Dorothy Online Newsletter

Dear Friends,
As you may well guess, the focus of the international press today is on Egypt and then on Iran and Syria.  Very little about Israel.  And what there is, is not essential.  For news about what is really happening in the West Bank, Gaza, and even in Israel, see item 3, ‘Today in Palestine.  It also contains one of the op-eds that I had planned to include: Akiva Eldar’s ‘Palestinian disinheritance sponsored by Oslo.’  I highly recommend it.
Of the 5 remaining items below (in addition to ‘Today in Palestine’), 2 are pertinent to matters in Israel and Palestine.  The others are of interest (at least I find them to be), but do not add much to our knowledge about key issues here.
Item 1, “The National Service Bluff” is the view of a Palestinian citizen of Israel on Israel’s attempt to force National Service down the throats of Palestinian citizens in place of military service (which they are not obligated to do).  But, as the writer says, before anything can be expected of citizens, the nation first has the responsibility of tending to its citizens, which is lacking also for many Jewish citizens, but especially for Palestinian citizens of Israel.  The writer writes with tongue in cheek, but not entirely.  There is truth in the complaint that Israel cannot force Palestinians to ‘serve’ the State until it serves them.
Item 2 is a review of soldier’s testimonies in Breaking the Silence (an Israeli organization), relating a few of them—enough of them to give  the reader a taste of what Israeli soldiers do in the West Bank (and of course in Gaza, when they are there).
Item 3 is ‘Today in Palestine.’
Item 4 is an interview with Daniel Barenboim, “The Germans are prisoners of their past.”
Item 5 is about Leila Khaled’s part in the struggle for Palestinian liberation, and why she has become a Palestinian icon.
Finally, item 6 is about the US rather than about matters here. But had its author, Jimmy Carter, not made clear that he was speaking of the United States in his complaint, ‘A cruel and unusual record,’ one could easily have presumed that Carter was referring to Israel.
All the best,
1 Haaretz
Monday, June 25, 2012
The national service bluff
Even military service will not make the Arabs equal – while with the ultra-Orthodox, even evasion of service does not prevent them from enjoying economic privileges.
By Oudeh Basharat
In my innocence, I thought that any minute now the compulsory service by Druze Arabs would be abolished. There is a story about a young man who informed his father that he intended to get married. The father, who was constantly quarreling with his wife, started to yell in anger: “Why are you talking about weddings? If the situation here doesn’t improve, I’ll divorce your mother!”
Therefore, before national service is imposed on the Arabs, it would be a good idea first to hear from those who have undergone the exciting experience. In a survey carried out in the Druze community by Prof. Majid al-Haj and Dr. Nuhad Ali of the University of Haifa, 46.7 percent of the respondents said that their situation hadn’t changed as a result of the service, while 26.5 percent said that it was in fact worse than that of the other Arabs.
As for military service, the majority – some 64 percent – would either like it to become voluntary or to be canceled altogether (46.6 percent and 17.3 percent, respectively). This is how things look.
Even military service does not make the Arabs equal, while with the ultra-Orthodox, even evasion of service does not prevent them from enjoying economic privileges. Therefore before the Arabs are asked to change their approach to the state, the state must change its approach to the Arabs. And before national service is applied to the Arab population, they must first be enticed to serve.
And there are possibilities aplenty: For example, it is possible to inform the sons of those uprooted in 1948 that if they serve, their lands will be returned to them. Or to promise any village where the percentage of those serving is above 50 percent that land will be allocated to them for setting up an industrial zone. For purposes of morale, for example, it is possible to decide that the flag would include a Palestinian component – let’s say a kaffiyeh of the type worn by Yasser Arafat – and perhaps even a word like “biladi” (“my country” ), which is suitable for both nations, could be added to the national anthem.
Let them add some flesh to the proposals and not merely create much ado about nothing, or as Arabic expresses it so picturesquely: “A stormy funeral, but the deceased is a dog.” However, and more to the point: The Arabs need to do national service. This will strengthen their feeling of national belonging at the expense of ethnicity and clanship. After all, nothing bolsters group rights more than the service of people of the same society in their institutions. What is more educational and moral than youngsters serving on the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, in the local authorities, in Arab social organizations or in activities against uprooting illegal villages in the Negev? What will deepen awareness of Palestinian culture more than serving on Arab cultural organizations? What will contribute more to getting to know the land than volunteering to organize trips, including to destroyed villages? And serving in museums will contribute to understanding both sides in history.
Thank God, there are abundant ideas. Therefore the leadership of the Arab population should conduct an open discourse with the establishment on the subject and internalize the fact that for issuing an automatic “no,” there is no need for leadership.
The Arab leadership has the right and duty to demand complete partnership in the discourse about national service and to demand that nothing be instituted by coercion, just like the ultra-Orthodox.
But despite all the fuss, the whole idea of national service is one big bluff. At the time, this idea was cooked up in the kitchen of the Lapid committee, with the intention of thwarting the application of the recommendations of the Orr Commission [that investigated the deaths of 12 Arab citizens at the start of the second intifada]. And between us, does anyone think that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is keen to allocate hundreds of millions of shekels to a project in which Arab youngsters would get organized, even as a group in the Scouts, and will learn something about themselves and their society? Don’t make Avigdor Lieberman laugh!
2.  The Palestine Chronicle
Friday, June 22, 2012
Veteran Israeli Soldiers Speak out about Service
A group of veteran Israeli soldiers who served in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have spoken out on camera about their experiences in the army.
The Israeli organization Breaking the Silence has collected testimonies from 800 veteran Israeli soldiers who served in the West Bank and Gaza. In a new campaign, it has released video testimonies of six former soldiers describing their experiences.
Amit served in Ramallah, Hebron and the northern West Bank during the second intifada. He describes an incident in which an Israeli commander swung his rifle at the jaw of a Palestinian during a tense situation at a roadblock near Jerusalem.
“Beyond the fact that the guy fell to the ground, bleeding and screaming in pain, and of course all of the other Palestinians only grew angrier, it took us a long time to gain control of the mess and, of course, we had to more aggressive, cocking our weapons and such.”
He says witnessing first hand what goes on the West Bank shattered his worldview.
“Going from a place where I was sure that we are the scapegoat, the miserable ones being killed, I saw a reality that, most of the time, was the opposite.
“I saw me running after people, I saw myself pointing a gun at a 3-year-old girl, I saw me and my friends cuffing people, checking people, detaining people, questioning people, arresting people. In most cases, it was for nothing.”
Yehuda Shaul, one of the founders of Breaking the Silence, says he did everything he was required to as a fighter — and later a commander — in the Israeli army.
“If the mission right now is to keep the kids out of school, then the kids won’t go to school. If the mission is to disperse a funeral because of the curfew, then the family … will not finish burying their dead relative. It will leave the corpse there and leave. And if they don’t do it, they’ll get stun grenades and gas.”
“Can you even imagine a situation of an Israeli family at a funeral and the police comes to disperse them?”
Yehuda says he talks about his service because “if we don’t talk … none of us will know what goes on there.”
He says the most memorable part of his service was watching Palestinians getting beaten up by settlers in Hebron, while under orders not to touch them.
Another soldier, Sagi, who also served in Hebron, recalls a procession of Israeli children burning an effigy of a member of the anti-settlement organization Peace Now.
“I understood that all of the things that I thought — that there are boundaries, that at the end of the day we’re on the same side — that, from my point of view, is no longer the case. And from their point of view I’m not legitimate, and if they knew my political opinions they could replace the doll with me.”
Sagi says he finds people prefer not to listen to his experiences of the army, and those that do listen think that his experience was isolated, and perhaps he was “a soldier who transgressed” and should be put on trial.
“Maybe I really should be put on trial – but if I need to be tried, as one of the humane soldiers who served in the territories, I guess we should try all Israeli soldiers,” he says.
‘We’re ruining people’s lives on a daily basis’
Yael served as a scout in Gaza, monitoring a live video feed of the Gaza border.
“We’re kneaded and molded to see something suspicious in everything we see. I look into the cameras and I don’t see a donkey, a dog or a cart. I see a vehicle that can get a charge across, a vehicle that can get weapons across … It’s always suspicious.”
She explained: “There’s no routine there, it’s not someone throwing his garbage out, it’s an explosive.”
She recalls seeing an elderly shepherd, “a grandpa, a really old man with his sheep,” too close to the fence. She reported him to the combat engineering force. “I was conditioned to see shepherds and sheep herds as intelligence scouts.”
Israeli forces fired in the air, startling the sheep, but the shepherd remained. Soldiers then shot the ground near the sheep “and they were startled again but the shepherd was determined to stay there. He didn’t want to leave, he wanted to stay there.”
The soldiers shot a sheep.
“(The shepherd) went to the sheep and tried to pick it up and it was full of blood and he tried to pick it up and take it back and they continued to shoot.”
“The sheep didn’t die but he had to leave it there and run away, they would’ve shot him and the rest of the sheep. He ran back and the sheep stayed there until it died.”
“Seeing it from the other side, it was like a video game, so detached from reality. So what if we shoot animals.
“(For the Palestinians) it’s the exact opposite … people just come and shoot your animals, your livelihood, you. And it’s fine. It’s like it’s fine.”
She added: “We’re ruining people’s lives on a daily basis.”
Yael said she was testifying because she thought “people should know what’s happening there.”
“It’s not the Israeli Defense Force defending us against horrible terrorists who want to destroy the Jewish people. They are people who live here and who have lived here when we weren’t here and they’re trying to live and we’re the stronger power. And we use that power full on, without any problem. I think people should know that.”
In other testimonies, a soldier describes an incident in which a company of soldiers, including the battalion commander, assaulted a detained Palestinian.
A soldier in an elite unit recalls an officer being ridiculed for not following an order to shoot an elderly, sick Palestinian who had gone back into his home to get his medication during an arrest raid.
The full testimonies can be viewed at
3 Today in Palestine
Monday, June 25, 2012
Friday, June 22, 2012
Interview with Daniel Barenboim
‘The Germans Are Prisoners of Their Past’
World-famous Argentine-Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim is noted for his strong views on the Middle East peace process and for performing Wagner’s music in Israel. In a SPIEGEL interview, he explains why the Israeli antipathy toward Wagner is grotesque and argues that Israel shouldn’t depend too much on Germany and the US for support.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Barenboim, why are you fighting to perform the music of Richard Wagner in Israel? No other composer is as hated there as this anti-Semitic German composer.
Barenboim: It saddens me that official Israel so doggedly refuses to allow Wagner to be performed — as was the case, once again, at the University of Tel Aviv two weeks ago — because I see it as a symptom of a disease. The words I’m about to use are harsh, but I choose them deliberately: There is a politicization of the remembrance of the Holocaust in Israel, and that’s terrible.
SPIEGEL: Please explain what you mean.
Barenboim: When I came to Israel from Argentina in 1952, as a 10-year-old, no one talked about the Holocaust. The catastrophe was still much too close for the survivors, and young Israelis wanted to create a new Judaism. They wanted to show that Jews were not only able to be artists and bankers, but could also pursue farming and sports. They looked forward and didn’t want to talk about the suffering of their parents.
SPIEGEL: When did that change?
Barenboim: With the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion thought at the time, and rightly so, that it was necessary for the Israelis to experience, based on the example of a perpetrator, what had happened there. Seeing all the savagery, coldness and inhumanity of the Shoah in this individual, Eichmann, was unbelievable. It was the first time that I, like all my school friends, thought about World War II in detail. Suddenly they were saying: We have to do something so that this sort of thing will never happen again.
SPIEGEL: What was wrong with that?
Barenboim: Nothing, of course, but a misunderstanding also arose at the time, namely that the Holocaust, from which the Jews’ ultimate claim to Israel was derived, and the Palestinian problem had something to do with each other. Six years after the Eichmann trial, the Six-Day War erupted, and after that war Israel was different than before. Whereas there had been no political opposition to the government’s development policy until then, a fierce debate suddenly began after the 1967 victory: Should Israel return the occupied territories or not? The Orthodox Jews even said that they weren’t occupied territories, but Biblical regions that had been liberated! An enormous alliance started growing after that, the same alliance of the right and the Orthodox Jews that rules Israel today.
SPIEGEL: What does that have to do with Richard Wagner?
Barenboim: Well, since the Six-Day War, Israeli politicians have repeatedly established a connection between European anti-Semitism and the fact that the Palestinians don’t accept the founding of the State of Israel. But that’s absurd! The Palestinians weren’t primarily anti-Semitic. They just didn’t accept their expulsion. But European anti-Semitism goes much further back than to the partition of Palestine and the establishment of Israel in 1948. It even goes further back than the Holocaust. Just think of the pogroms in Russia and in Ukraine, the Dreyfus affair in France and anti-Semite Richard Wagner. There is no connection between the Palestinian problem and European anti-Semitism, except that the Palestinians are now expected to pay for historic sins. There are probably many people in Israel who believe that Wagner, who died in 1883, lived in Berlin in 1942 and was friends with Hitler.
SPIEGEL: His daughter-in-law Winifred made up for that later on. She was a confidante of Hitler, and the dictator was a constant guest at Bayreuth, home of the annual Bayreuth Festival, which celebrates Wagner’s operas.
Barenboim: I have the greatest respect for the survivors of the Holocaust. We can’t even imagine what these people went through. And yet even they have differing positions. Take, for example, that of my friend Imre Kertész, the Hungarian poet, who is also a Holocaust survivor. We had hardly known each other for two weeks when he said to me: Can you get me tickets for Bayreuth? I respect that there are survivors who can’t, and certainly don’t want to, listen to this music. But I don’t accept that the fact that an orchestra playing Wagner in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem would do any harm to someone sitting in an apartment in Haifa.
SPIEGEL: What fascinates you about Wagner? Why does he impress intellectuals so much?
Barenboim: Wagner exploited all forms of expression at a composer’s disposal — harmony, dynamics, orchestration — to the extreme. His music is highly emotional, and at the same time Wagner has extraordinary control over the effect he achieves. That’s why there is also something manipulative about Wagner’s music, which is not to say that it’s not honest. In fact, I believe that it’s totally honest, but it also happens to be manipulative.
SPIEGEL: Does that also explain the Nazis’ affinity for his music?
Barenboim: Wagner can’t be held directly responsible for that connection. But Wagner was a terrible anti-Semite. His 1850 essay, “Judaism in Music,” is one of the worst anti-Semitic pamphlets of all time. Hitler made Wagner into a prophet. But Hitler, of course, reinterpreted even the worst things Wagner wrote about the Jews in a way for which Wagner cannot be held responsible. I understand, of course, the associations with the Nazis some people have when they hear something like “Lohengrin.”
SPIEGEL: How exactly did it come about that you and your West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which consists of young Arab and Israeli musicians, performed Wagner?
Barenboim: The musicians wanted it. I said: Sure, but we have to talk about it. It’s a tricky decision. It was important to me that we didn’t convince any of the musicians to play the music against their will.
SPIEGEL: Did the initiative come from the Arabs?
Barenboim: On the contrary. It was the Israelis. The Israeli brass players. Wagner is pretty heavy on the brass section. But I explained the musical importance of Wagner to the orchestra. As a musician, you can’t simply ignore him.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Barenboim, are you an Israeli patriot?
Barenboim: What’s an Israeli patriot? What is there to be proud of today? How can you be a patriot in a country that has occupied foreign territory for the last 45 years? One that isn’t capable of accepting that there is also another account of the last 60 years. Yes, the Palestinians could have accepted the partition of Palestine on Nov. 29, 1947, and that was precisely what they didn’t do, because they thought the partition was unjust. Why can’t we accept that as a historic fact and turn the page? It’s just inhuman.
SPIEGEL: You’re lenient with the Arabs, but Israel’s neighbors behave in hostile ways. Didn’t Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad say that he wanted to wipe the “Zionist entity” off the map?
Barenboim: I’m not naïve. I know perfectly well that there isn’t a single Arab or Muslim in the world who would say: There has to be a Jewish state in the Middle East. But why should they say that? Israel’s strategy cannot be to constantly confront the Palestinians with the history of the Holocaust, but instead to show them that Israel is a reality. We have made mistakes and you’ve made mistakes, but we’re here and you’re here. Let’s make peace, with justice for all. It’s probably too late for that. But who knows?
SPIEGEL: Why does this conflict seem to be so intractable?
Barenboim: Because the whole world doesn’t see it for what it really is. In truth, everyone knows how this story ends: Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 borders and a viable solution to the questions of (the status of) Jerusalem, the borders and the returnees. But it isn’t a conflict that can be resolved politically or even militarily. It’s a human conflict in which two nations are deeply convinced that they are entitled to the same piece of land. We don’t need a Middle East Quartet consisting of the United Nations, the Russians, the Europeans and the Americans. We need a psychiatrist.
SPIEGEL: And that would help?
Barenboim: I’m sure that there are many Israelis who dream of waking up one day to find the Palestinians gone. And there are many Palestinians who dream of going to bed at night and waking up the next morning to find the Israelis gone. If a man dreams about sleeping with Marilyn Monroe, he’s certainly entitled to that. But when he wakes up, he has to acknowledge that he is married to someone else.
5  The Palestine Chronicle
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Leila Khaled and the Struggle for Palestinian Liberation
Photo Leila Khaled. (Wikicommons)
By Ron Jacobs
There was once a time not so long ago when the world seemed to be full of revolutionary heroes. These heroes were both men and women. The actions and accompanying commitment of these individuals inspired millions of others to join movements and organizations dedicated to a vision of social justice and freedom that understood colonialism and racism to be their primary opposition. From Martin Luther King, Jr. to Rosa Parks; from Huey Newton to Assata Shakur; and Che Guevara to Leila Khaled, the list of such individuals is too great to recount here. Their enemies included secret and not-so-secret police, intelligence agencies dedicated to their murder, and governments both liberal and reactionary whose lot lay with the imperial powers in Washington, London and elsewhere in the North. The presence of such men and women made them targets for those opposed to their vision. Simultaneously, the fact of their stature provided them with a media presence created a public awareness of their cause which helped recruit adherents and supporters.
During the first Gulf war I worked with an antiwar group in Olympia, WA. There was a young woman named Leila of Syrian heritage in the group. It was during a conversation about the Palestinians that the subject of Leila Khaled came up. After five minutes of conversation or so, Leila mentioned that she was named after Khaled. I knew that Khaled’s youth, beauty and media savvy had made her a media favorite during the hijackings and other actions she had participated in. I also remembered the spray painted silhouettes of Khaled that appeared on the walls of squats and at the Goethe Universitat in Frankfurt. However, this young woman was the first person I had met who was named in her honor.
Recently, Pluto Press published a small biography of Leila Khaled as part of its Revolutionary Lives Series. It is titled Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian Liberation. Authored by Sarah Irving, a freelancer who has written about environmental and Palestinian issues, this biography looks at Khaled’s life from its beginnings in a Palestinian village occupied by the Israelis to her current activism. Culling information from her biography My People Shall Live, newspaper and journal articles spanning her life and recent interviews, Irving’s book takes a comprehensive look at a life fully-lived.
For those who remember the hijackings Khaled participated in, Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian Liberation brings those events back to life. In addition, she provides the reader with Khaled’s insights and descriptions of how those hijackings unfolded. Khaled also touches briefly on her emotions during those actions. Irving describes the determination of Khaled’s enemies to kill her, a determination that resulted in her sister and sister’s fiancée being murdered by mistake. She also describes the life of Khaled’s family as refugees and relatives of a revolutionary wanted by Israel and a myriad of other governments. The Palestinian movement Khaled first entered was quite different than that which exists now. Religious elements had minimal influence. Indeed, the primary divisions in the movement arose in the political/economic arena. The primary organization, Al Fatah, was what was then termed a bourgeois nationalist movement, while the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) defined itself as a Marxist one. Khaled was (and is) a member of the latter, but seems to have been only minimally involved in the internecine warfare that occasionally erupted between the factions. Her discussion of the influence of Muslim culture in the Palestinian movement and how it effects the role of women in the Palestinian struggle is an important part of this book and worthy of further exploration. This is especially true given Khaled’s long history in the movement and her lifelong insistence on the need for women to be involved. A sidebar to this discussion is her telling about incidents where some of the men pretending to be strict enforcers of the hijab in Gaza following Hamas’ victory turned out to be informers for the Israeli military. This story points out the potentially reactionary nature of a nationalism that depends on cultural elements to define it while rejecting anticapitalist economic analyses.
Khaled discusses the current situation in Palestine. In her opinion, the Oslo accords should never have been signed. The continued control of Palestinian economic, social and daily life by Israelis and their paid police insures the perpetuation of the Occupation. Her opposition to the Accords is often characterized by her enemies as being an opposition to peace. Khaled’s response is simple. When there are no more Israeli soldiers, police, and other agents of the Tel Aviv government occupying the territories, then there will be peace. Until then, the struggle continues. As if to emphasize this, some events arranged by Irving’s publisher to announce the book to the British reading public have been cancelled because of threats of violence. This fact proves Khaled’s continuing relevance, while also intensifying the need to publicize the book.
The struggle of the Palestinians is a different looking struggle than it was when Leila Khaled’s name first became known to the world. Yet, it is the same struggle. Heroic figures like those mentioned above do not seem to be part of that struggle right now.  However, their stories are important and need to be told. Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian Liberation does a great job of telling one such story.
– Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up. His collection of essays and other musings titled Tripping Through the American Night is now available and his new novel is The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. He contributed this article to Contact him at: [email protected]. (This review originally appeared in
If you like this article, please consider making a contribution to the Palestine Chronicle.
6 NY Times
June 24, 2012
A Cruel and Unusual Record
THE United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.
Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.
While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past. With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.
The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs. It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or “associated forces,” a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress (the law is currently being blocked by a federal judge). This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration.
In addition to American citizens’ being targeted for assassination or indefinite detention, recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications. Popular state laws permit detaining individuals because of their appearance, where they worship or with whom they associate.
Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.
These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.
Meanwhile, the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, now houses 169 prisoners. About half have been cleared for release, yet have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom. American authorities have revealed that, in order to obtain confessions, some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of “national security.” Most of the other prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either.

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.

As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years.
Jimmy Carter, the 39th president, is the founder of the Carter Center and the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.

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