation in the crowded Persian Gulf has not been addressed, and should be. Establishment of a direct communications link between top military officials in Washington and Tehran would reduce the danger of an accident, miscalculation, or covert, false-flag attack.

In our view, that should be done immediately — particularly since recently introduced sanctions assert a right to inspect Iranian ships. The naval commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards reportedly has threatened “a response in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz,” if anyone tries to inspect Iranian ships in international waters.

Another safety valve would result from successful negotiation of the kind of bilateral “incidents-at-sea” protocol that was concluded with the Russians in 1972 during a period of relatively high tension.

With only interim nobodies at the helm of the intelligence community, you may wish to consider knocking some heads together yourself and insisting that it finish an honest Memorandum to Holders of the 2007 NIE by mid-August — recording any dissents, as necessary.

Sadly, our former colleagues tell us that politicization of intelligence analysis did not end with the departure of Bush and Cheney…and that the problem is acute even at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, which in the past has done some of the best professional, objective, tell-it-like-it-is analysis.

Pundits, Think Tanks: Missing the Point

As you may have noticed, most of page one of Sunday’s Washington Post Outlook section was given to an article titled, “A Nuclear Iran: Would America Strike to Prevent It? — Imagining Obama’s Response to an Iranian Missile Crisis.”

Page five was dominated by the rest of the article, under the title “Who will blink first when Iran is on the brink?”

A page-wide photo of a missile rolling past Iranian dignitaries on a reviewing stand (reminiscent of the familiar parades on Red Square) is aimed at the centerfold of the Outlook section, as if poised to blow it to smithereens.

Typically, the authors address the Iranian “threat” as though it endangers the U.S., even though Secretary Clinton has stated publicly that this is not the case. They write that one option for the U.S. is “the lonely, unpopular path of taking military action lacking allied consensus.” O Tempora, O Mores!

In less than a decade, wars of aggression have become nothing more than lonely, unpopular paths.

What is perhaps most remarkable, though, is that the word Israel is nowhere to be found in this very long article. Similar think pieces, including some from relatively progressive think tanks, also address these issues as though they were simply bilateral U.S.-Iranian problems, with little or no attention to Israel.

Guns of August?

The stakes could hardly be higher. Letting slip the dogs of war would have immense repercussions.  Again, we hope that Adm. Mullen and others have given you comprehensive briefings on them.

Netanyahu would be taking a fateful gamble by attacking Iran, with high risk to everyone involved. The worst, but conceivable case, has Netanyahu playing — unintentionally — Dr. Kevorkian to the state of Israel.

Even if the U.S. were to be sucked into a war provoked by Israel, there is absolutely no guarantee that the war would come out well.

Were the U.S. to suffer significant casualties, and were Americans to become aware that such losses came about because of exaggerated Israeli claims of a nuclear threat from Iran, Israel could lose much of its high standing in the United States.

There could even be an upsurge in anti-Semitism, as Americans conclude that officials with dual loyalties in Congress and the executive branch threw our troops into a war provoked, on false pretenses, by Likudniks for their own narrow purposes.

We do not have a sense that major players in Tel Aviv or in Washington are sufficiently sensitive to these critical factors.

You are in position to prevent this unfortunate, but likely chain reaction. We allow for the possibility that Israeli military action might not lead to a major regional war, but we consider the chances of that much less than even.

Footnote: VIPS Experience

We VIPS have found ourselves in this position before. We prepared our first Memorandum for the President on the afternoon of February 5, 2003 after Colin Powell’s speech at the UN.

We had been watching how our profession was being corrupted into serving up faux intelligence that was later criticized (correctly) as “uncorroborated, contradicted, and nonexistent” — adjectives used by former Senate Intelligence Committee chair Jay Rockefeller after a five-year investigation by his committee.

As Powell spoke, we decided collectively that the responsible thing to do was to try to warn the President before he acted on misguided advice to attack Iraq. Unlike Powell, we did not claim that our analysis was “irrefutable and undeniable.” We did conclude with this warning:

“After watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”
http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/downloads/vipstwelve.pdf

We take no satisfaction at having gotten it right on Iraq. Others with claim to more immediate expertise on Iraq were issuing similar warnings. But we were kept well away from the wagons circled by Bush and Cheney.

Sadly, your own Vice President, who was then chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, was among the most assiduous in blocking opportunities for dissenting voices to be heard. This is part of what brought on the worst foreign policy disaster in our nation’s history.

We now believe that we may also be right on (and right on the cusp of) another impending catastrophe of even wider scope — Iran — on which another President, you, are not getting good advice from your closed circle of advisers.

They are probably telling you that, since you have privately counseled Prime Minister Netanyahu against attacking Iran, he will not do it. This could simply be the familiar syndrome of telling the President what they believe he wants to hear.

Quiz them; tell them others believe them to be dead wrong on Netanyahu. The only positive here is that you — only you — can prevent an Israeli attack on Iran.

Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

Ray Close, Directorate of Operations, Near East Division, CIA (26 years)

Phil Giraldi, Directorate of Operations, CIA (20 years)

Larry Johnson, Directorate of Intelligence, CIA; Department of State, Department of Defense consultant (24 years)

W. Patrick Lang, Col., USA, Special Forces (ret.); Senior Executive Service: Defense Intelligence Officer for Middle East/South Asia, Director of HUMINT Collection, Defense Intelligence Agency (30 years)

Ray McGovern, US Army Intelligence Officer, Directorate of Intelligence, CIA (30 years)

Coleen Rowley, Special Agent and Minneapolis Division Counsel, FBI (24 years)

Ann Wright, Col., US Army Reserve (ret.), (29 years); Foreign Service Officer, Department of State (16 years)

After Obama’s Praise For Netanyahu’s “Restraint”, Israeli Journalist Amira Hass Asks Obama to Imagine Life As A Palestinian Under Occupation

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2010 at 11:19 am

Oldspeak: “Gaza is a huge prison where people are dependent on charity, with no means to earn a living, no freedom of movement. Where women and children are shot dead waving white flags, where people are herded into a house, and bombed by American made jets…The apartheid has to stop.”

From Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

Meeting at the White House, President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized the “unbreakable” bond between Israel and the United States. Despite ongoing Israeli settlement expansion, roadblocks, closures and the attack on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla, Obama said he thinks Israel “has shown restraint.” The meeting came on the heels of a decision by the Israeli military prosecutor to take disciplinary and legal action in four separate cases from Israel’s 22-day assault on Gaza last year. We speak to veteran Israeli journalist Amira Hass.

Amira Hass, Ha’aretz correspondent for the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the only Israeli journalist to have spent several years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama hosted talks of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House Tuesday in a push to restart direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials. Obama urged the two sides to resume talks before the partial freeze on building illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank expires in September. At a joint news conference after their meeting Tuesday morning, both Obama and Netanyahu emphasized the unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States and downplayed recent U.S. Israeli tensions over the settlements. In his remarks to the press, President Obama made no mention of settlement expansion or the Israeli commando attack on the humanitarian aid flotilla that killed nine people including a U.S. citizen. He noted that Netanyahu is “Willing to take risks for peace” and praised Israel’s moves to begin easing the blockade of Gaza.

BARACK OBAMA: Let me first of all say that I think the Israeli government working through layers of various governmental entities and jurisdictions have shown restraint over the last seven months that I think has been conducive to the prospects of us getting into direct talks. I think it is very important that the Palestinians not look for excuses for incitement, that they’re not engaging in provocative language, that at the international level they are maintaining a constructive talk as opposed to looking for opportunities to embarrass Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed President of in his optimism about moving forward with direct negotiations but warned that Israel wants a secure peace.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: We don’t want a repeat of the situation where we vacate territories and those are overtaken by Iran’s proxies and used as launching grounds for terrorist attacks, rocket attacks. I think there are solutions that we can adopt—but in order to proceed to the solution, we need to begin negotiations in order to end them. Without proximity talks, I think it’s high time to begin direct talks.

AMY GOODMAN: Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama came on the heels of a decision by the Israeli military prosecutor to take disciplinary and legal action and four separate cases from Israel’s 22-day assault on Gaza last year. One soldier was charged with manslaughter in connection with the deaths of a Palestinian mother and daughter who were shot while waving white flags. The prosecutor also called for criminal investigation into air-strikes on a building into which Israeli troops had ordered 100 members of a single-family. Over two dozen members of the family were killed in the shelling. For more on the U.S. Israeli relations and prospects for peace and accountability, I’m joined on the telephone from Tel Aviv by veteran Israeli journalist Amira Hass, she’s the Ha’aretz correspondent for the occupied Palestinian territories and the only Israeli journalist to have spent several years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank. Amira, welcome to Democracy Now!, your comments on the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama yesterday and what came of it.

AMIRA HASS: Oh, I have no comment, I thought we were talking about something else, I did not even watch it. By the time we know really what happened there—it will take some time before we know really what happened there. I only hope that or I suspect Obama allowed himself to be misled by the sweet talk of Netanyahu. That is my impression, or that is my guess. I am sorry because I—

AMY GOODMAN: Well Amira, let me ask you, President Obama praised Netanyahu for the easing of the blockade. Can you talk about what that means?

AMIRA HASS: Perhaps Obama should ask himself if he would set aside in life of just getting chips and ketchup and Coca-Cola and not being allowed to produce, to create, to export, to send his daughters to university, to have visitors from outside—if this is the life that he thinks are suitable for human beings, then maybe all the Americans who voted for him made a mistake.

AMY GOODMAN: Well explain—

AMIRA HASS: Because the blockade here. Look, everybody talks about food when we come to this blockade. So now Israel is giving some more items of food, allowing the Palestinian merchants to buy some more items of food to get into Gaza and maybe some other stuff, I don’t know. But everything which is connected to raw materials for industry, for producing, anything connected to construction material is very limited. Nothing has changed. So adding ketchup, as somebody told me, does not make people feel that the blockade is over. Maybe now there are more types of shampoo that Israel will allow to enter. But anyway, in the past years, Palestinians have managed to bring in shampoo and some other hygiene products from Egypt through the tunnels. This is not the blockade.

The blockade is about being imprisoned in Gaza. This is the real closure. This is the real siege. And this is not going to change. Only today there was a court hearing of the petition of a Palestinian lawyer, woman lawyer, female lawyer, from Gaza who wants to complete her M.A. Studies at the University and the state does not allow her because they say when it comes to the passage, the movement of human beings, nothing has changed. They still do not allow or they haven’t been allowed anywhere for the past ten or fifteen years but evermore severely, they don’t allow the passage, the movement of people between Gaza and the West Bank except in some rare, very exceptional humanitarian cases. So this remains the same. This remains the same. also, Palestinians cannot export. Israel is talking only about bringing in products, not exporting. So even if Palestinians got raw materials, for example for textiles for furniture, the traditional industry that Gazans excel at, they are not allowed to export them. So they won’t earn a living. So Gaza is a huge prison where people are dependent on charity, some sort of charity. This situation is not going to change now, with Israel’s new measures.

AMY GOODMAN: Amira Hass, the meeting yesterday between Netanyahu and Obama came on the heels of the decision by the Israeli military prosecutor to take disciplinary and legal action in four separate cases in the Israeli assault on Gaza last year. Among them, a soldier charged with manslaughter in connection with the deaths of a Palestinian mother and daughter. Can you explain that story?

AMIRA HASS: There’s several—I have spoken to the family, I think it was the—second day or the first morning, the first day of the ground invasion where people understood that they should leave their homes and go from the east of Gaza more to the west, towards the city itself. There was a group of people, 30, 40 people, with children, with women. The whole area is an agricultural area, with scattered house, it is not heavily populated. They left with waving white flags and from a distance, I do not remember how many meters, 60, 70, 100, a tank stopped them then shot the mother and the daughter. The family couldn’t even bury them, they had to flee. They had to flee, they came back a week or 15 days later to recover the corpses. These are the mother and the daughter.

The same unit was in charge of the whole area and I have like many others and human rights field workers, we have researched all the measures of this unit over the area, the destruction of houses, the bombings, shellings, not allowing people to reach—to get rescued by medical teams. This has been the case all over this area and other places, but very strongly in this area, where the Samouni’s, a bit further to the west, the Samouni family, which you also mentioned, are a typical one—one of the most difficult cases of this onslaught. As you said, 29 people were killed. 21 or 22 of whom in the house to which the soldiers themselves ordered them to be in. So the soldiers knew very well there were civilians gathered in the house feeling secure because there were asked to be there. And what is very surprising is it took the army so long, a year and a half, to admit that something-–went wrong there-–even to according to their criteria. Because all the information was valid, was available from the start. From the start the information to at least suspect about what the soldiers were saying. Why wait so long? It seems not by surprise-–not by coincidence the announcement came yesterday just on the eve of Mr. Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama.

AMY GOODMAN: So the Samouni family, 29 killed in that family, the Israeli military told them to go into that house and then they struck the House?

AMIRA HASS: Sorry?

AMY GOODMAN: The story of the Samouni family, the 29 members—

AMIRA HASS: This is just—it is in the same area where the other family, the mother and the daughter were killed. It’s the same unit. We see overall the practices of shooting at civilians from very short range, close range, shooting at people carrying white flags, not allowing rescue teams to arrive to the wounded, not allowing people to rescue their own relatives. Here in the Samouni family, the unique case, the soldiers were talking to the people. They were even talking in Hebrew because all of these people knew the man in the family spoke Hebrew because they were working in Israel for many years. This was-–in that particular case, it was an extreme in the standards of the onslaught on Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: Could you also comment on the committee tasked by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the nine deaths aboard the aid flotilla that was headed to Gaza? The head is going to be Philippe Kirsch, the former president of international criminal court.

AMIRA HASS: When was it published? When was it known? I did not follow it.

AMY GOODMAN: It just recently came out. But this meeting that is happening between Netanyahu and Obama its the first since then. In fact, Netanyahu was supposed to meet with Obama, but Netanyahu left in the midst of—right after the strike to return to Israel when the attack on the flotilla happened.

AMIRA HASS: He left?

AMY GOODMAN: This is the first meeting they’ve had since then. The fallout from that, Amira Hass?

AMIRA HASS: I am sorry, the line—

AMY GOODMAN: The fallout from the attack on the Gaza flotilla. It wasn’t mentioned yesterday, but what you think the fallout has been?

AMIRA HASS: I don’t know.

AMY GOODMAN: In the territories—

AMIRA HASS: Why it has not been mentioned?

AMY GOODMAN: No, what has been the fallout in Israel and Gaza?

AMIRA HASS: Look, right now people think it has calmed down. People are looking for, and politicians are looking for, ways to sort things out with Turkey, especially the military. I think the military cherishes, the relations—old relations with Turkey. I think they want to amend. They came yesterday with a story, some of the corpse posthumous analysis showed that some of the people-–there were some other bullets other than the military bullets. So they still keep to the version that it’s the Israeli soldiers who were attacked. So right now in Israel, the flotilla, people know it was a big political flop and military flop, too. But now you know events are tracing one after the other here. So right now there is not so much talk about the flotilla as there was two weeks ago or three weeks ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Well Amira Hass, I want to thank you for being with us, Ha’aretz correspondent for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, only Israeli journalist to have spent more than a decade living and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank. Thanks for being with us, she talked with us from Tel Aviv. This is Democracy Now!, we’ll be back in a moment.

Treat Israel Like Iran

In Uncategorized on June 15, 2010 at 7:46 am

Oldspeak: Interesting argument.

From Stephen Kinzer @ The Daily Beast:

Quick, name the rogue state in the Middle East. Hints: It has an active nuclear-weapons program but conducts it in secret; its security organs regularly kill perceived enemies of the state, both at home and abroad; its political process has been hijacked by religious fundamentalists who believe they are doing God’s will; its violent recklessness destabilizes the world’s most volatile region; and it seems as deaf to reason as it is impervious to pressure. Also: Its name begins with “I”.

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Instead of treating Israel and Iran so differently, the West might try placing them in the same policy basket, and seeking equivalent concessions from both.

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How you answer this riddle depends in part on where you sit. From an American perspective, the obvious answer is Iran. Iran seems alone and friendless, a pariah in the world, and deservedly so given its long list of sins. In Washington’s view, Iran poses one of the major threats to global security.

Many people in the world, however, see Iran quite differently: as just another struggling country with valuable resources, no more or less threatening than any other, ruled by a regime that, while thuggish, wins grudging admiration for standing up to powerful bullies. They are angrier at Israel, which they see as violent, repressive and contemptuous of international law, but nonetheless endlessly coddled by the United States.

The way American diplomats have spent the last couple weeks shows how differently the U.S. treats Israel and Iran. After the recent deadly Israeli raid on a flotilla of ships bringing relief aid to Gaza, a U.S. envoy, George Mitchell, flew to Tel Aviv and then traveled to Ramallah. He urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to salvage whatever possible from the debacle and look for common ground, even though prospects for peace are remote.

American diplomats at the United Nations, meanwhile, were working intensely to win support for punishing new sanctions on Iran. Their message about Iran is the precise opposite of the one Mitchell is preaching to Israelis and Palestinians: Negotiations are hopeless, oppressive regimes understand only force, and all compromise equals appeasement.

It is always difficult to compare the danger one country poses to global security with that posed by another, and it is natural to treat old friends differently from longtime enemies. Israel is a far more open and free society than Iran. Millions of Americans feel personally tied to its fate. Nonetheless the contrast in American attitudes toward the two countries is striking. Toward Israel the attitude is: You may be rascals sometimes, but whatever pranks you pull, you’re our friend and we’ll forgive you. Toward Iran, it’s the opposite: You are our implacable enemy, so nothing you do short of abject surrender will satisfy us.

This dichotomy is now on especially vivid display. Israel’s raid on the Gaza flotilla, like the Gaza occupation itself, has evoked only mild clucks of disapproval in Washington. But when Turkey and Brazil worked out the framework of a possible nuclear compromise with Iran a couple of weeks ago, American officials angrily rejected it.

Instead of treating Israel and Iran so differently, the West might try placing them in the same policy basket, and seeking equivalent concessions from both.

It is easy to denounce Israel and Iran as disturbers of whatever peace exists in the Middle East, and to lament that the region will be in turmoil as long as they keep behaving as they do. More important is the fact that both countries are powerful, and can upset any accord to which they are not a party. Punishing, sanctioning, and isolating them would be emotionally satisfying, but it is not likely to help calm the region.

Instead of pushing Israel and Iran into corners, making them feel besieged and friendless, the world should realize that without both of them, there will be no peace in the Middle East. This requires a new, more creative approach to the challenge of protecting Israel over the long term. It also requires a willingness to engage Iran. As Lyndon Johnson famously reasoned when he reappointed J. Edgar Hoover to head the FBI, “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.”

Treating Israel and Iran more equally would also mean judging their nuclear programs by equivalent standards. If Israel and Iran are placed under the same set of rigorous nuclear safeguards, the Middle East will quickly become a safer place.

In the same spirit of equality, the world should do whatever possible to encourage higher human-rights standards in Israel and Iran. Ruling groups in both countries treat some honest critics as traitors or terrorists. They rule without the tolerance that illuminates Jewish and Persian history.

Israel and Iran have come to pose parallel challenges. They are the region’s outcasts—yet the region will never stabilize until they are brought back out of the geopolitical cold. Rather than stoke their escalating hostility, the U.S. should work to reduce tensions between them. Holding them to the same standards would be a start.

Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent. His next book, Reset: Iran, Turkey and America’s Future, will be published in June.

Israeli Document: Gaza Blockade Isn’t About Security; It’s About ‘Economic Warfare’

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2010 at 9:59 am

Oldspeak: And the hits just keep ooonnnn commin. 😐 “Last week, after Israeli commandos killed nine people on a Turkish-organized Gaza aid flotilla, Israel again said its aim was to stop the flow of terrorist arms into Gaza. However, in response to a lawsuit by Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, the Israeli government explained the blockade as an exercise of the right of ‘economic warfare’. “A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using ‘economic warfare,’ ” the government said.

From Sheera Frenkel @ McClatchy Newspapers:

JERUSALEM — As Israel ordered a slight easing of its blockade of the Gaza Strip Wednesday, McClatchy obtained an Israeli government document that describes the blockade not as a security measure but as “economic warfare” against the Islamist group Hamas, which rules the Palestinian territory.

Israel imposed severe restrictions on Gaza in June 2007, after Hamas won elections and took control of the coastal enclave after winning elections there the previous year, and the government has long said that the aim of the blockade is to stem the flow of weapons to militants in Gaza.

Last week, after Israeli commandos killed nine volunteers on a Turkish-organized Gaza aid flotilla, Israel again said its aim was to stop the flow of terrorist arms into Gaza.

However, in response to a lawsuit by Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, the Israeli government explained the blockade as an exercise of the right of economic warfare.

“A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using ‘economic warfare,'” the government said.

McClatchy obtained the government’s written statement from Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, which sued the government for information about the blockade. The Israeli high court upheld the suit, and the government delivered its statement earlier this year.

Sari Bashi, the director of Gisha, said the documents prove that Israel isn’t imposing its blockade for its stated reasons, but rather as collective punishment for the Palestinian population of Gaza. Gisha focuses on Palestinian rights.

(A State Department spokesman, who wasn’t authorized to speak for the record, said he hadn’t seen the documents in question.)

The Israeli government took an additional step Wednesday and said the economic warfare is intended to achieve a political goal. A government spokesman, who couldn’t be named as a matter of policy, told McClatchy that authorities will continue to ease the blockade but “could not lift the embargo altogether as long as Hamas remains in control” of Gaza.

President Barack Obama, after receiving Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, said the situation in Gaza is “unsustainable.” He pledged an additional $400 million in aid for housing, school construction and roads to improve daily life for Palestinians — of which at least $30 million is earmarked for Gaza.

Israel’s blockade of Gaza includes a complex and ever-changing list of goods that are allowed in. Items such as cement or metal are barred because they can be used for military purposes, Israeli officials say.

According to figures published by Gisha in coordination with the United Nations, Israel allows in 25 percent of the goods it had permitted into Gaza before the Hamas takeover. In the years prior to the closure, Israel allowed an average of 10,400 trucks to enter Gaza with goods each month. Israel now allows approximately 2,500 trucks a month.

The figures show that Israel also has limited the goods allowed to enter Gaza to 40 types of items, while before June 2007 approximately 4,000 types of goods were listed as entering Gaza.

Israel expanded its list slightly Wednesday to include soda, juice, jam, spices, shaving cream, potato chips, cookies and candy, said Palestinian liaison official Raed Fattouh, who coordinates the flow of goods into Gaza with Israel.

“I think Israel wants to defuse international pressure,” said Fattouh. “They want to show people that they are allowing things into Gaza.”

It was the first tangible step taken by Israel in the wake of the unprecedented international criticism it’s faced over the blockade following last week’s Israeli raid on the high seas.

While there have been mounting calls for an investigation into the manner in which Israel intercepted the flotilla, world leaders have also called for Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza.

At his meeting with Abbas, Obama said the Security Council had called for a “credible, transparent investigation that met international standards.” He added: “And we meant what we said. That’s what we expect.”

He also called for an easing of Israel’s blockade. “It seems to us that there should be ways of focusing narrowly on arms shipments, rather than focusing in a blanket way on stopping everything and then, in a piecemeal way, allowing things into Gaza,” he told reporters.

Egypt, which controls much of Gaza’s southern border, reopened the Rafah crossing this week in response to international pressure to lift the blockade.

Egypt has long been considered Israel’s partner in enforcing the blockade, but Egyptian Foreign Minister Hossam Zaki said the Rafah crossing will remain open indefinitely for Gazans with special permits. In the past, the border has been opened sporadically.

Maxwell Gaylard, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator in the Palestinian territories, said the international community is seeking an “urgent and fundamental change” in Israel’s policy regarding Gaza rather than a piecemeal approach.

“A modest expansion of the restrictive list of goods allowed into Gaza falls well short of what is needed. We need a fundamental change and an opening of crossings for commercial goods,” he said.

Hamas officials said that they were “disappointed” by Israel’s announcement, and that the goods fell far short of what was actually needed.

“They will send the first course. We are waiting for the main course,” Palestinian Economy Minister Hassan Abu Libdeh said in Ramallah, specifying that construction materials were the item that Gazans need most. Many Palestinians have been unable to build their homes in the wake of Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s punishing offensive in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009.

Israel said the cement and other construction goods could be used to build bunkers and other military installations.

Some of those goods already come into Gaza via the smuggling tunnels that connect it to Egypt.

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