Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Confronting intimidation, working for justice in Palestine

If we had a wish list for 2012 as Palestinians and friends of Palestine, one of the top items ought to be our hope that we can translate the dramatic shift in recent years in world public opinion into political action against Israeli policies on the ground.

We know why this has not yet materialized: the political, intellectual and cultural elites of the West cower whenever they even contemplate acting according to their own consciences as well as the wishes of their societies.

This last year was particularly illuminating for me in that respect. I encountered that timidity at every station in 

the many trips I took for the cause I believe in. And these personal experiences were accentuated by the more general examples of how governments and institutions caved in under intimidation from Israel and pro-Zionist Jewish organizations.

A catalogue of complicity

Of course there were US President Barack Obama’s pandering appearances in front ofAIPAC, the Israeli lobby, and his administration’s continued silence and inaction in face of Israel’s colonization of the West Bank, siege and killings in Gaza, ethnic cleansing of the Bedouins in the Naqab and new legislation discriminating against Palestinians in Israel.

The complicity continued with the shameful retreat of Judge Richard Goldstone from his rather tame report on the Gaza massacre — which began three years ago today. And then there was the decision of European governments, especially Greece, to disallow campaigns of human aid and solidarity from reaching Gaza by sea.

On the margins of all of this were prosecutions in France against activists calling forboycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and a few u-turns by some groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Europe caving in under pressure and retracting an earlier decision to cede connections with Israel. More

Palestinian's in a Jewish state'

Palestinians living in Israel face institutionalised discrimination and segregation in a supposedly democratic state.

Israel’s crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories - like the settlements, the killing of civilians and the demolition of homes - are openly condemned in the West by human rights groups and others like never before. But as the peace process remains stuck, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu forces the issue of Israel as a “Jewish state” into the spotlight, understanding the situation of Palestinian citizens of Israel has become crucial to grasping the core of the entire conflict.

So-called “Israeli Arabs” have got it better than most Palestinians, who are either under military rule or forcibly excluded from their homeland. But the institutional discrimination they have faced since 1948 goes to the heart of the contradiction that Israel is “Jewish and democratic”.

Many people will concede that the military occupation of non-citizens for over 40 years is undemocratic. Yet, inside the pre-1967 borders, Israel is far from the “liberal democracy” central to the propaganda, in areas like land, planning, housing, immigration and state budgets. Rhetoric and policies associated with the far-right in Europe - like an obsession with “demographics” and birth rates, or boosting one kind of population in a given area to counterbalance an “undesirable” minority - are mainstream in Israeli politics.

In my new book, Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy, I unpack some of the core elements of how Israel’s Palestinian citizens have been treated since 1948. One aspect is the area of nationality and citizenship rights, as this short extract explains:

A poorly understood aspect of Israel as a Jewish state is the distinction between “citizenship” and “nationality”, an issue confused by the fact that, in English, the two terms can often be used interchangeably. In Israel, “‘nationality’ (Hebrew: le’um) and ‘citizenship’ (Hebrew: ezrahut) are two separate, distinct statuses, conveying different rights and responsibilities”. Palestinians in Israel, as non-Jews, can be citizens, but never nationals, and are thus denied “rights and privileges” enjoyed by those “who would qualify for Israeli citizenship under the 1950 Law of Return”. More

Saturday, December 24, 2011

UN expert concerned at poor living conditions of Canada's indigenous

20 December 2011 – 
An independent United Nations human rights expert has asked Canada to clarify what it is doing to address the “dire” socio-economic conditions of the Attawapiskat aboriginal community, noting that many of its members live in unheated shacks or trailers, with no running water.
James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said in a news release that he has been in touch with the Canadian Government to voice his deep concern about the conditions of the Attawapiskat First Nation, which he said exemplifies the conditions of many aboriginal communities in the country.

The Attawapiskat First Nation is a remote community in northern Ontario comprised of about 1,800 members. Mr. Anaya noted that the poor living conditions are particularly serious as winter approaches the area, which faces winter temperatures as low as minus 28 degrees Celsius. “The social and economic situation of the Attawapiskat seems to represent the condition of many First Nation communities living on reserves throughout Canada, which is allegedly akin to Third World conditions,” he stated.

“Yet, this situation is not representative of non-aboriginal communities in Canada, a country with overall human rights indicators scoring among the top of all countries of the world.

“Aboriginal communities face vastly higher poverty rights, and poorer health, education, employment rates as compared to non-aboriginal people,” said the expert. More

Friday, December 23, 2011

EU Warns Israel Against Connecting Ma’ale Adumim With Jerusalem

The European Union warned the Israeli government against creating a geographical contiguity between the Ma’ale Adumim settlement and occupied East Jerusalem by constructing a new settlement in the area. 
EU envoy, Andrew Stanley, submitted an official document in this regard to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. 
The EU said that Israel is demolishing Palestinian homes in Area A, an area Israel intends to use for establishing a settlement that would create a chain between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim. 
Stanley stated that the EU is extremely concerned regarding the new Israeli plan, and demanded explanations on the issue. 

The EU stance was made after several EU countries, members of the Security Council, including Germany and Italy, denounced the escalated settlement activities in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and the sharp rise in settler attacks against the Palestinians and their property. 

Recently, Jerusalem Mayor, Nir Barkat, said that Israel must cede East Jerusalem Palestinian areas that are now behind the Annexation Wall. Such an issue would isolate the residents from their work places, educational facilities, medical facilities and all other aspects of their daily life. 

Experts in issues related to the Wall and Settlements stated that all initial indications point to the Israeli intentions to create two networks of roads that would separate Palestinian and Israeli traffic from each other. 

One network would link between West and East Jerusalem, from Jerusalem to Ma’ale Adumim in East Jerusalem, and from the north to the south in order to link settlements in the northern part of the West Bank with Jerusalem and other settlements in the southern part of the West Bank. More

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Failure at Durban - Is There a Crime of Ecocide

There is increasing evidence of dangerous, possibly catastrophic, climate change approaching. The latest science leads to the conclusion that limiting climate change to a 2⁰C increase in average global temperature is now not possible. 

There always was, after all, only a 50% chance. Now it has become a question of which year the threshold will be breached, how high the temperature will rise, over what time period, and what the consequences will be for the planet. Twenty years after Rio – after the legislative framework for effective global coordination to combat climate change was set in place – we arrive at deadlock. The capacity of the global community to solve the over-riding global challenge has proven to be inadequate. The global interest has been torn to shreds by the mindlessly competitive pursuit of excessive national interests. 
The talk will now turn to ‘transition periods’, to ‘preparatory phases’, ‘voluntary targets’, ‘coordinated action’, and ‘bottom-up approaches’. Our national leaders will spin positively into 2012. The ‘realistic expectation’ will focus on the possibility of global agreement by, or after, 2020.

The realistic prescription, from the UN and research institutes, is that global emissions need to peak between 2015 and ’17.

Historians, assuming sufficient social stability for dispassionate analysis a half-century from now, will search for reasons for our collective failure during the critical twenty-year period, 1992 – 2012. They will conclude that human technology outpaced human institutional capacity for rational decision-making. National leaders responded, as constitutionally and politically obliged, to national interest. More

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

European members of Security Council condemn Israeli settlements, settler violence

The four European Union members of the UN Security Council on Tuesday strongly criticized Israel’s decision to speed up construction of settlements, which they termed a “wholly negative” development.”

The ambassadors from Britain, France, Germany and Portugal issued a joint statement branding the Israeli settlements in Palestinian occupied territories and East Jerusalem as illegal under international law. “We call on the Israeli government to reverse these steps,” the statement said. “The viability of the Palestinian state that we want to see and the two-state solution that is essential for Israel’s long-term security are threatened by the systematic and deliberate expansion of settlements.”

The statement, issued following the 15-country Security Council’s closed-door discussion on the situation in the Middle East, condemned Israeli settlers’ violence against the Palestinians, including the burning of the Nebi Akasha mosque in West Jerusalem and the Burqa mosque in the West Bank.

It called on Israeli leaders to boldly demonstrate political will and leadership to break the impasse in negotiations with the Palestinians. It called on both Israelis and Palestinians to agree on a package of proposals to settle security and border issues in order to advance negotiations toward ending the conflict.

The four countries reiterated support for the creation of a “sovereign, independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian state living in peace and security side by side with Israel.” More

Monday, December 19, 2011

Not a drop: Israel takes a spring and childhood memories with it

Mustafa Tamimi was killed during the weekly protest in Nabi Saleh, which demonstrates against the occupation, illegal Jewish settlements, and Israel's appropriation of the village spring. While Nabi Saleh might be one of the most visible struggles around water, there are numerous other places in the West Bank where Israel has taken water resources and diverted them for settlements. A Palestinian man discusses his childhood connection with one such spring...

Abdallah stares at the empty channel, his face resigned. On this beautiful sunny day, he hadn't expected to find the creek of his childhood completely dried up. Beside the waterless channel, there is a huge Israeli pump, protected by electric fences.

“Al Auja was a water spring, where the creek started”, Abdallah Awudallah, a 29-year-old from the Bethlehem district's Ubbedyia village, tells the Alternative Information Center. He came here with a group of internationals to discuss Israeli confiscation of land and water in the Jordan Valley. The tour would have finished in Al Auja water spring. But the water was gone.

Not a drop: the Israeli authorities have built a generator in order to draw up water from the once-flowing creek and to send it to the agricultural settlements in the Jordan Valley. The spring, which used to serve Jericho, is now reserved exclusively for Israeli settlements.

“In Arabic ‘auja’ means ‘in the opposite direction’" Awudallah explains. "We used to call the creek like that because for long stretches the water ran up and not down. Because of the high pressure and speed, the water received the boost it needed to flow [upstream]."

Not only was the spring unique, it colored the desert green. It also served as an educational tool for Palestinian children, Awudallah adds.

“Many schools in the West Bank used to bring the students for a trip to Jericho and Al Auja: it was the perfect place to spend a day between water and fish and to study one of the basic vital resources. No Palestinian schools can organize a journey in Tiberias, in Palestine ’48, because they lack the necessary permits to enter Israel. So, Al Auja was the only place to feel the importance of water." More

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Israel razing more Palestinian homes, wells: monitors

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has stepped up its demolitions of Palestinian property in occupied land this year, razing double the number of homes and water wells from 2010, human rights groups said on Tuesday.

The statement endorsed by 20 organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch further said Jewish settler violence against Palestinians had risen in 2011 and that Israel had sped up its expansion of settler enclaves.

They urged members of the Middle East peacemaking “Quartet” — the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia — to put pressure on Israel to “reverse its settlement policies and freeze all demolitions that violate international law.”

Quartet representatives were expected in the region again on Wednesday for yet another effort to revive peace talks frozen since last year over settlement construction.

The statement, citing U.N. figures, said Israel had destroyed more than 500 Palestinian homes, wells and other structures in 2011, displacing more than 1,000 people, the greatest number in a single year since 2005.

Settler assaults on Palestinians, including deliberate damage to some privately owned 10,000 olive trees, have also risen to their worst level since 2005, with a 50 percent increase over 2010, and more than a 160 percent increase over 2009, the U.N. figures show. More

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Poison from the Sky

BUENOS AIRES, Dec 9, 2011 (IPS) - Argentina's soy boom has been a major source of foreign exchange. But the other side of the coin is the toxic effects among the rural population, from spraying agrochemicals.

Research by the National University of Río Cuarto in the northwestern province of Córdoba demonstrated that glyphosate, the herbicide used on transgenic soy crops, causes genetic damage in mice and amphibians, like frogs. 
Two years ago, another research study by Andrés Carrasco, a professor at the Molecular Embryology Laboratory of the University of Buenos Aires School of Medicine and principal researcher at the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), also demonstrated damage in amphibians. 

Genetically modified (GM) soy seeds, approved amid controversy in the 1990s for use in Argentina, were developed by the U.S.-based multinational biotechnology corporation Monsanto to be resistant to glyphosate, the active principle in the "Roundup" herbicide sold by the company. 
Introduction of the GM seeds launched an expansion of soy cultivation and increased use of glyphosate. Today, 18 million hectares are planted to soy, out of a total of nearly 30 million hectares of all kinds of grain crops.  Sales of "Roundup" herbicide, which contains glyphosate and other ingredients that aid its absorption by plants, soared dramatically from one million litres a year in the 1990s to nearly 300 million litres a year today, according to official figures.  In 2006, a group of NGOs with access to medical reports from provinces where soy cultivation was expanding, launched the "Stop the Spraying" ("Paren de Fumigar") campaign, which managed to get an official commission created to look into the reports of health damages. 

But the commission produced no results, and Monsanto insists that, with proper precautions, the herbicide is not toxic.  Delia Aiassa, a biologist in the Genetics and Environmental Mutagenesis group at the Natural Sciences Department of the University of Río Cuarto, leads a research team studying the impact of glyphosate on health.  The expert explained that exposure to glyphosate can cause asthma, chronic bronchitis, skin and eye irritation, damage to the kidneys, liver and nervous system, cancer, developmental problems in children and birth defects. More

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Republican presidential aspirants support regime change and extra-judicial killings in Iran

U.S. Boosts Monitoring of Iran Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011

The United States has regularly used an advanced radar-evading unmanned aircraft as part of a program of increased monitoring of Iranian nuclear facilities, the New York Times reported on Wednesday. Flights of high-flying drones from Afghanistan are one example of a much broader program to gather data on Iran's atomic activities, which Washington and partner nations believe is aimed at giving the Middle Eastern state a nuclear-weapon capability. Tehran says its atomic ambitions do not include military efforts.
The drone program came to light this week with the crash of a RQ-170 Sentinel deep within Iranian territory. Iran has claimed it intentionally brought down the aircraft, an assertion rejected in Washington, which has blamed the crash on an equipment glitch.

The drone was being used in the hunt for subterranean passageways, installations or other locations that might house secret uranium enrichment operations or production of centrifuge components, the newspaper reported. Uranium enriched to high levels can be used to fuel nuclear weapons.

The United States, France and the United Kingdom in 2009 announced the existence of a secret Iranian enrichment plant at Qum. That find, though, seemed to be largely the result of efforts by Israel.

"We've got nothing of that scale yet," said one high-level U.S. official, but "we are looking every day." More

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Robin Hood Tax

Demonstrators in Nice, France, last month urged the leaders of the Group of 20 nations to do more to help the poor.

They call it the Robin Hood tax — a tiny levy on trades in the financial markets that would take money from the banks and give it to the world’s poor.

And like the mythical hero of Sherwood Forest, it is beginning to capture the public’s imagination.

Driven by populist anger at bankers as well as government needs for more revenue, the idea of a tax on trades of stocks, bonds and other financial instruments has attracted an array of influential champions, including the leaders of France and Germany, the billionaire philanthropists Bill Gates and George Soros, former Vice President Al Gore, the consumer activist Ralph Nader, Pope Benedict XVI and the archbishop of Canterbury.

“We all agree that a financial transaction tax would be the right signal to show that we have understood that financial markets have to contribute their share to the recovery of economies,” the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, told her Parliament recently.

On Sunday, Mario Monti, the new prime minister of Italy, announced plans to impose a tax on certain financial transactions as part of a far-reaching plan to fix his country’s budgetary problems, and he endorsed the idea of a Europewide transactions tax. More

Syria: Bashar Al-Assad Denies Ordering Crackdown

BEIRUT — Syria’s president has denied he ordered the deadly crackdown on a nearly 9-month-old uprising, claiming he is not in charge of the troops behind the assault.

Speaking to ABC’s Barbara Walters in a rare interview that aired Wednesday, President Bashar Assad maintained he did not give a command “to kill or be brutal.” “They’re not my forces,” Assad responded when asked if Syrian troops had cracked down too hard on protesters. “They are military forces (who) belong to the government. I don’t own them. I’m president. I don’t own the country.”

In fact, in his role as president, Assad is the commander of Syria’s armed forces.

The U.N. estimates more than 4,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began in March. “Who said the United Nations is a credible institution?” Assad said, when Walters asked him about allegations of widespread violence and torture. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Assad was trying to shirk responsibility. “I find it ludicrous that he is attempting to hide behind some sort of shell game but also some sort of claim that he doesn’t exercise authority in his own country,” Toner said. Assad has responded with once-unthinkable promises of reform in one of the most authoritarian states in the Middle East. But he simultaneously unleashed the military to crush the protests with tanks and snipers.

Still, he insisted he still had the support of Syrians. More

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Democracy or police state?

Video footage of police using pepper spray on peacefully protesting students at the University of California, Davis, on Nov. 18 has sparked national outrage. But the use of such brutal force against passive protesters isn’t as uncommon as you’d think.

Pepper spray and other severe tactics have recently been used with disturbing frequency by police against Occupy protesters — young or old or pregnant — around the nation (see this Atlantic roundup). But the agent’s misuse goes back much further: in the mid-1990s, the U.S. Department of Justice cited nearly 70 fatalities linked to pepper-spray use, according to an excellent poston the dangers of pepper spray by science writer Deborah Blum on Speakeasy Science.

MORE: Pepper Spray Outrage at UC Davis: When Do Police Have the Right to Use ‘Less-Lethal Force’?

Blum notes that in a 1995 report [PDF], the American Civil Liberties Union of California cited 26 deaths between 1993 and 1995 possibly linked to pepper-spray use by police (that’s 1 death for every 600 uses); most deaths involved people who had underlying health problems like asthma. And in 1999, following an incident in which California police officers dipped cotton swabs into pepper spray and then forced them into the eyes of anti-logging protesters, the ACLU asked an appeals court to declare the use of pepper spray to bedangerous and cruel

PHOTOS: The Prevalence of Pepper Spray

How painful is getting pepper-sprayed? For starters, as Blum points out, police-grade pepper spray gets 5,300,000 Scoville heat units on the Scoville scale of pepper hotness. Compare that to 350,000 Scoville units for the habanero. (Pepper spray — or OC spray, as it’s also known — contains the same compound that makes peppers hot, capsaicin, in a super-concentrated extract called oleoresin capsicum.) More

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Brazil indigenous leader killed

An indigenous leader in southern Brazil has been shot dead in front of his community, officials say.

Nisio Gomes, 59, was part of a Guarani Kaiowa group that returned to their ancestral land at the start of this month after being evicted by ranchers. He was killed by a group of around 40 masked gunmen who burst into the camp.

Brazil's Human Rights Secretary condemned the murder as "part of systematic violence against indigenous people in the region". In a statement, Human Rights Minister Maria do Rosario Nunes said the region in Mato Grosso do Sul state was "one of the worst scenes of conflict between indigenous people and ranchers in the country".

She said those responsible must not be allowed to escape with impunity. Mr Gomes was shot in the head, chest, arms and legs and his body was then driven away by the gunmen, community members said. His son was reportedly beaten and shot with a rubber bullet when he tried to intervene.

Unconfirmed reports say two other Guaranis were abducted by the gunmen and may also have been killed. More

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The real cost of Israel's occupation of the Palestinians

Palestinians are losing out on some $6.9 billion a year, a study shows, as restrictions on water use, resources and imports exact their toll.

The Israeli occupation is exacting a high price on the Palestinian economy, according to a report by the Palestinian Ministry of National Economy and the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem - which puts the damage at $6.9 billion a year - what it calls a conservative estimate. The figure is about 85% of the Palestinian GDP for 2010, $8.124 billion.

The calculation includes the suspension of economic activity in the Gaza Strip because of Israel's blockade, the prevention of income from the natural resources Israel is exploiting because of its direct control over most of the territory and the additional costs for the Palestinian expenses due to restrictions on movement, use of land and production imposed by Israel. The introduction to the report states that the blocking of Palestinian economic development derives from the colonialist tendency of the Israeli occupation ever since 1967: exploitation of natural resources coupled with a desire to keep the Palestinian economy from competing with the Israeli one. More

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In Indonesia, Anger Against Mining Giant Grows

A foreign mining company, protected by hundreds of soldiers, extracts precious resources from a remote tropical forest. The mining enrages indigenous tribes, who resist.

It may sound like a movie script, but it is in fact the story of the world's largest gold mine, located high in the mountains of Indonesia's Papua province and owned by Freeport-McMoRan, an American mining conglomerate.

The Grasberg mine's open pit yawns near equatorial glaciers in the shadow of Mount Puncak Jaya in Papua. In recent weeks, thousands of miners there have gone on strike for higher pay; several have been killed. On Oct. 10, miners tried to block replacement workers from boarding buses to the mine. Some strikers threw rocks at police, who answered with gunfire, killing miner Petrus Ayamiseba and wounding six others.

Then on Oct. 15 and again on Oct. 21, unidentified gunmen struck, killing four Freeport-McMoRan workers and two locals. Meanwhile, unidentified saboteurs cut the pipeline that carries minerals from the mine down the mountain and to a local port. More

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Palestinian 'freedom riders' board settlers' bus

Israeli police have detained six Palestinians dubbed West Bank Freedom Riders who boarded a Jerusalem-bound bus used by Jewish settlers.

The activists say they drew inspiration from 1960s US civil rights demonstrators who campaigned under the same name against segregated buses. Palestinians from the West Bank are not allowed to cross into Jerusalem without Israeli permission. Israel says such restrictions are for security reasons.

The group of six protesters gathered at a West Bank bus stop and waited for an Israeli bus to pick them up, then tried to enter Jerusalem, in what appears to be a first. After being allowed to travel to an Israeli checkpoint at the edge of Jerusalem, the activists were eventually arrested when they refused to leave the bus.
The protesters say that by only serving Jewish settlements and not Palestinian areas in the West Bank, Israeli bus companies discriminate against them.

“These buses and this whole system is discriminatory to Palestinians,” said activist Fadi Quran, as he waited at the bus stop.

The West Bank Freedom Riders punched above their weight, drawing a lot of publicity for what was a relatively small event, reports the BBC’s Jon Donnison in the West Bank. The comparison to the Freedom Riders of 1960s America seemed to capture the imagination as dozens of journalists gathered to see the small group board the bus, our correspondent says. In actual fact, this was less a protest about segregation and more about freedom of movement, he adds.

There are around 500,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. More

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Nuclear Guinea Pigs

On the eve of APEC, the US continues to ignore the reparations claims of Marshall Islanders

In the old-timey section of Kalihi, tucked between auto repair shops and boarded-up storefronts, Maza Attari, a Marshall Islander, lived with four family members in a one-bedroom apartment barely bigger than a ping-pong table. When visited by this reporter last summer, Attari had been unable to find steady work since being flown to Honolulu 12 years ago for back surgery that had left him with a severe limp and weakened muscles.

Attari’s circumstances exemplify the far-reaching impacts of nuclear testing upon irradiated, exiled or dislocated Marshall Islanders. From 1946 to 1962, their home atolls served as experimental grounds where the US detonated nuclear weapons and tested delivery systems in the transition from conventional to intercontinental bombers. In all, the US exploded 86 nuclear bombs in the Marshall Islands, which are situated 3,000 miles west of Honolulu. Those 86 bombs equated to 8,580 Hiroshima-size bombs–or 1.4 weapons per day for 16 years.

A one-time magistrate and mayor on Utrik, Attari said last summer that he doubted he would be able to return there, prophesying instead, “I’m going to stay here until I die.” He died in September of this year, without ever receiving the reparations that he and other nuclear victims have claimed.

The debt

It is a debt that is not only owed them, but that has compounded over time. Because these nuclear weapons experiments were too dangerous and unpredictable to be conducted on the US mainland, Attari and other Marshallese are part of the reason for America’s superpower status today. A half-century later, the Marshall Islands continue to serve as a crucial part of an outer defense periphery for the US heartland–6,000 miles away. That periphery includes the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, where for more than three decades missiles fired from 4,000 miles away (at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California) have crashed near Kwajalein Atoll, horribly frightening the indigenous inhabitants and leaving them unsure of where the debris will fall. More

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Goldstone walks alone on a bridge to nowhere

Surely the New York Times would not dare turn down a piece from the new Richard Goldstone. He had already recast himself as the self-appointed guardian of Israel’s world reputation. This, despite the fact that he had earlier been anointed as the distinguished jurist who admirably put aside his ethnic identity and personal affiliations when it came to carrying out his professional work as a specialist in international criminal law.

Goldstone was even seemingly willing to confront the Zionist furies of Israel when criticised by one of their own adherents in chairing the UN panel appointed to consider allegations of Israeli war crimes during the Gaza War of 2008-09. A few months ago Goldstone took the unseemly step of unilaterally retracting a central conclusion of the "Goldstone Report" during those attacks on Gaza.

The former judge wrote in a column in the Washington Post that the Goldstone Report would have been different if he had known then what he came to know now, an arrogant assertion considering that he was but one of four panel members designated by the UN Human Rights Council, and considering that the other three publicly reaffirmed their confidence in the original conclusion as presented in the report, which was written and released months earlier.

This failure to consult with other members of the team before rushing his seemingly opportunistic change of heart into print with should have discredited this earlier Goldstone effort to restore his tarnished Zionist credentials. It is also of interest that he chooses to exhibit this new role on the pages of the newspapers of record in the United States. Goldstone reportedly escalated the tone and substance of his retraction after the Times rejected the original version of the piece - supposedly because it was too bland. To get into print with this wobbly change of position, Goldstone went to these extraordinary lengths.

Now, on the eve of the third session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, scheduled to be held in Cape Town between November 4-6, Goldstone has again come to the defence of Israel in a highly partisan manner. His stance abandons any pretense of judicious respect for either the legal duties of those with power or the legal rights of those in vulnerable circumstances. More

Saturday, November 5, 2011

UN human rights body invites businesses to collaborate in creating its agenda

4 November 2011 – A new United Nations expert body that promotes respect for human rights among businesses is inviting governments, companies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to submit ideas and proposals to help establish its work programme next year.
The UN Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises will take businesses’ submissions into account during its first session in January, when the Group’s priorities and activities will be determined.

According to a news release issued by the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) on Wednesday, the group already started working by focusing on a set of internationally accepted guidelines and principles to prevent and address the risk of adverse human rights impacts linked to business activity.

The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, endorsed in June by the UN Human Rights Council, outline what businesses need to do to ensure human rights are respected in their enterprises, and give access to effective remedies when those rights have been negatively affected.

The principles are the product of six years of research and consultations and involved governments, companies, business associations, civil society, affected individuals and groups, and others around the world.

The group will monitor the following of these principles by conducting country visits, promoting good practices, and organizing an international forum on businesses and human rights to discuss the challenges enterprises face when implementing the guidelines. More

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ai Weiwei vows to continue to speak out

Ai Weiwei, the internationally renowned Chinese artist, has told Al Jazeera that a $2.3m tax bill and investigations into his financial affairs are part of a politically motivated campaign against him, and pledged to continue to speak out.

Ai, who has become one of the most prominent critics of China's ruling Communist Party and part of a growing dissent movement , said that speaking out had become "some kind of responsibility".

Despite his own personal fears, Ai said in a telephone interview that "the only thing that can help me is to let the truth out".

Ai, who spent 81 days in detention earlier this year, said it was especially important for him to speak out because he was only one out of "so many [other] people who are scared and ... will never be heard", referring to others who have criticised China's policies in the past.

"They also clearly told me that the tax charge was to have people think that I'm a bad man."

- Ai Weiwei

Ai said the allegations against him were not about money, but the current state of the Chinese justice system.

"It's the issue of how a state can survive when they are not respectful of the law, when they're clearly don't have a clear procedure, transparency, or public discussion."

Describing his interrogation while in detention, Ai said that the details of the allegations against him were not discussed, instead "they questioned me about subversion of state power".

Ai said he had been given no account statements to corroborate the allegations against him. He maintains he was not a manager at the Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd, the company under investigation which handles Ai's financial affairs.

Ai said his interrogators had "clearly told me that the tax charge was to have people think that I'm a bad man - that if you criticise the government, then we have to teach a lesson". More

Mercenaries pose threat to human rights: UN study

The use of mercenaries in armed conflict has increased, particularly this year in Africa, where governments used paid foreign soldiers to fight their own people, a United Nations study said Tuesday.

The study by a panel of experts said the growing activities of private security companies were challenging the respect for human rights in countries where they were hired.

A lack of international regulation of mercenaries has aggravated human rights issues.
The study said the regime of slain Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi earlier this year hired mercenaries from Eastern Europe and Africa to crack down on pro-democracy protests.
It said it had "considerable evidence" that in Ivory Coast earlier this year, the government of President Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to relinquish power after losing elections in November 2010, used 4,500 mercenaries to keep him in power. Gbagbo surrendered in May to the winner of the elections, Alassane Ouattara, after a brutal civil war.

"Mercenaries pose a threat not only to security, but also to human rights and potentially to the right of peoples to self-determination," said Faiza Patel, who chaired the study.
The study said mercenaries were used in the past to fight in wars between countries but recently they have been used in internal conflict.
It said private military and security companies receive between $20 billion and $100 billion per year.

But in Iraq and Afghanistan, contracts and grants provided by Washington to private security firms exceeded $206 billion in 2011, the study said, citing a report of the U.S. Commission on Wartime Contracting in August.
Private firms are contracted to provide security and are not necessarily involved in conflict. More

Israel orders new building in East Jerusalem

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, has ordered the building of 2,000 new housing units for Israelis, mainly in illegally occupied East Jerusalem, an area Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state.

Netanyahu said in a statement on Tuesday that the new construction would include settlements that he believed would be part of Israel in a future peace accord. Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land are considered illegal under international law.

Israel also decided on Tuesday to freeze the transfer of tax revenues owed to the Palestinian Authority, as a punitive measure after Palestine was granted full membership of UNESCO, the United Nations' culture and heritage agency, media reports said.

Saeb Erakat, the former Palestinian chief negotiator, said construction of more housing units was "politically motivated".

"The land they are going to build settlements on is supposed to be the land of the Palestinian state," he told Al Jazeera.

"The money they will withhold is Palestinian money. So this is a policy of intimidation and blackmail and we'll not budge ... we'll continue pursuing our rights."

Erakat added: "The mere fact that Israel defies the international community, by having more settlements instead of cessation of settlement activities and withholding Palestinian money, which is theft in my opinion, just reflects the nature of the Israeli government attempts to continue undermining the two-state solution. What harm does it bring to Israel when Palestinians join UNESCO?"

The decision to build more housing units was taken at a meeting of senior ministers, chaired by Netanyahu, Israel's public radio said.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the accelerated construction was an answer to the moves being made by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation at the UN in pursuit of statehood recognition.

"You can't demand from the Israeli public to continue to show restraint when the Palestinian leadership continues to slam the door in their face," said the official.

He said 1,650 of the new tenders are for units in East Jerusalem, while the rest are for Efrat and Maale Adumim, two illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinians object to Israeli housing in East Jerusalem and demand an end to all construction in the settlements before direct talks can resume. Israel rejects that as a precondition. More

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Palestine, The United States and The UNESCO mess

It was bound to happen sooner or later. At some point, both the president and Congress would be faced with a clear choice between US national interests and the demands made by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his powerful Washington lobby.

In the larger sense, it happens all the time. US policy toward the Palestinians endangers our interests throughout the Muslim world, including - first and foremost - our civilian and military personnel in the Middle East, as well as our strategic and economic interests.

But usually, as is the case with some Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights like the Gaza blockade, the situation is not completely clear-cut. The Palestinians charge illegality under international law; the Israelis cite a different law.

And the US can (and invariably does) say nothing, or it takes the side of the Israelis. The entire world expects that from the United States by now and understands precisely why we operate that way. It understands that Israel is an important friend whose security we would never jeopardise.

They understand quite clearly that it is our absurd system of campaign funding that dictates that we follow Israel's lead on defending the occupation and preventing Palestinians from achieving any kind of recognition or sovereignty. The US always chooses Netanyahu's interests over the rights of the Palestinians.

Watershed vote

However, Monday's United Nations vote to admit Palestine into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) presented US policymakers with a watershed choice. US interests and the Israeli government's desires are directly pitted against each other. More

Monday, October 31, 2011

Drone Knowns and Drone Unknowns

On Friday, September 30, Anwar al-Awlaki — described variously in the press as “Senior Al Qaeda leader,” “firebrand cleric,” and “Al Qaeda’s rising star” — was killed by a Hellfire missile launched from a Predator drone as al-Awlaki approached his Toyota Hilux pickup truck in eastern Yemen.

The missile weighed 100 pounds, and the strike took place; al-Awlaki had just eaten breakfast. These details, and many others, were reported immediately around the world. The Guardian ran a helpful sketch of a drone, accompanied by the text, “Al-Awlaki’s position was tracked for several days before the attack on his vehicle by a drone armed with Hellfire missiles.” Page three of the New York Post was even more informative. It included a map, a timeline (“How We Got Him”), a photo of a Predator, another photo of a Hellfire missile, and some pinup-girl stats about the drone itself, including “Cost: $5M” and “Size: 27 feet long, 55-foot wingspan.”

Three weeks later came another Predator success, and another orgy of detail. On Thursday, October 20 Muammar Qaddafi’s fleeing convoy of 100 vehicles was captured on camera by a drone patrolling the skies above Sirte. Then, as the Telegraph reported, “The Predator drone, flown out of Sicily and controlled via satellite from a base outside Las Vegas, struck the convoy with a number of Hellfire anti-tank missiles.” Other western news sources reprinted these details with only minor changes in syntax. Wired’s Danger Room blog reported that it was the 145th Predator strike in Libya, according to the Pentagon. More

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Palestine: The environmental impact of Israel's military occupation

Let me start by introducing to you who the Palestinian people are and giving you a brief background to the conflict!
Palestinians are the indigenous inhabitants of the land that was once known as Palestine – and is now called Israel and the Occupied Territories. Palestinians were mostly a population of farmers – fellaheen – their view of their identity is therefore defined by their connectedness to the stones, the earth and the trees. They are the descendants of local inhabitants, mainly Christian and Jews who had converted after the Islamic conquest in the 17th century AD.
The average Palestinian tending his/her farm in the hills of Hebron is aware of the history of invaders and occupiers that have passed through their ancient land.

But today, these indigenous farmers of Palestine know that they face a bigger existential threat than ever before. No past occupation has caused as much damage to the soil, no former empire has inflicted this much pain on this ancient landscape. No past invaders’ have acted with so much impunity as to uproot thousands of trees, poison water wells and replace agricultural land with so much concrete and barbwire.
Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is a story about stolen land, exploitation of labour and theft of resources. It is a story about warehousing a people – mostly stateless refugees, in bantustans and behind high walls, forcing them to be a captive consumer market and a source of cheap labour.
This story provides a classic case for exploring the relationship between corporate greed and perpetual conflict. More

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Truths, facts and facts on the ground

In 1991, negotiations started officially and unofficially between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (and the Palestinians associated with it) and the Israeli government. At the time, Israel had occupied the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip for the previous 24 years.

Today, 20 years later, Israel and President Obama insist that the only way to bring about peace, and presumably end the Occupation, is to continue with negotiations. It is unclear if what Obama and Israel are claiming is that Israel needs 24 years of negotiations in order to end its 24-year occupation of Palestinian land, so that by the time the occupation ends, it will have lasted for 48 years.

This of course is the optimistic reading of the Israeli and US positions; the reality of the negotiations and what they aim to achieve, however, is far more insidious.

The negotiations have been based on specific goals to end certain aspects of the Israeli relationship to the Palestinians, namely some of the parts introduced since the 1967 war and the occupation, and the beginning of exclusive Jewish colonial settlement of these territories.But what always remains outside the purview of negotiations is the very core of the Palestinian-Israeli relationship, which the Palestinians are told cannot be part of any negotiations.

These off-limits core issues include what has happened since 1947-1948, including the expulsion of 760,000 Palestinians, the destruction of their cities and towns, the confiscation and destruction of their property, the introduction of discriminatory laws that legalise Jewish racial, colonial and religious privilege and deny Palestinian citizens of Israel equal rights and reject the right of the expelled refugees to return.

Yet, this core, which the Israelis summarise as Israel's right to be, and to be recognised as, a "Jewish" state, is what is always invoked by the Israelis themselves as central to beginning and ending the negotiations successfully and which the Palestinians, the Israelis insist, refuse to discuss. More

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Negev's Hot Wind Blowing

October 25, 2011 - Over the past 15 months the dusty plains of the northern Negev desert in Israel have been witness to a ritual of destruction, part of a police operation known as Hot Wind. 

On 29 occasions since June 2010, hundreds of Israeli paramilitary officers have made the pilgrimage over a dirt track near the city of Beersheva to the zinc sheds and hemp tents of al-‘Araqib. Within hours of their arrival, the 45 ramshackle structures -- home to some 300 Bedouin villagers -- are pulled down and al-‘Araqib is wiped off the map once again. All that remains to mark the area’s inhabitation by generations of the al-Turi tribe are the stone graves in the cemetery.

The al-Turis are determined to stay on their ancestral lands to maintain their traditional pastoral way of life; Israel wants the land for a forestation program, to beautify the Negev and attract more Jews to settle there.

The struggle over al-‘Araqib has played out many times before in other Negev locations since Israel’s founding in 1948. Then, and in the early years of state building, all but 11,000 of the Negev’s population of 90,000 Bedouin were expelled to Egypt, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank. Today, with the highest birth rate of any ethnic group in Israel, the Bedouin number about 190,000, nearly a third of the Negev’s population. Half of them continue to live in rural communities, all of which Israel has refused to accord normal legal standing.

But in September the Israeli government announced a plan to complete the unfinished business of 1948. Over the coming months and years, Israel intends to implement a scheme to evict some 40,000 Bedouin from their homes in the Negev in a program of forced urbanization. It will be an act of wholesale removal unseen in this desert region for more than a generation. More >>>

Friday, October 7, 2011

Extra judicial killings and procedural due process for the rule of law

Two stares, the United States of America and Israel, have decided that they are above the law and decided to ignore due process killing their own citizens as well as those of other sovereign states.

In the words of Justice Robert Jackson, the Chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials; "If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes,

they are crimes whether the United States does then or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us".

Last week USA Today carried an article by Jonathan Turley that began 'Last week, Americans saw a curious sight for a free nation: Their president ordered the killing of two U.S. citizens without a trial or even a formal charge … and the public applauded.' this referring to the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both American citizens. While few people, except their family mourn the death of figures such as al-Awlaki, the international community should be demanding that all states uphold the rule of law.

The hundreds of innocent civilians that have been killed in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan are another example of murder by America.
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote" As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air - however slight - lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."

Perhaps even more disturbing is an article that stated 'The U.S. military may be a decade or so away from deploying an army of pilotless drones capable of collaborating and killing without any human guidance'. Read

Let us all then beware the twilight and reverse this trend of being above the rule of law.

Location: Cayman Islands

Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing In The World Now

I was honored to be invited to speak at Occupy Wall Street on Thursday night. Since amplification is (disgracefully) banned, and everything I say will have to be repeated by hundreds of people so others can hear (a k a “the human microphone”), what I actually say at Liberty Plaza will have to be very short. With that in mind, here is the longer, uncut version of the speech.

I love you.

And I didn’t just say that so that hundreds of you would shout “I love you” back, though that is obviously a bonus feature of the human microphone. Say unto others what you would have them say unto you, only way louder.

Yesterday, one of the speakers at the labor rally said: “We found each

other.” That sentiment captures the beauty of what is being created here. A wide-open space (as well as an idea so big it can’t be contained by any space) for all the people who want a better world to find each other. We are so grateful.

If there is one thing I know, it is that the 1 percent loves a crisis. When people are panicked and desperate and no one seems to know what to do, that is the ideal time to push through their wish list of pro-corporate policies: privatizing education and social security, slashing public services, getting rid of the last constraints on corporate power. Amidst the economic crisis, this is happening the world over.

And there is only one thing that can block this tactic, and fortunately, it’s a very big thing: the 99 percent. And that 99 percent is taking to the streets from Madison to Madrid to say “No. We will not pay for your crisis.”
More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mosque Torching: When Terrorists Attacks Against Arabs Cross the Green Line

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, was reportedly “outraged” on Monday by images of the gutted mosque in the Bedouin village of Tuba Zangariya, close to the Galilee’s Jewish towns of Rosh Pina and Safed.

The mosque was torched by right-wing Jewish extremists. Netanyahu warned that the attack violated Israel’s “supreme values” of freedom of

religion and worship and called on the security services to swiftly catch the perpetrators.

However, critics pointed out that he and other government ministers had failed to express equal concern over a spate of similar attacks on mosques that have occurred in the West Bank over the past two years.

Arab Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi observed of the Israeli leadership: “Those who failed to stop the cancerous growth and the mosque burning in the occupied territories should not be surprised when the metastasis grows inside the state of Israel.”

Since 2009, when Netanyahu formed the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, Jewish extremist groups based in the West Bank settlements have set fire to more than half a dozen Palestinian mosques, as well as committing several pogrom-style attacks on isolated Palestinian communities.

Now, the suspicions of Israel’s Arab minority that they too are on the hit list have been confirmed.

Despite the rapid rise of these pogrom-style tactics by Jewish terror groups, Israel’s security services have yet to catch a single suspect. The extremists’ impunity now appears to have emboldened them to turn their attention to holy places belonging to Israel’s Arab citizens. More >>>


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Palestine in Criminal Court Triggers Western, Israeli Fears

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 27, 2011 (IPS) - If Palestine fails to achieve full statehood recognition at the United Nations, the only other viable option is to

get "enhanced" observer status with the 193-member General Assembly, the U.N.'s highest policy making body.

But that proposed new status has already triggered Israeli and Western fears that Palestinians may also logically win the right to haul the Jewish state before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on war crimes charges.

"If Israel is not going to commit any war crimes or violate international humanitarian law," says Dr. Nabeel Shaath, a senior official of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and a former foreign minister, "it should have absolutely no reason to fear our membership with the ICC."

The ICC is one of those institutions created by the United Nations in order to make people accountable when they violate, he said.

"If they don't violate, why should they be worried?" asked Shaath, one of the most articulate Palestinians holding a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, where he once taught finance and economics.

"Of course, Shaath is rhetorically correct," said Richard Falk, a former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights, "but the Israeli response would be that would not stop the Palestinian Authority from making irresponsible allegations." More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


LEGAL BRIEF on the ongoing destruction of Palestinian- owned rainwater storage cisterns by the Israeli Civil Administration in Area C of the West Bank, due to lack of building permits

September, 2011 - Everyday, throughout the sections of the West Bank exclusively under Israel’s control (Area C), rain water harvesting cisterns face administrative

demolition orders from the Israeli Civil Administration due to the lack of building permits. Cisterns are vital to the livelihoods of marginalized Palestinian rural and herder communities in the West Bank who rely on them to provide water for livestock, crops and sometimes for domestic water usage in the absence of an adequate network connection. Since 2009, a total of 44 cisterns and rainwater collection structures in Area C have been demolished, twenty of them between January and July of 2011.
Those demolitions have directly affected the lives of 13,602 Palestinians. Having lost their access to water, 127 people have been displaced, including 104 children. The Diakonia IHL Resource Centre weighs in on how this practice, in which thousands of Palestinians are directly affected each year, stands in relation to International Humanitarian Law.
This legal brief focuses on the ongoing destruction of Palestinian-owned rainwater storage cisterns by the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) in Area C of the West Bank, due to lack of building permits (commonly referred to as “administrative” destructions). The analysis is based on international humanitarian law (IHL) with a human rights perspective. Initially, the brief highlights key legal aspects of the Israeli planning regime in Area C. It elaborates on the special legal status of cisterns, and identifies the scope of prohibition against their destructions under IHL. Lastly, it examines the implications of inadequate planning for and destruction of cisterns on the occupier’s humanitarian and human rights obligations towards the protected Palestinian population, including the delivery of aid in Area C. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

World Food Day, 16 October 2011

Food prices - from crisis to stability

Price swings, upswings in particular, represent a major threat to food security in developing countries. Hardest-hit are the poor. According to the

World Bank, in 2010-2011 rising food costs pushed nearly 70 million people into extreme poverty.

“FOOD PRICES – FROM CRISIS TO STABILITY” has been chosen as this year’s World Food Day theme to shed some light on this trend and what can be done to mitigate its impact on the most vulnerable.

On World Food Day 2011, let us look seriously at what causes swings in food prices, and do what needs to be done to reduce their impact on the weakest members of global society. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands