Hamas is not above murdering its enemies

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem rightly condemns the thuggish behaviour of Hamas:

B’Tselem strongly condemns the execution today of two Palestinians convicted of collaboration with Israel, by the Hamas government in Gaza. The death penalty is immoral and violates the basic right to life of every human being. B’Tselem holds that under no circumstance must it be imposed.

In addition to objection in principle to the death penalty, today’s execution was based on a trial that did not meet even minimal standards of due process. Gazans charged with collaboration are unable to mount a proper defense or to appeal the verdicts and punishments imposed upon them.

Today’s execution is the first official execution in Gaza since Hamas’ takeover. Reports by media and Palestinian human rights groups indicate that 14 people were sentenced to death in Gazan military courts in 2009 for collaboration with Israel, treason and murder.

Additionally, according to Human Rights Watch, during Operation Cast Lead, 32 Palestinians were executed without trial by Palestinian armed groups apparently associated with Hamas, for allegedly providing Israel with information.

Twitter will now never be forgotten

Just how many Tweets are really worth remembering?

If you tweet this, it will be in the Library of Congress, which said Tuesday it has acquired every public tweet since Twitter’s service started four years ago.
The Library of Congress put it simply today in its own tweet, “Library acquires ENTIRE Twitter archive. ALL tweets.”
Twitter processes more than 50 million tweets every day, which means billions of tweets are being archived. Personal, direct messages on Twitter will not be archived.
The library insists it will emphasize tweets with “scholarly and research implications.” Among those highlighted by the Library:
The first-ever tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.
President Obama’s tweet about winning the 2008 election.

What to do in Palestine in June

Goldstone barred from his grandson’s bar-mitzvah

Almost comical and yet utterly parochial and pathetic:

Judge Richard Goldstone, who authored a damning report accusing Israel of committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip, has reportedly been banned by pro-Israel activists from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah in his native South Africa.
According to the report circulating on Web logs, the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in Sandton reached an agreement with the Goldstone family under which the judge would not be permitted to attend the synagogue service in Johannesburg next month.
“We understand there’s a bar mitzvah boy involved – we’re very sensitive to the issues; at this stage there?s nothing further to say,” the Writing Rights blog quoted the SAZF chairman Avrom Krenge as saying.”
The Zionist federation was “coming across most forcefully because we represent Israel,” the blog quoted Krenge as saying.
The head of South Africa’s Beth Din – or Jewish religious court – told the blog the court had not been officially involved in the matter, but that he supported the move as it spoke to the sentiments of many in the community and could prevent potential “unpleasantness.”
“I know that there was a very strong feeling in the shul, a lot of anger,” the blog quoted Rosh Beth Din Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag as saying. “I heard also that the SAZF wanted to organize a protest outside the shul – [there were] all kinds of plans. But I think reason prevailed.”
According to the blog, Kurstag said he believed Goldstone had done “a tremendous disservice not only to Israel but to the Jewish world. His name is used by hostile elements in the world against Israel and this can increase anti-Semitic waves.”

The Israel lobby gets a lot for its money

How the American Zionist lobby works.
Example one:

More than three quarters of the U.S. Senate, including 38 Democrats, have signed on to a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton implicitly rebuking the Obama Administration for its confrontational stance toward Israel.
The letter, backed by the pro-Israel group AIPAC, now has the signatures of 76 Senators and says in part:
“We recognize that our government and the Government of Israel will not always agree on particular issues in the peace process. But such differences are best resolved amicably and in a manner that befits longstanding strategic allies. We must never forget the depth and breadth of our alliance and always do our utmost to reinforce a relationship that has benefited both nations for more than six decades.”
A similar letter garnered 333 signatures in the House, and its support marks almost unified Republican support for Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, along with strong, but more divided, public Democratic discomfort with Obama’s policies in the region.

Example two:

Editor’s Note: When U.S.-Israel relations hit a rough patch, there are those who quickly blame Israel for America’s difficulties abroad. Israel has outrageously been blamed for endangering American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, and erroneously been blamed for preventing the formation of an Arab coalition to work with the US to contain Iran.
While we recognize, as Gen. Petraeus did, that American support for Israel is used by our adversaries to foment anti-Americanism, we also recognize that the important countries of the region won’t like us any better if we shed Israel as an ally. They will wonder how quickly we will shed THEM when they are inconvenient.
The correct response to those who denigrate the U.S.-Israel relationship, is to note that Israel is a friend by virtue of shared civic and political values and a security asset upon which the United States can rely.
For nearly 30 years, JINSA [The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs] has been taking recently retired American Admirals and Generals to Israel to better understand the threats Israel faces, the resources it brings to its own defense and ways in which the U.S. and Israel can cooperate on common security issues.
Their understanding of the role of Israel is in the ad below. JINSA is working to place the ad in newspapers (Jewish and other) around the country to ensure that Americans (Jewish and other) hear these voices. You can help spread the word by making a contribution to JINSA – clicking below.
We, the undersigned, have traveled to Israel over the years with The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). We brought with us our decades of military experience and, following unrestricted access to Israel’s civilian and military leaders, came away with the unswerving belief that the security of the State of Israel is a matter of great importance to the United States and its policy in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.
A strong, secure Israel is an asset upon which American military planners and political leaders can rely. Israel is a democracy – a rare and precious commodity in the region – and Israel shares our commitment to freedom, personal liberty and rule of law.
Throughout our travels and our talks, the determination of Israelis to protect their country and to pursue a fair and workable peace with their neighbors was clearly articulated. Thus we view the current tension between the United States and Israel with dismay and grave concern that political differences may be allowed to outweigh our larger mutual interests.
As American defense professionals, we view events in the Middle East through the prism of American security interests.
The United States and Israel established security cooperation during the Cold War, and today the two countries face the common threat of terrorism by those who fear freedom and liberty. Historically close cooperation between the United States. and Israel at all levels including the IDF, military research and development, shared intelligence and bilateral military training exercises enhances the security of both countries. American police and law enforcement officials have reaped the benefit of close cooperation with Israeli professionals in the areas of domestic counter-terrorism practices and first response to terrorist attacks.
Israel and the United States are drawn together by shared values and shared threats to our well-being.
The proliferation of weapons and nuclear technology across the Middle East and Asia, and the ballistic missile technology to deliver systems across wide areas require cooperation in intelligence, technology and security policy. Terrorism, as well as the origins of financing, training and executing terrorist acts, need to be addressed multilaterally when possible.
The dissemination of hatred and support of terrorism by violent extremists in the name of Islam, whether state or non-state actors, must be addressed as a threat to global peace.
In the Middle East, a volatile region so vital to U.S. interests, it would be foolish to disengage – or denigrate – an ally such as Israel.
Rear Admiral Charles Beers, USN (ret.)
General William Begert, USAF (ret.)
Rear Admiral Stanley W. Bryant, USN (ret.)
Lieutenant General Anthony Burshnick, USAF (ret.)
Lieutenant General Paul Cerjan, USA (ret.)
Admiral Leon Edney, USN (ret.)
Brigadier General William F. Engel, USA (ret.)
Major General Bobby Floyd, USAF (ret.)
Major General Paul Fratarangelo, USMC (ret.)
Major General David Grange, USA (ret.)
Lieutenant General Tom Griffin, USA (ret.)
Lieutenant General Earl Hailston, USMC (ret.)
Lieutenant General John Hall, USAF (ret.)
General Alfred Hansen, USAF (ret.)
Rear Admiral James Hinkle, USN (ret.)
General Hal Hornburg, USAF (ret.)
Major General James T. Jackson, USA (ret.)
Admiral Jerome Johnson, USN (ret.)
Rear Admiral Herb Kaler, USN (ret.)
Vice Admiral Bernard Kauderer, USN (ret.)
General William F. Kernan, USA (ret.)
Major General Homer Long, USA (ret.)
Major General Jarvis Lynch, USMC (ret.)
General Robert Magnus, USMC (ret.)
Lieutenant General Charles May, Jr., USAF (ret.)
Vice Admiral Martin Mayer, USN (ret.)
Major General Fred McCorkle, USMC (ret.)
Rear Admiral Mark Milliken, USN (ret.)
Major General William Moore, USA (ret.)
Lieutenant General Carol Mutter, USMC (ret.)
Major General Larry T. Northington, USAF (ret.)
Lieutenant General Tad Oelstrom, USAF (ret.)
Major General James D. Parker, USA (ret.)
Vice Admiral J. T. Parker, USN (ret.)
Major General Robert Patterson, USAF (ret.)
Vice Admiral James Perkins, USN (ret.)
Rear Admiral Brian Peterman, USCG (ret.)
Lieutenant General Alan V. Rogers, USAF (ret.)
Rear Admiral Richard Rybacki, USCG (ret.)
General Crosbie Saint, USA (ret.)
Rear Admiral Norm Saunders, USCG (ret.)
Major General Sid Shachnow, USA (ret.)
Rear Admiral Jeremy Taylor, USN (ret.)
Major General Larry Taylor, USMCR (ret.)
Lieutenant General Lanny Trapp, USAF (ret.)
Vice Admiral Jerry O. Tuttle, USN (ret.)
General Louis Wagner, USA (ret.)
Rear Admiral Thomas Wilson, USN (ret.)
Lieutenant General Robert Winglass, USMC (ret.)
Rear Admiral Guy Zeller, USN (ret.)

Australia is violating its moral and legal code over asylum seekers

Human Rights Watch slams the Australian government over its latest refugee stance in a letter to Immigration Minister Chris Evans:

Dear Mr. Evans,
We write to you to express our deep concerns that changes to Australia’s asylum processing system announced on April 8, 2010 violate Australia’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol not to discriminate in the treatment of refugees. As Article 3 of the Refugee Convention states: “The Contracting Parties shall apply the provisions of this Convention to refugees without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin.”
You announced on April 8 that Australia has suspended the processing of new asylum applications from Sri Lankan and Afghan nationals effective immediately because the situations in both Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are “evolving.” Human Rights Watch closely monitors the human rights situation in both countries and our research shows that conditions in both countries are such that individuals returned will still be vulnerable to persecution and lack adequate protection.
More fundamentally, this suspension deprives asylum seekers of their right to seek asylum from persecution, as guaranteed by article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
While it is accepted international practice in the event of mass influxes for host countries to suspend individual asylum adjudications for the purpose of providing temporary protection on a blanket basis to nationals of countries experiencing armed violence and other generalized conditions that make return dangerous, beneficiaries of temporary protection regimes are normally accorded rights and benefits consistent with their need for protection.
Australia’s suspension of asylum procedures purportedly because conditions in the country of origin have improved and because, according to the government announcement, “it is likely, in the future, more asylum claims from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan will be refused,” is, as far as we know, unprecedented.
It is quite astounding that a presumption about future refusals based on how the situation might evolve in their home countries, will result in extending mandatory detention for members of these two nationality groups who arrive irregularly by boat, and will prevent other refugees from these nationalities from enjoying their rights and benefits as refugees because of the failure of the government to recognize their status.
Even in those circumstances where governments decide to lift temporary protection regimes because of improvements in human rights conditions in countries of origin, they must still provide individual asylum seekers from such countries the opportunity to claim an ongoing need for protection and to examine those individual claims.
To suspend asylum processing for two nationalities by suggesting that more of their refugee claims will be refused in the future while continuing to examine the claims of members of all other nationality groups is discriminatory on its face.
While asylum procedures are suspended for Afghans and Sri Lankans because the situations in their countries are “evolving,” asylum procedures will apparently keep apace for nationals of countries that are not evolving, including countries that have produced far fewer refugees than either Afghanistan or Sri Lanka.
With respect to Afghanistan, your statement on April 8 makes a blanket presumption of safety when it suggested that, “The Taliban’s fall, durable security in parts of the country, and constitutional and legal reform to protect minorities rights have improved the circumstances of Afghanistan’s minorities, including Afghan Hazaras.”
Our research shows, however, that the human rights situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, with a growing insurgency, continued impunity making justice elusive for vast numbers of Afghans, and egregious violations of the human rights of women.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the most common types of claims in Afghanistan are (i) persons perceived as contravening Sharia law or persons who are members of minority religious groups; (ii) ethnic minority groups; (iii) persons associated with or perceived as supporting the government, including civil society members; (iv) actual or perceived supporters of armed anti-government groups; (v) journalists; (vi) persons associated with the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan or other left-aligned political parties; (vii) women; (viii) children; and (ix) persons at risk of becoming victims of blood feuds.
The armed conflict in Afghanistan continues to intensify, and despite more efforts to reduce civilian casualties by international military forces, the presence of large additional numbers of foreign forces and increased military operations may result in higher civilian casualties.
Insurgent groups often conduct indiscriminate attacks, which results in the majority of civilian deaths. They have been found to use civilian shielding, abductions and arbitrary detention, torture, and cruel methods of killing including beheadings. The number of targeted assassinations continues to rise, directed at civilians in the local population who are seen to be associated with the government or international military.
2009 saw the highest number of civilians killed in the conflict-2412, according to figures from the UN’s mission in Afghanistan. Preliminary figures from the first two months of 2010 show significantly more civilian deaths than in the same period last year.
Afghan women face additional threats, intimidation, and sometimes assassinations. Several prominent women in public life have been killed, including provincial councilor Sitara Achakzai, who was shot dead in April 2009. The government has not prosecuted anyone for her murder, or for the September 2008 murder of Malalai Kakar, the former police commander in Kandahar.
Ethnic and religious minorities remain at risk of persecution, particularly in areas of the country where the insurgency is strong. Journalists face threats and intimidation from the insurgents, the government, warlords and other regional strongmen. Civil society activists and human rights defenders are also subject to regular threats and attacks.
The government is unable to offer protection to civilians in conflict areas, but also in significant areas of the country where warlords and other regional strongmen retain control. In these areas there are reports of the use of private jails, threats, intimidation, land grabbing, gang rape, and murder.
The Afghan government itself is responsible for serious rights violations, including the use of torture in detention, particularly in the hands of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the intelligence service. In December 2009 Abdul Basir died while in an NDS detention facility. The NDS said that he committed suicide by jumping out of a window while under interrogation; his family believe his death was the result of torture.
Women and girls continue to face egregious human rights violations. The UN estimates that more than 70 percent of marriages are forced, and that more than half involve girls younger than 16. Sexual violence, honor killings, and domestic violence are also prevalent problems.
There is little recourse for women in either formal or customary justice mechanisms. In tribal areas, use of customary law may leave women and girls treated as property, or forced into marriage as compensation for crimes (baad).
In 2009 the parliament and President Hamid Karzai adopted a personal status law for Shia Muslim women that codified discriminatory customs that require wives to seek their husbands’ permission before leaving home, grant child custody rights only to male relatives, and permit a husband to cease maintenance to his wife if she does not meet her marital duties, including sexual duties.
Whether for forced marriage, violence, or discrimination under customary law, women and girls face significant obstacles to seeking help from the government, including lack of information and access, severe social stigma, poor training of police and judges, and the risk of imprisonment for breaking social norms.
Sri Lanka
While your April 8 statement correctly identifies certain areas of progress with regards to return of displaced persons and conditions in the camps in northern Sri Lanka, it fails to recognize that certain groups in Sri Lanka remain extremely vulnerable to persecution and might have a valid claim for asylum.
Since the January presidential elections, the authorities have arrested, harassed, and intimidated journalists and media workers, civil society activists and opposition party members and supporters. Journalists and opposition supporters have also been physically attacked and threatened. One journalist critical of the government remains missing after he disappeared two days before the election.
Another particularly vulnerable group is people suspected of having been involved with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Almost a year since the end of the conflict that resulted in the LTTE’s defeat, the government still maintains a state of emergency, giving security forces broad powers to detain suspects without complying with due process guarantees.
More than 9,000 people, whom the government detained from among the internally displaced, are being held in so-called rehabilitation centers on suspicion of involvement with the LTTE. Human Rights Watch research has shown that the government has deprived many of these detainees of their right to a lawyer and the right to have a court review the legality of their detention, giving rise to concerns that some detainees might have been ill-treated or subjected to enforced disappearance.
While we recognize the Australian government’s desire to tackle the problem of “people smuggling,” an asylum seeker’s turn to a smuggler to escape persecution has no bearing over the validity of his or her refugee claim. As we show, the human rights conditions in both countries are far from stable, and in some cases asylum seekers may resort to being smuggled, taking great personal risk in doing so, in order to flee persecution.
We find the government’s April 8 announcement of the suspension of asylum procedures, jointly with the announcement of its enhanced measures to stop people smuggling, to insinuate criminality on the part of all asylum seekers.
To imply that the suspension of asylum processing will in some way thwart people smuggling fundamentally confuses those who profit from-and in the case of human traffickers, prey upon-asylum seekers with asylum seekers themselves who need protection. Doing so tars the victims with the stigma of the crimes committed against them.
We also understand that irregular migration is a sensitive issue in Australia, particularly in an election year. When the Labor government came to power in 2007, it reversed some of the previous government’s policies that undermined basic rights of refugees, such as ending the policy of mandatory detention of all asylum seekers, ending the “Pacific Solution” use of Nauru and Manus islands to detain asylum seekers, and replacing the temporary visa protection scheme with permanent protection for recognized refugees.
This won your government immediate respect internationally by showing its commitment to uphold international human rights standards. However, current Australian policy states that all asylum seekers who arrive by boat remain subjected to mandatory detention and most are sent to Christmas Island. Because of the suspension of their asylum claims Afghans and Sri Lankans, including children, who newly and irregularly arrive by boat, will be made to endure the hardship of additional months of detention, regardless of the merits of their refugee claims.
We ask you to maintain the standards your government pledged to uphold when it came into power by continuing to screen asylum seekers from any country where they may risk persecution.
UNHCR guidelines on detention of asylum seekers hold that as a general principle “asylum seekers should not be detained” and that “for detention of asylum seekers to be lawful and not arbitrary, it must comply not only with applicable national law, but with Article 31 of the Convention and international law.
It must be exercised in a non-discriminatory manner and must be subject to judicial or administrative review.” We are particularly concerned that Australia’s mandatory detention of maritime asylum seekers arriving irregularly, in effect, penalizes them for their method of arrival in contravention of Article 31 of the Refugee Convention.
The mandatory detention of all new irregular boat arrivals from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka claiming asylum, including children, also violates Australia’s responsibilities under the 2005 Migration Act and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which under article 37 permits the detention of children “only as a measure of last resort.”
We strongly believe that in the Asia-Pacific region, where many countries have not even ratified the Refugee Convention, Australia should set a positive example by showing that it takes its human rights obligations seriously by upholding international standards rather than undermining them.
We look forward to your response and would be happy to discuss these matters further at your convenience.

Wannabe Zionist leader funding jazz in Australia

International law should apply to despots and Israelis

George Monbiot, in a typically concise column, asks when the most powerful in society – from the Pope to the Israelis and oil companies – will be treated equally before international law and tried in a court of law:

There’s a promise implicit in international law: the end of the age of exceptions.

Israel isn’t a normal country, tell the OECD

A letter that anybody can and should send to a country representative of the OECD:

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is scheduled to convene in May 2010 in order to take a formal decision on Israel’s application for membership in the Organization. A vote for Israel’s accession to the OECD will be regarded by people of conscience around the world as a decisive and far-reaching act of complicity in rewarding and perpetuating Israel’s occupation, colonization and apartheid against the Palestinian people.
Furthermore, it will irreparably undermine the rule of law and further entrench the culture of impunity that has enabled Israel to escalate its commission of war crimes and what is described by some leading international law experts as a prelude to genocide against Palestinians in the illegally besieged and occupied Gaza Strip.
We call on you to ensure that Israel will not be admitted into the OECD by casting a vote against Israel’s accession in the final review of its application in May. Membership in the OECD will intensely fuel Israel’s militarism, belligerence and aggression, further destabilizing the entire region, undermining security as well as social, political and economic development and making the quest for a just peace an unattainable goal.
We deplore the OECD’s persistent disregard of evidence submitted by human rights and civil society organizations in process of examination of Israel’s membership application1. We further deplore the decision by the OECD to consider Israel’s inability to provide economic statistics which distinguish between the state of Israel and the Palestinian and Syrian territories it occupies as not constituting and obstacle to Israel’s OECD accession2.
We affirm that the OECD becomes complicit in Israel’s unlawful acts, if the Organization fails to address – despite ample evidence – Israel’s reality as an oppressive occupying and colonizing power in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip and continues to ignore Israel’s system of institutionalized racial discrimination which is the root cause of the extreme poverty among its Palestinian citizens highlighted in OECD reports.
Israel, like all other states, is to be held accountable to the standards of international law and universal human rights and must respect them before it can be welcomed as a member in the OECD. Respect and compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law is a requirement for members under OECD instruments.
The 1960 OECD Convention, for example, affirms that “economic strength and prosperity are essential for the attainment of the purposes of the United Nations, the preservation of individual liberty and the increase of general well-being.” In the “Road Map for the accession of Israel to the OECD Convention” adopted by the Council in November 2007, the Council noted that in order for Israel to accede to the OECD it must demonstrate its commitment to “fundamental values” shared by all OECD members and meet related benchmarks.
The stated OECD values include “a commitment to pluralist democracy based on the rule of law and the respect of human rights, adherence to open and transparent market economy principles and a shared goal of sustainable development.”
Condemned as a state that is practicing occupation, colonization and apartheid by a recent authoritative legal study in South Africa supervised by international law expert and former UN human rights rapporteur, Prof. John Dugard, Israel is not in compliance with international law and OECD standards and benchmarks3.
Israel has yet to comply with the recommendations of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict and investigate and prosecute where needed those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity that resulted in the death of more than 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, in the winter of 2008/9. Israel has yet to lift its illegal blockade of the occupied Gaza Strip which has brought to the brink of starvation almost 1.5 million Palestinians, most of whom are refugees Israel had displaced and dispossessed back in 1948.
It has yet to dismantle its illegal Wall in the occupied Palestinian West Bank in accordance with the 2004 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion. Israel has yet to end its almost 43-year-old occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, reverse its colonial enterprise and release Palestinians detained and imprisoned.
It has yet to transform its political and legal system in order to provide reparation for millions of Palestinian victims, including return for the refugees, and allow full and equal participation of its Palestinian citizens. Only then will Israel meet the standards of pluralist democracies valued by the OECD.
We reiterate concerns expressed on numerous occasions to the OECD by human rights and civil society organizations and call upon our government to say no to Israel’s bid for membership in the OECD.

It takes 500 IDF officers to kill one Arab?

Russia Today TV provides a report on the Anat Kamm-Uri Blau affair:

See: www.antonyloewenstein.com

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