VIDEO: PEACE, PROPAGANDA & THE PROMISE LAND: MEDIA & THE ISRAEL-PALESTINE CONFLICT

Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land provides a striking comparison of U.S. and international media coverage of the crisis in the Middle East, zeroing in on how structural distortions in U.S. coverage have reinforced false perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This pivotal documentary exposes how the foreign policy interests of American political elites–oil, and a need to have a secure military base in the region, among others–work in combination with Israeli public relations strategies to exercise a powerful influence over how news from the region is reported.

World Bank: Palestinian economy could flourish if Israel eased restrictions

The Palestinian economy has “incredible potential” that could be unleashed if Israel eases restrictions on Palestinian movement, the area’s World Bank chief said Wednesday, a day after a high-level World Bank delegation inaugurated a sewage storage facility in a rare trip to Hamas-ruled Gaza.

It took three years, rather than the scheduled nine months, to build the treatment basins meant to drain a sewage lake in northern Gaza. The delays were caused by an Israeli border closure of the territory, along with frequent flare-ups of violence that have made it difficult to get construction materials into Gaza.

In a new round of fighting late Tuesday and Wednesday, Israeli forces killed six Hamas militants and Hamas unleashed a rocket barrage on Israeli border communities, jeopardizing a five-month-old cease-fire.
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Gaza has been largely cut off from the world since the Islamic militant Hamas seized control by force in June 2007. Much of the world has joined Israel’s boycott of Hamas, though international organizations have warned that the border closure causes severe hardship for Gaza’s 1.4 million residents.

Daniela Gressani, the World Bank’s vice president for the Middle East and North Africa, said the international community must not give up on Gaza.

“It is obviously very difficult to work under the current circumstances in Gaza. I don’t think there is an alternative to remaining engaged,” she told the Associated Press.

She said the bank would now push ahead with the second stage of the Gaza sewage project, a treatment plant. Untreated Gaza sewage is routinely pumped into the Mediterranean because the closure at times deprives Gaza of sufficient fuel to operate already overburdened treatment plants.

The delegation included senior officials of several World Bank branches, and the visit to the Palestinian territories was meant to give a boost to efforts to revive the Palestinian economy, participants said. The bank is trying to encourage investment, and on Wednesday signed a new agreement on political risk insurance.

A year ago, the international community pledged $7.7 billion (¤6 billion) in aid to the Palestinians, to be paid through 2010. The idea was to make Palestinians increasingly less dependent on aid, as the Palestinian private sector recovers from years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. However, this scenario has not become reality.

The Palestinian economy has remained stagnant, largely because of the sharp downturn in Gaza and Israel’s continued restrictions on Palestinian trade and movement in the West Bank.

Israel set up a network of roadblocks at the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000, as a deterrent to Palestinian militants. The barriers have since become part of a complex closure regime that restricts Palestinian access to large areas of the West Bank.

David Craig, head of the World Bank in the West Bank and Gaza, said the Palestinian economy is down 30 percent from 2000. He said it has “incredible potential,” comparing it to a coiled spring waiting to take off.

“What it really takes is for movement and access restrictions to be lightened up progressively, in some way that is compatible with Israel’s security so that this takeoff can occur,” he said.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel is doing what it can. “We have every interest in working with the Palestinians in helping to create a more healthy economic situation,” he said.

World Bank officials and Palestinian economists, meanwhile, said there is growing concern that donor countries will fall short of pledges in coming months because of the global financial crisis.

Gressani said she doesn’t expect a dramatic decline in aid to the Palestinians, but added that “I do expect it will be comparatively more difficult to get the funds mobilized, disbursed in time.”

Palestinian Planning Minister Samir Abdullah said that even if donors were to scale back, there was still a cushion because they had pledged more than the $5.6 billion the Palestinians originally requested. So far in 2008, donor countries paid $1.6 billion of support the Palestinian budget, and $150 million for development projects, in line with Palestinian needs, he said.

Abdullah said the bank’s programs will help spur the economy, along with an increase in construction, but that lifting restrictions is key. “Hopefully, we will convince the Israelis, by pressure and bringing multinational organizations here … to dismantle the closure regime that makes no sense after many months of improvement in the security situation,” he said.

Ref: Haaretz

Insider: Iraq Attack Was Preemptive

The name Douglas Feith may not mean much to most Americans, but to students of the Iraq war and historians already studying it, he is one of the main architects.

From 2001 to 2005, Feith was under secretary of defense for policy and the No. 3 man at the Pentagon, intimately involved both pre-war strategy and post-war planning. His boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, called Feith one of the most brilliant individuals in government but he has also been a lightning rod for criticism and a magnet for blame.

In a new book, which has been called the first insider account of decision making in Iraq, Feith defends much and apologizes for very little. But he offers some unusual insights about the path to war.

Feith discussed his memoir with 60 Minutes

Ref: CBS

SAVING LIFTA – A CASE AGAINST ARCHITECTURAL ERASURE

This is a plea against architectural erasure and the destruction of memory While Israel proudly preserves its biblical heritage and archaeological sites, the rich Palestinian heritage is being allowed to disappear or is deliberately destroyed.

A poignant example, and an important symbol of this is the 4000 years old village of Lifta, which lies just outside Jerusalem, the nearest Arab village to the Jerusalem wall. It has been abandoned and has remained relatively untouched since the creation of Israel. T he Israeli army and the Irgun killed or drove out the last Palestinian inhabitants in 1948. Today Lifta is more or less a ghost town , frozen in time. The former villagers live mainly in East Jerusalem, Ramallah, Jordan and in exile in the United States.

Now, however, a renovation project by the architect Gabriel Cartes of the Groug-Cartes firm, which collaborated with Ze’ev Temkin of TIK Projects, aims to turn Lifta into an expensive and exclusively Jewish residential area, mainly for Americans. The planned neighborhood would include three hundred luxury flats, a large hotel, a big mall, and a large tourist resort. In the process of carrying out the scheme, hundreds of Palestinian homes, all of which predated the creation of Israel in 1948, would be erased to obliterate any reminder that the area was once a prosperous Arab village – erasing its Palestinian history in the process. Architecture is being used to eradicate ethnic culture, that amounts to cultural vandalism.

Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine are supporting the Israeli group called FAST (Foundation for achieving Seamless Territory) in a campaign to preserve Lifta. The Israeli organizations Zokhrot and BIMKOM have also opposed this Israeli real-estate plan.

T here is an ongoing ban on ‘internal refugees’ to return to the remnants of their destroyed villages. The Lifta masterplan does not refer to its Palestinian past. In this effort, architecture is being used as a political device to further Israel’s colonial policy.

Despite its international significance in an area important to three world religions, and its undoubted claim to be a world heritage site because of its timeless landscape, Lifta was never recognized by international institutions (like UNESCO) as a cultural heritage monument, due to Israel’s refusal to recognize Palestine as a nation .

The “Or Commission” report, which investigated the causes of the riots by the Israeli Arab population in October 2000, is quoted in the written objection filed by BIMKOM in their original defence of Lifta. “The role of the state is not reduced to material matters alone,” it states. “Governing authorities must find ways that will enable Arab citizens to express in public life their culture and identity in an appropriate and respectful manner.”

We ask that Liftah is retained as a ruin to be a reminder of its past or it should be allowed to be re-inhabited by survivors or descendants of the original residents. In either case they should be consulted. Four generations later the descendants are still protesting for the right to return.

Yakub Odeh, a Lifta refugee says:

“ Land ..that is designated for residential use should be planned such that it will be appropriate for the housing of the original residents of Lifta and their descendants, whose property was taken from them through no wrong of their own. This would enable the purchase or return of the land to them, and would constitute a rectification of the wrongs done to the place and its residents, and not only provide land to people of means who never had the slightest connection or link to the place.”

He continues…

“There are 37 Lifta refugees in East Jerusalem and Ramallah, and we have a Lifta Association; and now the internet makes it possible to keep in touch with those that have moved further away. We all want to return to our village. I’m sure we can achieve our dream through peaceful means….We will never give in. They say that every human being is born in the land, but for us Palestinians, our land is born in us.”

Esther Zandberg said in Haaretz in November 2004, when the plan was first presented: “the construction plan that has been under discussion since 1996 is a cause for wonder with regard to why it was ever commissioned. On such a emotionally charged and politically symbolic site, with terrain conditions that are difficult for modern construction, on a site on which the development of road, water or sewage infrastructure would require immense technological effort and heavy monetary expenditure, in a landscape in which any intrusion could be the source of perpetual regret, and on land on which there are no real estate pressures that might have provided an easy excuse, the plan seems opposed to all common sense, harmful to the interests of all of the parties on both sides of the conflict, and perhaps an attempt to conceal evidence of the existence of a people living in a “country without a people.”

In conclusion, Dafna Golan Agnon a prominent Israeli sociologist from the Hebrew University:

“It is possible and proper to develop Lifta as a village that preserves the historical Palestinian memory of the place. Preserving the memory of the village and its history could be a focal point for reconciliation between Jewish and Arab citizens, and offer an experience that helps lead to a solution of peace with our neighbors.

In a country that sanctifies memory, erasing Palestinian history is not only immoral, it is also foolish. We will not be able to build a future worthy of the name here if we erase and deny the memory of thousands of Palestinian refugees. It is possible to take their homes and erase their villages from the face of the earth, but as we know from Jewish history, longing for the roots and memories of homes is preserved for many hundreds of years. It is still possible to preserve the village, repair its buildings and turn it into a place of study of the past, forming a basis for dialogue about a common future of Israelis and Palestinians.”

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Ref: Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine

Israel hides truth about ongoing colonization

The government is refusing to publish a database containing
full details about the settlement enterprise in the territories,
including outposts and neighborhoods built across the Green
Line. In response to a High Court of Justice petition on the
matter, the Defense Ministry is arguing that publication would
harm state security and Israel’s foreign relations.

In October 2006, Haaretz revealed the existence of the Spiegel
Report – the largest database ever compiled by the state on the
settlements, by then special adviser to the defense minister
Brigadier General Baruch Spiegel. The report, whose
preparation was kept secret, revealed that extensive building
was carried out without permits on dozens of veteran
settlements – not just outposts – often on privately owned
Palestinian land. Spiegel’s data came from the Civil
Administration and other government agencies, as well as from
photographic sorties carried out by civilian aircraft leased by
the military establishment.

The data collection began after Spiegel and other Defense
Ministry officials realized that the state’s figures on the
settlements were incomplete. It became clear that often the
state’s own information was incomplete in comparison with the
data presented by the U.S. administration or gathered by Peace
Now’s monitoring staff. The lacunae stemmed from the
government’s policy of looking the other way. In some cases,
information was deliberately kept hidden in order to help the
settlers expand their control over land without having to
contend with judicial oversight of their activities.

At the time, military sources described the information as
“explosive” from a security and foreign-policy point of view,
and claimed that part of the reason for the secrecy about the
database was to avoid embarrassing Israel’s relations with the
U.S. In the wake of reports about the database, the Movement
for Freedom of Information in Israel and Peace Now petitioned
the district administrative court in Tel Aviv, demanding that the
database be released for publication in accordance with the
Freedom of Information Law.

Last week the Tel Aviv district prosecutor’s office submitted a
pre-petition response including a statement from Brigadier
General Mike Herzog, Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s chief of
staff. Herzog and the prosecution asked the court to bar
publication of the material. They claim that while they have no
quarrel with the principle of freedom of information they seek
to invoke Chapter 9A of the law to prevent publication “for fear
of harming state security and foreign relations.”

In his statement, Herzog argued that, “At the present time,
public disclosure of the material could cause injury,” about
which “we are unable to expand upon.” The attorney’s office
even asked the court for an in camera session, without the
presence of the petitioners, during which the state would
explain the basis of its claim. Judge Michal Rubiyet issued a
decision on the matter.

Ref: Haaretz

Rabbi Lior Says It’s OK to Kill Civilians …and other rabbis are silent

The day before the Israeli army shot tank shells to disperse a crowd of demonstrators in Rafah, Rabbi Dov Lior issued a ruling that killing civilians during warfare is permitted if it will save [Jewish] lives. It wasn’t just a remark. Lior’s made it an official Halachic (Jewish law) ruling. He said “The law of our Torah is to have mercy on our soldiers and to save them. This is the real moral behind Israel’s Torah and we must not feel guilty due to foreign morals.” Lior called civilians “so-called civilians”. 

This was reported by Uri Glickman in Maariv International on May 19, 2004. Glickman wrote, “Sources close to the Rabbi explained that Lior made the remarks Tuesday night and they had nothing to do with Wednesday’s events in Gaza.” Of course the violent contempt for Arabs held by rabbis of Lior’s stripe has everything to do with the massacres of Palestinians.Lior is the chairman of the Yesha rabbinical council, the settler’s chief religious body.

The Ma’ariv article pointedly mentioned that other non-settler rabbis would not condemn his statement. A Google search turns up no statement of criticism by any rabbi anywhere. Rabbi Lior has been a consistent defender of the most violent acts against Palestinians. He was the chief speaker at the memorial service honoring Baruch Goldstein in 1996 on the one year anniversary of his death. <p<Goldstein was killed after shooting dead 29 Palestinians in the Tomb of Abraham in Hebron.Unfortunately in the orthodox stream of Judaism there are many examples of terrifying statements against non-Jews that men like Lior cite as justification for violence against non-Jews. Israel Shahak quotes an Israeli rabbi writing to a soldier and quoting approvingly of another rabbi who said, “The best of Gentiles- kill him. The best of snakes – dash out its brains”.*

In 1973 a booklet published by the Central Region Command (which includes the West Bank) included a piece by the Command’s Chief Chaplin that state, “When our forces come across civilians during a war or in hot pursuit or in a raid, so long as there is no certaintly that those civilians are incapable of harming our forces according to Halkah they may and even should be killed.

”I should also note that Lior’s resoning is very similar to the logic that Madeleine Albright used when asked to respond to the charge [in 1995] that a half million Iraqi children has been killed by U.S. sanctions. It was “worth it” because it was her responsibility to make sure US soldiers would not have to“refight the Gulf War”.

 

Ref: the Struggle, By Stanley Heller* Jewish History, Jewish Religion, The Weight of Three Thousand Years, Israel Shahak. 1994. p78.

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