Mondoweiss Online NewsLetter


NLG to Brooklyn College: Criticism of BDS event mischaracterizes advocacy for equal rights for Palestinians as anti-Semitism
Feb 05, 2013 05:39 pm | Adam Horowitz

From the National Lawyer’s Guild:

February 5, 2013

Ms. Karen L. Gould, PhD
Brooklyn College
2900 Bedford Avenue, 2129 Boylan Hall
Brooklyn, New York 11210

Dear Ms. Gould:
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) applauds you and the Brooklyn College Political Science Department for your support of an open discussion of the growing campus movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Your stand is especially important in light of the recent attempts to intimidate you and the department into canceling the event. Efforts to pressure the Brooklyn College administration to cancel the panel run contrary to the values enshrined in the First Amendment and they are an affront to the principles of academic freedom.
As you know, departmental sponsorship of this presentation does not connote endorsement of the BDS movement. The Political Science Department’s co-sponsorship is an acknowledgment of a notable social movement for equal rights for indigenous Palestinian people. This social movement is widespread in Europe and is beginning to sweep U.S. campuses. To deny its existence would be irresponsible of Brooklyn College.
The BDS movement seeks to achieve, by non-violent means, three goals that are recognized as legally enforceable rights under international law: equal rights, the restoration of lands stolen by an occupying power, and the right of unlawfully displaced people to return to their homes. These are a legitimate subject for campus discussion. The First Amendment protects individuals from government actions—including the actions of public university officials and city council members—that silence speech on the basis of its content.
The criticism of this event rests on labels that mischaracterize advocacy for equal rights for Palestinians as anti-Semitism. Across the country, universities and other public and private institutions are being pressured to stifle discussions of Palestinian rights. But criticism of a government, in this case the state of Israel, is qualitatively distinct from hatred of a racial or religious group. Universities have a responsibility to recognize and respect such distinctions and to expose students to the rich variety of perspectives on issues of public importance such as this.
The NLG is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar association in the United States. For over 75 years, our organization has pushed back against government attempts to silence activists, including our own members. We appreciate your principled defense of academic freedom in this trying time.
Sincerely yours,
Azadeh Shahshahani, NLG President.

Lawsuit filed against NYPD wants restrictions on surveillance targeting Muslims

Feb 05, 2013
Alex Kane

From left to right, David Cohen, NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and former CIA agent; Mayor Michael Bloomberg; and NYPD chief Ray Kelly (Photo: EPA/ANDREW GOMBERT)

It’s official: the New York Police Department (NYPD) will have to defend its expansive spying program targeting Muslims in the Northeast. A lawsuit filed this week as part of a long-running civil liberties case claims that the NYPD has violated federal guidelines on how the police can monitor political activity and requests than an independent monitor be appointed to oversee the department’s efforts aimed at what they say are terrorists.
The civil rights lawyers who filed the suit are seeking a judge’s ruling that would acknowledge that the police have violated long-standing guidelines on surveillance. They are also seeking a court order that would prohibit the NYPD from investigating Muslims with no evidence of criminal activity and from keeping files on Muslims.
“The N.Y.P.D. is continuing a massive, all-encompassing dragnet for intelligence concerning anything connected with Muslim activity through intrusive infiltration and record-keeping about all aspects of life, politics and worship,” the lawyers said in court papers, according to the New York Times. “The N.Y.P.D. operates on a theory that conservative Muslim beliefs and participation in Muslim organizations are themselves bases for investigation.”
The lawyers also say that the NYPD has been wholly misleading about their operations. In court papers detailed by veteran police beat columnist Leonard Levitt, the lawyers go after police chief Ray Kelly’s remark that “undercover officers and confidential informants do not enter a mosque unless they are following up on a lead vetted under Handschu.” But Levitt points out that Kelly, who made the remark at Fordham Law School last March, was distorting the truth:

Kelly’s remarks seem belied by a secret Intelligence Division document, cited in the court papers, concerning the single-engine plane crash of Corey Lidle, a former New York Yankees baseball player, on October 11, 2006, and which was reported by NYPD Confidential on Mar. 5, 2012.
The documents reveal that, within 24 hours of the crash, the NYPD was searching for a terrorism link. By the following day, detectives from the NYPD’s Intelligence Division had contacted informants and undercover detectives in at least five mosques and Islamic Centers around the city and in New Jersey to gauge the reaction to Lidle’s crash.
“This exhibit illustrates the constant infiltration of religious organizations and meetings,” the court papers say.
“Here the NYPD is monitoring reaction to a plane crash already known not to involve terrorism or crime. The exhibit well characterizes the information collected as nothing but ‘general chatter, statements of regret and expressions of relief.’ For one member of a mosque, who ‘appears agitated’ the informant went so far as to promise a follow-up …”

Kelly’s remark references the Handschu case, which this current lawsuit is a part of. The Handschu case refers to a 1970s-era lawsuit filed against the NYPD due to its surveillance of political groups. The result of that lawsuit was to force the NYPD to adhere to guidelines stipulating that political activity can only be investigated if there was evidence of a specific crime. But after the September 11 attacks, the police successfully got a judge to relax the guidelines.
Now, the NYPD can surveil groups or people if they have a “reasonable” indication that criminal activity is taking place–a looser restriction than the previous one, which said that intelligence detectives needed “specific information” to investigate. Police agents can also attend public events if they are suspicious of terrorism-related activities, but cannot retain the information under the Handschu rules. And the post-9/11 guidelines also said that the police no longer had to notify an oversight panel when they were surveilling a group of people.
One of the Handschu lawyers, Jethro Eisenstein, explained to Levitt that “there is a history of NYPD behavior that goes back to the Black Hand squad at the turn of the century that was directed against Italians. The Black Hand squad became the Red Squad, which was directed against communists. The Red Squad became the Bureau of Special Services and Investigations [BOSSI], which was directed against the Black Panther Party. BOSSI is now the Intelligence Division, which is directed against Muslims.”
Despite the fact that the NYPD is operating under post-9/11 guidelines that are looser than the 1985 mandated rules that resulted from the Handschu case, lawyers say the police department is still breaking the rules. Specifically, the prohibition on retaining the information of people who are not suspected of any crime appears to have been ignored, as the Lidle-related case shows.
The case is one part of the response lawyers and activists have had to the NYPD’s surveillance operation. Since the September 11 attacks, and with the help of former and current CIA agents, the police department targeted Muslim communities and put them under surveillance. They mapped out Muslim neighborhoods, catalogued places of worship, eavesdropped on conversations and spied on activists and student groups. The language people spoke–like Urdu–was reason enough for the NYPD to spy on people. Additionally, the NYPD also justified eavesdropping on a Lebanese cafe, for example, because, if there were customers from South Lebanon, “that may be an indicator of possibility that that is a sympathizer to Hezbollah because Southern Lebanon is dominated by Hezbollah.”
All of those activities, first exposed by the Associated Press and Levitt, were carried out despite the lack of evidence of criminal activity taking place. And the operation has been wholly unsuccessful: in court testimony, the head of the NYPD’s Intelligence Division, Thomas Galati, admitted that the surveillance “never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation.” That admission undercut a key justification the NYPD has been using to defend its spy program.
The lawsuit in New York joins two other pending suits related to the NYPD spying operation. One lawsuit was filed by a group of New Jersey Muslims who claim the spying operation violated their constitutional rights; the other was filed by a government watchdog group that is seeking more information on the Central Intelligence Agency’s collaboration with the NYPD spy program.

NYT’ connects the dots on the Israel ‘litmus test’ (or how the Dersh jumped the shark)

Feb 05, 2013
Adam Horowitz
Today the New York Times has an editorial on the Brooklyn College BDS event and calls out the Lobby from K Street to Borough Hall. From “Litmus Tests“:

One dispiriting lesson from Chuck Hagel’s nomination for defense secretary is the extent to which the political space for discussing Israel forthrightly is shrinking. Republicans focused on Israel more than anything during his confirmation hearing, but they weren’t seeking to understand his views. All they cared about was bullying him into a rigid position on Israel policy. Enforcing that kind of orthodoxy is not in either America’s or Israel’s interest.
Brooklyn College is facing a similar trial for scheduling an event on Thursday night with two speakers who support an international boycott to force Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories. While this page has criticized Israeli settlements, we do not advocate a boycott. We do, however, strongly defend the decision by the college’s president, Karen Gould, to proceed with the event, despite withering criticism by opponents and threats by at least 10 City Council members to cut financing for the college. Such intimidation chills debate and makes a mockery of the ideals of academic freedom.

Pro-Israel McCarthyism has become the story in Brooklyn, and the farce of the Hagel hearing has overtaken any criticisms of Hagel’s lukewarm performance. Here’s Walter Pincus in today’sWashington Post:

There were several obvious answers on Thursday when Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) asked Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel to “name one person, in your opinion, who is intimidated by the Israeli lobby in the United States Senate” during the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing.
One answer could have been “the two of us”: Graham, for example, by asking such a silly gotcha question, and Hagel for not standing up for his past words that reflect the belief of many who have watched the Senate over the years.
That lobby would include the most prominent of the pro-Israeli lobbies, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which immodestly acknowledges its own power over Congress, boldly claiming on its e-mails that it is “Consistently ranked as the most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill.”
What was most disappointing about Hagel’s lackluster performance was his backing away from his previously stated, utterly rational views on many subjects, often in the face of hectoring from fellow Republicans who were clearly playing to conservative constituents.
When Graham asked Hagel to “name one dumb thing we’ve been goaded into doing because of the pressure from the Israeli or Jewish lobby,” the answer should have been “a good part of today’s eight-hour hearing.”

The lobby night flower is being fully exposed and thanks to Alan Dershowitz’s bloviating BDS has now been discussed in a Times editorial. Back to “Litmus Tests”:

In the Brooklyn College case, critics have used heated language to denigrate the speakers, Omar Barghouti, a leader of a movement called B.D.S., for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, that espouses “nonviolent punitive measures” to pressure Israel, and Judith Butler, a philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley, who is a member of the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that supports divestment and boycotts. Alan Dershowitz, a Brooklyn College graduate and Harvard law professor, has complained that the event is unbalanced and should not be co-sponsored by the college’s political science department. On Monday, Ms. Gould said other events offering alternative views are planned.
The sad truth is that there is more honest discussion about American-Israeli policy in Israel than in this country. Too often in the United States, supporting Israel has come to mean meeting narrow ideological litmus tests.

While newspaper articles are nice, the real test will be whether Thursday’s event takes place, and Hagel withstands the lobby’s frontal assault. Both seem likely to happen, and while neither represent a groundbreaking victory, they will serve as a bellwether that the traditional gatekeepers on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are losing the cultural and political power they once held.
Towards this end, Jewish Voice for Peace has started a campaign to “fire” Dershowitz and Dov Hikund as the “the Official Spokesmen for The Jewish People.” From

No one appointed professional bully Alan Dershowitz or bigoted extremist Dov Hikind the Official Spokesmen for The Jewish People and Gatekeepers of Academic Freedom. But as long as they continue to act as though they own those job titles, we will continue to try to fire them.
Their attack on free speech at Brooklyn College and the nonviolent Palestinian-led movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is just the latest in a long series of destructive acts, built on smears and untruths. They promote violence and bully academics and students who don’t agree with them, all to help promote policies that are killing Israeli Jews and Palestinians.
As Jewish Voice for Peace supporters, we say, You’re Fired!

Sign here.
(h/t Ilene Cohen)

Unilever shuts down Ariel settlement factory, moves production west of the Green Line

Feb 05, 2013
Annie Robbins

Unilever at night A840x630
Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam.

Multinational global giant Unilever confirmed Monday that as of January 1, 2013 its snack and pretzel factory located in the Barkan industrial zone of the Ariel settlement is no longer operational. The company has withdrawn the production line of its subsidiary, Beigel and Beigel, and transfered itto a plant in Safed, Israel on the other side of the Green Line.
The announcement comes just four days after UN fact finding mission issued a blockbuster report calling on governments and companies to terminate business interests in the settlements. Unilever claims the move is a result of “pure business motives‘.

beigel and beigel orig jun 2008
Beigel&Beigel Ariel WB, Palestine (Photo:WhoProfits)

Regardless of the motives the significance of this decision can not be underestimated. Unilever, a UK and Dutch company headquartered in Rotterdam, Netherlands, is the third-largest consumer goods company in the world measured by 2011 revenues.
The Dutch group United Civilians for Peace (UCP) began pressuring Unilever over their Barkan factory in 2006. Two years later in 2008 the French supermarket group Carrefour and British department store Harrods boycotted the snacks and Unilever announced it would divest from Beigel and Beigelbut that didn’t happen.
The UN report released last Thursday calls for companies and governments to “assess the human rights impact of their activities” and end any connection to the settlements:

117. Private companies must assess the human rights impact of their activities and take all necessary steps – including by terminating their business interests in the settlements – to ensure they are not adversely impacting the human rights of the Palestinian People in conformity with international law as well as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Mission calls upon all Member States to take appropriate measures to ensure that business enterprises domiciled in their territory and/or under their jurisdiction, including those owned or controlled by them, that conduct activities in or related to the settlements respect human rights throughout their operations. The Mission recommends that the Human Rights Council Working Group on Business and Human Rights be seized of this matter.

Obama set to visit Israel this spring

Feb 05, 2013
Adam Horowitz
In early December Phil posted a tip we received that President Obama would be traveling to Israel and one other country during his second term. This story has been confirmed today as White House spokesman Jay Carney announced Obama will travel to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan this spring although he declined to give an exact date. Carney said it would give Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a chance to “discuss the way forward” on Iran and Syria among other issues.
Israel’s Channel 10 is reporting Obama’s three-day visit is planned to begin March 20, and that the trip will also include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan. The JTA adds that new Secretary of State John Kerry will also be visiting Israel in March as well.

Samer Issawi is like an olive tree; his head reaches the sky and nobody can uproot him

Feb 05, 2013
Malaka Mohammed

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An Israeli prison guard escorts Samer Issawi, a Palestinian political prisoner, out of his court hearing in Jerusalem’s civil court, January 16, 2013. (Photo: Photo by: Oren Ziv/

Most Recent Update: The detainee’s minister in the PA, Issa Qaraqe’, says that the Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi is living his last hours inside the Israeli prison hospitals after 195 days on hunger strike for freedom.  
Being illegally detained without charges or given a fair trial since July 7th 2012, Samer Issawi is still placed in solitary confinement with plastic doors so that no one can hear his calls for help. Issawi is on his 195th day of an open-ended hunger strike demanding justice and his freedom. There have been many more Palestinian hunger strikers before Issawi. Khader Adnan, Hana’ Shalabi, and Mahmoud Sarsak are among the few. 
Hunger strikes have proven to be an effective means for Palestinian Political prisoners’ voices to be heard. These prisoners are protesting the inhumane conditions they live in. These non-violent hunger strikers had a rippling effect on all Palestinian prisoners. Their movement has commenced many mass hunger strikes inside Israeli jails leading to many detainees passing away and others gaining their freedom. 
Samer lost many family members who were murdered by the Israeli Occupation through out the years.  Fadi Issawi, Samer’s brother, was shot dead by the Israeli killing machines. In 1989 his grandmother, Fatima, was also shot by the Israeli Occupation Forces. Osama Issawi, Samer’s uncle, was not the last family member murdered by the Israeli Occupation Forces.
His Latest Release
In October 2011, Issawi was released as part of the Shalit prisoners exchange deal. Per Shireen Issawi, Samer’s sister, the Egyptian ambassador in Tel Aviv visited the prisoners who were included in the exchange and informed them that there will be no restriction on their movement. Nonetheless, breaching the agreement, eight months after his release, Issawi was re-arrested in Hizma. Israel claims that he broke the terms of his release by leaving Jerusalem; nevertheless Israel’s own maps show that Hizma is within the borders of the municipality of Jerusalem. This proves Israel never abides by any agreement or treaty and ignores all international laws. Samer is not the only one that this happened to, Israel has re-arrested a countless number of the Palestinians released under the prisoner exchange agreements.
Egypt’s Role
Samer Issawi is dying for freedom and the world’s leaders’ silence is deafening. As a guarantor of the prisoners exchange deal, why has Egypt not interfered until now? What has been done to protect the Deal? 
Knowing that Israel is breaching the agreement and violating international law, the UN, the United States, European countries, and human rights organizations are silent as well. These countries and organizations are very well aware that if they pressure Israel, innocent mens’ lives can be saved. Yet, there silence echoes loudly.
Samer Issawi, whose life is threatened and is in a real danger, is not seeking death, nor does he want it, but he defends his freedom and his humanity in every way possible and he is ready to pay his life as a price.
Medical Condition
Samer’s family has seen him only once during a court appearance on Thursday December 13th, 2012. His family saw him turning into a skeleton covered with a human wrap after losing more than 80 lbs, all that remains is a skin covering bones. Per his advocate, Samer suffers from increasing pain all over his body including his head, kidney, eyes, nerves, abdomen, hands, arthritis, and muscles. His life is in eminent risk as he has a slow and erratic heartbeat and cannot stand or move on his own. Also, Samer’s vision is worsening; he loses consciousness several times during the day; and his body is covered with bruises. Moreover, the pain in his head is like an electrical shock. Furthermore, he has continuous diarrhea due to the fluids they give him in prisons’ hospitals, and he has blood in his urine and still has an acute vitamin B12 deficiency. In addition, Issawi has gradual damages in his nervous system. Besides, his body continues to eat his muscles and nerves. What’s more, he has lost control of his limbs due to the malfunction of his nerves, and he is vomiting blood and can hardly breathe. On January 18th, 2012 due to his deteriorating health, Samer was transferred to Asaf Harofeh hospital from Ramleh prison. While being transferred, the Israeli Prison Services handcuffed Samer’s hands and feet.
Bab Al Shams and More Challenges
‏The house of Issawi is near the village of Bab Al Shams “Gate of the Sun” in which hundreds of young Palestinians set up tents in a civilized manner to non-violently fight against the Israeli settlements that threaten the peace process in the region as a whole. When solidarity campaigns are held to support Samer and the other hunger strikers, Israeli authorities pressure and attack his family and the people of his village. In addition, Israeli NGO Physicians for Human Rights and the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) have been denied access to Samer.
The life of the other Palestinian prisoners require an urgent call for emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution to force Israel to preserve the lives of prisoners in its custody. There are over 4500 prisoners in Israeli jails including women, kids, and patients. Israel has to cancel its unjust procedures of keeping detainees without trial and charge under administrative detention i.e. a procedure allowing the Israeli Military to hold prisoners indefinitely on secret information without charging them or allowing them to stand trial. Haim Shapira, the former Israeli Minister of Justice, described it when he was arrested by the British Mandate forces, “It only represents the law of jungle”.
G4S & Samer
In a message from Issawi’s family to the people who have demonstrated and called for Samer’s release on the last Friday in London, at G4S HQ, “Love and respect to all of you, brother and sister, who are fighting for Samer whose battle of the empty stomach [hunger strike] is now for 193 consecutive days. You tell the whole world that Samer is not alone. Samer’s fight is of every free man rejecting injustice. Samer is suffering greatly in the so-called hospital, Asaf Harofeh; he is suffering from medical neglect and is left shackled to his bed day and night without any regard for his critical condition and the importance of treating humanely.. We greet the demonstrators against G4S that provides equipment for the prison administration. G4S realizes that they are used in non-humanitarian ways against Palestinian prisoners. Deliver the voice of the oppressed prisoners and hold this company G4S accountable for its responsibility towards these prisoners and its partnership to the occupation in its inhumane practices. It must stop providing these supplies to the occupation…”
Other Hunger Strikers
Samer is not the only prisoner on hunger strike. Ayman Sharawna, has been on hunger strike for more than 180 days. He has been released in the Prisoner’s Deal. Jafar Azzidine, Tarek Qa’adan, and Yousef Yassin have been striking for around 98 days now, in protest of their administrative detention orders.
Samer is like an olive tree; his head reaches the sky and nobody can uproot him. Samer teaches us what it means to be Palestinians; he gives us lessons in how to love and live. When looking into his eyes, I see The Sun shines; I notice hope rises; and I know pessimism scatters. Samer, you are not alone; you are our brother. It is a message to the people of consciousness who have hearts, to those who belong to humanity, to the free people – rescue Samer. If you take action, we can save his life; he can return to Jerusalem a free man, and hopefully alive, God willing. He has the right to live. Why to die without a charge?

10 questions to ask John Brennan at his CIA confirmation hearing

Feb 05, 2013
Medea Benjamin
John Brennan’s confirmation hearing to become head of the CIA will take place at the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, February 7. There is suddenly a flurry of attention around a white paper that lays out the administration’s legal justification for killing Americans with drones overseas, and some of the Senators are vowing to ask Brennan “tough questions,” since Brennan has been the mastermind of the lethal drone attacks. But why have the Senators, especially those on the Intelligence Committee who are supposed to exercise oversight of the CIA, waited until now to make public statements about their unease with the killing of Americans that took place back in September and October of 2011? For over a year human rights groups and activists have been trying, unsuccessfully, to get an answer as to why our government killed the 17-year-old American boy Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, and have had no help from the Senators’ offices.
We look forward to hearing the Senators question Brennan about the legal justifications used by the Obama administration to kill three Americans in Yemen, as we are deeply concerned about their deaths and the precedent it sets for the rights of US citizens.
But we are also concerned about the thousands of Pakistanis, Yeminis and Somalis who have been killed by remote control in nations with whom we are not at war. If CODEPINK had a chance to question John Brennan as his hearing on Thursday, here are some questions we would ask:
1.     You have claimed that due to the precision of drone strikes, there have been only a handful of civilian casualties. How many civilians deaths have you recorded, and in what countries? What proportion of total casualties do those figures represent? How do you regard the sources such as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that estimates drone casualties in Pakistan alone range from 2,629-3,461,with as many as 891 reported to be civilians and 176 reported to be children?  Have you reviewed the photographic evidence of death and injury presented by residents of the drone strike areas? If so, what is your response?
2.    According to a report in the New York Times, Washington counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent. Please tell us if this is indeed true, and if so, elaborate on the legal precedent for this categorization. In areas where the US is using drones, fighters do not wear uniforms and regularly intermingle with civilians. How does the CIA distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate targets?
3.     In a June 2011 report to Congress, the Obama administration explained that drone attacks did not require congressional approval under the War Powers Resolution because drone attacks did not involve “sustained fighting,” “active exchanges of fire,” an involvement of US casualties, or a “serious threat” of such casualties. Is it your understanding that the initiation of lethal force overseas does not require congressional approval?
4.     If the legal basis for the use of lethal drones is the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), can this authorization be extended to any country through Presidential authority? Are there any geographic limitations on the use of drone strikes? Does the intelligence community have the authority to carry out lethal drone strikes inside the United States? How do you respond to the charge that the US thinks it can send drones anywhere it wants and kill anyone it wants, all on the basis of secret information?
5. Assassination targets are selected using a “disposition matrix.”  Please identify the criteria by which a person’s name is entered into the matrix. News reports have mentioned that teenagers have been included in this list. Is there an age criteria?
6.  In Pakistan and perhaps elsewhere, the CIA has been authorized to conduct “signature strikes,” killing people on the basis of suspicious activity. What are the criteria for authorizing a signature strike? Do you think the CIA should continue to have the right to conduct such strikes? Do you think the CIA should be involved in drone strikes at all, or should this program be turned over the military? If you think the CIA should return to its original focus on intelligence gathering, why hasn’t this happened? As Director of the CIA, will you discontinue the CIA’s use of lethal drones?
7.  Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, which the US has implicitly invoked to justify strikes, requires that “measures taken by Members in the exercise of [their] right to self-defense . . . be immediately reported to the Security Council.” Please elaborate on why the United States uses Article 51 to justify drone strikes but ignores the clause demanding transparency.
8.   The majority of prisoners incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay were found to be innocent and were released. These individuals landed in Guantanamo as victims of mistaken identity or as a result of bounties for their capture. How likely is it that the intelligence that gets a person killed by a drone strike may be as faulty as that which put innocent individuals in Guantanamo?
9.  You have stated that there is little evidence drone strikes are causing widespread anti-American sentiment or recruits for extremist groups.  Do you stand by this statement now, as we have seen an expansion of Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, possibly triple the number that existed when the drone strikes began?  Do you have concerns about the “blowback” caused by what General McChrystal has called a “visceral hatred” of U.S. drones?
10. If a civilian is harmed by a drone strike in Afghanistan, the family is entitled to compensation from US authorities. But this is not the case in other countries where the US government is using lethal drones. Why is this the case? Do you think the US government should help people who are innocent victims of our drone strikes and if so, why haven’t you put a program in place to do this?
Stay tuned to at 2:30pm on Thursday to hear the Senators’ questions, Brennan’s answers and the response from those of us in the audience who don’t have many such occasions to express outrage at our government’s policy of remote-controlled killing.

Why I’m for boycott

Feb 05, 2013
Philip Weiss

Qalandiya checkpoint, West Bank, Occupied Palestine (photo

This is a great week in New York because the idea of boycotting Israel is in the news, and many people will become informed about the issues. The usual grip of the Israel lobby over the conversation has been loosened, and two boycott advocates will be speaking at Brooklyn College on Thursday. Shades of the anti-apartheid movement re South Africa.
I am for boycott because I have many times observed conditions under military occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and Gaza that reflect apartheid policies effected by Israel. I have seen ethnic cleansing, village demolitions, collective punishment, suppression of demonstrations, confiscation of land, hateful checkpoint systems fit for livestock, and violent targeting of civilians, and all these policies carried out on an ethnic basis. If you were Jewish, it wouldn’t be happening to you. If you were Jewish, you would be able to go to the Mediterranean Sea that you can see from your rooftop. But you’re not Jewish, so you can’t get out of the West Bank. Noam Sheizaf and Henry Siegman have both stated that Palestinians have no rights in the West Bank; and they are two Jewish writers. Palestinians who experience these conditions go further. Whenever I visit Palestine, I spend a lot of my time weeping; and I reflect that I have supported boycott in conditions that were less oppressive– California migrant harvests, for instance.
The conditions I’ve observed are revolutionary conditions: they are the tinder of violent uprising and annihilationist dreams. Any people subject to these conditions would take up arms. I know that New Yorkers would. And Palestinians have taken up arms many times, and violence has never served them. And that is why I am for boycott. Boycott is painful but it is nonviolent. And we need a nonviolent solution to the tyranny that exists in Palestine. A nonviolent solution is highly unlikely, but it is the best hope; and boycott has the potential to isolate and punish the Israeli regime in such a way that it might begin to transform itself, and that international human-rights norms will at last apply.
But I am American, and I am for boycott because of the American paralysis over the issue, best demonstrated by the Chuck Hagel hearing last week. Our political parties have an inability to talk about Palestinian conditions frankly. Hagel’s words about Palestinians being treated like caged animals were stuffed down his throat, and no Democrat could speak up for those views. Our politics are broken on this issue. Four years ago I was in Cairo and sat in the audience as Obama spoke of Palestinian humiliations and declared, The settlements must end. The young people in the audience cheered him, their faces were lit with smiles. Four years on that policy is a shambles; Obama has walked away from his words, the settlements go on unabated. When liberal Zionists say that Obama must pressure Israel, they ignore this political wreckage. Why is he going to change now and pressure Israel when the lobby has handed his head to him (and Netanyahu) over the last four years? When governments fail to act on crying injustices, the people must act, people of conscience, like us. When the United States government was controlled by the slave power in the 1840s and 50s, abolitionists pushed the country forward, they changed the American discourse. I do not seek the violence that ended slavery, but I am a fellow traveler today to the abolitionists of the Israel/Palestine conflict. I think BDS is a popular movement, and it can force governments to act. I don’t believe that Israel can continue to be a Jewish state when 20 percent of its citizens are non-Jews. I don’t believe that the two-state solution is still viable; I want to see a peaceful transition to a democracy, perhaps involving binationalism, or federation as initial steps.
I have avoided all discussion here of cultural and academic boycott, anti-normalization measures, and the desire some have expressed to transform Israel with a flood of returning refugees, to revolutionize 1948. I am sometimes troubled by the rhetoric of the camp I follow, but I am a fellow traveler, and I know as Tony Judt knew 10 years ago (and as Charles Dickens knew in 1842, when he republished abolitionist tracts) these people are on the right side of history; and as to the right of return, it is very difficult to visit an ethnically-cleansed land, Israel, and see it market itself as a European high tech country and also a fantasy of Jewish power, and know that it does so on the ruined villages of people who live a few miles away, even as it invites Jews from around the world to “return” there. That is the return that most disturbs me as a Jew, the injustice I see before my eyes.
Omar Barghouti once said to me, If you want to boycott an egg, we want you to boycott that egg. That is now my slogan. I welcome all who would seek to punish Israel’s behavior in the occupied territories by doing something. Governments have failed to do anything. Boycott is my way of taking action about a human-rights calamity that is perpetrated in my name, as an American and a Jew.

Pro-Israel thinktanks comprise Congressional panel on Palestinian politics

Feb 05, 2013
Philip Weiss
And this is how Congress discusses Palestine: three Israel lobbyists on a panel that says Palestinian reconciliation threatens peace. Apartheid in D.C.; do Palestinians ever get a voice? No: “Edward Said wrote about this. How Zionism requires the effacement of Palestinian presence in order to succeed.” From House Foreign Affairs:

Subcommittee Hearing: The Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation: Threatening Peace Prospects
Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa
Feb 5, 2013 10:00am
Witnesses Matthew Levitt, Ph.D. Director Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Michael Rubin, Ph.D.
Resident Scholar American Enterprise Institute
Mr. David Makovsky Director Project on the Middle East Peace Process
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

As Issandr el Amrani says,

So first, frame Palestinian reconciliation as a BAD THING even if it seems peace is pretty unlikely if the Palestinians are divided. Second, only invite Jewish experts from pro-Israel think tanks and advocacy groups. Third, whatever you do, don’t invite Palestinians. Got it? Good.

‘Time’ embarrasses Hagel’s Senate questioners for Israel focus

Feb 05, 2013
Philip Weiss

Time magazine index of Israel mentions Hagel hearing
Time magazine index of Israel mentions Hagel hearing

Time Magazine online asks the obvious question about Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing last week, why did the Senators refer constantly to Israel, 106 times, and barely mention Afghanistan (and the issue of military suicides, twice). In “Just Who Do They Represent: At Hagel Hearing, Concern for Israel Tops U.S. Troops in Combat,” author Brandon Friedman, a veteran, doesn’t take the next step and address the Israel lobby, but we get it.

[Utah Senator Mike] Lee—by himself—made reference to Israel and its security a total of 16 times.
Why is this important? It’s important because Lee never mentioned Afghanistan and the 66,000 U.S. troops at war there.
And Lee was not alone.
Freshman Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas also grilled Hagel about Israel. He mentioned the Jewish state 10 times—without ever once referring to Afghanistan or the U.S. troops in combat there.
When it was their turn to question Hagel, GOP senators Roy Blunt of Missouri and Roger Wicker of Mississippi each referred to Israel in a half dozen instances.  Neither mentioned Afghanistan.

In nearly eight hours of interrogation and testimony, Israel and its interests were referred to by the Senate Armed Services Committee a total of 106 times. On the other hand, there were a mere 24 references made to Afghanistan and the Americans fighting there—most by Democratic Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the committee.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan—where the U.S. frequently targets militants with drone-launched Hellfire missiles—barely merited mention at all.

It’s difficult to interpret this message any other way: the Senate Armed Services Committee—particularly its Republican membership—is more concerned with the apparent American defense secretary’s relationship with Israel than with the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the fate of U.S. troops engaged in both locations.

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