The Sixth Annual Israeli Apartheid Week 2010

Solidarity in Action: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions
March 2010

Mark your calendars – the 6th International Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) will take place across the globe from from the 1st to the 14th of March 2010!

Since it was first launched in 2005, IAW has grown to become one of the most important global events in the Palestine solidarity calendar. Last year, more than 40 cities around the world participated in the week’s activities, which took place in the wake of Israel’s brutal assault against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. IAW continues to grow with new cities joining this year.

IAW 2010 takes place following a year of incredible successes for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement on the global level. Lectures, films, and actions will highlight some of theses successes along with the many injustices that continue to make BDS so crucial in the battle to end Israeli Apartheid. Speakers and full programme for each city will be available soon.

If you are planning to organize IAW in your city in 2010, please contact: iawinfo@apartheidweek.org

Visit Apartheidweek.org

Congratulations to Nidal El Khairy for winning the first international Israeli Apartheid Week poster competition.

A Conservative Estimate of Total Direct U.S. Aid to Israel: Almost $114 Billion

Varieties of Compassion: Haiti — Gaza

Akiva Eldar wrote an article entitled “Israel’s compassion in Haiti can’t hide our ugly face in Gaza” (Haaretz, January 18, 2010) in which he explains the contradiction in the public relations campaign conducted by Israel’s rulers in rescuing and treating victims of the earthquake in Haiti and the their utter indifference in relation to the suffering of the people of Gaza whose children, women and elderly die on a daily basis because of the lack of medicine and the destruction of hospitals and because Israeli authorities prevent food and medicine from entering Gaza.

Larry Derfner wrote in Jerusalem Post (20/01/2010) about the aid which Israel’s rulers hasten to send to Haiti now and which they sent to Rwanda years ago – with great efficiency – while many Israelis feel shame over the actions of their government in Gaza.  He wonders about the causes of the discrepancy between Israel’s efficiency in rescue and treatment actions in  disaster areas across the world and its shameful disregard of the disasters caused by successive Israeli governments against Palestinian civilians.

Catherine Philip wrote an analysis (Sunday Times, January 21, 2010) explaining that the Israeli government took advantage of the disaster in Haiti to conduct a public relations campaign to cover up the disgraceful Israeli crimes described in the Goldstone report on the Israeli war on Gaza.  She concludes that the earthquake was a natural disaster, while the collapse of the health system in Gaza and the hunger and destruction in Gaza were imposed by Israel and its allies on Gazan civilians.

The life of  unarmed Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the rest of Palestine has become  public relations material.  The life of Palestinians has no significance for Israel except in as much as it affects its interests and image in the West.  That is why they are preventing reporters, politicians, diplomats and human rights activists from going to Gaza so that they do not expose the disgraceful conditions under the blockade, and in order to be able to promote their lies about their concern for saving human life somewhere in the world.

Helping the victims of disasters has become now an occasion for launching public relations campaigns or achieving hidden political and military objectives.  People still fall victim to earthquakes, disasters, occupation, oppression and terrorism.  They also fall victim to campaigns which use their tragedy to achieve other purposes which have nothing to do with the value, importance, sanctity and dignity of human life.

After the Swedish journalist Donald Bostrom wrote about the Israeli army killing Palestinian youth in order to steal their organs, there were other media reports about Israelis stealing Ukrainian children for the same purpose.  Once again there are documented reports from Haiti that organs are being stolen by Israelis without international justice intervening to put an end to such criminal practices against vulnerable people.

The United States took advantage of the chaos in Haiti to tighten its control over the island.  Thus, we can see that the disaster in Haiti provided an opportunity to other parties to make a move on the public relations level or on the political and military level in order to turn facts on their head and project a glossy image of the causes of human suffering in different parts of the world.

We should also note the lack of Arab initiative, not only in terms of aid and rescue, but also in terms of standing up to the attempts of our enemies to bury the suffering of the Palestinian people and hide it from the eyes of the media and public opinion.  They use the Haiti disaster to cover up their crimes and blunt the impact of the Goldstone report and obstruct the launch of an international campaign in support of the Palestinian people.

The discrepancy in the Israeli official position towards the victims of the disaster in Haiti, on the one hand, and the victims of the blockade on Gaza and the war on Palestine for the past sixty years, on the other, should be highlighted and explained, particularly that Israel hastens to the assistance of any disaster-hit country – from Rwanda to Haiti – to cover up the great disaster which it caused and still causing to  people who used to live safely and peacefully on their land.

The suffering of the people of Haiti is the result of a natural disaster, while the increased suffering of the people of Gaza in its latest phase is a direct consequence of a hateful and racist shelling with phosphoric bombs and the destruction of schools, hospitals and houses.  In the same vein, the suffering of the residents of the Salwan and Jarrah neighborhoods is the result of a racist settler colonialism which sees only Jews in humanity.  It is implemented by Israeli powers which believe in racist supremacy and religious fanaticism.

So far, no language has been able to describe this conflict and convey its nature to the minds and hearts of people all over the world.  Disaster is being used as a commodity in public relations campaigns.  If this is evidence of anything, it is evidence of a declining level of the feeling of responsibility and the distortion which has characterized political processes in recent years.

Hence, the tragedy becomes greater and the suffering longer because of the difficulty of conveying the real picture of what is happening to people all over the world.  Even allowing concerned people to see what is happening becomes subject to bargaining as a result of the meticulous calculations of the political objectives of what is being done.

Thus American officials as well as, the media speak about the duties of the Palestinians and the Israelis towards the peace process, forgetful of the fact that the Palestinians are prisoners of a racist occupation and subject to collective punishment and genocide, while others are involved in propaganda campaigns to prevent the achievement of justice and the realization of the legitimate aspirations of innocent people who simply want to live in freedom and dignity. Next time you hear or read “both sides” or hear an obligation related to “Palestinians and Israelis” by Western officials beware of the deliberate confusion planned between the killer “Israelis” and the victims “Palestinians”.

What each and every one of us can do is to stand for human integrity and dismiss all the propaganda designed and marketed by the enemies of justice and sacred human rights.

REf:Counterpunch

Bouthaina Shaaban is Political and Media Advisor at the Syrian Presidency, and former Minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985. She has been the spokesperson for Syria and was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She can be reached through nizar_kabibo@yahoo.com

The Neoliberal Ocean of Cop-15 Accord + SMART POWER

Smart Power

The Bush administration has hijacked a once-proud progressive doctrine–liberal internationalism–to justify muscle-flexing militarism and arrogant unilateralism. Progressives must reclaim the legacy of Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy with a foreign policy that will both bolster U.S. power and unite the world behind it.

RECLAIMING LIBERAL INTERNATIONALISM

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, conservative foreign-policy makers have united behind a clear agenda: combating terrorism, aggressively preempting perceived threats, and asserting the United States’ right and duty to act alone. Progressives, in contrast, have seemed flummoxed. Stuck on the sidelines, they advocate tactics that differ sharply from those of the Bush administration. But they have not consistently articulated a distinct set of progressive U.S. foreign policy goals.

This is a mistake. Progressives now have a historic opportunity to reorient U.S. foreign policy around an ambitious agenda of their own. The unparalleled strength of the United States, the absence of great-power conflict, the fears aroused by September 11, and growing public skepticism of the Bush administration’s militarism have created a political opening for a cogent, visionary alternative to the president’s foreign policy.

To advance from a nuanced dissent to a compelling vision, progressive policymakers should turn to the great mainstay of twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy: liberal internationalism, which posits that a global system of stable liberal democracies would be less prone to war. Washington, the theory goes, should thus offer assertive leadership — diplomatic, economic, and not least, military — to advance a broad array of goals: self-determination, human rights, free trade, the rule of law, economic development, and the quarantine and elimination of dictators and weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Unlike conservatives, who rely on military power as the main tool of statecraft, liberal internationalists see trade, diplomacy, foreign aid, and the spread of American values as equally important.

After September 11, conservatives adopted the trappings of liberal internationalism, entangling the rhetoric of human rights and democracy in a strategy of aggressive unilateralism. But the militant imperiousness of the Bush administration is fundamentally inconsistent with the ideals they claim to invoke. To reinvent liberal internationalism for the twenty-first century, progressives must wrest it back from Republican policymakers who have misapplied it.

Ref: ForeignAffairs

Suzanne Nossel was Deputy to the Ambassador for UN Management and Reform at the U.S. mission to the United Nations from 1999 to 2001 and is currently an executive at a media company in New York.

Share the Land – A Single State, With Justice and Liberty for All

Prior to the establishment of Israel, Palestine had been multi-religious and multi-cultural. Christians, Muslims and Jews, Armenians, Greek Orthodox, to name a few, all had a place there; and all lived in relative harmony. Other nations fought wars and waged epic struggles to attain the kind of coexistence that was already a reality in Palestine.But while the world strives toward the noble truths that we are all created equal, Israel legislates the notion of a Chosen People with exclusive rights and privilege for Jews. Where countries have worked to integrate their citizens to create the richness of diversity, Israel is working in reverse, employing racist policies to “Judaize” the land whereby property and resources are confiscated from Christians and Muslims for the exclusive use of Jews. Where there is consensus that certain human rights are inalienable, Palestinians have lived subject to the whims of soldiers at checkpoints; of airplanes and helicopters raining death onto them with impunity; of curfews and restrictions and denials; and of violent armed settlers who fancy themselves disciples of God.

Living under Israeli occupation, in refugee camps or in exile, we Palestinians have endured having everything callously taken from us – our homes, our heritage, our history, our families, livelihoods, freedom, farms, olive groves, water, security, and freedom. In the 1990s, we supported the Oslo Accords two-state solution even though it would have returned to us only 22% of our historic homeland. But Israel repeatedly squandered our generosity, confiscating more Palestinian land to increase illegal Jewish-only colonies and Jewish-only roads. What remains to us now is less than 14% of Historic Palestine, all of it as isolated Bantustans, shrinking ghettos, walls, fences, checkpoints with surly soldiers,and the perpetual encroachment of expanding illegal Israeli colonies.

While the Palestine Authority has led us into a shrinking land mass, less water, more restrictions, ominous walls and merciless slaughter, notable individuals and popular movements have mobilized for Palestine as once happened for South Africa. Moral authorities like former President Jimmy Carter, Nobel Laureates Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire, and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson have condemned Israeli Apartheid. Organizations supporting the Divestment and Boycott Campaign against Israel include religious institutions such as the Presbyterian Church, The World Council of Churches, United Church of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Anglican Church, the Federation of European Jews for a Just Peace, among many others. It includes civil and professional organizations such as the National Lawyers Guild, the Irish Municipal, Public and Civil Trade Union in Ireland, as well as labor unions in Canada, Britain, and other nations. An academic boycott of Israel has spread throughout the UK and other parts of Europe and taken root in US universities across the country. The International Solidarity Movement has seen thousands of individuals come to the Occupied Territories to protect Palestinians from the violence of settlers during the olive harvest; to protect children on their daring daily journeys to school; and to bear witness to the inhumanity of military occupation. The Free Gaza movement has transported by boat hundreds of people willing to risk their lives to bring greatly needed supplies to the besieged people of Gaza. This Christmas, internationals will march to the Egypt/Gaza border to break this siege. These are but a few examples of growing popular support for the Palestinian struggle.

When compared with the accomplishments of these grassroots movements, the futility of “negotiations” becomes painfully apparent. It is clear that we cannot look to our leaders (elected or imposed) to achieve justice. Just as only the masses could bring South Africa’s Apartheid to its knees, it will be the masses who will also bring Israel’s Apartheid crashing. The continued expansion of international action demanding the implementation of Palestinian basic human rights is inevitable.

The notion of religious-ethnocentric entitlement and exclusivity for one people at the expense of another has been rejected the world over. Palestinians reject it and we assert that we are human beings worthy of the same human rights accorded to the rest of humanity; that we are worthy of our homes and farms, our heritage, our churches and mosques, and our history; and that we should not be expected to negotiate with our oppressors for such basic dignities. The two-state solution was and remains an instrument to circumvent the basic human rights of Palestinians in order to accommodate Israel’s desire to be Jewish. Polls show that Palestinians refuse to be the enemies of our Jewish brothers and sisters anywhere, just as we refuse to be oppressed by them.

It is time for our shared land to be the inclusive and diverse country it had been. It is time for leaders to follow the people’s determined movement toward a single democratic state, with liberty and justice for all, regardless of religion.

Ref: Counterpunch

Susan Abulhawa is the author of Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury, 2010); and Ramzy Baroud is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). His newbook is, “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).

WANTED: Israeli war crime ministers! + Israel’s culture of impunity

Israel’s culture of impunity

A Spanish court attempted to open a criminal investigation under international law into the killing of a Hamas leader in Gaza City. But the Spanish government backed off under US and Israeli pressure. Israel won’t investigate. Who can?
by Sharon Weill

An Israeli Air Force plane dropped a one-tonne bomb on the al-Daraj district of Gaza City, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, around midnight on 22 July 2002. It was meant to kill Salah Shehadeh, the former military leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, who was at home with his family. It succeeded; Shehadeh and 14 civilians, most of them children, were killed, 150 people were injured, many severely. Nearby houses were damaged or destroyed.

In Madrid on 29 January this year, Judge Fernando Andreu Merelles decided, on the basis of universal jurisdiction (1), to open a criminal investigation against seven Israeli political and military officials for allegedly committing a war crime (2). The court claimed that the facts pointed even to crimes against humanity, and so lawyers said they would do their utmost to demonstrate that the bombing was part of a policy of systematic attacks against a civilian population.

The Spanish proceedings had been initiated by six Palestinian victims since it was “impossible to bring the relevant prosecution before the Israeli judicial authorities”. In August 2008 the court asked Israel for information on judicial proceedings; this January it ruled that “the facts can and must be investigated by the Spanish jurisdiction… since no response whatsoever has been received to the request made by this Court… nor is there any evidence that any proceedings have been brought to investigate the facts” (3).

Just as this ruling was made, Israel sent a 400-page file claiming that proceedings were under way in Israel and that the Spanish court should desist. However, even if the Shehadeh affair has been reviewed by legal authorities in Israel including the High Court of Justice (HCJ), no decision has been taken as to whether to initiate criminal proceedings. In September 2002, the pacifist movement Yesh Gvul requested the military advocate general, and then the state advocate general, to open a criminal investigation against those who had planned and executed the operation. An internal investigation within the army found that the collateral damage was the result of an intelligence failure and had not been anticipated by the decision-makers. The attorney general adopted this version of the facts, ruling out a criminal investigation.
Implicit recognition

Yesh Gvul and five Israeli authors then filed a petition to the HCJ demanding that it review the authorities’ decision not to open a criminal investigation. The petition, on 30 September 2003, ended: “There is no intention to disguise the fact that appellants are guided by the desire that the investigation and indictment (if evidence is found) remain within the confines of the State of Israel. The High Court of Justice is the last stop of the law enforcement train before it crosses the borders of the State of Israel and we find ourselves giving the nations of the world the justification to conduct criminal proceedings… according to international law.”

A petition questioning the legality of the targeted killings policy had been pending before the same court since January 2002: the HCJ decided to suspend the Shehadeh petition. On 14 December 2006 it ruled that the policy could not be defined as legal or illegal, and should be determined on a case-by-case basis on the principle of proportionality. Judge Aharon Barak, then HCJ president, emphasised the difficulty of establishing the principle: “Take the usual case of a combatant, or of a terrorist sniper shooting at soldiers or civilians from his porch. Shooting at him is proportionate even if as a result, an innocent civilian neighbour or passer-by is harmed. That is not the case if the building is bombed from the air and scores of its residents and passers-by are harmed.”

By using facts similar to the elimination of Shehadeh, Barak was implicitly acknowledging that a war crime had been committed. After this decision, the HCJ recommended that the Shehadeh affair be examined by an independent body (rather than by the court). On 23 January 2008 the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert appointed a commission of inquiry with three members: two former generals and an ex-security services officer. The structure, nature and mandate of the commission were determined by the state – the very body whose actions were to be investigated. The commission was to function as a military inquiry: all the procedure, testimonies and final report remain confidential and inadmissible before a court of law, and the commission can only provide non-binding recommendations to the army. It has yet to complete its mandate.

The Spanish public prosecutor submitted a request, on 2 April, for the Spanish court to decline competence over the case since parallel proceedings had been taking place in Israel: but Israel would only have the priority if it were willing and able to prosecute. On 4 May the Spanish court rejected the prosecutor’s request to decline competence. The Spanish court found that the Israeli prosecution authorities’ endorsements of an internal military probe, and the fact that the commission of inquiry had been appointed by the prime minister, meant that the case was neither independent nor impartial.

Politicised reactions in Israel show how states perceive the separation of powers doctrine in reaction to accountability for international crimes. The procedure in Spain was described in the media as a “cynical attempt by the Palestinian plaintiffs to exploit the Spanish judicial system to advance a political agenda against Israel”, using diplomatic channels. Ehud Barak, leader of the Labour Party, said: “I intend to appeal to the Spanish foreign minister, the Spanish minister of defence and, if need be, the Spanish prime minister, who is a colleague of mine in the Socialist International, to override the decision” (4).

Under political pressure from Israel, China and the US, the Spanish Congress agreed to amend the law on universal jurisdiction, limiting it to cases with Spanish victims, or suspects present on Spanish soil. On 30 June the Court of Appeal ordered the closure of the investigation.

This is not the first such case. In 2003 Belgium was bullied into changing its law and procedure, following Israeli and US pressure about complaints brought against the former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and ex-US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld. (The US threatened Belgium with moving Nato headquarters out of Brussels.) Since then, victims have been unable to initiate any judicial investigation; that is now the prerogative solely of the prosecution, which normally reflects government policy. This is a major obstacle to accountability under international law.
Unwilling or unable

Israeli state practice demonstrates the existence of a culture of impunity. According to the Israeli non-governmental organisation Yesh Din, criminal prosecutions are conducted only in exceptional cases – soldiers who act wrongly on their own account – and military inquiries are used to avoid criminal investigation (5). In 2003 the human rights organisation B’tselem filed a petition that challenged the policy not to open criminal investigations in cases in which bystanding Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army. The petition is still pending.

Israel is well aware of the possibility of accountability abroad: it did not allow the publication of photos or names of soldiers in Operation Cast Lead (the Gaza war). Officers who travel abroad have first to get approval for their trip. Israel has even declared it will pay all legal expenses for trials abroad.

Yet awareness in Israel of the possibility of being held accountable abroad does not seem to influence the treatment of war crimes allegations, as was demonstrated by the Shehadeh case, or recent war crimes committed in Gaza. If Israel does not change its practice of impunity, this indicates its unwillingness, or inability, to prosecute war crimes allegations. If Israel is not able to prosecute its own war criminals and if the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction, the only way to get justice is through the exercise of universal jurisdiction, an obligation for all states set in the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

Ref: Le Monde

Why Not Sanctions for Israel? – Gross Violations of Human Rights (SANCTIONS NOW!)

In Israel, a country stolen from the Palestinians, fanatics control the government. One of the fanatics is the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Last week Netanyahu called for “crippling sanctions” against Iran.

The kind of blockade that Netanyahu wants qualifies as an act of war. Israel has long threatened to attack Iran on its own but prefers to draw in the US and NATO.

Why does Israel want to initiate a war between the United States and Iran?

Is Iran attacking other countries, bombing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure?

No. These are crimes committed by Israel and the US.

Is Iran evicting peoples from lands they have occupied for centuries and herding them into ghettoes?

No, that’s what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians for 60 years.

What is Iran doing?

Iran is developing nuclear energy, which is its right as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran’s nuclear energy program is subject to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which consistently reports that its inspections find no diversion of enriched uranium to a weapons program.

The position taken by Israel, and by Israel’s puppet in Washington, is that Iran must not be allowed to have the rights as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty that every other signatory has, because Iran might divert enriched uranium to a weapons program.

In other words, Israel and the US claim the right to abrogate Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy. The Israeli/US position has no basis in international law or in anything other than the arrogance of Israel and the United States.

The hypocrisy is extreme. Israel is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and developed its nuclear weapons illegally on the sly, with, as far as we know, US help.

As Israel is an illegal possessor of nuclear weapons and has a fanatical government that is capable of using them, crippling sanctions should be applied to Israel to force it to disarm.

Israel qualifies for crippling sanctions for another reason. It is an apartheid state, as former US President Jimmy Carter demonstrated in his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

The US led the imposition of sanctions against South Africa because of South Africa’s apartheid practices. The sanctions forced the white government to hand over political power to the black population. Israel practices a worse form of apartheid than did the white South African government. Yet, Israel maintains that it is “anti-semitic” to criticize Israel for a practice that the world regards as abhorrent.

What remains of the Palestinian West Bank that has not been stolen by Israel consists of isolated ghettoes. Palestinians are cut off from hospitals, schools, their farms, and from one another. They cannot travel from one ghetto to another without Israeli permission enforced at checkpoints.

The Israeli government’s explanation for its gross violation of human rights comprises one of the greatest collection of lies in world history. No one, with the exception of American “christian zionists,” believes one word of it.

The United States also qualifies for crippling sanctions. Indeed, the US is over-qualified. On the basis of lies and intentional deception of the US Congress, the US public, the UN and NATO, the US government invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and used the “war on terror” that Washington orchestrated to overturn US civil liberties enshrined in the US Constitution. One million Iraqis have paid with their lives for America’s crimes and four million are displaced. Iraq and its infrastructure are in ruins, and Iraq’s professional elites, necessary to a modern organized society, are dead or dispersed. The US government has committed a war crime on a grand scale. If Iran qualifies for sanctions, the US qualifies a thousand times over.

No one knows how many women, children, and village elders have been murdered by the US in Afghanistan. However, the American war of aggression against the Afghan people is now in its ninth year. According to the US military, an American victory is still a long ways away. Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared in August that the military situation in Afghanistan is “serious and deteriorating.”

Older Americans can look forward to the continuation of this war for the rest of their lives, while their Social Security and Medicare rights are reduced in order to free up funds for the US armaments industry. Bush/Cheney and Obama/Biden have made munitions the only safe stock investment in the United States.

What is the purpose of the war of aggression against Afghanistan? Soon after his inauguration, President Obama promised to provide an answer but did not. Instead, Obama quickly escalated the war in Afghanistan and launched a new one in Pakistan that has already displaced 2 million Pakistanis. Obama has sent 21,000 more US troops into Afghanistan and already the US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, is requesting 20,000 more.

Obama is escalating America’s war of aggression against the Afghanistan people despite three high profile opinion polls that show that the American public is firmly opposed to the continuation of the war against Afghanistan.

Sadly, the ironclad agreement between Israel and Washington to war against Muslim peoples is far stronger than the connection between the American public and the American government. At a farewell dinner party last Thursday for Israel’s military attache in Washington, who is returning to Israel to become deputy chief of staff of the Israeli military, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, and and Dan Shapiro, who is in charge of Middle East affairs on the National Security Council, were present to pay their respects. Admiral Mullen declared that the US will always stand with Israel. No matter how many war crimes Israel commits. No matter how many women and children Israel murders. No many how many Palestinians Israel drives from their homes, villages, and lands. If truth could be told, the true axis-of-evil is the United States and Israel.

Millions of Americans are now homeless because of foreclosures. Millions more have lost their jobs, and even more millions have no access to health care. Yet, the US government continues to squander hundreds of billions of dollars on wars that serve no US purpose. President Obama and General McChrystal have taken the position that they know best, the American public be damned.

It could not be made any clearer that the President of the United States and the US military have no regard whatsoever for democracy, human rights, and international law. This is yet another reason to apply crippling sanctions against Washington, a government that has emerged under Bush/Obama as a brownshirt state that deals in lies, torture, murder, war crimes, and deception.

Many governments are complicit in America’s war crimes. With Obama’s budget deep in the red, Washington’s wars of naked aggression are dependent on financing by the Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Saudis, South Koreans, Indians, Canadians and Europeans. The second this foreign financing of American war crimes stops, America’s wars of aggression against Muslims stop.

The US is not a forever “superpower” that can indefinitely ignore its own laws and international law. The US will eventually fall as a result of its hubris, arrogance, and imperial overreach. When the American Empire collapses, will its enablers also be held accountable in the war crimes court?

Ref: Counterpunch

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

Israeli doctors colluding in torture + Doctors demand Yoram Blachar resign as ethics chief over Israeli torture + The UN Committee Against Torture Criticizes Israel

Israel’s watchdog body on medical ethics has failed to investigate evidence that doctors working in detention facilities are turning a blind eye to cases of torture, according to Israeli human rights groups.

The Israeli Medical Association (IMA) has ignored repeated requests to examine such evidence, the rights groups say, even though it has been presented with examples of Israeli doctors who have broken their legal and ethical duty towards Palestinians in their care.

The accusations will add fuel to a campaign backed by hundreds of doctors from around the world to force Yoram Blachar, who heads the IMA, to step down from his recent appointment as president of the World Medical Association (WMA).

More than 700 doctors have signed a petition arguing that Dr Blachar has disqualified himself from leadership of the WMA, the profession’s governing ethical body, by effectively condoning torture in Israel.

The campaign against Dr Blachar has gained ground rapidly since his appointment as president in November. Critics said his alleged complicity in the use of torture in Israeli detention facilities can be traced to 1995, when he became chairman of the IMA.

Until 1999, when Israel’s Supreme Court restricted torture, Israeli doctors routinely supervised the medical treatment of abused detainees, mostly Palestinians from the occupied territories.

During that period Dr Blachar surprised many colleagues by expressing support for Israeli interrogators’ use of “moderate physical pressure” in a letter to The Lancet, the British medical journal. The phrase covers a wide range of practices from beatings and binding prisoners in painful positions to sleep deprivation. It is regarded by human rights organisations as a euphemism for torture.

Despite the 1999 court ruling, a coalition of 14 Israeli human rights groups known as United Against Torture concluded in its latest annual report in November that Israeli detention facilities are still using torture systematically. Israeli doctors are also being relied on to treat the resulting injuries.

Last week, Physicians for Human Rights and the Public Committee against Torture in Israel published a joint report examining hundreds of arrests in which Palestinians were bound in “distorted and unnatural” ways to inflict “pain and humiliation” amounting to torture.

The report noted instances where prisoners, including a pregnant woman and a dying man, were shackled while doctors carried out emergency procedures in a hospital.

According to the report, the doctors violated the Tokyo Declaration, the key code of medical ethics adopted by the WMA in 1975 that bans the use of cruel, humiliating or inhuman treatment by physicians.

Ishai Menuchin, the head of the Public Committee, said his group had been lobbying strenuously against Israeli doctors’ complicity in torture since it issued a report, Ticking Bombs, in 2007, arguing that torture was routine in Israel.

The Public Committee highlighted the testimonies of nine Palestinians who had been tortured by interrogators. The report also noted that in most cases Israeli physicians treating detainees “return their patients to additional rounds of torture, and remain silent”.

In June last year, Physicians for Human Rights drew the IMA’s attention to two cases in which the attending doctor failed to report signs of torture on a Palestinian.

Anat Litvin of Physicians for Human Rights told the IMA: “We believe that doctors are used by torturers as a safety net – take them out of the system and torture will be much more difficult to enact.”

The groups stepped up their pressure in February, writing to Avinoam Reches, the chairman of the IMA’s ethics committee. They demanded that his association investigate six cases of doctors who failed to report signs of torture.

In one case, a prison doctor, under pressure from interrogators, agreed to retract a written recommendation that a detainee be immediately hospitalised for treatment.

Prof Reches promised to conduct an inquiry. However, last month the two human rights groups criticised him for failing to investigate their claims, accusing him of holding only “amicable and unofficial” conversations over the phone with a few of the doctors concerned.

“We have sent to the IMA many testimonies from victims of torture who were referred to doctors for treatment,” Dr Menuchin said. “But the IMA has yet to do anything about it.

“A significant number of doctors in Israel, in detention facilities and public hospitals, know torture is taking place, but choose to avert their gaze.”

This month, Defence for Children International issued a report on the torture of Palestinian children, noting that in several of the cases it cited, Israeli doctors had turned a blind eye. A boy of 14 who was beaten repeatedly on a broken arm reported the abuse to a doctor who, he said, replied only: “I had nothing to do with that.”

The report stated that the group “has not encountered a single case where an adult in a position of authority, such as a soldier, doctor, judicial officer or prison staff, has intervened on behalf of a child who was mistreated”.

Campaigners against Dr Blachar’s appointment as the head of the WMA say its Israeli sister association’s inaction on torture is unsurprising given its chairman’s public stance.

Derek Summerfield of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said: “The IMA under Dr Blachar is in collusion with the Israeli state policy of torture. Its role is to put a benign face on the occupation.”

Dr Blachar told the Israeli website Ynet last week that such criticisms were “slanderous”, saying he and the IMA denounced all forms of torture.

The WMA, with nine million members in more than 80 countries, was established in 1947 as a response to the abuses sanctioned by German and Japanese doctors during the Second World War.

In 2007, the WMA’s general assembly called on doctors to document and report all cases of suspected torture.

Ref: Global Research

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

Also read > Doctors demand Yoram Blachar resign as ethics chief over Israeli torture and Israel admits torture and Israel’s very own Guantanamos

The UN Committee Against Torture Criticizes Israel

On 15 May 2009, the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) concluded its 42nd session in Geneva by issuing concluding observations and recommendations on periodic reports submitted by five states, including Israel.
The Committee, which is made up of 10 independent experts, received written and oral submissions from government officials and non-governmental organisations before and during its review of Israel’s Fourth Periodic Report on 5 and 6 May 2009. Members of the United Against Torture Coalition jointly submitted three reports [1, 2, 3] and over 150 pages of evidence [1, 2] as well as they sent representatives to Geneva to give a presentation before the Committee.

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Abbas: All Palestinians should be given right to return home

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters in Lebanon on Thursday that all Palestinians should be given the right to return home.

The highly contentious notion of a Palestinian “right of return” is one key issues in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for peace agreement.

“The refugees should have the right of return to their homeland and we are negotiating this with the Israelis. I have to say we are not with permanent settlement of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. We are against permanent resettlement,” Abbas told reporters after meeting Lebanese President Michel Suleiman on a visit to Beirut.
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Abbas also said he rejects the idea that Palestinian refugees might be forced to stay in Lebanon permanently.

The Palestinian president added that he supports all decisions made by the Lebanese government on how to deal with Palestinian militants outside the refugee camps.

“The camps in Lebanon are part of the Lebanese territories and part of the Lebanese government’s responsibility, regarding security and non-security matters,” Abbas said. “We are ready to cooperate by all means because we do not see ourselves as being in charge of security inside the camps,” he said.

Impoverished and densely packed Palestinian camps have become fertile ground for Palestinian factions vying for control.

About 400,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants live in twelve refugee camps around Lebanon. The refugee camps were set up for Palestinians displaced during the 1948 War of Independence that led to the creation of the state of Israel.

The fate of millions of Palestinian refugees is one of the most difficult issues in Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. Israel has refused to accept the return of refugees, believing that they should be resettled in a future Palestinian state or the places where they now live.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said this week that the right of return is incompatible with the creation of a Palestinian state.

Many Lebanese are opposed the permanent resettlement of Palestinian refugees, fearing they would tip the country’s delicate sectarian balance.

Ref: Haaretz

Khadr video released

“Khadr is 16 at the time and still recovering from the injuries he received from his capture seven months earlier by U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan. He is being interviewed by a senior spy from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and foreign affairs official Jim Gould, although the faces of the two Canadians have been blacked out.”

Ref: the Star

‘Dutch Jimmy Carter’ accuses Israel of terrorism in new book

The emotion in Andreas Van Agt’s voice as he lambastes Israel’s behavior seems puzzling for a man of his status. It is especially intriguing when one is reminded that this blue-eyed professed idealist is an astute statesman who presided as the Dutch prime minister for five years, until 1982.

“My involvement in the Middle East is certainly unusual,” Van Agt confessed in an interview with Haaretz at his home in Nijmegen, where he discussed Israel, the Palestinians, European foreign policy, the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.


Currently, Van Agt is writing a book about the Israeli-Arab conflict. In December he launched an info-site (www.driesvanagt.nl) about the subject, in which he accuses Israel of brutal treatment of the Palestinians, violating international law and implementing racist policies.

Among other illustrations, the site contains one snapshot of a graffiti slogan said to have been sprayed by Jewish settlers on a Hebron wall, reading: “Arabs to the gas chambers.”

Last year, Van Agt spoke as keynote speaker at a controversial solidarity rally with the Palestinian people in Rotterdam, where he lamented the Dutch boycott of Hamas, calling it wrong “and even stupid.” He has also been outspoken in accusing the Israel Defense Forces of acting like a terrorist organization.

“In my country, people are highly surprised by my demeanor. Some even say it should be ascribed to my advanced age; that I’m not fully in my right mind anymore,” the 77-year-old says with a snicker while sitting under the outdated portrait of the Queen, which hangs on the wall of his modern-style, taupe-colored den.

Van Agt hails from the ranks of the ruling party, the Christian Democratic Appeal. Such statements about Israel can therefore be seen as embarrassing for the current leadership, which is considered one of Israel’s staunchest supporters in the European Union.

When Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen was asked earlier this year during a visit to Israel whether he regarded the statements by the former premier as embarrassing to the government, his first response was a hearty laugh. He then distanced himself from the former leader. “Dries Van Agt represents the opinion of one man: Dries Van Agt,” Verhagen told Haaretz.

Van Agt nonetheless maintains his statements are embarrassing to CDA top-brass, adding that the embarrassment is not an undesirable effect as far as he is concerned. “I could say that maybe what I’m doing is not as embarrassing to them as it should be,” he says.

His penchant for criticizing Israel to varying degrees of acrimoniousness was not characteristic of his term in office. “The Dutch Jimmy Carter”, as local media sometimes dub him, says he became vocal after 1999, when his “eyes were opened” during a traditional catholic pilgrimage trip to religious sites in the Holy Land.

“I’m driven partly by my shame for not speaking up for the Palestinians when I was in power, and partly by some striking experiences I had when visiting the Occupied Territories in the recent past,” he says. “People often ask me how come I’m so outspoken now, but did not speak up when I was in a position of power. And it’s true, I never spoke up for the Palestinians, except for when Sabra and Shatila happened. And even that was in soft terms.”

Van Agt says he is still “ashamed” that he made effort to sooth matters for Israel after the 1982 massacre of hundreds of Palestinian refugees by Lebanese Christian militiamen in an IDF-controlled area of Lebanon. “That was my inclination, that was how I was mentally structured vis-à-vis Israel at the time,” he says.

But much more than Sabra and Shatila, it was the story of one Palestinian young man from Bethlehem which put Van Agt on his present course, according to the ex-premier.

“In one of my visits to Bethlehem I heard a story, which now I know is just one of many,” Van Agt recalls. “It was a story horrendous humiliation of a Palestinian student trying to get to university for a collective exam. His story, which the university president told me, struck me like lightening.”

At the last IDF checkpoint on the way, according to the story which Van Agt says he heard from the university president, the student was pulled over and ordered to climb out of the window. “Then the humiliation began. He fell down and was then ordered to walk on hands and feet and bark. Then the soldiers laughed about the Palestinians all being dogs.”

That story, Van Agt says, served to undermine his former conviction that “everything which Israel does is what it needs to do for its survival.” It launched him into the problem, he says.

“I began studying, figuring out what’s going on there. I found one story after the other. Then I started thinking about the 39 United Nations resolutions begging, demanding and imploring Israel to vacate the Occupied Territories. All were dismissed by Israel. Saddam Hussein was attacked after four resolutions, but Israel got 39 and nobody talks about applying even the slightest pressure on Israel to comply with them,” he complains.

Europeans, he says, have a political obligation toward the Palestinians which they have overlooked. “All the other Arabs, in some way or another, happy or unhappy, dictatorial or not, have their only states. The only Arabs that never got a state were the Palestinians. That has to do with the former colonialist powers, the U.K. and France.”

The second reason for his feeling of commitment toward the Palestinians, Van Agt says, is that “without the worst crime in the history of humanity, the Holocaust, the Shoa, Israel would not have come into existence in that time and in that formula.”

Most Western nations, he says, are in some form complicit in the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis, be it by denying shelter for Jewish refugees, or collaborating with the Germans. This resulted in guilt which prompted Europeans “to sacrifice the Palestinians for Israel,” he proposes. “The Palestinians paid the price for something they were not responsible for. That is my drive,” he says after a short dramatic pause. “And the emotions you see are real and authentic, and they stem from this injustice.”

The self-proclaimed commitment that European nations have for democracy, Van Agt argues, means that they should recognize Hamas as a legitimate representative of the Palestinians. “It is not Hamas’ government which is illegitimate,” he says, alluding to Hamas’ victory in the 2006 elections over Fatah. “It is counterproductive and unwise not to talk to Hamas – also because the legitimacy of the current government in Ramallah is questionable.”

The three conditions for recognizing Hamas as stipulated by Israel and the Quartet strike Van Agt as stupid. “The first requirement, that Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is biased because Israel does not recognize Hamas’ right to rule. Where’s the reciprocity there?” he complains. Besides, he says, “Israel has never defined its own borders, so demanding Hamas to recognize an entity without clear borders is totally unreasonable.”

The demand that Hamas honor the Palestinian Authority’s past agreements with Israel is also unpalatable to Van Agt, on the grounds that they were not signed and conducted by a democratically elected, and hence legitimate, regime. To him, the Palestinian Authority consists of a bunch of small, fragmented Bantustans,” he says.

“The Oslo Accords and the talks that followed were the most self-defeating thing Arafat had ever done,” the former premier observes. “The Accords didn’t provide any guarantees to the Palestinians and were not based on international law. And Abbas is continuing with this endeavor which runs contrary to the rights and interests of the Palestinians.”

As for the third demand, which is to renounce violence, Van Agt says: “First of all, Israel is still employing violence, so again there’s no reciprocity. But besides that, since when does international law renounce the right of occupied people to resist the occupying power?”

When the subject of Hamas’ own debatable level of commitment to democratic values comes up – along with the question of whether the Islamist organization should be afforded the protection of a set of values that it does not honor ? Van Agt acknowledges that “things could be better.”

He adds: “Hamas’ behavior is reason for great concern, that’s right. But it’s ignorant to judge how Hamas is ruling without taking into account the impossible conditions in Gaza, the biggest prison in the world.”

Hamas’ suicide bombings are “illegal and detestable” to Van Agt, he says, but he would only agree to call Hamas a terrorist organization if the definition is applied to the Israeli army as well. “If one party is called a terrorist entity because it carries out deliberate attacks against civilians to pursue political goals, then the Israeli army is guilty of state terrorism. That needs to be said, too. Human rights organizations report that the Israeli army has killed more than 3000 Palestinian civilians since the beginning of the second Intifada.”

Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin, he recalls, “introduced the bombing of civilians as a military tactic in the run up to the establishment of Israel, and were therefore called terrorists.”

The perceived failure of Israel’s neighbors to live up to Western standards of democracy is also a result of their conflict with Israel, according to Van Agt. “Maybe I’m a naïve idealist, but I think that if Israel had not evolved into being a disaster for its neighbors then they would behave much batter. Not perfectly, not to the full standard, but much better. I cannot help but put much of the blame on Israel itself, and the pressure that it has placed on its neighboring countries.”

However, Van Agt is willing to acknowledge that Israel is currently fighting extremist Muslim groups who are also committed to the destruction of societies like the Netherlands.

In Van Agt’s eyes, Israel “is not behaving like a country that deserves to be called a member of the family of civilized nations.” This observation applies to the U.S. too, he says, “which is co-responsible for the injustice we have been facing for decades.

According to Van Agt, Israel is making frequent and excessive use of deadly force against the Palestinians. This accusation has been seen as hypocritical of Van Agt by some pro-Zionist detractors in the Netherlands, most notably by the Hague-based Center for Information and Documentation (CIDI.)

In 1977, when Van Agt was justice minister, a group of Moluccan militants seeking autonomy for their group of Indonesian islands hijacked a train in northeast Holland and took its 50 passengers hostage for 20 days. Rather than resolve the situation through dialogue, Van Agt voted in favor of a military operation that left six of the nine hijackers dead, along with two hostages.

The analogy between the use of force in the Moluccan hijacking case and use of force by Israelis against Palestinians is farfetched, Van Agt says. “Given the same set of circumstances, I would still authorize the use of force,” he says.

According to his account, it was Van Agt who cast the deciding vote in favor of the action in a small forum of five.

“The prime minister was against the action and another minister was also opposed. I was for it along with two others. We had tried to negotiate for long enough – weeks.

The situation on the train, Van Agt recalls, was becoming critical.” Doctors warned us that people on the train might have heart attacks. There was also the possibility that someone might go berserk and attack one of the highjackers – and who knows what kind of bloodshed might have ensued. I would do the same exactly all over again.”

The militants’ demands nonetheless seem justified to Van Agt, he says. The South-Moluccans, who were seen by many Indonesians as collaborators with the Dutch colonizing power, came to Holland in the 1950s for a temporary stay. They had been promised by the Dutch government that they would get their own independent state, but felt betrayed after the Netherlands failed to deliver.

Over the years, several opinion-shapers, including the German writer and journalist Henryk Broder have accused Van Agt of anti-Semitism because of his criticism of Israel. People from organizations which are critical of Israel and regularly confer with Van Agt, like “A Different Jewish Voice” and United Civilians for Peace, say he is anything but anti-Semitic.

He says he has had to face the accusation because “It’s the most effective way of keeping countless others from following my example and speaking about what they really feel.”

The accusers, however, allege Van Agt demonstrated anti-Semitism before he became so involved with the Palestinian cause. In 1972, one year after he left his position as a lecturer on criminal law to become justice minister, Van Agt sparked a heated debate by attempting to pardon the last three Nazi war criminals still in Dutch prisons.

At a press conference that same year, he said to a journalist: “I am only an Aryan” in speaking about his intention to bring about the Nazi prisoners’ release for health reasons.

“I was what is called a progressive thinker,” Van Agt explains. “Now, in the last years of my life, I’m returning to that. I had some very modern ideas about the use and uselessness of applying criminal law sanctions. I have very serious doubts about the use, and hence justification, of detaining people for anything but the heaviest crimes.”

“I had these kinds of ideas long before I came to a position of power. I wrote about them and promulgated them in books and articles. So that was nothing new. Then all of a sudden, to the surprise of everyone, including myself and my wife, I became justice minister. And that meant I got the problem of the three remaining Germans war criminals in Dutch prisons on my plate.”

The two previous justice ministers, Teun Struycken and Carel Polak, also supported releasing the prisoners in principle, according to Van Agt. “Polak was one of the many highly gifted sons of the Jewish people”, Van Agt says. “And justice minister Ivo Samkalden, also Jewish, had released one of the Dutch war criminals already in the 1960’s.”

“These ministers agreed that holding on to the prisoners was senseless,” he adds. “I would still support their release if it happened today. They were of bad health, and one or two of them was senile. I still believe it’s nonsense to keep a senile person in prison, and when detaining people doesn’t make sense, then it’s injustice.”

Injustice in the case of the Nazi criminals was not the way to celebrate the reestablishment of Dutch constitutional state (Rechtstaat in Dutch) after the Nazi occupation, he argues. “It needed to be shown in its full potential. Keeping these people in jail served no legal purposes. Specific prevention? They couldn’t even handle a pen. And as for general prevention, well, did anyone think the Germans would start another war if the prisoners were released?” Two of the Breda Three were released in 1989. A third died in the southern-Holland prison in 1979.

The famous “Aryan” statement, which grabbed headlines in 1972, needs to be understood in context, he says. “When I just got my appointment as a minister, the first thing I did was meet the press. I was totally inexperienced and green. It was a very informal cocktail party. I went around, mingled, made jokes and was basically having fun with the new friends to come.”

Then the question came up. “I should have known it, but I was so naïve then. One journalist asked if I would act to end the continued detention of the three German prisoners. And then I made the gravest mistake. I said that even my Jewish predecessor was unsuccessful in getting them out of jail – ‘and I’m only an Aryan.'”

Slowly shaking his head, Van Agt repeats the short explosive sentence. “It was made in self-deprecation. I was deriding myself, a style which has always characterized my presentations. But that wretched word was in the newspapers the next morning. One guy picked out that one sentence from that informal conversation.”

The explanations eventually satisfied the Dutch electorate and the press, Van Agt says. “I hadn’t heard about the story for 30 years, but when I started becoming critical of the state of Israel, it resurfaced in an effort to silence me. Those who criticize me and others who speak out, always target the person bearing the message. They are not interested in a fair and open debate. Kill the messenger, if you can’t beat the message.” In earnest tone of voice, he concludes: “I am definitely not an Anti-Semite.”

Moreover, he says that no anti-Semite could ever reach a position of power in the Netherlands. “It’s absolutely impossible. Even among those who have become highly critical of Israel’s illegal policies, there is a deep respect for the Jewish people.”

That respect, he says, has developed into a “deeply engrained consciousness of the contribution that European Jews have made over the years to European culture. No one with anti-Jewish sentiments could come to power here.”

Ref: Haaretz

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