Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Welcome to Nazareth

Until a few years ago, the only road northwards from central Israel to Nazareth rose from the fertile fields of the Jezreel Valley to wend its way steeply up the craggy face of a hill in the Lower Galilee range, following what must have once been a goat-herders’ path.

The crawl upwards—often behind a tourist coach or a truck—provided plenty of time to admire a dramatic outcrop of rock known as Mount Precipice, the spot where, according to Christian tradition, the townsfolk of ancient Nazareth tried to hurl a young Jesus to his death after he proclaimed himself the son of God. Locals refer to the place in Arabic as “Jebel Kufze," or “Jumping Hill,” alluding to what was possibly Jesus’ first miracle. He is said to have leapt to safety as he was pushed over the precipice.

For millenia, Jebel Kufze hid a secret. At its foot, close to where Jesus might have been dashed on the rocks had he not “jumped,” a cave was discovered by Franciscan monks in the 1960s. Excavations over the next decade identified human remains dating back possibly 100,000 years. At the time, so-called Kufze Man was our oldest ancestor ever unearthed.

But even Jebel Kufze, so rich in human and sacred significance, had no defense against the needs of a modern state, especially one whose officials have little or no sympathy with Christianity. Shortly after I moved to Nazareth in 2001, bulldozers and diggers moved in to tear out the lower southern flank of Mount Precipice, the deep scar eventually stopping just short of the Kufze Cave. A bridge on stilts was built up from the Jezreel Valley’s floor to what was left of the mount’s lower slope, and there engineers blasted a hole through the rock to create a tunnel.

The old “goat road” became a little-used scenic route to Nazareth. Meanwhile, the bridge and tunnel, which opened in 2008, needed a name. The list of candidates should have been long. It could have made reference to humankind’s forebears interred nearby; or to the miracle that averted the untimely death of a man in whose name a global religion was founded; or any of the subsequent Nazarenes who made a more limited mark on their city and the Galilee, such as Tawfik Ziyad, a mayor in the 1970s and 1980s whose “poetry of protest” still inspires Palestinians. But none were chosen.

Instead, government officials held discussions behind closed doors. The first we in Nazareth knew was when a sign appeared a short distance before the tunnel, naming the new route the “Rafael Eitan Bridge," after a famous general. Nazarenes were not consulted for good reason; their vehement opposition was assured.

The tenuous justification for the road’s name was that Eitan had been born in the Jezreel Valley, in a kibbutz (farming cooperative) called Tel Adashim. But Eitan’s fame derived not from his connection to the Lower Galilee or Nazareth, today the largest Arab city in Israel and the effective capital of the 1.4 million Palestinians who have citizenship inside the state.

He made his name first as a hawkish military chief of staff and then as a politician who was always ready to voice his visceral hatred of Palestinians and Arabs. In the early 1980s, he established a far-right party, Tzomet—an ideological forerunner of current foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party—and enthusiastically advocated settlement building. He is best known for stating: “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.”

Outside observers have assumed that Eitan was offering a policy prescription for the occupied territories. However, Palestinians inside Israel, much better and longer acquainted with Zionist politics, understood this declaration to refer to Palestinians wherever they were found, including in the Galilee. On another occasion, Eitan outlined his party’s platform: “We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel. …Force is all they do, or ever will, understand. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours.”

There could have hardly been a more succinct exposition of the logic of a central plank of Zionist policy known as “Judaization.” Long before Israel began building settlements in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, its strategic planners were devising similar methods to contain, fragment and control the dozens of Palestinian communities whose inhabitants had not been chased out of the new state in 1948. The goal was to turn these towns and villages into figurative “bottles” and transform their Palestinian inhabitants—a fifth of the population—into “drugged cockroaches,” who would docilely accept their inferior status in a self-proclaimed Jewish state.

Judaizing Nazareth

One of the very first targets for Judaization was Nazareth. The city, unlike most other Palestinian communities, had emerged relatively unscathed from the year-long bloodshed of the 1948 war. The newly declared state of Israel, still awaiting recognition from the United Nations, worried about a potential backlash from the international community, and especially the Vatican, if Nazareth were seriously attacked. So the city was left largely in peace as Israel’s armed forces swept northwards towards the Lebanese and Syrian borders. More


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Syrian war of lies and hypocrisy - Robert Fisk

Has there ever been a Middle Eastern war of such hypocrisy? A war of such cowardice and such mean morality, of such false rhetoric and such public humiliation? I’m not talking about the physical victims of the Syrian tragedy. I’m referring to the utter lies and mendacity of our masters and our own public opinion – eastern as well as western – in response to the slaughter, a vicious pantomime more worthy of Swiftian satire than Tolstoy or Shakespeare.

While Qatar and Saudi Arabia arm and fund the rebels of Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite/Shia-Baathist dictatorship, Washington mutters not a word of criticism against them. President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, say they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar is an autocracy and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world. Rulers of both states inherit power from their families – just as Bashar has done – and Saudi Arabia is an ally of the Salafist-Wahabi rebels in Syria, just as it was the most fervent supporter of the medieval Taliban during Afghanistan’s dark ages.

Indeed, 15 of the 19 hijacker-mass murderers of 11 September, 2001, came from Saudi Arabia – after which, of course, we bombed Afghanistan. The Saudis are repressing their own Shia minority just as they now wish to destroy the Alawite-Shia minority of Syria. And we believe Saudi Arabia wants to set up a democracy in Syria?

Then we have the Shia Hezbollah party/militia in Lebanon, right hand of Shia Iran and supporter of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. For 30 years, Hezbollah has defended the oppressed Shias of southern Lebanon against Israeli aggression. They have presented themselves as the defenders of Palestinian rights in the West Bank and Gaza. But faced with the slow collapse of their ruthless ally in Syria, they have lost their tongue. Not a word have they uttered – nor their princely Sayed Hassan Nasrallah – about the rape and mass murder of Syrian civilians by Bashar’s soldiers and “Shabiha” militia.

Then we have the heroes of America – La Clinton, the Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, and Obama himself. Clinton issues a “stern warning” to Assad. Panetta – the same man who repeated to the last US forces in Iraq that old lie about Saddam’s connection to 9/11 – announces that things are “spiralling out of control” in Syria. They have been doing that for at least six months. Has he just realised? And then Obama told us last week that “given the regime’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad … that the world is watching”. Now, was it not a County Cork newspaper called the Skibbereen Eagle, fearful of Russia’s designs on China, which declared that it was “keeping an eye … on the Tsar of Russia”? Now it is Obama’s turn to emphasise how little clout he has in the mighty conflicts of the world. How Bashar must be shaking in his boots. More


Israel obstructs the peace, and is paid handsomely for it

Israel has barely put a foot right with the international community since its attack on Gaza more than three years ago provoked global revulsion.

The right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu has serially defied and insulted foreign leaders, including US President Barack Obama; given the settlers virtual free rein; blocked peace talks with the Palestinians; intimidated and marginalised human rights groups, UN agencies and even the Israeli courts; and fuelled a popular wave of Jewish ethnic and religious chauvinism against the country's Palestinian minority, foreign workers and asylum seekers.

No wonder, then, that in poll after poll Israel ranks as one of the countries with the most negative influence on international affairs.

And yet, the lower Israel sinks in public estimation, the more generous western leaders are in handing out aid and special favours to their wayward ally. The past few days have been particularly shameless.

It was revealed last week that the European Union had approved a massive upgrade in Israel's special trading status, strengthening economic ties in dozens of different fields. The decision was a reversal of a freeze imposed in the wake of the Gaza attack of winter 2008.

Amnesty International pointed out that the EU was violating its own commitments in the European Neighbourhood Policy, which requires that, as a preferred trading partner, Israel respect international human rights, democratic values and its humanitarian obligations.

Equally troubling, the EU is apparently preparing to upend what had looked like an emerging consensus in favour of banning settlement products - the only meaningful punishment the EU has threatened to inflict on Israel.

With some irony, Europe's turnabout was revealed the same day that Israel announced it was planning to destroy eight villages in the West Bank, expelling their 1,500 Palestinian inhabitants, to make way for a military firing zone. Four more villages are also under threat. More


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Previously unseen UN documents say Ecocide was to be the 5th Crime Against Peace


Previously unseen UN documents say Ecocide was to be the 5th Crime Against Peace

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Imagine my surprise when a journalist called me a year ago to ask for my comment on the news that a law of Ecocide had been considered an international crime over 15 years ago. All we had was one document that referred to 3 countries who had objected to it being included as Crime Against Peace.

Today we have a paper trail that takes us back to 1972. The call to make Ecocide an international crime is nothing new - over 7,000 people took to the streets in Stockholm in 1972 to demand that ecocide be a crime. It was the time of the Vietnam War and world leaders had met in Stockholm to resolve environmental issues at an international level for the first time. At the same time, The People's Forum brought together some of the top experts of the day to discuss ecocide.

Fast forward a decade; 1985 saw the flame of the Law of Ecocide burn brightly again. Most significantly was the draft Code of Crimes Against the Peace and Security of Mankind(precursor to the Rome Statute) which included Ecocide. For a further 11 years the United Nations partook in concerted debate, discussion and research - one researcher even drafted the Ecocide Convention. What happened next is set out in the research paper, Ecocide is the Missing 5th Crime Against Peace.

Launched last week by The Human Rights Consortium at the School of Advanced Studies, University of London, The Ecocide Project will continue to unravel the question as to why it was shelved. Dr Damien Short, who has just taken up the post of Director of the Human Rights Consortium said "the paper provides a foundation of understanding on which we must build; there is more vital work to be done." The report draws attention to the preamble of the draft Ecocide Convention, where there is the explicit recognition that Ecocide is not always a crime of intent - and that Ecocide is caused in both times of war and peace.

These are words that have just as much relevance today as they did when they were written in the draft Ecocide Convention in 1973:

"Man has consciously and unconsciously inflicted irreparable damage to the environment in times of war and peace."

My dream is for a world of peace, a world where mass damage and destruction no longer exists. I believe we can live in peaceful enjoyment where both people and planet are put first.

Like the name of the research paper, Ecocide is the missing 5th Crime Against Peace - just imagine; when we close the door to mass damage and destruction a new door will open. When it does close, our world of conflict will end. What will open is the door to the world of peace.

In peace,


Polly Higgins is a lawyer, barrister and the author of Eradicating Ecocide and Earth is our Business. Polly proposed to the United Nations the law of Ecocide be the 5th Crime Against Peace.

See here for more information on The Ecocide Project and to download the research paper; you can read more about the law of Ecocide at www.eradicatingecocide.com

In the news: Ecocide Project reveals unseen documents


Monday, July 23, 2012

Destroying the Commons: How the Magna Carta Became a Minor Carta -Noam Chomsky

Down the road only a few generations, the millennium of Magna Carta, one of the great events in the establishment of civil and human rights, will arrive. Whether it will be celebrated, mourned, or ignored is not at all clear.

That should be a matter of serious immediate concern. What we do right now, or fail to do, will determine what kind of world will greet that event. It is not an attractive prospect if present tendencies persist — not least, because the Great Charter is being shredded before our eyes.

The first scholarly edition of Magna Carta was published by the eminent jurist William Blackstone. It was not an easy task. There was no good text available. As he wrote, “the body of the charter has been unfortunately gnawn by rats” — a comment that carries grim symbolism today, as we take up the task the rats left unfinished.

Blackstone’s edition actually includes two charters. It was entitled The Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest. The first, the Charter of Liberties, is widely recognized to be the foundation of the fundamental rights of the English-speaking peoples — or as Winston Churchill put it more expansively, “the charter of every self-respecting man at any time in any land.” Churchill was referring specifically to the reaffirmation of the Charter by Parliament in the Petition of Right, imploring King Charles to recognize that the law is sovereign, not the King. Charles agreed briefly, but soon violated his pledge, setting the stage for the murderous Civil War.

After a bitter conflict between King and Parliament, the power of royalty in the person of Charles II was restored. In defeat, Magna Carta was not forgotten. One of the leaders of Parliament, Henry Vane, was beheaded. On the scaffold, he tried to read a speech denouncing the sentence as a violation of Magna Carta, but was drowned out by trumpets to ensure that such scandalous words would not be heard by the cheering crowds. His major crime had been to draft a petition calling the people “the original of all just power” in civil society — not the King, not even God. That was the position that had been strongly advocated by Roger Williams, the founder of the first free society in what is now the state of Rhode Island. His heretical views influenced Milton and Locke, though Williams went much farther, founding the modern doctrine of separation of church and state, still much contested even in the liberal democracies.

As often is the case, apparent defeat nevertheless carried the struggle for freedom and rights forward. Shortly after Vane’s execution, King Charles granted a Royal Charter to the Rhode Island plantations, declaring that “the form of government is Democratical,” and furthermore that the government could affirm freedom of conscience for Papists, atheists, Jews, Turks — even Quakers, one of the most feared and brutalized of the many sects that were appearing in those turbulent days. All of this was astonishing in the climate of the times.

A few years later, the Charter of Liberties was enriched by the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, formally entitled “an Act for the better securing the liberty of the subject, and for prevention of imprisonment beyond the seas.” The U.S. Constitution, borrowing from English common law, affirms that “the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended” except in case of rebellion or invasion. In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the rights guaranteed by this Act were “[c]onsidered by the Founders [of the American Republic] as the highest safeguard of liberty.” All of these words should resonate today. More


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Richard Falk: Israel’s Pattern of Abuse is Inhumane, Cruel, Degrading and Unlawful

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, condemned Israel’s use of solitary confinement against Palestinian children, as reported earlier by the UN Special Committee on Israeli practices in the Occupied Territories.

He urged the Israeli Government to treat Palestinian children detainees in accordance with international human rights laws.

“Israel’s use of solitary confinement against children flagrantly violates international human rights standards,” said Mr. Falk, expressing his outrage that Israel even imposes solitary confinement punitively on child hunger strikers. “However, using solitary confinement as a punishment for Palestinian children who wish to peacefully protest their situation, including by commencing a hunger strike against conditions of detention, is an appalling abuse of child prisoners.”

“This pattern of abuse by Israel is grave,” the Special Rapporteur stressed. “It is inhumane, cruel, degrading, and unlawful, and, most worryingly, it is likely to adversely affect the mental and physical health of underage detainees.”

Last month, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy named Khaled was placed for five days in solitary confinement because he started a hunger strike. In another case, a 16-year-old boy was placed in solitary confinement for seven days as a punishment for hanging a Palestinian flag in their cell. Another 16-year-old boy spent 12 days in solitary confinement during the interrogation at Al Jalame interrogation center. More


Friday, July 20, 2012

Israeli Delusions - We are not occupiers: We do not terrorizee Palestinians.

Censorship? Haaretz deletes Amira Hass article on surging settler violence.

Israel’s Haaretz has mysteriously deleted a powerful article by Amira Hass headlined “The anti-Semitism that goes unreported,” about an unchecked upsurge in violence against Palestinians by Israeli settlers.

This is at least the second notable act of apparent censorship by Haaretz in recent months. In December, as we reported, the newspaper expunged from its website an article by David Sheen on a horrifying anti-African rally in Tel Aviv.

Hass’ article, originally published on 18 July, likened the alarming increase in settler attacks to the period leading up to the 1994 settler massacre of Palestinians in Hebron:

For the human rights organization Al-Haq, the escalation is reminiscent of what happened in 1993-1994, when they warned that the increasing violence, combined with the authorities’ failure to take action, would lead to mass casualties. And then Dr. Baruch Goldstein of Kiryat Arba came along and gunned down 29 Muslim worshipers at the Ibrahim Mosque.

Hass is one of Haaretz’s best known writers, renowned internationally for documenting Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians.

Article disappears

The Hebrew version of Hass’ article still appears on the newspaper’s Hebrew language website. It is the English version that is gone.

An image of the now deleted English version can still be seen via Google Cache (above).

However, the original url for the article now redirects to an unrelated page:http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/the-anti-semitism-that-goes-unreported-1.394279.

A search of Haaretz archive for articles by Amira Hass indicates that as of today, her most recent article was from 16 July. The 18 July article is nowhere to be found.

Ironically the url originally leading to Hass’ article now links to one by a man subtitled “Women, don’t be suckers; The protest’s female voice is not being heard.” Hass is one of Haaretz’s few prominent female writers, and apparently her voice cannot be heard.

Full text of censored article

Luckily, The Electronic Intifada captured the text of the article Haaretz didn’t want you to read. Here it is in full:

Amira Hass: The anti-Semitism that goes unreported

18 July 2012
By Amira Hass, Haaretz - 18 July 2012
Tens of thousands of people live in the shadow of terror

Here’s a statistic that you won’t see in research on anti-Semitism, no matter how meticulous the study is. In the first six months of the year, 154 anti-Semitic assaults have been recorded, 45 of them around one village alone. Some fear that last year’s record high of 411 attacks - significantly more than the 312 attacks in 2010 and 168 in 2009 - could be broken this year. More


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Is Israel preparing to annex most of West Bank

The recently published report by an Israeli judge concluding that Israel is not in fact occupying the West Bank — despite a well-established international consensus to the contrary — has provoked mostly incredulity or mirth in Israel and abroad.

Leftwing websites in Israel used comically captioned photographs to highlight Justice Edmond Levy’s preposterous finding. One shows an Israeli soldier pressing the barrel of a rifle to the forehead of a Palestinian pinned to the ground, saying: “You see — I told you there’s no occupation.”

Even Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, seemed a little discomfited by the coverage. He was handed the report more than a fortnight earlier but was apparently reluctant to make it public.

Downplaying the Levy report’s significance may prove unwise, however. If Netanyahu is embarrassed, it is only because of the timing of the report’s publication rather than its substance.

It was, after all, Netanyahu himself who established the committee earlier this year to assess the legality of the Jewish settlers’ “outposts,” ostensibly unauthorized by the government, that have spread like wild seeds across the West Bank.

He hand-picked its three members, all diehard supporters of the settlements, and received the verdict he expected — that the settlements are legal. Certainly, Levy’s opinion should have come as no surprise. In 2005 he was the only Israeli high courtjudge to oppose the government’s decision to withdraw the settlers from Gaza.

Legal commentators too have been dismissive of the report. They have concentrated more on Levy’s dubious reasoning than on the report’s political significance.

They have noted that Theodor Meron, the foreign ministry’s legal advisor in 1967, expressly warned the government in the wake of the war that year that settling civilians in the newly seized territory was a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Experts have also pointed to the difficulties Israel will face if it adopts Levy’s position. More


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Families of U.S. citizens killed in drone strikes sue CIA

The killing of three US citizens, one a 16-year-old boy, in targeted drone strikes last year were unlawful and violated their constitutional rights by not affording them due process, according to a lawsuit filed by their relatives on Wednesday.

Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who was placed on a CIA “kill list” last year, died in a targeted strike in Yemen on 30 September that also killed Samir Khan, an alleged propagandist for al-Qaida, in the Arabian Pensinsula. Al-Awlaki’s teenage son, Abdulrahman, was killed in a separate strike 200 miles away in which six others died two weeks later.

The lawsuit accuses Leon Panetta, the secretary of defence, David Petraeus, the director of the CIA, and two military commanders of authorising and directing unlawful killings. President Barack Obama is not named in the lawsuit: presidents are immune from civil suits arising from their official actions.

The complaint alleges that the deaths are part of a broader programme of deliberate and premeditated killings by the United States, which rely on “vague legal standards, a closed executive process and evidence never presented to the courts”.

The lawsuit has been filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of Nasser al-Awlaki, the father of Anwar and grandfather of Abdulrahman, and Sarah Khan, the mother of Khan. It aims to force the Obama administration to disclose information about secret decisions behind the killing.

Jameel Jaffir, deputy legal director of the ACLU, said: “It is about accountability. We don’t want to minimise the seriousness of the allegations [against Al-Awlaki]. The question here is not whether people are guilty of crimes but whether the government is justified in killing them.” More


Israel Issues Demolition Order on Two Water Cisterns in Palestine

On Tuesday, the Israeli army raided Al Qanoub area in Sa'ir, eastern Hebron and issued a demolition order on two cisterns used to irrigate land for the benefit of twenty people, of whom more than half are children.

One cistern owned by Basem and Omar al-Shalaldais is used to irrigate farmland of more than 10 dunums containing 210 seedlings.

The other cistern owned by the family of Shaher al Shalalda's is used to water 5 dunums of land planted with 185 fruit tree seedlings.

The two cisterns were built with the aid of the Improving Livelihood in the Occupied Palestinian Territories Program funded by the Netherlands Representative Office.

Palestinians are rarely issued with planning permission to build on their own land in the occupied territories, while illegal Israeli settlements are free to expand without restriction. More


Saturday, July 14, 2012

“A tipping point is happening”

Filmmaker Eugene Jarecki discusses Obama's disappointing record on drugs and why he thinks true change may be near

110 kg of marijuana seized from a vehicle that attempted to enter the U.S. near San Diego

Documentary filmaker Eugene Jarecki took on the military-industrial complex in his award-winning 2006 film “Why We Fight,” and now he turns his attention to a war closer to home — the drug war. His new film, “The House I Live In,” which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance earlier this year, takes a critical look at the criminal justice that has ensnared millions of Americans in order to enforce the prohibition on drugs. Jarecki spoke with Salon about Obama’s disappointing record on drugs, about one of the largest voting blocs no one has heard of and about why he thinks we’re a approaching a “tipping point” in the drug war.

The drug war has never quite broken through as a major political issue. What attracted you to this issue, and why should people care now?

The election. Not just the presidential, but at the legislative level and at the local level across the country. Isn’t an election ultimately about the question that we’ve been working out for several years now — what kind of a country are we intending to be? Ever since World War II that’s been a question. We became an enormous world power, and we’ve handled that power questionably, and ultimately, I would argue, to our own detriment. And certainly to the detriment of people who don’t benefit from the industrial system. And this [the drug war] might be one of the most pressing, and sort of inspiring, areas as a possibility for real reform. Whether we’re going to continue the kind of state-following and fear-mongering that we have had since the end of the Cold War, where we almost needed a new enemy, so into that pipeline we put the drug dealer and drug user.

Could we step back and say, there must be a better way for us to lead the world? Morally, spiritually and otherwise. We are now in many ways a laughing stock for the rest of the world due to the enormity of our prison population. We have outpaced every totalitarian country in the world. Not only proportionally, but in real numbers. China has five times the population, but it has a smaller prison population. So it seems to me that the moral bankruptcy of the war on drugs would be something that really should be a central topic of these upcoming elections. More


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Department of Defense Declassifies Report on Alleged Drugging of Detainees

Detainees in custody of the US military were interrogated while drugged with powerful antipsychotic and other medications that “could impair an individual’s ability to provide accurate information,” according to a declassified Department of Defense (DoD) inspector general’s report that probed the alleged use of “mind altering drugs” during interrogations.

In addition, detainees were subjected to “chemical restraints,” hydrated with intravenous (IV) fluids while they were being interrogated and, in what appears to be a form of psychological manipulation, the inspector general’s probe confirmed at least one detainee - convicted “dirty bomb” plotter Jose Padilla - was the subject of a “deliberate ruse” in which his interrogator led him to believe he was given an injection of “truth serum.”

Truthout obtained a copy of the report - “Investigation of Allegations of the Use of Mind-Altering Drugs to Facilitate Interrogations of Detainees” - prepared by the DoD’s deputy inspector general for intelligence in September 2009, under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request we filed nearly two years ago.

Over the past decade, dozens of current and former detainees and their civilian and military attorneys have alleged in news reports and in court documents that prisoners held by the US government in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan were forcibly injected with unknown medications and pills during or immediately prior to marathon interrogation sessions in an attempt to compel them to confess to terrorist-related crimes of which they were accused.

The inspector general’s investigation was unable to substantiate any of the allegations by current and former detainees that, as a matter of government policy, they were given mind-altering drugs “to facilitate interrogation.” More


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Israel rewrites international law and Geneva conventions - New York Times

JERUSALEM — Flouting international opinion, an Israeli government-appointed commission of jurists said Monday that Israel’s presence in the West Bank was not occupation and recommended that the state grant approval for scores of unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts there.

The committee’s legal arguments, while nonbinding, could provide backup for the government should it decide to grant the outposts retroactive official status. But such a move would inevitably stir international outrage and deal a significant blow to prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.

“The report relates to the question of legality and legitimacy of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement issued by his office, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name. He added that the report’s conclusions would be submitted to a ministerial committee on settlement affairs for discussion and that “the facts and claims” presented in the report “merit serious examination.” More


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Separation of East Jerusalem from West Bank is destroying city’s economy

So much for the economic peace the Israeli right is regularly trumpeting. A fine report by Ben Lynfield in the Forward shows the economic destruction of East Jerusalem under Israeli annexation. Great headlines for an American Jewish publication: "East Jerusalem Suffers Economic Tailspin. Checkpoints and Barrier Cuts City Off From Palestinian Customers":

The failure of the Addar Mall is part of an alarming economic meltdown in East Jerusalem. The Palestinian sector of the city was once the shopping and business hub for Palestinians throughout the Israeli-occupied West Bank. But now, thanks to Israeli security checkpoints and a separation barrier begun a decade ago after a series of bloody Palestinian suicide bombings, East Jerusalem is isolated from its customer base in the West Bank — and caught in a seemingly bottomless economic tailspin.

“The city is dying,” businessman Nabil Feidy said. “East Jerusalem has always been poor, but the political situation and the wall have destroyed the economy completely.”...

According to a January 2011 report by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, since annexing East Jerusalem and many surrounding areas to form Jerusalem’s current borders, Israel has expropriated about one-third of the annexed territory — most of it privately owned Arab property — for residential construction reserved exclusively for Jews and for “green areas” within which building is not permitted.

No Palestinians sit on the planning boards that make these zoning and construction decisions. Wary that participating in elections would legitimize Israeli annexation, Palestinians have refrained from seeking posts on the city council and have no influence on the municipality. The key decisions impacting their daily lives are made entirely by Israelis. More


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Minnesota Ignores Native Americans, Allow Wolf Hunting

Against the steadfast opposition of American Indians in the state, Minnesota will hold its first managed wolf hunting and trapping season this fall. As a result, a cultural clash is brewing between state officials and Indians, who revere wolves.

“The wolf is part of our creation story, and therefore many Ojibwe have a strong spiritual connection to the wolf,” Karen Diver, chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, wrote in a letter to the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) this spring, according to the Star Tribune. “Many Ojibwe believe the fate of the wolf is closely tied to the fate of all the Ojibwe. For these reasons the Fond du Lac Band feels the hunting and trapping of wolves is inappropriate.”

On December 21, 2011, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that gray wolf populations in the Great Lakes region had recovered and no longer required the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published a final rule in the Federal Register removing wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and in portions of adjoining states, from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife. The rule removing ESA protection for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes became effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Wolves total more than 4,000 animals in the three core recovery states in the western Great Lakes area and have exceeded USFWS recovery goals. Minnesota’s population is estimated at 2,921 wolves, while an estimated 687 wolves live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and another 782 in Wisconsin. Each state, with tribal consultation, was supposed to develop a plan to manage wolves after federal protection was removed.

Steve Mortensen of the Leech Lake Band’s Division of Resource Management noted that once the wolf was removed from the ESA protection, its management returned to the state and tribes. But he told the Star Tribune that the state hasn’t discussed its wolf management plan with bands.

“How can you ignore governments that have co-management authority of much of the wolf range and come up with a plan without their input?” he asked.

With a healthy, delisted wolf population, though, many in Minnesota support a limited hunting and trapping season, and this spring the state legislature authorized the hunt on the recommendation of the DNR.

“We understand wolves to be educators, teaching us about hunting and working together in extended family units,” said James Zorn, executive administrator for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, which represents 11 Ojibwe tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The commission opposes wolf hunts. “Wolves exemplify perseverance, guardianship, intelligence and wisdom,” Zorn said. More

First you steal their country, then sign treaties that you quickly break and now you do not respect their beliefs and societies. Ed

Friday, July 6, 2012

Israel orders destruction of entire West Bank village

On 22 June, more than 500 Palestinian, Israeli and international activists came together in the Palestinian herding community of Susya, in the West Bank’s South Hebron Hills, to protest a recent Israeli high court ruling for the demolition of the village and the ongoing Israeli attacks on Palestinian land rights in the West Bank.

The activists, arriving by organized buses from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and independently from all over the region, met with the residents of Susya and attempted to march towards the location of the original Susya, which was demolished in 1986 and is now an archaeological park.

They were confronted by Israeli soldiers, who fired stun grenades into and around the crowds of people, while several rounds of tear gas were simultaneously released.

On 6 June, Israel’s high court issued a decision that prohibits Susya residents from building any new structures near the surrounding Israeli settlements.

Six days later, Israeli officials — accompanied by soldiers — handed out demolition orders to the entire West Bank village. These orders referred to demolition decisions stretching back to 1995.

Settlers petition high court to wipe out village

The decision by the high court was in response to a petition filed by the Zionist organization Regavim, which called on the Israeli Civil Administration — the body overseeing Israel’s occupation of the West Bank — to accelerate the demolition process for Susya and other Palestinian villages. The residents of Susya are being represented in the case by lawyers from Rabbis for Human Rights. More


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Jimmy Carter calls on America to reverse course and regain moral leadership


Jimmy Carter, former US president and Nobel Peace Laureate, is calling on Americans to reverse course and regain moral leadership. In an opinion piece published by the New York Times, Carter says that in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the US adopted policies that violate several articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There has been little opposition from either Democrats or Republicans or the American people. Carter cites what he calls the 'arbitrary' rule that any man killed by drones is considered a terrorist.

Israel is an apartheid regime: UN official

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights has accused the international community of complicity in Israeli settlement policies and says Israel is implementing an apartheid system.

Richard Falk United Nations Special Rapporteur
Richard Falk made the remarks during a press conference after addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday and delivering a report, AFP reported.

"The international community is conspiring -- maybe unwittingly -- in a process that has no way of bringing justice to the people involved in this conflict," Falk said about the Israeli settlements.

He noted that Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are offered no protection in Israeli law, adding that their treatment is akin to apartheid.

"I think one has to begin to call the reality by a name," he said, likening the "discriminatory dualistic legal system" in the West Bank to the former system in South Africa.

Falk criticized the work of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the region as the so-called Middle East Quartet's peace envoy, calling the process “a trick rather than a way to find a solution to the problem.”

In his report, Falk also expressed concern about Israel's use of administrative detention, the expansion of settlements, and violence by settlers.

Administrative detention is a sort of imprisonment without trial or charge that allows Israel to incarcerate Palestinians for up to six months. The detention order can be renewed for indefinite periods of time. More


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may have been killed by radioactive poison

An Al Jazeera investigation has revealed that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may have been killed by radioactive poison. Medical and scientific tests at top laboratories found high levels of polonium in his body when he died. Now his widow, Suha Arafat wants to have his body exhumed to try and discover what killed him. Al Jazeera's Clayton Swisher reports. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/whatkilledarafat/2012/07/20127383653774794.html


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Activists Who Spoke At The Rio+20 Peoples’ Summit Killed

EJOLT partner Professor Marcelo Firpo has just send us a sad message:“I was with two fishermen on 19 June in a meeting at Peoples´Summit discussing the impacts of big projects (basically oil, mining and steel) in Rio de Janeiro State. Three days later they disappeared when went to work. They have just been found dead. The media is considering this case without importance and we will need more national and international pressure in order to protect other people and to investigate who have killed them.”

On 24 and 25 June 2012 the bodies of human rights defenders Mr Almir Nogueira de Amorim and Mr João Luiz Telles Penetra were found following their disappearance on 23 June 2012.

Almir Nogueira de Amorim and João Luiz Telles Penetra, or “Pituca” as he was known, were both leaders of the Associação Homens do Mar – AHOMAR (Association of Sea Men) which was set up in 2009 to defend the rights of the fisher-folk working in Rio de Janeiro, and particularly those affected by the construction of a gas pipeline for Petrobras. Since the founding of the organisation its members have reported being subjected to death threats, physical attacks and killings. According to AHOMAR’s members, the attacks are perpetrated by people linked to death squads, security guards hired by the companies in charge of building pipelines and militias operating in the region.

On the afternoon of 25 June 2012, João Luiz Telles Penetra’s body was found on the banks of Guanabara Bay by employees of a shipyard. The fisherman’s corpse was bound at his hands and feet by rope. The previous day, at around midday, the body of Almir Nogueira de Amorim was found tied to his boat. He had bruises on his neck and the boat had several holes in the hull.

On 22 June 2012, at approximately 4:00pm, Almir Nogueira de Amorim went to João Luiz Telles Penetra’s home in Ilha de Paquetá, a neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, to collect him to go fishing. It is common practice for fishermen in the region to go at that time and return late at night or early the following day. When they had not returned by the following day, local fishermen and fire fighters began a search of the Guanabara Bay.

Almir Nogueira de Amorim was a founding member and vocal activist of AHOMAR. João Luiz Telles Penetra was the leader of the association in Ilha de Paquetá and had been a key figure in a new campaign launched by the organisation. He led the struggle against Petrobras’ construction plans in Guaxindiba river, located within the Área de Proteção Ambiental Guapimirim (Environmental Protected Area of Guapimirim). The oil company wants to deepen the river to create a waterway, which would eliminate any possibility of fishing in these waters. More