Friday, January 27, 2012

Palestinian families denied rights by Israel’s racist marriage laws

 One used to be able to take the Hijaz railway from Akka to Jenin and then to Nablus. The railway, built by Sultan Abdel Hamid II at the turn of the twentieth century, was intended to consolidate his own power over the Ottoman Empire, but perhaps its more lasting impact was to unify the inhabitants of Palestine.

Jenin and Akka are less than 50 kilometers away from each other, but in order to travel between the two cities one must pass through a military checkpoint positioned between the wall Israel is building in the West Bank and the rest of historic Palestine.  
The “security” pretext
In 2006, Taiseer and Lana were married, allowing her for the first time to be granted a permit to visit her husband and his family at their home in Akka. Before that, Taiseer routinely visited Lana at her home in Jenin. But upon marrying Taiseer, Lana did not receive citizenship, nor could she begin an application for citizenship. 
In 2003, when Taiseer and Lana met, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed a temporary law that forbade Palestinians from becoming Israeli citizens upon marrying an Israeli. Called the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law, the law was introduced under the pretext of security — despite there being scant evidence that suggests Palestinian spouses are threats to Israel. More

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Navi Pillay, UN Rights Chief, Says Guantanamo Must Close

 GENEVA — The U.N. human rights chief says the U.S. government must close the Guantanamo Bay prison as President Barack Obama promised a year ago.

Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, says “the facility continues to exist and individuals remain arbitrarily detained – indefinitely – in clear breach of international law.” 
Obama pledged to shutter the U.S. Naval Base prison in Cuba in his annual address to Congress last year.
Pillay said Monday – ahead of Obama’s next annual speech Tuesday – that she is deeply disappointed the U.S. government “has instead entrenched a system of arbitrary detention.”
Pillay said she also is “disturbed at the failure to ensure accountability for serious human rights violations, including torture, that took place.” More

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Palestinian children – alone and bewildered – in Israel's Al Jalame jail

 The room is barely wider than the thin, dirty mattress that covers the floor. Behind a low concrete wall is a squat toilet, the stench from which has no escape in the windowless room. The rough concrete walls deter idle leaning; the constant overhead light inhibits sleep. The delivery of food through a low slit in the door is the only way of marking time, dividing day from night.

This is Cell 36, deep within Al Jalame prison in northern Israel. It is one of a handful of cells where Palestinian children are locked in solitary confinement for days or even weeks. One 16-year-old claimed that he had been kept in Cell 36 for 65 days. The only escape is to the interrogation room where children are shackled, by hands and feet, to a chair while being questioned, sometimes for hours.
Most are accused of throwing stones at soldiers or settlers; some, of flinging molotov cocktails; a few, of more serious offences such as links to militant organisations or using weapons. They are also pumped for information about the activities and sympathies of their classmates, relatives and neighbours.
At the beginning, nearly all deny the accusations. Most say they are threatened; some report physical violence. Verbal abuse – "You're a dog, a son of a whore" – is common. Many are exhausted from sleep deprivation. Day after day they are fettered to the chair, then returned to solitary confinement. In the end, many sign confessions that they later say were coerced. More

Friday, January 20, 2012

Swiss 'contract children' speak out

 A dark chapter of Swiss history is getting increased attention, with the release of a feature film about “Verdingkinder” or “contract children” and an exhibition about them which is touring the country.

A common feature of Swiss life until the mid-1950s, Verdingkinder were primarily children from poor families in the cities, forcibly removed from their parents by the authorities and sent to work on farms.

There, many of them were regularly beaten and even sexually abused. They had little education and consequently, as adults, little chance of making careers for themselves.

Many also found that the abuse experienced in their childhood made it difficult to establish relationships as adults - former Verdingkinder have high rates of divorce and many now live alone.

Peter Weber was a Verdingkind. Now 55, he lives in a small flat in Basel, and he has never forgotten the day, over 50 years ago, when his childhood ended.

“One morning, when I was four,” Peter remembers, “my mother took me on a train way out into the country, to a farm.”

“Then she said, you have to stay here now. I think that was the moment I lost my faith in people, I had to work from the start, they hit me almost every day, it was bad.” More


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

French parliament report accuses Israel of water 'apartheid' in West Bank

 The French parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee published an unprecedented report two weeks ago accusing Israel of implementing "apartheid" policies in its allocation of water resources in the West Bank.

The report said that water has become "a weapon serving the new apartheid" and gave examples and statistics that ostensibly back this claim.

"Some 450,000 Israeli settlers on the West Bank use more water than the 2.3 million Palestinians that live there," the report said. "In times of drought, in contravention of international law, the settlers get priority for water."

The author of the report was Socialist Party MP Jean Glavany, who in the past served as agriculture minister under French President Lionel Jospin and as cabinet secretary for President Francois Mitterrand. More 


Monday, January 16, 2012

Israel's 'national suicide'

 The “Palestinian demographic bomb” is a myth created to continue discrimination against Palestinians and Israeli-Arabs.

Irvine, California - Say what you will about Israel’s High Court of Justice, it knows how to name a decision. In titling last Wednesday’s legal decision, upholding the controversial Citizenship Law that prevents Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens from living in Israel “Human rights are not a prescription for national suicide”, the court’s majority well summed up the existential predicament Israel faces today - indeed, has always faced - as it attempts to be both Jewish and democratic.

“National suicide” is, of course, an incredibly loaded term in the Israeli context. In the historical shadow of the Holocaust, Chief Justice Asher Grunis’s appellation immediately raised the spectre of an existential threat to the Jewish people, or nation (Am Yisrael), being posed by the mere possibility of Palestinian Arabs joining Israeli society through marriage. Right-wing lawmakers such as National Union chairman Ya’acov Katz have declared that the law would protect Israel from “the threat of being flooded with two-to-three million Arabs from outside its borders”. But such claims are utterly nonsensical. The true number, as Grunis and the five other Justices who joined the 6-5 majority surely know, would be in the low thousands. So why would they argue that allowing Palestinian spouses to become Israeli, which as the decision’s title clearly admits is a basic human right, constitutes an act of “national suicide” for Israeli Jews?

To answer this question, we need to consider other possible meanings of the national suicide claim. We could imagine that the justices believe that recognising such marriages would accelerate the already “dangerous” trend towards demographic equality between Jewish and Palestinian citizens, based on higher fertility rates among Palestinians.

The only problem with this oft-repeated claim is that it’s false; the growth rate among the Palestinian population of Israel has actually slowed in the past decade, while those of religious Jews has exploded. More


Sunday, January 15, 2012

EU Report on Israel: Saving the Two State Solution?

 Nazareth - Already-strained relations between Israel and Europe hit an all-time low this week after a leaked internal European report on the so-called peace process criticised Israel in unprecedented terms.


The document, which warned that the chances of a two-state solution were rapidly fading, appeared to reflect mounting exasperation among the 27 European member states at Israel’s refusal to revive talks with the Palestinians.


Israeli newspapers, reporting on the developing crisis, have led with headlines such as “Israel vs Europe.” One, Israel Today, known to be close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, recently announced “Europe becomes irrelevant,” in an echo of a rebuff to the Europeans issued by Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s far-right foreign minister.


Israeli observers have warned that a falling-out with Europe is the last thing Israel needs, following its recent fallout with key strategic allies in the region, such as Turkey and Egypt.


The tensions have been provoked by the emergence of what appears to be an increasingly independent European approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, suggesting a possible break with the EU’s traditional submissiveness towards the United States’ Middle East agenda.


European powers appear to be balking at the prospect that the two-state solution is about to slip out of grasp, as Netanyahu’s rightwing government refuses to make meaningful concessions and speeds up the pace of settlement-building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. That would end the framework of the Oslo accords, a diplomatic process that Europe has invested in heavily and which has dictated the West’s approach to peace-making for nearly two decades.


The EU’s critical stance has been expressed most clearly in two internal documents that were leaked separately to the Israeli media over the past weeks. Both suggest that European states are seeking to become actively involved in areas of Palestinian life under Israeli rule, possibly taking on a stewardship role, even if – as seems certain – it would risk angering Israel. More


The Death Convoy Of Afghanistan

 It may not be easy for Americans to summon much sympathy for Taliban or Qaeda prisoners. But the rules of war cannot be applied selectively.

Witness Reports And The Probing Of A Mass Grave Point To War Crimes. Does The United States Have Any Responsibility For The Atrocities Of Its Allies?

Trudging over the moonscape of Dasht-e Leili, a desolate expanse of low rolling hills in northern Afghanistan, Bill Haglund spotted clues half-buried in the gray-beige sand. Strings of prayer beads. A woolen skullcap. A few shoes. Those remnants, along with track marks and blade scrapes left by a bulldozer, suggested that Haglund had found what he was looking for. Then he came across a human tibia, three sets of pelvic bones and some ribs.

Mass graves are not always easy to spot, though trained investigators know the signs. "You look for disturbance of the earth, differences in the vegetation, areas that have been machined over," says Haglund, a forensic anthropologist and pioneer in the field of "human-rights archeology." At Dasht-e Leili, a 15-minute drive from the Northern Alliance prison at Sheber-ghan, scavenging animals had brought the evidence to the surface. Some of the gnawed bones were old and bleached, but some were from bodies so recently buried the bones still carried tissue. The area of bulldozer activity--roughly an acre--suggested burials on a large scale. A stray surgical glove also caught Haglund's eye. Such gloves are often used by people handling corpses, and could be evidence, Haglund thought, of "a modicum of planning." More

In light of recent court cases in relation to prisoner abuse in Iraq it would appear that the occupying power is liable for torture inflicted on prisoners. The question is 'who was the occupying power in this case'? Editor


UN chief slams settlements, calls for end to occupation

 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday slammed Israeli settlements as illegal and called for an end to the “occupation,” AFP reported.

Speaking at a conference on democracy in the Arab world in Beirut, Ban said that “the Israeli occupation of Arab and Palestinian territories” and “violence against civilians” must end. 

“Settlements, new and old, are illegal. They work against the emergence of a viable Palestinian state,” the UN chief stated.

Ban added: “A two-state solution is long overdue. The status quo offers only the guarantee of future conflict.”  


The UN secretary general also addressed the wider Arab world, calling on Syrian President Bashar Assad to “stop killing” his people. Ban angered Hezbollah during his visit to Lebanon, when he called on the Shi’ite group to give up its weapons on Friday. Ban said he was “deeply concerned about the military capacity of Hezbollah and … the lack of progress in disarmament.”

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah shot back, “We want you (the UN), the US and Israel to be concerned.”

“Our concern is that our people are comforted that there is a resistance in Lebanon and we will not allow a new occupation or another violation,” Nasrallah said in a video message to a Shi’ite religious event on Saturday. More

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Amazon girl burned alive by loggers: one story among hundreds of unreported deaths

 An eight-year-old girl from one of the last uncontacted tribes in the Amazon was captured by loggers in Brazil, tied to a tree, and then burned alive, the Telegraph reports. She was killed as part of a campaign to move the indigenous people off their land.

Brazilian authorities said Thursday they had not found evidence she was burned alive but that the presence of illegal loggers in the area was confirmed.

It is a shocking story, but one that Scott Wallace, author of “The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes,” says likely happens more often than we know.

“The jungle is so dense, the distance is so vast, that these kind of things can happen on a pretty regular basis. One of biggest problems is budgeting personnel and resources to enforce the law when resources are scant.”

In this instance, the child is said to have wandered away from the village where her 60-person Awá tribe resides, totally isolated from the modern world. The village is in a protected reserve in the north-eastern state of Maranhão, which has huge iron ore deposits and valuable timber.

“She was from another tribe, they live deep in the jungle, and have no contact with the outside world,” Luis Carlos Guajajaras, a local leader from a separate tribe, told a Brazilian news Web site. “It would have been the first time she had ever seen white men. We heard that they laughed as they burned her to death.” More

 And who buys timber and other products from the Amazon? Editor

EU on verge of abandoning hope for a viable Palestinian state

 Israel's foreign ministry denied that Israeli settlers were taking water resources from the West Bank

The Palestinian presence in the largest part of the occupied West Bank – has been, "continuously undermined" by Israel in ways that are "closing the window" on a two-state solution, according to an internal EU report seen by The Independent.

The report, approved by top Brussels officials, argues that EU support, including for a wide range of building projects, is now needed to protect the rights of "ever more isolated" Palestinians in "Area C", a sector that includes all 124 Jewish settlements – illegal in international law – and which is under direct Israeli control. It comprises 62 per cent of the West Bank, including the "most fertile and resource rich land". 

With the number of Jewish settlers now at more than double the shrinking Palestinian population in the largely rural area, the report warns bluntly that, "if current trends are not stopped and reversed, the establishment of a viable Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders seem more remote than ever".

The 16-page document is the EU's starkest critique yet of how a combination of house and farm building demolitions; a prohibitive planning regime; relentless settlement expansion; the military's separation barrier; obstacles to free movement; and denial of access to vital natural resources, including land and water, is eroding Palestinian tenure of the large tract of the West Bank on which hopes of a contiguous Palestinian state depend. More