Before it is too late

Who Will Stop the AIPAC Jews Before it is Too Late?

By Medea Benjamin
– – While I was being tackled by security guards at Washington’s Convention Center during the AIPAC conference for unfurling a banner that asked “What about Gaza?,” my heart was aching. I wasn’t bothered so much by the burly guards who were yanking my arms behind by back and dragging me-along with 5 other CODEPINK members-out of the hall. They were doing their job.

What made my heart ache was the hatred I felt from the AIPAC staff who tore up the banner and slammed their hands across my mouth as I tried to yell out: “What about Gaza? What about the children?””Shut the f— up. Shut the f— up.” one staffer yelled, red-faced and sweating as he ran beside me. “This is not the place to be saying that shit. Get the f— out of here.”

What makes my heart ache is thinking about the traumatized children I met on my recent trip to Gaza, and how their suffering is denied by the 6,000 AIPAC conventioneers who are living in a bubble-a bubble where Israel is the victim and all critics are anti-Semitic, terrorist lovers or, as in my case, self-hating Jews.

I found it fascinating that AIPAC’s executive director Howard Kohr opened the conference admitting that there was now a huge, international campaign against the policies of Israel. He painted a picture of 30,000 people marching in Spain, Italian trade unionists calling for a boycott of Israeli products, the UN Human Rights Council passing 26 resolutions condemning Israel, an Israeli Apartheid Week that is building a global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.

This global movement, he warned, emanates from the Middle East, echoes in the halls of the United Nations and the capitals of Europe, is voiced in meetings of international peace organizations, and is spreading throughout the United States-from the media to town hall meetings, from campuses to city squares. “No longer is this campaign confined to the ravings of the political far left or far right,” he lamented, “but increasingly it is entering the American mainstream.”

But Kohr failed to explain why there has been such an explosion in this movement, even among the American Jewish community. He didn’t tell the attendees that the world was shocked and outraged by Israel’s devastating 22-day attack on Gaza that left over 1,300 people dead-mostly women and children. He didn’t mention the killing of civilians fleeing their homes, the use of white phosphorous, the bombing of homes, schools, mosques, hospitals, UN buildings, factories. He didn’t talk about the continuing, cruel blockade of the Gaza Strip that is keeping desperately needed humanitarian aid from reaching 1.5 million people and making rebuilding impossible.

There were no seminars at the conference by human rights groups like Amnesty International that are calling for an immediate and comprehensive suspension of arms to Israel. Instead, one after another, U.S. elected officials eager to curry favor with AIPAC pledged continued U.S. financial support for Israel. Senator Kerry, despite that fact that he was one of only a handful of legislators who visited Gaza, didn’t say one word about the massive destruction he witnessed and pledged that as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he would do everything to ensure that the $30 billion in military aid to Israel is “delivered in full.” “America will continue our military aid, and Israel will keep its military strength,” he insisted. Instead of calling for talks with the democratically elected government of Hamas, Kerry said: “Hamas has already won one election-we cannot allow them to win another.” He ended his speech shouting several times in Hebrew, “Am Yisrael Chai-Israel lives!”

Even Vice President Biden, who at least told AIPAC that Israel should freeze new settlement activity, didn’t say a word about the ongoing humanitarian crisis caused by Israel’s invasion and continued blockade of Gaza. No U.S. officials, and

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What kind of state ?

Obama’s Plan for the Palestinians
What Kind of State?
By NADIA HIJAB

Arab and Israeli commentators have pretty much outlined the speech Barack Obama will deliver in Egypt during his June visit, even though he is still meeting with the region’s leaders in Washington. While some are optimistic, many are fearful.

Israelis fear that Obama will make them recognize Palestinian rights and force them to give up the Palestinian and Syrian territory they have been busy colonizing since 1967.

Arabs fear Obama will announce that their leaders plan further concessions in the form of expanded normalization with Israel in the Arab and Islamic worlds before a full withdrawal and comprehensive peace. They also fear his speech will nix the Palestinian right of return, which is both an individual and a collective right under international law, and support Israel as a “Jewish state” instead of the state of all its citizens.

There is agreement on one thing: The Obama administration wants to see a comprehensive peace centered on a two-state solution in its lifetime. If this is indeed the case, Palestinians and Israelis face an existential question: What kind of state will each have?

It appears that the “Palestine” taking shape will have an under-sized territory with an over-sized internal security force. The size of the territory will depend on how successfully the Palestinian leadership narrows Israel’s definition of the major (illegal) settlement blocs it wants to keep, whose boundaries extend far beyond the actual buildings.

The size of the population will depend on whether Palestinian leaders uphold the Palestinian right of return to what is now Israel and how many refugees and exiles they can bring to the nascent Palestinian state.

A crucial issue is how sovereign this Palestinian state would be. Would it exercise full control over its borders? Recently, for example, Israel stopped Mahmoud Abbas’ envoy from traveling to South Africa to attend the inauguration of its new president. It has also introduced a rule that makes it even harder for West Bank Palestinians to enter Jerusalem.

And if the new Palestinian state does control its own borders, would it be forced to accept Israeli behind-the-scenes monitoring of all travelers, an approach initiated in Gaza before Israel sealed its borders?

Other issues regarding sovereignty include control of the population registry, water resources, and the economy, all of which Israel currently controls.

In fact, the achievement of a sovereign Palestine would require breaking with the Oslo accords in which Palestinian negotiators signed away most aspects of sovereignty during what was supposed to be a short interim period. Since many of the same leaders that negotiated those Oslo accords are still in power, the prospects are not promising — unless either Hamas or Palestinian civil society block a minimalist state and push for full independence.

However, while Hamas is in favor of a two-state solution and may be willing to accept pragmatic compromise, many civil society leaders — particularly in the increasingly powerful boycott and right of return movements — now believe in a one-state solution and appear unwilling to invest energy in the two-state project. Unless there is a shift in strategy, truncated statehood may be in the cards.

As for Israel, its territory would cover over three-quarters of mandate Palestine, much larger than envisaged by the United Nations partition plan of 1947. Israel would have defined borders for the first time in its existence — which would spell the end of the Zionist project to gather world Jews into what was once Palestine.

Israel’s insistence on being recognized as a Jewish state aims to keep the Zionist dream alive in the event of a two-state solution. A Jewish state would continue to give primacy to its Jewish citizens plus any Jews anywhere that want Israeli citizenship under its law of return.

This project is of course r

How many secret prisons does Israel have

May 18, 2009

UN Watchdog Demands Answers
How Many Secret Prisons Does Israel Have?
By JONATHAN COOK

The United Nation’s watchdog on torture has criticised Israel for refusing to allow inspections at a secret prison, dubbed by critics as “Israel’s Guantanamo Bay”, and demanded to know if more such clandestine detention camps are operating.

In a report published on Friday, the Committee Against Torture requested that Israel identify the location of the camp, officially referred to as “Facility 1391”, and allow access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Findings from Israeli human rights groups show that the prison has in the past been used to hold Arab and Muslim prisoners, including Palestinians, and that routine torture and physical abuse were carried out by interrogators.

The UN committee’s panel of 10 independent experts also found credible the submissions from Israeli groups that Palestinian detainees are systematically tortured despite the banning of such practices by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1999.

The existence of Facility 1391 came to light in 2002, when Palestinians were detained there for the first time during Israel’s reinvasion of the West Bank.

In a submission to the UN committee, Israel denied that any prisoners are currently being held at the site, although it admits that several Lebanese were detained there during the attack on Lebanon in 2006.

The committee expressed concern about an Israeli Supreme Court ruling in 2005 that found it “reasonable” for the state not to investigate suspicions of torture at the prison. The panel is believed to be concerned that without inspections the prison might still be in use or could be revived at short notice.

The Israeli court, the committee wrote, “should ensure that all allegations of torture and ill-treatment by detainees in Facility 1391 be impartially investigated [and] the results made public”.

Hamoked, an Israeli human rights organisation, first identified the prison after two Palestinian cousins seized in Nablus in 2002 could not be traced by their families. Israeli officials eventually admitted that the pair were being held at a secret site.

Israel still refuses to identify the precise location of the prison, which is inside Israel and about 100km north of Jerusalem. A few buildings are visible, but most of the prison is built underground.

“We only learnt about the prison because the army made the mistake of putting Palestinians there when they ran out of room in Israel’s main prisons,” said Dalia Kerstein, the director of Hamoked.

“The real purpose of the camp is to interrogate prisoners from the Arab and Muslim world, who would be difficult to trace because their families are unlikely to contact Israeli organisations for help.”

Ms Kerstein said the prison site was an even grosser violation of international law than Guantanamo Bay because it had never been inspected and no one knew what took place there.

According to the testimonies of the Palestinian cousins, Mohammed and Bashar Jadallah, they were held in isolation cells measuring two metres square, with black walls, no windows and a light bulb on 24 hours a day. On the rare occasions they were escorted outside, they had to wear blacked-out goggles.

When Bashar Jadallah, 50, asked where he was, he was told he was “on the moon”.

According to the testimony of Mohammed Jadallah, 23, he was repeatedly beaten, his shackles tightened, he was tied in painful positions to a chair, he was not allowed to go to the toilet and he was prevented from sleeping, with water thrown on him if he nodded off. Interrogators are also reported to have shown him pictures of family members and threatened to harm them.

Although Palestinians passing through the prison were interrogated by the domestic secret police, the Shin Bet, foreign nationals at the prison fall under the responsibility of a special wing of military intelligence known as Unit 504, whose interroga

The end of free speach

May 7, 2009

The End of Free Speech?
Criminalizing Criticism of Israel
By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

On October 16, 2004, President George W. Bush signed the Israel Lobby’s bill, the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act. This legislation requires the US Department of State to monitor anti-semitism world wide.

To monitor anti-semitism, it has to be defined. What is the definition? Basically, as defined by the Israel Lobby and Abe Foxman, it boils down to any criticism of Israel or Jews.

Rahm Israel Emanuel hasn’t been mopping floors at the White House.
As soon as he gets the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 passed, it will become a crime for any American to tell the truth about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and theft of their lands.

It will be a crime for Christians to acknowledge the New Testament’s account of Jews demanding the crucifixion of Jesus.

It will be a crime to report the extraordinary influence of the Israel Lobby on the White House and Congress, such as the AIPAC-written resolutions praising Israel for its war crimes against the Palestinians in Gaza that were endorsed by 100 per cent of the US Senate and 99 per cent of the House of Representatives, while the rest of the world condemned Israel for its barbarity.

It will be a crime to doubt the Holocaust.

It will become a crime to note the disproportionate representation of Jews in the media, finance, and foreign policy.

In other words, it means the end of free speech, free inquiry, and the First Amendment to the Constitution. Any facts or truths that cast aspersion upon Israel will simply be banned.

Given the hubris of the US government, which leads Washington to apply US law to every country and organization, what will happen to the International Red Cross, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and the various human rights organizations that have demanded investigations of Israel’s military assault on Gaza’s civilian population? Will they all be arrested for the hate crime of “excessive” criticism of Israel?

This is a serious question.

A recent UN report, which is yet to be released in its entirety, blames Israel for the deaths and injuries that occurred within the United Nations premises in Gaza. The Israeli government has responded by charging that the UN report is “tendentious, patently biased,” which puts the UN report into the State Department’s category of excessive criticism and strong anti-Israel sentiment.

Israel is getting away with its blatant use of the American government to silence its critics despite the fact that the Israeli press and Israeli soldiers have exposed the Israeli atrocities in Gaza and the premeditated murder of women and children urged upon the Israeli invaders by rabbis. These acts are clearly war crimes.

It was the Israeli press that published the pictures of the Israeli soldiers’ T-shirts that indicate that the willful murder of women and children is now the culture of the Israeli army. The T-shirts are horrific expressions of barbarity. For example, one shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a crosshairs over her stomach and the slogan, “One shot, two kills.” These T-shirts are an indication that Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians is one of extermination.

It has been true for years that the most potent criticism of Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians comes from the Israeli press and Israeli peace groups. For example, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and Jeff Halper of ICAHD have shown a moral conscience that apparently does not exist in the Western democracies where Israel’s crimes are covered up and even praised.

Will the American hate crime bill be applied to Haaretz and Jeff Halper? Will American commentators who say nothing themselves but simply report what Haaretz and Halper have said be arrested for “spreading hatred of Israel, an anti-semitic act”?

Many Americans have been brainwashed by the propaganda that Palestini