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Monday, January 31, 2005

News for 01-31-05

1-31 - Shooting of Palestinian girl threatens fragile ceasefire "The only firing at that time in the Rafah area was from the observation post. It continued for some time. The children were in the yard for afternoon assembly. Teachers tried to get them into the building, but they were too late."

1-31 - Palestinian Girl Killed in Gaza Camp U.N. officials said Norhan Deeb was hit in the head as she and other pupils lined up in the schoolyard for afternoon assembly. A second girl was wounded in the incident

1-31 - Death of Palestinian Girl Threatens Peace

1-31 - Hamas fires mortars at Gaza settlement after killing of schoolgirl

1-31 - PCHR Refutes Israeli Claims on Easing Rrestrictions

1-31 - Film Review: On The Ground ''The facts are right in front of your own eyes,'' Jeff Halper says. ''The refugees can?t have a place of refuge in the Occupied Territories.''

1-31 - Sharon pledges to bring all Ethiopian Jews to Israel by 2007 But Palestinians, many of whom still have the deeds/keys/titles to their seized properties inside Israel, are not allowed to return.

1-31 - Israeli settlers: "Kill, Enslave Non-Jews"

1-31 - Israel 'rethinks' land seizures It was originally enacted to allow the seizure of property of Palestinians who fled to neighbouring Arab countries during Israel's creation in 1948.

1-31 - After such respect, such humiliation A former soccer star from Lod was accused recently of harboring an illegal alien - his wife of four years.

1-31 - Groups Condemn 'Israeli Apartheid Week' The students set up a mock Palestinian refugee camp on campus to show passers-by the conditions in which they say many Palestinians have lived since the 1948 war that followed Israel's creation.

1-31 - EU calls for relaunching Mideast Road Map plan

1-31 - Rice Says Viable Palestinian State Is Key Rice also called on Arab states to stop incitement to violence, but her emphasis was on Israel having to yield territory and "creating conditions in which a new Palestinian state could emerge."

1-31 - Israel orders review of secret land grab policy Hundreds of farmers in Bethlehem have been unable to tend their olive groves and citrus orchards because of the electric fence that cuts through their land

1-31 - Let the Israelis Do It?

1-31 - The Formaldehyde Solution? Condi Rice and the Neocon Plan for the Palestinians It should be remembered that Rice, as a Christian Zionist, disclosed a "deep bond to Israel" back in 2003

posted by Somebody @ 10:25 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Sunday, January 30, 2005

News for 01-30-05

1-30 - Palestinian man killed in Gaza Palestinian medical sources said Eid Abu Jreibie from Rafah was shot in his back.

1-30 - Israel to pull out from West Bank towns within days Despite the general air of optimism, there was further bloodshed when a 55-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops in a closed zone by the border between Gaza and Egypt

1-30 - New fence route to be presented ahead of Sharon-Abbas summit The route of the fence in Gush Etzion is expected to upset the PNA because it intends to include 10 settlements and the town of Efrat into an Israeli pocket between the West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Hebron

1-30 - PA: Israel provoking Palestinians The Palestinian Authority has accused Israel of seeking to frustrate Palestinian efforts to achieve a ceasefire ahead of the possible resumption of the Middle East peace process.

1-30 - Report: Israeli Closures Jeopardize Lives of Palestinians

1-30 - Border Police plans to destroy Arab neighborhood in J'lem

1-30 - Palestinians to Take Control of Four Towns

1-30 - Paper: Israel Report Shows Illegal Funds A government-sponsored report shows Israeli settlers at more than 120 unauthorized hilltop outposts in the West Bank have received illegal state funding and services for 10 years, an Israeli newspaper said Sunday.

1-30 - Israelis use barrier and 55-year-old law to quietly seize Palestinians' land

1-30 - Palestinians given control of cities in West Bank Palestinians maintain - and some Israeli officials at least partly acknowledge in private - that one factor behind the collapse of the 51-day truce brokered by Mr Abbas when he was prime minister in 2003 was the continued pursuit and in some cases assassinations of militants

1-30 - World 'must act to balance London peace conference'

1-30 - Abbas meets Putin as Russia returns to Middle East peace talks

1-30 - U.S. Official: Iran Nuclear Aims a Threat Bolton stressed that the United States advocated a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and dismissed the possibility of nuclear threats from Israel.

1-30 - Politics & Policies: A major loss for the PLO

1-30 - Israelis rally against Gaza plan More than 130,000 people have gathered outside the Israeli parliament to protest against plans to withdraw Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip.

1-30 - Israel tells U.S. it will look into East J'lem land seizure

1-30 - Police launch tax crackdown on Fatah in East J'lem The raids grabbed documents for prosecution for failure to pay taxes or other administrative violations to pressure those people to cease their political activity.

1-30 - Israel considers releasing Palestinian prisoners before Sharon-Abbas summit

1-30 - Palestinian police force boosted by an Ulster veteran The goal of the EU Copps is to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and image of the Palestinian Authority?s 18,600strong police force, two thirds of which is in Gaza.

1-30 - Qatar plans to sell Al Jazeera TV The network also reports passionately about the Palestinian conflict, the report said.

1-30 - A focus on facts ought to dispel mistrust of US Muslims Support for both Palestinians and victims of the US occupation of Iraq is now considered precarious.

posted by Somebody @ 10:24 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Stand Up to Sharon

December 15, 2003 issue
Copyright © 2003 The American Conservative

Stand Up to Sharon

by Pat Buchanan

Israel is a “thunderously failed reality” that “rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice.” Were these words spoken by an American leader, he would be denounced as an anti-Semite. But these are the words of a former speaker of the Israeli Knesset who cries for his country. “The countdown to the end of Israeli society has begun,” writes Avraham Burg, “the end of the Zionist enterprise is already on our doorstep.”

“Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism.” Burg implores “Diaspora Jews” to “speak out.” To little avail.

Why? Why, when a Knesset member is unintimidated, are we so silent? Why, when Ariel Sharon is dragging America’s good name through the mud and blood of Ramallah and Jenin, are we so tongue-tied? Did not Burke instruct us, “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men”?

Israelis are speaking truth to power. Army Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon has told Israel’s press it was Sharon who undermined Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Twenty-seven Israeli Air Force pilots have refused to obey “immoral orders” for air strikes on “populated civilian centers.”

Five hundred Israeli soldiers have refused to take part in the repression. Four ex-chiefs of Shin Beit—Ami Ayalon, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri, Avraham Shalom—have charged Sharon with leading Israel to ruin. “We are heading downhill toward near-catastrophe,” says Peri, “If we go on living by the sword, we will continue to wallow in the mud and destroy ourselves.”

Ayalon and Palestinian academic Sari Nusseibeh have issued a declaration of principles calling for Israel’s withdrawal to her 1967 borders. Ex-Justice minister Yossi Beilin has negotiated a detailed accord with a former Palestinian minister. Colin Powell wrote a letter of support. Where is George W. Bush?

Why is he silent when Sharon has led us into a cul-de-sac from which he cannot find an exit? Why is our president letting Sharon ravage what is left of our reputation in the Arab world? Sharon promised peace and security. He has delivered war and hatred. Over 700 Israelis are dead. Some 2,500 Palestinians have died, including hundreds of children. Scores of thousands have been wounded. Homes and olive groves have been destroyed.

Yet still Sharon approves new settlements without a peep of protest from President Bush. When Howard Dean suggested that U.S. Mideast policy needed to be more “even-handed,” he was warned by Democratic bosses never to use that term again. Why are our politicians so craven, so terrified of an Israeli lobby that does not speak for Israel, let alone for America?

Israel is in an existential crisis. Its options for survival are narrowing by the month. It can push all the Palestinians into Jordan, a monstrous crime of ethnic cleansing some on the Israeli Right are advocating. It can wall off Israel and Jerusalem and leave the Palestinians in a truncated, tiny state that will become an eternal spawning pool of terror, as Sharon is now doing.

Or it can give the Palestinians what Oslo, Camp David, Taba, the Saudi Plan, and “road map” promised: a homeland.

If Israel is to remain democratic and Jewish, she must either let the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem go—or annex them all and grant Palestinians full rights as citizens in a binational state. Are Israeli Jews willing to practice in their country what American Jews preach in ours, equality and multiculturalism?

Israel is free to choose her course. But America needs a Middle East policy Made in the USA, not in Tel Aviv—or at AIPAC or AEI. President Bush should restate U.S. support for the survival of Israel but also register America’s disgust with Sharon’s duplicitous policy of creeping annexationism and repression, while talking of peace.

Sharon should be told to vacate every settlement and outpost put up since Bush took office and to tear down any part of his new wall that encroaches on the land of the coming nation of Palestine. Else, American aid stops.

If this undermines Sharon, so much the better. If we are to preach democracy to the Arabs, let us also preach it to the regime that claims to be the only democracy in the region as it holds three million persecuted Palestinians in human bondage.

As Israel’s benefactor and guardian, we have a right to demand that our values be respected in her treatment of the Palestinians, that our vital interests always be kept in mind, as they have rarely been in 50 years.

If Mr. Burg can stand up to Sharon, why cannot Mr. Bush?

posted by Somebody @ 3:24 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Palestinian farmer killed by Israeli gunfire in southern Gaza

GAZA, Jan. 29 (Xinhuanet) -- A Palestinian farmer was killed Saturday by Israeli gunfire in a village east of the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis, Palestinian security sources said.

The sources said Ibrahim al-Shawaf was killed in his farm in the Khozaa area east of Khan Yunis when Israeli troops stationed at the border between eastern Khan Yunis and Israel opened intensive fire at houses of local residents.

Meanwhile, Israeli sources said soldiers stationed at the area opened fire at a Palestinian who tried to approach the Israeli fence for a possible attack.

Palestinian sources and witnesses asserted that al-Shawaf was a farmer and he was working in his farm when Israeli troops sprayed gunfire and killed him.


posted by Somebody @ 3:18 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Gaza 'to stay under Israeli rule'

Palestinian movement outside Gaza will remain restricted
International law will continue to view Israel as an occupying force in Gaza, even after its planned withdrawal, says a United Nations human-rights envoy.
John Dugard said Israel would remain responsible for Palestinian civilians in the territory, as it planned to retain control of Gaza's borders.

Mr Dugard's annual report to the UN also suggested Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes was a war crime.

Israel argues that its demolition policy deters suicide bombers.

The Jewish state has previously accused Mr Dugard of bias.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon plans to withdraw soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip while maintaining overall control of the territory's land, sea and air borders.

'Echoes of apartheid'

Mr Dugard, a South African law professor who serves as the UN's special rapporteur for human rights in the region, said Israel would remain responsible for the welfare of Palestinian civilians because it does not intend to "relinquish its grasp on Gaza Strip".

He also said Israel's policy of responding to militant attacks by destroying Palestinian homes was a form of punishment forbidden under the Geneva Convention.

"It is difficult to resist the conclusion that punitive house demolitions constitute serious war crimes," he said in the report.

His findings echo those of Israeli rights group B'Tselem, which claimed in November that 12 innocent Palestinians lost their homes for every one person suspected of taking part in attacks on Israel.

Mr Dugard also spoke out against the barrier Israel has built along the West Bank, which it says is a defence against infiltration by suicide bombers. Palestinians regard it as a land grab.

"The restrictions on freedom of movement imposed by the Israeli authorities on Palestinians resemble the notorious 'pass laws' of apartheid South Africa," he said.

posted by Somebody @ 3:15 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Government will be able to sell Palestinian property in E. J'lem

The government will be able to sell or lease Palestinian property in East Jerusalem confiscated under the Absentee Property Law, according to the cabinet decision on the matter, a full version of which was obtained by Haaretz.

This means it will be possible to build Jewish neighborhoods on Palestinian lands in East Jerusalem.

Decision No. 2297 of July 8, 2004, says the government has decided "to remove all doubt that the Custodian has the authority vested in clause 19 of the Absentee Property Law, including to transfer, sell or lease real estate property in East Jerusalem to the Development Authority." The Development Authority is a quasi-governmental body with the power to sell land for construction or any other purpose.

Haaretz reported last week that the government secretly decided to implement the 1950 Absentee Property Law in East Jerusalem, even though previous governments had refrained from doing so since 1967, following the attorney general's directive.

The law will apply to West Bank residents who own lands in East Jerusalem and stand to lose them without compensation after working them for the past 37 years. Palestinian geographer Khalil Tufakji estimates that more than half of all East Jerusalem property belongs in one way or another to West Bank residents, enabling the state to seize assets worth millions of dollars.

Attorney Daniel Seidemann, who represents a group of Bethlehem residents and the Ir Amim organization, sent a letter to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz yesterday saying that the full version of the government decision clearly indicates that the purpose of declaring absentee property in East Jerusalem is "taking private Palestinian-owned property and turning it into future state property destined to be transfered to third parties the government of Israel seeks to bolster."

Seidemann is concerned that seized property will be used for building Jewish neighborhoods in southern Jerusalem, and he calls on Mazuz to freeze the declaration of absentee property immediately so as not to cause Palestinian landholders irreparable damage.

Seidemann said he has reliable information that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon intends to hold a discussion shortly on the future of Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, including settlement in the Old City's Muslim Quarter. Sharon's bureau said no such meeting is scheduled for this week.


posted by Somebody @ 3:11 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Parents fight to learn why Israeli sniper shot their son

As trial is shaken by claims of cover-up, family fears activist's death will never be explained

Mark Townsend
Sunday January 30, 2005
The Observer

Tom Hurndall thought he might be shot, but hoped he wouldn't be too severely injured. In the final reckoning, the 22-year-old's premonition was fatally realised.
Hurndall was hit in the forehead by a high-velocity bullet fired by an Israeli soldier as he worked as a peace activist in the Gaza Strip 20 months ago. The bullet entered cleanly enough, but then splintered into hundreds of tiny pieces. Hurndall never regained consciousness, dying nine months later and 2,200 miles away in a London hospital.

Now the trial into the shooting of the 'Britisher' is about to reach its conclusion, bringing to an end an episode that has strained diplomatic relations between Britain and Israel and raised fresh concern over Israeli policies towards the Occupied Territories.

It is a concern that has refused to fade away. An Observer investigation into the shooting has uncovered allegations of missing evidence, fabricated testimony and a military cover-up.

Disquiet is mounting among British government officials whose repeated requests for evidence that could determine if Hurndall was shot deliberately have been rejected. The missing documents, understood to include an Israeli military police inquiry, could mean a manslaughter charge for the man who shot Hurndall being upgraded to murder.

In addition, the North London coroner, Dr Andrew Reid, whose inquest into Hurndall's death has been adjourned until the trial is over, has said he is 'outraged' that an agreement to share vital evidence with Israeli authorities was broken.

After passing on his findings, including detailed pathology reports, to Israeli officials, he was told that nothing would be given in return. Similarly, a Metropolitan Police investigation to determine the wider events surrounding Hurndall's death - whether there was systematic shooting at civilians in the Occupied Territories - has been refused permission to extend its inquiries into Israel.

The sergeant who fired the shot that killed Hurndall was today due to take the stand in a bleak military court on the edge of the desert between Tel Aviv and Beer Sheba.

Hurndall's death could lead to the first Israeli soldier being convicted of such a crime in a conflict that has seen thousands killed.

Last Friday, however, the nine-month trial took another twist, with the events of 11 April 2003, now threatening to suck in the entire chain of command of the Israeli Defence Force, as well as provoking new questions over their handling of the intifada.

Senior officers, including the brigadier in command of the southern region of the Gaza Strip, are now preparing to face three weeks' cross-examination. Sergeant Wahid Taysir, the sniper who killed Hurndall, has already said a policy of shooting at unarmed civilians existed at the time.

Hurndall's mother, Jocelyn, fears as much. Last week, she watched Israeli gunships sweep low over the desert on their way to Rafah, on the border with Egypt. Speaking from the relative calm of a kibbutz near where her son died, she said: 'They say the Israeli sky is not innocent. It's just that, from here you can't hear the gunships, the violence.'

She also visited the hospital where, for three weeks after her son was shot, doctors kept him alive in intensive care. But she can't visit the square in Rafah where Hurndall was shot as he leant forward to pick up a child. 'I have a mother's need to go down there and to see the people, to hear the stories again,' she said.

As Hurndall wandered among the ruins of Rafah on the day he died, foremost on his mind was Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American activist who had been crushed to death by an Israeli armoured bulldozer a month earlier. He wanted to photograph the bulldozer, which had returned for the first time since her death.

The young photographer had joined a group of peace volunteers known as the International Solidarity Movement. Just after 5pm, gunfire from a military watchtower 60 metres away raked over an exposed patch of land near the border. A group of children playing on a mound of earth froze in terror.

Days earlier, Hurndall had seen a youngster shot. Fearing the worse, he ran through the line of fire and dragged Salem Baroum to safety. Then he went back for two girls. Witnesses recall a single crack of gunfire, then saw him stagger and fall. Hurndall then slipped into the coma in which he would remain until January 2004.

In his original testimony, Taysir claimed he had shot at a man in military fatigues who was firing at the soldiers with a pistol, in the no-go security zone. Later evidence, however, challenged his version. Photos clearly show Hurndall wearing a bright orange jacket denoting he was a foreigner; the graffiti that can be seen behind him is 100m from the secure zone.

Hurndall's death has also raised the issue of whether young and stressed men should even be on the front line. Taysir is even younger than Hurndall and has admitted to being highly stressed as he patrolled a region suspected of harbouring Pales tinian terrorists.

Taysir was an award-winning marksman and his rifle had a telescopic sight. He claimed to have aimed four inches from Hurndall's head, 'but he moved'.

Another Israeli solder has already been jailed after he admitted lying to investigators. Yet it is the missing evidence that continues to frustrate those attempting to piece together the events that led to Hurndall's death. So far, only a 20-page report by the IDF has been released, of which there are only four cursory references to Hurndall. Attempts by the Foreign Office to secure the potentially vital documents have failed.
Last week saw fresh allegations of obstruction, denied by the Israeli authorities, after the Hurndalls' lawyer, Avigdor Fernland, said his permit allowing him access to IDF evidence had been revoked.

Those who have studied the Hurndall case are aware that the trial only ever came about because of an investigation by Hurndall's father, Anthony, who left his job as a City lawyer to interview 13 witnesses. Their evidence formed the main tranche of a 50-page report challenging the Israeli version of events.

For Palestinians, Hurndall is yet another martyr. For young Western peace campaigners he has become a potent symbol of the dangers faced in the name of activism. Hurndall was normal: he liked a beer and a cigarette; Romeo and Juliet was his favourite play. He was no head-in-the-clouds hippy: he was adamant that he wanted to portray activists as real people, not 'tree huggers'.

Principally, however, Hurndall was a photographer who hoped to emulate his hero, the war photographer Don McCullin. A glimpse of his early talent will be unveiled at an exhibition at London's Frontline Club a week on Wednesday.,2763,1401813,00.html

posted by Somebody @ 3:08 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Crewman recalls attack on USS Liberty

Staff Writer

On a sunny summer day in the Mediterranean Sea, Earnest Gallo remembers how the lives of 300 Americans were changed forever.

They were the crew of the USS Liberty, and their mission was to gather intelligence on June 8, 1967, during the Six Day War between Israel and nearby Arab nations. The Liberty was a converted World War II cargo ship loaded with state-of-the-art spy equipment from a time before the U.S. relied on satellites for information.

Gallo, 60, was a communications technician on his way topside after lunch. Suddenly, he heard rockets and commands over the intercom.

"General quarters, general quarters," the Palm Coast resident recalled. "This is no drill. We're under attack."

More than 170 people were wounded and 34 were killed, and the controversy over what really happened continues to this day.

The barrage lasted more than an hour. Three Israeli torpedo boats launched at the ship, and Gallo remembers the order to brace for impact.

"You're ready to say, 'Oh Lord, here I come,' " Gallo said.

One torpedo struck the ship, killing 25 of the crew instantly, but Gallo said it could have been worse.

"Two foot forward or two foot aft, we could have been split apart and gone down," Gallo said.

Phil Tourney, of Cedaredge, Colo., was at the forward gun mount on the starboard side of the ship. He said it was difficult to explain what happened next.

"It just picked the whole ship out of the water," said Tourney, 58. "It was so explosive."

The ship listed and began taking on water.

The 7,725-ton technical research ship, lightly armed, was also strafed by Israeli fighter jets and napalmed.

Crew members said the ship was defenseless as the bombs dropped and bullets flew.

"They pounded us and pounded us and pounded us," Tourney said. "It was unreal."

When the attack was over, the Liberty steamed away from the area under its own power until it rendezvoused with U.S. Navy ships that provided an escort to Malta.

"I can't say enough about how they built this World War II cargo ship," Gallo said.

It was scrapped three years later.

Following the attack, Israel promptly apologized and said military commanders mistook the Liberty for an Egyptian ship. But some surviving members of the Liberty's crew said the attack was intentional and the U.S. government has covered it up for almost 40 years to protect its ally.

"Our government allowed this to happen because of politics," Gallo said.

James Ennes, who was the junior officer of the deck during the attack, said Israeli planes circled the Liberty more than a dozen times before the attack. They thought it was for surveillance, but at about 2 p.m., two or three jets made strafing runs, he said.

"This time they came down the center line shooting," Ennes said.

Ennes, 71, of Woodinville, Wash., is the author of "Assault on the Liberty," and he said the attack was intentional and the Israelis knew they were firing on a U.S. Navy vessel.

But A. Jay Cristol, a federal bankruptcy judge from Miami, said the attack was a tragic mistake. Driven by curiosity and fascination, Cristol spent years researching the events that took place almost 38 years ago, and he wrote "The Liberty Incident: The 1967 Attack on the U.S. Navy Spy Ship."

Cristol, 75, said he concurs with the Israeli and U.S. governments, and the attack was not planned or deliberate. And he said he has documents and audio recordings to prove it.

These books have stirred the emotions of people involved with the incident, and the debate rages on.

For their part, many sailors aboard the Liberty remain close. Tourney said they want to keep talking about the incident to expose the truth.

"I think the men that died aboard the ship deserve it."

posted by Somebody @ 3:05 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Saturday, January 29, 2005

News for 01-29-05

1-29 - Palestinian farmer killed by Israeli gunfire in southern Gaza

1-29 - Israeli troops kill Palestinian in Gaza Witnesses said on Saturday the 35-year-old man, who was said by witnesses to be mentally retarded, approached the Israel-Gaza border fence near the town of Khan Younis and was shot by troops on the Israeli side of the border

1-29 - Parents fight to learn why Israeli sniper shot their son Disquiet is mounting among British government officials whose repeated requests for evidence that could determine if Hurndall was shot deliberately have been rejected

1-29 - Abbas continues talks to secure Palestinian ceasefire

1-29 - 20 wounded in shootout at Hamas political rally in Gaza refugee camp

1-29 - Talks plan key Middle East summit Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will hold their first discussions since Mr Abbas' election last month

1-29 - Palestinians ready to take over security from Israelis

1-29 - Protest against the Wall south of Hebron

1-29 - Crewman recalls attack on USS Liberty

1-29 - Examiner ad demonizes Palestinian children UPDATE

1-29 - Palestinians: Rice to Visit in February

1-29 - Egypt Court Dismisses Warcrimes Case Against Sharon More info on execution of Egyptian POW's by Israel can be found here

1-29 - Palestinian police to train in Egypt

1-29 - Peace optimism breaks out in Gaza refugee camp devastated by violence with Israel Peace optimism breaks out in Gaza refugee camp devastated by violence with Israel

1-29 - Palestine's "forgotten" refugees cling to fading hope they can go back home "If they offered to fill my house with money I would refuse Lebanese citizenship. I would rather live in my homeland in a tent than live here in a castle."

1-29 - Government will be able to sell Palestinian property in E. J'lem This means it will be possible to build Jewish neighborhoods on Palestinian lands in East Jerusalem

1-29 - CIA set to oversee the PA-Israel security cooperation

1-29 - Peres urges EU to build PA economy "It will be very wise if the EU ... helps build industrial centers in the West Bank and Gaza," after Israel destroyed Palestinian infrastructure

1-29 - Israel to re-open closed crossings: Palestinian sources

1-29 - Middle East leaders face tough issues So far Mr Sharon has said Israel will respond to quiet with quiet, but will not be bound by a formal agreement.

1-29 - Watchdog urges patience over Iran

1-29 - White House Dismisses Hamas Vote Gains

1-29 - What "Peace" Really Means to Israelis If a day comes, and I hope it does, when Israelis decide to stop living in denial, they will have to realise that real peace will only come through justice.

1-29 - Clarity Media Group pulls ad of Palestinian girl

1-29 - Church leader backs divestment

posted by Somebody @ 10:53 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Israeli troops kill Palestinian in Gaza

GAZA (Reuters) - The Israeli army has shot and killed a Palestinian man in the Gaza Strip, medics said.

It was the fourth killing in the past week in the West Bank and Gaza where violence has largely abated since Mahmoud Abbas was elected Palestinian president earlier this month.

Witnesses said on Saturday the 35-year-old man, who was said by witnesses to be mentally retarded, approached the Israel-Gaza border fence near the town of Khan Younis and was shot by troops on the Israeli side of the border.

The Israeli army was checking the details of the incident.

Armed Palestinian security forces have taken control of areas within the Gaza Strip in the past week and Abbas has persuaded militant groups to observe a de facto truce and stop rocket and mortar attacks on Israel.

The Israeli army also said on Friday that it would reduce its military operations in Gaza and the West Bank in response to the efforts by Abbas to end attacks on Israelis.

The latest in a series of meetings between senior Israeli and Palestinian officials to discuss security matters is due to take place later on Saturday when Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz meets senior Palestinian official Mohammed Dahlan.

posted by Somebody @ 10:32 AM Permanent Link 0 comments

Friday, January 28, 2005

News for 01-28-05

1-28 - Israelis Halt Military Activity in Gaza

1-28 - Gaza Pullout Must Be Tied to Peace - Palestinians

1-28 - Gaza 'to stay under Israeli rule' "The restrictions on freedom of movement imposed by the Israeli authorities on Palestinians resemble the notorious 'pass laws' of apartheid South Africa,"

1-28 - Palestinian police deployed in Gaza; Israeli army halts military activity there

1-28 - Rice to Visit Middle East, Signals U.S. Push for Peace

1-28 - Sanctions against the Israeli occupation - it's time

1-28 - Russia not ruling out Syria deal He stressed that Syria needed missiles only to protect itself from Israeli air raids.

1-28 - JNF, treasury seek formula for continued Jews-only land sales

1-28 - Shimon Peres says Mideast peace "magic" back on the mountain

1-28 - U.S. Warns EU Firms to Stay Away from Iran-Diplomats

1-28 - Peres, Fayad agree on need to upgrade fence crossings Peres told Fayad that Israel has reached understandings with the World Bank, which will provide financial assistance for the program

1-28 - Putin says missile deal with Syria still under discussion

1-28 - Israel-Russian Relations Turn Sour

1-28 - Militants seek gains in Gaza vote

1-28 - Palestinians march in Gaza to celebrate Hamas victory

1-28 - Feith Resigns Under Pressure of Investigations

1-28 - US politician hopes to speed building of third temple

1-28 - Losing Feith "I think they decided to get rid him of long ago but were afraid that doing so would have been seen as a tacit admission that Bush screwed up in Iraq,"

1-28 - Ancient Woes Resurfacing As Dean Eyes Top Dem Post "He's just flat-out wrong on foreign policy," Baer said. "The pro-Israel community would be very worried if Dean became DNC chair and the Republicans would exploit it."

posted by Somebody @ 9:49 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Thursday, January 27, 2005

News for 01-27-05

1-27 - Three Palestinians die, 15 arrested

1-27 - Gaza residents welcome rare calm, wish it would stay "We don't hate the Jews. We hate them as occupiers,"

1-27 - Middle East peace breakthrough imminent Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says Israel may be about to make a historic breakthrough in relations with the Palestinians

1-27 - Israeli army continue attacks on Palestinians

1-27 - Israel agrees 'in principle' to withdrawal of forces

1-27 - Abbas stresses need for swift ceasefire

1-27 - Palestinian Authority Issues Weapons Ban

1-27 - Hamas: Israel deceives Palestinians

1-27 - Albright: Palestinians Can't Expect More Than in 2000

1-27 - Israel's increasing reliance on the "anti-Semitism" defense

1-27 - Sharon says Israel to implement roadmap if attacks stop

1-27 - Sharon praises Palestinian leader

1-27 - Israel Warns of Iran's Nuclear Program

1-27 - 'Palestinian corpse used for IDF anatomy lesson'

1-27 - Special Rapporteur: Israel will remain occupier after disengagement

1-27 - Israeli Official Rules on Land Sales However, Mazuz also said that in any case where a non-Jew buys JNF land, the government would compensate the organization with state-owned tracts "so as not to harm the goals of the JNF ... to settle Jews on its land."

1-27 - Syrian lottery proceeds going to Palestinian insurgents western diplomats said.

1-27 - Israel works to get Hezbollah on EU's list of terror groups Instead of complaining about Hezbollah activities along the northern border, and about the rockets threatening the Galilee, Israeli representatives are highlighting the threat Hezbollah poses to the fledgling Palestinian leader.

1-27 - Chemical powder mailed to Arafat's widow A security official said that the envelope was delivered to Raymonda Tawil at her home in the West Bank town of Ramallah earlier this week and had apparently been posted from India.

1-27 - Rightist MK: Fire AG for letting non-Jews buy JNF land

1-27 - Ottawa sued for Jerusalem policy "Inscriptions such as 'Jerusalem, Israel' would be contrary to Canada's Middle East policy and to our policy regarding recognition as well as our obligations under international law."

1-27 - Palestine ghost haunts UN Commemoration of Camp Liberation

1-27 - Rachel Corrie Rebuilding Campaign in Gaza nominated in competition

1-27 - "Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land"

1-27 - Syria-Russia Relations Important to Both

1-27 - Pipes appearance sparks debate Muslim students expressed concern about Pipes' speech, which is sponsored by Chabad, the Dartmouth Israel Public Awareness Committee

1-27 - Daniel Barenboim at Columbia University New York Barenboim was giving the inaugural Edward Said Memorial Lecture, named in honour of his friend, the writer, critic and Palestinian advocate who died in 2003

posted by Somebody @ 10:43 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

News for 01-26-05

1-26 - Israeli troops kill Gaza girl

1-26 - At least one militant shot dead in northern West Bank

1-26 - Palestinians slam Hansen's dismissal

1-26 - How Palestinian property was seized Like the measures taken by the German government in the '30s, Israel's theft of Palestinian property in East Jerusalem occurred within the law, and provoked no outrage from Israelis - either from the right, or from Sharon's new Labor partners.

1-26 - Jewish settlers vandalise Israeli, Palestinian police cars

1-26 - Mid-East talks raise peace hopes "It is very strange that settlers suffering from the shooting are trying to torpedo this process"

1-26 - Dr. Moorer continues late brother's crusade Dr. W. D. Moorer is continuing his late brother's crusade to fully reveal the betrayal behind the Israeli attack June 8, 1967, on a U.S. ship.

1-26 - Iran vows 'astonishing' response to any US, Israeli attack

1-26 - From 2004: Four Day War The Iran/Israel conflagration, a history.

1-26 - Holocaust taught Israel need to protect itself: Sharon Sharon angrily denounced people who he said sought to compare Israel's "legitimate self-defence against Palestinian terrorists" with the Nazis' treatment of the Jews.

1-26 - Israel refuses to rule out attack on Iran Asked what Israel would do if diplomatic channels failed, Mr Mofaz went on: "The US is a strong power that can stop any kind of nuclear programme, especially in the hands of an extreme regime."

1-26 - Israel warned over impending health disaster in Gaza

1-26 - Iran rejects Mossad nuclear claim

1-26 - Israeli envoy: U.S. will help finance pullout

1-26 - USAF playing cat and mouse game over Iran The U.S. Air Force is playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse with Iran's ayatollahs, flying American combat aircraft into Iranian airspace in an attempt to lure Tehran into turning on air defense radars

1-26 - We must rely on ourselves, says Sharon "Legitimate steps of self-defence which Israel takes in its war against Palestinian terror - actions which any sovereign state is obligated to undertake to ensure the security of its citizens - are presented by those who hate Israel as aggressive, Nazi-like steps." Self defense, or Nazi-like - you decide

1-26 - Is Russia rebuilding its Mideast role? Experts not sure, but deals with Iran and Syria have alarmed Israel.

1-26 - After Israeli boycott, Columbia U. cancels meet on Mideast The conference was postponed due to heavy pressure by Jewish groups

1-26 - Pentagon's No. 3 Man, Doug Feith, Resigns

1-26 - Israeli kleptocracy endangers every American

posted by Somebody @ 10:12 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

News for 01-25-05

1-25 - Body of Palestinian recovered after being shot near Gaza settlement The body of a Palestinian teenager who had been shot dead by Israeli troops was recovered on the outskirts of Gaza City

1-25 - A Palestinian Civilian from Hebron Dies of Wounds

1-25 - Resumption of barrier sparks first row with Israel since Abbas election The body of a Palestinian teenager, whose identity was not immediately known, was retrieved by medics on Tuesday after the youth was shot overnight near the settlement of Netzarim. The Israeli military said troops had opened fire after he was spotted in a closed military zone

1-25 - Hamas considers conditional truce

1-25 - Rights Group Calls on Israel to Reject Plan to Demolish Gaza Homes "Instead of employing methods to detect and destroy tunnels like those used along the Korean DMZ (demilitarized zone), the Israeli military is using smuggling as a pretext to demolish more Palestinian homes along the Rafah border,"

1-25 - Israel agrees to Palestinian security deployment in southern Gaza

1-25 - Palestinian forces prevent mortar attack on Israel Following a heated argument with the militants, the forces confiscated the weapons and the cell left

1-25 - Officials: Israel Ends Targeted Killings Israel has stopped targeting Palestinian militants for death, according to Israeli security officials, fulfilling a key Palestinian demand for a truce to end four years of violence.

1-25 - Israel blames British media for rise in anti-Semitic crimes "The British media has portrayed Israel in a very unfair light,"

1-25 - Syria, Russia to restore Soviet-era ties Despite official denials, Russian commentators Tuesday said that the sale of Igla missiles and Iskanker-E next-generation missiles capable of striking Israel had been in the pipeline but had been shelved after Israeli and US protests.

1-25 - Israel ready to expel BBC reporter

1-25 - Palestinians raze illegal shacks "We are now beginning a new era in which law must be respected and all government lands returned,"

1-25 - Knesset panel to urge boosting settler compensation

1-25 - Israeli barrier move sparks anger The attorney general approved the work near Ariel settlement on Monday, four months after a court order halted it.

1-25 - Abbas orders demolition of illegal buildings Orders to remove such buildings had been ignored in the last years of Yasser Arafat in which militants, many linked to lawless elements of security services, took over the streets

1-25 - Israel considers Gaza-West Bank train Israel is weighing a proposal to link the Gaza Strip and West Bank by a train that would allow Palestinians to travel between the territories without posing a security threat

1-25 - Examiner ad demonizes Palestinian children

1-25 - Calder awarded for Mid-East service

1-25 - The rise of Israel's pious warriors Yossi Hazan, a 34-year-old rabbi and reserve paratrooper, says he instructs pupils at Beit Yatir because instilling an appreciation of the biblical land and Torah helps make better soldiers.

1-25 - Israel says Egypt, Syria, Saudia Arabia have nuclear programs

1-25 - Closing the Neocon Circle George W. Bush has unveiled a new vision for U.S. foreign policy. His inspiration: Israel's Natan Sharansky

1-25 - Deconstructing the WJC campaign for a UN resolution on anti-Semitism In this perspective, criticism of the Israeli government's occupation policies is seen as an attack against the state, which translates into an attack against Zionism, which in turn translates into an attack against all Jews rooted in timeless anti-Semitism - and thus lends support to the objectives of radical Islam

1-25 - Syrian leader defiant on missiles

posted by Somebody @ 10:18 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Closing the Neocon Circle

George W. Bush has unveiled a new vision for U.S. foreign policy. His inspiration: Israel’s Natan Sharansky

Sharansky’s influence on Bush’s thinking could have an impact in the years ahead
By Michael Hirsh
Updated: 3:13 p.m. ET Jan. 25, 2005Jan. 25 - Natan Sharansky can bestow no higher praise than to call George W. Bush an honorary “dissident.” And the Israeli cabinet minister says he is elated that the U.S. president, in his second inaugural speech last week, appeared to fully embrace Sharansky’s vision of foreign policy. “It’s clear to me that he read my book,” Sharansky, a squat cannonball of a man with a heavy Russian accent, told NEWSWEEK. “I only wish that my mentor, Andrei Sakharov, were alive to see this,” Sharansky added, referring to the Soviet nuclear scientist who risked his life and career to help open up the Soviet Union.

Bush, in his Jan. 20 address, did prove himself a dissident in one sense. When the president declared that “the survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands,” he was delivering a dissent from traditional U.S. foreign policy, one that could have been lifted whole from the pages of Sharansky’s new book, “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.” (Public Affairs; New York). Bush, in fact, has been pressing the book on aides and friends in recent weeks and urging them to read it. And it is clear that Bush’s speech—as well as Sharansky’s influence—could have huge consequences for America in the coming years.

In Bush’s speech, drafted by chief White House speechwriter Michael Gerson with input from an old Sharansky ally dating to the Reagan years, National Security Council official Elliott Abrams, Bush in effect declared an end to a three-decade-old debate in foreign-policy circles. Fittingly, it is a debate that dates back to the fights over détente versus confrontation with the Soviet Union—and, not coincidentally, to Sharansky’s earlier incarnation as a jailed Soviet dissident. In a single, eloquent line, Bush sought to declare a truce to the old ideological struggle between U.S. government “realists”—those who believe protecting vital national interests has little to do with spreading democracy and freedom—and the so-called neoconservatives, who crusaded for these values. “America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one,” he said.

In practice, of course, this battle of ideas will go on as U.S. officials wrangle over how to deal with recalcitrant regimes like Iran and North Korea. Administration officials were quick to play down the practical impact of Bush’s rhetoric, noting that the president declared the policy of spreading freedom to be “the concentrated work of generations.” But it is hard to avoid the conclusion that U.S. policy toward Iran and North Korea has now been resolved in favor of regime change--just as Bush once signed onto Sharansky’s goal of “regime change” in the Palestinian Authority in June 2002 when, in another speech heavily influenced by the Israeli, he said he would negotiate not with the autocratic Yasir Arafat but only with a newly elected Palestinian leadership.

At the very least, Bush’s rhetoric strengthens the hand of hardliners from the Pentagon and the office of Vice President Dick Cheney who see no way around the use of force or covert activity against such tyrannical regimes. As Sharansky’s old friend, onetime Pentagon advisor Richard Perle, told NEWSWEEK on Jan. 24, the current policy toward Iran has been one of “paralysis.” And, he says, the president’s speech “caused elation among dissidents in Iran. You read those words and the reaction is likely to be similar to Sharansky’s reaction when [as a dissident] he read Ronald Reagan’s words calling the Soviet Union an ‘evil empire.’”

Thanks to Bush’s speech, there may now be less willingness to cut a deal with the recalcitrant Iranian mullahs or the autocratic Kim Jong Il. A senior U.S. official denies this. He says the Bush team continues to hope for “behavioral change” like they got from Libya’s Mohammar Khaddafi--who’s off the regime change list since giving up his WMD. But in reality they don’t expect much from Tehran or Pyongyang. The danger is that yet more drift and paralysis in U.S. policy will ensue as Iran and North Korea get closer to becoming nuclear powers. Just as the hardline Sharansky has been criticized from his left for setting an impossibly high threshold for negotiating with the Palestinians—he opposes Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan for Gaza—Bush could turn the totem of “democracy” into a convenient excuse for persisting in his stony refusal to talk directly to Iran and North Korea. There is also a danger of unintended consequences. Will the soaring rhetoric of freedom help bring regime collapse—an outcome few would mourn—or will it help to harden the nuclear ambitions of two regimes that Bush has declared to be moribund (the mullahs and Kim) but which have proved to have greater staying power than many thought?

Why is Sharansky’s influence so deep? In part because he didn’t pop out of nowhere. Sharansky has been speaking out in neocon forums for years, stiffening the spines of his former allies from the Reagan era. Chief among them is Perle who, in an interview, identified Sharansky as one of his two “heroes,” together with his old mentor, Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson. Their relationship is decades old. Back in the 1970s, when the Israeli was still a Russian named Anatoly Sharansky, Perle was the notorious attack dog for Jackson, fighting for Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union by pushing through the famous 1974 Jackson-Vanik bill, the opening shot fired against Cold War détente.

That was the first big battle over human rights in American foreign policy. Until then, the Cold War had been about realpolitik and detente, mainly “managing” the Soviet Union. Both men had been irrevocably changed by the experience of taking on what their mutual hero, Ronald Reagan, called the “evil empire.” Now each is in the midst of a new incarnation, fighting against Arab terror, yet they are animated by the same ideas as in the old days. Sharansky’s personal suffering under tyranny—and triumph over it—has made him a zealous campaigner for democracy in the Arab world, to the right even of his fellow Likudnik hawks in Israel. Perle and a small group of fellow neoconservatives have made it their mission to drag along Washington’s remaining “realists.”

In his book, Sharansky makes a powerful case that there is a common thread tying together the anti-Western hostility of old regimes like the Soviet Union and that of new enemies like the Islamist terrorists and their sponsors, including the Iranian mullah state and the Palestinian Authority under the late Arafat. “While the mechanics of democracy make democracies inherently peaceful, the mechanics of tyrannies make nondemocracies inherently belligerent,” he writes. Whether they are communist or Islamist, he argues, they must achieve legitimacy by creating external enemies, he argues. That’s a recipe for eternal conflict, he argues--as the autocratic Arafat proved by consistently sidestepping a peace deal.

So Sharansky’s influence represents a closing of the circle for the neocons who began battling for their ideas in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Sharansky himself says it is all a continuum, including the cast of characters, among them Abrams, Perle, Defense Department senior officials Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith and Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby. “If you check their background, most of them were connected either to Senator Jackson or to the Reagan administration or to both,” says Sharansky. “And that’s why, by the way, many of them are my friends from those years. And in the last 15 years, we kept talking to one another.”

It is possible that America’s new embrace of Sharanskyism will also prove to be a recipe for eternal conflict. America will now be accused of hypocrisy every time it fails to live up to Bush’s promise “to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture.” In China, Russia and Taiwan, in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, Washington has shrunk from pursuing that policy too forthrightly, mainly because it needs friends. And Bush is unlikely to depart dramatically from this cautious course. That means, in turn, that his new statement of American policy is certain to come back to haunt him, just as Woodrow Wilson’s promise of self-determination haunted American foreign policy-makers after World War I. Especially when Natan Sharansky is out there, reminding him of his promise.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

posted by Somebody @ 9:21 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Israel says Egypt, Syria, Saudia Arabia have nuclear programs

Big News Monday 24th January, 2005

Israel claimed Monday that in addition to Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Saudia Arabia are developing nuclear programs.

Meir Dagan, chief of The Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, made the claim as he delivered a review on the security of Israel to the country's Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Israel has made even more pointed charges against Iran, which it claims is deceiving the IAEA, and is building a nuclear reactor in Bushehr. Degan said Iran was receiving assistance from Russia.

Israel has recently stepped up calls for the international community to intervene in Iran, despite agreements reached between the EU and Iran which purportedly paved the way for Iran to stall any progress on its plans. Last week U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said it was possible Israel could attack Iran. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played down the claim but pointedly did not rule out military action by the Jewish state. Vice Premier Shimon Peres said Monday, 'It (Iran) is the center of terrorism in the Middle East. It is trying to create a nuclear option.'

International experts believe Israel itself is a world nuclear power but the nation with a population of 6.2 million refuses to discuss publicly its programs. Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and, as such, is not subject to inspections.

posted by Somebody @ 8:51 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Monday, January 24, 2005

US Christian Right's grip on Middle East policy

By Stephen Zunes

(Posted with permission from Foreign Policy in Focus)

In recent years, a politicized and right-wing Protestant fundamentalist movement has emerged as a major factor in US support for the policies of the rightist Likud government in Israel. To understand this influence, it is important to recognize that the rise of the religious right as a political force in the United States is a relatively recent phenomenon that emerged as part of a calculated strategy by leading right-wingers in the Republican Party who - while not fundamentalist Christians themselves - recognized the need to enlist the support of this key segment of the US population in order to achieve political power.

Traditionally, US fundamentalist Protestants were not particularly active in national politics, long seen as worldly and corrupt. This changed in the late 1970s as part of a calculated effort by conservative Republican operatives who recognized that as long as the Republican Party was primarily identified with militaristic foreign policies and economic proposals that favored the wealthy, it would remain a minority party. Over the previous five decades, Republicans had won only four out of 12 presidential elections and had controlled Congress for only two of its 24 sessions.

By mobilizing rightist religious leaders and adopting conservative positions on highly charged social issues such as women's rights, abortion, sex education and homosexuality, Republican strategists were able to bring millions of fundamentalist Christians - who as a result of their lower-than-average income were not otherwise inclined to vote Republican - into their party. Through such organizations as the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition, the Republicans promoted a right-wing political agenda through radio and television broadcasts as well as from the pulpit. Since capturing this pivotal constituency, Republicans have won four out of six presidential races, have dominated the Senate for seven out of 12 sessions, and have controlled the House of Representatives for the past decade.

As a result of being politically wooed, those who identify with the religious right are now more likely than the average American to vote and to be politically active. The Christian Right constitutes nearly one out of seven US voters and determines the agenda of the Republican Party in about half of the states, particularly in the South and Midwest. A top Republican staffer noted: "Christian conservatives have proved to be the political base for most Republicans. Many of these guys, especially the leadership, are real believers in this stuff, and so are their constituents."

The movement takes office
The Reverend Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State recently quipped: "The good news is that the Christian coalition is fundamentally collapsing. The bad news is that the people who ran it are all in the government." He noted, for example, that when he goes to the Justice Department, he keeps seeing lawyers formerly employed by prominent right-wing fundamentalist preacher Pat Robertson.

As the Washington Post observed, "For the first time since religious conservatives became a modern political movement, the president of the United States has become the movement's de facto leader." Former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed marked the triumph by chortling, "You're no longer throwing rocks at the building; you're in the building." He added that God "knew [President] George [W] Bush had the ability to lead in this compelling way".

US liberals have long supported Israel as a refuge for persecuted Jews and have championed the country's democratic institutions (for its Jewish citizens). Historically these liberals, bolstered by the disproportionate political influence of Zionist Jews within the party, prompted Democrats to adopt a hard line toward Palestinians and other Arabs. Though more hawkish on most foreign-policy issues, Republicans traditionally took a somewhat more moderate stance partly due to the party's ties to the oil industry and in part because of Republican concern that too much support for Israel could lead Arab nationalists toward a pro-Soviet or - in more recent years - a pro-Islamist orientation. But this alignment has shifted, thanks to the influence of the Christian Right. Though Christian fundamentalist support for Israel dates back many years, only recently has it become one of the movement's major issues.

As a result of renewed fundamentalist interest in Israel and in recognition of the movement's political influence, American Jews are less reluctant to team up with the Christian Right. Fundamentalist leader Gary Bauer, for example, now receives frequent invitations to address mainstream Jewish organizations, which would have been hesitant toward the movement prior to the Bush presidency. This is partly a phenomenon of demographics: Jews constitute only 3% of the US population, and barely half of them support the current Israeli government.

The Israelis also recognize the Christian Right's political clout. Since 2001, Bauer has met with several Israeli cabinet members and with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted, "We have no greater friends and allies" than right-wing American Christians.

It used to be that Republican administrations had the ability to withstand pressure from Zionist lobbying groups when it was deemed important for US interests. For example, the administration of Dwight Eisenhower pressured Israel during the Suez Crisis of 1956, the administration of Ronald Reagan sold AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System)-equipped planes to Saudi Arabia in 1981, and the administration of George H W Bush delayed a US$10 billion loan guarantee for Israel to await the outcome of the pivotal 1992 Israeli election.

With the growing influence of the Christian Right, however, such detachment is no longer as easily achieved. For the first time, the Republican Party has a significant pro-Israel constituency of its own that it cannot ignore. Top White House officials, including Elliott Abrams, director of the National Security Council on Near East and North African Affairs, have regular and often lengthy meetings with representatives of the Christian Right. As one leading Republican put it: "They are very vocal and have shifted the center of gravity toward Israel and against concessions. It colors the environment in which decisions are being made." Indeed, the degree of the Bush administration's support for Sharon has surprised even the most hardline Zionist Jews.

Rising power of Christian Zionists
It appears, then, that right-wing Christian Zionists are, at this point, more significant in the formulation of US policy toward Israel than are Jewish Zionists, as illustrated by three recent incidents.

After the Bush administration's initial condemnation of the attempted assassination of militant Palestinian Islamist Abdel Aziz Rantisi in June 2003, the Christian Right mobilized its constituents to send thousands of e-mails to the White House protesting the criticism. A key element in these e-mails was the threat that if such pressure continued to be placed on Israel, the Christian Right would stay home on election day. Within 24 hours, there was a notable change in tone by the president. Indeed, when Rantisi fell victim to a successful Israeli assassination in April this year, the administration - as it did with the assassination of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin the previous month - largely defended the Israeli action.

When the Bush administration insisted that Israel stop its April 2002 military offensive in the West Bank, the White House received more than 100,000 e-mails from Christian conservatives in protest of its criticism. Almost immediately, Bush came to Israel's defense. Over the objections of the State Department, the Republican-led Congress adopted resolutions supporting Israel's actions and blaming the violence exclusively on the Palestinians.

When Bush announced his support for the roadmap for Middle East peace, the White House received more than 50,000 postcards over the next two weeks from Christian conservatives opposing any plan that called for the establishment of a Palestinian state. The administration quickly backpedaled, and the once-highly touted roadmap in essence died.

Good versus evil
Messianic theology is centered on the belief in a hegemonic Israel as a necessary precursor to the second coming of Christ. Although this doctrine is certainly an important part of the Christian Right's support of a militaristic and expansionist Jewish state, fundamentalist Christian Zionism in the United States ascribes to an even more dangerous dogma: that of Manichaeism, the belief that reality is divided into absolute good and absolute evil.

The day after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Bush declared, "This will be a monumental struggle of good versus evil, but good will prevail." The United States was targeted - according to Bush - not on account of its support for Arab dictatorships, the large US military presence in the Middle East, US backing of the Israeli occupation, or the humanitarian consequences of US policy toward Iraq, but simply because they "hate our freedom". Despite the Gospels' insistence that the line separating good and evil does not run between nations but rather within each person, Bush cited Christological texts to support his war aims in the Middle East, declaring, "And the light [the US] has shown in the darkness [the enemies of the US], and the darkness will not overcome it [the US shall conquer its enemies]."

Even more disturbing, Bush has stated repeatedly that he was "called" by God to run for president. Veteran journalist Bob Woodward noted, "The president was casting his mission and that of the country in the grand vision of God's master plan," wherein he promised, in his own words, "to export death and violence to the four corners of the Earth in defense of this great country and rid the world of evil". In short, Bush believes that he has accepted the responsibility of leading the free world as part of God's plan. He even told then-Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas that "God told me to strike al-Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam [Hussein], which I did." Iraq has become the new Babylon, and the "war on terrorism" has succeeded the Cold War with the Soviet Union as the quintessential battle between good and evil.

Cultural affinities
The esprit that many Americans have with Israel is rooted in a common historical mission. Each country was settled in part by victims fleeing religious persecution who fashioned a new nation rooted in high ideals with a political system based on relatively progressive and democratic institutions. And both peoples established their new nations through the oppression, massacre and dislocation of indigenous populations. Like many Israelis, Americans often confuse genuine religious faith with nationalist ideology.

John Winthrop, the influential 17th-century Puritan theologian, saw America as the "City on the Hill" (Zion) and "a light upon nations". In effect, there is a kind of American Zionism assuming a divinely inspired singularity that excuses what would otherwise be considered unacceptable behavior. Just as Winthrop defended the slaughter of the indigenous Pequot peoples of colonial Massachusetts as part of a divine plan, 19th-century theologians defended America's westward expansion as "manifest destiny" and the will of God. Such theologically rooted aggrandizement did not stop at the Pacific Ocean: the invasion of the Philippines in the 1890s was justified by president William McKinley and others as part of an effort to "uplift" and "Christianize" the natives, ignoring the fact that Filipinos (who by that time had nearly rid the country of Spanish colonialists and had established the first democratic constitution in Asia) were already more than 90% Christian.

Similarly, today - in the eyes of the Christian Right - the Bush doctrine and the expansion of US military and economic power are all part of a divine plan. For example, in their 2003 Christmas card, Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne included the quote, "And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?"

But is such thinking normative in the US? Polls show that the ideological gap between Christian conservatives and other Americans regarding the US invasion of Iraq and the "war on terrorism" is even higher than the ideological gap between Christian conservatives and other Americans regarding Israel and Palestine.

In many respects, much of the American right may be at least as concerned about how Israel can help the US as about how the US can help Israel. Because of the anti-Semitism inherent in much of Christian Zionist theology, it has long been recognized that US fundamentalist support for Israel does not stem from a concern for the Jewish people per se but rather from a desire to leverage Jewish jingoism to hasten the second coming of Christ. Such opportunism is also true of those who - for theological or other reasons - seek to advance the American empire in the Middle East. And though a strong case can be made that US support for the Israeli occupation ultimately hurts US interests, there remains a widely held perception that Israel is an important asset to US strategic objectives in the Middle East and beyond.

Strategic calculation trumps ethno-religious card
Ultimately, Washington's championing of Israel - like its approval of other repressive governments - is part of a strategic calculation rather than simply ethnic politics. When a choice must be made, geopolitical considerations outweigh ethnic loyalties. For example, for nearly a quarter of century, the US supported the brutal occupation of East Timor by Indonesia and to this day supports the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara, despite the absence of powerful Indonesian-American or Moroccan-American ethnic lobbying forces. The US was able to get away with its support for occupations by Indonesia and Morocco because of their relative obscurity. This is certainly not the case with Israel and Palestine. (Interestingly, even though the East Timor situation involved a predominantly Muslim country conquering, occupying and terrorizing a predominantly Christian country, virtually no protests arose from the Islamaphobic Christian Right.)

The Christian Right has long been a favorite target for the Democratic Party, particularly its liberal wing, since most Americans are profoundly disturbed by fundamentalists of any kind influencing policies of a government with a centuries-old tradition of separating church and state. Yet the positions of most liberal Democrats in Congress regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are far closer to those of the reactionary Christian Coalition than to those of the moderate National Council of Churches, far closer to the rightist Reverend Pat Robertson than to the leftist Reverend William Sloan Coffin, far closer to the ultraconservative Moral Majority than to the liberal Churches for Middle East Peace, and far closer to the fundamentalist Southern Baptist Convention than to any of the mainline Protestant churches.

Rather than accusing these erstwhile liberals of being captives of the Jewish lobby - a charge that inevitably leads to the countercharge of anti-Semitism - those who support justice for the Palestinians should instead reproach congressional Democrats for falling captive to the Christian Right. Such a rebuke would be no less accurate and would likely enhance the ability of those who support peace, justice and the rule of law to highlight the profound immorality of congressional sanction for the Israeli occupation.

Those who support justice for the Palestinians - or even simply the enforcement of basic international humanitarian law - must go beyond raising awareness of the issue to directly confronting those whose acquiescence facilitates current repressive attitudes. It will not be possible to counter the influence of the Christian Right in shaping US policies in the Middle East as long as otherwise socially conscious Christian legislators and other progressive-minded elected officials are beholden to fundamentalist voting pressures. It is unlikely that these Democrats and moderate Republicans will change, however, until liberal-to-mainline churches mobilize their resources toward demanding justice as strongly as right-wing fundamentalists have mobilized their resources in support of repression.

Stephen Zunes is an associate professor of politics and chair of the peace and justice studies program at the University of San Francisco. He serves as Middle East editor for the Foreign Policy in Focus project and is the author of Tinderbox: US Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003).

posted by Somebody @ 11:22 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Israeli bulldozers resume work on West Bank barrier section near Ariel

NABLUS, West Bank (AFP) - Israeli bulldozers began working on one of the most controversial sections of the separation barrier deep in the northern West Bank after an eight-month pause when the construction was halted by a court order.

Palestinian security sources in Salfit town, which lies just to the south of the Jewish settlement of Ariel, said three bulldozers began work in the late morning, clearing land belonging to Salfit and to the neighbouring village of Iskaka.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli defence ministry confirmed that work had been renewed on a section near the Ariel settlement after it was approved by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.

"The decision to recommence work on the security fence (in the Ariel area) was approved by the attorney general," she said, without giving further details.

A spokeswoman for the justice ministry, however, was unable to provide any information about Mazuz's decision or the reasons behind it.

Work on the Ariel section of the vast barrier was halted on June 25 by order of the Israeli supreme court following an appeal lodged a month earlier by Salfit mayor Shaher Eshtieh.

In the appeal, Eshtieh warned construction of the Ariel section would confiscate some 170,000 dunams of land (17,000 hectares or 42,000 acres) of land belonging to Salfit and 19 other villages in the area.

In October 2003, the Israeli government decided to include Ariel and a number of other settlements inside the barrier's route by building a series of horseshoe-shaped fences which would later be linked up to the main section.

Construction of the Ariel section, which started last June, is particularly contentious as it is situated so deep inside the West Bank.

Some 16,000 people live in Ariel, one of the largest of all Jewish settlements.

Israel insists the separation barrier is crucial to prevent infiltrations by West Bank militants, but the Palestinians see it as little more than a crude attempt to grab their land and foil the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

Although the world court ruled in July that parts of the barrier built on Palestinian land are illegal, Israel has insisted it will complete the project, which is eventually expected to stretch some 700 kilometers (430 miles).


posted by Somebody @ 10:53 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Mossad warning over nuclear Iran

Iran could build a nuclear bomb in less than three years, the head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency has warned.
Speaking to MPs in Israel's parliament, the Knesset, Meir Dagan said Iran's nuclear programme was nearing the "point of no return".

If Iran successfully enriched uranium in 2005 it could have a nuclear weapon two years later, Mr Dagan said.

Iran says that it is developing a civilian nuclear energy programme, but the US and Israel reject this.

They maintain the Islamic state is using the energy programme as a front for a covert weapons programme.

Last week US Vice-President Dick Cheney said Iran's nuclear programme put it "top of the list" of global issues. 'Home free'

Mr Dagan told the Knesset foreign affairs and defence committee that Iran is negotiating with European mediators to be allowed to continue developing uranium enrichment capability.

It is up to the international community to increase its efforts to prevent the arming of Tehran

Meir Dagan
Mossad chief

Iran agreed in November to halt uranium enrichment under pressure from the US, Europe and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

If it resumes enrichment and succeeds before the end of 2005, Mr Dagan said, "the route to building a bomb is a short one".

"The moment you have the technology for enrichment, you are home free," he said.

Mr Dagan said it could take Iran just two more years to develop a bomb once they had completed enrichment.

"It is up to the international community to increase its efforts to prevent the arming of Tehran."

Iran gave no immediate reaction to Mr Dagan's claims.

Peres cautious

The Mossad chief's concerns were echoed by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

"Iran has become the focal point of all the dangers of the Middle East," Mr Peres told Israel's Army Radio.

"This problem should be of concern to the whole world and not just Israel."

Mr Peres, widely regarded as the father of Israel's secretive nuclear deterrent, dampened suggestions that Israel was planning pre-emptive strikes against Iran, as hinted by Mr Cheney.

"The party that will decide is the United States," Mr Peres said.

"If we go it alone, we will remain alone. Everyone knows our potential but we also have to know our limits.

"As long as there is a possibility that the world will organise to fight against Iran's nuclear option, let the world organise."

posted by Somebody @ 10:45 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Archbishop expresses solidarity with Palestinian Christians

Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool has expressed solidarity with the Christians in the Holy Land, following a visit there.

He was part of a delegation of Catholic bishops from Europe and North America who visited Christian communities and Church leaders in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Galilee.

It follows a another trip by members of catholic peace group Pax Christito Bethlehem at Christmas.

Pax Christi also met with members of the Muslim and Jewish communities who are working for peace and human rights in the region.

In recent years, Bethlehem has been under curfew at Christmas and the Church of the Nativity was involved in a siege in Bethlehem in 2002.

At Easter Christians in the West Bank were prevented by Israel's security measures from visiting the traditional site of Jesus' crucifixion to celebrate Easter.

Reports suggest that thousands of Christians are also now leaving the town of Christ's birth and going abroad.

Bethlehem continues to be the Palestinian city with the largest Christian population. The Christians and Muslims there have, for the most part, lived peacefully side by side.

As the Intifada has continued however, unemployment has soared to 60 or even 70%.

In 2004 Pax Christi launched its "People of the Holy Land need Bridges not Walls " campaign to raise awareness of the impact of the separation wall, called by some the "Apartheid Wall", on the Palestinian community.

Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah has warned that Christians face extinction if present emigration trends continue.

The delegation of bishops, who visited parishes, schools, hospitals and Bethlehem University, pledged their support for the Christian community. They also praised those who work for peace, justice and security.

“The experience of these days strengthened my conviction that is appropriate for the Bishops Conference of England and Wales to continue to be part of this annual gathering and its consequences,” Archbishop Kelly said.

posted by Somebody @ 10:44 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

Stop subsidizing occupation


EAST JERUSALEM -- Israeli officials are planning to ask the United States to pay nearly $200 million for new checkpoints in occupied Palestinian territories, according to news service reports quoting U.S. officials. This aid would be on top of the nearly $3 billion the United States gives Israel every year.

Anyone who wants the United States to promote peace in the Middle East should oppose this plan. There are many good things the United States can do just after the Palestinians have held democratic elections to replace Yasser Arafat. Paying for continued Israeli occupation is not one of them.

For most Palestinians living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, Israeli checkpoints represent the harshest edge of Israeli occupation, rivaled only by military raids and illegal settlements. Children must pass them on their way to school every morning. Elderly and sick must ask for permits to reach medical care. Family members are cut off from siblings, uncles and cousins. Many Palestinians are forbidden any passage at all. Some 30-year-old men have not left their own towns since their teens.

Like the wall Israel is building in the West Bank, the checkpoints would be considerably less offensive both to daily life and international law if they separated Israel from the territory its army occupies. But Israel has annexed East Jerusalem and built settlements across the West Bank.

The wall and the checkpoints are in the middle of the Palestinian areas, trapping people in small enclaves. Rather than separate Israel from Palestine, the checkpoints keep Palestinians away from one another.

Israel's argument to the United States is that money for more efficient checkpoints will ease life by speeding people and goods through. This is Orwellian, of course. Rather than give Palestinians independence, Israel is asking the United States for help in making their occupation more efficient.

But there are other reasons for Americans to be alarmed.

First, if we were serious about promoting peace and reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians, then this would be very bad policy. Americans already are feeling (and paying) the heavy cost of occupying Iraq. If Israel can get someone else to pay for its occupation, it will have that much less reason to negotiate an end to the occupation. Americans will be enablers of the status quo.

Second, Arabs and Muslims already perceive U.S. support for Israel as a sign of hostility and imperialist ambition. This perception has deepened during the recent intifada as President Bush shunned the Palestinian leadership while giving Israel a free hand. What are Palestinians to think if the checkpoints they encounter every day are literally paid for by the people of the United States?

People may disagree on the degree to which the United States is responsible for Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. But let's at least make the Israelis pay for their policy themselves.

Michael Kagan, from Port Ludlow, is a lawyer teaching at Tel Aviv University's Law School clinical program.

posted by Somebody @ 10:43 PM Permanent Link 0 comments

E. J'lemites will need permits to visit Ramallah

Starting in July, East Jerusalem Palestinians will be denied freedom of movement into Ramallah, Binyamin region brigade commander Col. Mickey Edelstein has confirmed to Machsom Watch, a voluntary women's group that monitors checkpoints.

By then, the separation wall in the area, a series of tall cement plates that he calls a "barrier," will be completed. The Qalandiya checkpoint will be moved off the Jerusalem-Ramallah road and upgraded into a terminal.

Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who want to go to Ramallah will have to request to do so at the checkpoint, he explained. Machsom Watch says its members have been told that the brigade scheduled a discussion this week on the arrangements for passage in the coming period, until the "barrier" is completed.

The Machsom Watch meeting with Edelstein took place after a change was noticed in the policies employed by soldiers at the checkpoint regarding the movement of East Jerusalemite Palestinians. For the first time since the Qalandiya checkpoint went up in December 2001, the soldiers stopped letting hundreds of Palestinians with blue ID cards (signifying their legal residence in Israel) go through the checkpoint in their cars.

Some people were told that they were forbidden to do so because their ID cards did not specify that they resided in Kafr Akab, Samir Amis or the village of Qalandiya, neighborhoods and villages annexed to Jerusalem's municipal area in 1967, but Qalandiya checkpoint is south of those places. Others were told they could not pass because the card said it was issued in "Jerusalem" and not "East Jerusalem." Some said they were not allowed through, but that relatives or neighbors, with the exact same details in their ID cards, were allowed through.

However, pedestrians were not prevented from passing through the checkpoint on their way to Ramallah. Usually, the soldiers do not examine the documents of those heading north, toward Ramallah, only those heading south, into Jerusalem.

The YNet site, which reported on January 13 about how thousands of people were being denied entry to the West Bank, also reported that the IDF said it was a mistake made by a group of new reservists manning the checkpoint, who did not know that an order issued at the start of the intifada preventing Israelis from entering Area A does not cover Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. But in response to a question from Haaretz, the IDF Spokesman said on January 18 that the soldiers' behavior at the checkpoint was in accordance with the order.

Hadash MK Ahmed Tibi, who tried to find out the reason for the change, also encountered contradictory explanations. He said that he was first told by the Central Command that there are no new orders. On the day YNet published its report, East Jerusalemites were still not allowed to pass through the checkpoint in their cars. Tibi called the command to ask about the rule and was told they were certain there was no problem to get through. But after further clarification, someone in the command mentioned the general's original order banning Israelis from Palestinian-controlled Area A. Tibi said that the Palestinians were residents, not citizens, and his interlocutor, he says, answered - after further clarification - that "the rules for Israeli citizens cover the Jerusalem residents, who have blue ID cards."

Last week, the soldiers were allowing East Jerusalemites to get through the checkpoint in their cars. According to Machsom Watch activists, they understood from Edelstein that meanwhile the army would be allowing travelers through, until the barrier is completed and the checkpoint is moved to its permanent place.

The IDF Spokesman confirmed that with the end of "the construction of the security fence in the Jerusalem area, slated for July 2005, the Qalandiya checkpoint will undergo changes and improvements ... holders of Israeli ID cards who want to go through the checkpoint will be required to have permits to enter Area A ... Residents of Samir Amis, Kafr Akab and Ein Umm a Srait, whose residents have Israeli ID cards, will be allowed to reach their homes beyond the checkpoint without the need for permits to enter Area A."

The spokesman did not refer to the fact that so far the order regarding entry to Ramallah has not been applied to Palestinians from East Jerusalem. According to the spokesman, residents of East Jerusalem with blue ID cards "who want to enter Ramallah will be required to have permits to enter Area A, like all Israeli citizens." Nowadays, if an Israeli wants to enter Area A, he must contact the public ombudsman in the central command.

The Qalandiya checkpoint is not on the Green Line between Israel and the West Bank, but inside the West Bank on the Jerusalem-Ramallah road, in a narrow strip north of Jerusalem that was annexed to Israel in 1967.

The neighborhood of A Ram, south of the checkpoint and east of the road, is in the West Bank, as are the villages to the west - Bir Naballah, Jib, Biddu and other villages. The Atarot industrial zone, also west of the road, was annexed to Israel.

North of the checkpoint, the road to Ramallah is Israeli territory, as are those parts of the Qalandiya village west of the road and some of the houses in the Qalandiya refugee camp, east of the road. So are the villages/neighborhoods of Samir Amis, Kafr Akab, and Ein Umm a Srait, whose residents pay city taxes to Jerusalem and theoretically are supposed to get services from Jerusalem.

The barrier now cuts the A Ram-Qalandiya road, and surrounds all of Qalandiya. A series of tunnels are supposed to be built to serve the villagers in the area who want to reach Qalandiya.

Israelis and settlers will take a raised highway that is meant to connect the settlements of Givat Ze'ev, which is west of Ramallah, to the settlements to the east of the Palestinian city, such as Geva Binyamin, Beit El, Ofra and Ma'aleh Adumim.

posted by Somebody @ 10:41 PM Permanent Link 0 comments


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