Tuesday, April 30, 2013

6 Horrifying Facts Every American Should Know About Guantanamo Bay and the Ongoing Hunger Strike

As the hunger strike grows, the U.S. is sending more medical personnel to help force-feed the prisoners. Here are some of the facts you should know about the protest and the prison camp.

The hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay continues to grow. The U.S. recently forced many prisoners into solitary confinement. The military now admits that 100 prisoners at the camp are refusing to eat. But lawyers for Guantanamo detainees say that more than 130 detainees are on hunger strike.

While the claims and counter-claims bounce back and forth, the situation continues to deteriorate. Here’s 6 facts you should know about Guantanamo Bay and the ongoing act of protest most of the prisoners are participating in.

1. U.S. Medical Reinforcements Have Arrived to Force-Feed Prisoners

One of the latest news items is that “medical reinforcements” from the U.S. Navy have arrived at Guantanamo Bay to cope with the growing hunger strike. The Naval nurses and specialists are there to help facilitate the process of force-feeding the detainees.

“We will not allow a detainee to starve themselves to death, and we will continue to treat each person humanely,” Guantanamo prison spokesman Samuel House told the New York Times. But the practice of force-feeding has been criticized by human rights groups.

When detainees are force-fed, they are shackled to a “restraint chair.” Then, U.S. military officials force a tube into their nose to pump nutrients into their body. The American Medical Association has come out strongly against the practice. “Every competent patient has the right to refuse medical intervention, including life-sustaining interventions,” AMA President Jeremy Lazarus wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the Miami Herald reports.

In a harrowing New York Times Op-Ed, Guantanamo prisoner Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel described the process of force-feeding. “I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up,” he wrote. “I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.”

2. Hunger Strike Sparked By Raids, Fueled By Indefinite Detention

Detainees began the hunger strike in early February after they said personnel at the camp raided cells, confiscated personal items and treated the Qu’ran disrespectfully. The military disputes this narrative. But what is clear is that, as the New York Times reported, the strike is being driven by “a growing sense among many prisoners, some of whom have been held without trial for more than 11 years, that they will never go home.”

“The men are not starving themselves so they can become martyrs...They’re doing this because they’re desperate. They’re desperate to be free from Guantanamo. They don’t see any alternative to leaving in a coffin. That’s the bottom line,” Wells Dixon, an attorney for five Guantamano detainees, told AlterNet earlier this month.

3. 86 Detainees Have Been Cleared for Release--But They’re Still There

There are currently 166 detainees at Guantanamo. And over half of them--86--have been cleared for release out of the hellish prison camp. But they’re still there, a fact that is helping to drive the hunger strike. More


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Israel gives up white phosphorus, because 'it doesn't photograph well'

A certain air of nostalgia dominated Maarivs headline last Thursday: “Due to criticism in the world, IDF parts ways with white phosphorus”: just like the old Galil assault rifle and the old two-way radios that generations of soldiers grew familiar with.

Ghada Abu Halima injured by white phosphorus

A couple of years ago we learned the IDF was giving up its cans of preserved meat (the kosher version of SPAM). Now, it’s white phosphorus that we say goodbye to.

[Twilight. The IDF and white phosphorus exchange a final gaze. A sad violin tune is heard. Curtain down.]

So the IDF is looking for a replacement for the white phosphorus bombs. A senior officer in the ground forces explained: “As we learned during Cast Lead, it [white phosphorus] doesn’t photograph well, so we are reducing the supply and we will not purchase beyond what we already have.”

“It doesn’t photograph well.” In all honesty, the man is right.

This item caught me by surprise. The IDF is giving up white phosphorus? Wait a minute; the IDFnever used white phosphorus during Cast Lead. So how exactly do you give up something you we never had? Chemical weapons are something the Syrians use, no?

Okay, after a while the army did remember that it had been confused, and it did use white phosphorus, but only in open territories and not against people.

Okay, then the IDF remembered that it got it wrong again and that it did use white phosphorus in urban areas. Two hundred bombs, actually. But this was only in order to create a “smoke screen,” and there is nothing wrong with that. And if there was something wrong, it’s insignificant and unintentional, and it would be thoroughly investigated, so that no stone is left unturned.

That’s all nice and well, except that at least 12 Gazans met their horrific death this way, burned to death by white phosphorus. Among them were three women, six children and a 15-month-old baby girl. Dozens more suffered burns from the material which continues to burn through flesh and tissue until it reaches the bone. Doctors in Gaza were helpless in treating the unfamiliar burns. Israel didn’t give them time to prepare themselves; white phosphorus shells hit Al-Quds Hospital and completely burned the top two floors.

These facts were already known in the first days of Cast Lead. Human Rights Watch published a thorough investigation – one of the most thorough I have read – of Israel’s use of white phosphorus and its devastating effects. IDF soldiers who took part in the Gaza campaign alsotestified on the extensive use of white phosphorus, including direct fire on houses suspected of being booby-trapped (and not for “masking” purposes as the IDF later claimed). More


Friday, April 26, 2013

Files that may shed light on colonial crimes still kept secret by UK

Secret government files from the final years of the British empire are still being concealed despite a pledge by William Hague, the foreign secretary, that they would be declassified and opened to the public.

The withheld files are among a huge cache of documents that remained hidden from view for decades at an undisclosed Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) archive, in breach of laws governing the handling of official papers. Once the existence of the archive became known to lawyers for a group of elderly Kenyans who are trying to sue the British government over the abuses they suffered during the Mau Mau insurgency, Hague ordered an inquiry and promised disclosure.

He told MPs: "I believe that it is the right thing to do for the information in these files now to be properly examined and recorded and made available to the public through the National Archives. It is my intention to release every part of every paper of interest subject only to legal exemptions."

However, it emerged this week that the Foreign Office is holding back significant numbers of documents, using a legal exemption contained within a catch-all clause within the very law that it had breached by maintaining the secret archive.

Among the papers known to have been withheld by the FCO are a file that contains the minutes of many of the meetings of the cabinet of the British colonial government in Kenya in 1963, the year before independence; a file about compensation that was paid after the 1946 bombing of the British military HQ at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem; and a file containing telegrams that British diplomats sent to London from Mauritius in 1968, the year that colony proclaimed independence.

Other files that are known to remain hidden from public view include a series of five concerning a visit that Prince Philip made to Singapore in 1956; three concerning a proposed royal visit to Nigeria the same year; and a proposed royal visit to Mauritius in 1968.

The Mauritius papers could be particularly sensitive as they could shed light on Britain's decision to expel about 1,500 Chagos islanders a few years later, having agreed to lease Diego Garcia to the United States for use as a military base.

Sections of some files that have been declassified and handed over the National Archives at Kew, south-west London, are also being withheld. These include parts of a 1950 file about the "indoctrination of Malay Chinese" travelling to China, which the Foreign Office wishes to remain concealed until 2032; Singapore intelligence reports from the 1950s; and a 1960 file concerning Northern Cameroons, both of which the Foreign Office plans to withhold until 2029. These files remain classified under the terms of Section 3.4 of the 1958 Public Records Act, which permits government departments to withhold from public view any historic document "required for administrative purposes" or that "ought to be retained for any other special reason".

The Foreign Office declined to disclose the reasons for deciding that specific files should be withheld, with the result that the reason for the continuing secrecy is itself, at this stage, a secret. A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "We are committed to making as many files as we can from our colonial archives available to the public. These files are an important part of our history. By the end of our programme, we'll have released some 18,000 files. On average, only 1% of material has been withheld from release."

The secret archive was discovered by a number of historians, including David Anderson, professor of African politics at Oxford, who were working for the legal team that represented the Mau Mau veterans as they fought for the right to sue to the British government for the mistreatment they suffered as prisoners of the British in 1950s Kenya. The government had acknowledged that their accounts of appalling torture are true, but is continuing to contest their right to claim damages, saying that a fair trial is impossible after so many years.

During a series of hearings the Foreign Office acknowledged that the archive existed, and that it contained 200 boxes of files: 1.5 tons of paper that covered about 200 metres of shelving. Lord Howell, then Foreign Office minister, said that the documents had been brought to the UK not only from Kenya, but from 37 different colonies and protectorates including Aden, Ceylon, Cyprus, Malaya, Malta, Nigeria and Northern Rhodesia.

For several years the secret archive was housed at Hanslope Park in Buckinghamshire, inside the highly secure premises of Her Majesty's Government Communications Centre. This is a facility where teams of scientists – real-life versions of Q, the fictional boffin of the James Bond films – work behind five metre-high fences topped with razor wire to devise technical aids for MI5 and MI6.

An inquiry commissioned by Hague established that the files were first stored in Hayes, west London, before being moved to Hanslope Park, where staff were led to believe that they belonged to another organisation called Hayes and not to the FCO.

Anthony Cary, the former British high commissioner to Canada, who conducted the investigation, reported that "a canard that was widely shared and passed down during handovers" included the explanation that the FCO was holding the archive because there had been a fire at Hayes. In this way it was never assessed for declassification, as the law required, and placed beyond reach of the Freedom of Information Act.

Once the bulk of the material began to be handed over to the National Archive, it became clear that many of Britain's late colonial-era official papers were not archived anywhere, but destroyed.

Thousands of documents containing evidence of official misdeeds committed in the years in the years before independence were either incinerated or dumped at sea. Surviving scraps of documents show that colonial officials in some colonies, such as Kenya, were told that there should be a presumption in favour of disposal of documents rather than removal to the UK – "emphasis is placed upon destruction" – and that no trace of either the documents or their incineration should remain. When documents were burned, officials were told that "the waste should be reduced to ash and the ashes broken up".

Some idea of the scale of the destruction operations can be gleaned from instruction documents that survived the purge. In certain circumstances, officials in Kenya were informed, "it is permissible, as an alternative to destruction by fire, for documents to be packed in weighted crates and dumped in very deep and current-free water at maximum practicable distance from the coast". More


British officials predicted war – and Arab defeat – in Palestine in 1948

The British government knew from the moment it planned to withdraw its forces from Palestine more than 60 years ago that partition of the territory and the founding of the state of Israel would lead to war and defeat for the Arabs, secret documents released make clear.

Princess Mary Avenue, Jerusalem

The documents, which have a remarkable contemporary resonance, reveal how British officials looked on as Jewish settlers took over more and more Arab land.

In the weeks leading up to the partition of Palestine in 1948, when Britain gave up its UN mandate, Jewish terrorist groups were mounting increasing attacks on UK forces and Arab fighters, the Colonial Office papers show.

And they reveal how senior British officials were occupied in deciding how to allocate between them two Rolls-Royces and a Daimler.

The papers, released at the National Archives, show how in regular intelligence reports to London, British officials in Jerusalem described a steady build-up of tension as Britain, the US, the United Nations and Zionists moved towards the partition of Palestine.

As early as October 1946, two years before partition, UK officials warned London that Jewish opinion would oppose partition "unless the Jewish share were so enlarged as to make the scheme wholly unacceptable to Arabs".

British officials warned the colonial secretary, George Hall: "The Jewish public … endorsed the attitude of its leaders that terrorism is a natural consequence of the general policy of His Majesty's Government", including turning away ships carrying "illegal" Jewish immigrants.

Moderate Jewish leaders were frightened of being called quislings, British officials told London, referring to collaborators with Nazi Germany in occupied countries. The next UK intelligence report referred to "effective pressures which Zionists in America are in a position to exert on the American administration".

After an increase in violent attacks by the militant Zionists of the Stern group and Irgun, British officials reported later in 1946: "Arab leaders appear to be still disposed to defer active opposition so long as a chance of a political decision acceptable to Arab interests exists." But they warned: "There is a real danger lest any further Jewish provocation may result in isolated acts of retaliation spreading inevitably to wider Arab-Jewish clashes".

A report dated October 1947 refers to Menachem Begin, commander of Irgun, stating in a press interview that "the fight against the British invader would continue until the last one left Palestine".

Begin was later elected prime minister of Israel and signed a peace treaty with Egypt's president Anwar Sadat in 1979, for which the two leaders were awarded the Nobel peace prize.

By early 1948 British officials were reporting that "the Arabs have suffered a series of overwhelming defeats." They added: "Jewish victories … have reduced Arab morale to zero and, following the cowardly example of their inept leaders, they are fleeing from the mixed areas in their thousands. It is now obvious that the only hope of regaining their position lies in the regular armies of the Arab states."

London was warned: "Arab-Jewish violence is now diffused over virtually all of Palestine". A few days later, British officials spoke of "internicine [sic] strife" and the "steady influx of Arab volunteers" from neighbouring countries.

The papers show that two years earlier, British intelligence officials were reporting "disturbing indications of a revival of political interest and activity among the rank and file of Palestinian Arabs ... The decision to admit Cyprus deportees [Jews deported to camps on the island] against the immigration quotas, the impression that concessions have been made by His Majesty's Government in deference to Jewish pressure and terrorism … have been instrumental in arousing Arab public feeling."

Syria, then as now but for very different reasons, was a centre of concern for western powers. "Arab nationalism is moving towards another crisis. This is especially noticeable in Syria," said a report drawn up during thesecond world war for British intelligence officers and propaganda chiefs.

There was a widespread view then that Syria and Lebanon would be handed back to France once the war was over. "Syria may be the scene of the next act of the Arab Revolution," added the report, referring to a feeling of humiliation in the Arab world.

The wartime report drawn up for British intelligence officials said Arab nationalism had a "double nature … a rational constructive movement receptive of western influence and help [and] an emotional movement of revolt against the west".

It concluded: "The conflict between these two tendencies will be decided in the present generation. The first aim of the policy of the western powers must be to prevent the triumph of the second tendency."

Among the classified papers released today is a report on how to share out cars among the British diplomats and intelligence officers who would remain in Jerusalem after partition. A seven-seater Rolls-Royce was described as "a big fast car".The problem, the report says, was the UK high commissioner in Palestine, General Sir Alan Gordon Cunningham "intends to bring it home for use in the UK protem [sic]". More


Newly declassified documents give insights into last days of British occupation of Palestine

The Foreign Office on Friday is releasing to The National Archives a stack of until now secret files from the British occupation authorities that ruled Palestine until 1948.

The Electronic Intifada was invited to a press preview of the files on Wednesday and had a chance to read many of the newly-released documents, mostly from the 1940s.

Although there were too many documents to even skim in one day, the files seem to give a fascinating insight into the final days of the British “Mandate” over Palestine.

One file (FCO 141/14284), a collection of weekly intelligence reports from the High Commissioner for Palestine to the Colonial Secretary in London, ends chillingly. The last document in the file is dated 10 April 1948 and contains an initial report on the Zionist massacre in Deir Yassin which had happened only the day before.

The Jews … seized part of the village of Deir Yassin. The latter operation is believed to have been a joint N.M.O. [National Military Organization, aka Irgun]- Stern Group enterprise undertaken with knowledge of the Haganah [Zionist militia]. Arab casualties are believed to have been heavy.

The report, marked “Top Secret,” does not elaborate on the more than 100 Palestinian villagers, including women and children, who were murdered that day.

Changing sides

While the files I’ve looked at so far appear to contain nothing totally new, they do give some interesting details.

Another file (FCO 141/14283) is a collection of telegrams and reports from 1948, but coming from British police, it is more military-focused than the politically-oriented reports of the High Commissioner. It contains an interesting episode.

A report dated 27 April 1948 by one R.C. Catling, Assistant Inspector General with the Criminal Investigation Department (plain-clothes detectives) shows that some British officers decided to take the Palestinian side.

The report details an attack by Palestinian fighters on a British Armored Personnel Carrier which was carrying mail from Jerusalem to Qalandia. It was ambushed “on the Ramallah road by approximately 50 armed Arabs.”

The Arabs appeared to be led by two Britishers, one of whom was recognised as an ex-B/Constable whose name is unknown and the other man is thought to be an ex-B/Constable Brown, who escaped from Acre after being sentenced to four years’ [sic] imprisonment. Both men were wearing khaki drill clothing and Arab headdresses.

The armed police drivers had their weapons and APC confiscated, but were apparently released unharmed.

The report is reminiscent of Peter Kosminsky’s 2011 TV serial The Promise in which a British soldier, despite being initially sympathetic to Zionism, becomes disillusioned with the British role in Palestine and deserts to join Palestinian fighters who unsuccessfully attempted to defend the country.

Although fictional, Kosminsky based his drama on real history, including original research and conversations with surviving British colonial soldiers.

Other stories

Several of the files (FCO 141/14256, 14270-73, 14288) concern Germans, Italians and Iranians interned as enemies during the Second World War, and sent from Palestine to prison camps in Australia.

Some of the Italians were said to be priests sympathetic to fascism. Many of the Germans were members of the Templar colony Sarona near Jaffa, which was expropriated and used as a British military base.

One Samuel Theodore Hoffman, born in Jerusalem 1893 was said to be “an extremely dangerous Nazi” who was “active in the dissemination of Nazi propaganda in Palestine.”

Another file (FCO 141/14285) contained correspondence from worried British subjects seeking to flee the country after the UN decision to partition Palestine.

Other newly-released files, which I did not have the time to review, are said to contain details of Hijaz railway assets to be handed over to “the Transjordan government” (modern-day Jordan).


The documents are part of a wider collection from former British colonial administrations around the world designated the “Migrated Archives.” During the process of decolonization, British occupation authorities wanted to ensure that any evidence of their wrongdoing was covered up. More


Israel, Armenians and the question of genocide

When Israel remembers the Holocaust, why does it think only of Jews?

History has proven time and again that the Jews are not unique for having suffered genocidal policies. The many debates about preventing such tragedies have so far not helped populationsthat suffered mass killings and expulsions, with intent to destroy them for their national, religiousor ethnic identity – even in recent decades. Therefore the politicization of the Armenian genocidein Israel in the context of Israel-Turkey relations, described with great eloquence by Akiva Eldar in al-Monitor, is not only wrong; it calls into question whether Israel is truly committed to “never again” when it comes to people who are not Jews.

In fact, Jews need not look outside their own community to understand the categorical need to universalize the awful lessons of the Holocaust. Eldar points out that one of the greatest advocates of this position was himself a victim:

The man who coined the term genocide and fought for adoption of the treaty [1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide - ds] was the Jewish-Polish jurist Raphael Lemkin, whose entire family was annihilated in the Holocaust. He himself managed to flee to the United States. Lemkin referred specifically to the Armenian annihilation as an act of genocide. This position was never adopted by Israeli governments. The official Israeli position was summed up in 2001 in an interview by then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres with the Turkish Daily News: “The Armenians suffered a tragedy,” he said, “but not genocide.”

Tragically, Eldar’s description of the feeling many Knesset members hold towards this question mirrors what I feel in Israeli society:

For them, any attempt to hint that other peoples were also persecuted and massacred for racist reasons is considered “disrespect for the Holocaust” (they themselves, on the other hand, often use the term “Holocaust,” especially to scare the Israeli public with the Iranian threat). They do not define the Armenian genocide as a human-Jewish-ethical issue.

To the argument that recognition of the Armenian experience threatens very immediate political needs related to Turkey, I hope that Turkish leaders and people see it differently. Remembering horrors suffered by others would say more about Israel’s values than it does about Turkey. Anyone can commit terrible crimes against innocents, Jews included. I wish for a country that rises above its own trauma to recall, support and help victims anywhere.

I can scarcely believe this needs to be said, but apparently it bears repeating: we must acknowledge that all human beings are at risk of falling victims to genocidal acts, or of perpetrating such acts themselves. The same people can be in both positions. To deny this seems to me as awful and dangerous as Holocaust denial itself. More


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Into the Fire

Into the Fire is a video about racism and apartheid against refugees in Greece.

Into the Fire is being crowd-released today: All over the internet people are embedding Into the Fire on their website or blog. With everyone who participates the audience will grow. And because the audience are also the distributors, the distribution network grows as well. Are you participating?

If you have embedded the film or seen it on a website which isn’t listed on our distributors page, take a minute toadd the link.

Into the Fire is up on YouTube with subtitles in Albanian, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian and Spanish. Use the link below when embedding to make sure they’re turned on:


You can also download the international version and subtitles in .srt format from Archive.org.

More versions will be added throughout the day, follow us on Facebook or Twitter to get updates or check ourembedding guide for new uploads.

A version of the film with burned in English subtitles is available on Vimeo. Other language versions will be added as we make them, follow or check the Into the Fire Channel for updates.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tony Blair’s tangled web: The Quartet Representative and the peace process

Tony Blair stepped down as British prime minister in 2007 and immediately assumed the position of representative to the Quartet, the international body overseeing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Against the background of mounting criticism at home over his role in the 2003 Iraq War, this profile examines the record of Blair’s activities in the Middle East over the past five years. The picture that emerges is one of rapid self-enrichment through murky consultancies and opaque business deals with Middle East dictators, and an official role (formally dedicated to Palestinian state-building) whose main results appear to be an unhappy Palestinian Authority and the perpetuation of the status quo.

On 27 June 2007, Tony Blair resigned as Britain’s prime minister after ten years in office. That very same day, he was appointed to the vaguely defined and unsalaried role of representative to the Quartet, the international body comprising the United States, European Union (EU), United Nations (UN), and Russia that was established in 2002 to oversee the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians.

Blair had won three elections in a row in the United Kingdom, a record equaled in the modern era only by Margaret Thatcher. But by the time of his departure, his Labour Party was beset by internal divisions and rocked by scandals, and his popularity was waning. Blair’s talent for “media spin” had begun to grate on much of the British electorate, which found it increasingly hard to believe that their prime minister really was the man of principle he claimed to be.[1] Blair could not shake off a public perception both that he had used deception in promoting the case for war against Iraq in 2003 and that, in relation to those same events, his government had subordinated its foreign policy priorities to the goals of the U.S. administration of George W. Bush.

Nonetheless, the questions over his part in the Iraq war had done little to dent his reputation with the international community as a global statesman and political heavyweight, the very reasons he was offered the Quartet post. Public figures had avoided raising suspicions about his conduct, even while his public appearances in Britain invariably attracted a posse of protesters demanding that he be tried for war crimes.[2] In the years following the invasion of Iraq, the evidence against Blair slowly mounted, particularly with Britain’s official investigation of the Iraq war, the Chilcot inquiry, whose hearings ended in early 2011. Publication of the final report has been repeatedly delayed because British officials have blocked access to official records of the conversations between Bush and Blair in the run-up to the invasion. Still, Sir John Chilcot has indicated that he is likely to be heavily critical of Blair, particularly over the misuse of intelligence.

It was not until summer 2012, however, that the general air of deference toward Blair was punctured. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, the South African Nobel peace laureate and opponent of apartheid, publicly refused to share a platform with Blair at a leadership summit in Johannesburg. In an op-ed justifying his decision, Tutu excoriated Blair as a war criminal who should be in the dock at the International Criminal Court in the Hague for invading Iraq. “[I]n a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in the Hague.”[4] Tutu assigned Blair responsibility not only for past war crimes. He also argued that the U.S.- and U.K.-led invasion of Iraq had created the backdrop for further suffering in the Middle East, especially in clearing a path to the current civil war in Syria and in freeing Israel to issue endless menaces to strike Iran in a bid to stop its alleged nuclear weapons program. Bush and Blair, Tutu wrote, “have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand—with the specter of Syria and Iran before us.”

A Sheep in Wolfensohn’s Clothing

In many ways, Blair seemed a natural choice for the post of Quartet Representative. He already had a proven track record in peacemaking, having negotiated an agreement between another pair of long-feuding communities divided by sectarian and nationalist differences. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement brought a formal end to hostilities between the Protestant “Loyalists” and the Catholic “Republicans” in Northern Ireland, leading to a power-sharing government. Some observers intimated that this might provide a model for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Blair also had great standing with the White House, an invaluable asset when the United States was the only real mediator between the two parties. Finally, Blair had long emphasized the importance of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, which he saw as a vital element in reducing frustration and extremism in the Middle East that, in his view, threatened the West. But from the outset, there were doubts about how much impact Blair would have. The experiences of his predecessor were a warning of the likely limitations of the job. James Wolfensohn, a former president of the World Bank, was appointed in April 2005 as Special Envoy to the Middle East by then U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Alvaro de Soto, a former UN envoy to the Quartet, says Wolfensohn was lured with a proposed job description that would have given him a writ “essentially covering the entire peace process.” But his final terms of reference were much narrower and were quickly whittled down further still, according to de Soto.[6]

Wolfensohn lasted in the job only eleven months, resigning when it became clear that he had been almost entirely boxed in by the United States and Israel. “I was stupid for not reading the small print,” he told the Israeli daily Ha’Aretz in an interview a year later.[7] It had soon become apparent to him that his role would be limited to mitigating the worst effects of the occupation and trying to revive the Palestinian economy, chiefly through high-level fund-raising. More

To read on the Journal of Palestine Studies site

To read as a PDF


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Killing Hamid

The hidden story that sparked Israel's attack on Gaza.

Six days before Operation Pillar of Cloud unleashed Israel's attack on Gaza in November 2012, 13-year-old Palestinian Hamid Abu Dagga was killed while playing football with his friends.

Hamid was wearing a Real Madrid football shirt when he was killed. His favourite player was Cristiano Renaldo, who has repeatedly shown his support for Palestinian rights.

In this hard hitting and very moving video, by filmmaker Harry Fear, shows how the killing of Hamid led to the start of Israel's war in Gaza on 14 November 2012.

It includes interviews with Hamid's friends, his family and the hospital medics who examined his body.

Israeli spy documentary exposes cruel heart of the occupation

Apocalyptic warnings that Israel must be saved from itself have become almost commonplace in discourse concerning the future of the Middle East.

Twenty years after the signing of the Oslo peace accords, Israel's occupation has reached levels of entrenchment previously unimaginable. This bitter reality has unfolded as Israelis significantly cut back their direct contact with Palestinians, in large part a result of the work of the Palestinian Authority and the severing of Gaza from the West Bank.

Before the Oslo years, Israel had to administer multiple aspects of Palestinian life directly and large segments of the Israeli population knew - through experience - the burdens of occupation.

Today, that is not the case. With the help of the Palestinian Authority, separation barriers and advancements in military technology, Israelis now have the ability to enjoy the fruits of occupation, whether in cheap housing in Israeli settlements or the mining of raw materials in the West Bank, without the need to see what controlling a people looks like on the ground. Recent protests over the cost of living in Tel Aviv, which made no mention of the occupation despite the rallying cry of social justice, drive home this point.

The foundations in place for this continued status quo don't appear to be changing anytime soon. Israel has invested more resources, both intellectual and economic, into controlling the Palestinians than into any other project in the country's history.

With continued American backing and a potential source of cash from recently found natural gas deposits, Israel is poised to refine its web of control over Palestinian life, while Israelis attempt to live a normal life free from the moral consequences of controlling another people.

Yet the majority of Israelis would be shocked to read these sentiments. If recent Israeli election results are any barometer, most would argue that, while Israel finds itself in a unique security situation, it is not really that different from most European countries. People want to pursue happiness and economic stability instead of dealing with the pesky occupation.

Perhaps it is this bleak contour of Israeli society that spurred an Israeli director, Dror Moreh, to make The Gatekeepers, an acclaimed new documentary about Israel's Shin Bet security agency.

While space for honest discussion about the country's policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians continues to shrink, there remains a faction of Israelis who hold on to the belief that democratic ideals and ethnocracy can exist symbiotically between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. For these individuals, Oslo's promise of two states for two peoples was a defining one, despite its impossibility. This coterie of liberals warn vociferously that Israel can't remain on its course. As The Gatekeepers demonstrates, members of this group reached the highest echelons of Israel's security establishment.

One of three Israeli intelligence gathering agencies, the Shin Bet is one of the only state institutions that answers solely to the prime minister's office and is not a part of Israel's Ministry of Defence.

Tasked primarily with handling security in the occupied Palestinian territories, the Shabak, as it is know by its Hebrew acronym, has come to be a cornerstone of Israel's occupation. Shin Bet intelligence gathering, which according to Israel's daily newspaper Haaretz occasionally includes torture, has sought to give Israel the ability to analyse, understand and ultimately dismantle every form of Palestinian resistance.

Moreh's film is a journey into this secretive organisation. Through interviews with six former directors of the Shin Bet, he unravels a complex matrix of Israeli control over Palestinians which seemingly has no driving end goal other than dominance. More



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Divestment at UCSB - by Richard Falk

Moving Toward Divestment from Corporations Profiting from Israeli Militarism, Occupation, and Settlements

Richard Falk

A few days ago I spoke to a student audience in support of a divestment resolution that was to be submitted for adoption at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The resolution was narrowly defeated the next day in the UCSB Student Senate, but this series of student initiated efforts to urge several campuses of the University of California to divest from corporations doing a profitable business selling military equipment to Israel represents an encouraging awakening on the part of American youth to the severe victimization of the Palestinian people by way of occupation, discrimination, refugee misery, and exile, a worsening set of circumstances that has lasted in its various forms for several decades, and shows no signs of ending anytime soon.

Ever since the nakba of 1948, either traditional diplomacy, nor the United Nations, nor armed struggle have been able to secure Palestinian rights, and as time has passed, Palestinian prospects are being steadily diminished by deliberate Israeli policies: establishment and expansion of unlawful settlements, ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem, construction of a separation wall that theWorld Court found in 2004 was being unlawfully built on Palestinian territory, a network of Israeli only road, a dualistic system of laws that have an apartheid character, widespread abuse of Palestinian prisoners, systematic discrimination of the Palestinian minority living in pre-1967 Israel.

Israel has been consistently defiant in relation to relation to international law and the UN, and has refused to uphold Palestinian rights under international law. Given this set of circumstances that combine the failures of diplomacy to achieve a fair peaceful resolution of the conflict and the unwillingness of Israel to fulfill its obligations under international law, the only viable option consistent with the imperatives of global justice are a blend of continuing Palestinian resistance and a militant global solidarity campaign that is nonviolent, yet coercive.

The Palestinian struggle for self-determination has become the great international moral issue of our time, a successor to the struggle in South Africa a generation ago against its form of institutionalized racism, the original basis of the international crime of apartheid. It is notable that the Statute of the International Criminal Court designates apartheid as one type of Crime Against Humanity, and associates it with any structure of discrimination that is based on ethnicity or religion, and not necessarily a structure exhibiting the same characteristics as present in South Africa. Increasingly, independent inquiry has concluded that Israel’s occupation of Palestine is accurately considered to be a version of apartheid, and hence an ongoing Crime Against Humanity.

It is against this background that divestment initiatives and the wider BDS Campaign take on such importance at this time, especially here in America where the governing authorities turn a blind eye to Israel’s wrongdoing and yet continue to insist on their capacity to provide a trustworthy intermediary perspective that is alleged to be the only path to peace, a claim that goes back to the aftermath of the 1967 war, and more definitively linked to the brokered famous handshake on the White House lawn affirming the 1993 Oslo Framework as the authoritative foundation for the resolution of the conflict. It has turned out that Oslo has been a horrible failure from the perspective of achieving Palestinian rights and yet a huge success from the standpoint of the Israeli expansionist blueprint, which included the annexation of the most fertile and desirable land in the West Bank and the consolidation of unified control over the sacred city of Jerusalem.

Against this background, there is only a single way forward: the mobilization of transnational civil society to join the struggle mounted by the Palestinians for an end to occupation in a manner that produces a just solution, including respect for the rights of Palestinian refugees. If this solidarity surge happens on a sufficient scale it will weaken Israel internally and internationally, and hopefully, would lead to an altered political climate in Israel and the United States that would

at long last become receptive to an outcome consistent with international law and morality. Such a posture would be in contrast with what these two governments have for so long insisted upon– a ‘solution’ that translated Israel’s hard power dominance, including the ‘facts on the ground’ that it has steadily created, into arrangements falsely called ‘peace.’

After I presented this argument supporting the divestment resolution several important questions asked by members of a generally appreciative student audience:

–“some people object to this divestment effort as unfairly singling out Israel when there are so many other situations in the world where unlawful behavior and oppressive policies have resulted in more extreme forms of victimization than that experienced by the Palestinians. Why single out the Israelis for this kind of hostile maneuver?”

>there are several ways to respond: the American support of Israel is itself reason enough to justify the current level of attention. Despite Israel’s relative affluence American taxpayers foot the bill for $3 billion + per year, more than is given to the whole of Africa and Latin America, which amounts to $8.7 million per day; additional to the financial contribution is the extraordinary level of diplomatic support that privileges Israel above any other allied country, and extends to pushing policies that reflect Israeli priorities even when adverse to American national interests. This is the case with respect to Iran’s nuclear program. The most stabilizing move would be to propose a nuclear free zone for the entire Middle East, but the United States will not even mention such an option for fear of occasioning some kind of backlash orchestrated by an irate leadership in Tel Aviv.

>the world community as a whole, particularly the UN, undertook a major responsibility for the future of Palestine when it adopted GA Resolution 181 proposing the partition of historic Palestine, giving 55% for a Jewish homeland and 45% to the Palestinians; even since the Balfour Declaration in 1917, the wishes of the indigenous population of Palestine have been disregarded in favor of colonialist ambitions; Palestine remains the last and most unfortunate instance of an ongoing

example of settler colonialism, exemplified by the dispossession and subjugation of the indigenous population as a result of violent suppression. The settlers in this usage are all those that displace the indigenous population, depriving such people of their right of self-determination, and should not be confused with ‘settlers’ from Israel that establish enclaves of domination within occupied Palestine. More