Many Afghan demos in ‘09 were about… Israel

Posted: 04 Aug 2010

I’m poking around the Afghan war diaries from Wikileaks (inspired by Antony Loewenstein) and it looks like one element of our nationbuilding effort in Afghanistan is working: the people there have demonstrated a lot, and peacefully, against Israel.

Judging by the cable traffic, many of the demonstrations in Afghanistan in 2009 seem to have been against Israel’s attack on Gaza. Here’s a demo in northern Baghlan on January 1, 2009: 1000 people. The same day an Israeli flag is burned at a demo in Konduz City. The next day in Kabul, 2000 people demonstrate. A day later, another 400 people demonstrate against air strikes. More on January 8. Another on January 15. On January 25, a “peaceful and organized demonstration” near Kabul. No target mentioned for this demo; but you’d guess from the date that it involved Gaza.

(Oh, and here 350 university students conduct a protest in support of Palestinians, in 2007.)

A few days back I showed that James V. Forrestal, the first Sec’y of Defense, was opposed to the establishment of Israel because it would create turmoil in the Muslim world all the way out to Afghanistan. And he died way before Wikileaks.

The Lebanese Army finally acts to protect Lebanon’s sovereignty

Posted: 04 Aug 2010

Israel has violated the ceasefire with Lebanon over 7,000 times since the end of the 2006 war on Lebanon.  

These violations include:

  • Dropping poisonous balloons over Southern Lebanon causing 8 people to be rushed to the hospital after inhaling toxic fumes.

  • Crossing into Lebanese territory and shooting at shepherds.

  • Consistently violating Lebanese airspace, the most recent incident being on May 26th of this year.

  • Crossing into Lebanese territory in an attempt to change the demarcation line between both countries.

  • Consistently crossing into Lebanese territory and kidnapping random civilians and livestock.

P.S. there were over a million cluster bombs dropped on Southern Lebanon.  To this day, Israel refuses to tell the Lebanese where they were dropped and children are constantly getting maimed by them.  The most recent incident was on July 26 of this year when 9 year old Yaqoub Youssef Zreiq was injured by an unexploded bomb.  These bombs look like toys… those kid friendly Israelis.

“What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs,” the head of an IDF rocket unit in Lebanon said regarding the use of cluster bombs and phosphorous shells during the war.

Quoting his battalion commander, the rocket unit head stated that the IDF fired around 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets.

Here is a compilation of other violations not captured above.
I really want to know, where UNIFIL has been during all those violations?  Perhaps it would be in Lebanon’s best interest to get rid of UNIFIL and allow Hezbollah to secure the borders…  

Al-Walaja villagers stop construction of the Wall while soldiers attack protesters, including children

Posted: 04 Aug 2010

The village of al-Walaja continued its unarmed resistance to the creation of the Separation Wall on its lands today. Villagers along with Israeli and international supporters non-violently stopped construction of the wall for one and a half hours today. Israeli armed forces responded by arresting 12 protesters and using pepper spray on a majority of the non-violent group.

The following is an account of Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD who witnessed the event:

Today (Wednesday) was another honorable and painful chapter in the struggle of the village of Al-Walaja. Apartheid soldiers assaulted children and adults protesting peacefully, injured many, and arrested six Palestinians. The destruction of the beautiful ancient village land was stopped for over 1.5 hours. I was especially touched by the courage of Omar and his two children, one of them was hit by a soldier with his gun on top of his head. Please see [the video above] and be both angered and inspired by the courage of the Walajans. The villagers need our support in many ways especially to demand Israel release those they abducted. Come join us PLEASE and act.

The post originally appeared on Joseph Dana’s blog here.

Peace Now: 492 Israeli violations of the partial settlement freeze

 04 Aug 2010

And other news from Today in Palestine:

Land and Property Theft and Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing

Police clash with Bedouin attempting to rebuild razed village

A number of injuries have been reported, among them MK Talab El-Sana, who apparently fainted while entrenched in a tent constructed to protest the village’s demolition.
Al Araqeeb village demolished for 3rd time, constant suffering

West Bank, August 4, (Pal Telegraph) Hundreds of Israeli police and special units broke into Al Araqeeb village in the Negev, to demolish and erase the village because the people built tents in it after it was demolished by Israeli forces last week.  According to reports from villagers that the violent clashes broke out between the villagers and Israeli police leaving five people injured, including Knesset member Talab al-Sana, he was assaulted and thrown out from the tent that he was marching inside, a field researcher at the Center for Justice, Salim Abu Mdegm and Dr. Awad Abu Freih and others were also injured, which has necessitated the transfer of some of them to a near hospital for treatment.
Israeli army raids villages in Negev, demolishes dozens of homes

A large force of Israeli police raided Tuesday several villages in Negev, south of Israel, amid a demolition operation targeting dozens of homes in the villages.
Six homes flattened, 300 others damaged in Israeli bombing of Deir Al-Balah

A preliminary report issued by the Palestinian ministry of public works stated that the Israeli random shelling of Deir Al-Balah caused damage to more than 300 homes and destroyed six others.
IOF demolishes 7 graves in Jerusalem

Jerusalem, August 4, (Pal Telegraph) Bulldozers of the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem demolished today morning seven graves in the cemetery of “Ma’man allah”.  According to eyewitnesses, that the Israeli bulldozers started demolishing the graves under police protection and under the pretext of not obtaining a license by The Islamic Movement to restore them.
Israeli settlement watchdog finds 492 ‘freeze’ violations

The Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now has documented 492 violations of a partial “moratorium” on new construction in the occupied West Bank set to expire in September, the group said on Tuesday.  Based in part on aerial photographs, the group said construction had begun on at least 600 housing units in 60 different settlements, at least 492 of them in “direct violation” of the moratorium which was imposed late last year.  Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer said the government has taken significant steps to enforce the moratorium but that the newly documented violations show it has not been entirely successful.
517,774 Jewish settlers live in West Bank: report

RAMALLAH, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) — Around 517,774 Jewish settlers live in settlements in the West Bank, according to a report published Tuesday by Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics ( PCBS).  According to the report, settlements in the West Bank were distributed into four strips, namely the eastern strip including 28 settlements, mountain strip including 31 settlements, western hills strip including 48 settlements and the greater Jerusalem strip including 37 settlements.  “The number of settlers who live in Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories increased by more than 40 times during the period of 1972 to 2009,” according to the PCBS report about the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories for the year 2009.
Solidarity/Activism/Boycott, Sanctions & Divestment

16 Arrested in al-Walaja

16 persons of conscious, including the village’s mayor, have been arrested in the West Bank village of al-Walaja, on Wednesday, protesting the construction of the annexation wall.

16 Arrested in al-Walaja

Group pledges new aid flotilla to Gaza this year (AFP)

AFP – The organisers of the “Freedom Flotilla” to Gaza said in Stockholm Wednesday they would make a new attempt to reach the Palestinian territory before the end of the year.*
British Muslims urged to boycott Israeli dates during Ramadan

New protest at occupation of Palestinian territories, as Israeli ambassador counters with ‘two-date solution’ pun.  British Muslims are being urged to boycott Israeli dates when breaking their fast during Ramadan in protest at the continued occupation of the Palestinian territories.  Campaign organisers Friends of Al Aqsa hope the boycott will dwarf previous attempts to hit Israel in the pocket, capitalising on the attention afforded to the plight of Palestinians by the deadly Israeli attack on a flotilla carrying aid to Gaza at the end of May.
An interview with Yonatan Shapira

“If I needed something to confirm I am going in the right direction…” an interview with Yonatan Shapira
Why I support the Olympia Co-op boycott, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb

Dear friends,  The Olympia Food Co-op boycott of Israeli products (except for fair trade olive oil) has generated much controversy and emotion. I do pray for healing and understanding among those who support and those who oppose such a boycott in the community of Olympia, Washington and around the world. All of us must stand together and mourn the loss of life generated by this conflict. May their memories be a blessing.  The Food Co-op and many concerned citizens around the world have asked the question: How do we transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the use of nonviolence? What is meaningful action?
Violence and Aggression (also see Lebanon)

Israel air raid on southern Gaza

At least one Palestinian dead and another wounded near Khan Younis.

Scores injured in days of Israeli attacks on Gaza

Tens of Palestinians were injured in a series of Israeli air strikes on Monday, 2 August in the refugee camp of Deir el-Balah in the south of the occupied Gaza Strip. Israeli forces targeted senior Hamas official Alaa al-Danaf during the attacks, which leveled his house and badly damaged at least 12 other homes nearby. This followed three consecutive days of Israeli strikes across the besieged territory.
PCHR Calls for Investigations into Injury of 58 Palestinians, Including 13 Children, by Explosion in Deir al-Balah

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Date: 03 Aug 2010, The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) calls upon the government in the Gaza Strip to investigate the circumstances of an explosion that occurred in Deir al-Balah refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, which left 58 injuries, including 13 children and 9 women, 7 houses uninhabitable and 30 others damaged. PCHR calls further for publishing the results of such investigations.
Police: Family attacked by settlers after car crash

NABLUS (Ma’an) — A fight erupted between a Palestinian family and Israeli settlers on Tuesday following a car crash, Palestinian Authority police reported.  Police said the cars collided on the Burin junction, in which Abdul Min’em Owni Sabah, 26, his wife Shahrayar Yousef Daoud, 26, and their daughter Duha, three, were injured.
Israeli Military Injures One Gazan Worker

Israel shoots another man as he attempts to gather construction materials.
Watch: PA raids Ma’an’s Nablus bureau

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Palestinian Authority customs agents raided Ma’an’s Nablus bureau Tuesday, assaulting three journalists during the latest in a series of operations targeting local broadcasters in the occupied West Bank.  Rami Swidan, a photojournalist on the Nablus desk, said PA forces attacked journalists Duhana Abu Ayasheh, Ayman Alawi, and Ala Ash-Shanti when they entered the office to shut down operations.

Boy Begs Soldiers Not To Take His Dad

TV cameras have captured the terrible moment of a five-year-old Palestinian boy seeing his father arrested by Israeli soldiers, nearby Hebron.  In the video, the kid, Khaled Jabari, wails in torment and confusion as Israeli Army drag away his father, Fadel, for stealing water.…  Walking barefoot, the youngster becomes hysterical as he pleads with the troops not to take his father away. One of the soldiers picks up the lad and removes him from the scene before Fadel is driven away in a four-wheel-drive.  Dr Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, commented the video, circulated yesterday on SKY TV and Al Jazeera, saying that “Palestinian children grow up under the Israeli occupation, surrounded by the Apartheid Wall, by oppression and destruction. Israel repudiates children’s rights and welfare and treats them like adults, clearly violating UN Declaration of Child’s Rights”.
Palestinian child that touched the world

Hebron, August 4, (Pal Telegraph) The child Khaled Fadhel Al-Jabari, four years, looked very courageous when he attacked the Israeli soldiers while they were abducting his father infront of his eyes, and thus the scene has aroused the world and created many questions about the courage that the child showed during the direct confrontation with the Israeli occupation soldiers, without fear or indifference.
17 Palestinians arrested in Tiberias

Police and Border Guard officers arrested 17 Palestinians staying in Tiberias without permit Monday night. They were transferred for questioning with the security establishment.,7340,L-3929314,00.html
IOF arrests 4 Palestinian workers in Hebron

Hebron, August 4, (Pal Telegraph) Israeli occupation forces arrested today morning four Palestinians while trying to enter their place of work in the occupied Palestinian territories of 1948.  Local sources said that Israeli troops from the so-called border guards have arrested four workers while trying to pass the barrier to reach their place of work.  Same sources reported that those detained four Palestinian workers were taken to an unknown location.
Hamas: PA forces detain 2 university lecturers

Bethlehem – Ma’an – Hamas said Tuesday that Palestinian Authority security forces detained seven party affiliates across the West Bank, including two An-Najah University professors.  The Nablus lecturers were identified in a Hamas statement as Dr Farid Abu Dahir and Dr Ghassan Khaled.  The other detentions took place in Nablus, Qalqiliya, Ramallah and Tulkarem, Hamas said.  On Monday, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights denounced the arrests of Hamas-affiliated residents in the West Bank, accusing the PA of waging a campaign of politically-motivated arrests.
The Siege (Gaza & West Bank)/Humanitarian and Human Rights/Restriction of Movement

Expired medicine donated to Gaza

There is no doubt that hospitals in the Gaza Strip are in dire straights, desperately in need of medicine and technology. However, millions of dollars worth of useless, out of date or expired medicine is being sent to the enclave as aid. And the expired medicine is ending up in land-fills which are not properly equipped to deal with medical waster. Gaza’s hospitals and clinics relay on international donations, and no-one is accusing donors of acting with malice. But doctors and health officials in Gaza want to be consulted before new donations are sent to the strip to ensure that patients in Gaza are getting what they actually need. Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston reports from the Gaza Strip.

Egypt allows Libyan aid into Gaza Strip (AFP)

AFP – Egypt allowed 200 tonnes of medical aid unloaded from a Libyan ship into the blockaded Palestinian Gaza Strip enclave, an official said on Wednesday.*
Hamas denies involvement in Eilat rocket attack

The Gaza-ruling Islamic Hamas movement denied on Tuesday any involvement in Monday’s rocket attack against the Israeli city of Eilat.  “We have no relation with the attack,” Hamas official Salah al- Bardawil told Xinhua.  He said that Israel’s accusations that the attack was carried out by Hamas are “meaningless” and meant to mobilize the international community against the Islamic movement.  Israeli security sources said the rockets were fired on Monday morning from either Egypt’s Sinai or southern Jordan.
Parliament chairman condemns rocket attack

Bethlehem – Ma’an – The chairman of the Palestinian National Council and the Arab Parliamentary Union Salim Az-Zannoun condemned Tuesday the launching of at least five rockets that struck Jordan and Israel a day earlier.  Az-Zannoun described the attack, in which one Jordanian national was killed, as an attempt to weaken Jordan, Palestine, and the region’s stability. Such “desperate” attempts, he said, would not achieve its goal, as Jordan plays a key role in maintaining regional stability.
PRC denies launching rockets toward Jordan and Israel

Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Popular Resistance Committee in Gaza denied reports Tuesday that it launched at least five rockets which struck the southern coastal cities of Eilat in Israel and Aqaba in Jordan.  Abu Al-Atayah, who speaks on behalf of the PRC’s Salah Ad-Din Brigades, told Ma’an radio that the rockets, which killed one Jordanian civilian on Monday, were launched by “private” groups with “goals not related to any Palestinian faction.”  “We only battle in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and over our occupied lands. We never attack the Israeli occupation in any other place,” Abu Al-Atayah said.
Report: Palestinian leader supports launching rockets

Bethlehem – Ma’an – Fatah Intifada Movement representative in Lebanon Abu Moussa says his group supports launching rockets at Israel and is willing to do so itself, LBCI television reported on Monday.  “Fatah al-Intifada supports any Palestinian [party] that has the potential to fight Israel in any location on the Palestinian arena,” he also said adding that the issue of Palestinian arms outside refugee camps in Lebanon should be resolved away from media, NOW Lebanon reported.
Egypt admits rocket attack from its own soil (AP)

AP – The deadly rocket attacks on Israel and Jordan’s Red Sea ports were carried out by the militant Palestinian Hamas group operating from Egypt, an Egyptian official said Wednesday after days of denials.*
Political/Other Developments

US: Time now for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks (AP)

AP – The Obama administration says the time has come for Israel and the Palestinians to begin direct peace negotiations without preconditions.*
Report: PLO assents to trilateral meeting

Bethlehem – Ma’an – The PLO has reportedly agreed to hold a Palestinian-Israeli-US meeting to discuss direct talks, the London-based Arabic-language daily Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat reported Tuesday.  According to the newspaper, which quoted an unnamed Palestinian source, the trilateral meeting will be convened to tackle the details of direct negotiations that were broken off in December 2008 as Israel launched Operation Cast Lead.
Probe into flotilla killings met with skepticism

UNITED NATIONS (IPS) – Despite initial misgivings, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon received the tacit approval of the Israeli government to establish an international panel to probe the widely-condemned killings of nine Turkish civilians onboard a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza last May.  “This is an unprecedented development,” Ban said Monday, virtually patting himself on the back.
Israel says won’t allow int’l cmte to question citizens

Although Israel has agreed to cooperate with a UN probe on the raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in May, it will not allow the committee to question Israeli officers, civilians or soldiers, according to officials.
Not surprising, Philip Weiss

Outgoing Colombian president Alvaro Uribe is to be the vice chair of the new U.N. panel looking into the flotilla raid.  FYI, Uribe won an award from the B’nai Brith. “Past winners include first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion; fourth Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir; former U.S. Presidents Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy.” And in 2007 he received an award from the American Jewish Committee. “President Uribe is a staunch ally of the United States, a good friend of Israel and the Jewish people…”
Uribe appointment undermines U.N. flotilla investigation, Carmen Andrea Rivera and Nico Udu-gama

It was announced yesterday, August 2nd, that outgoing Colombian president Álvaro Uribe Vélez will be the Vice Chairman of the U.N.’s four-member international committee tasked with investigating the Israeli commando attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. On May 31st, Israeli forces attacked the MV Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship manned by international activists delivering aid supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip. The ensuing confrontation left nine activists dead and dozens wounded and sparked international criticism of Israel.  Prior international investigations and condemnation have done little to change Israel’s colonial policies in occupied Palestinian territories. Appointing Uribe to this latest investigation preemptively undermines its credibility.
Other News
Press union condemns PA closure of TV stations

Nablus – Ma’an – The Palestinian Journalists Syndicates condemned the closure of TV stations in Nablus on Tuesday by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Telecommunications and customs officers.  Union chief Abdel Nasser An-Najjar said he had contacted both the Ministries of Telecommunications and Interior, who said they were not aware of the move.  Telecom Minister Mashhour Abu Daqqa said no closures would take place without informing the PJS in advance.
A Tale Of Two Summer Camps And One Dark Future, Max Blumenthal

On July 31, I published a piece about a group of high school age Israelis who helped the Israeli police level the Bedouin Arab village of al-Arakib. Since publishing the story, “The Summer Camp of Destruction,” I have received unconfirmed accounts from witnesses that the youth volunteers sang “Am Yisrael Chai,” while police bulldozers destroyed homes. At this point, nothing is unbelievable.
The right to live here

The Jewish people has the right to its own state like other nations, and it has the right to its own Law of Return, as do other dispersed peoples, including the Armenians and the Palestinians in their state that is supposed to be established beside Israel.
‘Chelsea’s marriage a spiritual Shoah’

Haredi newspaper devotes editorial to Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, slams assimilation.,7340,L-3929754,00.html
Helen Thomas to be honoured with a statue

PNN – Bethlehem – The journalist is the subject of a campaign by the Arab American National Museum to honour her career with a statue.  The former Washington correspondent Helen Thomas, who turns 90 tomorrow, was forced to resign after she made anti-Israeli comments at an Israeli Heritage Celebration in Washington.  The director of the museum, Anan Ameri, says that some people don’t want to donate towards it because of the comments and says $10,000 more is necessary for the statue’s erection.
Analysis/Opinion/Human Interest


After Israel’s major attack on Gaza in December 2008, it has faced criticism around the world. This criticism escalated after the publication of the Goldstone Report in 2009 that found evidence of war crimes in the attack. This year, Israel’s security establishment declared a full out PR war on criticism that it identifies as “delegitimization” of Israel. Israel’s most influential think tank, the Reut Institute, developed the strategy for how to fight this PR war. It published a massive report in preparation for this year’s Herzeliya conference entitled “Building a political firewall: against Israel’s delegitimization” which advocated that the Israeli intelligence agencies establish special units to collect information on critics of Israel. The report also advocates the establishment of pro-Israel networks in “hubs of delegitimization” which it named as London, Paris, Madrid, Toronto, and the Bay Area. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky spoke to Morton A. Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America who talks about how American lobby groups help Israel fight its PR war.
The Eve of Destruction?, Tony Karon

Last time around the U.S. encouraged this, what will Obama do?  Tuesday’s cross-border firefight between Israeli and Lebanese government forces might simply have been a misunderstanding. And the rockets fired from Gaza and the Israeli air strikes on the besieged territory over the past week could be viewed as periodic blip in business as usual on that front. By the same token, last Friday’s unprecedented joint visit to Beirut by the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Syria could be viewed simply as a move to stop the conflict between their Lebanese proxies turning nasty. And British Prime Minister David Cameron’s pleas to Turkey to keep open its communication channels with Israel’s leaders are quotidian diplomatic common sense. Viewed in a wider context, however, each of those events could be taken as signs of why many in the Middle East believe that despite the outward calm, the region may be on the brink of another catastrophic war.
Israel lobby’s man on Iran keeps his job from Bush to Obama, no problem, Philip Weiss

Obama got past Hillary in 2008 because his opposition to the Iraq war was a litmus test for much of the Democratic base. Then he won the last presidential election in part by opposing Bush’s foreign-policy agenda and promptly reached out to the “Muslim world.”  So why is a Bushie with an ideological agenda hanging on into the Obama administration?
MJ Rosenberg: American Jewish Committee Opposes Mosque Too

I have to admire the AJC — the ADL’s twin — for opposing the Muslim center near Ground Zero but for scoring points by not being as slightly less racist about it than ADL.  Instead of just saying “hell, no” to the Muslim, David Harris, the neocon head of the AJC, says “yes, but.”  He is all for building the center if it addresses some “concerns.” It’s like me saying that I endorse everything Glenn Beck stands for if he would just address my concern about his right-wing politics
Making a mockery of rape

The conviction of a Palestinian man for rape after consensual sex with a Jewish woman is a measure of the depths of anti-Arab racism in Israeli society, writes Gary Lapon.
Neocon halfway house, Philip Weiss

Andrew Sullivan has been doing important work on neoconservatives. Here is a piece in which he and Joe Klein lament their failure to see thru the neoconservative agenda for the Iraq war. The regrets expressed here are genuine and important and god knows they should be taken up by the Jewish community, whose leadership, including Reform Jewry, supported the destruction of an Arab society with the untold suffering that has resulted.
Lebanon: Retired commander suspected of spying for Israel

Authorities detain high-ranking army officer, a Christian party member and a telecom firm employee. Source: Lebanese intelligence not sure yet if they were giving information to Israel.,7340,L-3930262,00.html

Nasrallah: Hezbollah will respond if Israel attacks Lebanon’s army

In speech marking 4 years since Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah chief says Israel has violated cease-fire resolution over 7,000 times.
Aoun Not Surprised with Israeli New Attack against Lebanon

03/08/2010 The head of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc MP Michel Aoun said on Tuesday that he was not surprised with Israel’s attack against Lebanon, recalling that the decision of war and peace was not in the hands of the Lebanese.  “The Lebanese army is charged with deterring attacks and it currently plays the role of defending the border,” Aoun told reporters following his bloc’s weekly meeting. “The Resistance’s role begins when the Israeli forces infiltrate the country,” he added.  “Today’s assault is a test to the Lebanese army that demonstrated a solid will to defend itself. Israel has understood that it will confront the Lebanese army should it attack Lebanon,” he continued.
Arabic: Nasrallah Speech
Sayyed Nasrallah: Israeli Hand That Attacks Army Will Be Cut Off

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah warned on Tuesday that the Resistance party would not stand silent if the Israeli enemy attacked the Lebanese Army in the future, pledging that the Israeli hand that attacks the national army would be cut off.  Sayyed Nasrallah was speaking through a large TV screen at Al-Raya stadium in Beirut’s southern suburb, during the ceremony held by Hezbollah to mark the fourth anniversary of the Divine Victory, a few hours after an Israeli aggression against the Lebanese Army.  “I say honestly, that in any place where the Lebanese army will be assaulted and there’s a presence for the resistance, and it is capable, the resistance will not stand silent, or quiet or restrained,” Sayyed Nasrallah told crows of people who took part in the ceremony.
Hezbollah accuses Israel of Hariri murder

BEIRUT (AFP) – Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday openly accused Israel of the 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri and said he would unveil proof to that effect at a news conference next week.  “I accuse the Israeli enemy of the assassination of (former) Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and… I will prove this by unveiling sensitive information at a press conference on Monday,” Nasrallah said in a speech transmitted via video link.  The Shiite leader said he would present concrete and audiovisual evidence showing that Israeli agents had worked to exploit his Iranian-backed party’s “political rivalry” with Hariri, a Sunni Muslim who was close to Saudi Arabia, in an attempt to pin the murder on Hezbollah.
Nasrallah Promises Evidence that Israel Killed Hariri

Clearly, the most important piece of information delivered in Nasrallah’s address tonight (click here for the YouTube video, here for an Arabic transcription of the major points, and here for  an English summary) was the promise that he would return to the subject of the STL indictment next Monday, August 9th, at 8:30 PM. This will be the second press conference in a two-part  series (click here for my commentary on Part I), and the Hizbullah Secretary-General promised that he would provide conclusive evidence that Israel was behind the murder of Rafiq al-Hariri.
Clashes kill five in Lebanon

Three Lebanese soldiers, a journalist and an Israeli officer have been killed in a cross border clash between the two countries. Another Israeli commander was critically wounded. Zeina Khodr reports from Adaisseh in Lebanon where the incident took place.
Journalist Abu Rahhal slain while reporting on clashes

ADAYSSEH: Lebanese journalist Assaf Abu Rahhal was killed in clashes Tuesday between the Lebanese and Israeli armies.  Abu Rahhal died instantly after Israel shelled the southern border village of Adaysseh. Abu Rahhal, 55, worked for the Arabic-language Al-Akhbar daily and was reporting on the clashes from the southern Lebanese town of Adaysseh.  The journalist hailed from the village of Kfeir in the southern province of Hasbaya and had three children – Nisrine, Mazen and Geryes.  “It is totally unacceptable that a civilian, a dedicated journalist, husband and father, be targeted and killed while the international community and UN troops [in south Lebanon] stand by idly,” Omar Nashabe, Law page editor and columnist at Al-Akhbar told AFP.  Before joining Al-Akhbar, Abu Rahhal worked as the Hasbaya correspondent for the Arabic-language daily Al-Mustaqbal. The slain journalist also contributed articles to the Shu’un Janoubiah magazine.
Trees causing clashes with Israel “on Lebanese soil”: minister

BEIRUT, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) — Lebanese Information Minister Tareq Mitri said on Wednesday that the trees cut down by Israeli troops which led to deadly border clashes with Israel “were on Lebanese soil,” contradicting a statement by the UN peacekeeping force saying the trees were on the Israeli side of the shared border.  “The trees were south of the Blue Line, but in Lebanese lands,” Mitri told a press conference in Beirut, noting “the Blue Line is not the international border, and Lebanon always has its reservations about it. Yet, Lebanon has always respected the line. ”
Netanyahu: Lebanon responsible for violence against Israel

Defense Minister Barak demands Lebanese probe into ‘murderous act of terror’ after Israeli officer killed in rare Israel-Lebanon border skirmish.
Israel blames U.S., France for arming Lebanon

United States has given Lebanon approximately $400 million over the past year to purchase arms, despite Israel’s objections.
US urges ‘maximum restraint’ by Lebanon, Israel

Following deadly border skirmish, State Department spokesman says, ‘The last thing that we want to see is that this incident expand into something more significant’.,7340,L-3929840,00.html
Senior Israeli officer killed in border clash: military (AFP)

AFP – A senior Israeli officer was killed on Tuesday during clashes with the Lebanese army along the flashpoint northern border, the Israeli military said.*
Assad: We’ll support Lebanon in face of criminal Israeli aggression

UN peacekeepers urge ‘maximum restraint’ after Israeli and Lebanese soldiers exchange fire along border, killing 4 Lebanese.
Lebanese Army to Israel: War in Lebanon Not Picnic

Once again, Lebanon’s people proved to be victorious in the face of all schemes and plots…   Tuesday was not one of the Israeli enemy’s best days…  While recalling its humiliating defeat in Lebanon four years ago, the Israeli enemy had to face on Tuesday a strong and capable army, an army armed with its people’s support and strength…  The Lebanese Army heroes proved on Tuesday that Lebanon, through its resistance, army and people, are the victorious in the face of the Zionist aggressions and crimes. The message was more than clear: Israeli provocations cannot pass without repercussions anymore, and Lebanon will remain united in the face of all schemes and plots.  In an exclusive interview with Al-Manar website, former minister Michel Samaha noted that the few last hours proved again the heroism of the Lebanese Army, the aggressiveness of the Zionists and the fragility of the international forces in South Lebanon.
AL condemns Israeli violations against Lebanese borders

CAIRO, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) — Cairo-based Arab League (AL) condemned on Tuesday the “Israeli violations” against the Lebanese borders, urging the international community to act with this serious situation.  Hisham Youssef, chief of the cabinet for AL secretary general, said these violations are condemned and unacceptable, referring to reports showing that Israeli army has used banned weapons such as cluster bombs.  Youssef said that AL chief Amr Moussa is contacting Lebanese leaders to stand on the latest developments of the situation, adding “AL is discussing filing complaint to the UN Security Council in the light of the Israeli violation of UN Resolution 1701.”
Egypt supports Lebanon to face Israeli violations: FM

CAIRO, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) — Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul- Gheit said Tuesday Egypt is fully siding with Lebanon in the face of Israeli violations.  In a telephone conversation with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Abul-Gheit confirmed that Egypt is fully supporting the Lebanese government in standing up to the Israeli violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty.
Egypt contacts U.S., France, UN to stop Israeli attack on Lebanon

CAIRO, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) — Egypt’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday contacted the United States, France and the United Nations, calling for immediate intervention to stop the Israeli attack on Lebanon, state-run MENA news agency reported.  Egypt called upon all parties concerned to step in to pressurize Israel into self-restraint and abstain from escalating the military situation in south Lebanon, said the report.  Egypt is also urging respect for UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and stopping violations on this score.
UAE condemns Israel over border clash with Lebanese army

ABU DHABI, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) — The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Wednesday expressed condemnation towards Israel over the border clashes with the Lebanese army on Tuesday, the state news agency WAM reported.  “The UAE condemned today Israel’s aggression on the Lebanese army in south Lebanon as a flagrant infringement and blatant violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1701,” the report said.
Israeli provocation on Lebanese border could trigger new war, Paul Woodward Border clashes

 between Israeli and Lebanese troops have left three Lebanese soldiers and a journalist dead. Lebanon’s Hezbollah TV, Al Manar, reports one high-ranking Israeli officer has been killed but this has not been confirmed by the Lebanese army or UN troops stationed in southern Lebanon.  As the photo above makes clear, this was a blatant act of provocation by Israeli forces — no one accidentally strayed over the border. This is more like kids tossing matches to find out whether a brush fire will start.
Lebanese-Israeli relations: A history

Tensions between the two neighbors are nothing new: Israel has invaded Lebanon on a number of occasions – mainly in persuit of Hezbollah and Palestinian fighters, who it accused of threatening its security. Tarek Bazley has this look at the backdrop to the current tensions.
The pro-Hariri propaganda of Robert Fisk, As`ad Abukhalil

I have offered to buy a golden watch to officiate over a retirement ceremony for Robert Fisk. Look at this lousy piece of his. 1) he claims that the border is murky between Lebanon and Palestine when the picture in the article shows the fence. 2) look how many times he uses “Iranian funded” in reference to Hizbullah but he does not say US-funded about the usurping entity; 3) he talks about the efforts of Sa`d Hariri and his phone calls but he does not tell readers that the man is on his yacht in Sardinia. 4) Notice how he spells the name of the latest Israeli spy as Milad Ein Forgetting that “Ein” is the reference to hte first letter of his last name when his full name was identified on TV here. 5) Is Abed, his driver, sleeping because Fisk is really out of it these days. I mean, between watching Rima Maktabi on CNN and reading Fisk in the Independent on Lebanon, I would rather consume large amounts of crack cocaine provided it is legal on some remote island, of course.
America’s Dog in Lebanese Fight, FRANKLIN LAMB

For months, as Lebanon’s historic debate over basic civil rights for Palestinian refugees has unfolded, the Obama administration has watched idly along the sidelines. As hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees cough and slow-bake while inhaling rancid camp air in Lebanon’s sweltering breezeless heat, the White House has now sent Lebanon’s Parliament a message. The United States will not support meaningful civil, social or economic rights for the world’s largest and oldest refugee population and it wants them naturalized anywhere except anyplace in Palestine.
Too Much Information

Say what you will about Hizbullah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, but at least give him credit for his consumate skills in political messaging.  Next week’s press conference, in which the entire world will be treated to what Nasrallah has called “material evidence” that Israel was behind the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, is something of a cross between a WikiLeaks media scandal and the finale of American Idol. Hizbullah is not content to simply pass on its evidence to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon; the whole point of the effort is to reshape public opinion in Lebanon.  The result of this effort will be that the Lebanese will have two different sources of authority on the question of who killed Rafiq al-Hariri. Just as the old binaries of the 2005-09 period were fading away (March 14 vs. March 8, loyalists vs. opposition, etc.), a new one has arisen to take its place. “Do you believe the U.N. or Hizbullah?” is what we’ll ask each other. “Which story is more convincing? Which evidence is more compelling? If both organizations aired their findings in primetime specials on two different channels, which one would you watch live and which one would you TiVo?”  At the end of the day, is there such a thing as too much information?
Too Much Information
Ain al-Hilweh factions call truce after 2004 dispute

BEIRUT: A truce between factions at the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh ended a six-year dispute on Tuesday, as officials called for unity.  Several Palestinian officials and Ain al-Hilweh figures gathered inside the camp, in south Lebanon, to put an end to the argument, which erupted in 2004 between the Fatah faction and members of Jund al-Sham Islamist militant group.
Jund al-Sham member Amer Dahabera and Fatah member Anis Khoder were both killed in the fighting.
Looking to Ignite New War against Lebanon,  Carlos Latuff
Tuesday: 50 Iraqis Killed, 118 Wounded

A rare car bombing in a southern, Shi’ite city and another flag-planting attack on security forces in the capital were just two of the many attacks witnessed across Iraq today. Overall, at least 50 Iraqis were killed and 118 more were wounded. The figures are expected to rise in the Kut bombing. Meanwhile, 26 Kurdish families have crossed the frontier into Iraqi Kurdistan to escape Iranian artillery attacks against suspected Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) rebels.
30 killed, 80 wounded in Iraq twin car bombs: medic (AFP)

AFP – Two near-simultaneous car bombs in the southern Iraqi city of Kut on Tuesday killed 30 people and wounded 80, a medical official said, giving a new toll.*
Car bomb blasts rock Iraqi city

At least 10 people killed after three devices were planted in commercial district of Kut.
Allawi rejects US offer to allow PM Maliki to keep office

Sources in the Iraqia List said that Iraq’s former prime minister Iyad Allawi had strongly disagreed with a senior U.S. delegation during his talks held in the Kurdish city of Irbil. According to the sources, the Americans insist on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s stay in office.
Iraq releases former top Saddam loyalist (AP)

AP – The Iraqi government has released from prison a top Saddam Hussein loyalist after he was found innocent of helping the former regime punish opponents by draining the country’s fabled marshlands, a judge said Wednesday.*
End of Iraq Combat Operations or Beginning of Downsized, Rebranded Occupation Relying Heavily on Private Military Contractors?

President Obama said Monday in a speech before the Disabled American Veterans national convention in Atlanta that the US military is on target to withdraw all its combat troops from Iraq by the end of August. We speak with independent journalist Jeremy Scahill, who says this instead marks the beginning of a downsized and rebranded occupation that will rely heavily on private military forces. [includes rush transcript]
Operation Infinite Occupation, ANTHONY DiMAGGIO

The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed by President Bush in late 2008 legally required the U.S. to withdrawal all troops from the country by the end of 2011.  The Bush administration was never keen on the plan, which was forced on U.S. leaders by Iraqi political official who were set on ending the occupation, in accord with the wishes of the vast majority of the Iraqi people.  If Bush had remained in office long enough, there is little doubt that he would have opposed a full withdrawal, as setting a timetable for removing U.S. troops was long opposed by the President, who consistently and vigorously demanded that “conditions on the ground” dictate the removal or adding of forces.
Iran favors dialogue with West based on justice, respect: president

TEHRAN, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) — Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that the Islamic Republic is interested in dialogue with the West based on justice and mutual respect, official IRNA news agency reported.  Ahmadinejad said that he is ready to talk with U.S. President Barack Obama as he was ready to negotiate with former U.S. President George W. Bush.
Ahmadinejad said Monday that he is ready to hold face-to-face talks with Obama on global developments at the upcoming UN General Assembly, according to IRNA.
Did Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad just survive an assassination attempt?

His government says no, but early reports of a grenade attack on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s convoy were issued by Iranian news agencies with close ties to the regime.
Iran warns of unforeseen consequences in event of US attack

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday that Mullen’s remarks and the constant use of military rhetoric by the United States showed that it was desperate.
Fuel swap talks with Iran may be close

Discussions to facilitate a nuclear fuel swap deal with Iran could start soon, International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano said Monday, according to a Reuters report.
U.S. Freezes Iranian Assets

The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday said it has frozen assets linked to several Iranian individuals and two entities that have helped finance Hezbollah “terrorism” efforts.
Iran, Venezuela to form joint oil firm

Upcoming Tehran-Caracas talks will focus on the establishment of a joint oil shipping company as agreed in a memorandum of understanding the two countries signed last year, Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Hossein Noghrekar Shirazi told Mehr News Agency on Tuesday.
Iran ‘spy trial’ opens in Kuwait

A trial opens in Kuwait of six men, including a Kuwaiti soldier, and one woman accused of spying for Iran.
U.S. and Other World News
Afghanistan Civilian Deaths: NATO Data Shows Sharp Increase In Attacks After Civilians Killed

Each time U.S. or NATO forces accidentally kill Afghan civilians, insurgents and their sympathizers typically retaliate with six additional assaults on foreign forces over the next six weeks, researchers using newly declassified NATO data conclude.
Faith in Obama’s handling of Afghan war at record low: poll

WASHINGTON — American public support for the Afghan war and US President Barack Obama’s handing of the conflict has hit an all-time low after the leak of secret military documents, a poll showed Tuesday.  Obama’s overall ratings also declined to a new low, with only 41 percent of Americans saying they approved of his performance, according to the USA Today/Gallup poll — his worst showing since taking office in January 2009.
Ground Zero mosque project clears major obstacle

Ambitious plans to build a mosque next to New York’s Ground Zero cleared a major hurdle on Tuesday when a local commission voted to remove the existing structure on the site from a protected list.  The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously in favor of an application to end the protected status of the 1850s Italian Renaissance palazzo-style building, which now houses only an abandoned clothing store.
‘Ground Zero’ mosque approved

Despite protests, the building of an Islamic cultural center in New York city can now go ahead after a unanimous vote to clear the way for the Islamic site. The proposed centre has become the focus of debate because it would be built near the site of the September 11th attacks. Al Jazeera’s Rosalind Jordan reports
Why We Sued to Represent Muslim Cleric Aulaqi

Anwar Aulaqi is a US citizen and Muslim cleric living somewhere in Yemen. The US has put him on our terrorist list and is trying to assassinate him. The Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU filed suit today so we can be pro bono lawyers for his father, Nasser Aulaqi, to stop the government from killing him.  We filed suit today challenge the US requirement that lawyers must seek permission from the government before we can provide free pro bono legal representation to a US citizen.
Julian Assange Responds to Increasing US Government Attacks on WikiLeaks

It’s been ten days since the whistleblower website WikiLeaks published the massive archive of classified military records about the war in Afghanistan, but the fallout in Washington and beyond is far from over. Justice Department lawyers are reportedly exploring whether WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange could be charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917 for publishing the classified Afghan war documents. Meanwhile, investigators in the Army’s criminal division have reportedly questioned two students in Boston about their ties to WikiLeaks and Private First Class Bradley Manning, a leading suspect in the leak. We speak with WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. [includes rush transcript–partial]
Pakistan No Obedient Ally, Eric Margolis

WikiLeaks data shows how volatile nation is forced to act against own self interests.
Murder Inc. in Afghanistan, JOHN GRANT

Let me get this straight. Robert Gates, the Secretary-Of-Defense-For-Life, is touring the TV news shows and major newspapers pleading with great angst lines in his forehead that WikiLeaks is “guilty” and “morally culpable” for releasing 75,000 field reports from Afghanistan to the American public because they endanger Afghans allied with US forces.  But he and the US militarists who initiated the war in Iraq and who have continued the war in Afghanistan for nine years, the people who keep everything about these wars secret except what is useful to sustain them, the people who finance these wars on credit without raising taxes, dumping the costs on future generations – these people are not “morally culpable,” “guilty” or endangering anyone?

The Birthright equation: Jewishness + Community = I *heart* Israel

Posted: 04 Aug 2010

Last month, activist Rachel Marcuse spent 10 days in Israel as part of the Taglit-Birthright program — a fully sponsored trip for young North American Jews to learn more about the country. She went to bear witness and ask questions about the Israeli state’s treatment of Palestinians, and to learn about other complex issues in Israel today. After the program, she spent another 10 days elsewhere in Israel and the West Bank of Palestine talking to Israeli Jews, Palestinian citizens of Israel, international activists, and Palestinians in the occupied territories. This is the second of a seven-part series on what she found. You can read the first part here and the second part here. This series first appeared in and this story can be found here.

Day 5

We wake up at 6 a.m. and load the bus, still sleep-deprived, and head to the holy city of Tsfat, the ancient city of mystics and Kabbalah tucked away in the mountains almost due north of Tiberias, which sits on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. After visiting some very old synagogues and hearing stories about missiles destroying parts of the city in the Second Lebanese War, we have a precious two hours of free time and I walk around the town with my friend, Hannah. We wander back to Ronan, a Yemenite cook and mystic/bullshitter (depending on your perspective), who earlier wanted us all to yell “I love Israel!” at the top of our lungs. I passed on that, hoping that the white-robed Ronan wouldn’t open his eyes and notice me. We enjoy his pizza-like creation, made with a tasty Yemenite yeast bread called lechuch, and look out at the street. The place does have some crazy energy to it. Or maybe it’s just all the Hassidic kids running around.

Things really get interesting after lunch when the Israeli soldiers and students join us for our mifgash or “encounter.” They will be with us for the next five days. After an awkward game of charades with “the Israelis,” we go to see a glass-blowing demonstration. Our glass-blowing artist/host is an articulate, hip Princeton-educated American-Israeli Hasid who tells us her story of making aliyah. As Or, one of the Israeli students, later jokes to me: “It was like ‘look into the fire and let’s be spiritual together.'” She is one of the many brilliant choices of presenters Taglit introduces us to — smart people, easy to relate to — and all coming across as incredibly reasonable.

We head to the “eco-greenhouse” at Kibbutz Ein Shemer for our workshop on “coexistence.” This presentation is apparently why our Taglit experience will be different — we will get an Arab perspective! It turns out that one of the people scheduled to speak with us, who is described by our tour guide as “critical and very interesting” and who lives on this side of the separation wall, is unable to make it. We are instead hosted in the very beautiful but very noisy greenhouse — it’s impossible to hear each other without microphones — by a young Jewish program leader with curly hair and Birkenstocks who works in the greenhouse with Israeli Jewish and Arab youth from the area. She is joined by a 19-year-old Arab-Israeli woman who promotes a service program for Arab-Israelis (who, with the exception in some cases of Druze and Bedouins, aren’t allowed to serve in the army).

So, as it turns out, we’re going to get the pro-Israel perspective of a Jewish Israeli and the pro-Israel perspective of an Arab-Israeli, who — while both seem to be lovely — don’t exactly represent the breadth of political opinion we had been promised in this “pluralistic” Birthright trip. Not that any of us are surprised.

The greenhouse program leader tells us in English that she is about to address the soldiers and then switches to Hebrew. I wait for her to finish and then ask the soldier sitting beside me what she said. Essentially, it turns out, she told the soldiers to behave — that, as they represent the state, they should hold back on their views. I have a feeling that soldiers on previous Taglit trips may have heckled Arab presenters.

The young Israeli woman switches back to English to tell us about her experience with the separation wall, describing it as “ethically bad,” but “practically good.” This was an argument I heard frequently — as the wall seems to many to have reduced the number of suicide bombings. From others, I heard how the wall divides villages, how it “provides a false sense of security,” and fails to address the root issues.

Later, I learn that some 33,000 Palestinians with West Bank ID cards, residents of 36 communities, are located in a kind of limbo between the separation wall and the Green Line, the pre-1967 border, many of them cut off from the farms on which they depend.

The young Arab woman is passed the microphone and provides a description of three categories of Arabs in Israel:

1) Arab-Israelis who are pro-Israel. These individuals are the target population for her non-military service program to “give back” to Israel.

2) Arab-Israelis who are anti-Israel. She tell us that it is this category that is very vocal in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

3) Arab-Israelis who, she claims, don’t care either way or who don’t want to take a side. She suggests that this is in case there is a war so they aren’t caught up in it.

During the question and answer session, I take the microphone and suggest that there might be a fourth group: Arab-Israelis who might not consider themselves pro-Israel, given their lived reality as second-class citizens, but who recognize the reality of the State and are interested in a constructive peace process. When I ask her about this speculation and wonder if she has any thoughts on a peace process, I don’t get much uptake on either question. (Later, I realize – of course! – that such a category exists; and I’m to learn much more about these complexities after the Taglit tour ends, when I interview the director of an Arab-Israeli advocacy organization.)

Again, in this session there is no real dialogue and after the all-too-short Q and A, we are toured through the greenhouse. As one of my progressive friends later remarks sarcastically, “What makes more sense than to open up such a heated issue and then have us go to look at plants?!” Another participant is less than enthralled by the impressive greenhouse, inappropriately incorporated into our agenda, and engages with one of our new soldier friends about the recent events surrounding the international aid flotilla to Gaza.

The flotilla, it turns out, is difficult to talk about with Israelis — especially with Israeli soldiers. While, in general, I was surprised at how progressive many of the soldiers’ positions were with regard to a peace process (they talked easily 1967 borders, land transfers, Jerusalem as an international city and so on), when the flotilla was discussed, it seemed to elicit automatic defensive reactions from otherwise thoughtful people.

But perhaps none of this should have been a surprise to me. Earlier this year, in an article in the Palestine Chronicle called Indoctrinating Israeli Youths to Be Warriors, Stephen Lendman wrote:

Today, militarism is a ‘cardinal aspect of Israeli society,’ its quintessential element under the 1986 National Defence Service Law, requiring all Jewish-Israeli citizens and permanent residents to serve — men and women, with exemptions only for Orthodox Jews, educational inadequacy, health, family considerations, married or pregnant women or those with children, criminals, and other considerations at the Defense Ministry’s discretion. In addition, most Israeli leaders are former high-ranking IDF officers, politics and the military being inextricably connected.

As often happens, when you spend time with other human beings and really hear their stories, your perspective can become much more nuanced; assumptions can dissolve. Don’t get me wrong — I met refuseniks and others who escaped military service by faking medical situations or what-have-you, but it took this trip for me to realize how much skipping military service would impact one’s life in terms of both career (as many employers just wouldn’t hire you) and community.

These soldiers — kids, really, significantly younger than me — are under immense pressure since childhood to participate in a conflict that many of them found, at the least, problematic and sometimes despicable, like the soldiers formerly stationed in Hebron who now run the “Breaking the Silence” tour. (I’ll write more about them in the post-Birthright section of this series.) But, for most, the army creates an enveloping sense of obligation, of social cohesion, and of solidarity, which can make critical expression very difficult.

This reluctance to criticize was especially evident in discussion around the Gaza flotilla — the soldiers who were on those ships and helicopters are the friends (literally or figuratively) of the soldiers who accompanied us on our trip. They were commanded by the State to be there in international waters; there was no question in the minds of the soldiers with whom I spoke that their comrades were “defending themselves” against pipes and in fear of a lynching. I pointed out the disproportionate force used — pipes vs. guns — but my arguments were useless in the face of this seemingly unshakable social cohesion. Every Israeli-Jew I talked with about the flotilla became immediately defensive. This reaction led me to realize how self-conscious Israelis are — many deeply care about what the international community thinks about them… and their country. Many even agreed that Israel policy had the (unintended?) consequence of increasing anti-semitism around the world, but there was still an overwhelming sense of social cohesion and national unity clearly tied to military service.

I realized, too, that something similar was happening with us on Taglit — there was an attempt to create a similar sense of community and social cohesion in our group. We were sleep deprived, culture shocked and vulnerable. Taglit, it seemed, wasn’t really about convincing us about the politics, but about creating a sense of community that we would associate with Jewishness and then Israel. The sense of community was real, but the assumptions that followed weren’t necessarily so.

Thinking about these things, I came up with what I call the Birthright equation: Jewishness + Community = I Heart Israel. Social cohesion was clearly manifest in our newly built community. Many on the trip, I speculated, would equate the genuine warmth and respect in the group with Jewishness — as opposed, let’s say, to humaneness. And these positive feelings would all connect back to Israel. My equation would become a little longer over the coming days as I heard the same chorus from Israeli after Israeli starting with: “It’s complicated….”

Rachel Marcuse is a Vancouver-based activist, facilitator and apparatchick. The executive director of the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), a municipal political party, she also freelances, focussing on facilitation skills, youth-engagement and strategic planning. Her views do not necessarily represent the positions of any organization whatsoever.

Why I support the Olympia Co-op boycott

Posted: 04 Aug 2010

Dear friends,

The Olympia Food Co-op boycott of Israeli products (except for fair trade olive oil) has generated much controversy and emotion. I do pray for healing and understanding among those who support and those who oppose such a boycott in the community of Olympia, Washington and around the world. All of us must stand together and mourn the loss of life generated by this conflict. May their memories be a blessing.

The Food Co-op and many concerned citizens around the world have asked the question: How do we transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the use of nonviolence? What is meaningful action?

While negotiations, lobbying and dialogue occur, those who have been directly impacted by occupation, the Palestinians, have called upon the world to engage in meaningful nonviolent action to apply pressure upon Israel so that Israel cannot conduct the business of occupation as usual. Have we all not seen and read about life in Palestine under occupation? The Goldstone report, B’tselem, Gisha and many other organizations and individuals have documented the systematic violation of Palestinian human rights in the past several years. How do we both construct peace and engage in non-cooperation with policies that systematically violate human rights on a daily basis?

Boycott is a time honored method which was the catalyst that ended legal segregation in the United States. Boycott is the primary tool of those engaged in nonviolent resistance to systematic injustice. Boycott targets unjust policies. It is not about ‘the right to exist’; Everyone has the right to ‘exist’. Rather, boycott is a tool that focuses on the right to live a life free from a policy of land seizure, internal transfer, administrative detention and other forms of violent and harmful actions levied against people who do not want to give up their land.
I want to explain my personal reasons for supporting the decision of the Co-op not to limit their boycott to the West Bank. I believe that the articulation of a position that there is a line that separates products ‘made in the West Bank’ and those ‘made in Israel’ is difficult to stand by if you look deeply at the issue.

1) The mechanics of occupation is not limited to the West Bank. I’m sure you’ve all heard about the 300 bedouin Palestinians made homeless two days ago, in the Negev settlement known as al-Araqib, homes destroyed by the way with a Caterpillar bulldozer flying an Israeli flag. This is an ongoing reality of Palestinian life under occupation, that is, the loss of land. Now, almost 80% of of West Bank land is considered Israeli State land. Palestinian families are continually being driven from their homes.

Furthermore, Israel inside the green line is the agency of occupation and conducts, plans, prepares and executes aspects of the occupation from inside the green line.

2) Israel prevents Palestinian exports from reaching their destination all the time. Trying to sell West Bank products in Israel or abroad is a seriously challenging issue. Bottles are smashed, fruit is left to rot, clothes are ruined. This happens in the intersection of borders. Palestinians and their products have no right to any border passage. All movement of people and goods is controlled by Israel.

3) Lest we forget Gaza and the closure. 60% of Gazans suffer food insecurity. That is truly a stunning number. 90% of the products sold in Gaza come from Israel. Why? No manufacture is allowed in Gaza due to shortages of materials. Farmers are shoot dead in their fields all the time. Fisherman are prevented from fishing. The closure has not been lifted. Hence, the application of boycott until such time as the borders are open and people and goods can come and go according to international standards of passage.

4) While I believe we must be understanding, compassionate, gracious and clear in the use of our language when engaging with those who do not support nonviolent means of conflict transformation such as boycott, BDS is really about focusing on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian towns, villages and farm land including East Jerusalem, the Negev, the Galilee, Ramlah, Jaffo, Lod, Nazereth, Acco and the West Bank. The BDS movement has been very clear about including Palestinians living inside Israel as part of the educational effort around human rights issues facing the Palestinian community inside the green line.

5) All use of anti-Semitic language or rhetoric, or the slandering of others as anti-Semites or self-hating Jews must be opposed. Our common ground, support of those who suffer indignities, should be the focus.

Supporters of boycott are asking people to shift loyalties from partisan support of one side or the other to positions based on universal standards of human rights. Those who support boycott are creating a broad based multifaith and multicultural coalition that crosses boundaries and unites people based on what kinds of behavior should not be tolerated by nation states according to principles of international law.

My own activism includes standards of food justice based on access and human rights in the United States as well as other countries. I do not buy a range of products based on human rights standards. The Food Co-op shares this ethic. Fair Trade standards underlay their decision.
My support for the Olympia Food Co-op is for these reasons. Groups that are limiting their boycott to ‘Israeli settlement products’, or to corporations that profit from occupation (such as the JVP campaign) can still reach out in support of those who have taken a broader stance. This is a movement issue.

Finally, there is the matter of Rachel Corrie. Like Rachel, those who decided to boycott Israeli products have taken a meaningful action that supports their desire to end occupation. They are moved to action from on the ground experiences. As a forty year veteran of this issue, I, too have witnessed what is happening on the ground and I am moved to be part of the effort to change Israeli policy. I do this from a love of people. I believe that Jewish tradition stands with me. Not profiting or benefiting from the fruits of violence is a central tenet of a life committed to nonviolence. Since the Jewish state is acting in my name, I am forced to withdraw support for Israeli food products until the closure is lifted, the policy of land seizure ends and negotiations are taken up in a meaningful way. This does not mean I am cutting off my relationships to the people I love on both sides. May all efforts to construct peace continue. Meaningful nonviolent resistance to injustice is part of the equation.

The Food Co-op community went beyond endless discussions of exactly how one should act to resolve conflict, and they acted. Whether people agree or disagree with the particulars of any given action, at least support the courage of people who are willing to act in behalf of those who are suffering on a daily basis. May the process of reparative justice truly begin.

Lynn Gottlieb

Non-violent activist Qumsiyeh is ordered to appear ‘before a colonial officer’

Posted: 04 Aug 2010

Palestinian activist and scientist Mazin Qumsiyeh speaks about his detention for 12 hours at the Jordanian-Israeli-Palestinian border at Allenby Bridge last week before being allowed to enter. He says that he has been ordered to report to authorities at a West Bank settlement, Gush Etzion, on August 9, apparently because of his activities– the same day he is supposed to appear before another Israeli judge on a traffic violation. “I can appear before two colonial officers in one day, on August 9.”

From his encounter with security at the border– Qumsiyeh had been in Turkey at a conference on nonviolence:

“What do the Turks know about nonviolence?”

Qumsiyeh: “Like everybody else, some people know about violence and some people know about nonviolence, and some Turks that I was talking to know about nonviolence….”

“They beat our soldiers [on the Mavi Marmara]…”

“I heard a different version of the story… That you guys came down shooting at them. Plus I wasn’t there and you weren’t there, and if you want the evidence, I am happy to send you some videos…”

Olbermann won’t mention…

Posted: 04 Aug 2010

On Countdown last night, Keith Olbermann would not mention the scandal of Israeli racism–or, rather, what would be a scandal if people like him dared to talk about it.

First Maria Teresa Kumar (of and then Jonathan Turley attacked the Republican plan to deprive children born to illegal immigrants of automatic U.S. citizenship, comparing such an injustice with that of “stateless people,” as Turley said, in another country–Germany.

Neither Turley nor Kumar can make the leap from U.S. nativism to the crisis in Israel over the government’s plans to deport children of migrant workers.

Kumar commented, “That’s not what America is all about.” Why not at least talk about both Germany and Israel? Of course, doing so would raise troubling questions about the identity between Israel’s agenda and the U.S.’s agenda in the Middle East.

Olbermann at least defended Christiane Amanpour against Tom Shales’s attack. Shales had walloped Amanpour for what he saw as her implied sympathy for the Taliban, when she spoke of mourning all the war dead. Shales exclaimed that, “If this were 1943, we would hardly think it appropriate to mourn Nazi casualties.” 

For once, an American corporate newsguy, Olbermann, had the guts to retort, “Well, it’s not 1943.”  And Olberman showed some grit when he accused Shales of having “gone to the mourn-Nazi-casualties-card.”

Beinart gives Krugman permission to come out

Posted: 04 Aug 2010

I underestimated Peter Beinart’s piece (and role) from the start. Well, it’s huge. Now, his latest thoughts on the ADL’s Islamophobia enable Paul Krugman to say that he has a problem with the politics of Israel/Palestine in the U.S., and how the pro-Israel agenda got hijacked by the Likudniks. The language is imprecise or I’d quote it. Again I say that Krugman is a lilylivered narrator on a subject that he should have broached long ago, but this is Beinart’s achievement, to talk to the Jewish liberal middle, to allow them to speak out, those people who deep down probably love Israel, and I infer that Krugman is in that company. Will it make a difference? Everything makes a difference. Beinart is some kind of gamechanger. He is participating most crucially in the Jewish-American divorce from Zionism, which will become the rage before too long, mark my word. It may be a couple of years, but it is taking place: Jews are discovering the Nakba and the Palestinian dispossession. Max Blumenthal and Julian Schnabel and Tony Judt and Jerry Slater and this website are all playing roles, as well as leading gentiles like Walt and Sullivan. But Beinart’s role is a big one. NYU new media guru Jay Rosen also cited Beinart, lately. He is a liberal Zionist, yes, but the contradictions between Zionism and liberalism will become overwhelming, for people who do not regard the west as unsafe for Jews. The awakening is happening. Will it affect Palestinian conditions? Of course. It is not long before young liberal American Jews say, Be a light unto the nations means be a multicultural democracy, and what is so terrifying about refugees who merely want to return to their homes? My grandfather was a refugee, etc.

My daughter begs me not to go to Gaza

Posted: 04 Aug 2010  

Late last month, Lillian Rosengarten, a New Yorker born in Hitler’s Germany, explained why she is getting on the Jewish boat to Gaza, which is to depart from Europe one of these days. Today she has some more pre-trip thoughts re family and religion:

As I prepare to leave at a moment’s notice, I know this is exactly what I need to do and am not sure why the force that guides me in this decision is so strong. My daughter  begs me not to go. “There are so many other things you can do from here,” she pleads. Her agitated self is afraid. “You put yourself at risk mom, you could die.” My son  has accepted my decision more or less as I shower him with articles to try to persuade him. My beloved grand girls emulate their mom’s fears. When the 7 year old  asks, “Omi are you happy you are going on the ship?” and I respond “very happy,” she gives me  permission, “okay Omi you can go.”

My 16 year old  accepts me despite reservations. Close friends worry. I understand but am not deterred.
So why the German Jewish ship? For it could have been any ship or another form of active resistance. It is important to tell you, I am one of those assimilated Jews with no affiliation to organized religion. I have always been more political than religious, a sixties hippie and active war resister. I don’t believe in wars and am a pacifist. I believe in dialogue and speaking to the enemy as a way to understand the “other” through listening and compassion. I believe in engaging in conflict resolution through peaceful means. In Israel where violence is met with violence we witness a cycle of hate that deepens with each generation, a circle of hell and endless suffering.
I believe there is a strong distinction between Zionism and Judaism. This cannot be overemphasized and helps to explain my strong desire to make that distinction by joining a Jewish ship to Gaza. That it is a German Jewish ship is significant because of my background but more important for me, is an opportunity to speak out against human rights abuses as a Jew who is not a Zionist. Not all Jews are Zionists. I did not always know this. To assume that every Jew supports the Israeli Zionist vision is an unfortunate misperception. Judaism is an age-old, compassionate humble way of life and opposes the idea of a political state for Jews on grounds of religious beliefs. The Zionist ideal is to form a religious state, a Jewish state and to oppress the population of Palestinians. The hallmark of Zionism is harsh nationalism that imposes itself in a completely illegitimate and amoral way on the local population. Through consistent collective punishment, the Zionist state continues to crush the spirit and freedom of the Palestinian people and now the Bedouins.

Because I am a Jew I would have been exterminated in Germany.  I survived because my father was able to see the writing on the wall when Hitler came to power. He was always a realist. This exodus is imprinted in my very being for all my life. That’s just the way it is. I want to say to the world I am a Jew and not a Zionist, and therefore the actions of the Israeli Zionist government are not in my name. It is my fervent hope that Jews all over the world will stand up and shout, “NOT IN OUR NAME.” Perhaps then Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, all the religions of the world and all countries (including of course the United States) of the world, shall join together to demand full equality for Palestinians and  Israeli citizens, for there is no difference in the value of their lives.


  1. At the end of “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy comes to the revelation that if she ever goes looking for her heart’s desire again, “I won’t look any further than my own backyard.”President Obama is hoping that his visits to backyards around the country fulfill his heart’s desire: keeping Democrats in control of the House and Senate in the midterm election.To that end, he’s holding “backyard chats” this morning in Des Moines and this afternoon in Richmond, Virginia.”We’ve been trying to do more of these,”Mr. Obama said yesterday at a backyard event in Albuquerque.

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