Obama sees 1967 borders as starting point for Israel & Palestine negotiations

Seeking to harness the seismic political change still unfolding in the Arab world, President Barack Obama on May 19 publicly called for the borders prevailing before the 1967 Israeli-Arab war to be the starting point for talks to settle the conflict there, the first time a United States president has explicitly taken that position. He also said that a new Palestinian state should be demilitarized. Although Mr. Obama said that “the core issues” dividing Israelis and Palestinians remained to be negotiated, including the searing questions of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, he spoke with striking frustration that efforts to support an agreement in his first two years in office had so far failed. “The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome,” he said.

Mr. Obama’s decision to put the United States formally on record as supporting the 1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations over a Palestinian state marks an important step closer to a position long held by the Palestinians. The shift is significant because it means the U.S. now explicitly backs the view that new Israeli settlement construction outside those borders would have to be reversed — or compensated for by exchanges of territory.

“The Palestinians must have the right to govern themselves and reach their potential in a sovereign and contiguous state,” Mr. Obama said. His words were a strong signal that the U.S. expected Israel, as well as the Palestinians, to make concessions to restart peace talks that have been stalled since September. He seemed to rule out a key Israeli demand for an ongoing Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley when he called for a “full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces.”

A sweeping Israeli victory over Egypt and other Arab neighbors in a six-day war in 1967 expanded Israeli control over territory in the West Bank and Gaza inhabited by millions of Palestinians. The war created a greater Israel, including all of the capital, Jerusalem, but one that has overseen a resentful occupied population in Palestine for more than four decades.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted icily. In a statement released by his office before departing for talks in Washington DC, he referred to promises made by President George W. Bush in 2004 and supported by members of Congress that Israel would not have to withdraw to the 1967 borders. Netanyahu said Mr. Obama’s stand would be “indefensible” and leave large numbers of Israelis outside Israeli territory. In a White House meeting on May 20, he clashed with President Obama over the issue.

Mr. Obama, however, stated, “The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel, too, must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.” At the same time, he emphasized that no peace agreement should be allowed to jeopardize Israel’s security, to which he declared the United States had an “unshakable commitment.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu repeated his stance later that day in a speech to a supportive Congress. The speech created “more obstacles” to peace, according to a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority. And Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Netanyahu was seeking to “dictate the results” of negotiations before they had begun: “He dictated that Jerusalem will be undivided, that refugees cannot return, that his army will remain on the borders, that his settlements will be expanded and kept, that he wants Palestine to be demilitarized.”

Mr. Obama did warn Palestinians that their campaign to seek recognition in a vote of the United Nations General Assembly in September would not be constructive and would not “create an independent state.” And he cautioned that the recent unity agreement between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, raised “profound and legitimate questions from Israel.”

In a subsequent speech on May 22 to the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), President Obama didn’t back off from any of his earlier comments about what it would take to reach a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. He warned that the Jewish state will face growing isolation without a credible Middle East peace process and defended his endorsement of a future Palestine based on Israel’s 1967 boundaries, subject to negotiated land swaps, as a public expression of long-standing U.S. policy.

– edited from The New York Times, The Associated Press and British Broadcasting Corporation
PeaceMeal July/ August 2011

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Israel considers annexing West Bank settlements

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – Israel is considering annexing major Israeli-occupied West Bank settlement blocks if the Palestinians unilaterally seek world recognition of a state, an Israeli official said March 29—a move that would deal a grave blow to prospects for negotiating a peace deal. The Palestinians launched a campaign to win international recognition of a state after peace negotiations broke down just weeks after they restarted in September because Israel ended a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction. The Palestinians insist they will not resume peace talks until Israel halts settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which they want as a capital.

The government official who disclosed the possible annexation on condition of anonymity said he did not know how seriously authorities were considering the option and added that other options were also being considered. These could include limiting water supplies beyond agreed-upon amounts and restricting Palestinian use of Israeli ports for business purposes, he said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was said to be aware of the moves being discussed.

Efforts to restart deadlocked negotiations with the Palestinians were further complicated by Israeli plans to build 1,500 apartments for Jews in the heart of an Arab neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem. Israel’s Interior Ministry announced that it would decide on April 14 whether to give final approval to the construction. Palestinians are infuriated by the growing Jewish presence in the city’s eastern sector, which they see as undermining their aspirations to statehood.

The United States again tipped the balance in favor of Israel when it vetoed a U.N. resolution on February 18 that would have condemned “illegal” settlements in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories and demanded an immediate halt to all settlement construction. The 14 other Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution, reflecting the wide support for the Palestinian-backed draft resolution which had over 100 co-sponsors.

The U.S. veto was strongly opposed by Arab nations and much of the rest of the world, especially at a time of growing street protests in the Mideast, fueled by hopes for democracy. An abstention would have angered the Israelis, the closest U.S. ally in the region, as well as Democratic and Republican supporters of Israel in Congress.

It was the 10th U.S. veto on a Mideast issue since 2001 and the first by the Obama administration. The last U.S. veto in the Security Council was November 11, 2006 on a resolution calling for an end to Israeli military operations and the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip.

– edited from The Daily Star (Lebanon) and The Associated Press
PeaceMeal, March/April 2011

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Secret report exposes U.S. complicity with Israel's nukes

Grant F. Smith

On May 6, 2010, the Government Accountability Office released a previously secret 1978 investigative report, "Nuclear Diversion in the U.S.? 13 Years of Contradiction and Confusion," that fills in important historic gaps about diversions of weapons-grade uranium from the United States to Israel for its clandestine nuclear weapons program. The GAO report confirms that the United States refused to mount credible investigations that would enable warranted prosecutions of the perpetrators.

U.S. presidents have long acquiesced to Israel's policy of "strategic ambiguity," neither confirming nor denying that Israel even possesses nuclear weapons. This pretext has allowed the U.S. to deliver the lion's share of its foreign assistance budget as military aid to Israel, despite clear legal prohibitions imposed by the Glenn and Symington amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act. U.N. member countries have long suspected that the United States either turns a blind eye or actively supports the transfer of know-how, weapons-grade uranium and dual-use technology to Israel.

The "Nuclear Diversion" report investigated the period between 1957 and 1967, when the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) of Apollo, Pennsylvania, received over 22 tons of U.S. uranium-235 -- a key material used to fabricate nuclear weapons -- for the purpose of manufacturing fuel elements for commercial power reactors. In the early 1960s the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) began documenting suspicious lapses in security at NUMEC's plant, and in 1965 an AEC audit found NUMEC could not account for over 200 pounds of highly enriched uranium.

The GAO was chartered by Congress to investigate what happened to the uranium. GAO solicited all available information developed by the CIA, FBI, AEC and Department of Energy, but was "continually denied necessary reports and documentation … by the CIA and FBI." So the agency resorted to directly interviewing FBI special agents. The report was intended to be made public but, when it was completed, the CIA and FBI insisted that it be classified "SECRET" in its entirety.

The GAO report lambastes the FBI's on-again, off-again approach to investigating NUMEC: "The FBI, which had the responsibility and authority to investigate the alleged incident, did not focus on the question of a possible nuclear diversion until May 1976 -- nearly 11 years later." The FBI initially declined DOE's request to conduct an investigation of the diversion possibility even though they are required to do so under the Atomic Energy Act.

The FBI's initial investigation during the 1960s quickly zeroed in on NUMEC management. NUMEC's founder and president Zalman M. Shapiro was head of a local Zionist Organization of America chapter and a U.S. sales agent for the Defense Ministry of Israel. But FBI recommendations for action were stymied. According to the GAO, "The FBI became so concerned about the security risks posed by NUMEC's president that they asked DOE whether it planned to terminate his security clearance or stop the flow of materials to NUMEC." When the FBI concern was ignored, it dropped the entire investigation between 1969 and 1976.

It took a direct order from President Gerald Ford in 1976 for the FBI and Department of Justice to "address the diversion aspect." The renewed investigation soon led to reversals of official U.S. government positions on NUMEC. By February 1978, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced it had "reconsidered" its previous position that there had been "no evidence" to support diversion. But the 11-year gap "obviously hampered" the effort.

The GAO revealed that the DOE's nuclear materials safeguards, which before 1967 did not track the precise mass of the uranium, were seriously flawed. NUMEC claimed key records covering a period of heavy uranium loss were destroyed during a "labor dispute" in 1964. NUMEC paid a $1.1 million fine for 206 pounds of missing uranium in 1966, which closed the DOE case.

The passage of time has removed any remaining doubts that NUMEC diverted uranium to Israel. Rafael Eitan, who visited NUMEC in 1968, was later revealed as the top Israeli spy targeting U.S. nuclear, national defense and economic targets when his agent, U.S. Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard, was arrested spying for Israel in 1985. CIA Tel Aviv station chief John Hadden called NUMEC "an Israeli operation from the beginning."

Why both the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations failed to credibly investigate NUMEC as a diversion suspect is also now obvious. In 1958 Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion had arranged with Abraham Feinberg, a "major Democratic fund-raiser," to secretly finance a nuclear weapons program among benefactors in the U.S. Feinberg opened doors in Congress for promising leaders of the Israel lobby, including Isaiah L. Kenen, founder of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington DC. His role and power in financing Lyndon B. Johnson's election prospects temporarily quashed scrutiny of Israel's nuclear weapons program at a critical moment.

President John F. Kennedy's direct diplomatic pressures for U.S. inspections of Israel's Dimona reactor grew throughout 1962-1963. During a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir, Kennedy expressed his hope that the relationship was a "two-way street." Meir reassured President Kennedy that there "would not be any difficulty between us on the Israeli nuclear reactor." In July 1963, Kennedy delivered an ultimatum to Israel, insisting that Dimona undergo serial inspections "in accord with international standards" in order to verify its "peaceful intent." Simultaneously, the Justice Department was waging an intense battle behind closed doors to register and regulate Israel's elite U.S. lobby, which was bringing in funds from overseas. Kennedy's assassination in November 1963 traumatized the nation and led to the complete and permanent reversal of both initiatives.

As Israel noticeably ramped up activities at its Dimona nuclear weapons facility in 1968, Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford placed a final urgent call to Johnson: "Mr. President, I don't want to live in a world where the Israelis have nuclear weapons." President Johnson was abrupt before he hung up on Clifford: "Don't bother me with this anymore." By the time Golda Meier lobbied Nixon to redefine U.S. non-proliferation policy toward Israel as "ambiguity," Israel's stockpile and number of deployed weapons was steadily growing.

"Nuclear Diversion in the U.S.? 13 Years of Contradiction and Confusion" reveals why this month's 2010 Review Conference for the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at the U.N. isn't really capable of challenging the true drivers of Middle East nuclear proliferation. While it leaves unexplored the ongoing presence, influence and effect of Israel's lobbyists working at the center of U.S. presidential administrations, it provides a snapshot of a moment in time before the Congress, aspiring politicians and mid-level management of U.S. government agencies all "got the message." In 2010 that unwritten message reads something like this: Crimes committed in the name of Israel -- no matter how audacious -- will never be properly investigated, let alone prosecuted. So don't waste your time.

Grant F. Smith is director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington DC and author of the new book "Spy Trade: How Israel's Lobby Undermines America's Economy." His article is edited from Antiwar.com, May 9, 2010, and reprinted in PeaceMeal, May/June 2010.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

First, do no harm in Palestine

The Rev. Dr. Robert W. Tobin

Why do "they" want to do us harm? The answer has been clear for many years. The United States, through its uncritical support of Israel, has done immense harm to the Arab world. Since 1948, the United States has prevented every significant effort to hold Israel accountable for violations of international law and U.N. resolutions.

As you read this, Palestinians are being killed, imprisoned, brutalized and expelled every day. Jerusalem, intended to be a separate body open to all people under international control, where all faiths, all people could freely worship, live, and mingle, is now being claimed by Israel as its eternal capital, pushing the Muslim and Christian populations out.

Since 1994, my wife and I have made more than 20 trips to the area. We work with Christian, Muslim and Jewish Israelis who are seeking ways to end the occupation by nonviolent means. The Palestinians and other Arab leaders have said, since 1988, that the Palestinians can accept life within the 1967 borders. However, the Israeli government -- through the use of settlements, roads, checkpoints, house demolitions and assassinations -- has made it clear that its goal is to take it all. We have observed during the past five years a serious deterioration of any chance for peace.

What the Arab world sees in the United States is the most egregious form of hypocrisy and arrogance. While pretending to wear the mantle of an honest broker, we have for years sought to manipulate the Palestinians on behalf of the Israeli government. While sponsoring peace talks, we continue to supply the Israeli military with billions and billions of dollars in arms while simultaneously accusing the Palestinians of causing violence and not being a "partner for peace."

We have met with two groups of Hamas members who clearly state that they will negotiate if the playing field is level. They will recognize Israel if Israel will define its borders and recognize a viable Palestinian state along the 1967 borders. The Arab states have made the same proposal. Yet the United States ignores such gestures and supports Israel as it continues to starve the people of Gaza and violently attack peaceful demonstrations by Palestinian villagers seeking to prevent the theft of their farm land.

Simply put: They wish to do us harm because we have done them harm -- and continue to do so.

The Rev Dr. Robert W. Tobin is the former rector of Christ Church in Cambridge, Mass. He has been actively working for a just peace in Palestine-Israel since his first visit there in 1994. His article is from In These Times, April 2010, and reprinted in PeaceMeal, May/June 2010

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

U.N. head says Israeli settlements must be stopped

RAMALLAH, West Bank – Visiting U.N. head Ban Ki-moon said March 20 that Israeli settlement building anywhere on occupied land is illegal and must be stopped. Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians heightened after Israel announced plans the previous week for 1,600 new homes for Jews in disputed east Jerusalem. The settlement announcement sparked outrage and protests from Palestinians, as well as condemnation from Israel’s closest ally, the United States, and the U.N. secretary general.Ban got a close look at some of the Israeli enclaves scattered across Palestinian-claimed territories from a hilltop observation post on the outskirts of the Palestinian city of Ramallah. The panorama included the sprawling West Bank settlement of Givat Zeev, home to 11,000 Israelis who live in rows of red-roofed houses, and Jewish neighborhoods in traditionally Arab east Jerusalem, the Israeli-annexed sector of the city that Palestinians claim as a future capital.

The tour came a day after Ban, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other major Mideast mediators — known as the Quartet — met in Moscow to try to find a way to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The mediators urged Israel to halt all settlement construction. Israel has agreed to curb settlement construction in the West Bank, but not in east Jerusalem, claiming the entire city as Israel’s eternal capital.

But Ban rejected Israel’s distinction between east Jerusalem and the West Bank, noting that both are occupied lands. “The world has condemned Israel’s settlement plans in east Jerusalem,” Ban told a news conference after his brief tour. “Let us be clear. All settlement activity is illegal anywhere in occupied territory and must be stopped.” Nearly half a million Israelis live on war-won land, including some 180,000 in east Jerusalem and nearly 300,000 in the West Bank.

The U.N. head also expressed concern about what he said was a worsening humanitarian situation in blockaded, Hamas-ruled Gaza. Speaking later Saturday in Jerusalem alongside Israeli President Shimon Peres, Ban repeated the Quartet’s call for resumption of talks and for the establishment of a Palestinian state within two years. Palestinians fear that expanding settlements will take up more and more of the land they want for their state. Palestinian officials threatened to pull out of indirect talks that Washington spent months arranging after they refused direct negotiations with Israel because of its settlement policies.

Israel’s announcement of its new settlement plans came during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden and prompted a major diplomatic row between Israel and the United States. Secretary Clinton, in a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 17, reportedly asked him to revoke the recent building decision, roll back plans for new Jewish homes, and make goodwill gestures such as releasing Palestinian prisoners and lifting some West Bank roadblocks. Later, Netanyahu reportedly sent a letter of clarification to Washington detailing Israeli gestures to the U.S. and to the Palestinians.

However, in speeches on March 22 to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobby group, Clinton and Netanyahu diverged on how to proceed with Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and showed little sign that they had narrowed the gap over Jewish settlement activity.

Meanwhile, on the same day as Ban’s visit, a Palestinian teenager was killed in clashes with Israeli troops in the northern West Bank. The death of 16-year-old Mohammed Qadus, who was shot in the chest by Israeli security forces, comes amid the heightened tensions. Palestinians say a 17-year-old protester was also in serious condition after being shot in the head.

Israel’s military confirmed that it dispersed a group of masked, rock-throwing Palestinian youths near the town of Iraq Burin with tear gas and rubber bullets. It said the Palestinians were holding a violent, illegal riot and were approaching a nearby settlement in a threatening manner. The military insisted that its troops did not use live bullets and said it was investigating reports of the Palestinian death. Clashes take place in the village on an almost weekly basis over a water well that Palestinians claim Jewish settlers are trying to seize for their own use.

– edited from The Associated Press, March 20, 2010 and Agence France Presse, March 22, 2010
PeaceMeal, March/April 2010

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Israel gags news of arrested soldier turned journalist

WASHINGTON – Israel is holding a journalist under secret house arrest based on allegations that during her military service she leaked classified documents suggesting that the Israeli army violated laws dealing with targeted killings. Anat Kam, 23, was arrested last December and charged under Israel’s espionage and treason laws. The charges relate to Kam’s service in the Israeli army, when she is alleged to have photocopied sensitive documents and leaked them to the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. Haaretz published a story in November 26, 2008 suggesting alleged army violations.

Prosecutors are seeking a 14-year sentence, which is considered severe by Israeli standards. Kam has denied the charges. Her arrest has been under a gag order in Israel, which Haaretz says it is appealing. With the gag order in place, it is impossible to know the prosecution’s reasoning for a 14-year sentence.

Dov Alfon, editor in chief of Haaretz, said the linkage between Kam’s arrest and the 2008 article, made in a number of blogs, is “absurd.” He said the investigative reporter, Uri Blau, had published a number of similar exposes. The November 26, 2008 story in Haaretz revealed the existence of documents defying a 2006 Israeli Supreme Court ruling against assassinating wanted militants who otherwise might be arrested safely. In one March 28, 2007 document reprinted by Haaretz, Gen. Yair Naveh, then the central commander, permitted open-fire procedures upon identification of any of three leaders of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, even if it were not apparent that they posed a threat. Kam reportedly served in Naveh’s office at the time of the memos.

Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff, approved the targets on March 29, 2007, according to minutes of a meeting reproduced by Haaretz. Both orders violated the law, according to experts cited. One of the three wanted men, Ziad Malisha, was killed near Jenin on June 20, 2007 in what the Israeli Defense Force at the time said was an “exchange of fire.”

The military censor, who prevents publication of information that could harm Israel’s national security, approved the Haaretz story for publication. By contrast, Israeli courts have gagged any news of Kam’s arrest. The appeal against the gag order, which has been joined by other media outlets, will be heard April 12 in Tel Aviv District Court. A Facebook group called “Where did Anat Kam disappear to?” was launched and shut down within days.

In the past, Israeli authorities have issued such orders in sensitive national security cases. Gag orders still apply, for example, to aspects of the Mordechai Vanunu case. Vanunu, who revealed the existence of Israel’s nuclear weapons capability in 1986, was sentenced to 18 years and served the full time. Released from prison in 2004, he still has official restrictions on his speech and is forbidden to leave the country.

– edited from JTA, an independent news organization based in New York City that specializes in issues of Jewish interest, March 29, 2010.
PeaceMeal, March/April 2010

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Make hummus, not war

Israel has taken the upper hand in a new kind of Mideast conflict, one in which bullets are replaced by chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans). Using a satellite dish on loan from a nearby broadcast station, chefs in the town of Abu Ghosh whipped up 4,090 kg (about 9,000 lb) of hummus on January 8, adding a Guinness world record to the Arab town’s reputation for hospitality and harmony. More than 50 Arab and Jewish chefs from restaurants within Abu Ghosh put their own competitive spirits aside to make the hummus at a nearby factory early in the morning, before bringing it to the Abu Ghosh Restaurant. The cooks nearly doubled the previous record for the world’s biggest serving of hummus, 2,056 kg, set on October 24 by cooks in Lebanon. That record broke an earlier Israeli record and briefly put Lebanon ahead.

Hundreds of jubilant Israelis, a mix of Arabs and Jews, gathered around the giant dish, many of them dancing as a singer performed an Arabic love song to the beige chickpea paste. Jack Brockbank, an adjudicator sent from London by Guinness World Records, confirmed that the Israeli chefs now held the record. “I made sure that they used only the traditional ingredients, which are chickpeas, lemon, tahini (a paste of ground sesame seeds), garlic, salt and olive oil,” Brockbank said. Half-a-billion sesame seeds were used to make the tahini in the hummus, in addition to four tons of chickpeas.

Abu Ghosh Restaurant owner Jowdat Ibrahim, who oversaw the record-breaking event, said, “Abu Ghosh is a small, 7,000-person town, and this is very special for us and all of Israel. I’d be happy to welcome ... Lebanon to celebrate with us. Next time, we’ll do 10,000 kg. together.” But Lebanese Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud said that his country plans to beat the new record in the spring with an even bigger plate of hummus, to be prepared on the border with Israel.

Lebanese officials have complained that Israel has stolen the food and the name “hummus” from Lebanon. A group of Lebanese businessmen announced plans in 2008 to sue Israel to stop it from marketing hummus and other regional dishes as Israeli. And when the Lebanese chefs prepared their record-breaking dish three months ago, they called it a move to reaffirm ownership of a Lebanese food that had been appropriated by Israelis.

Abu Ghosh Restaurant manager Ibrahim Hamis responded, “Hummus is an international food, and it’s a special and healthy food as well. If only this were the only thing we fought over with Lebanon.”

Tzahi Hanegbi, chairman of the Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, was in Abu Ghosh for the celebration. “It’s good for this to happen in Abu Ghosh,” Hanegbi said. “Abu Ghosh is a place where coexistence really permeates. You have Jews, Arabs, Christians, everyone together here. And with an event like this, when we’re focusing on this sort of competition, we’re adding to life. We’re not taking away from life.”

– edited from The Jerusalem Post, January 9, 2010
PeaceMeal, Jan/February 2010

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Israeli police arrest whistleblower Vanunu again

Mordechai Vanunu, the man who blew the whistle on Israel’s nuclear arsenal more than 20 years ago, was arrested again by Jerusalem police on December 29. Vanunu, a former technician at the secret Israeli nuclear weapon facilities at Dimona in the Negev Desert, was charged with violating his parole by speaking to a foreign national — his Norwegian girlfriend — and ordered to be kept under house arrest for two days.

Mr. Vanunu, 59, was jailed in 1986 after being abducted in Rome by Israeli secret service agents for disclosing details of Israel’s nuclear weapons program to The Sunday Times of London. He served 18 years — 11 of them in solitary confinement — and was released in 2004. Since then he has been kept under close watch by the Shin Bet internal security agency and forbidden from leaving the country or meeting foreigners.

Israel has never acknowledged that it has a nuclear arsenal. From the materials divulged by Mr Vanunu, experts ascertained that it has about 200 nuclear warheads. Israeli authorities fear that Mr Vanunu, a persistent critic of nuclear weapons, may have other confidential information that he intends to divulge.

In past court appearances Mr Vanunu has lashed out at the restrictions imposed on his life. “All I want is freedom. I have no freedom of speech and no freedom of movement,” he said.

– edited from The Times (London), December 30, 2009
PeaceMeal, Jan/February 2010

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Gaza’s homeless despair

GAZA - In the days leading up to Eid al-Adha, Zaid Khadar would usually be buying new clothes for his children and stocking up on traditional foods to celebrate one of the most important dates on the Muslim calendar. Instead, he struggles to shield them from the winter rain dripping through the roof of the shelter that has housed his family since they were made homeless by Israel’s three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip almost a year ago.

For Khadar, 45, the result of the Israeli attack was the destruction of his apartment building and the ground-floor grocery store which had been his main source of income. His family, including seven children, now lives on the rubble of their former home in a shelter made of plastic sheets and blankets.

International donors pledged $4.5 billion in March to help rebuild Gaza, but much of the money has not been dispersed due to the Israeli blockade and the Fatah-Hamas split that has led to rival Palestinian governments. U.N. officials have expressed concern about the added hardship the homeless will face as winter sets in.

The sense that Gaza has been forgotten by the international community only increased at Eid al-Adha, which fell the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving. Khadar said, “The governments do not take care of us, neither the Hamas government nor the Ramallah (Fatah) government.” He lamented, “My children are saying ‘Why aren’t you bringing us clothes?’”

– edited from Reuters, 26 November 2009PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2009

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

U.N. rights envoy sees Israeli war crimes in Gaza

GENEVA - A United Nations human rights investigator said on March 19 that Israel’s three-week military assault on Gaza in December and January, aimed at Hamas, appeared to constitute a grave war crime. Richard Falk, an American law professor and U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said the Geneva Conventions make it inherently unlawful to launch attacks if it is not possible to distinguish between military targets and surrounding civilians.

On the basis of the preliminary evidence, there is reason to conclude this was the case in densely populated Gaza, Falk stated in an annual report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council, a 47-member forum which neither Israel nor its chief ally the United States has joined. On April 3, the Council named Richard Goldstone, the former U.N. chief prosecutor for war crimes in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, to lead a high-level mission to investigate the allegations. Violations included Israel’s “targeting of schools, mosques and ambulances” during the offensive, as well as Hamas’s firing of rockets at civilian targets in southern Israel.

Falk’s report called the Israeli attacks a “massive assault on a densely populated, urbanized setting” in which the entire civilian population had been subjected to “an inhumane form of warfare.” He added, “As all borders were sealed, civilians could not escape from the orbit of harm.” This denial of people’s right to flee the war zone as refugees may also constitute a crime against humanity, he said.

Falk, who is Jewish, was denied entry to Israel two weeks before the assault started, forcing him to abort a planned mission to Gaza. In his report, he said that the refusal had set an “unfortunate precedent” for treatment of a special rapporteur.

Goldstone, a widely respected South African judge, is also Jewish and a trustee of Hebrew University. He said his team would investigate “all violations of international humanitarian law” before, during and after the conflict.

The war destroyed some 5,000 homes in Gaza and killed 1,434 Palestinians, including 960 civilians, according to the Palestinian human rights center. Israel lost 13 people during the war, making the Palestinian-to-Israeli fatality ratio 110-to-1. Israel disputes the figures.

Israel has rejected any participation in previous investigations by the U.N. Human Rights Council, including one led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, calling them biased. It refused to say if it would cooperate with this investigation.

– edited from Reuters, March 19 & April 3, 2009
PeaceMeal, March/April 2009

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Gaza and the Ghetto

David Lloyd, Professor of English, University of Southern California, Los Angeles

In September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland in what it termed initially a “defensive war”. The invasion was in part justified by the Nazi desire to reunify what it considered historic German territory and to claim Lebensraum for a race that considered itself superior to those that surrounded it in Central and Eastern Europe. Not only the Jews, but the Slavic races, were considered inferior, less than human, and regarded as populations that could be transferred to make room for Aryans.

It was, of course, the Jews who bore the brunt of Nazi racism. By 1940, the Nazis had begun to concentrate Poland’s Jewish population into ghettos in the main cities prior to their planned transport to the camps. In Warsaw, the largest of these ghettoes, three or four hundred thousand Jews were enclosed in less than 5% of the city, walled in by a 10-20 foot high wall, and gradually strangled by starvation and the shortage of all goods, including fuel and power. Malnutrition and disease was rampant and the exits and entrances of the ghetto were closely controlled. Resistance was subject to collective punishment: tens of Jews could be murdered in retaliation for the least act of defiance.

In 1943, in the face of imminent transportation and annihilation of the Jewish population, the remaining Jews in Warsaw organized combat brigades. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began. Despite the overwhelming force of the German Army and the utter inadequacy of their own weaponry, they fought a desperate struggle in the name not only of the Jews of Poland but of Poland’s right to resist fascism and occupation. “It is a fight”, they proclaimed to the Poles beyond the ghetto walls, “for our freedom, as well as yours; for our human dignity and national honor, as well as yours….”

Though crushed by German armor and military power in hand-to-hand and street-to-street fighting, the Jewish resistance in Warsaw stands as a symbol of the right of an oppressed people to resist occupation, collective punishment, genocide and ethnocide. ...

Gaza too is a ghetto. One and a half million Palestinians, most of them refugees dispossessed of the lands and homes that were theirs for centuries, inhabit the most densely populated square miles of the Middle East, if not the world. They are hemmed in by security walls and barbed wire fences, unable to move in or out without the permission of Israel, the occupying power. They have lived in a permanent state of siege, unable to conduct free trade with the rest of the world, virtually unable to visit the West Bank, unable even to fish in the sea off their coasts, subject to perpetual surveillance and control by land, sea and air. Their hospitals lack even the most essential medicines. Power and water are controlled by the Israeli government. All goods that enter or leave this virtual prison camp do so by permission of the occupying power.

The siege of Gaza has been one long collective punishment inflicted upon the population for their temerity in having elected, in free and open elections, a party, Hamas, that Israel and their allies, the United States and European Union, condemn as terrorists. Their principal crime is to deny the right to exist of a state that has dispossessed their people, occupied their lands, denied their historical existence, subjected them to ethnic cleansing, torture and collective imprisonment, destroyed their olive groves, walled them in behind a “security fence” designed to impede movement and access to farm land, schools, universities and places of work. And all these measures have been openly declared, by an Israeli minister in government, to be designed to suffocate Gaza into submission.

All this ... was ongoing before the current Israeli assault on the population of Gaza — its police force as well as old people and school children, infants and invalids. This is not an act of “defense” on the part of Israel, but a bloody continuation of a war of offense, differing only in the intensity and publicness of its brutality and in its abrupt, bloody and systematic nature. It is a war of collective punishment against a population whose resistance is less in its occasional and mostly harmless retaliatory rocket attacks than in its simple refusal to give in. It is an offensive war ... against a people whose right to resist occupation is inscribed in international law.

It is a war whose crimes, once again, include the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, including infants and children, attacks on non-military institutions including mosques, a university and a television station, and the deliberate planning of an assault whose proclaimed ends far exceed the suppression of the purported casus belli, the rocket launching sites. It is a war designed to destroy the civil infrastructure of Hamas and to break the will of the Palestinians in Gaza to continue their resistance.

The right of the Palestinian people to resist is as indubitable as the right of the Jews of Warsaw to resist the Nazis, or of the Polish or French people to fight against their occupation by the Nazis. Israel is not the West’s proxy in the so-called global war against terrorism. It is a state that itself inflicts terror, and does so with a force and brutality far exceeding anything available to the most violent of terrorist organizations. It is a state whose colonial aim, to occupy and to settle land historically occupied by another people in order to provide unlimited Lebensraum for its own ethnic group, is evidenced every day in the continuing expansion of the illegal settlements on the West Bank. It is an apartheid state, whose self-declared constitution as a “Jewish State for a Jewish People” should have no more international legitimacy than South Africa’s “white state for a white people” or Northern Ireland’s “Protestant State for a Protestant people”, both of which finally fell to a combination of military and civil resistance and international opprobrium.

It is long beyond time for Israel ... be held accountable to the norms of international law. It is time for Israel to be subjected to the same scrutiny as any other state that bases its polity on sectarianism and racism, that has established one set of laws for one ethnic group and another for the rest. It is time for Israel to by judged by the international law that everywhere condemns extended occupation, condemns collective punishment, war against civilians, population transfers or ethnic cleansing, dispossession of the occupied people and the settlement of their lands. It is time for us to name Israel what it is ... a colonial, apartheid state with neither legitimacy nor a deserved place among the community of democratic nations.

It is time for us to cease the appeasement of Israel. Even the most ardent of appeasers of Nazi Germany never supplied Germany with arms or foreign aid, with fighter planes with which to bomb civilians, never labeled the resistance to Nazism “terrorism”, never actively participated in the German stranglehold on the ghettoes where it confined its subject populations. ...

Numerous U.N. General Assembly resolutions that have expressed the virtually unanimous international condemnation of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its wars against its neighbors have not worked. It is time for the truth about Israel to be disseminated, even against the most effective control of the western media by Israel’s lobbyists. It is time for all who care about justice and peace, for human rights, for the fate of the innocent and the oppressed, the stateless and the dispossessed, to make our voices heard. Let it not be said that in their most extreme hour of need, the Palestinian people were abandoned by the world, as the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto were abandoned in 1943.

Professor Lloyd has published primarily in the field of Irish literature and culture and on colonialism and nationalism.
– PeaceMeal, Jan/February 2009

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