Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Confronting intimidation, working for justice in Palestine

If we had a wish list for 2012 as Palestinians and friends of Palestine, one of the top items ought to be our hope that we can translate the dramatic shift in recent years in world public opinion into political action against Israeli policies on the ground.

We know why this has not yet materialized: the political, intellectual and cultural elites of the West cower whenever they even contemplate acting according to their own consciences as well as the wishes of their societies.

This last year was particularly illuminating for me in that respect. I encountered that timidity at every station in 

the many trips I took for the cause I believe in. And these personal experiences were accentuated by the more general examples of how governments and institutions caved in under intimidation from Israel and pro-Zionist Jewish organizations.

A catalogue of complicity

Of course there were US President Barack Obama’s pandering appearances in front ofAIPAC, the Israeli lobby, and his administration’s continued silence and inaction in face of Israel’s colonization of the West Bank, siege and killings in Gaza, ethnic cleansing of the Bedouins in the Naqab and new legislation discriminating against Palestinians in Israel.

The complicity continued with the shameful retreat of Judge Richard Goldstone from his rather tame report on the Gaza massacre — which began three years ago today. And then there was the decision of European governments, especially Greece, to disallow campaigns of human aid and solidarity from reaching Gaza by sea.

On the margins of all of this were prosecutions in France against activists calling forboycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and a few u-turns by some groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Europe caving in under pressure and retracting an earlier decision to cede connections with Israel. More

Palestinian's in a Jewish state'

Palestinians living in Israel face institutionalised discrimination and segregation in a supposedly democratic state.

Israel’s crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories - like the settlements, the killing of civilians and the demolition of homes - are openly condemned in the West by human rights groups and others like never before. But as the peace process remains stuck, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu forces the issue of Israel as a “Jewish state” into the spotlight, understanding the situation of Palestinian citizens of Israel has become crucial to grasping the core of the entire conflict.

So-called “Israeli Arabs” have got it better than most Palestinians, who are either under military rule or forcibly excluded from their homeland. But the institutional discrimination they have faced since 1948 goes to the heart of the contradiction that Israel is “Jewish and democratic”.

Many people will concede that the military occupation of non-citizens for over 40 years is undemocratic. Yet, inside the pre-1967 borders, Israel is far from the “liberal democracy” central to the propaganda, in areas like land, planning, housing, immigration and state budgets. Rhetoric and policies associated with the far-right in Europe - like an obsession with “demographics” and birth rates, or boosting one kind of population in a given area to counterbalance an “undesirable” minority - are mainstream in Israeli politics.

In my new book, Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy, I unpack some of the core elements of how Israel’s Palestinian citizens have been treated since 1948. One aspect is the area of nationality and citizenship rights, as this short extract explains:

A poorly understood aspect of Israel as a Jewish state is the distinction between “citizenship” and “nationality”, an issue confused by the fact that, in English, the two terms can often be used interchangeably. In Israel, “‘nationality’ (Hebrew: le’um) and ‘citizenship’ (Hebrew: ezrahut) are two separate, distinct statuses, conveying different rights and responsibilities”. Palestinians in Israel, as non-Jews, can be citizens, but never nationals, and are thus denied “rights and privileges” enjoyed by those “who would qualify for Israeli citizenship under the 1950 Law of Return”. More

Saturday, December 24, 2011

UN expert concerned at poor living conditions of Canada's indigenous

20 December 2011 – 
An independent United Nations human rights expert has asked Canada to clarify what it is doing to address the “dire” socio-economic conditions of the Attawapiskat aboriginal community, noting that many of its members live in unheated shacks or trailers, with no running water.
James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said in a news release that he has been in touch with the Canadian Government to voice his deep concern about the conditions of the Attawapiskat First Nation, which he said exemplifies the conditions of many aboriginal communities in the country.

The Attawapiskat First Nation is a remote community in northern Ontario comprised of about 1,800 members. Mr. Anaya noted that the poor living conditions are particularly serious as winter approaches the area, which faces winter temperatures as low as minus 28 degrees Celsius. “The social and economic situation of the Attawapiskat seems to represent the condition of many First Nation communities living on reserves throughout Canada, which is allegedly akin to Third World conditions,” he stated.

“Yet, this situation is not representative of non-aboriginal communities in Canada, a country with overall human rights indicators scoring among the top of all countries of the world.

“Aboriginal communities face vastly higher poverty rights, and poorer health, education, employment rates as compared to non-aboriginal people,” said the expert. More

Friday, December 23, 2011

EU Warns Israel Against Connecting Ma’ale Adumim With Jerusalem

The European Union warned the Israeli government against creating a geographical contiguity between the Ma’ale Adumim settlement and occupied East Jerusalem by constructing a new settlement in the area. 
EU envoy, Andrew Stanley, submitted an official document in this regard to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. 
The EU said that Israel is demolishing Palestinian homes in Area A, an area Israel intends to use for establishing a settlement that would create a chain between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim. 
Stanley stated that the EU is extremely concerned regarding the new Israeli plan, and demanded explanations on the issue. 

The EU stance was made after several EU countries, members of the Security Council, including Germany and Italy, denounced the escalated settlement activities in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and the sharp rise in settler attacks against the Palestinians and their property. 

Recently, Jerusalem Mayor, Nir Barkat, said that Israel must cede East Jerusalem Palestinian areas that are now behind the Annexation Wall. Such an issue would isolate the residents from their work places, educational facilities, medical facilities and all other aspects of their daily life. 

Experts in issues related to the Wall and Settlements stated that all initial indications point to the Israeli intentions to create two networks of roads that would separate Palestinian and Israeli traffic from each other. 

One network would link between West and East Jerusalem, from Jerusalem to Ma’ale Adumim in East Jerusalem, and from the north to the south in order to link settlements in the northern part of the West Bank with Jerusalem and other settlements in the southern part of the West Bank. More

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Failure at Durban - Is There a Crime of Ecocide

There is increasing evidence of dangerous, possibly catastrophic, climate change approaching. The latest science leads to the conclusion that limiting climate change to a 2⁰C increase in average global temperature is now not possible. 

There always was, after all, only a 50% chance. Now it has become a question of which year the threshold will be breached, how high the temperature will rise, over what time period, and what the consequences will be for the planet. Twenty years after Rio – after the legislative framework for effective global coordination to combat climate change was set in place – we arrive at deadlock. The capacity of the global community to solve the over-riding global challenge has proven to be inadequate. The global interest has been torn to shreds by the mindlessly competitive pursuit of excessive national interests. 
The talk will now turn to ‘transition periods’, to ‘preparatory phases’, ‘voluntary targets’, ‘coordinated action’, and ‘bottom-up approaches’. Our national leaders will spin positively into 2012. The ‘realistic expectation’ will focus on the possibility of global agreement by, or after, 2020.

The realistic prescription, from the UN and research institutes, is that global emissions need to peak between 2015 and ’17.

Historians, assuming sufficient social stability for dispassionate analysis a half-century from now, will search for reasons for our collective failure during the critical twenty-year period, 1992 – 2012. They will conclude that human technology outpaced human institutional capacity for rational decision-making. National leaders responded, as constitutionally and politically obliged, to national interest. More

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

European members of Security Council condemn Israeli settlements, settler violence

The four European Union members of the UN Security Council on Tuesday strongly criticized Israel’s decision to speed up construction of settlements, which they termed a “wholly negative” development.”

The ambassadors from Britain, France, Germany and Portugal issued a joint statement branding the Israeli settlements in Palestinian occupied territories and East Jerusalem as illegal under international law. “We call on the Israeli government to reverse these steps,” the statement said. “The viability of the Palestinian state that we want to see and the two-state solution that is essential for Israel’s long-term security are threatened by the systematic and deliberate expansion of settlements.”

The statement, issued following the 15-country Security Council’s closed-door discussion on the situation in the Middle East, condemned Israeli settlers’ violence against the Palestinians, including the burning of the Nebi Akasha mosque in West Jerusalem and the Burqa mosque in the West Bank.

It called on Israeli leaders to boldly demonstrate political will and leadership to break the impasse in negotiations with the Palestinians. It called on both Israelis and Palestinians to agree on a package of proposals to settle security and border issues in order to advance negotiations toward ending the conflict.

The four countries reiterated support for the creation of a “sovereign, independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian state living in peace and security side by side with Israel.” More

Monday, December 19, 2011

Not a drop: Israel takes a spring and childhood memories with it

Mustafa Tamimi was killed during the weekly protest in Nabi Saleh, which demonstrates against the occupation, illegal Jewish settlements, and Israel's appropriation of the village spring. While Nabi Saleh might be one of the most visible struggles around water, there are numerous other places in the West Bank where Israel has taken water resources and diverted them for settlements. A Palestinian man discusses his childhood connection with one such spring...

Abdallah stares at the empty channel, his face resigned. On this beautiful sunny day, he hadn't expected to find the creek of his childhood completely dried up. Beside the waterless channel, there is a huge Israeli pump, protected by electric fences.

“Al Auja was a water spring, where the creek started”, Abdallah Awudallah, a 29-year-old from the Bethlehem district's Ubbedyia village, tells the Alternative Information Center. He came here with a group of internationals to discuss Israeli confiscation of land and water in the Jordan Valley. The tour would have finished in Al Auja water spring. But the water was gone.

Not a drop: the Israeli authorities have built a generator in order to draw up water from the once-flowing creek and to send it to the agricultural settlements in the Jordan Valley. The spring, which used to serve Jericho, is now reserved exclusively for Israeli settlements.

“In Arabic ‘auja’ means ‘in the opposite direction’" Awudallah explains. "We used to call the creek like that because for long stretches the water ran up and not down. Because of the high pressure and speed, the water received the boost it needed to flow [upstream]."

Not only was the spring unique, it colored the desert green. It also served as an educational tool for Palestinian children, Awudallah adds.

“Many schools in the West Bank used to bring the students for a trip to Jericho and Al Auja: it was the perfect place to spend a day between water and fish and to study one of the basic vital resources. No Palestinian schools can organize a journey in Tiberias, in Palestine ’48, because they lack the necessary permits to enter Israel. So, Al Auja was the only place to feel the importance of water." More

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Israel razing more Palestinian homes, wells: monitors

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has stepped up its demolitions of Palestinian property in occupied land this year, razing double the number of homes and water wells from 2010, human rights groups said on Tuesday.

The statement endorsed by 20 organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch further said Jewish settler violence against Palestinians had risen in 2011 and that Israel had sped up its expansion of settler enclaves.

They urged members of the Middle East peacemaking “Quartet” — the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia — to put pressure on Israel to “reverse its settlement policies and freeze all demolitions that violate international law.”

Quartet representatives were expected in the region again on Wednesday for yet another effort to revive peace talks frozen since last year over settlement construction.

The statement, citing U.N. figures, said Israel had destroyed more than 500 Palestinian homes, wells and other structures in 2011, displacing more than 1,000 people, the greatest number in a single year since 2005.

Settler assaults on Palestinians, including deliberate damage to some privately owned 10,000 olive trees, have also risen to their worst level since 2005, with a 50 percent increase over 2010, and more than a 160 percent increase over 2009, the U.N. figures show. More

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Poison from the Sky

BUENOS AIRES, Dec 9, 2011 (IPS) - Argentina's soy boom has been a major source of foreign exchange. But the other side of the coin is the toxic effects among the rural population, from spraying agrochemicals.

Research by the National University of Río Cuarto in the northwestern province of Córdoba demonstrated that glyphosate, the herbicide used on transgenic soy crops, causes genetic damage in mice and amphibians, like frogs. 
Two years ago, another research study by Andrés Carrasco, a professor at the Molecular Embryology Laboratory of the University of Buenos Aires School of Medicine and principal researcher at the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), also demonstrated damage in amphibians. 

Genetically modified (GM) soy seeds, approved amid controversy in the 1990s for use in Argentina, were developed by the U.S.-based multinational biotechnology corporation Monsanto to be resistant to glyphosate, the active principle in the "Roundup" herbicide sold by the company. 
Introduction of the GM seeds launched an expansion of soy cultivation and increased use of glyphosate. Today, 18 million hectares are planted to soy, out of a total of nearly 30 million hectares of all kinds of grain crops.  Sales of "Roundup" herbicide, which contains glyphosate and other ingredients that aid its absorption by plants, soared dramatically from one million litres a year in the 1990s to nearly 300 million litres a year today, according to official figures.  In 2006, a group of NGOs with access to medical reports from provinces where soy cultivation was expanding, launched the "Stop the Spraying" ("Paren de Fumigar") campaign, which managed to get an official commission created to look into the reports of health damages. 

But the commission produced no results, and Monsanto insists that, with proper precautions, the herbicide is not toxic.  Delia Aiassa, a biologist in the Genetics and Environmental Mutagenesis group at the Natural Sciences Department of the University of Río Cuarto, leads a research team studying the impact of glyphosate on health.  The expert explained that exposure to glyphosate can cause asthma, chronic bronchitis, skin and eye irritation, damage to the kidneys, liver and nervous system, cancer, developmental problems in children and birth defects. More

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Republican presidential aspirants support regime change and extra-judicial killings in Iran

U.S. Boosts Monitoring of Iran Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011

The United States has regularly used an advanced radar-evading unmanned aircraft as part of a program of increased monitoring of Iranian nuclear facilities, the New York Times reported on Wednesday. Flights of high-flying drones from Afghanistan are one example of a much broader program to gather data on Iran's atomic activities, which Washington and partner nations believe is aimed at giving the Middle Eastern state a nuclear-weapon capability. Tehran says its atomic ambitions do not include military efforts.
The drone program came to light this week with the crash of a RQ-170 Sentinel deep within Iranian territory. Iran has claimed it intentionally brought down the aircraft, an assertion rejected in Washington, which has blamed the crash on an equipment glitch.

The drone was being used in the hunt for subterranean passageways, installations or other locations that might house secret uranium enrichment operations or production of centrifuge components, the newspaper reported. Uranium enriched to high levels can be used to fuel nuclear weapons.

The United States, France and the United Kingdom in 2009 announced the existence of a secret Iranian enrichment plant at Qum. That find, though, seemed to be largely the result of efforts by Israel.

"We've got nothing of that scale yet," said one high-level U.S. official, but "we are looking every day." More

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Robin Hood Tax

Demonstrators in Nice, France, last month urged the leaders of the Group of 20 nations to do more to help the poor.

They call it the Robin Hood tax — a tiny levy on trades in the financial markets that would take money from the banks and give it to the world’s poor.

And like the mythical hero of Sherwood Forest, it is beginning to capture the public’s imagination.

Driven by populist anger at bankers as well as government needs for more revenue, the idea of a tax on trades of stocks, bonds and other financial instruments has attracted an array of influential champions, including the leaders of France and Germany, the billionaire philanthropists Bill Gates and George Soros, former Vice President Al Gore, the consumer activist Ralph Nader, Pope Benedict XVI and the archbishop of Canterbury.

“We all agree that a financial transaction tax would be the right signal to show that we have understood that financial markets have to contribute their share to the recovery of economies,” the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, told her Parliament recently.

On Sunday, Mario Monti, the new prime minister of Italy, announced plans to impose a tax on certain financial transactions as part of a far-reaching plan to fix his country’s budgetary problems, and he endorsed the idea of a Europewide transactions tax. More

Syria: Bashar Al-Assad Denies Ordering Crackdown

BEIRUT — Syria’s president has denied he ordered the deadly crackdown on a nearly 9-month-old uprising, claiming he is not in charge of the troops behind the assault.

Speaking to ABC’s Barbara Walters in a rare interview that aired Wednesday, President Bashar Assad maintained he did not give a command “to kill or be brutal.” “They’re not my forces,” Assad responded when asked if Syrian troops had cracked down too hard on protesters. “They are military forces (who) belong to the government. I don’t own them. I’m president. I don’t own the country.”

In fact, in his role as president, Assad is the commander of Syria’s armed forces.

The U.N. estimates more than 4,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began in March. “Who said the United Nations is a credible institution?” Assad said, when Walters asked him about allegations of widespread violence and torture. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Assad was trying to shirk responsibility. “I find it ludicrous that he is attempting to hide behind some sort of shell game but also some sort of claim that he doesn’t exercise authority in his own country,” Toner said. Assad has responded with once-unthinkable promises of reform in one of the most authoritarian states in the Middle East. But he simultaneously unleashed the military to crush the protests with tanks and snipers.

Still, he insisted he still had the support of Syrians. More