Friday, August 31, 2012

Choose a kid at random, "aim at his body": Israeli soldiers confess their violence

This video, shot by the Research Journalism Initiative, shows Israeli soldiers using Palestinian children as human shields in Balata refugee camp near Nablus in the occupied West Bank in 2007.

Using children as human shields

Two more such incidents - in Tulkarm and Hebron - are reported in a new publication from the Israeli veterans’ organization Breaking The Silence with disturbing testimonies from Israeli soldiers about the maltreatment of Palestinian children under Israeli occupation.

Children are exposed to a harsh daily reality of constant friction with occupation forces, arrests, violence, intimidation and harassment. They are wounded or killed because soldiers ignore them at the scene of events, or by targeting them directly, sometimes at random. The disturbing actions the soldiers describe — some undoubtedly amounting to war crimes — took place in the occupied Palestinian territories between 2005-2011. This post is the first of two which summarize shocking examples of the abuse of children by Israeli forces.

Two soldiers testified how children were used as human shields. In Tulkarm in 2005, the “neighbor procedure” was used in an arrest mission.

Usually a resident of the neighboring house is summoned and required to enter the wanted person’s home and call all its inhabitants to come outside. “We got all the people out. No one was the wanted person. We feared he was still there, inside. So at first neighbors were used, then some kid. Bilal, I even recall his name. I remember because I got very angry over this. And they kept sending him into that house to check that no one was inside, open all the doors, turn on all the lights, open all the windows.”

“So there’s a school there. We’d often provoke riots there. We’d be on patrol, walking in the village, bored, so we’d trash shops, find a detonator, beat someone to a pulp, you know how it is,” said a soldier relating incidents in Hebron in 2006-2007. “Search, mess it all up. Say we’d want a riot? We’d go up to the windows of a mosque, smash the panes, throw in a stun grenade, make a big boom, then we’d get a riot,” he continued.

Once, “We fired a lot of rubber ammo. A lot. Every time we’d catch Arab kids, hold them like this, with stones, like retards. You know, so that the others would throw stones at them, not at us.” When asked if the children were turned in human shields, the soldier replied “Yes.” The kids cannot run away, he explains, because they will be badly beaten. “You catch him, push the gun against his body, he can’t make a move, he’s totally petrified.” More


China, Egypt Back Palestine's Statehood

BEIJING, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- China and Egypt have reaffirmed their support for an independent State of Palestine, according to a joint press communique issued here on Thursday.

The independent state should have full sovereignty established on the basis of the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, said the communique, which also backed Palestine's participation in the United Nations and other international organizations.

The document was released after Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's three-day state visit to China concluded early on Thursday morning.

It said China and Egypt support the international community in intensifying efforts to promote dialogues to finally solve the "Palestine question" through peaceful talks in a comprehensive and justified way.

China has spoken highly of Egypt's contribution on promoting peace between Palestine and Israel, and the country's promotion of internal compromise in Palestine, said the communique.

It added that Egypt appreciates China's efforts on supporting the just cause of the Palestinian people and safeguarding peace and stability in the Middle East. More


Resource Wars Connect Yanomami Massacre and Shell’s Arctic Drilling

It has been a painful day for me. Two pieces of news came in this morning: one about the massacre of an Yanomami settlement in the Amazon, and the other about Obama green lighting Shell’s drilling in the Arctic Ocean. Both are about resource wars that lead to killing—humans and/or animals, fast or slow, one to get gold, and the other to get oil.

“A massacre of up to 80 Yanomami Indians has taken place in the Venezuelan state of Amazonas,” The Guardian reported. “According to local testimonies an armed group [illegal gold miners] flew over in a helicopter, opening fire with guns and launching explosives into Irotatheri settlement in the High Ocamo area.”

Survival International, a London–based NGO that works with indigenous communities around the world (over the years I contributed my Arctic photographs for their campaigns) stated in a news release, “Witnesses of the aftermath described finding ‘burnt bodies and bones’ when they visited the community of Irotatheri in the country’s Momoi region, close to the border with Brazil.…The attack is believed to have happened in July, but news is only just emerging.”

Today about 20,000 Yanomami people live in small communities in the Amazon rainforest bordering Brazil and Venezuela. I first came to know about the Yanomami from the remarkable photographs of artist–activist Claudia Andujar. In the 1970s Andujar gave up her career as a photojournalist and embarked on an in–depth photo–essay about the Yanomami people. During this time she was witness to, “one of the most significant cultural dislocations to occur in Yanomami history, when the government began construction of a transcontinental highway in Northern Brazil. Villages were razed to pave roads, and the Yanomami suffered a devastating measles epidemic.” Then, during the 1980s, a new kind of devastation came into the Yanomami homeland, when thousands of garimpeiros, illegal, small–scale gold diggers came to the Amazon to make their fortunes. Twenty percent of the Yanomami died in the 1980’s as a consequence of the gold mining intrusion. Also the mining led to environmental destruction. Following a 15–year campaign, in which Andujar’s work played a crucial role, in 1992, with the help of Brazilian anthropologists and Survival International, the Brazilian government established the Yanomami Park “for protection and use by Yanomami people.”

The July massacre wiped out an entire indigenous settlement. Not the first time. One of the worst Indian massacres had taken place in the predawn hours of April 30, 1871, that came to be known as the Camp Grant Massacre, in which nearly 150 Apaches, including children, elders and women from a single settlement in the Aravaipa canyon in Arizona had been brutally killed. Historian Karl Jacoby writes about that incident in his powerful book “Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History.” From the companion website for the book you’ll learn about what Jacoby calls “the most familiar and yet the most overlooked subject in American history—violence against Indians.” More


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Displacement of Palestinians 'a war crime'

Israel is forcing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem as part of a deliberate policy that might constitute a war crime, a prominent Israeli non-governmental organisation said, a charge rejected by Jerusalem's mayor.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) has presented the United Nations with its findings on Monday [October 2011] and demanded an inquiry, saying Israel targeted Palestinians by demolishing homes, revoking residency and eroding quality of life.

"We are witnessing a process of ethnic displacement," said Michael Sfard, a lawyer who helped draw up a 73-page report into the issue. "Israel is manifestly and seriously violating international law ... and the motivation is demographic."

Stephan Miller, a spokesman for Israel's mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, dismissed the report. He said in a statement it was based on "misleading facts, blatant lies and political spin about Jerusalem, so I'm sure the UN will enjoy it".

Israel seized East Jerusalem, including the Old City, in the 1967 Middle East war. It later annexed the area and surrounding West Bank villages into a Jerusalem municipality that it declared the united and eternal capital of Israel.

World powers have not recognised Israel's annexations - which, according to international law, are illegal. Moreover, Palestinians want E Jerusalem for the capital of their future state.

There are some 300,000 Palestinians residents in East Jerusalem, representing about 35 per cent of the city's total
population, but ICAHD said that since Israel took control of largely Arab areas it had systematically prevented their

One third of land in East Jerusalem was taken for the construction of Jewish neighbourhoods, while only nine per cent
of the remaining land is legally available for housing. This has all been built on, making expansion impossible.

ICAHD said it was virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits to house their growing families.

"They have no other option than to leave East Jerusalem, build illegally or live in appalling, cramped conditions," said Emily Schaeffer, who authored the report.

'War crime'

Those who leave lose residency rights if they are gone for seven or more years and cannot return.

Some 14,000 Palestinians lost their residency between 1967 and 2010, with half of those revocations taking place after 2006, ICAHD said. More


Infographic: Palestinian homes demolished

The recent verdict in the Rachel Corrie case has once again thrown the spotlight on the Israeli policy of house demolitions.

Nearly 10 years ago, the 23-year-old American activist was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer while trying to obstruct the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip.

Corrie and a group of activists from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) were acting as human shields to try to stop the Israeli army demolishing Palestinian homes and clearing land around the Palestinian town of Rafah.

Since 1967, Israel has practised a range of policies leading to the internal displacement of about 160,000 Palestinians within the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Of these actions, house demolitions are the most visible.

These are carried out by the Israeli army for a number of reasons, including "administrative" demolitions, where Palestinian homes have been built without Israeli-issued permits, as well as punitive demolitions where a family member is accused of being involved in militant activity.

The most devastating demolitions, however, are caused by large-scale military operations, such as those during the war on Gaza in 2008-09.

Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) argues that, seen in their totality since 1967, these home demolitions amount to an intentional "policy of displacement".

Last year, ICAHD presented the United Nations with a report, charging that Israel had a deliberate policy of forcing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem, and that this might constitute a war crime. More

One has to question why the Israeli regime allowed to to continue this policy which is clearly against international law. it could be argued that the international comunity is collectivly guilty of crimes against humanity. Editor


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Israeli army destroys water cisterns and dwellings in southern West Bank

Zenuta, West Bank – At around 10 a.m. on Tuesday, a group of Palestinians from the village of Zenuta watched from across a valley in the South Hebron Hills as two Israeli army bulldozers suddenly appeared and destroyed their village’s water cisterns, cave dwellings and stables. The village, divided by a valley, is just 3 kilometers from the Green Line, at the southern tip of the West Bank.

The bulldozers in Zenuta were accompanied by five army jeeps, three vehicles from the Israeli Civil Administration, and a charter bus of Israeli soldiers, trying to keep activists and members of the press from entering the village. A group of about 20-25 Palestinian men, women, and children who were there at the time sat in front of one of the bulldozers in an effort to stop them. They were quickly removed, however, by the army and the destruction commenced.

In total, four water cisterns, two caves, two houses and six stables were destroyed. Zenuta is a small village of seven families with a herd of 400 sheep. The army destroyed the houses of two families, each with seven children, as well as six stables holding sheep. Perhaps most devastating of all in a region starved for water, the army bulldozed the village’s cisterns, holding water collected from winter rains. The cisterns cost NIS 15,000 each, an incredible toll amounting to about a year and half’s wages for the average Palestinian worker in the area. The cisterns had been filled with water after a winter that brought the best rainfall in at least 10 years, according to residents of the area. Now two young boys walked around with the only two bottles of water left in the village offering it to visitors.

Mohammed Khaled Samamry, the owner of one of the houses destroyed, was indignant. “Can you live without water?” he asked, his hand trembling slightly with frustration. ”What can we do without water? What can we drink? You see what they do to us, the Israelis? They left the kids sitting under the sun, the sheep in the field. Where will we sleep tonight?”

A handful of children sat quietly, shocked and sad, in the midst of twisted metal rods and pots and pans scattered on the ground. The sheep wandered aimlessly in a field, nibbling at the straw.

According to Israeli activists, three tents were also destroyed Tuesday morning in Susya, a nearby village that is under threat of demolition. The tents were built by the UN’s OCHA department, and were destroyed by the army once before, last November.

The destruction comes in the midst of a wider threat to the villages in this region. In July, Israel issued orders to wipe out the nearby villages of Jinba, Farkheti, Majaz, Sfai, Khoruba, Tabban, Mirkez, and Halawah. Demolition orders have also been issued for structures in the villages of Mufagara and Tuba. In all, over 1,500 residents are at risk of losing their homes. More

Who were these people harming? They were only struggling to live onder a brutal occupation.Editor

How the US and Israeli justice systems whitewash state crimes

The US military announced on Monday that no criminal charges would be brought against the US marines in Afghanistan who videotaped themselves urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters.

Nor, the military announced, would any criminal charges be filed against the US troops who "tried to burn about 500 copies of the Qur'an as part of a badly bungled security sweep at an Afghan prison in February, despite repeated warnings from Afghan soldiers that they were making a colossal mistake".

In doing so, the US military, as usual, brushed aside demands of Afghan officials for legal accountability for the destructive acts of foreign soldiers in their country. The US instead imposed "disciplinary measures" in both cases, ones that "could include letters of reprimand, a reduction in rank, forfeit of some pay, physical restriction to a military base, extra duties or some combination of those measures". Both incidents triggered intense protests and rioting that left dozens dead, back in February this year.

Courts are supposed to check the abuse of executive power, not cravenly serve it. But in the US and Israel, that is now the case

Parallel to that, an Israeli judge Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against the Israeli government brought by the family of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American student and pro-Palestinian activist who was killed by a military bulldozer in 2003 as she protested the demolition of a house in Gaza whose family she had come to befriend. Upon learning of the suit's dismissal, Corrie's mother, Cindy, said:

"I believe this was a bad day, not only for our family, but for human rights, humanity, the rule of law and also for the country of Israel."

Despite Corrie's wearing a bright orange vest, Judge Oded Gershon, in a 62-page decision, ruled that the bulldozer driver did not see her and her death was thus an accident. He went on to heap blame on Corrie for her own killing, arguing that, contrary to what "any reasonable person would have done", she "chose to put herself in danger" by trying to impede "a military activity meant to prevent terrorist activity". More


Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Syrian army would like to appear squeaky clean. It isn't - The Independent

Every day, a new massacre is reported in Syria. Yesterday, it was Daraya. Slaughter by Syrian troops, according to those opposed to Bashar al-Assad. Slaughter by Bashar’s “terrorist” opponents, the Syrian army said, producing the wife of a soldier whom they said had been shot and left for dead in a Daraya graveyard.

Of course, all armies want to stay clean. All that gold braid, all those battle honours, all that parade-ground semper fi. Thank God for Our Boys. Trouble is that when they go to war, armies ally themselves to the most unsavoury militias, gunmen, reservists, killers and mass murderers, often local vigilante groups who invariably contaminate the men in smart uniforms and high falutin’ traditions, until the generals and colonels have to re-invent themselves and their history.

Take the Syrian army. It kills civilians but claims to take every care to avoid “collateral damage”. The Israelis say the same. The Brits say the same, the Americans and French. And of course, when an insurgent group – the Free Syrian Army or Salafists – set up positions in the cities and towns of Syria, government forces open fire on them, kill civilians, thousands of refugees cross the border and CNN reports – as it did on Friday night – that refugees cursed Bashar al-Assad as they fled their homes.

And I cannot forget how Al Jazeera, loathed by Bashar now as it was once hated by Saddam, came back from Basra in 2003 with terrifying footage of dead and wounded Iraqi women and children who had been shredded by British artillery firing at the Iraqi army. And we don’t need to mention all those Afghan wedding parties and innocent tribal villages pulverised by US gunfire and jets and drones.

The Syrian military, whether it admits it or not – and I’m not happy with the replies I got from Syrian officers on the subject last week – work with the shabiha (or “village defenders” as one soldier called them), who are a murderous, largely Alawite rabble who have slaughtered hundreds of Sunni civilians. Maybe the International Court in the Hague will one day name Syrian soldiers responsible for such crimes – be sure they won’t touch the West’s warriors – but it will be impossible for the Syrian army to write the shabiha out of the history of their war against the “terrorists”, “armed groups”, Free Syria Army and al-Qa’ida. More


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Building Resilience In A Changing Climate - Richard Heinberg

Climate shocks are on the way. We’ve already spewed so much carbon into the atmosphere that a cascade of worsening crop failures, droughts, floods, and freak storms is virtually guaranteed. You, your family, and your community will feel the effects.

Ironically, however, avoiding climate change also has its costs. It makes sense from a climate-protection standpoint to dramatically and rapidly reduce our use of fossil fuels, which drive global warming. But these fuels largely, well, fueled the spectacular economic growth of the past 200 years, and weaning ourselves from them quickly now—while most industrial economies are over-indebted and starved for growth—could risk financial upheaval.

Oil, the most economically pivotal of the fossil fuels, is getting more expensive anyway. Cheap, onshore, conventional crude is depleting; its replacements—deepwater oil, tar sands, and tight oil—cost more to produce, in both dollar and environmental terms. Though high oil prices discourage driving (good for the climate), they also precipitate recessions (bad for the economy). While renewable energy sources are our hope for the future and we should be doing everything we can to develop them, it will be decades before they can supply all our energy needs.

In the face of impending environmental and economic shocks, our best strategy is to build resilience throughout society. Resilience is the subject of decades of research by ecologists and social scientists who define it as “the capacity of a system to tolerate disturbance without collapsing into a qualitatively different state that is controlled by a different set of processes.” In other words, resilience is the capacity to absorb shocks, reorganize, and continue functioning.

In many respects a resilient society defies the imperative of economic efficiency. Resilience needs dispersed inventories and redundancy, while economic efficiency—in its ruthless pursuit of competitive advantage—eliminates inventories and redundancies everywhere it can. Economic efficiency leads toward globalization, resilience toward localization. Economic efficiency pursues short-term profit as its highest objective, while resilience targets long-term sustainability. It would appear that industrial society circa 2012 has gone about as far in the direction of economic efficiency as it is possible to go, and that a correction is necessary and inevitable. Climate change simply underscores the need for that course correction.

Building resilience means helping society to work more like an ecosystem—and that has major implications for how we use energy. Ecosystems conserve energy by closing nutrient loops: plants capture and chemically store solar energy, which is then circulated as food throughout the food web. Nothing is wasted. We humans—having developed the ability to draw upon ancient, concentrated, cheap, and abundant (though ultimately finite) fossil fuels—have simultaneously adopted the habit of wasting energy on a colossal scale. Our food, transport, manufacturing, and dwelling systems burn through thirty billion barrels of oil and eight billion tons of coal per year; globally, humans use over four hundred quadrillion BTUs of energy in total. Even where energy is not technically going to waste, demand for it could be substantially reduced by redesigning our basic systems. More


Israeli lies unchecked, Palestinian perspectives censored on BBC

One of the most obvious examples of bias by the BBC is the taxpayer-funded broadcaster’s habit of inviting Israeli politicians or the Israeli government spokesperson, Mark Regev, onto its programs to speak without challenge. Meanwhile, Palestinians and those who would convey a Palestinian perspective are not given the same opportunity.

Film director Ken Loach recently learned that for the BBC, Palestine remains a taboo.

On 23 July, Loach was at the Royal Albert Hall in London to listen to a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, performed by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. The orchestra consists of Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab musicians, and is conducted by Daniel Barenboim, who formed the orchestra in 1999 with the late Palestinian academic and activist Edward Said.

So when Loach was asked during the intermission for an interview by BBC Proms, which was recording the concert for later broadcast, he considered it reasonable to air his thoughts on the nature of the orchestra as well as the music.

Loach said that he spoke to the BBC journalist for five minutes, during which time he said: “Seeing Israelis and Arabs, including Palestinians, sitting side by side on the stage makes us confront the issue of the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people, and I shall be thinking of them when I hear the music tonight.”

These were typically compassionate words from a director whose films, including Land and Freedom about the revolutionaries who fought in the Spanish Civil War, often reflect his keen sense of justice.

However, for the BBC, which in the last six months has alternately denied the existence of Palestine and then the fact of Israel’s occupation, the mere mention of the fact of the Palestinian people’s oppression was too controversial to broadcast.

BBC admits to censorship

Loach received a phone call from the program producers informing him that his interview would be cut “due to the music over-running.” He sent an email to the BBC, which has been seen by this writer, stating:

Thank you for letting me know about the broadcast and the need to shorten the interview. Of course I understand about length. But I would ask you to include my brief remarks about the orchestra and the Palestinians. As an opponent of oppression and tyranny I think Ludwig [van Beethoven] would have approved. It was one of the reasons I agreed to take part. I’m happy if you need to reduce my thoughts on the music itself.” More


Thursday, August 23, 2012

We'll make a killing out of food crisis, Glencore trading boss Chris Mahoney boasts

Drought is good for business, says world's largest commodities trading company

23 August 2012 - The United Nations, aid agencies and the British Government have lined up to attack the world's largest commodities trading company, Glencore, after it described the current global food crisis and soaring world prices as a "good" business opportunity.

With the US experiencing a rerun of the drought "Dust Bowl" days of the 1930s and Russia suffering a similar food crisis that could see Vladimir Putin's government banning grain exports, the senior economist of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, Concepcion Calpe, told The Independent: "Private companies like Glencore are playing a game that will make them enormous profits."

Ms Calpe said leading international politicians and banks expecting Glencore to back away from trading in potential starvation and hunger in developing nations for "ethical reasons" would be disappointed.

"This won't happen," she said. "So now is the time to change the rules and regulations about how Glencore and other multinationals such as ADM and Monsanto operate. They know this and have been lobbying heavily around the world to water down and halt any reform."

Glencore's director of agriculture trading, Chris Mahoney, sparked the controversy when he said: "The environment is a good one. High prices, lots of volatility, a lot of dislocation, tightness, a lot of arbitrage opportunities.

"We will be able to provide the world with solutions... and that should also be good for Glencore."

Glencore announced pre-tax global profits of £1.4bn. The G20 is considering holding an emergency summit on the world food crisis.

Oxfam was scathing about Glencore's exploitation of volatile world food prices. Jodie Thorpe, from the aid agency's Grow Campaign, said: "Glencore's comment that 'high prices and lots of volatility and dislocation' was 'good' gives us a rare glimpse into the little-known world of companies that dominate the global food system." More


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Israeli Court Approves Well Destruction In Bethlehem

An Israeli military court approved, Tuesday, an order issued by the Israeli military demanding a Palestinian farmer from Al-Khader town, near Bethlehem, to demolish an irrigation well under the pretext that it is “close to the Annexation Wall”.

Ahmad Salah, coordinator of the National Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Al-Khader, stated that the Beit El military court, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, rejected an appeal filed by the well’s owner, Mahmoud Sbeih.

The well was dug by the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee, and was financed by Holland as part of a project to support Palestinian farmers in the area.

The Israeli court granted Sbeih two weeks to demolish his well; otherwise, the army will demolish it and send the hyped bill to the farmer.

Israel’s illegal Annexation Wall was built in a manner that allows easy settlement construction and expansion at the expense of privately-owned Palestinian lands and orchards.

In July 2004, 14 of the 15 Hague judges of the International Court ruled that the construction of the Annexation Wall in the West Bank violated international law and "constituted illegal annexation."

The court said Israel should stop the construction immediately, dismantle existing sections and compensate Palestinians harmed by its construction.

Israel ignored the ruling, considered it “irrelevant”, and went on to issue a 170-page response to the ruling protesting it, and claiming that “the court was looking at the wrong, outdated route”.

The Annexation Wall extends on more than 810 kilometers leading to the illegal annexation of thousands of Dunams of Palestinian lands, and isolates thousands of Dunams. More

To destroy wells in the water stressed occupied Palestine is unforgivable, specially given that much of the Jordan river and the aquifer under the country is stolen by the occupying power. Editor

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Documentary on IRAN. Iran Is Not the Problem; Stop War on IRAN

IRAN (Is Not The Problem) is a feature length documentary film responding to the failure of the American mass media to provide the public with relevant and accurate information about the standoff between the US and Iran, as happened before with the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. We have heard that Iran is a nuclear menace in defiance of the international community, bent on "wiping Israel off the map", supporting terrorism, and unwilling to negotiate. This documentary disputes these claims as they are presented to us and puts them in the context of present and historical US imperialism and hypocrisy with respect to Iran. It looks at the struggle for democracy inside Iran, the consequences of the current escalation and the potential US and/or Israeli attack, and suggests some alternatives to consider. This 79 minute documentary features Antonia Juhasz, Larry Everest, and other activists and Iranian-Americans. The goal of this movie is to promote dialog and change the debate on Iran, so please consider organizing a screening, big or small, in your area. Produced by Aaron Newman, an independent film-maker and part of the Scary Cow film co-op in San Francisco. He is an anti-imperialism/pro-democracy activist, founder of the SF Chomsky Book Club, and a member of Hands Off Iran. There are differences of opinion between many of the voices in this film, but all agree that a war would be unjustified. Below are brief video introductions for each of the people who participated.

Unheard King audio found in attic

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Stephon Tull was looking through dusty old boxes in his father's attic in Chattanooga a few months ago when he stumbled onto something startling: an audio reel labeled, "Dr. King interview, Dec. 21, 1960."

He wasn't sure what he had until he borrowed a friend's reel-to-reel player and listened to the recording of his father interviewing Martin Luther King Jr. for a book project that never came to fruition. In clear audio, King discusses the importance of the civil rights movement, his definition of nonviolence and how a recent trip of his to Africa informed his views. Tull said the recording had been in the attic for years, and he wasn't sure who other than his father may have heard it.

"No words can describe. I couldn't believe it," he told The Associated Press this week in a phone interview from his home in Chattanooga. "I found ... a lost part of history."

Many recordings of King are known to exist among hundreds of thousands of documents related to his life that have been catalogued and archived. But one historian said the newly discovered interview is unusual because there's little audio of King discussing his activities in Africa, while two of King's contemporaries said it's exciting to hear a little-known recording of their friend for the first time.

Tull plans to offer the recording at a private sale arranged by a New York broker and collector later this month.

Tull said his father, an insurance salesman, had planned to write a book about the racism he encountered growing up in Chattanooga and later as an adult. He said his dad interviewed King when he visited the city, but never completed the book and just stored the recording with some other interviews he had done. Tull's father is now in his early 80s and under hospice care.

During part of the interview, King defines nonviolence and justifies its practice.

"I would ... say that it is a method which seeks to secure a moral end through moral means," he said. "And it grows out of the whole concept of love, because if one is truly nonviolent that person has a loving spirit, he refuses to inflict injury upon the opponent because he loves the opponent."

The interview was made four years before the Civil Rights Act became law, three years before King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, and eight years before his assassination. At one point in the interview, King predicts the impact of the civil rights movement.

"I am convinced that when the history books are written in future years, historians will have to record this movement as one of the greatest epics of our heritage," he said. More


Anger as Iran bans women from 77 Fields Of Study

Women are to be excluded from 77 BA and BSc courses at 36 Iranian universities in the coming year.

Shirin Ebadi
The ban was first reported by Iran’s semi-official Mehr News Agency, and will see women excluded from studying in the fields of engineering, accounting, education, counselling, the restoration of monuments and chemistry.

On the back of this news, the country’s Oil Industry University announced that “at the moment it did not have any need for women resources.”

The head of the body’s PR office told Rooz Online: “The management of the oil industry did not believe that the harsh conditions of operations in this field did not make it suitable for women.

“According to recent surveys conducted by the public relations office of the Oil Industry University, not all women students were satisfied with the fields and conditions to which they had been admitted.”

The Telegraph says the move comes as Iranian female students are outperforming males, with women outperforming men by three to two in passing this year’s university entrance exam.

It also reports that Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, the country’s most celebrated human rights campaigner, had demanded a UN investigation into the move.

Ms Ebadi, who is living in exile in Britain, claims the real agenda is to reduce the proportion of female students from present numbers of 65% to 50% - in order to weaken the Iranian feminist movement .

She wrote: “The aim is that women will give up their opposition and demands for their own rights.” More


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Do The People Have A Right To Know What Their Governments Are Doing

“Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories.” Thomas Jefferson, (1743-1826)

According to the Nuremberg Principles, the citizens of a country have a responsibility for the crimes that their governments commit. But to prevent these crimes, the people need to have some knowledge of what is going on. Indeed, democracy cannot function at all without this knowledge.

What are we to think when governments make every effort to keep their actions secret from their own citizens? We can only conclude that although they may call themselves democracies, such governments are in fact oligarchies or dictatorships.

At the end of World War I, it was realized that secret treaties had been responsible for its outbreak, and an effort was made to ensure that diplomacy would be more open in the future. Needless to say, these efforts did not succeed, and diplomacy has remained a realm of secrecy.

Many governments have agencies for performing undercover operations (usually very dirty ones). We can think, for example of the KGB, the CIA, M5, or Mossad. How can countries that have such agencies claim to be democracies, when the voters have no knowledge of or influence over the acts that are committed by the secret agencies of their governments?

Nuclear weapons were developed in secret. It is doubtful whether the people of the United States would have approved of the development of such antihuman weapons, or their use against an already-defeated Japan, if they had known that these things were going to happen. The true motive for the nuclear bombings was also kept secret. In the words of General Groves, speaking confidentially to colleagues at Los Alamos, the real motive was “to control the Soviet Union”.

The true circumstances surrounding the start of the Vietnam war would never have been known if Daniel Ellsberg had not leaked the Pentagon Papers. Ellsbebrg thought that once the American public realised that their country's entry into the war was based on a lie, the war would end. It did not end immediately, but undoubtedly Ellsberg's action contributed to the end of the war. More


Keeping Governments Honest

Julian Assange makes his first public appearance in two months, ever since he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The WikiLeaks founder was granted political asylum on Thursday -- a decision that ignited a wave of international responses, with the UK and Sweden opposing the verdict and Latin American countries strongly supporting Ecuador's move. MORE INFO & PHOTOS:

All governments need civilian oversight. Given that it has just come to light in a press conference this morning that Sami al-Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhaj say they were forcibly flown back to Libya with Jack Straw's authorization. The two Libyan opponents of Muammar Gaddafi claim they were the victims of rendition and torture because of the actions of a British minister and an MI6 officer have been interviewed for the first time by Scotland Yard detectives. See The Guardian

We should all therefore be very thankful for Julian Assange's Wikeleaks and their ability to bring events like the killing in Baghdad of 22-year-old Reuters photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, and his driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40. Both were employees of the Reuters news agency. It must be remembered that states are also perpatrators of terrorism. Editor

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cover-Up of Civilian Drone Deaths Revealed by New Evidence

An aerial drone launches from the guided-missile frigate USS Thach. (Photo: U.S. Navy / Flickr)Detailed information from the families of those killed in drone strikes in Pakistan and from local sources on strikes that have targeted mourners and rescue workers provides credible new evidence that the majority of the deaths in the drone war in Pakistan have been civilian noncombatants - not “militants,” as the Obama administration has claimed.

The new evidence also shows that the statistical tally of casualties from drone attacks in Pakistan published on the web site of the New America Foundation (NAF) has been systematically understating the deaths of large numbers of civilians by using a methodology that methodically counts them as “militants.”

The sharply revised picture of drone casualties conveyed by the two new primary sources is further bolstered by the recent revelation that the Obama administration adopted a new practice in 2009 of automatically considering any military-age male killed in a drone strike as a “militant” unless intelligence proves otherwise.

The detailed data from the two unrelated sources covering a total 24 drone strikes from 2008 through 2011 show that civilian casualties accounted for 74 percent of the death toll, whereas the NAF tally for the same 24 strikes showed civilian casualties accounted for only 30 percent of the total.

Drone launches from the frigate USS Thach
The data on 11 drone strikes from 2008 through 2011 were collected in 2010 and 2011 from families of victims of the strikes by Pakistani lawyer Mirza Shahzad Akbar. Those 11 cases represent only a fraction of the total number on which Akbar has obtained data from victim’s relatives.

Although relatives of drone strike victims could have a personal interest in declaring the innocence of their relatives, the details provided by relatives in legal affidavits, such as the age, employment and other characteristics of the victims, appear in almost every case to support their claims that those killed were not actively involved with al-Qaeda or other military organizations.

The data on 13 drone strikes targeting rescuers and mourners from 2009 through 2011 were gathered by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) in a three-month investigation in late 2010 and early 2011 involving interviews with eyewitnesses and others with direct knowledge of the strikes. More


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

This morning, Thursday 16 August, 2012, in a press conference streamed from the website [1]of the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Minister Ricardo Patino (@RicardoPatinoEC [2]) declared that the country would grant asylum to the Founder and Editor of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange [3].

Patino said that Assange's fears of being persecuted in the United States were justified, therefore he satisfied all legal requirements for political asylum under international human rights and humanitarian law. Still, there is no guarantee that Assange will not be extradited to the United States after a long consultation process. Patino explained the legal reasons in detail in a number of points.

Assange was facing imminent extradition to Sweden [4] for interrogation about sexual allegations he has not been charged for, where he would have been detained upon arrival in solitary with no right to bail, according to Fair Trials International [5]. At the last minute he decided to exercise his right of seeking asylum [6]. He walked into the Embassy of Ecuador and has stayed under diplomatic protection while the country's President Rafael Correa reviewed his case.

The Ecuadorean government based its decision on past [7] and current [8] attacks on WikiLeaks, its founder and even volunteers, which have been unprecedented both in scale and severity. At least seven [9] civilians are being investigated by the FBI, in a Secret Grand Jury that might or might not be taking place in Virginia, US, as it is secret and no official can talk about it.

Indeed, WikiLeaks and individuals who have worked with the project have faced various threats and challenges from both private and public entities. US government officials issued a subpoena [10] to Twittter, requesting that the company disclose personal information and past twwets of activists and computer experts such as Jacob Appelbaum (@ioerror [11]) from Tor Project, who once collaborated with Wikileaks. There have been institutional prohibitions on viewing WikiLeaks documents in public libraries, such as the Library of US Congress [12], and calls for execution and espionage trial from public officers. Another pressure point on Assange and Wikileaks is the extrajudicial banking blockade [13].

US army officer Bradley Manning [14], who is suspected of leaking the classified materials to WikiLeaks, has been arrested and placed in solitary confinement, an extreme measure [15] that even UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez called torture. Over 200 law professors have signed a letter [16] denounced Manning's treatment.

The Embassy controversy

After rumors that asylum had been granted began circulating and President Correa announced that he would study the case on Wednesday 15 August with experts, United Kingdom authorities responded saying that they would respect the Swedish extradition order and send the police to arrest Assange, even if he was protected by Correa's decision.

Officials said they could claim the authority to walk onto Embassy premises, news that sparked anger from many arguing that it would violate the Vienna Convention [18] on Diplomatic and Consular Relations. More

All governments need civilian oversight. Given that it has just come to light in a press conference this morning that Sami al-Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhaj say they were forcibly flown back to Libya with Jack Straw's authorization. The two Libyan opponents of Muammar Gaddafi claim they were the victims of rendition and torture because of the actions of a British minister and an MI6 officer have been interviewed for the first time by Scotland Yard detectives. See The Guardian

We should all therefore be very thankful for Julian Assange's Wikeleaks and their ability to bring events like the killing in Baghdad of 22-year-old Reuters photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, and his driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40. Both were employees of the Reuters news agency. It must be remembered that states are also perpatrators of terrorism. Editor


Terror in Oak Creek, another wake up call for US

Washington DC - How many "Wake up calls" do we need to see our subculture of bigotry, fear, hatred and violence for what it really is? Why can't we see that rising xenophobia and Islamophobia is threatening and actually eroding the fabric, safety and security mean for all of us Americans? The slaughter of Sikhs gathered at a temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, is the latest casualty of this metastasising culture war.

Far right extremists like Wade Michael Page, responsible for the deaths at Oak Creek, like the Norwegian militant Anders Behring Breivik,the self-described anti-Islamic militant who admitted killing 77 people, are not simply crazies or lone gunmen. They are the product of extremist ideologies and movements from white supremacists, politicians, media pundits, religious preachers and anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim websites and blogs that have received more than $42 million over a 10-year period, according to the recent Centre for American Progress study, Fear Inc. The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.

This danger goes way beyond discourse and can easily lead to a deadly reality. Racist and vitriolic "us and them" language feeds a culture war that increasingly targets immigrants, non-whites, Muslims (and those like Sikhs who are mistaken for Muslims), not only in the US, but also in much of Europe. We passively read comments like: "There is no escaping the unfortunate fact that Muslim government employees in law enforcement, the military, and the diplomatic corps need to be watched for connections to terrorism." (Daniel Pipes, in Jerusalem Post, January 22, 2003, p9) or "where there are Muslims, there are problems" from a New York Post editorial that warns of New York becoming "New Yorkistan"; Newt Gingrich warning of Sharia taking over American courts, or Ann Coulter encouraging us to "invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity" because "We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war". More


"THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.


and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Martin Niemöller

Born 14 January 1892 - Died 6 March 1984 (aged 92)


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bibi’s Secret War Plan

In the past few days, I received an Israeli briefing document outlining Israel’s war plans against Iran. The document was passed to me by a high-level Israeli source who received it from an IDF officer. My source, in fact, wrote to me that normally he would not leak this sort of document, but:

“These are not normal times. I’m afraid Bibi and Barak are dead serious.”

The reason they leaked it is to expose the arguments and plans advanced by the Bibi-Barak two-headed warrior. Neither the IDF leaker, my source, nor virtually any senior military or intelligence officer wants this war. While whoever wrote this briefing paper had use of IDF and intelligence data, I don’t believe the IDF wrote it. It feels more likely it came from the shop of national security advisor Yaakov Amridor, a former general, settler true believer and Bibi confidant. It could also have been produced by Defense Minister Barak, another pro-war booster.

I’ve translated the document from Hebrew with the help of Dena Shunra.

Before laying out the document, I wanted to place it in context. If you’ve been reading this blog you’ll know that after Bibi’s IDF service he became the marketing director for a furniture company. Recent revelations have suggested that he may have also served in some capacity either formally or informally in the Mossad during that period.

This document is a more sophisticated version of selling bedroom sets and three-piece sectionals. The only difference is that this marketing effort could lead to the death of thousands.

This is Bibi’s sales pitch for war. Its purpose is to be used in meetings with members of the Shminiya , the eight-member security cabinet which currently finds a 4-3 majority opposed to an Iran strike. Bibi uses this sales pitch to persuade the recalcitrant ministers of the cool, clean, refreshing taste of war. My source informs me that it has also been shared in confidence with selected journalists who are in the trusted inner media circle (who, oh who, might they be?). More

War is the ultimate abuse of human rights, and this applies to all states involved. Editor

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Israeli high court decision enables widespread torture of Palestinian detainees

When human rights workers, lawyers and doctors get a chance to speak with Palestinian detainees about their treatment in Israeli prisons, the standard response is‘ādi, meaning “as usual.” After a little prodding, sometimes they will get the details of what exactly is “usual.” (See Bana Shoughry-Badarne’s “Torture in Israel – A Question of Getting Away With It.”)

One man tells of being violently beaten for 80 hours while being told his mother was dying.

Another man was allowed to sleep for two hours every three days for a total of 40 days, while interrogators shouted directly into his ears. (Examples from Shoughry-Badarne’s article.)

When the brutal “interrogation” is exhausted, officers may send the prisoners to a foul-smelling cell, where mold lines the walls and there is a hole in the floor to use as a toilet.

Usually — that is 70-90 percent of the time — the detained men, women and children are not allowed to speak to anyone, including a lawyer, until they have “confessed.”

And once the Shin Bet (also known as the General Security Services, GSS, or Shabak) have a confession — no matter what induced it — there is no chance for a lawyer to help the prisoner regain his freedom.

Torture, or “moderate physical pressure” was supposed to be made illegal by a 1999 Israeli high court decision. However, in the decision, the court made the exception to the rule for those Palestinians deemed to be a “ticking bomb;” in other words, they withheld information that could help save lives.

Shin Bet impunity “absolute”

But since 2000, 700 complaints of torture at the hands of the Shin Bet have been submitted to the state prosecutors’ office and not a single case has been criminally charged, prosecuted or convicted. When turning back each unresolved complaint, the state prosecutor’s office either denies the factuality of the allegations of physical abuse or invokes the “necessity defense” — that is, the detainee fell under the “ticking bomb” scenario. More


Friday, August 10, 2012

At Drone Convention, Zero Tolerance for Peace

When are we, as a nation, going to have a frank discussion about drones and remote-controlled killing? One might think that such a dialogue could take place when thousands of people come together, once a year, at the gathering of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). Wrong.

Activists staged a die-in (Image: CodePink))
But AUVSI, the lobby group for the drone industry, brooked no dissent at its August 6-9 Las Vegas Convention. When I, as author of a new book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, tried to rent a room at the Convention Center to give a presentation on my book, AUVSI vetoed my request. When I tried to register as a journalist, I was told that I did not meet their criteria, but they refused to say what that criteria was. And after registering online as a normal participant and paying the $200 fee, when I appeared to get my badge I was yanked off the line, surrounded by police, and told I would be arrested if I set foot in the Convention Center during the duration of the gathering.

The same thing happened to Father Louie Vitale, an 80-year-old Franciscan priest who had registered and pre-paid for the conference. Father Vitale is known for his dignified, faith-driven stance against war, including drone killing. “There’s something from my Air Force days that fascinates me about drones, which is one of the reasons I wanted to get in to see the exhibits,” said Father Vitale, “but I also wanted to have conversations with some of the drone manufacturers and operators.” That was not to be. Unprovoked, Father Vitale found himself surrounded by Convention Security and Las Vegas police, who threatened him with arrest.

CODEPINK supporter and writer Tighe Barry flew all the way from Washington DC to attend the conference. Pre-registration confirmation in hand, he was given his badge, only to find it snatched away from him 20 minutes later. “I was sitting quietly in a session on the integration of drones into US airspace when I was grabbed by security agents and pulled out of the room. How sick is that?” said Barry. “These people are crazy!”

A few peace activists did not get immediately stopped by AUVSI’s thuggish security, but two of them were banned when they dared to simply ask a few probing questions to the exhibitors at the booth of General Atomics, the company making the lethal Predator and Reaper drones. “I was merely asking if the company feels any responsibility when its products are used to kill innocent people in places like Pakistan and Yemen,” said Jim Haber of Nevada Desert Experience, a group that has been peacefully protesting nuclear weapons for decades.

Janis Sevre-Duszynska, a writer for National Catholic Reporter, was allowed inside but was overwhelmed by the experience. “Walking through the exhibit hall was surreal. It is all about performance, speed, targets and sales—nothing about consequences,” said Sevre-Duszynska. “It felt like a war zone, and I felt like an alien. There didn’t seem to be others who were questioning the deadly uses of this technology.” More


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Palestinian villages struggle as Israeli settlement waste contaminates the environment

"The bad odor is constant here and nowadays it has become normal to find rodents and insects in this area" Ahmed, a resident of Burin, tells staring at the smelly polluted water flowing less than 10 meters from the houses of his village located between Salfit and Nablus, in the northern part of the West Bank – "It's not only about the smell.

In the village a lot of people suffer from skin diseases, asthmas, and other illnesses." The waste water stemming from Ariel settlement has played a major role in the contamination of water and in the pollution of the environment in the Salfit area. Due to the concentration of pollutant elements in this zone, many agricultural fields have been destroyed and many animals and plants have been killed. Moreover, many infectious waterborne diseases, like diarrhea, have broken out especially among children.

Betar Illit from Nahalin MartaFortunato
Betar Illit from Nahalin (Photo: Marta Fortunato)
The inhabitants of Wadi Fukin and Nahalin, south-west of Bethlehem, face the same problems. Surrounded by the Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit, these two villages, known for the quality of the agricultural products, are constantly threatened by the flow of waste water coming from the nearby settlement. "Inside Beitar Illit there is a waste water treatment facility but it can't handle the amount of waste water it receives and as a consequence it overflows reversing untreated waste water onto the agricultural fields" explains Dib Najajrah, a resident of Wadi Fukin. "Moreover, in the last years the settlers have started attacking our crops by deliberately pumping the waste water coming out of the settlement into the cultivated land of Nahalin."

Water pollution and contamination of ground water are the main environmental threats that the Palestinians living in the West Bank have to deal with. As an occupying power, according to the article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel has the duty of "ensuring and maintaining, with the cooperation of national and local authorities... public health and hygiene in the occupied territory" in order to prevent the spread of diseases and epidemics. However, since 1967 Israel has consistently failed to provide Palestinians with efficient sewage and waste water facilities and at the same time the Israeli settlements have started discharging untreated domestic and industrial sewage onto the aquifer, causing the contamination of ground water and the destruction of Palestinian agricultural fields. More


Friday, August 3, 2012

Drone race will ultimately lead to a sanitised factory of slaughter

The CIA has killed more than 200 children in drone strikes outside of legitimate war zones since 2004, it is alleged. In Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia an estimated total of between 451 and 1,035 civilians were killed in at least 373 strikes according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the most accurate source of "kill statistics".

Who in their right mind would give a powerful unmanned air force to a covert organisation with such a track record for unaccountable and illegal killing? The number of strikes in Pakistan has dramatically increased from 52 under George W Bush during his five years of conflict to 282 during Obama's three and a half-year watch. Obama is establishing a dangerous precedent that is, at best, legally questionable in a world where more than 50 countries are acquiring the technology.

This is big business with billions of dollars at stake. Israeli companies are pursuing new drone markets in Asia and Latin America. The US has restricted drone sales to its allies but now, with defence budgets shrinking, companies such as Northrop Grumman and General Atomics are lobbying their government to loosen export restrictions and open foreign markets in South America and the Middle East. Other countries such as India and Pakistan are also hungry for the technology. Russia has unveiled its MiG Skat combat drone with on-board cruise missiles for strikes on air defences as well as ground and naval targets, while Iran demonstrated an armed rocket launched drone, the Karrar, in 2010.

But it is China that is showing the greatest commercial potential for selling armed drones. The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission noted with concern that China "has deployed several types of unmanned aerial vehicles for both reconnaissance and combat". More worryingly, the Washington Post quotes Zhang Qiaoliang from the Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute as saying, "the United States doesn't export many attack drones, so we're taking advantage of that hole in the market". Given the 10-year spate of CIA drone strikes, what can be said when other countries use drone strikes against perceived threats in other states? More


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Gaza lives on

Since 2007, most of the approximately 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip have suffered gravely from an intensified land, air and sea blockade imposed by Israel.

The blockade, deemed illegal by the United Nations, was implemented after Hamas, a Palestinian faction labelled a terrorist organisation by Tel Aviv, took control over the territory and ousted Fatah officials from power in the battle of Gaza.

After more than two decades of tight sanctions and even though Israel eased the restrictions on non-military goods in 2010, the blockade continues to take a heavy toll on Gaza's civilian population, with many essential and basic goods banned from being exported or imported. This has led to rampant poverty and a massive unemployment rate in Gaza.

But Gaza once had thriving economy and was a major exporter of key staple foods, including fruits and vegetables, to countries across the world. Israel's policies since the occupation, however, have forced the vast majority of Gazans to rely on foreign humanitarian aid for survival.

According to the UN, about one-third of Gaza's arable land and 85 per cent of its fishing waters are totally or partially inaccessible due to the Israeli blockade.

Abu Anwar Jahjouh, who has worked as a corn seller for the past 15 years and lives in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza, says it is a daily struggle to scrape out a living: "Back in the 1960s, we used to export oranges. Ships would come from Turkey, Spain, Germany and all of Europe. We used to export oranges, lemons, clementines and grapefruits. But those ships stopped coming to Gaza after 1967. No one comes to Gaza anymore. We can't export anything. That's why we started selling corn here on the beach. We sell anything." More