The Zionism is sick department

Posted: 17 Jun 2010

This is the state of public Zionism. J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami and Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg talk in New York this week and fear the “demographic challenge” to the Jewish state. Yes, polite language for Palestinians campaigning for one person, one vote.

On the more paranoid side, the Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick says that America has abandoned Israel and joined the side of terrorists:

Led by US President Barack Obama, the West has cast its lot with Hamas. It is not surprising that Obama is siding with Hamas. His close associates are leading members of the pro-Hamas Free Gaza outfit.

Hizbollah being part of the furniture

Posted: 17 Jun 2010

The new law of the Middle East; the harder you’re hit by Israel the more popular and resilient you’ll become:

Hezbollah has opened its first permanent museum atop a wooded hill here that was strategic territory in a 2006 war with Israel, the latest step in the group’s evolution from a band of militants to an established political force in Lebanon.

Since its birth in 1982 as an Islamic militia fighting Israel’s invasion of the country, Hezbollah has transformed itself into a powerful military, political and social organization. It controls a large swath of southern Lebanon, much of the Bekaa Valley and the southern suburbs of Beirut.

Now, in addition to significant political leverage, Hezbollah also has a sprawling 15-acre, $4 million tourism complex. Hezbollah opened the park in late May, marking the 10th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

A walking trek called “the Path” is the centerpiece, winding along a what was once Hezbollah’s front line against Israel during the occupation. It is peppered with artillery shells of various sizes, along with mockups with mannequin Hezbollah fighters crouched, glaring out through the brush, or receiving medical treatment.

From inside a 600-foot-long tunnel, visitors can peer through glass at some of Hezbollah’s former underground hideouts. The fortifications were closely guarded secrets until recently, and key to some of Hezbollah’s recent operations, including its fight with Israel in a brief 2006 war along the southern border.

To manage the new museum and other planned sites, Hezbollah is creating its own museum department, adding to its other divisions, which include radio and TV stations.

“It shows that the resistance is more stable,” said Muhammad Kawtharani, director of Hezbollah’s arts foundation and a spokesman for the Mlita museum project. “You’re seeing a secret that is a secret no more.”

Help, we’re drowning here in Obama hatred

Posted: 17 Jun 2010

Yiron Festinger, in Israel’s major paper Yediot, offers some increasingly comical Israel Derangement Syndrome:

Prime Minister Netanyahu should not be envied over the challenge posed by the most hostile president in US history; a president who makes the anti-Semite Jimmy Carter look like a Righteous Gentile. However, we should be calling a spade a spade and informing the public of the truth, even if this truth is disturbing, painful, and bitter. We must make it clear to our many supporters in the US that this president, by viewing America and its ally Israel as the reason for all the world’s problems, threatens our very existence here.

Gaza siege continues

Posted: 17 Jun 2010

Such generosity to get the world off Israel’s back. It may work but it shouldn’t. Note what is now being allowed into Gaza. Take towels, that massive security threat. Collective punishment with Western support:

Israel’s security cabinet voted Thursday to ease its land blockade of the Gaza Strip, following its deadly raid on a humanitarian aid flotilla bound for the Hamas-ruled territory.

“It was agreed to liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza [and] expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision,” the government said in a statement after the meeting.

The new Israeli-approved product list included all food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils, mattresses and towels, said Raed Fattouh, the Palestinian coordinator of supplies to the enclave.

The decision does not affect Israel’s sea blockade of the coastal strip or its ban on the private import of building materials, vital to widescale reconstruction after the December 2008-January 2009 war in the Gaza Strip. Hamas called the Israeli measures “media propaganda”.

Lebanon may soon treat Palestinians with respect

Posted: 17 Jun 2010

The Arab world has tolerated Palestinian refugees for decades but often treated them with contempt; this must change and soon. Here’s a possible shift:

Despite some contentious rhetoric in Parliament on Tuesday, a turning point appears to have arrived in a decades-long battle to secure sufficient political backing to approve key civil rights for Palestinians here, a number of officials and analysts told The Daily Star on Wednesday.

Parliament on Tuesday debated bills that would allow Palestinians to own property, get work permits in any profession and receive social-security payments; deputies decided to send the draft laws to a committee for further discussion, but MPs from across the political spectrum expressed their support for Palestinians’ human rights, although some Christian legislators warned against the naturalization of the refugees.

In spite of the undying bogeyman of naturalization fears, Parliament will likely soon ratify an expansion of Palestinians’ civil rights, said Hilal Khashan, who teaches political studies at the American University of Beirut and is of Palestinian descent.

“We’re witnessing a period where a breakthrough is in the making,” he said. “The time has arrived now for such an action. They might water it down, but the momentum is there.”

Zionist exclusion

Posted: 17 Jun 2010

The Middle East’s only democracy“:

Ultra-Orthodox Jews have called mass demonstrations to protest a Supreme Court ruling forcing the integration of a religious girls’ school.

Parents of European, or Ashkenazi, descent don’t want their children studying with schoolgirls of Mideast and North African descent, known as Sephardim.

The Ashkenazi parents insist they aren’t racist. They say they want the classrooms segregated because the families of the Sephardim girls aren’t religious enough.

Parents who defy the ruling are to be imprisoned Thursday for two weeks for contempt of court.

Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews are expected to attend protests in various places across the country. Police say thousands of officers are being deployed to secure the demonstrations.

The day we’ll see an Israeli leader in the dock

Posted: 16 Jun 2010

A surprising result in the US and one that should be welcomed. For too long, Western leaders have enjoyed impunity simply because of their birthplace or connections. Let justice be served:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, not  all former foreign officials living in the United States can claim immunity from prosecution in U.S. Courts.  Its decision could have an immediate impact on Israelis.

‘Sovereign immunity’ offers states protection from lawsuits in another country’s courts, based on the principle that disputes between nations should be resolved by diplomacy, not litigation.

Victims of the Somali regime recently filed a civil lawsuit against Mohamed Ali Samantar, who 20 years ago, had served as Somalia’s prime minister, vice president, and defense minister.

The plaintiffs claimed that Samantar had been responsible for their torture, as well as other human rights violations. Their allegations included torture during interrogations, imprisonment for years without trial and rape by their prison guards. They based their suit on federal laws aimed at protecting foreign torture victims, allowing foreign citizens to claim for damages in American courts.

In his defense, Samantar claimed that as he was a minister in Somalia’s cabinet at the time of the alleged crimes, he was immune from civil lawsuits in the U.S. A district federal court upheld his argument, and the suit was thrown out.

The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act did not apply to specific foreign government officials, effectively revoking Samantar’s immunity.

The former Somali PM was then granted a rare second appeal from the Supreme Court, questioning whether or not the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act could in fact be applied to individual officials.

But the Supreme Court effectively rejected Samantar’s claims, leaving only a narrow opportunity to gain immunity nonetheless. From the ruling’s wording, it seems the court did not feel that this loophole would benefit Samantar’s cause.

In recent years there have been two failed attempts to prosecute Israeli officials in the U.S. In 2007, Palestinians filed a lawsuit against former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter, claiming he was responsible for the deaths of their relatives after an Israeli plane dropped a one-ton bomb on their Gaza home. A  federal court said  Dichter had functioned within his official duties, ruling him immune.

Another 2007 lawsuit accused former Israel Defense Forces chief Moshe Ya’alon of war crimes over the 1996 bombing of a United Nations camp in the Lebanese town of Kfar Kana, in which a number of civilians wer killed. But Ya’alon too was ruled immune from litigation, with appeals at federal level also rejected.

This week’s ruling could now result in a wave of lawsuits against foreign officials. So far, 36 separate civilians lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. against various foreign officials, all of which were denied. The list of counties whose officials had been prosecuted includes Israel, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Jordan, Japan, and France.

Israeli officials could conceivably defend themselves from civil lawsuits in the U.S. by claiming their actions should be considered an “act of state” – a defense relying on the principle that each country may handle affairs within its jurisdiction without intervention from foreign states.

The problem with this line of defense is that as opposed to relying on the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, the claim of a “state act” recognizes the court’s authority while seeking protection regarding a specific claim. The risk of that is that senior officials would have to explain their motivation for their actions to the court.

Dreaming of a one-state possibility

Posted: 16 Jun 2010

What would a single state look like in Israel/Palestine?

Turning off the web

Posted: 16 Jun 2010

As we learn that the Australian government is trying to force web companies to store the history of internet users, America is considering going down a path that is almost inevitable. Being able to harness the internet, a medium that loves to give the finger to regulation (hello Wikileaks), frustrates those who want to control information:

A new US Senate Bill would grant the President far-reaching emergency powers to seize control of, or even shut down, portions of the internet.

The legislation says that companies such as broadband providers, search engines or software firms that the US Government selects “shall immediately comply with any emergency measure or action developed” by the Department of Homeland Security. Anyone failing to comply would be fined.

That emergency authority would allow the Federal Government to “preserve those networks and assets and our country and protect our people,” Joe Lieberman, the primary sponsor of the measure and the chairman of the Homeland Security committee, told reporters on Thursday. Lieberman is an independent senator from Connecticut who meets with the Democrats.

Due to there being few limits on the US President’s emergency power, which can be renewed indefinitely, the densely worded 197-page Bill (PDF) is likely to encounter stiff opposition.

TechAmerica, probably the largest US technology lobby group, said it was concerned about “unintended consequences that would result from the legislation’s regulatory approach” and “the potential for absolute power”. And the Center for Democracy and Technology publicly worried that the Lieberman Bill’s emergency powers “include authority to shut down or limit internet traffic on private systems.”

The idea of an internet “kill switch” that the President could flip is not new. A draft Senate proposal that ZDNet Australia’s sister site CNET obtained in August allowed the White House to “declare a cybersecurity emergency”, and another from Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) would have explicitly given the government the power to “order the disconnection” of certain networks or websites.

On Thursday, both senators lauded Lieberman’s Bill, which is formally titled Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, or PCNAA. Rockefeller said “I commend” the drafters of the PCNAA. Collins went further, signing up at a co-sponsor and saying at a press conference that “we cannot afford to wait for a cyber 9/11 before our government realises the importance of protecting our cyber resources”.

The Gulf of Mexico isn’t for public eyes

Posted: 16 Jun 2010

Here’s the future. A disaster happens. Public scrutiny is essential. Media must be allowed in. But who is really colluding here?

BP, in a move destined to go down as one of the bestest public relations moves ever, has apparently hired a private security company to help to keep pesky reporters from covering the unfolding catastrophe on the beaches of the Gulf Coast. The report comes via New Orleans’ 6WDSU reporter Scott Walker, who last week ran into representatives of a “Talon Security” trying to block him from interviewing cleanup workers on a local beach. Just which of the various companies named “Talon Security” is storming the (public) beaches for BP, however, remains unclear.

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time a private security firm made an appearance in a Gulf disaster. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the Department of Homeland Security and a number of private firms, fearful of reported widespread violence and chaos, turned to private security contractors like Blackwater and ArmorGroup International to protect their property.

So take heart, Blackwater. BP may have opted rent the services of a rival instead of purchasing you wholesale, but disasters are fairly regular occurrences and there seems to be no shortage of companies willing to make ill-considered PR moves in their midst.

See: www.antonyloewenstein.com

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