Empty Promises: Obama takes his Middle East peace plan to the UN

23 Sep 2010

Phyllis Bennis 

“International law is not an empty promise” – except for Palestinians

President Obama’s General Assembly speech called on the international community to mobilize behind the U.S.-led “peace process.” He called on the Palestinians to “reconcile with a secure Israel” and waxed eloquent on the illegality of killing Israeli civilians. He called on the Palestinians’ friends to implement the Arab Peace Plan’s proposed normalization with Israel without ever mentioning the plan’s clear understanding that ending Israel’s 1967 occupation must come first. And he called on Israel to – talk nicely.

Obama did say that Israel’s partial settlement moratorium “should” be extended, but carefully went on to urge that the talks “press on until completed” with no linkage between the two goals. Not to mention that what he calls a “moratorium” has consistently allowed continued building throughout Arab East Jerusalem, continued construction on homes already approved or begun, and work on huge infrastructure projects throughout the settlements.

Obama pretty much ignored any substantive role for the United Nations in the “peace process,” but he lectured the General Assembly, noting that “many in this hall count themselves as friends of the Palestinians.” (He didn’t, apparently, include himself in that category.) From those friends, he demanded “tangible steps towards normalization” with Israel, ignoring the fundamental basis of the Arab Peace Initiative that makes clear normalization comes after, not before, an end to Israel’s occupation.

And he condemned the “slaughter of innocent Israelis,” but said not one word about Israel’s 2008-09 assault, which used U.S. arms to kill 1,400 Gazans–more than 900 of them civilians and more than 300 of them children. Let alone any mention of the nine killed (including a U.S. citizen) and 50+ injured in the Israeli assault on the Turkish ship in the international humanitarian flotilla a few months ago.

The speech made clear that support for the moment, the endless “peace process” is, for Washington, a perfectly appropriate alternative to holding Israel accountable for any violations of human rights or international law. The Goldstone Report, UN and other efforts to hold Israel accountable for the illegalities inherent in its occupation and apartheid policies, or even the extreme violations like the Gaza war or the flotilla assault, must be sidelined or squashed entirely – because they could undermine the peace talks, whether or not those peace talks have any hope of succeeding. It is the exact opposite position as that taken by Obama’s UN Ambassador Susan Rice regarding Darfur. Rice was one of the strongest voices insisting on full implementation of the International Criminal Court indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir regardless of the dangers it posed to the fragile Sudanese ceasefire because accountability must come first, insisting that justice comes before peace.

But not, apparently, when it comes to Israel-Palestine.

Obama made a vitally important point when he said that “international law is not an empty promise.” Unfortunately he said that only in regard to imposing sanctions on Iran. After that, when he began to speak of Palestine and Israel, the phrase “international law” was never seen again.

In all his discussions of the peace talks and their importance, and even in his description of the arguments of “the cynics,” Obama never acknowledged the most important reason why this round of talks will almost certainly fail to bring about a just, comprehensive and lasting peace: because they are not based on international law and the UN Charter and resolutions. The president said that the cynics’ view is that Israelis and Palestinians don’t trust each other, that both parties are divided internally, that “the gaps between the parties are too great.” But he never acknowledged that “the parties” do not come to the table as equals, that this is not a border dispute between Peru and Ecuador. These are talks between an Occupying Power, which happens to be the 23rd wealthiest country in the world and by far the strongest military and nuclear weapons power in the region, backed by the strongest and most powerful country on the globe, facing an impoverished and dispossessed occupied population. When talks are based on accepting that inequality as a given, when the arbiter of the talks is the main backer of the stronger party, and when international law is ignored, the talks cannot succeed.

So far, the Obama administration seems to be saying that “no change” is the only change we can believe in when it comes to U.S. policy on Israel-Palestine.

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.

Jerusalem Syndrome: A report from Silwan

23 Sep 2010

Daniel Argo

This post originally appeared on the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity website.

You never know what kind of a day you’ve woken up to in this city. Will it be a lazy and serene day, the first day of a vacation that I’ve waited so long for, or a day where the entire city turns into a Kafkaesque story. But perhaps it’s not the city – but the people who live here. So here’s the story: it’s about murder; the police; detainees; missing people; hate; lies and loads of stupidity and folly. In short a typical day in East Jerusalem.

1. The Murder: At around 4 AM one of the settlers’ private security guards opened fire in the direction of some residents in Silwan. At least one man was killed by the shots. 32 year old Samer Sarhan, a father of five. These are all the facts that are certain. According to the security guard he was pelted with stones and his life was in danger. According to Silwan residents Samer was on his way from his home to work and the guard prevented him from continuing, during the ensuing argument the guard took out his pistol and fired.

2. The Backdrop: The Jewish settlers in Silwan have a set up a private armed militia for themselves, and we all foot the bill. 65 million New Israeli Shekels ($17.5 Million) are paid out every year by the Israeli Ministry of Housing to guard a couple of hundred Jewish settlers in the middle of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem. The guards are regularly briefed by the settlers, and very often are hired by the heads of the right-wing organizations. The guards are armed only with live ammunition. This is how an armed militia that is operated by the settlers came to be.

These militiamen have opened with live fire at least seven times in the last three months. And those are just the occurrences that I am aware of, apparently there have been many more. This time it ended in disaster.

3. Silencing: From the moment that the murder took place the Jerusalem Police started a comprehensive operation to silence the matter. Large police forces surrounded the event site and prevented people from getting near. When it became known that a man was shot in Silwan, the police spokesperson stated that it was the result of a dispute between clans. This announcement was made hours after police forces were at the site and had already questioned the security guard. The pinnacle of the event for me was that the police reporters that I talked to continued to assert during the course of the morning that this was a case of a dispute between rival clans, despite the fact that the guard reconstructed the event before our eyes. They sucked up their information directly from the police spokesperson.

4. Missing People: Up until now, 18 hours after the event, nobody knows exactly how many people were injured by the shooting. Early rumours contended that there was another casualty, and 18 year-old youth who was in the area. Jerusalem hospitals, the Institute for Forensic Medicine in Abu Kabir and the Israeli Magen David Adom refused to provide any information whatsoever regarding those injured or killed during the event, and what their condition was. Even the information that Samer was killed was given to his family only many hours later. According to reporters a blanket silence such as this, where no one is willing to provide information, many hours after the event, was exceptional to say the least. Although we’ve already seen situations where hospitals and Magen David Adom have been threatened by the Israeli security forces and prefer not to become embroiled, however, in general, after a couple of hours the information becomes public. Not in this case. (As opposed to the conspicuous prominence of hordes of Israeli hospital directors who are interviewed after every Palestinian terrorist attack).

5. Arrest warrants against Israeli left-wing activists: How do you get rid of a left-wing activist who’s in the area? For this too the police have a creative solution. A “Solidarity Sheik Jarrah” activist was arrested in Silwan this morning and was taken in for a police interview about an event that had taken place on April 30th this year. Their timing is a bit curious, the activist was apparently to close to the crime scene at the time that the security guard was reconstructing the murder.

6. Meanwhile in Sheikh Jarrah…: 60 “Solidarity” activists and Palestinian residents decided despite the events to build a sukkah in the neighbourhood, next to one of the residents’ house. The sukkah which was planned as part of the joint celebration of Sukkot (The Jewish Festival of Booths) was also meant to serve as a mourners’ tent regarding the murder in Silwan. Three building inspectors from the Jerusalem Municipality (who apparently remembered that they are supposed to provide services to East Jerusalem) turned up accompanied by dozens of police and demolished the sukkah time after time. Somehow they overlooked two giant sukkahs that the Jewish settlers had built in the neighbourhood, not to mention hundreds in the public domain throughout the city. And so, the peace sukkah in Sheikh Jarrah became the only one to be destroyed during the holiday.

7. Kafkaesque Arrests: 2 women activists were arrested during the course of the inspectors’ courageous assault on the sukkah. Here too the police achieved a new record for creativity. The arresting police officer decided to arrest one of the activists since the Jewish settlers might assault her in the future. And so the activist was brought into the police station in order to ensure her safety. The brave soldier Schweik would certainly be jealous of such a plot twist.

8. From the Media: “Dozens of left-wing activists attempted to approach the Tomb of Simon the Righteous in the area where Jews reside in Sheik Jarrah, the police prevented them and detained one activist for interrogation regarding the breach of public peace and assault against a police officer”. This is the wording of the police announcement regarding the events in Sheik Jarrah, which the media hurried to parrot. This was definitely a comprehensive report regarding an event in which activists constructed a sukkah next to a Palestinian home, and the police destroyed it time after time. It’s interesting to note that the Police doesn’t believe its own announcements: the proof being that neither of the activists arrested was accused of assault.

9. At the end of the day: It’s now evening in Jerusalem. The festival of lies, distortions and fictions has run its course. Apparently, only to resume again tomorrow. Tomorrow will bring a new dawn, in which each of us will have to choose between being a captive of the “Jerusalem Syndrome” or to see one’ self as part of the hard reality, to which the city awakes every morning.

Good night

Copenhagen city council set to vote on divestment

23 Sep 2010 


And other news from Today in Palestine:

* Land and Property Theft and Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing

Ynet: 2,000 settlement units to be built after freeze ends this month
Israeli settlers expect the government will stick to its decision to allow free building for settlers throughout the entire West Bank after the Israeli settlement freeze ends this month. [Hamas website, may not be accessible to all]
What settlement freeze? Colonists in occupied Hebron pour concrete for four buildings, Philip Weiss
Two days ago I visited the occupied Hebron area with Jeff Halper and Salim Shawamreh of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. I shot this video at Kiryat Arba, a religious settlement on stolen Palestinian lands in the hills outside Hebron.  You can see that the settlement freeze that has supposedly stopped construction of illegal colonies in the West Bank and that is due to expire in three days is being openly flouted. Look closely on the right in this video and toward the beginning you will see a white concrete truck leaving the settlement. Then you will see a crane for pouring concrete arched over forms on the second floors of four new houses. And if you look very closely, about halfway through the video, you will see a concrete truck in the upper middle part of the frame, whose tank is turning. Concrete trucks keep their tanks turning when they’re filled with concrete, so that the mixture won’t start to set up. This truck was getting ready to be unloaded. Another barely-visible truck is delivering yards of concrete.
Israel Settlers Set to Build if Netanyahu Allows as Freeze Ends
On the terraced southern slope of Israel’s Neriah settlement in the West Bank, about five miles from the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters, tractors and work crews are poised to start building a new neighborhood.  Excavating the lots and pouring cement foundations for 70 homes will begin promptly on Sept. 26, when a 10-month settlement construction moratorium expires, unless the Defense Ministry withholds needed permission, said Neriah Council Chairman Doron Ben-Yehuda.
* Solidarity/Activism/Boycott, Sanctions & Divestment

Al-Ma’sara honours the victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacre
Sep 22, 2010– Dozens of demonstrators were tear gassed by the IOF as they attempted to shut down the weekly protest in Al-Ma’sara. The protest marked on the 28th anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. It was also being held with deputy Khaleda Jarrar who was prevented from travelling by the IOF.
Swiss NGOs demand cancellation of Defense Minister’s visit to Israel
A group of NGOs in Switzerland filed a petition against Swiss Defense Minister Ueli Maurer, who announced he would make an official visit to Israel to meet with Israeli war minister Ehud Barak. [Hamas website, may not be accessible to all]
Copenhagen city council set to vote on divestment
On 23 September, Denmark’s Social Democrat party will have a decisive influence on a Copenhagen city council vote on whether the municipality should divest $2.3 million from companies involved in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Gaza-Bound Convoy Leaves UK
The fifth land convoy en route to Gaza left the United Kingdom on Saturday. Its aim is to break the closure on Gaza. In July the Israeli government eased its siege on the strip following massive international pressure due to Israeli commando’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla. According to Israeli government spokesperson, Mark Regev, the ease means there are no restriction on the flow of civilian items anymore, however Sari Bashi of the Israeli NGO Gisha, says that even after the lifting of restrictions only 40% of imports actually enter. Bashi also says exports are still prohibited from leaving the Gaza strip, continuing the crippling of the Gazan economy. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky reports the latest on the status of the Gaza closure and the international attempts to break it.
Inside look at Viva Palestina 5, Omar Ghraieb
Paris, September 22, (Pal Telegraph – By Eman Eddbali) 6:30am when I woke up. I had slept 3 hours, mind full of expectations regarding the day I was about to spend in Paris. A few texts away, my Gazan shirt on, and my koffieh around the neck, I left home. I spent almost one hour and a half in the trains and buses to reach Bagnolet, little town east of Paris. 10am, I start running as I step down the last bus for the convoy is supposed to leave for the parade. That’s when a car stops next to me.  I’m going to the gymnasium for the convoy too, get in!  Thank God. We finally reached the camp as the vehicles started going out. I looked for @OffToGaza (Mustafa) like crazy and finally saw him waving at me. With a quick “hi, how are you?”, heart bumping hard, excitation at its top, we got in the big ambulance that was looking like a mini bus, and started driving as soon as we closed the door.
Busting the siege, American style, Pamela Olson
A fabulous party Tuesday night in Brooklyn was the latest in a series of nation-wide fundraisers to send an American boat to break the siege of Gaza. The Siege Busters’ Ball featured hours of eclectic performances, connections, conversations, and shoulder-shaking Arabic dance music into the small hours of the morning.  Overall it was a thrilling evening that brought together people from all over New York and brought the total money raised for the US Boat to Gaza to more than $243,000 of the $370,000 necessary to launch the boat.
* The Siege (Gaza & West Bank)/Humanitarian/Restriction of Movement/Human Rights/Racism

Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (16-22 September 2010)
Gaza borders closed
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Following a smaller than expected transport of goods to Gaza, crossing officers confirm terminals sealed until Sunday, as Jewish holiday marked in Israel.  Palestinian official Raed Fattuh said 92 truckloads of goods were permitted to pass through the Kerem Shalom terminal, including 55 trucks of the agricultural sector in addition to fuel and solar energy equipment for an UNRWA project.
State of the Gaza Strip’s Border Crossings 01 – 15 September 2010
Almost two and a half months have passed since Israel’s declaration on the alleged easing of the illegal closure regime imposed on the Gaza Strip.  However, to date, no meaningful changes have taken place regarding the state of the border crossings. Statistics documented by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) on the state of border crossings during the reporting period refute Israeli claims with respect to the easing of the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip. Specifically, PCHR refutes claims that the entry of goods has increased in quantity and quality due to the reduction of restrictions imposed on the entry of goods since the beginning of August. Most of the goods allowed are consumables which do not meet the minimal level of the actual needs of the Gaza Strip. Raw materials, used for production, and construction materials needed for reconstruction of the Gaza Strip are completely denied entry. In addition, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have continued to impose a complete ban on the export of agricultural and industrial goods. As a result of the ongoing stoppage of production and the lack of development opportunities the Gaza Strip remains dependant on humanitarian aid.
Border Crossing; 44-Year-Old Continuous Drama
By Daoud Kuttab – Just when one thought that the direct peace talks might be able to produce a breakthrough, one got an awakening jolt. Crossing the bridge over the Jordan River must be the world’s worst gift that keeps giving. This gift has been giving grief, anger, frustration and an overall realisation of what the occupation is all about. September 18 is a case in point. Palestinians, and others, wishing to cross the nearly dried up river into the West Bank faced over 10 hours of unnecessary wait. Women, men, senior citizens and infants were caught up in this 44-year-old continuous drama.
Witness – Nablus Workers
The third film in the series ‘The Business of Occupation’ looks at how the Israeli occupation impacts the workers of Nablus.
* Murder of Palestinian in Jerusalem and other Violence/Aggression & Provocations

“Settlers” Open Fire at Funeral Procession, Police Cars Burning
Around 2 PM settlers were firing live ammunition from the settlements at the funeral procession of one of the martyrs killed this morning by the private settler security guards here in Silwan.
Soldiers Break Into The Yards Of al-Aqsa Mosque; 15 Palestinians Wounded
Israeli soldiers broke on Wednesday evening into the yards of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, clashed with dozens of Palestinian youths and arrested several Muslim worshipers; at least fifteen Palestinians were wounded.
East Jerusalem clash turns deadly
A Palestinian has been killed after a Jewish settlement guard opened fire at a group of men in an Arab neighbourhood of East Jerusalem.  The incident occurred after clashes broke out between Jewish settlers and a number of local Palestinians in the Silwan neighbourhood, Al Jazeera’s Dan Nolan reports from Jerusalem.
Security guard that murdered Palestinian released from custody
Guard who shot east Jerusalem resident to death released from custody under limiting conditions following questioning. According to Jerusalem District Police commander, he opened fire after encountering ‘a dangerous ambush.’ Massive security forces deployed in capital to prevent escalation.,7340,L-3958694,00.html
Intifada In Silwan
The streets of Silwan were on fire Wednesday morning, as residents of the East Jerusalem neighbourhood expressed their anger in light of the shooting death of a member of their community. Jillian Kestler-D’Amours reporting from Silwan.
Palestinians take to Jerusalem streets after killing, Joseph Dana writing from Silwan, occupied East Jerusalem
“At 3:30 or 4am I heard some noise outside of my window,” Silwan resident Abdallah Rajmi told me as we stood on a narrow street in the middle of a battle between young Palestinian stone throwers and Israeli occupation forces from the Border Police. “I thought it was a simple drunken fight but then I heard a lot of noise coming from the people involved and my neighbors began waking up.”
In grief-stricken Silwan–contempt for politicians, and talk of a third intifadah, Philip Weiss
The incident today began–Siyan said witnesses had told him– when Palestinians and settlers shouted abuse at one another, as they often do, and the guards had fired guns in the air. The youths had run away. The guards had chased them, and shot at them. Two young men were seriously injured. Israeli security forces had arrived within minutes, but Samar Sarchan lay on the ground for an hour before an ambulance arrived. He later died of his injuries. “It’s disgusting that Palestinian life is so cheap to the settlers, and to the Israeli police, and to Netanyahu himself, and even [Palestinian Authority president] Abu Mazen,” Siyan said with bitterness. “And we see that to Americans, too, we are a very cheap people.”
Jerusalem a Tinderbox after Israeli guard kills Palestinian Father
Today in the village of Silwan in East Jerusalem, Samar Sarhan, was shot to death by an Israeli security guard. The incident sparked riots in the village, which spread to the Temple Mount during Sarchan’s funeral procession.  The situation is very serious and has been described as the start of the third intifada.  All of Jerusalem is a tinderbox and the situation has not been helped by statements to the press by Aharon Franco, the Jerusalem District Police Commander, backing the Israeli security guard who shot Samar.  Franco claims that Samar was part of an ambush but Palestinian sources assert that Samar was chased down by the guard and was unarmed.
Escalating violence in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Four journalists were injured and four others detained by Israeli forces in clashes Wednesday between Palestinians and Israeli police in occupied East Jerusalem.  Israeli police detained four photojournalists working for Palestinian newspapers and websites inside Israel while they were covering confrontations near East Jerusalem’s Lions Gate.  The detained journalists were identified as Amir Muhammad Abed Rabbo of the Panorama publication in Jerusalem, photojournalist Muammar Awad of MNB, correspondent Nur Karama of the Radar website, and Umran Ar-Rishiq, who works for the rights group Al-Haq.
Hamas: Silwan events prove peace talks used as a cover for Israel’s crimes
The Hamas Movement stated that Silwan events reflect that Israel uses its talks with the Palestinian Authority to cover its intended crimes and violence against the Palestinian people.
PLO: Settlers used to carry out Israeli attacks
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Israel is enacting its ethnic cleansing policy on Jerusalem through the work of settlers as leaders talk peace, Head of Jerusalem affairs at the PLO Ahmad Qrei’ a said Wednesday.  Earlier in the day two men were killed and two others wounded by a settler guard in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem.
The Guards of the Settlers Just Shoot
A young woman was sitting looking at the blood of Sarhan that remained on the floor, and cried quietly. I thought to myself, how easily one can take somebody’s life. This guard will probably go home after giving his testimony. The file against him will be closed with no charge, just like other similar cases, and everything will go back to “normal”. The problem is that the “normal” of Silwan, where there are some 300 settlers, secured by an armed militia is way far from being normal.
* Detainees

IDF arrests 2 Palestinians children after quarrel with a young settler
IDF forces arrested two young Palestinians on suspicion that they fought with a child aged 9 as he walked from the Avraham Avinu neighborhood of Hebron to the Cave of the Patriarchs.  The soldiers who were observing the area chased the two Palestinians who fled to a school in Palestinian territory. The soldiers followed them and arrested them.,7340,L-3958594,00.html
IOF troops round up son of recently released physics professor
IOF soldiers on Wednesday detained in Nablus city Huzaifa Al-Ashqar, 21, the engineering student and son of physics professor Essam Al-Ashqar who was recently released from Israeli jails. [Hamas website, may not be accessible to all]
* Israel’s Arab Helpers/Collaborators

Hamas: PA detained 12 supporters overnight
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – Hamas accused Palestinian Authority forces of arresting 12 supporters in West Bank cities on Wednesday.  The Islamist movement said affiliates were detained in Nablus, Qalqiliya and Hebron.  Rights groups, including the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, have documented hundreds of detentions of Hamas members since 30 August, when Hamas-affiliated militants killed four Israeli settlers driving in the West Bank.  The group has called on the PA and its security services to refrain from carrying out arbitrary arrest campaigns, to immediately release all political prisoners, and to put an end to political arrests.
Abbas woos U.S. Jewish leaders
At a dinner with American Jewish leaders Tuesday in New York that I attended, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas left open the possibility that he might not break off direct talks with Israel even if Israel refuses to extend a partial West Bank settlement moratorium due to expire next week. But he said a failure to extend the freeze would make it much more difficult for him to do so.
Meeting again with Jewish leaders, Abbas broaches substance
WASHINGTON (JTA) — For Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Jewish leaders, their second date featured a little more substance and a little less flirtation. And this time the Palestinian Authority president brought a wing man.  Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, met separately Tuesday evening with Jewish leaders in New York  — a sign of understanding on the Palestinian side of the importance of Jewish sensibilities, in Israel and the Diaspora, to advancing the peace process.  Abbas at the meeting seemed ready to move forward on some substantive issues, which took place during the launch of the U.N. General Assembly session.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rejects Violence
NEW YORK, Sept 21 – Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, in a meeting with American Jewish leaders, said he rejected violence and would try to eliminate incitement against Israelis to help speed the inevitable creation of a Palestinian state.  In an unprecedented question and answer session organized by The Israel Project at a private home in Manhattan, Fayyad said violence “has to be dealt out of the equation permanently regardless of what happens in the peace process.” Security, he said, was a vital interest both for Israelis and Palestinians and those who used violence to advance their agendas needed to be prosecuted and punished through due process.
Egypt releases Hamas minister’s son
GAZA (Ma’an) — Egyptian authorities on Wednesday released Muhammad Na’im, the son of the Gaza government’s minister of health, Basim Na’im, after detaining him for six months.  Witnesses said a large number of Gaza residents and Hamas supporters received Muhammad Na’im at the Rafah crossing and escorted him to his home in the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City.
Hamas: We uncovered spy network collaborating with Israel in Gaza
Announcement comes after Hamas military court sentenced a Palestinian accused of assisting Israel’s secret service to death by firing squad.
Gaza Hamas sentences alleged collaborator to death (AP)
AP – The Palestinian militant Hamas group has convicted a Gaza man on charges of spying for Israel and sentenced him to death.*
* “Peace” Talks/Political Developments

Al-Masri optimistic after latest Gaza unity talks
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Palestinian National Coalition leader Munib Al-Masri said “national conciliation is on the right track” after meeting with Gaza government premier Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City on Wednesday.  Speaking to reporters, Al-Masri said talks with Hamas over coming to a unity deal with rival movement Fatah were based on “articles of the Egyptian proposal,” which Cairo has mediated since the Islamist movement took over the Strip in June 2007.
Leftists call on Abbas to cancel US visit
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on Wednesday called on President Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO negotiations team to call off their visit to the US in light of Israel’s “assassination” in East Jerusalem.  The leftist movement said in a statement that the “terror practiced by the Israeli army and settlers” reflected the true policy of the right-wing government led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  International public opinion is being redirected from Israel’s behavior by the latest round of direct negotiations, the movement said, and they have become a “means to maintain division amongst Palestinians and a cover for Israel’s crimes.”
Poll: Slim majority support peace negotiations
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — A public opinion poll released Thursday suggests that just over half of Palestinians support negotiations with Israel.  But a larger majority, 59 percent, say Palestinians were coerced into entering the talks, the first since 2008. Only one-third of respondents believe the negotiations will succeed, according to the poll conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center.
Deputy FM accused Palestinians of ‘extortion’
Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon defined the Palestinian demand to extend the settlement construction freeze in the West Bank as “extortion.”  Speaking in an interview to the MSNBC channel, Ayalon said the Palestinians must not “point a gun at Israel” and threaten to quit the talks if the settlement construction is renewed.,7340,L-3958704,00.html
Report: Israel walks out of NYC donors meeting
NEW YORK (Ma’an) –Israel’s deputy foreign minister walked out of a meeting where donors had gathered in New York for to attend a session of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which coordinates financial aid for Palestine.  Israel’s daily newspaper Haaretz said Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon walked out of the meeting and canceled a scheduled joint press conference with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad that was set to take place after the discussions.  “We did not reach an agreement because the Palestinians did not agree to the terms of a two-state solution,” Ayalon told Haaretz.
Obama presses Mideast peace in UN address (AP)
AP – President Barack Obama is exhorting the world to unite around the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, challenging the United Nations to support an agreement that would create an independent Palestine and a secure Israel in a year’s time.*
Obama targets Middle East peace within a year (AFP)
AFP – US President Barack Obama will on Thursday tell world powers at the United Nations they can help seal a deal within a year to welcome a new member — Palestine — by backing his Middle East peace drive.*
Arab peace plan ideas ‘more important than ever’: Clinton (AFP)
AFP – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that the principles of the Arab Peace Initiative for Israel and the Palestinians are “more important than ever.”*
* Other News

UN experts: Israel flotilla raid broke int’l law (AP)
AP – A group of U.N.-appointed experts says Israeli forces violated international law “including international humanitarian and human rights law” during and after their raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May.*
UN condemns brutality of Israeli raid on aid flotilla
The Israeli military was guilty of “an unacceptable level of brutality” and deployed “totally unnecessary and incredible violence” in the raid last May on a humanitarian assistance flotilla off the coast of Gaza that killed nine people, a United Nations panel says in a report released last night.
Israel rejects UN criticism of its Gaza war probe
“Israel is a democratic and law abiding country that carefully observes international law and, when need be, knows how to investigate itself,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ygal Palmor said in a statement.
Israeli politicians upset with Bill Clinton over Russian immigrant remarks
Top Israeli officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Soviet dissident turned Israeli parliamentarian Natan Sharansky, reacted with disappointment Wednesday to comments by former President Bill Clinton casting Israel’s Russian immigrant population as an obstacle to the Middle East peace process. Sharansky even accused Clinton of inappropriately trafficking in ethnic stereotypes about Israelis.
Telecom minister: Israel preventing 3G access
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — The Palestinian telecommunications sector has so far been largely prevented from upgrading to the latest generation of standards for mobile phones and mobile telecom services, the PA told USAID.  During a meeting between Minister of Information and Telecommunications Mashhour Abu Daqqa and the General Director of USAID Michael Harvey, the PA official said Israeli restrictions on access to necessary frequencies and prohibitions on the installation of equipment to expand and upgrade communications system was the largest impediment to IT development in Palestine.
* Analysis/Opinion/Human Interest

They. Just. Don’t. Get. It.
This image illustrates one of the most significant problems facing the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad. This morning, a settler guard opened fired on Palestinians in Jerusalem and reports indicated that two Palestinians are dead and Israeli police have stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque. Below the image of Palestinians in Jerusalem on Haaretz’ home page is a story about Abbas and that he hinted he’d continue with talks if a settlement moratorium isn’t extended. For many Palestinians, this is not merely a juxtaposition which characterizes the front of Haaretz’ website today, but rather one that characterizes their entire political situation at the moment.
The True Meaning of ‘Jewish Democracy’, Michael Khaled for MIFTAH    
Racism is a normal thing in a state that identifies itself as an ethnic democracy. Israeli officials forcefully declare Israel as the “Jewish democratic” state. Yet there is a basic contradiction between the principals of democracy and having a state built to cater to one of its ethnicities.  Minority inclusion, cosmopolitanism and universal protection of basic rights are the foundation of democracy, yet the values Israel’s leaders are espousing today are the polar opposite.  Whether the final result of the conflict will separate Palestinians and Israelis in two states or bring them together as citizens of one state, it is clear that Israel as it stands today is living in a hypocritical self-image.
A history lesson in Jerusalem, Philip Weiss
My wife left Jerusalem two days ago after her first visit here. It meant a lot to me to see this place through her eyes. So what did she think?  …She preferred East Jerusalem to West Jerusalem, and Palestinian life in the Old City to the posh, middle-Europe flavor of West Jerusalem. Of course there is a political component to these feelings; she saw the injustice of the political arrangement here, and she took greater interest in the people whose culture is indigenous. She enjoyed the company of Palestinians and European intellectuals, seekers, and eccentrics who flock to East Jerusalem.  She shocked me by saying she would consider converting to Judaism. I am pretty sure it was notional, but she said that she has never been excited by the Christian theology in which she was raised, she prefers a more ancient wisdom tradition, and that tradition is alive here. She loved the western wall and walking through the Jewish Quarter. There was a political component to this declaration. During a conversation with a Zionist friend, my wife was offended that she doesn’t get to register an opinion about Palestine because she’s not in “the club.” She has a mind to join the club so she can speak out.
Is The Mideast Peace Process A Charade?, Mamoon Alabbasi – LONDON
Analysts argue whether Middle East peace process is sincerely undertaken, or just a show.
Little Town of Bethlehem: Peace Possible? Where To Begin To See An End
Boston\USA– PNN – This week Little Town of Bethlehem movie was launched in screenings around American Universities. The movie comes in times were Israeli settlers escalated attacks on Palestinians and construction of West Bank settlements have casted a heavy shadow over the renewed sound of peace talks. Since May of this year settlers and military attacks had rendered 16 Palestinians killed. Four Israeli settlers were killed; among them a pregnant woman during Palestinian fighters attacks earlier this month in the West Bank.
* Lebanon

Hizbullah-LAF cooperation ‘must increase’
BEIRUT: Cooperation between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Hizbullah must increase if Lebanon is to formulate a cohesive defense policy, a leading military analyst has said.
Ashkenazi wants missile shield near Blue Line
BEIRUT: Israel is poised to relocate launch batteries of its controversial Iron Dome missile-defense system close to the Blue Line in anticipation of a fresh Hizbullah onslaught, the head of Israel’s military has disclosed.
Saudi ambassador praises king’s Lebanon visit
BEIRUT: Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali bin Awad al-Asiri published a speech on Wednesday for the occasion of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s 80th unification anniversary.
Sayyed To Hariri: Your Father’s Crime Doesn’t Justify Committing Other Crimes
22/09/2010 Former head of the Lebanese Security General, Major General Jamil Sayyed expressed “shock” Wednesday at PM Saad Hariri’s latest remarks during Tuesday’s Cabinet session.  Hariri, according to Sayyed’s statement, said that the issue of the ‘four generals’ cannot be compared to the blood of martyr Rafiq Hariri and the other 20 martyrs.”  Sayyed and three other top security generals were apprehended for four years over accusations that they had played a role in the Hariri crime, based on the testimonies of false witnesses.  Hariri acknowledged recently the existence of false witnesses and said that accusing Syria in the past five years was “wrong.” The generals were released last years after the Special Tribunal for Lebanon decided that they were not suspects in the Hariri murder.
Demonizing Hezbollah; A Déjà Vu Prior To 1982 Invasion of Lebanon
Between theory and practice, calming down the deteriorating political situation in Lebanon could determine the fate of the country, and even the region.  What had started as a debate on whether false witnesses in the Rafiq Hariri murder case existed or not, whether the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was politicized or not, or even whether Israel was behind the assassination or not, has turned into political wrangling and tense rhetoric.  Worse, March 14 bloc members have taken their speech to a more dangerous sectarian level. Last week, Lebanon First parliamentary bloc member MP Mohamad Kabbara accused Hezbollah of aiming at “the leader of the Sunnis in Lebanon,” in reference to Hariri.  Before him, Mustaqbal [Future] Movement MP Ammar Houri made similar comments.  Hezbollah retorted by warning against bids to take the country into sectarian strife.  “We will not allow sedition to infiltrate” regardless of the tense rhetoric, Hezbollah MPs have stressed. According to Houri, “Hariri did not give me or colleague Kabbara any remarks about our recent comments.”
* Iraq

Wednesday: 1 Iraqi Killed, 31 Wounded
Unlike neighboring Iran, Iraq was fairly quiet on what is the 30th anniversary of the Iran-Iraq War. One person was killed and 31 others were wounded in new and updated reports of violence.
Pollution soaring in Iraq
Pollution in Iraq is soaring due to increasing toxic waste from industries and some ministries and institutions in addition to the US Army waste. Iraq’s Environment Ministry is shortcoming in this regard though it is the main party concerned.
Iraqi: Saddam ‘delighted’ in terror attacks on US (AP)
AP – Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, a prominent member of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, told the FBI that the dictator “delighted” in the 1998 terrorist bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa but had no interest in partnering with Osama bin Laden, declassified documents show.*
From start, Bush team focused on war with Iraq: documents (AFP)
AFP – Former president George W. Bush’s advisers focused on toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime as soon as he took office and discussed how to justify a war in Iraq shortly after invading Afghanistan in 2001, official documents showed Wednesday.*
Iraq Surge in Neo-Con Imagination: The Myth That Kills, Steve Breyman
If you’re like me, you can barely make it through a David Brooks column. Should you arrive at the bitter end, your face is screwed up–like you were sucking lemons or whiffing a fetid odor–in a painful mix of disbelief, consternation, and sadness at the waste of prime op-ed real estate. Most days you quickly move on to whatever’s next, and your face slowly relaxes to normal.
A Very Useful (and Timely) Iraq Retrospective, Jim Lobe
Joyce Battle of the National Security Archive has just released a very useful and relevant bundle of documents — the first of a three-part series — that should remind everyone of the particularly critical roles neo-conservatives (despite their recent denials) and their erstwhile hero, Ahmad Chalabi, played in preparing the ground for the invasion of Iraq. The documents include newly declassified memos running from shortly after George W. Bush’s inauguration in January 2001 to May, 2003, as well as a 26-page chronology of the origins of the invasion (beginning with Albert Wohlstetter’s 1985 introduction of Chalabi to Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle), and a 19-page compendium of quotations by various protagonists that will remind everyone just how gullible, deluded, ignorant, and/or deceitful some of them (notably Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bill Kristol, Bernard Lewis) were.
* Iran

Ahmadinejad: Israeli PM an assassin
Netanyahu should be tried in court for blockading Gaza and massacring innocent Palestinian women and children,” Ahmadinejad said in an interview with CNN’s Larry King on Wednesday.
Bomb attack in western Iran kills 10, wounds dozens
TEHRAN: A bomb exploded at a military parade in northwestern Iran on Wednesday, killing 10 spectators in an attack that one official blamed on Kurdish separatists who have fought Iranian forces in the area for decades.
U.S. and Iran trying to set up covert diplomatic channel
Diplomats from the two countries meet in New York to discuss the establishment of unofficial diplomatic relations.
Ahmadinejad optimistic on dialogue
Talks between Iran and the United States “will begin in the near future”, says Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Speaking to a select group in New York, Ahmadinejad said Tehran was ready for dialogue and urged the Barack Obama administration to “change its approach toward Iran” from one of hostility to cooperation. The president also clarified his position on the Holocaust, and showed his agitation over other questions of history. – Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Sep 22, ’10)
Russia bans Iran missile delivery
Russia cancels its delivery of S-300 defence missile sytem to Iran, but its deal to sell cruise missiles to Syria holds.
Iran says US captives can be freed
President Ahmadinejad says the two US detainees in Iran can be released but it is up to the court to decide.
Dr. Lawrence Davidson: Iran’s President (Tries to) Speak Out
Iran’s president Ahmadinejad was at the United Nations on September 21, 2010 to address the Millennium Development Goals Summit. What he had to say was, as usual, a mixed bag of worthwhile insights and questionable assertions. We will get to some of them in a moment. But first something odd. As soon as the Iranian president took the podium and began speaking the audio feeds supporting the UN translators started to have “technical” problems. It is a sign of the suspicious world we live in that few astute observers are ready to believe that explanation without further proof. On the other hand, very few media outlets even commented on the glitch. Al-Jazeera, however, did prosaically refer to the incident as “Ahmadinejad lost in translation.”
* U.S. and Other World News

US grandmother set to be executed
Teresa Lewis, 41, set to be the first woman to be put to death in Virginia state in almost 100 years.
Bob Woodward book details Obama battles with advisers over exit plan for Afghan war: President Obama urgently looked for a way out of the war in Afghanistan last year, repeatedly pressing his top military advisers for an exit plan that they never gave him, according to secret meeting notes and documents cited in a new book by journalist Bob Woodward.
US Is Becoming an “Underdeveloping Nation”
Interview with Chilean Economist Manfred Max-Neef. He won the Right Livelihood Award in 1983, two years after the publication of his book Outside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics.
Mosque visit violated student rights, Wellesley mother’s lawyer says, Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff
A lawyer for the Wellesley mother who allegedly recorded five sixth-grade boys participating in an Islamic prayer service during a school field trip is arguing that taking students to any house of worship violates their civil rights.  Robert N. Meltzer, a Framingham lawyer who specializes in constitutional law, said that when the Wellesley School District took the students to a Roxbury mosque last May, the trip violated the students’ First Amendment rights because they were too young to consent to the religious message. Even if some of the students had not bowed their head during the prayer service, Meltzer said, the trip would still have been inappropriate.
The most baldly anti-Muslim ad of the year
A Republican House candidate in the rural South makes the planned Islamic community center in N.Y. a top issue.

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