Saturday, January 31, 2009

Extent Of Israeli Illegal Settlements Revealed

Secret Israeli Database Reveals Full Extent Of Illegal Settlement

By Uri Blau
Last update - 00:37 01/01/2009
Courtesy Of Haaretz NewsPaper
Just four years ago, the defense establishment decided to carry out a seemingly elementary task: establish a comprehensive database on the settlements. Brigadier General (res.) Baruch Spiegel, aide to then defense minister Shaul Mofaz, was put in charge of the project. For over two years, Spiegel and his staff, who all signed a special confidentiality agreement, went about systematically collecting data, primarily from the Civil Administration.

One of the main reasons for this effort was the need to have credible and accessible information at the ready to contend with legal actions brought by Palestinian residents, human rights organizations and leftist movements challenging the legality of construction in the settlements and the use of private lands to establish or expand them. The painstakingly amassed data was labeled political dynamite.

The defense establishment, led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, steadfastly refused to publicize the figures, arguing, for one thing, that publication could endanger state security or harm Israel's foreign relations. Someone who is liable to be particularly interested in the data collected by Spiegel is George Mitchell, President Barack Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, who came to Israel this week for his first visit since his appointment. It was Mitchell who authored the 2001 report that led to the formulation of the road map, which established a parallel between halting terror and halting construction in the settlements.

The official database, the most comprehensive one of its kind ever compiled in Israel about the territories, was recently obtained by Haaretz. Here, for the first time, information the state has been hiding for years is revealed. An analysis of the data reveals that, in the vast majority of the settlements - about 75 percent - construction, sometimes on a large scale, has been carried out without the appropriate permits or contrary to the permits that were issued. The database also shows that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure (roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas and even police
stations) has been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West Bank residents.

The data, it should be stressed, do not refer only to the illegal outposts (information about which was included in the well-known report authored by attorney Talia Sasson and published in March 2005), but to the very heart of the settlement enterprise. Among them are veteran ideological settlements like Alon Shvut (established in 1970 and currently home to 3,291 residents, including Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun); Ofra (established in 1975, home to 2,708 residents, including
former Yesha Council spokesman Yehoshua Mor Yosef and media personalities Uri Elitzur and Hagai Segal); and Beit El (established in 1977, population 5,308, including Hagai Ben-Artzi, brother of Sara Netanyahu). Also included are large settlements founded primarily for economic motives, such as the city of Modi'in Illit (established in 1990 and now home to 36,282 people), or Givat Ze'ev outside Jerusalem (founded in 1983, population 11,139), and smaller settlements such as Nokdim near Herodion (established in 1982, population 851, including MK Avigdor Lieberman).

The information contained in the database does not conform to the state's official position, as presented, for instance, on the Foreign Ministry Web site, which states: "Israel's actions relating to the use and allocation of land under its administration are all taken with strict regard to the rules and norms of international law - Israel does not requisition private land for the establishment of settlements." Since in many of the settlements, it was the government itself, primarily through the Ministry of Construction and Housing, that was responsible for construction, and since many of the building violations involve infrastructure, roads, public buildings and so on, the official data also demonstrate government responsibility for the unrestrained planning and lack of enforcement of regulations in the territories. The extent of building violations also attests to the poor functioning of the Civil Administration, the body in charge of permits and supervision of construction in the territories.

According to the 2008 data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, approximately 290,000 Jews live in the 120 official settlements and dozens of outposts established throughout the West Bank over the past 41 years.

"Nothing was done in hiding," says Pinchas Wallerstein, director-general of the Yesha Council of settlements and a leading figure in the settlement project. "I'm not familiar with any [building] plans that were not the initiative of the Israeli government." He says that if the owners of private land upon which settlements are built were to complain and the court were to accept their complaint, then the structures would have to be moved somewhere else. "This has been the Yesha
Council's position for the past years," he says.

You'd never know it from touring several of the settlements in which massive construction has taken place on private Palestinian lands. Entire neighborhoods built without permits or on private lands are inseparable parts of the settlements. The sense of dissonance only intensifies when you find that municipal offices, police and fire stations were also built upon and currently operate on lands that belong to Palestinians.

On Misheknot Haro'im Street in the Kochav Yaakov settlement, a young mother is carrying her two children home. "I've lived here for six years," she says, sounding surprised when told that her entire neighborhood was built upon private Palestinian land. "I know that there's some small area in the community that is in dispute, but I never heard that this is private land." Would she have built her home on this land had she known this from the start? "No," she answers. "I wouldn't have kicked anyone out of his home."

Not far away, at the settlement's large and unkempt trailer site, which is also built on private land, a young newlywed couple is walking to the bus stop: 21-year-old Aharon and his 19-year-old wife, Elisheva. They speak nearly perfect Hebrew despite having grown up in the United States and having settled permanently in Israel just a few months ago, after Aharon completed his army service in the ultra-Orthodox Nahal unit. Now he is studying computers at Machon Lev in Jerusalem. Asked why they chose to live here of all places, they list three reasons: It's close to Jerusalem, it's cheap and it's in the territories. In that order.

The couple pay their rent, NIS 550 a month, to the settlement secretariat. As new immigrants, they are still exempt from having to pay the arnona municipal tax. Aharon doesn't look upset when he hears that his trailer sits on private land. It doesn't really interest him. "I don't care what the state says, the Torah says that the entire Land of Israel is ours." And what will happen if they're told to move to non-private land? "We'll move," he says without hesitation.

A Complicated Problem

Even today, more than two years after concluding his official role, Baruch Spiegel remains loyal to the establishment. In a conversation, he notes several times that he signed a confidentiality agreement and so is not willing to go into the details of the work for which he was responsible. He was appointed by Shaul Mofaz to handle several issues about which Israel had given a commitment to the United States, including improving conditions for Palestinians whose lives were adversely affected by the separation fence, and supervision of IDF soldiers at the checkpoints.

Two years ago, Haaretz reporter Amos Harel revealed that the main task given Spiegel was to establish and maintain an up-to-date database on the settlement enterprise. This was after it became apparent that the United States, as well as Peace Now's settlement monitoring team, was in possession of much more precise information about settlement construction than was the defense establishment, which up to then had relied mostly on information collected by Civil Administration inspectors. The old database had many gaps in it, which was largely a consequence of the establishment preferring not to know exactly what was going on in this area.

Spiegel's database contains written information backed up by aerial photos and layers of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) data that includes information on the status of the land and the official boundaries of each settlement. "The work took two and a half years," says Spiegel. "It was done in order to check the status of the settlements and the outposts and to achieve the greatest possible accuracy in terms of the database: the land status, the legal status, the sector boundaries, the city building plan, government decisions, lands whose ownership is unclear. It was full-time, professional work done with a professional team of legal experts, planning people, GIS experts. And I hope that this work continues, because it
is very vital. One has to know what's going on there and make decisions accordingly."

Who is keeping track of all of this now?

"I suppose it's the Civil Administration."

Why was there no database like this before your appointment?

"I don't know how much of a focus there was on doing it."

Why do you think the state is not publicizing the data?

"It's a sensitive and complex subject and there are all kinds of considerations, political and security-related. There were questions about the public's right to know, the freedom of information law. You should ask the officials in charge."

What are the sensitive matters?

"It's no secret that there are violations, that there are problems having to do with land. It's a complicated problem."

Is there also a problem for the country's image?

"I didn't concern myself with image. I was engaged in Sisyphean work to ensure that, first of all, they'll know what exists and what's legal and what's not legal and what the degree of illegality is, whether it involves the takeover of private Palestinian land or something in the process of obtaining proper building permits. Our job was to do the meticulous work of going over all the settlements and outposts that existed then - We found what we found and passed it on."

Do you think that this information should be published?

"I think they've already decided to publish the simpler part, concerning areas of jurisdiction. There are things that are more sensitive. It's no secret that there are problems, and it's impossible to do something illegal and say that it's legal. I can't elaborate, because I'm still bound to maintain confidentiality."

Dror Etkes, formerly the coordinator of Peace Now's settlement monitoring project and currently director of the Land Advocacy Project for the Yesh Din organization, says, "The government's ongoing refusal to reveal this material on the pretext of security reasons is yet another striking example of the way in which the state exploits its authority to reduce the information at the citizens' disposal, when they wish to formulate intelligent positions based on facts rather than lies and half-truths."

Following the initial exposure of the material, the Movement for Freedom of Information and Peace Now requested that the Defense Ministry publish the database, in accordance with the Freedom of Information law. The Defense Ministry refused. "This is a computerized database that includes detailed information, in different cross-sections, regarding the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria," the Defense Ministry said in response. "The material was collected by the defense establishment for its purposes and includes sensitive information. The ministry was asked to allow a review of the material in accordance with the Freedom of Information law, and after consideration of the request, decided not to hand over the material. The matter is pending and is the subject of a petition before the Administrative Affairs Court in Tel Aviv."

Ofra, Elon Moreh, Beit El

The database surveys settlement after settlement alphabetically. For each entry, it notes the source of the settlement's name and the form of settlement there (urban community, local council, moshav, kibbutz, etc.); its organizational affiliation (Herut, Amana, Takam, etc.), the number of inhabitants, pertinent government decisions, the official bodies to which the land was given, the status of the land upon which the settlement was built (state land, private Palestinian or Jewish land, etc.), a survey of the illegal outposts built in proximity to the settlement and to what extent the valid building plans have been executed. Beneath each entry, highlighted in red, is information on the extent of construction that has been carried out without permission and its exact location in the settlement.

Among all the revelations in the official data, it's quite fascinating to see what was written about Ofra, a veteran Gush Emunim settlement. According to a recent B'tselem report, most of the settlement's developed area sits on private Palestinian land and therefore falls into the category of an illegal outpost that is supposed to be evacuated. The Yesha Council responded to the B'tselem report, saying that the "facts" in it are "completely baseless and designed to present a false picture. The inhabitants of Ofra are careful to respect the rights of the Arab landowners, with whom they reached an agreement regarding the construction of the neighborhoods as well as an agreement that enables the private landowners to continue to work their lands."

But the information in the database about Ofra leaves no room for doubt: "The settlement does not conform to valid building plans. A majority of the construction in the community is on registered private lands without any legal basis whatsoever and no possibility of [converting the land to non-private use]." The database also gives a detailed description of where construction was carried out in Ofra without permits: "The original part of the settlement: [this includes] more than 200 permanent residential structures, agricultural structures, public structures, lots, roads and orchards in the old section of the settlement (in regard to which Plan 221 was submitted, but not advanced due to a problem of ownership)." After mentioning 75 trailers and temporary shelters in two groups within the old settlement, the database mentions the Ramat Zvi neighborhood, south of the original settlement: "There are about 200 permanent structures as well as lots being developed for additional permanent construction, all trespassing on private lands." Yesha Council chairman Danny Dayan responds: "I am not familiar with that data."

Another place where the data reveals illegal construction is Elon Moreh, one of the most famous settlements in the territories. In June 1979, several residents of the village of Rujib, southeast of Nablus, petitioned the High Court, asking it to annul the appropriation order for 5,000 dunams of land in their possession, that had been designated for the construction of the settlement. In court, the government argued, as it did regularly at the time, that the construction of the settlement was required for military needs, and therefore the appropriation orders were legal. But in a statement on behalf of the petitioners, former chief of staff Haim Bar-Lev asserted that, "In my best professional judgment, Elon Moreh does not contribute to Israel's security."

The High Court, relying on this statement and the statements of the original core group of settlers of Elon Moreh, who also argued that this was not a temporary settlement established for security purposes, but a permanent settlement, instructed the IDF to evacuate the settlement and return the lands to their owners. The immediate consequence of the ruling was to find an alternative site for construction of the settlement, on lands previously defined as "state lands." Following this ruling, Israel stopped officially using military injunctions in the territories for the purpose of establishing new settlements.

The lands that were originally taken for the purpose of building Elon Moreh were returned to their Palestinian owners, but according to the database, also in the new site where the settlement was built, called Har Kabir, "most of the construction was done without approved, detailed plans, and some of the construction involved trespassing on private lands. As for the state lands in the settlement, a detailed plan, no. 107/1, was prepared and published on 16/7/99, but has yet to go into effect."

The Shomron regional council, which includes Elon Moreh, said in response: "All the neighborhoods in the settlement were planned, and some were also built, by the State of Israel through the Housing Ministry. The residents of Elon Moreh did not trespass at all and any allegation of this kind is also false. The State of Israel is tasked with promoting and approving the building plans in the settlement, as everywhere else in the country, and as for the plans that supposedly have yet to receive final validity, just like many other communities throughout Israel, where the processes continue for decades, this does not delay the plans, even if the planning is not complete or being done in tandem."

Beit El, another veteran settlement, was also, according to the database, established "on private lands seized for military purposes (In fact, the settlement was expanded on private lands, by means of trespassing in the northern section of the settlement) and on state lands that were appropriated during the Jordanian period (the Maoz Tzur neighborhood in the south of the settlement)."

According to the official data, construction in Beit El in the absence of approved plans includes the council office buildings and the "northern neighborhood (Beit El Bet) that was built for the most part on private lands. The neighborhood comprises widespread construction, public buildings and new ring roads (about 80 permanent buildings and trailers); the northeastern neighborhood (between Jabal Artis and the old part of the settlement) includes about 20 permanent residential buildings, public buildings (including a school building), 40 trailers and an industrial zone (10 industrial buildings). The entire compound is located on private land and has no plan attached."

Moshe Rosenbaum, head of the Beit El local council, responds: "Unfortunately, you are cooperating with the worst of Israel's enemies and causing tremendous damage to the whole country."

'One Giant Bluff'

Ron Nahman, mayor of Ariel, was re-elected to a sixth term in the last elections. Nahman is a long-time resident of the territories and runs a fascinating heterogeneous city. Between a visit to the trailer site where evacuees from Netzarim are housed and a stop at a shop that sells pork and other non-kosher products, mostly to the city's large Russian population, Nahman complains about the halting of construction in his city and about his battles with the Civil
Administration over every building permit.

Ariel College, Nahman's pride and joy, is also mentioned in the database: "The area upon which Ariel College was built was not regulated in terms of planning." It further explains that the institution sits on two separate plots and the new plan has not yet been discussed. Nahman confirms this, but says the planning issue was recently resolved.

When told that dozens of settlements include construction on private lands, he is not surprised. "That's possible," he says. The fact that in three-quarters of the settlements, there has been construction that deviates from the approved plans doesn't surprise him either. "All the complaints should be directed at the government, not at us," he says. "As for the small and communal settlements, they were planned by the Housing Ministry's Rural Building Administration. The larger communities are planned by the ministry's district offices. It's all the government. Sometimes the Housing Ministry is responsible for budgetary construction, which is construction out of the state budget. In the Build Your Own Home program, the state pays a share of the development costs and the rest is paid for by the individual. All of these things are one giant bluff. Am I the one who planned the settlements? It was Sharon, Peres, Rabin, Golda, Dayan."

The database provides information attesting to a failure to adhere to planning guidelines in the territories. For example, an attempt to determine the status of the land of the Argaman settlement in the Jordan Rift Valley found that "the community was apparently established on the basis of an appropriation order from 1968 that was not located." About Mevo Horon, the database says: "The settlement was built without a government decision on lands that are mostly private within a closed area in the Latrun enclave (Area Yod). There was an allocation
for the area to the WZO from 1995, which was issued as in a deviation from authority, apparently on the basis of a political directive." In the Tekoa settlement, trailers were leased to the IDF "and installed contrary to the area's designation according to a detailed plan? and some also deviate from the boundaries of the plan."

Most of the territories of the West Bank have not been annexed to Israel, and therefore regulations for the establishment and construction of communities there differ from those that apply within Israel proper. The Sasson report, which dealt with the illegal outposts, was based in part on data collected by Spiegel, and listed the criteria necessary for the establishment of a new settlement in the territories:

1. The Israeli government issued a decision to establish the settlement
2. The settlement has a defined jurisdictional area
3. The settlement has a detailed, approved outline plan
4. The settlement lies on state land or on land that was purchased by Israelis and registered under their name in the Land Registry.

According to the database, the state gave the World Zionist Organization (WZO) and/or the Construction and Housing Ministry authorization to plan and build on most of the territories upon which the settlements were constructed. These bodies allocated the land to those who eventually carried out the actual construction of the settlement: Sometimes it was the Settlement Division of the WZO and other times it was the Construction and Housing Ministry itself, sometimes through the Rural Building Administration. In several cases, settlements were built by Amana, the Gush Emunim settlement arm. Another body cited in the database as having received allocations and being responsible for construction in some of the settlements is Gush Emunim's Settler National Fund.

Talmud Torah

@Text: Regular schools and religious schools (Talmudei Torah) have also been built on Palestinian lands. According to the database, in the southern part of the Ateret settlement, "15 structures were built outside of state lands, which are used for the Kinor David yeshiva. There are also new ring roads and a special security area that is illegal." Kinor David is the name of a "yeshiva high school with a musical framework." The sign at the entrance says the yeshiva was built by the Amana settlement movement, the Mateh Binyamin local council and the
WZO settlement division.

The data regarding Michmash also make it very clear that part of the settlement was built on "private lands via trespassing." For example, "In the center of the settlement (near the main entrance) is a trailer neighborhood that serves as a Talmud Torah and other buildings (30 trailers) on private land."

On a winter's afternoon, a bunch of young children were playing there, one of them wearing a shirt printed with the words "We won't forget and we won't
forgive." There were no teachers in sight. A young woman in slacks, taking her baby to the doctor, stopped for a moment to chat. She moved here from Ashkelon because her husband's parents are among the settlement's founders. When her son is old enough for preschool, she won't send him to the Talmud Torah. Not because it sits on private land, but just because that's not the type of education she wants for him. "I don't think there's been construction on private land here," she said. "I don't think there ought to be, either."

In the Psagot settlement, where there has also been a lot of construction on private land, it's easy to discern the terracing style typical of Palestinian agriculture in the region. According to the database, in Psagot there are "agricultural structures (a winery and storehouses) to the east of the settlement, close to the grapevines cultivated by the settlement by trespassing." During a visit here, the winery was abandoned. Its owner, Yaakov Berg, acquired land from the Israel Lands Administration near the Migron outpost and a new winery and regional visitors' center is currently under construction there.

"The vineyards are located in Psagot," says Berg, who is busy with the preparations for the new site. From the unfinished observation deck one can see an enormous quarry in the mountains across the way. "If I built a bathroom here without permission from the Civil Administration, within 15 minutes, a helicopter would be here and I'd be told that it was prohibited," Berg complains. "And right here there's an illegal Palestinian quarry that continues to operate."

The Politicians Did It

Kobi Bleich, spokesperson for the Ministry of Construction and Housing: "The ministry participates in subsidizing the development costs of settlements in Priority Area A, in accordance with decisions of the Israeli government. Development works are carried out by the regional councils, and only after the ministry has ascertained that the new neighborhood is located within an approved city plan. This applies throughout Israel as well as in the areas over the Green Line. Let me emphasize that the ministry's employees are charged with implementing the policies of the Israeli government. All of the actions in the past were
done solely in keeping with the decisions of the political echelon."

Danny Poleg, spokesperson for the Judea and Samaria district of the Israel Police: "The issue of the construction of police facilities is the responsibility of the Ministry of Internal Security, so any questions should be addressed to them."

The Internal Security Ministry spokesman responds: "And for construction by the police is allocated by the Israel Lands Administration in coordination with the Internal Security Ministry. There is no police station in Modi'in Ilit, but a rapid response post for the local residents on land allocated by the local authority. The land in Givat Ze'ev was allocated by the local council and the police station is located within the municipality. The road to the police headquarters was built by the Housing and Construction ministry and is maintained by the local council."

Avi Roeh, head of the Mateh Binyamin regional council (whose jurisdiction includes the settlements of Ofra, Kochav Yaakov, Ateret, Ma'aleh Michmash and Psagot): "The Mateh Binyamin regional council, like the neighboring councils in Judea and Samaria, is coping with political decisions regarding the manner of the the communities' expansion. However, this does not remove the need for proper planning procedures in order to expand the settlements in an orderly manner and in accordance with the law."

For its response, the WZO sent a thick booklet, a copy of which was previously sent to attorney Talia Sasson in response to her report. "Settlement in Judea and Samaria, as in Israel, has been accompanied by the preparation of regional master plans," says the booklet. "Steering committees from various government ministries, the Civil Administration and the municipal authorities were involved in the preparation of these plans? The (settlement) department worked solely on lands that were given to it by contract from the authorities in the Civil Administration and all the lands that were allocated to it by contract were properly

The Civil Administration, which was first asked for a response regarding the database more than a month ago, has yet to reply

Click here to view the secret Defense Ministry database on illegal construction in the territories. It should be noted that the information is given in Hebrew

Can Israel Last?

No Happy Ending

By Fred Reed
January 30, 2009
Courtesy Of Lew Rockwell
The practical question regarding Israel’s recent invasion of Gaza is not “Who is right?” but “Can Israel last?”

As I write, Israel is using a military designed to fight hostile countries, to fight a hostile population. In the modern world, this has seldom worked. To defeat a country you destroy its military and capture its territory. But Gaza has little military to destroy, no tanks or aircraft, and Israel already owns its territory. The IDF can invade but, afterward, the population will still be there, and still be hostile. Stabbing jello doesn’t buy you much.

Israel remains a small state in a region that intensely doesn’t want it. The rights and wrongs change nothing. Again and again, Israel lashes out, lashes out, against enemies that can be defeated but never decisively. And so the bombs fall on Gaza, on Syria, on Beirut, perhaps on Iran. Each war guarantees the next: 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, 2006, 2009, world without end.

Israel today is not the country once dreamed, in which Heidelberg professors escaped from Europe would work the soil with their hands on kibbutzim and play chess and the violin at night. It looks more like what the professors fled. Brutal conflicts breed brutal people. Atrocities engender counter-atrocities, extremists come to the fore, and military solutions seem the only solutions.

Where is this going? How long can it continue? Another fifty years? A hundred? Say I, either the country finds peace with its neighbors or it goes the way of the Crusader Kingdom. We can stipulate that the Israelis are the world’s best people, or the worst. It doesn’t matter. You can die in the right as easily as in the wrong.

The Israelis appear to be trapping themselves in their own policies. They continue their annexation of the West Bank. The settlements are now so numerous and so populous that dismantling them is probably politically impossible for any Israeli government, which rules out a two-state solution. To control a large hostile population, you need harsh methods, which keep the population hostile. Arabs outbreed the Israelis, so that a proportionately declining number of Israelis rule a slowly rising tide of Arabs. Think: South Africa. How is this going to work? For how long?

Israel also has a large internal minority of Arabs. These also outbreed the Jews. If this continues and the internal Arabs can vote, Israel will one day become an Islamic state. Sooner or later, the question will be: Democratic, or Jewish?

America killed its indigenous population, the Spanish married theirs, but Israel can do neither. Now what?

Since Israelis do not yearn to get in touch with their inner Moslem, the choices will be disenfranchisement or ethnic cleansing. Disenfranchisement would, again, leave a diminishing proportion of Jews ruling more and more Moslems. Think: Alabama in 1930.

Disenfranchisement apparently is starting. Israel just banned its Arab parties from voting in the upcoming elections, and then the courts unbanned them.

Ethnic cleansing? Rounding up a large minority and expelling it would require horrendous brutality. This is the least moral but perhaps most practical solution. It is barely possible that Congress would balk but, I suspect, not until it was too late to matter. If Israel nuked Chicago, Congress would approve.

The long-term indicators point downward. Israel’s military position is not as good as one might think. It has, or had when I last covered such things, a splendid air force, a good militia army, nuclear weapons, and inferior enemies. None of these is particularly useful against angry populations.

It seems probable that Islamic countries will eventually have nuclear weapons. The danger is not that a Moslem country would spontaneously launch them against Israel, as this would constitute national suicide. But you don’t have to use nuclear weapons for them to be effective.

Today, the Bomb is Israel’s trump card. If, say, Syria attacked and (improbably) began to win, its cities would turn to green glass, and Damascus knows it. Thus Israel is in exactly zero danger of conventional defeat. But if Arab countries had nuclear weapons, the trump card would lose its value. You have to be very careful about bombing countries that can vaporize your cities.

Further, Israel depends entirely on a foreign country, namely America, for its survival. The US provides the weaponry, the financial aid, the vetoes in the UN, and the last-resort military support that comes when Israel is in trouble (1973, for example). Without this support, Israel could not last. Small countries without oil cannot support massive militaries.

If I were an Israeli, I would be uneasy about this. American support depends crucially, if not entirely, on the Israeli lobbies. Should these falter, so will Israel. It is not that the US seethes with repressed anti-Semitism awaiting its chance. It doesn’t. But Americans don’t much care about the outside world, know little of history and less of geography. Congress is loyal only to itself.

Today one reads of the recent overwhelming vote in Congress in support of Israel, but the number is highly artificial. The rub is that today is today, but there is always tomorrow. Congress supports whoever pays it or intimidates it, and today the Lobby can exact a heavy price for opposition. If the winds blow another way, Congress will sway in another direction. What might constitute a sufficient wind? I don’t know. I note that Israel has no oil, its enemies do, and world demand is growing fast. Think: Taiwan.

Further, I doubt that public support for Israel is nearly as strong as we are told it is. Among conservatives, no small group, there is considerable mild hostility to Jews and a far stronger dislike of Israel. I’m not sure how serious the antagonism is. To be annoyed is one thing, but to want to see the country fall with the nearly assured hideous results is another. But people seldom think that far. Many, if they could, would shrug and say, “Whatever. It’s their problem.” A national shrug would end Israel.

Methinks a faint smell of doom hangs over Tel Aviv. American power appears to be on the decline, the outcome of its Islamic wars in doubt, its control over its Moslem client states uncertain. Nothing Israel is likely to do looks workable in the long run. The demographics are terrible, regional Arab hostility assured, the military balance only able to deteriorate, the whole enterprise hanging by a lobby. I remember thinking about the Soviet Union, “This can’t last.” I couldn’t see how it could stop lasting either. It did stop. Unless something changes, and I don’t have any bright ideas, I don’t see a happy ending.
Fred Reed is author of Nekkid in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well and the just-published A Brass Pole in Bangkok: A Thing I Aspire to Be. Visit his blog.

Copyright © 2009 Fred Reed

Hamas Must Be Brought Into Peace Process

Hamas Must Be Brought Into Peace Process, Says Tony Blair

By Philip Webster, Political Editor
January 31, 2009
Courtesy Of The Times Online
Hamas must somehow be brought into the Middle East peace process because the policy of isolating Gaza in the quest for a settlement will not work, Tony Blair has told The Times.

The former prime minister implicitly criticises the strategy followed by the Bush Administration and Israel of focusing all peace and reconstruction efforts on the West Bank. “It was half of what we needed,” he said.
In an interview with Ginny Dougary in the Saturday Magazine, Mr Blair says that the strategy of
“pushing Gaza aside” and trying to create a Palestinian state on the West Bank “was never going to work and will never work”. He hints in references to how peace was eventually achieved in Northern Ireland that the time may be approaching to talk to Hamas ... “My basic predisposition is that in a situation like this you talk to everybody.”
He suggests that the policy was behind last month's ferocious reopening of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in Gaza that were believed to have left more than 1,000 people dead.

Mr Blair, speaking after talks with the new US envoy George Mitchell, says that Gaza will not be pushed aside because there are 1.25 million people there who want a Palestinian state.

Mr Blair, the Middle East envoy for the Quartet group of the US, UN, Russia and the European Union, clearly believes that the Obama Administration is committed to a fresh effort to secure peace and appears to have been waiting for the change of government to make his strongest criticism so far of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Asked if he was surprised by the devastating events over Christmas, when Israel responded to Hamas rocket attacks by bombing targets in Gaza, he says that he was not. “I have been saying for some time that what was needed was a completely different strategy,” he said.
“Yes, we do need to show through the change we are making on the West Bank that the Palestinian state could be a reality. The trouble is that if you simply try to push Gaza to one side then eventually what happens is the situation becomes so serious that it erupts and you deliver into the hands of the mass the power to erupt at any point in time.”
Thought to be privately critical of the failure of the former US administration to give a full commitment to the peace process, Mr Blair says that the appointment of Mr Mitchell, with whom he worked on the Northern Ireland peace process, indicated a “real commitment” by America.

Hinting at a change of tack he says that with Mr Mitchell as a full-time envoy there will be a better chance of a strategy in Gaza “that offers people the possiblity of rejoining the West Bank on the right terms”.

Mr Blair also received a warm endorsement yesterday for his Middle East work from Bill Clinton, the former US President. He says that Mr Blair and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, “will work well together” towards achieving a lasting pieace.

Mr Clinton says of Mr Blair: “He has done really important work as Middle East envoy under particularly difficult circumstances. I have always admired Tony's willingness to wade into troubled waters and make tough decisions, as he did in helping to end 30 years of sectarian violence and broker a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. He is demonstrating that same dedication and intensity to promoting economic opportunity and political resolution in the Middle East, knowing from experience that the concrete benefits can play a crucial role in making a just and lasting peace possible. As Hillary begins her work as US Secretary of State, I know she and Tony will work well together toward that end.”

Asked whether he had changed his view about talking to Hamas since the Palestinian elections, Mr Blair replies that his
“basic predisposition is that in a situation like this you talk to everybody”.
However, he repeated the Quartet position that there can be no talks, official or unofficial, with Hamas until they renounce violence and recognise Israel.

Mr Blair then says that there is a distinction between the difficulty of negotiating with Hamas as part of a peace process if they would not accept one of the states in the two-state solution, and “talking to Hamas as the de facto power in Gaza”.
He declines to answer whether he has talked to Hamas unofficially, although his staff later insists that he has not, and that all contacts have been via Egyptian diplomats. Under intense questioning later he replies: “I do think it is important that we find a way of bringing Hamas into this process, but it can only be done if Hamas are prepared to do it on the right terms.”
Pressed to go further Mr Blair says that he has to be careful how he expresses things because “if you do this in the wrong way it can destabilise the very people in Palestine who have been working all through for the moderate cause”.
He added: “We do have to find a way of making sure that the choice is put before Hamas and the people of Gaza in a clear, understandable, unambiguous way, for them to choose their future. You have to find a way of communicating that choice to them in their terms. Now exactly what way you choose at the moment, that is an open question.”
Diplomats will point out that Mr Blair fully signed up to the Annapolis accord which envisaged the creation of a Palestinain state by the end of 2008 whether Gaza was part of it or not. Even though sceptics said that the goal was unrealistic, Mr Blair insisted that a deal could be done by the end of last year.

My Terror As A Human Shield

My Terror As A Human Shield: The story Of Majdi Abed Rabbo

Majdi Abed Raboh's house is in ruins following Israeli attacks

Majdi Abed Raboh's house is in ruins following Israeli attacks

As battle raged in Gaza, Israeli soldiers forced Majdi Abed Rabbo to risk his life as a go-between in the hunt for three Hamas fighters. This is his story...
By Donald Macintyre in Jabalya, Gaza
Friday, 30 January 2009
Courtesy Of The Independent

After yet another fierce, 45-minute gun battle, Majdi Abed Rabbo was ordered once again to negotiate his perilous way across the already badly-damaged roof of his house, through the jagged gap in the wall and slowly down the stairs towards the first-floor apartment in the rubble-strewn house next door. Not knowing if the men were dead or alive, he shouted for the second time that day: "I'm Majdi. Don't be afraid."

All three men – with Kalashnikov AK-47 rifles, wearing camouflage and headbands bearing the insignia of the Izzedine el Qassam brigades – were still alive, though one was badly injured and persuaded Mr Abed Rabbo to tighten the improvised bandage round his right arm. The youngest – perhaps 21 – was taking cover behind fallen masonry from where he could see the Israeli troops who had sent the visitor. Nervously, Mr Abed Rabbo told them: "They sent me back so I can take your weapons. They told me you are dead." It was the youngest who replied defiantly: "Tell the officer, 'If you're a man come up here'."

When the soldiers had arrived at about 10am, Mr Abed Rabbo, 40, had no inkling that over the next 24 hours he would make four heart-stopping trips, shuttling across increasingly dangerous terrain between the Israeli forces and the three besieged but determined Hamas militants who had become his unwelcome next-door neighbours. He would recall every detail of an episode which, in the telling, resembles the more melodramatic kind of war movie, but which was all too real for a man who by the end had lost his house and thought (wrongly) that his wife and children were dead. He had also witnessed at too close quarters the last stand of the men from the Qassam brigades in the face of relentless Israeli ground attacks and Apache helicopter fire.

Civilians were not killed in this episode, as they were in all too many during Operation Cast Lead. Instead, it offers a rare and detailed glimpse of an actual engagement between the Israeli military and Hamas fighters. And while it helps to reinforce Israel's contention that Hamas operates in built-up civilian areas, it also suggests that its own commanders were prepared to use civilians as human shields to protect Israeli troops.

It is one man's version of what happened, of course. But as the soldiers would find out when they checked later, Mr Abed Rabbo is a former member of the Fatah-dominated intelligence, still being paid by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. He believes the Hamas gunmen had no right to be in the house next door. But he also strongly objects to the use made of him by the Israeli military. "I could have been killed," he explained.

The soldiers arrived on 5 January, the second day of their ground offensive, with a Palestinian he knew only by his family name of Daher. After telling him to remove his trousers and roll up his shirt to establish he had no weapons, the soldiers told him to bring out his wife, Wijdan, 39, and family. Then, with Mr Abed Rabbo escorted at gunpoint by three soldiers and his family still in the yard, the troops searched his house up to the roof. The Arabic-speaking soldier assigned to Mr Abed Rabbo then asked him about the house next door. He told them he thought there was no one in the property. Then, he said, one of the soldiers brought a sledgehammer with which Mr Abed Rabbo was told to smash a hole in the wall between the two roofs, each opening to the apartments below.

An officer arrived and ordered a search of the house next door. The officer went first, stepping cautiously sideways down the stairs with his M16 rifle pointing downwards, then Mr Abed Rabbo with the soldiers and their guns pointed at his back. Suddenly, the officer turned and started screaming at his men. "We went back upstairs. The soldiers were pulling me and I fell twice," Mr Abed Rabbo said. "We went back to the roof of my house." It became apparent what the officer had glimpsed when suddenly the soldiers, by now on high alert and outside the yard of Mr Abed Rabbo's house, came under fire. He was taken into a mosque, which was already full of soldiers, across the road, then handcuffed and told to sit. After a 15-minute silence, the Hamas militants opened fire again. "The soldiers took position at the windows of the mosque and started shooting back. I was screaming at the soldier who spoke Arabic, 'My wife and children are in danger'." Mr Abed Rabbo said he was then told "shut up or I'll shoot you". "I collapsed and started to cry," he added. "I felt my family was dead."

He remained in custody for the next two days, sometimes handcuffed, staying with the Israeli unit as it moved through the area, often amid heavy exchanges of fire. Once, he was told to open the doors of two cars at another house to check them, before summoning the female occupants of the house downstairs. Then, in the afternoon, he was ordered to visit the damaged building where the armed Hamas men were. "I said I will not go. Maybe they will shoot me. I have a wife. I have kids," he recalled. But, he added, the Israeli officer told him he had "fired 10 rockets and killed them". He was then told to go into the house and bring out the weapons, after being hit with a rifle butt and given a kicking to reinforce the order. "I went to my house and saw my family was not there. I looked to see if there was any blood but there was nothing. It was empty. As I went down the stairs I was calling 'I'm Majdi' so they would not think I was Israeli and shoot me." Approaching the apartment door, he saw one gunman, his AK-47 pointed out, standing guard in the hall with two others behind him. Staying at the doorway, he told them the Israelis believed they had been killed. "They asked me where the army was and I said, 'They're everywhere'," he added. "They asked me to leave."

The soldiers, concealed behind the wall of a house 100 metres away, told him to strip naked to show he had not concealed any weapons as he left the house. Later, he was asked to make a third trip – his second journey alone – to the gunmen's redoubt. Mr Abed Rabbo says the Israeli officer cursed and hit him when he heard his report. Shortly afterwards, an Apache helicopter fired three missiles which he says "destroyed" the house containing the gunmen.

Night had fallen when he set out yet again under orders from the troops, but Mr Abed Rabbo persuaded them that the route through the rubble on his roof was impassable in the dark. "I kept asking about my family and they kept saying 'they're OK, they're OK'." The gunmen, incredibly still alive, opened fire yet again.

Mr Abed Rabbo was then taken to another house and told to stay there, handcuffed, cold and "worried about my family, my house". The Israeli soldiers came to fetch him again at about 6.30am, assuring him "we killed them last night" and telling him to go and see. "I said, 'How can I go? My rooftop is destroyed. It is very dangerous'," Mr Abed Rabbo explained. But given no choice, he managed to reach the stairs and descending cautiously, calling out as he had done twice before. "I saw everything was destroyed. They were all injured but the one who had been bleeding was worst. He was holding his finger up and saying, 'There is no God but Allah'. One of them was lying under rubble but still alive. The one in better condition said there was no way they would surrender, they would become martyrs. One gave me his name and told me to give a message to his family."

Mr Abed Rabbo said the Israelis started shooting while he was there and he ran away. "I went back to the Army. I lied to them. I said, 'They said if I went back they would kill me'."

The Israeli troops now used a megaphone to tell the gunmen in Arabic: "You have families. Come out and we will take you to hospital and take care of you. [The] district is full of special forces. All the Hamas leaders are hiding underground."

According to Mr Abed Rabbo: "While they were talking like this the [Hamas men] opened fire again, the officer pushed me against a wall and said, 'You've been lying to me. There are more than three in there'."

The soldiers then ordered two other residents to take cameras into the house to photograph it and the Hamas fighters. Next, the army sent in a dog which returned injured and died soon afterwards. The gunmen were then told: "You have 15 minutes to come out with no clothes on and with your hands up. If you don't, we will bring the house down on you."

After 15 minutes, Mr Abed Rabbo said, a bulldozer moved into the area between the houses and the mosque, destroying large parts of his house before systematically demolishing the one the gunmen were hiding in. It was now Tuesday afternoon.

Before he was taken away, Mr Abed Rabbo had a clear view of his wrecked house, the pulverised property next door, and the bodies of the three Hamas gunmen lying in the rubble.

U.S. Call For Academic & Cultural Boycott Of Israel

For First Time, U.S. Professors Call For Academic and Cultural Boycott Of Israel

By Raphael Ahren
Last update - 00:45 01/01/2009
Courtesy Of Haaretz NewsPaper
In the wake of Operation Cast Lead, a group of American university professors has for the first time launched a national campaign calling for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

While Israeli academics have grown used to such news from Great Britain, where anti-Israel groups several times attempted to establish academic boycotts, the formation of the United States movement marks the first time that a national academic boycott movement has come out of America. Israeli professors are not sure yet how big of an impact the one-week-old movement will have, but started discussing the significance of and possible counteractions against the campaign.

"As educators of conscience, we have been unable to stand by and watch in silence Israel's indiscriminate assault on the Gaza Strip and its educational institutions," the U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel stated in its inaugural press release last Thursday. Speaking in its mission statement of the "censorship and silencing of the Palestine question in U.S. universities, as well as U.S. society at large," the group follows the usual pattern of such boycotts, calling for "non-violent punitive measures" against Israel, such as the implementation of divestment initiatives, "similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era."

The campaign was founded by a group of 15 academics, mostly from California, but is, "currently expanding to create a network that embraces the United States as a whole," according to David Lloyd, a professor of English at the University of Southern California who responded on behalf of the group to a Haaretz query. "The initiative was in the first place impelled by Israel's latest brutal assault on Gaza and by our determination to say enough is enough."

"The response has been remarkable given the extraordinary hold that lobbying organizations like AIPAC exert over U.S. politics and over the U.S. media, and in particular given the campaign of intimidation that has been leveled at academics who dare to criticize Israel's policies," Lloyd wrote in an e-mail to Haaretz Monday. "Within a short weekend since the posting of the press release, more than 80 academics from all over the country have endorsed the action and the numbers continue to grow."

Asked if the group would accept the endorsement of Hamas supporters, Lloyd said, "We have no a priori policy with regard to the membership or affiliation of supporters of the boycott so long as they are in accord with the main aims stated in the press release."

He argued that, "on several occasions Hamas has sought direct negotiations with Israel, a pursuit that constitutes de facto recognition of Israel, and has openly discussed abandoning its call for the destruction of the state of Israel conditional on reciprocal guarantees from Israel."

Lloyd wrote that to the best of his knowledge, all supporters of the anti-Israel boycott were also opposed to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Asked if logic wouldn't dictate that he and his colleagues boycott themselves, he responded, "Self-boycott is a difficult concept to realize. But speaking for myself, I would have supported and honored such a boycott had it been proposed by my colleagues overseas."

Durban Bred, British Approved

The idea of an academic boycott against Israel originated in 2001 at the "World Conference Against Racism" in Durban, South Africa. A first attempt to implement a boycott was undertaken by British professors in the wake of Israel's 2002 Operation Defensive Shield and the Jenin massacre claim. Since then, British academics tried several times to establish boycotts, with the latest such effort failing because legal advisers a few months ago pointed out that academic boycotts are discriminatory and thus illegal. Yet, analysts say that another British boycott campaign is to be expected in the follow up of Cast Lead.

In the U.S., on the other hand, only a few professors have supported the idea of an academic boycott. In 2006, the American Association of University Professors declared its objection to the British boycott, saying members, "especially oppose selective academic boycotts that entail an ideological litmus test."

In 2007, nearly 300 university presidents across the United States signed a statement denouncing the boycott, under the motto "Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too!"

First indications that the climate might change in light of the Gaza operation could be seen earlier this month when the Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario proposed, "Israeli academics be barred from speaking, teaching or conducting research at the province's universities unless they condemn Israel's actions in Gaza," as the Inside Higher Ed Web site reported.

Not a mass movement

Israeli academics are hesitant to sound the alarm bells in light of the recent development. "One has to look at this with some degree of caution," said Gerald Steinberg, the American-educated chair of Bar Ilan University's political studies department. "Yes, the organization's declarations are coming from the United States, but this is not at all yet a mass movement."

Jonathan Rynhold, who also teaches political science at Bar Ilan, explained that boycott movements are rare in America, "because the U.S. has much stronger political culture and laws about freedom of speech than the UK. In America, there is stronger sense that one should be able to think and say whatever one wants."

"What they're trying to do," Rynhold continued in his analysis of anti-Israel boycotts, "is blurring the distinction between criticism of Israeli policies and criticism of Israel's existence. Their game is to move the liberals, who accept Israel's right to exist and don't think Israel is wrong every time but criticize Israeli policies as and when they think it's right, and turn them into radical left-wing critics [who believe] Israel is racist in its core and everything it does is wrong."

Rynhold and Steinberg said that the new U.S. campaign is a clone of its British predecessors. The two professors, who were both born in England, speak out of experience. When the original boycott movement arose - initially attacking only Bar Ilan and Haifa University - they were among the co-founders of the International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom, which was fighting the boycott but ultimately folded for lack of funding. Although none of the previous boycott efforts were successful, Steinberg is concerned about every new round. While he said that it's too early to predict the impact of the U.S. boycott, he sharply criticized the Israeli government and local universities for their handling of the previous boycott.

"The government and the universities have completely neglected not just the academic boycott but in general this kind of soft war," he said. "The military prepared to go into Gaza for two and half years. But in terms of the boycott movement, both the ministry of education and the foreign ministry - which had pledged support for the existing anti-boycott frameworks - completely failed to prepare their own portfolios for this."

"The battle is just beginning now," Steinberg added. "The main response will have to come from American academics who find this kind of bias to be unacceptable and will fight it. But for those of us in Israel who are interested in helping to be a catalyst in that process, the funding has been completely cut off. There was the naive view that having won a few battles in Britain meant the war had been won." Yet, giving the boycotters too much attention might be counterproductive, Steinberg emphasized.

Effective counterattacks need to be prepared, he said, "but at the same time we must not overreact and provide stimulation and amplification to this process - that is precisely what they're seeking."

Other pro-Israel advocates are less hesitant and soft-spoken in their assessment of the U.S. boycott.

"The usual anti-Israel suspects in U.S. universities may sign on to the petition, but it won't amount to much," predicted Mitchell Bard, executive director at the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, which seeks to strengthen the pro-Israel camp at American colleges. "If it becomes a widespread effort, I'm sure some effort will be given to countering it, but it is out of touch with the mood in the country," he said. "Israel has near record high support, [U.S. President Barack] Obama has just taken office with a positive message and the focus will be on moving the peace process forward, not sideshows by anti-Semites and cranks among American pseudo-academics."

Spain To Prevent War Crimes Probes Against Israel

Spanish FM: We'll Act To Prevent War Crimes Probes Against Israel

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent,
Haarez Service and The Associated Press
Last update - 00:17 01/01/2009
Courtesy Of Haaretz NewsPaper

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos informed Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Friday of Spain's plan to amend legislation that granted a Spanish judge the authority to launch a much-publicized war crimes investigation against senior Israeli officials.

Judge Fernando Andreu launched an investigation Thursday into seven current or former Israeli officials over a 2002 bombing in Gaza that killed a top Hamas militant, Salah Shehadeh, and 14 other people, including nine children.

The judge acted under a doctrine that allows prosecution in Spain, and other European countries, to reach far beyond national borders in cases of torture or war crimes. The universal jurisdiction ruling sparked outrage in Israel and elsewhere.

Spanish state television TVE quoted government sources as saying the possibility of a legal "adjustment or modification" would not be retroactive and would not affect the case before the courts.
"I just heard from the Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos, that Spain has decided to change its legislation in connection with universal jurisdiction and this can prevent the abuse of the Spanish legal system," Livni told the Associated Press. "I think this is very important news and I hope that other states in Europe will do the same."

"Legal systems around the world have been exploited by cynics whose sole purpose is to hurt Israel," Livni went on to say. "It's good that Spain decided to put an end to this phenomenon."
One of the Israelis the court aimed to investigate on Friday called the charges propaganda. Former military chief of staff Moshe Yaalon told Army Radio that he was not worried about standing trial. Yaalon, now a candidate for parliament for the Likud Party, said the goal of the Spanish court decision was "to delegitimize Israel and present us as war criminals."

National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, another Israeli official targeted in the investigation, called the Spanish court decision "ludicrous."
"Terror organizations use the courts of the free world and the mechanisms of democratic nations to file lawsuits against a country that operates against terror," Ben-Eliezer, the defense minister at the time of the 2002 bombing, said in a statement. "I do not regret my decision. Salah Shehadeh was a Hamas activist, an arch-murderer whose hands were stained with the blood of about 100 Israelis and who carried out the most heinous attacks against our citizens."

Current Defense Minister Ehud Barak also issued a statement in which he said:
"Whoever calls the killing of a terrorist a 'crime against humanity' is living in an upside down world."

Barak added that "all senior officials in the defense establishment, current and erstwhile, have acted appropriately on behalf of Israel and from a commitment to defend its citizens."
Israel's Justice Ministry announced Friday that it had transferred material regarding the case to Spanish authorities. It criticized the launching of the case and expressed hope it would be closed soon.
"There is no doubt that this is a cynical political attempt by anti-Israel elements to abuse the Spanish court system and attack Israel," the ministry said in a statement. "The State of Israel is determined to act against these types of lawsuits in Spain and in other countries with legal and diplomatic means."
The Justice Ministry on Thursday sent the Israeli Embassy in Madrid a large amount of documents which included legal rulings and Supreme Court decisions dealing with the targeted killing of Shehadeh.

Israeli Ambassador to Spain Rafi Shotz will on Friday give the material to the Spanish judge in order to help bring a cancellation of the ruling.

Andreu announced the probe in a writ issued Thursday.

The people named in the suit include Dan Halutz, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff and Israel Air Force commander at the time, as well as Ben-Eliezer and Yaalon.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned the decision to launch the probe.
"It's absurd; Israel is fighting against war criminals and they are charging us with crimes?" said Netanyahu, speaking on Army Radio.

He added:
"There is nothing more ridiculous and absurd than them accusing us, a democracy legitimately protecting itself against terrorists and war criminals, of these crimes; it is absurd and makes a mockery out of international law."
Meanwhile, Israel is preparing for a wave of lawsuits by pro-Palestinian organizations overseas against Israelis involved in the latest Gaza fighting, claiming they were responsible for war crimes due to the harsh results stemming from the IDF's actions against Palestinian civilians and their property.

Senior Israeli ministers have expressed serious fears following the war about the possibility that Israel will be pressed to agree to an international investigation of the losses among non-combatants during Operation Cast Lead; or alternately, that Israelis will be faced with personal suits, such as happened to Israeli officers who were accused of war crimes in Britain for their actions during the second intifada.

Related Articles:

  • Israel fears wave of war crimes lawsuits over Gaza offensive
  • Jurists tell Barak: Don't shell Gaza population centers
  • Arabs Need 2 Die

    Report: IDF Probing Racist Graffiti Left By Soldiers In Gaza
    By Haaretz Service Last update - 16:48 28/01/2009 Courtesy Of Haaretz NewsPaper

    The Israel Defense Forces is investigating incidents of racist graffiti scrawled by its soldiers on Palestinian property the Gaza Strip, foreign media outlets say.
    A series of slogans in both Hebrew and English were left on a house in the Gaza City neighborhood of Zeytun, including "Arabs need 2 die," "Make war not peace", and "1 is down, 999,999 to go," The Guardian newspaper reported.

    Troops also wrote "Arabs 1948-2009" on the image of a gravestone, the British daily said.
    According to the media outlets, some of the graffiti was sprayed on the walls of a house belonging to the Samouni family, which lost 30 of its members during the IDF's three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip.

    Sky News quoted IDF spokesperson Major Avital Leibovich as saying the incidents in Zeytun are under investigation.

    "This is not the way soldiers are educated and trained. It is against our moral values. They will be investigated and those responsible will be punished," she was quoted as saying.

    Doctors Spooked By Israel's Mystery Weapon

    By David Hambling Email
    January 28, 2009 | 3:46:12 PM

    Categories: Ammo and Munitions, Sabras, War Update
    Courtesy Of Wired Blog NetWork

    DimeCritics continue to press the case that Israel committed "war crimes" in its war with Hamas, because of the civilian casualties in Gaza. Ironically, many of these wounds may have been caused by a weapon designed to reduce collateral damage. Not that the Israelis admit they have the thing.

    We first reported on Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) munitions in 2006. The weapons originated as an offshoot of a bunker-busting program, when it was found that adding tungsten powder to explosives seemed to increase the blast effect over a small area. The powder was acting as micro-shrapnel which only carries for a few feet (compared to hundreds of feet for larger fragments), so the result was dubbed the "focused lethality munition" (FLM) which does massive damage in a small area and nothing outside.

    There are a large number of reports from Gaza that suggest this type of weapon has been used, and, unfortunately, caused civilian deaths. There are reports and pictures of victims peppered with small particles, and descriptions which are consistent with very localized blast.

    During Noah's trip to Israel, he saw drone footage of an extremely small weapon hitting a car. When it struck — on a road, cutting through a Gaza cemetery — the car didn't go up in a ball of flames. Its roof caved in, with a puff of smoke. The back doors were blown out; the front doors stayed shut.

    Erik Fosse, a Norwegian doctor working in Gaza says that the weapon "causes the tissue to be torn from the flesh. It looks very different [from a shrapnel injury]. I have seen and treated a lot of different injuries for the last 30 years in different war zones, and this looks completely different."

    According to Fosse and his colleague Mads Gilbert, the weapon typically amputates or tears apart lower limbs and patients often do not survive. It's no more illegal than normal blast-and-shrapnel weapons, but it is a mystery.

    The only known focused-lethality munition is a version of the GBU-40 Small Diameter Bomb. The weapon has been sold to Israel; Danger Room reported last month that the Israeli Defense Forces were using it in Gaza. But there are two problems. First, the Israelis seem to have bought the original version, not the FLM. And secondly, as Ares reported, Boeing has stated that it has not made any deliveries of the weapon to Tel Aviv, yet.

    Ares speculated that the IDF is using weapons supplied by the U.S. Air Force; a spokesman told the site that "we cannot release sensitive information on foreign military sales."

    However, Fosse told Britain's Independent newspaper, "all the patients I saw had been hit by bombs fired from unmanned drones. The bomb hit the ground near them and exploded."

    It's just possible that Israel is dropping Small Diameter Bombs from drones, but far more likely that this is a small missile with a DIME warhead. Channel 4 News recently aired footage of Human Rights Watch's Marc Garlasco investigating the site of a number of DIME strikes in Gaza. The damage was very localized — confined to one room in one case — suggesting a much smaller weapon.

    It is highly likely that Israel has developed its own version of DIME. In the United States, DIME is also being used for active defense systems to shoot down rocket-propelled grenades and other incoming threats. Because it does not throw shrapnel to any distance, it's much safer than traditional warheads. The Israeli "Iron Fist" interceptor unveiled in 2006 is a similar concept, with small radar-guided projectiles. "Iron Fist uses only the blast effect to defeat the threat, crushing the soft components of a shaped charge or deflecting and destabilizing the missile or kinetic rod in their flight," according to Defense Update. This suggests DIME technology.

    One of the often-quoted concerns about DIME — which I mentioned two years back — is the potential for tungsten particles to cause cancer. But it's quite possible that the Israeli version is not based on tungsten, and we will not know until there is chemical analysis. (Just a guess, but something called Iron Fist might well use iron or steel particles).

    But why is such a precise weapon, intended to avoid the risk of collateral damage, causing civilian casualties at all? It takes tactics and procedures, as well as technology. I can only quote Marc Garlasco's original comment to me in 2006:

    "It is unfortunate that these weapons are being developed specifically for use in densely populated areas which may negate the intended effect."

    Photo: U.S. Air Force

    Friday, January 30, 2009

    The Democrats On Israel

    A Brief Oral History

    January 22, 2009
    Courtesy Of CounterPunch

    "Israel continues to show admirable restraint in dealing with her hostile neighbors, even in the face of increasing rocket attacks, kidnappings, and threats to her people. I support her actions in defense of her people, and I pray for a swift and just conclusion to the fighting."

    -- Jerrold Nadler, DEMOCRAT, July 13, 2006.

    "There are no quick solutions for the difficulties we face today, but we know that we have to stand with democracies and free peoples against the threat of nihilism and extremism. That is why we stand with Israel because it is a beacon of democracy in the region; that is why we stand with Israel because its very existence is a defiant affront to anti-Semitism; that is why we stand with Israel because in defeating terror because Israel's cause is our cause. And that is why we stand with Israel because of our shared values and our shared belief in the dignity of men and women and the right to live without fear or oppression."

    -- Hillary Clinton, DEMOCRAT, February 1, 2007.

    "Those who threaten Israel threaten us; Israel has always faced these threats on the frontlines and I will bring to the White House an unshakable commitment to Israel’s security. That starts with insuring Israel’s qualitative military advantage. I will insure that Israel can defend itself from any threat from Gaza to Tehran. Defense cooperation, defense cooperation between the United States and Israel is a model of success and it must be deepened. As President I will implement a memorandum of understanding that provides $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade, investments to Israel’s security that will not be tied to any other nation."

    -- Barack Obama, DEMOCRAT, June 4, 2008.

    "Israel has taken actions to defend itself and its people in an effort to restore security in the region. It is in everyone’s interest, particularly the innocent lives at risk on both sides of the border, that Hamas bring an end to its aggression, recognize its neighbor’s right to exist, and work toward mutual peace and security"

    -- Benjamin Cardin, DEMOCRAT, December 29, 2008.

    “Israel, like every other nation, has a right to defend itself; I find it naive and unrealistic that some say Israel should ‘sit down and talk’ to Hamas, a group sworn to Israel’s annihilation, that broke the recent ceasefire by flinging missiles at Israeli cities. The Palestinian people must realize that Israel is here to stay and that no amount of violence, which Hamas seeks to undertake, will change that fact.”

    -- Charles Schumer, DEMOCRAT, December 30, 2008.

    “Over the past few days, I have closely monitored the current escalation of violence in Israel and Gaza. I hope and pray for a peaceful solution for both sides and I strongly condemn Hamas for breaking the current ceasefire. I believe the Israeli people, under constant attack from the Palestinian territories, have a right to protect themselves and I stand with them as they fight to defend the basic rights of humanity.

    I traveled to Israel in 2007 and I discovered firsthand what I had always known to be true – Israel is an extraordinary democracy blessed with very courageous citizens who refuse to live their lives in fear. New Yorkers have experienced the horror of terrorism; we must not and will not let senseless acts of terror undermine our commitment and resolve to fight for democratic principles both at home and around the world.”

    -- David Patterson, DEMOCRAT, December 31, 2008.

    "Israel has commendably made strenuous efforts to minimize harm to civilians, while Hamas has needlessly imperiled innocent Palestinians in Gaza by conducting its military operations from within heavily populated civilian areas. I support the efforts of Israel and others to improve access to humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. Along with my colleagues, I hope for a quick resolution to this crisis and for a future without rockets falling on Isra."

    -- Jerrold Nadler, DEMOCRAT, January 9, 2009.

    Adriana Kojeve is a music and cultural critic living in New York City. She can reached

    The Struggle Of An Un-People

    The People Of Gaza Have Spoken and Persevered

    Weekend Edition
    January 23 / 25, 2009
    Courtesy Of CounterPunch
    Watching and reading the Western mainstream media coverage of the war in Gaza as well as the Palestinian question is frequently a source of never-ending frustration. One must continuously suppress one’s outrage at the deceptive and convoluted framing of what is essentially the struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom and independence, but which has become transmogrified into an inherent and almost genetic Arab / Muslim irrational hatred and violence towards Jews / Israel.

    In the mainstream, Zionist-inspired narrative, Israel’s “right to exist” precedes and supersedes all else and, in fact, does so uniquely in the world of nations, since under international law, no other nation has or demands such a right. For Israel to have this right entails the obliteration (and not even acknowledgement) of a similar parallel right of the displaced population, the Palestinians, to also exist. Therefore, any war that Israel starts – or in most Western media narratives, does not start -- it is ipso facto defensive and justified. Any questioning of this frame of reference is liable to be branded “anti-semitic”, thus conflating (and importantly from a propagandistic point of view, confusing) the actions of a state, which is first and foremost a political actor, with the belief system and religion of an entire group of people.

    One of the many consequences of this superimposed narrative is to render the Palestinians almost un-human -- untermenschen if you will. I use the term “human” here in its full sense as embodied in the spirit and law of the United Nations Charter and Resolutions as well as the Declaration of the Rights of Man. Very briefly, the former guarantees the rights of a national people to independence and guarantees them the right to resist occupation. The second additionally guarantees political, cultural, and economic rights to all human beings. And yet, today we find the Palestinians as the last still colonized people who are deprived of any right to resist the colonizing and occupying power.

    Acknowledging, and even demanding a guarantee, for Israel’s “right to exist” necessarily demolishes and abrogates Palestinians as a people and as human beings. Thus we constantly hear the re-iteration of Orwellian phrases like “arms smuggling” through underground tunnels into the Gaza Strip – when in reality it is the Palestinians’ right and duty to resist occupation; or that “Hamas seeks Israel’s destruction” without the concomitant Israel seeks Hamas’ destruction; or the classification of Hamas as a terrorist organization, without mention of the extensive social and charitable work that they do or, more significantly, the fact that they were democratically elected. We, the readers of mainstream Western media, further face oxymoronic classifications of buildings, infrastructure, schools, and hospitals being designated “terrorist strongholds” and of any male over the age of ten being lumped in with “Hamas terrorists”.

    The stripping away of Palestinians’ basic human rights has even deprived them of the right to choose their own representatives. Therefore, ever since the Oslo Accords, puppet masters in Israel, the US and to a lesser extent, Europe and “moderate” Arab states have designated the Palestinian Authority and its (now ex-) president, Mahmoud Abbas as “leaders” of the Palestinian people and the only interlocutors in any “negotiation”.

    Unsurprisingly, these “leaders” seem to be for life, like all other Arab dictators. This, despite the fact that Mahmoud Abbas’ presidential term has officially ended on January 9th, 2009. Even after the horrific Israeli attack on the Palestinians in Gaza, during which time Abbas sided with the attackers and thereby lost all credibility and legitimacy among the majority of Palestinians, he is still invited to “speak” for them in Arab Summits and in various “talks”. If it wasn’t so pathetic, it would be laughable.

    Another dimension of treating the Palestinians as subhuman is that the atrocities that they suffer at the hand of the Israelis, not just in war, but also in their very cultural, social, political, and economic existence, when acknowledged at all, are presented as some sort of humanitarian crisis. A charity case that has no human rights dimension.

    From the very beginning others have tried to speak for them, thereby denying them their own voices. So when Palestinians staged an uprising in the late 1930s against Jewish immigration that was aided and abetted by the British Mandate, Arab governments told them to quiet down and that they would extract their freedom and independence from the British colonizers for them. Instead, Arab leaders emerged with the completely inadequate White Paper in which the British government promised to reduce immigration, but which did not grant the Palestinians a promise of their own independence and statehood. Afterwards, they were also treated as a non-people, this time by the Zionists who falsely claimed the “land without a people for a people without a land.” And even when denial of their physical existence was no longer possible, they were simply referred to as “refugees” and not as political actors with legitimate inherent rights.

    From Israel’s perspective, the forcible removal and ethnic cleansing in their newly created state was thus morally justified because those being removed were ostensibly non-existent. They were at best a humanitarian crisis, and not a human rights / political actor issue. Thus, the 400,000 Palestinians that were forcibly displaced by Israeli terrorist armed militias like the Haganah, Irgun and Lehi as well as by psychological warfare, in the wake of the United Nations Partition resolution in November of 1947 – and flagrantly before the establishment of the state of Israel, were designated mere “refugees” and responsibilities of Arab governments. As more recent historiographers have proven, the un-peopled land narrative adopted by the Zionists, was used to hide the forced and often violent expulsion of the original inhabitants. With the declaration of the establishment of the state of Israel in May 1948 and the Arab-Israeli war that followed, an additional 370,000 Palestinians were removed or displaced under the organized execution of Plan Dalet . They too were deemed not Israel’s responsibility, since it and only it, had the right to exist. Even after the armistice talks of the war in 1948, Israel still forcibly removed the inhabitants of the village of al-Majdal. Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion declared essentially a policy of non-compromise. “Expel them [the villagers of Lydda and Ramleh, July 1948]!” he ordered his officers.

    Palestinians as a people did not exist, and as “refugees”, they were the Arabs’ problem. Under this rubric, Israel legalized the widespread confiscation of Palestinian land when it opined /declared those lands “abandoned properties” whose owners were “absent”, thus wiping out and Judaizing 400 Palestinian villages. Similarly, shops, homes and even bank accounts were declared “abandoned” and were expropriated. They even created a “Transfer Committee” in 1948 to supervise the destruction of Palestinian villages. And yet the Orwellian Zionist narrative of an un-peopled land persevered for several decades in Israel and in the Western mainstream.

    Forced expulsions are how Gaza became essentially a giant refugee camp. Some 80% of its current inhabitants are descendants of those originally displaced Palestinians from the pre-1948 territory.

    And so it continues to the present day. Israel and her backers still deny the Palestinians their own voice and their own political identity. With impunity and excessive and rabid force, Israel attacks the un-people of Gaza, now conveniently designated as “terrorists”. The attack on Palestinians, becomes an attack on Hamas. Buildings (even UNRWA schools), children, water pipes, workshops, similarly become Hamas strongholds, fighters, weapons labs or bases….

    This narrative of un-peopleness has evolved over time: from non-existent, to generic Arab squatting on “Jewish” land, to refugee, to low-paid wage laborers, to terrorists, (to even “cockroaches” according to Ariel Sharon). Eventually, it reached the Oslo “Peace Process” and the designation of certain individuals (who are of course willing to concede anything and everything) as potentially worthy of “talking” to (ostensibly, with). These were people like the Israeli approved-, Egyptian and Jordanian trained- and equipped- native police force (Dahlan and his thugs) and the Palestinian Authority. Any Palestinians who disagree or demand their rights, even if they are the majority of Palestinians in Gaza, are automatically outside the pale and once again consigned to join the new outcasts in this period of world history. They are part of the “Axis of Evil”, a jumbled all-inclusive collection of boogey men of Hamas-Hezbullah-Iranian-backed-terrorist-Muslim-jihadists.

    They are anything but a people with their own nationalist aspirations and an undefeated desire for freedom and equality with all other humans on this earth.

    Continuing the tradition of Great Britain when Lord Balfour declared that they will not consult the “wishes of the present inhabitants” and that Zionism, “be it right or wrong” is more important than the “desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land,” the state of Israel today continues to deny the Palestinians’ basic human rights to have any rights. And the Palestinian Authority is colluding with this denial of the nationalist expression of the Palestinian people’s right and their will to resist forced “solutions”. But the people of Gaza have spoken, have persevered, and have withstood this latest vicious attack. Their continued resistance is an inspiration for all those who resist oppression. And more importantly, their persistence is a reaffirmation that peoplehood / humanity and all its inherent basic rights, are from within, and are not qualities to be granted and bestowed by those in power.
    Dina Jadallah-Taschler is an outraged Arab-American of Palestinian and Egyptian descent, a political science graduate, and an artist.