GAZA MASSACRE: American Zionist vs Israeli Professor Neve Gordon on Gaza

Israel’s Campaign to Silence Human Rights Groups (NGO Monitor uncovered)

In a bid to staunch the flow of damaging evidence of war crimes committed during Israel’s winter assault on Gaza, the Israeli government has launched a campaign to clamp down on human rights groups, both in Israel and abroad.

It has begun by targeting one of the world’s leading rights organisations, the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), as well as a local group of dissident army veterans, Breaking the Silence, which last month published the testimonies of 26 combat soldiers who served in Gaza.

Additionally, according to the Israeli media, the government is planning a “much more aggressive stance” towards human rights groups working to help the Palestinians.

Officials have questioned the sources of funding received by the organisations and threatened legislation to ban support from foreign governments, particularly in Europe.

Breaking the Silence and other Israeli activists have responded by accusing the government of a “witch hunt” designed to intimidate them and starve them of the funds needed to pursue their investigations.

“This is a very dangerous step,” said Mikhael Mannekin, one of the directors of Breaking the Silence. “Israel is moving in a very anti-democratic direction.”

The campaign is reported to be the brainchild of the far-right foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, currently facing corruption charges, but has the backing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Early last month, Mr Lieberman used a press conference to accuse non-government organisations, or NGOs, of replacing diplomats in setting the international community’s agenda in relation to Israel. He also threatened reforms to curb the groups’ influence.

A week later, Mr Netanyahu’s office weighed in against Human Rights Watch, heavily criticising the organisation for its recent fund-raising activities in Saudi Arabia.

HRW has pointed out that it only accepts private donations, and has not accepted Saudi government funds, but Israeli officials say all Saudi money is tainted and will compromise HRW’s impartiality as a human rights watchdog in its treatment of Israel.

“A human rights organisation raising money in Saudi Arabia is like a women’s rights group asking the Taliban for a donation,” Mark Regev, a government spokesman, told the right-wing Israeli daily newspaper the Jerusalem Post.

HRW recently published reports arguing that the Israeli army had committed war crimes in Gaza, including the use of white phosphorus and attacking civilian targets.

HRW is now facing concerted pressure from Jewish lobby groups and from leading Jewish journalists in the US to sever its ties with Saudi donors. According to the Israeli media, some Jewish donors in the US have also specified that their money be used for human rights investigations that do not include Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel’s foreign ministry is putting pressure on European governments to stop funding many of Israel’s human rights groups. As a prelude to a clampdown, it has issued instructions to all its embassies abroad to question their host governments about whether they fund such activities.

Last week the foreign ministry complained to British, Dutch and Spanish diplomats about their support for Breaking the Silence.

The testimonies collected from soldiers suggested the Israeli army had committed many war crimes in Gaza, including using Palestinians as human shields and firing white phosphorus shells over civilian areas. One soldier called the army’s use of firepower “insane”.

The Dutch government paid nearly 20,000 euros to the group to compile its Gaza report, while Britain funded its work last year to the tune of £40,000.

Israeli officials are reported to be discussing ways either to make it illegal for foreign governments to fund “political” organisations in Israel or to force such groups to declare themselves as “agents of a foreign government”.

“Just as it would be unacceptable for European governments to support anti-war NGOs in the US, it is unacceptable for the Europeans to support local NGOs opposed to the policies of Israel’s democratically elected government,” said Ron Dermer, a senior official in Mr Netanyahu’s office.

He added that many of the groups were “working to delegitimise the Jewish state”.

Jeff Halper, the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, said the government’s position was opposed to decades-old developments in human rights monitoring.

“Every dictator, from Hitler to Milosevic, has said that there must be no interference in their sovereign affairs, and that everyone else should butt out. But international law says human rights are universal and cannot be left to individual governments to interpret. The idea behind the Geneva Conventions is that the international community has a duty to be the watchdog on human rights abuses wherever they occur.”

Mr Halper, whose organisation last year received 80,000 euros from Spain to rebuild demolished Palestinian homes, was arrested last year for sailing to Gaza with peace activists to break the siege of Gaza.

Other groups reported to be in the foreign ministry’s sights are: B’Tselem, whose activities include providing Palestinians with cameras to record abuses by settlers and the army; Peace Now, which monitors settlement building; Machsom Watch, whose activists observe soldiers at the checkpoints; and Physicians for Human Rights, which has recently examined doctors’ complicity in torture.

The government’s new approach mirrors a long-running campaign against leftwing and Arab human rights groups inside Israel conducted by NGO Monitor, a rightwing lobby group led by Gerald Steinberg, a professor at Bar Ilan University, near Tel Aviv.

NGO Monitor has also targeted international organisations such as Oxfam and Amnesty, but has shown a particular obsession with HRW. Mr Steinberg recently boasted that HRW’s trip to Saudi Arabia in May reflected the loss of major Jewish sponsors in the US following the publication of its Gaza reports.

In an article in the Jerusalem Post on Sunday, Mr Steinberg claimed that European governments treated their funding of Israeli human rights organisations “as ‘top secret’, reflecting the realization that such activities lack legitimacy”.

Mr Mannekin said the Breaking the Silence report listed donors on the first page. “We are far more transparent than NGO Monitor. We don’t know who funds them.”

NGO Monitor, which according to its website is chiefly funded by the shadowy Wechsler Family Foundation in the US, is closely linked to Dore Gold, a hawkish former adviser to Ariel Sharon.

Mr Mannekin added: “The government cannot suppress information about what happened in Gaza by shutting us down. You can’t send 10,000 soldiers into battle and not expect that some of the details will come out. If it’s not us doing it, it’ll be someone else.”

The government’s current campaign follows a police raid on the homes of six Israeli women peace activists in April.

The women, all members of New Profile, a feminist organisation that opposes the militarisation of Israeli society, were arrested and accused of helping Israeli youngsters to evade the draft. The women are still waiting to learn whether they will be prosecuted.

Ref: Counterpunch

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is http://www.jkcook.net.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.

Keeping Track of the US Empire’s Crimes

If you catch the CIA with its hand in the cookie jar and the Agency admits the obvious — what your eyes can plainly see — that its hand is indeed in the cookie jar, it means one of two things:

a) the CIA’s hand is in several other cookie jars at the same time which you don’t know about and they hope that by confessing to the one instance they can keep the others covered up; or

b) its hand is not really in the cookie jar — it’s an illusion to throw you off the right scent — but they want you to believe it.

There have been numerous news stories in recent months about secret CIA programs, hidden from Congress, inspired by former vice-president Dick Cheney, in operation since the September 11 terrorist attacks, involving assassination of al Qaeda operatives or other non-believers-in-the-Empire abroad without the knowledge of their governments. The Agency admits to some sort of program having existed, but insists that it was canceled; and if it was an assassination program it was canceled before anyone was actually assassinated. Another report has the US military, not the CIA, putting the plan — or was it a different plan? — into operation, carrying out several assassinations including one in Kenya that proved to be a severe embarrassment and helped lead to the quashing of the program. (The Guardian, July 13, 2009.)

All of this can be confusing to those following the news. And rather irrelevant. We already know that the United States has been assassinating non-believers, or suspected non-believers, with regularity, and impunity, in recent years, using unmanned planes (drones) firing missiles, in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia, if not elsewhere. (Even more victims have been produced from amongst those who happened to be in the same house, car, wedding party, or funeral as the non-believer.) These murders apparently don’t qualify as “assassinations”, for somehow killing “terrorists” from 2000 feet is morally and legally superior to doing so from two feet away.

But whatever the real story is behind the current rash of speculation, we should not fall into the media’s practice of at times intimating that multiple or routine CIA assassination attempts would be something shocking or at least very unusual.

I’ve compiled a list of CIA assassination attempts, successful and unsuccessful, against prominent foreign political figures, from 1949 through 2003, which, depending on how you count it, can run into the hundreds (targeting Fidel Castro alone totals 634 according to Cuban intelligence)2; the list can be updated by adding the allegedly al Qaeda leaders among the drone attack victims of recent years. Assassination and torture are the two things governments are most loath to admit to, and try their best to cover up. It’s thus rare to find a government document or recorded statement mentioning a particular plan to assassinate someone. There is, however, an abundance of compelling circumstantial evidence to work with. The following list does not include several assassinations in various parts of the world carried out by anti-Castro Cubans employed by the CIA and headquartered in the United States.

1949 – Kim Koo, Korean opposition leader

1950s – CIA/Neo-Nazi hit list of more than 200 political figures in West Germany
to be “put out of the way” in the event of a Soviet invasion

1950s – Chou En-lai, Prime minister of China, several attempts on his life

1950s, 1962 – Sukarno, President of Indonesia

1951 – Kim Il Sung, Premier of North Korea

1953 – Mohammed Mossadegh, Prime Minister of Iran

1950s (mid) – Claro M. Recto, Philippines opposition leader

1955 – Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India

1957 – Gamal Abdul Nasser, President of Egypt

1959, 1963, 1969 – Norodom Sihanouk, leader of Cambodia

1960 – Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Kassem, leader of Iraq

1950s-70s – José Figueres, President of Costa Rica, two attempts on his life

1961 – Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, leader of Haiti

1961 – Patrice Lumumba, Prime Minister of the Congo (Zaire)

1961 – Gen. Rafael Trujillo, leader of Dominican Republic

1963 – Ngo Dinh Diem, President of South Vietnam

1960s-70s – Fidel Castro, President of Cuba, many attempts on his life

1960s – Raúl Castro, high official in government of Cuba

1965 – Francisco Caamaño, Dominican Republic opposition leader

1965-6 – Charles de Gaulle, President of France

1967 – Che Guevara, Cuban leader

1970 – Salvador Allende, President of Chile

1970 – Gen. Rene Schneider, Commander-in-Chief of Army, Chile

1970s, 1981 – General Omar Torrijos, leader of Panama

1972 – General Manuel Noriega, Chief of Panama Intelligence

1975 – Mobutu Sese Seko, President of Zaire

1976 – Michael Manley, Prime Minister of Jamaica

1980-1986 – Muammar Qaddafi, leader of Libya, several plots and attempts upon his life

1982 – Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of Iran

1983 – Gen. Ahmed Dlimi, Moroccan Army commander

1983 – Miguel d’Escoto, Foreign Minister of Nicaragua

1984 – The nine comandantes of the Sandinista National Directorate

1985 – Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanese Shiite leader (80 people killed in the attempt)

1991 – Saddam Hussein, leader of Iraq

1993 – Mohamed Farah Aideed, prominent clan leader of Somalia

1998, 2001-2 – Osama bin Laden, leading Islamic militant

1999 – Slobodan Milosevic, President of Yugoslavia

2002 – Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Afghan Islamic leader and warlord

2003 – Saddam Hussein and his two sons

For those of you who collect lists about splendid US foreign policy post-World War II, here are a few more that, lacking anything better to do, I’ve put together: Attempts to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which had been democratically-elected. (* = successful ouster of a government.)

Albania 1949-53
East Germany 1950s
Iran 1953 *
Guatemala 1954 *
Costa Rica mid-1950s
Syria 1956-7
Egypt 1957
Indonesia 1957-8
British Guiana 1953-64 *
Iraq 1963 *
North Vietnam 1945-73
Cambodia 1955-70 *
Laos 1958-60 *
Ecuador 1960-63 *
Congo 1960 *
France 1965
Brazil 1962-64 *
Dominican Republic 1963 *
Cuba 1959 to present
Bolivia 1964 *
Indonesia 1965 *
Ghana 1966 *
Chile 1964-73 *
Greece 1967 *
Costa Rica 1970-71
Bolivia 1971 *
Australia 1973-75 *
Angola 1975, 1980s
Zaire 1975
Portugal 1974-76 *
Jamaica 1976-80 *
Seychelles 1979-81
Chad 1981-82 *
Grenada 1983 *
South Yemen 1982-84
Suriname 1982-84
Fiji 1987 *
Libya 1980s
Nicaragua 1981-90 *
Panama 1989 *
Bulgaria 1990 *
Albania 1991 *
Iraq 1991
Afghanistan 1980s *
Somalia 1993
Yugoslavia 1999
Ecuador 2000 *
Afghanistan 2001 *
Venezuela 2002 *
Iraq 2003 *

After his June 4 Cairo speech, President Obama was much praised for mentioning the 1953 CIA overthrow of Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh. But in his talk in Ghana on July 11 he failed to mention the CIA coup that ousted Ghanian president Kwame Nkrumah in 1966, referring to him only as a “giant” among African leaders. The Mossadegh coup is one of the most well-known CIA covert actions. Obama could not easily get away without mentioning it in a talk in the Middle East looking to mend fences. But the Nkrumah ouster is one of the least known; indeed, not a single print or broadcast news report in the American mainstream media saw fit to mention it at the time of the president’s talk. Like it never happened.

And the next time you hear that Africa can’t produce good leaders, people who are committed to the welfare of the masses of their people, think of Nkrumah and his fate. And think of Patrice Lumumba, overthrown in the Congo 1960-61 with the help of the United States; Agostinho Neto of Angola, against whom Washington waged war in the 1970s, making it impossible for him to institute progressive changes; Samora Machel of Mozambique against whom the CIA supported a counter-revolution in the 1970s-80s period; and Nelson Mandela of South Africa (now married to Machel’s widow), who spent 28 years in prison thanks to the CIA.

Ref: Counterpunch

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.

He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com

VIDEO: Seeking a cluster bomb ban (Israel wants to keep murdering)

Diplomats from around the world are in Dublin for a conference that aims to secure a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs.

The proposed ban has the support of more than 100 countries.