Monday, October 31, 2011

Drone Knowns and Drone Unknowns

On Friday, September 30, Anwar al-Awlaki — described variously in the press as “Senior Al Qaeda leader,” “firebrand cleric,” and “Al Qaeda’s rising star” — was killed by a Hellfire missile launched from a Predator drone as al-Awlaki approached his Toyota Hilux pickup truck in eastern Yemen.

The missile weighed 100 pounds, and the strike took place; al-Awlaki had just eaten breakfast. These details, and many others, were reported immediately around the world. The Guardian ran a helpful sketch of a drone, accompanied by the text, “Al-Awlaki’s position was tracked for several days before the attack on his vehicle by a drone armed with Hellfire missiles.” Page three of the New York Post was even more informative. It included a map, a timeline (“How We Got Him”), a photo of a Predator, another photo of a Hellfire missile, and some pinup-girl stats about the drone itself, including “Cost: $5M” and “Size: 27 feet long, 55-foot wingspan.”

Three weeks later came another Predator success, and another orgy of detail. On Thursday, October 20 Muammar Qaddafi’s fleeing convoy of 100 vehicles was captured on camera by a drone patrolling the skies above Sirte. Then, as the Telegraph reported, “The Predator drone, flown out of Sicily and controlled via satellite from a base outside Las Vegas, struck the convoy with a number of Hellfire anti-tank missiles.” Other western news sources reprinted these details with only minor changes in syntax. Wired’s Danger Room blog reported that it was the 145th Predator strike in Libya, according to the Pentagon. More

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Palestine: The environmental impact of Israel's military occupation

Let me start by introducing to you who the Palestinian people are and giving you a brief background to the conflict!
Palestinians are the indigenous inhabitants of the land that was once known as Palestine – and is now called Israel and the Occupied Territories. Palestinians were mostly a population of farmers – fellaheen – their view of their identity is therefore defined by their connectedness to the stones, the earth and the trees. They are the descendants of local inhabitants, mainly Christian and Jews who had converted after the Islamic conquest in the 17th century AD.
The average Palestinian tending his/her farm in the hills of Hebron is aware of the history of invaders and occupiers that have passed through their ancient land.

But today, these indigenous farmers of Palestine know that they face a bigger existential threat than ever before. No past occupation has caused as much damage to the soil, no former empire has inflicted this much pain on this ancient landscape. No past invaders’ have acted with so much impunity as to uproot thousands of trees, poison water wells and replace agricultural land with so much concrete and barbwire.
Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is a story about stolen land, exploitation of labour and theft of resources. It is a story about warehousing a people – mostly stateless refugees, in bantustans and behind high walls, forcing them to be a captive consumer market and a source of cheap labour.
This story provides a classic case for exploring the relationship between corporate greed and perpetual conflict. More

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Truths, facts and facts on the ground

In 1991, negotiations started officially and unofficially between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (and the Palestinians associated with it) and the Israeli government. At the time, Israel had occupied the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip for the previous 24 years.

Today, 20 years later, Israel and President Obama insist that the only way to bring about peace, and presumably end the Occupation, is to continue with negotiations. It is unclear if what Obama and Israel are claiming is that Israel needs 24 years of negotiations in order to end its 24-year occupation of Palestinian land, so that by the time the occupation ends, it will have lasted for 48 years.

This of course is the optimistic reading of the Israeli and US positions; the reality of the negotiations and what they aim to achieve, however, is far more insidious.

The negotiations have been based on specific goals to end certain aspects of the Israeli relationship to the Palestinians, namely some of the parts introduced since the 1967 war and the occupation, and the beginning of exclusive Jewish colonial settlement of these territories.But what always remains outside the purview of negotiations is the very core of the Palestinian-Israeli relationship, which the Palestinians are told cannot be part of any negotiations.

These off-limits core issues include what has happened since 1947-1948, including the expulsion of 760,000 Palestinians, the destruction of their cities and towns, the confiscation and destruction of their property, the introduction of discriminatory laws that legalise Jewish racial, colonial and religious privilege and deny Palestinian citizens of Israel equal rights and reject the right of the expelled refugees to return.

Yet, this core, which the Israelis summarise as Israel's right to be, and to be recognised as, a "Jewish" state, is what is always invoked by the Israelis themselves as central to beginning and ending the negotiations successfully and which the Palestinians, the Israelis insist, refuse to discuss. More

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Negev's Hot Wind Blowing

October 25, 2011 - Over the past 15 months the dusty plains of the northern Negev desert in Israel have been witness to a ritual of destruction, part of a police operation known as Hot Wind. 

On 29 occasions since June 2010, hundreds of Israeli paramilitary officers have made the pilgrimage over a dirt track near the city of Beersheva to the zinc sheds and hemp tents of al-‘Araqib. Within hours of their arrival, the 45 ramshackle structures -- home to some 300 Bedouin villagers -- are pulled down and al-‘Araqib is wiped off the map once again. All that remains to mark the area’s inhabitation by generations of the al-Turi tribe are the stone graves in the cemetery.

The al-Turis are determined to stay on their ancestral lands to maintain their traditional pastoral way of life; Israel wants the land for a forestation program, to beautify the Negev and attract more Jews to settle there.

The struggle over al-‘Araqib has played out many times before in other Negev locations since Israel’s founding in 1948. Then, and in the early years of state building, all but 11,000 of the Negev’s population of 90,000 Bedouin were expelled to Egypt, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank. Today, with the highest birth rate of any ethnic group in Israel, the Bedouin number about 190,000, nearly a third of the Negev’s population. Half of them continue to live in rural communities, all of which Israel has refused to accord normal legal standing.

But in September the Israeli government announced a plan to complete the unfinished business of 1948. Over the coming months and years, Israel intends to implement a scheme to evict some 40,000 Bedouin from their homes in the Negev in a program of forced urbanization. It will be an act of wholesale removal unseen in this desert region for more than a generation. More >>>

Friday, October 7, 2011

Extra judicial killings and procedural due process for the rule of law

Two stares, the United States of America and Israel, have decided that they are above the law and decided to ignore due process killing their own citizens as well as those of other sovereign states.

In the words of Justice Robert Jackson, the Chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials; "If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes,

they are crimes whether the United States does then or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us".

Last week USA Today carried an article by Jonathan Turley that began 'Last week, Americans saw a curious sight for a free nation: Their president ordered the killing of two U.S. citizens without a trial or even a formal charge … and the public applauded.' this referring to the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both American citizens. While few people, except their family mourn the death of figures such as al-Awlaki, the international community should be demanding that all states uphold the rule of law.

The hundreds of innocent civilians that have been killed in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan are another example of murder by America.
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote" As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air - however slight - lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."

Perhaps even more disturbing is an article that stated 'The U.S. military may be a decade or so away from deploying an army of pilotless drones capable of collaborating and killing without any human guidance'. Read

Let us all then beware the twilight and reverse this trend of being above the rule of law.

Location: Cayman Islands

Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing In The World Now

I was honored to be invited to speak at Occupy Wall Street on Thursday night. Since amplification is (disgracefully) banned, and everything I say will have to be repeated by hundreds of people so others can hear (a k a “the human microphone”), what I actually say at Liberty Plaza will have to be very short. With that in mind, here is the longer, uncut version of the speech.

I love you.

And I didn’t just say that so that hundreds of you would shout “I love you” back, though that is obviously a bonus feature of the human microphone. Say unto others what you would have them say unto you, only way louder.

Yesterday, one of the speakers at the labor rally said: “We found each

other.” That sentiment captures the beauty of what is being created here. A wide-open space (as well as an idea so big it can’t be contained by any space) for all the people who want a better world to find each other. We are so grateful.

If there is one thing I know, it is that the 1 percent loves a crisis. When people are panicked and desperate and no one seems to know what to do, that is the ideal time to push through their wish list of pro-corporate policies: privatizing education and social security, slashing public services, getting rid of the last constraints on corporate power. Amidst the economic crisis, this is happening the world over.

And there is only one thing that can block this tactic, and fortunately, it’s a very big thing: the 99 percent. And that 99 percent is taking to the streets from Madison to Madrid to say “No. We will not pay for your crisis.”
More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mosque Torching: When Terrorists Attacks Against Arabs Cross the Green Line

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, was reportedly “outraged” on Monday by images of the gutted mosque in the Bedouin village of Tuba Zangariya, close to the Galilee’s Jewish towns of Rosh Pina and Safed.

The mosque was torched by right-wing Jewish extremists. Netanyahu warned that the attack violated Israel’s “supreme values” of freedom of

religion and worship and called on the security services to swiftly catch the perpetrators.

However, critics pointed out that he and other government ministers had failed to express equal concern over a spate of similar attacks on mosques that have occurred in the West Bank over the past two years.

Arab Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi observed of the Israeli leadership: “Those who failed to stop the cancerous growth and the mosque burning in the occupied territories should not be surprised when the metastasis grows inside the state of Israel.”

Since 2009, when Netanyahu formed the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, Jewish extremist groups based in the West Bank settlements have set fire to more than half a dozen Palestinian mosques, as well as committing several pogrom-style attacks on isolated Palestinian communities.

Now, the suspicions of Israel’s Arab minority that they too are on the hit list have been confirmed.

Despite the rapid rise of these pogrom-style tactics by Jewish terror groups, Israel’s security services have yet to catch a single suspect. The extremists’ impunity now appears to have emboldened them to turn their attention to holy places belonging to Israel’s Arab citizens. More >>>


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Palestine in Criminal Court Triggers Western, Israeli Fears

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 27, 2011 (IPS) - If Palestine fails to achieve full statehood recognition at the United Nations, the only other viable option is to

get "enhanced" observer status with the 193-member General Assembly, the U.N.'s highest policy making body.

But that proposed new status has already triggered Israeli and Western fears that Palestinians may also logically win the right to haul the Jewish state before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on war crimes charges.

"If Israel is not going to commit any war crimes or violate international humanitarian law," says Dr. Nabeel Shaath, a senior official of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and a former foreign minister, "it should have absolutely no reason to fear our membership with the ICC."

The ICC is one of those institutions created by the United Nations in order to make people accountable when they violate, he said.

"If they don't violate, why should they be worried?" asked Shaath, one of the most articulate Palestinians holding a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, where he once taught finance and economics.

"Of course, Shaath is rhetorically correct," said Richard Falk, a former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights, "but the Israeli response would be that would not stop the Palestinian Authority from making irresponsible allegations." More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


LEGAL BRIEF on the ongoing destruction of Palestinian- owned rainwater storage cisterns by the Israeli Civil Administration in Area C of the West Bank, due to lack of building permits

September, 2011 - Everyday, throughout the sections of the West Bank exclusively under Israel’s control (Area C), rain water harvesting cisterns face administrative

demolition orders from the Israeli Civil Administration due to the lack of building permits. Cisterns are vital to the livelihoods of marginalized Palestinian rural and herder communities in the West Bank who rely on them to provide water for livestock, crops and sometimes for domestic water usage in the absence of an adequate network connection. Since 2009, a total of 44 cisterns and rainwater collection structures in Area C have been demolished, twenty of them between January and July of 2011.
Those demolitions have directly affected the lives of 13,602 Palestinians. Having lost their access to water, 127 people have been displaced, including 104 children. The Diakonia IHL Resource Centre weighs in on how this practice, in which thousands of Palestinians are directly affected each year, stands in relation to International Humanitarian Law.
This legal brief focuses on the ongoing destruction of Palestinian-owned rainwater storage cisterns by the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) in Area C of the West Bank, due to lack of building permits (commonly referred to as “administrative” destructions). The analysis is based on international humanitarian law (IHL) with a human rights perspective. Initially, the brief highlights key legal aspects of the Israeli planning regime in Area C. It elaborates on the special legal status of cisterns, and identifies the scope of prohibition against their destructions under IHL. Lastly, it examines the implications of inadequate planning for and destruction of cisterns on the occupier’s humanitarian and human rights obligations towards the protected Palestinian population, including the delivery of aid in Area C. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

World Food Day, 16 October 2011

Food prices - from crisis to stability

Price swings, upswings in particular, represent a major threat to food security in developing countries. Hardest-hit are the poor. According to the

World Bank, in 2010-2011 rising food costs pushed nearly 70 million people into extreme poverty.

“FOOD PRICES – FROM CRISIS TO STABILITY” has been chosen as this year’s World Food Day theme to shed some light on this trend and what can be done to mitigate its impact on the most vulnerable.

On World Food Day 2011, let us look seriously at what causes swings in food prices, and do what needs to be done to reduce their impact on the weakest members of global society. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Film on Climate Refugees Strikes a Chord

During the shooting of his 2010 documentary “Climate Refugees,” the Irish-American filmmaker Michael Nash visited nearly 50 countries in about

18 months, interviewing politicians, scientists, health workers and victims of floods, cyclones, hurricanes and droughts.

Click here for film trailer

His conclusion was that short- and longer-term changes in climate are causing vast numbers of people to abandon their jobs, homes and countries to seek better lives elsewhere, or to simply survive. (Jeffrey Gettleman’s recent coverage of the Somali refugee crisis in The Times has offered some vivid and disturbing examples, although Somalia’s troubles are also inextricably linked to political turmoil.)

Mr. Nash poses a basic question: what will become of the millions of people whose lack of access to food and clean water leads them to take increasingly desperate measures? What type of strains will huge migration put on resources in more developed countries?

Will this dislocation eventually, as the retired Navy vice admiral Lee Gunn told Mr. Nash, pose a threat to Americans’ national security, too?

By focusing on the consequences of climate change rather than its scientific causes, some experts suggest that Mr. Nash succeeded in circumventing a divisive political debate over global warming and the extent to which human activity contributes to it. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands