Saturday, February 21, 2009

Al-Jazeera Video: Concerns grow over Netanyahu's rise - 21 Feb 09

"Benyamin Netanyahu has been asked to form a government in Israel.

He lists Iran as the biggest threat to Israel. His tough stand on Hamas might also complicate peace negotiations with Palestinians."

Al Jazeera's Clayton Swisher reports on why the US may find it difficult brokering Middle East peace with Netanyahu as the Israeli PM.

Real News Video: The Afghan trap

Ray McGovern: US attempt to trap the USSR in 1979 is at root of current situation in Afghanistan

"As Obama sends 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, we look back to the roots of the conflict. Ray McGovern says that the USSR was "mousetrapped" into invading Afghanistan by the CIA under both the Carter and Reagan administrations. He adds that the CIA policies of that day are "largely responsible" for the existence of today's armed fundamentalist groups."

Israel and Hamas holding indirect talks in Paris

"Israeli sources reported Thursday that the real indirect prisoner-swap talks between Hamas and Israel are being held in the French Capital, Paris, and not in Egypt. The Israeli side is represented by Ofar Dekel, Israel’s Prime Minister Envoy, who ran indirect German-mediated talks with Hezbollah, while France is running Qatari-mediated talks with Hamas.

Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported Friday that Qatar promised the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, to put pressure on Hamas in order to lower its demands.

Haaretz added that Qatar previously mediated in the case of the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, and received from France a letter that was written by the parents of Shalit; Qatar handed the letter to Hamas.

Two days ago, Dekel returned from France after conducting a trip that included detailed talks on Shalit and the prisoner swap deal. The Middle East online daily (Asharq Alawsat) reported that Dekel presented an Israeli proposal for running a marathon with Hamas via a third party.

Israeli political sources reported that Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, informed French officials that Likud party head, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was officially asked to form the new Israeli government, showed approval for implementing a prisoner-swap deal with Hamas.

Netanyahu said that he would approve the release of 1,100 Palestinian detainees in exchange for the release of Shalit, but also stated that he would approve this deal if it happens while Olmert is still in power, and added that he cannot guarantee continued swap deal talks after he takes office....... "

Election Results: Towards Fascist Rule in Israel

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, February 21, 2009

Israel Shifts to the Right

On January 15, a Haaretz-Dialog poll showed widespread support for the Gaza war with less than 10% of Israelis calling it a "failure." Despite mass slaughter, destruction, and human suffering, 82% of respondents believed the IDF hadn't "gone too far."

It played out strongly in the February elections with center to far right parties winning decisively - 104 of the 120 seats or 86.6% of the Knesset. In spite of mass global condemnation, Israelis stood firm on hard-line militarism, candidates favoring conflict over conciliation, and continued occupation of Palestine in lieu of peace....."

Syria confident of US detente

By Sami Moubayed
Asia Times

"Damascus has waited patiently for a change in the leadership of the United States, and is now making all the right moves to end the isolation imposed on it during the George W Bush years. But even though both sides have taken symbolic steps, there's work to be done before real progress is made......"

Obama's Pencil, by Mr. Fish

Little hope from new US mediation

Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, The Electronic Intifada, 21 February 2009

"CAIRO (IPS) - Egyptians seem at best only cautiously optimistic over the appointment of Senator George Mitchell as United States envoy to the Middle East. Mitchell is mandated chiefly with settling the Arab-Israeli dispute.

"Mitchell's prospects for achieving an acceptable settlement are grim," Ahmed Thabet, political science professor at Cairo University told IPS. "The previous US administration created several facts on the ground which will be very difficult to undo."....."

Celebrities asked to boycott diamonds from settlement builder

Press release, Adalah-NY, 20 February 2009

"Adalah-NY and Jews Against the Occupation-NYC (JATO-NYC) have called on 16 Hollywood PR firms and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to ensure that no stars wear Leviev diamonds at this Sunday's Academy Awards. In a two week campaign involving letters and dozens of phone discussions with PR firms, the groups drew attention to Leviev's violations of human rights and international law in the occupied West Bank where his companies build Israeli settlements, and in the diamond industry in Angola and Namibia. Leviev reportedly controls one-third of the world's diamond mines........

Leviev's companies Africa Israel and Leader have built Jewish-only homes on occupied Palestinian land in the Israeli settlements of Zufim, Mattityahu East, Har Homa and Maale Adumim, impoverishing villages like Bilin and Jayyous and violating international law. Leviev also funds the settlement organization the Land Redemption Fund. In December, the Israeli financial journal Globes published an expose of Leviev's serious human rights abuses and failure to fully comply with the Kimberley Process in Angola, where Leviev benefits from close ties with the repressive Dos Santos regime. And in Namibia, Leviev recently fired around 200 striking diamond polishers, some of whom were already struggling to survive on less than $2 per day."

Dirty Tricks: Israeli Soldiers Shoot Deaf Palestinian Farmer, 4th Farmer Shot in 3 weeks

Saturday, 21 February 2009 17:06
Written by Eva Bartlett

The Free Gaza Movement

"What caused the Israeli soldiers to shoot a deaf farmer today? Was he threatening? Was it because the group of farm labourers had successfully worked quickly to harvest their day’s wages? Was the sight of retreating, unarmed, clearly non-threatening civilians too tempting to resist?

Whatever the motivation, the result is another casualty of Israeli soldiers’ malevolence: a 20 year old deaf farmer, Mohammad al-Buraim, working the land to support his family of 16, may not walk easily again. The bullet which targeted his ankle penetrated straight through and landed in the tire of the truck he’d been pushing......

These are not isolated and random instances. They are part of the policy of cutting off any means of self-sufficiency the Palestinians try to engage in, and of continuing in the efforts to break Palestinians’ will, efforts which have included a years-long, brutal siege, a 23 day bloody war killing over 1370 Palestinians, and the ongoing targeting of civilians throughout the Gaza Strip."

"Israeli Military Shoot Gaza Farmer - 18th February 2009

Israeli forces shot a twenty year-old Palestinian farmer as he worked his land in the village of Al-Faraheen, east of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip.

International Human Rights Activists were accompanying the group of farmers at the time as they worked approximately 500m from the Green Line.

Mohammad al - Breem, 20, was shot in the right leg as the farmers, together with the international Human Rights Activists, attempted to leave the area having worked on their land for 2 hours in full view of the Israeli forces situated along the Green Line.

As the farmers were loading up the parsley and spinach from the agricultural lands shots were fired from Israeli forces on the border. Mohammad was shot in the right leg and evacuated, while still under fire, to hospital.

International Human Rights Activists have repeatedly witnessed Palestinian farmers being shot at by Israeli forces as they attempt to work on agricultural land situated within 700m of the Green Line.

On Tuesday 27th January 2009, in Al Faraheen, Israeli forces shot at several farmers, killing a 27 year old farmer."

Border Politics Slows Aid to Gaza

By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani

"CAIRO, Feb 21 (IPS) - Egyptian authorities are continuing to prevent humanitarian aid from crossing the border into the Gaza Strip, according to local sources.

"Until now, only about a quarter of all humanitarian aid to arrive in Egypt has made it across the border into Gaza," Hatem Al-Bulk, journalist and political activist, told IPS. "It's all piling up in Al-Arish because the authorities are refusing to let it through the Rafah border crossing." Al-Arish is located some 40 kilometres west of the border in Egypt's Sinai peninsula......

Independent sources at the border challenge Nazif's assertions, saying that far less aid has been allowed through Rafah. The Rafah crossing is the only transit point along Egypt's 14-kilometre border with the Gaza Strip.....

The circuitous route has led to bitter complaints by aid donors.

"A hundred tonnes of food aid from Qatar is stuck in Al-Arish because the Egyptian government insists on sending it to Gaza via Al-Auja," Ahmed Othman, head of a prominent Qatari charity organisation involved in sending donations was quoted as saying by independent daily Al-Dustour on Feb. 3. "Qatar completely rejects this."

According to Hamdi Hassan, MP for the Muslim Brotherhood opposition movement, Egypt's reluctance to open the Rafah crossing on a permanent basis represents "proof of the regime's complicity with Israel against the elected, Hamas-led government in Gaza.

"The continued closure of Rafah is an essential component of Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip," Hassan told IPS. "By simply opening Rafah on a permanent basis, Egypt could - if it wanted to - bring an end to the siege single-handedly." "

IRAQ: Doctors in Hiding Treat as They Can

By Dahr Jamail

"BAGHDAD, Feb 21 (IPS) - Seventy percent of Iraq's doctors are reported to have fled the war-torn country in the face of death threats and kidnappings. Those who remain live in fear, often in conditions close to house arrest......

In the absence of the doctors who left, particularly of senior doctors, the medical system is on the brink of collapse. It is short not just of doctors but also of other qualified staff, equipment and drugs. Patients are often forced to buy their own medicines on the black market......"

في الرسالة التي سلمتها لكيري بقطاع غزة

الحكومة المقالة تطالب أوباما بتنفيذ التغيير الذي وعد به

COMMENT: Is Hamas that naive in its analysis of how the US system works? The answer is definitely yes! Leave it to operatives such as Ahmad Yousef (close adviser to Ismail Haniyyah) to pursue the same line that Fatah has pursued for decades: Only the US can produce a "solution." The Palestinians have plenty of buffoons besides Sa'eb Erikat.

"قالت مصادر فلسطينية واسعة الاطلاع إن الحكومة المقالة بقطاع غزة، طالبت في الرسالة التي سلمتها لرئيس لجنة الشؤون الخارجية بمجلس الشيوخ الأميركي السيناتور جون كيري، الإدارة الأميركية الجديدة بالوفاء بوعود التغيير التي تعهدت بها.

وأفادت تلك المصادر أن الرسالة التي كتبت على عجل طالبت الإدارة الأميركية الجديدة والرئيس باراك أوباما بتنفيذ التغيير الذي وعد به العالم، إضافة لدراسة العلاقات مع إسرائيل التي تواصل احتلال الأراضي الفلسطينية وتضرب كل آمال للحياة فيها.

وذّكرت الرسالة التي تسلمها كيري من إحدى الشخصيات المستقلة التي التقاها بمقر الأونروا في غزة، بنزاهة الانتخابات التي جاءت بحركة المقاومة الإسلامية (حماس) إلى سدة الحكم، ومطالبة العالم بضرورة مراجعة رؤيته من الحكومة التي تديرها حماس والاعتراف بشرعيتها.

وكشفت المصادر للجزيرة نت أن كيري رفض في البداية تسلم الرسالة، لكنه اقتنع بتسلمها عقب دعوات من شخصيات مستقلة أقنعته بضرورة سماع رأي حماس لأنها طرف لا يستهان بوجوده.

وقالت أيضا إن الرسالة حملت رؤية الحكومة التي تديرها حماس للملفات العالقة بين الجانبين الفلسطيني والأميركي، مجددة (الحكومة) استعدادها لاتفاق تهدئة طويل الأمد مقابل انسحاب إسرائيل من الأراضي المحتلة عام 1967 وإنهاء الاحتلال فيها.

Obama was unconvinced by Bibi’s desire for peace

By Robert Fisk

"......But those Palestinians who believe that Lieberman should be in a Netanyahu administration – on the grounds that the “true” face of Israel would then be clear to all Americans – are being a little premature. Obama is not going to change the US relationship with Israel. American foreign policy – like that of most states – is based not on justice but on power.

And with America enduring the worst economic crisis since the Depression, Mr Obama is not going to take on the Israelis. Those Arabs who still fondly hope that the new US administration will at last “stand up” to Israel are mistaken. And the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who would like to be the next Democrat president, is certainly not going to anger Israel or its supporters in Washington......

Mr Netanyahu, it should be remembered, said the Gaza war ended too soon. So are we waiting for Part Two? Or the next round in Israel’s war with the Hizbollah? Israelis must sometimes curse the proportional electoral system that brings them the most ungovernable government coalitions. But the Americans will find it hard to dress up a new Netanyahu government as further “progress” in the Middle East “peace process”."

Return to Bil'in

Four years on, nothing has changed in this West Bank village fighting the encroachment of Israeli settlers

Seth Freedman, Saturday 21 February 2009

"Exactly two years ago, I made one of my first post-army forays into the West Bank, travelling to the village of Bil'in where the locals had been fighting a losing battle against the construction of Israel's separation wall. The demonstration that day marked the second anniversary of the residents' struggle against the occupiers' encroachment on their land; there was blood, sweat and teargas spilt, as had been the case during every week of their battle with the IDF.

I returned to Bil'in's olive groves to mark the fourth year of their fight for justice. Despite court rulings in the townsfolks' favour that demanded the route of the wall be shifted away from their farmland, nothing has changed. The wall still stands, the olive trees are still uprooted, and the border police still meet every protest with volley after volley of teargas, rubber and live bullets........"

Galloway seeks inquiry into convoy arrests

Duncan Campbell
The Guardian, Saturday 21 February 2009

"The Respect MP George Galloway has called for an investigation after police stopped a convoy taking aid, toys and medical supplies to Gaza and arrested nine people under anti-terror laws.

All nine men arrested on the M65 near Preston last Friday have been released without charge, but the organisers of the Viva Palestina convoy, which is headed by Galloway, said that aid donations dropped by 80% after news of the arrests......

Nine innocent people were prevented by the police from joining our convoy," said Galloway. "The timing of the operation is seen locally as an attempt to smear and intimidate the Muslim community, and I must say they seem to be right. Photographs of the high-profile snatch were immediately fed to the press to maximise the newsworthiness of the smear."......"

Twilight in Afghanistan

By Philip Giraldi

"The catastrophic Iraq experience might have proven valuable if it had led to a rejection of the hegemonic policies embraced by a delusional Washington foreign policy establishment. Unfortunately, no end to reliance on war as the essential tool of American statecraft is in sight. Soldiers being removed from Iraq are going to Kabul. The Afghan war, which is now entering its eighth year, is curiously viewed by many in the elite as a "good" war opposed to the bad war in Iraq but, in spite of a NATO-led effort to pacify the country, the conflict has grown in intensity and morphed into a strange amalgam that is a bit like Iraq and a bit like Vietnam......"

Obama Nixed Full Afghan Surge After Quizzing Brass

by Gareth Porter

"......Obama now faces the prospect that the Joint Chiefs will renew their support for McKiernan's request for the remaining 13,000 troops next month. And if the full 30,000 troop increase proves to be insufficient, he is likely to face further requests later on for "urgent reinforcements." "

Chomsky: Obama OKed Israel's Gaza war

Press TV

"Renowned US intellectual Noam Chomsky says Barack Obama did not comment on Israel's war on Gaza, as it was part of the "premeditated" plan.

We have been informed by an Israeli source that the recent invasion of the Gaza Strip was completely premeditated, Chomsky said in an interview with the French Al-Ahram daily.

The plan was to deliver the maximum blow to Gaza before the new US president took office, so that he could put these matters behind him added the famous intellectual, referring to Obama's pledge to resolve the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

According to Chomsky, while Israel was pounding the Gaza Strip -- during which over 1300 Palestinians were killed --, Obama excused his silence by saying that "There's only one president at a time."

This, however, did not prevent the then president-elect from commenting on other leading issues of US domestic and foreign policy, Chomsky argued.

The recognized political analyst also criticized Obama for repeating the notion that defending Israel is a US priority. He predicted that during the Obama presidency US will hold the same policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hamas refuses to free Israeli soldier in return for lifting Gaza blockade

• Leader accuses Israel of backtracking over truce
• Corporal's fate linked to release of Palestinians

Ian Black in Damascus
The Guardian, Friday 20 February 2009

"Hamas has flatly rejected Israel's demand that it free a captive soldier in return for lifting the blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian movement called instead for international pressure on Israel to force the borders open to relieve the humanitarian crisis after last month's war.

Mousa Abu Marzook, the deputy leader of Hamas, accused Israel of backtracking over a truce agreement and warned that Corporal Gilad Shalit would only be released in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. "We will not change our position," he told the Guardian in Damascus yesterday.....

"Now there is global support for Hamas and not just in the Arab and Muslim worlds," he said. "This is a moral judgment against Israel. Israel has had moral support and legitimacy since the second world war and its propaganda has described Hamas as a terrorist group. There's been a real change on those two points - but this mass support has not managed to break the blockade of Gaza.""

Video: US Empire and the Conflict in Israel/Palestine


"Why Palestine? It’s hard to overstate the significance of Israel/Palestine to global politics. Some say that Barack Obama’s success or failure will be judged on whether a resolution to the conflict is reached during his presidency. For others the issue has deep moral resonance. As an indication of the fault lines in America, Hampshire College’s recent decision to divest from companies that do business with Israel has been both repudiated and celebrated as a major breakthrough.

Ali Abunimah, editor and founder of The Electronic Intifada says that Palestine matters precisely because it is the site of the last Western colonial project in the Third World and that opposition to Israel is also opposition to US hegemony in the region.

Abunimah, Brian Van Slyke of Hampshire College’s Students for Justice in Palestine, Kanwal-Shazia Chaudhry a Doctor in Brooklyn who recently traveled to Gaza with the American Medical Mission to Gaza, and Hannah Mermelstein, co-founder of Birthright Unplugged take on the...."

Obama's Surge in Afghanistan, by Carlos Latuff

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Long road to rehabilitation for Gaza's amputees

Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 20 February 2009

"Amidst the thousands of people injured during Israel's three-week bombardment of the Gaza Strip are many whose lives will be permanently affected because they lost limbs......

At al-Wafa rehabilitation hospital in eastern Gaza City, a number of amputees recently began the rehabilitation process. Al-Wafa is the only private rehabilitation center in the Gaza Strip, but even it was not spared damage in the Israeli attack.

In one of the hospital's rooms lie two young men in their early twenties; the first had his right leg amputated, while the second had his lower limbs severely injured, preventing their use completely......."

Ramattan's war: The world's eyes into Gaza

Toufic Haddad, The Electronic Intifada, 20 February 2009

"If there is controversy about who won the recent war in Gaza, there is no question that Ramattan News Agency of Gaza City won the war to broadcast it.

It was Ramattan's images that beamed Israel's 22-day "Operation Cast Lead" into millions of households across the globe, capturing the indelible visual moments of the war: the aftermath of Israeli shells that hit a UN school compound killing 46 refugees; the streams of incendiary white phosphorus raining down upon civilian neighborhoods; the family members who desperately dug out the corpses of their relatives beneath the layers of collapsed homes. Ramattan's images were broadcast uncensored around the clock and only stopped on the few occasions the staff had to evacuate the studios fearing the 11-story building was about to be bombed.

Recently in the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, journalist Gideon Levy described the effect these images had:

"The whole world saw the images. They shocked every human being who saw them, even if they left most Israelis cold. The conclusion is that Israel is a violent and dangerous country, devoid of all restraints and blatantly ignoring the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, while not giving a hoot about international law. The investigations are on their way."

Ramattan's feeds were broadcast on hundreds of satellite stations around the world, including CNN, NBC, CBS, and FOX in the United States, and the BBC, TV2 Denmark, NOS Netherlands, Quatro Spain, Rai Uno Italy, ITN UK and TFI France in Europe.

Its cornering of the image market however came about by sheer default. Israel prevented international journalists access to Gaza during the war, and made it near impossible to get in for months before. Many international news agencies that did have film crews in Gaza also refrained from dispatching them because they considered the situation too dangerous......."

Investigating Gaza's 'war crimes'


"To launch Al Jazeera's new weekly show, Focus On Gaza, correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin visited the village of Khuza'a where residents and human rights experts believe a possible war crime took place during Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip.

A photograph of her recent pilgrimage to Mecca is now all that remains of Rawhiyya al Najar.

The mother was a Gaza native who had lived her entire life through conflict before it was to end on January 13, aged 37, by what was estimated to be a single shot to the head.

Testimony from eyewitnesses, friends, neighbours and human rights experts about the incident tell the story of how a woman carrying a baby and white flag was shot in broad daylight by an Israeli soldier......"

Al-Jazeera Video: Focus on Gaza: A Crime of War? - 20 Feb 09

"Human rights investigators continue to look into allegations that Israeli soldiers may have committed crimes of war during their Gaza military campaign.

As the first Focus on Gaza A Crime of War? looks at the story of an alleged war crime that occurred during the war in the small village of Khuzaa, half a kilometre from the Israeli border.

Ayman Mohyeldin speaks with village residents who tell the story of a Gazan woman who was killed with a single shot to the head while waving a white flag as she led children to safety. "

Al-Jazeera Video: Egypt releases opposition leader Ayman Nour - 19 Feb 09

"Ayman Nour, the Egyptian opposition leader, jailed after challenging Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, in 2005 elections, was unexpectedly freed on Wednesday.

Critics say the move may have come as a result of direct pressure from the new administration of Barack Obama, the US president....."

Real News Video: Are generals disputing Iraq pullout?

Do disagreements amongst top generals and Obama on Iraq pullout plan represent a more profound debate?

"Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, US Army Commander for Southern Iraq, declared that the security situation in Southern Iraq is not fragile. This contradicts recent statements from other military leaders like CENTCOM Commander Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Ray Odierno, the Commander in Iraq. Gareth Porter reports on his conversations with other commanders on the ground in Iraq who support Oates' statement."

The real Israel-Palestine story is in the West Bank

Israel's targeting of civilian resistance to the separation wall proves the two-state solution is now just a meaningless slogan

Ben White, Friday 20 February 2009

"......The path of the wall, and the number of Palestinians it directly and indirectly affects, continues to make a mockery of any plan for Palestinian statehood. Jayyous is just one example of the way in which the Israeli-planned, fenced-in Palestinian "state-lets" are at odds with the stated intention of the quartet and so many others, of two viable states, "side by side". As the World Bank pointed out (pdf), land colonisation is not conducive to economic prosperity or basic independence.

In occupied East Jerusalem meanwhile, Israel has continued its process of Judaisation, enforced through bureaucracy and bulldozers. The latest tightening of the noose in Ar-Ram is one example of where Palestinian Jerusalemites are at risk of losing their residency status, victims of what is politely known as the "demographic battle".

It is impossible to imagine Palestinians accepting a "state" shaped by the contours of Israel's wall, disconnected not only from East Jerusalem but even from parts of itself. Yet this is the essence of the "solution" being advanced by Israeli leaders across party lines. For a real sense of where the conflict is heading, look to the West Bank, not just Gaza."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Roots of Hatred in the Zionist Ideology

By Salim Nazzal
Palestine Chronicle

"In 1939 Europe turned a blind eye to the rise of Nazism. The British foreign minister Neville Chamberlain believed that a policy of appeasement would work with Hitler; it did not. Hitler attacked Poland, giving the world a costly lesson - a policy of appeasement does not work with fascism. The outcome is well known: Europe was ruined and around 50 million lost their lives. Yet thanks to the Norwegian "home front" resistance, Hitler was deprived of the heavy water needed for manufacturing the nuclear bomb; had he acquired enough material to do so, the history of humanity might have been dramatically different to that which we know.

The fact that Hitler was democratically elected by the German people did not legitimize his policy of mass murder; in the same way the Israeli election of fascists and war criminals should not legitimate the Zionists' policy of mass murder. However, if Hitler is the starkest model of the democratic electoral system that brought Nazism to power in Germany, the recent Israeli election is a more recent example of an election that brought another known fascist, Avigdor Lieberman, widely viewed as the Israeli duplicate of contemporary European fascists like Jorg Haider or Jean Marie Le Pen, to power......"

Fearing One State Solution, Peres Serves Pabulum to Washington

By Franklin Lamb - Ain el Helwe Palestinian Refugee Camp, Lebanon
Palestine Chronicle

"Israeli President Shimon Peres has participated in shaping the policies of Israel for most of its existence. His Washington Post Op-Ed last week billed as 'a peacepartners prod' to the Obama administration, evidences a major disconnect within the government of Israel concerning what is urgently required for that country's increasingly unlikely long-term survival.

According to a CIA study currently being shown to selected staff members on the US Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Israel's survival in its present form beyond the next 20 years is doubtful.

The Report predicts "an inexorable movement away from a Two State to a One State solution, as the most viable model based on democratic principles of full equality that sheds the looming specter of colonial Apartheid while allowing for the return of the 1947/1948 and 1967 refugees. The latter being the precondition for sustainable peace in the region."

To President Peres' chagrin, the Executive Summary states that "during the next fifteen years more than two million Israelis, including some 500,000 Israeli citizens who currently hold US green cards or passports will move to the United States. Most Israelis not in possession of these documents will receive 'expedited waivers'. The Report claims that "Alongside a decline in Jewish births and a rise in Palestinian fertility, approximately 1.6 million Israelis are likely to return to their forefather's lands in Russia and Eastern and Western Europe with scores of thousands electing to stay, depending on the nature of the transition."......."

البحرين عربية

عبد الستار قاسم

صرح مؤخرا أحد معاوني مرشد الثورة الإسلامية الإيرانية بأن البحرين أرض إيرانية، وهي المحافظة الرابعة عشرة لإيران. وقد ردت
وزارة الخارجية الإيرانية على التصريح قائلة بأن إيران تعترف بالبحرين دولة ذات سيادة. هذا ليس هو التصريح الأول الذي يصدر عن الإيرانيين بشان البحرين، وليس هو النفي الأول الذي يصدر عن الخارجية الإيرانية. وقد سبق للرئيس الإيراني أن زار البحرين لتطييب الخواطر. والملاحظ أن تصريح الخارجية لم يقل أن البحرين أرض عربية، واكتفى بذكر سيادة غير موجودة.
تكرار التصريحات بشأن البحرين يشير إلى نوايا إيرانية مبيتة حول هذه الأرض العربية، وهي نوايا تستهتدف الاستيلاء على الجزر. وبهذا تكون إيران قد استقدمت استعداء جماهير عربية وإسلامية غفيرة، وبثت إسفينا من الفرقة والفساد في المنطقة العربية الإسلامية. هذه منطقة تتطلع إلى النهوض والوقوف على أقدامها في وجه الغزاة والمستعمرين، وهي ليست بحاجة إلى مشاكل داخلية تستنزف الطاقات، وتستدعي الخصومات والعداوات، وتؤدي إلى حروب لا يستفيد منها إلا أعداء الأمة. وأنا لا أرى أن ذلك الشيخ الذي أطلق تصريحه قد راعى مصلحة الأمة أو حتى مصلحة إيران.
أنا عربي أرى في النظام السياسي البحريني العفن والتخلف، وهو نظام يدين بالولاء للولايات المتحدة ويقيم علاقات طيبة مع الصهاينة أعداء الله والأمة، لكن أرض البحرين هي أرض عربية خالصة، وقدسيتها بالنسبة لي كعربي كقدسية أي بقعة أخرى من الأرض العربية من المحيط إلى الخليج. النظام البحريني زائل وستبقى البحرين وسيبقى شعبها العربي الأصيل. ومثلما تقف شعوب الأمة مع فلسطين والعراق والصومال ولبنان، ستقف أيضا مع أرض البحرين وشعب البحرين.
كان الأولى بالشيخ وبكل رجال الدين أن يتحدثوا عن وحدة المسلمين من أجل النهوض وتشكيل جسم موحد قوي قادر على الاندفاع نحو التنمية والبناء، ونحو تحقيق الاستقلال والسيطرة على الثروات. كان الأولى به أن يتحدث عن وحدة الأمة في مواجهة التخلف والجهل والفقر والأمريكيين والصهاينة. وهذا الشيخ يدرك كما يدرك غيره من رجال الدين بأن الأولوية الشرعية أمام المسلمين الآن هي إقامة الأمة لما فيها من منعة وتحصين ورفعة ومساهمة في الحضارة الإنسانية، وليس في بث الفساد والفتن التي عقابها عند الله عظيم.
أتاحت تصريحات الشيخ الإيراني الفرصة أمام حكام عرب يبيعون الأمة والأرض للأمريكيين والصهاينة لأن يطلوا برؤوسهم مدافعين عن مصالح العرب: مبارك وعبد الله حسين يهبون لنجدة البحرين. أنا واثق بأن هؤلاء الحكام وُجدوا لبيع الأمة وليس للدفاع عن الأمة، وهم أول من سيتخلى عن البحرين فيما إذا حصل عليها اعتداء. هؤلاء الحكام (امتداد لأنظمة) هم أنفسهم الذين طبطبوا على ظهر شاه إيران مادحين عندما احتل الجزر الإماراتية في الخليج، وهم الآن الذين يدعمون إسرائيل في مواجهة المقاومة الفلسطينية واللبنانية

The Cleanser

Lobbyists Whistle Up Cordesman to "Prove" Israel Waged a Clean War in Gaza


"Anthony H. Cordesman, a leading military analyst from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has published a “strategic analysis” of the Gaza massacre. He reaches the remarkable conclusion that “Israel did not violate the laws of war.” The report is based on “briefings in Israeli [sic] during and immediately after the fighting made possible by a visit sponsored by Project Interchange, and using day-to-day reporting issued by the Israeli Defense Spokesman.” Cordesman omits mention that Project Interchange is funded by the American Jewish Committee......

If the carefully orchestrated p.r. blitz ultimately did not convince, the problem was perhaps not that the whole world misperceived what happened or that Israel failed to convey adequately its humanitarian mission but rather that the scope of the massacre was so appalling that no amount of propaganda could disguise it, especially after the massacre was over and foreign reporters could no longer be barred on spurious pretexts. Alas, this preposterous, barely literate “analysis” Cordesman cobbled together after his junket is unlikely to fool anyone, although in fairness to camp follower Cordesman it must be said that he plainly did his best to please and the American Jewish Committee plainly got its money’s worth from him."

Who’s behind Madoff?

By Wayne Madsen
Online Journal Contributing Writer

"(WMR) -- As the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that it had cut a deal with $50 billion Ponzi scammer Bernard Madoff whereby Madoff will neither admit nor deny fraud claims against him in a suit brought by the SEC.......

WMR has learned from a U.S. intelligence source in the Middle East that much of the $50 billion scammed by Madoff is now in Israeli banks and other financial contrivances established to secretly launder the ill-gotten loot. The Madoff Ponzi scheme may also be linked to the revelations by former Liechtenstein LGT bank employee Heinrich Kieber of secret off-shore accounts held by tax-evading politicians and businessmen in the United States and other countries, as well as the Clearstream entity in Luxembourg that involved allegations of a slush fund used to finance the political ambitions of France’s neocon president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and other right-wing politicians.

Harry Markopolos, a former investment manager-turned-investigator, recently told the U. S. House Financial Services Subcommittee that the SEC failed to take action against Madoff when Markopolos repeatedly warned the regulatory agency of the Ponzi scheme activities of Madoff, a former chairman of NASDAQ. The hearing at which Markopolos testified was chaired by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), whose 5th congressional district adjoins the 9th congressional district of Forest Hills and Rego Park, a nexus for Russian-Israeli mob activity in the New York City area.

On February 9, the SEC announced that Linda Thomsen, the agency’s top enforcement official, was resigning to “pursue opportunities in the private sector.”"

Venezuela: Bolivarianism Triumphs in Referendum Vote

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, February 19, 2009

"On February 15, Venezuelans voted on whether to let presidents, National Assembly representatives, governors, mayors, and state legislators run indefinitely for re-election after Chavez last December proposed a national referendum for constitutional change - so voters, not politicians could decide.

Sunday they spoke decisively in favor by a 54.4% to 45.6% margin with over 94% of votes counted. Chavez didn't win. Venezuelans did for Bolivarian continuity and against oligarch dominance, no democracy, and back to an impoverished state.

Since 1999, Chavez transformed Venezuela to what it is today....."

Obama, Osama and Medvedev

By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times

"The 1,600-kilometer Karachi-Khyber-Kabul supply line envisioned by the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is for all practical purposes dead - thanks to neo-Taliban guerrillas in Pakistan's tribal areas. If Washington and Moscow can't hash out a new route, the only other realistic possibility for the coalition is courting Iran, which is already deeply connected to Russia, and China......"

Did Egypt sabotage deal over Gaza, Shalit?

A Good Piece and Recommended Reading

Amal Ghazal, The Electronic Intifada, 18 February 2009

"......While this claim has been debunked, even mocked, by many Arabs who accuse their regimes of not only collaboration with Israel but also complicity in the continuing suppression of Palestinian resistance movements, that collaboration has now been documented and exposed with the unearthing of official records. This history came alive during the recent war on Gaza and the Egyptian government's (and other Arab governments') complicity in this war provided a clear idea of the organic relationship between Israel and some of those regimes which do not refrain from or hesitate to sacrifice the Palestinian question for their own political ends.

The complicity of the Egyptian regime extends to the negotiations mediated by Cairo. In fact, that regime is not a mediator between two sides or an honest deal maker; its interests meet those of Israel to the extent that it is functioning as a broker on behalf of Israel. The war on Gaza left us with one eye set on the scenes of carnage in Gaza itself and another on Cairo, where the Egyptian negotiating team was trying to pressure the Palestinians (through Hamas) into surrender, something that Israel was not able to achieve by sheer military force. The international outcry, Hamas' ability to absorb the Israeli attacks and the resolve of Palestinians in Gaza provided the Hamas delegation in Cairo with a political leverage that allowed it to resist Egyptian pressure and intimidation. And as has been revealed through some recent leaks to the press, the Egyptians have utilized various intimidating techniques in order to force Hamas into accepting the terms proposed by Israel. It may be a matter of time before we know those details which will reinforce the idea that the Egyptian negotiating team wanted to impose the Israeli terms rather than negotiate a fair agreement. An indication of Egypt's readiness to push Hamas into surrender was the original Egyptian proposal to discuss a 10- to 15-year ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. Hamas' refusal to negotiate such a long-term agreement finally led to a negotiation of an 18-month agreement. As revealed by confidential sources, below is what the Egyptians have been proposing in terms of a two-phase agreement, followed by a Hamas counter-proposal.....

Egypt's determination to have the Shalit file in its hands, in an effort to restore some credibility for its regional role, explains the recent developments regarding that issue. Israel had agreed to negotiate Shalit's release in a separate agreement. France was mediating between Hamas and Israel for a prisoner exchange and might have been close to reaching an agreement agreeable to both parties. However, Israel's recent demand to make Shalit's release part of the overall agreement and even tie it to the opening of the crossings is a new position. It appears that Egypt sabotaged the French initiative after Hosni Mubarak's visit to France last week....

The second goal is to reach an agreement that would be acceptable to Israel, and by extension, to the United States. But Suleiman's eagerness to please Israel and the US has a broader objective. Suleiman wants to prove that he is the man in control, and behind him, the military and intelligence establishment. Suleiman, and the military establishment in general, are not very keen on the idea of Gamal Mubarak succeeding his father......"

Chasing mirages in the Middle East

Hasan Abu Nimah, The Electronic Intifada, 18 February 2009

".....The peace mirage, however, is all deception with no fascination. The so-called "peace process" and the resulting negotiations long ago became ends in themselves: profitable or self-serving for the participants and failure-disguising for all concerned. For Israel, it is ideal to give the impression that it is engaged in peace talks while it continues to occupy and colonize Palestinians and deny their rights, as if the situation on the ground would have no effect on any negotiations. And for the Palestinian Authority which failed completely (due to its own corruption as well as Israeli occupation) to establish any real gains for the Palestinian people, the continued negotiations became the sole reason for its existence and the only way for those who control it to earn a living.....

Hence there has been endless chasing after the mirage by people who know or should know the mirage is just that, but who nevertheless insist that the water is real and they will soon drink it......

We have reached the point now where every setback is reinterpreted as a "window of opportunity." Take for example the recent Israeli elections.....

But the peace process industry will always be ready to deny reality and chase the mirage. Israel as a whole is so extremist and intransigent that even a right-wing, settlement building, warmongering national unity government of Kadima and Likud would be welcomed warmly by the "international community" as a peace government for which we should be thankful and eager to engage.....

I wish we could dismiss these failed policies and their practitioners as the joke that they are. But those who pay the price for so much international negligence, complicity, lack of courage and accountability, are innocent people, most horrifyingly in Gaza. But their reality, their anger, their resistance is one that the mirage cannot conceal any longer."

US to 'listen and learn' in rare Gaza visit

Press TV

"US Senator John Kerry and two congressmen pay a rare visit to war-torn Gaza while upholding US policies toward the ruler of the territory.

Democratic Senator John Kerry and Democratic representatives Brian Baird and Keith Ellison were in Gaza on Thursday.

The impoverished and densely-populated territory was ravaged by Israel's recent military offensive which left at least 1,330 Palestinians dead, thousands injured and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Before crossing over to the Palestinian land, Senator Kerry told reporters that his visit would not reflect a change in Washington policy toward the Gaza ruler -- the Hamas movement.

"(It) does not indicate any shift whatsoever with respect to Hamas," said Kerry, who heads the Senate's powerful foreign relations committee. "What it indicates is our effort to listen and to learn."....

Earlier, congressmen Baird and Ellison visited Izzbet Abed Rabbo, a community in northern Gaza that was hit hard during the Israeli war.

The congressmen will not meet with Hamas officials during their visits, AFP reported. The visits are the first such trips since June 2007. "

Hamas Offered a Bullet to Bite

Analysis by Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler

"JERUSALEM, Feb 19 (IPS) - Israel's outgoing prime minister Ehud Olmert is risking a crisis of confidence with Egypt by insisting that a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas precede any Egyptian-mediated ceasefire arrangement to end the Gaza war.....

Peace-making is distinctly not a top priority for the right-wing Netanyahu government now likely soon to assume power. So too, any deal with Hamas. It's clear though, that Netanyahu would be greatly relieved if this set-to with Hamas is resolved before he takes the helm, so he does not have to make difficult decisions and bite a bullet that could endanger his new coalition from the outset.

All of which leaves Hamas facing a tough dilemma of its own: whether, before Netanyahu takes over, to bite the bullet of the new ceasefire terms fired by Olmert?"

Hollywood's New Censors

By John Pilger

"When I returned from the war in Vietnam, I wrote a film script as an antidote to the myth that the war had been an ill-fated noble cause. The producer David Puttnam took the draft to Hollywood and offered it to the major studios, whose responses were favorable – well, almost. Each issued a report card in which the final category, "politics," included comments such as: "This is real, but are the American people ready for it? Maybe they'll never be."

By the late 1970s, Hollywood judged Americans ready for a different kind of Vietnam movie. The first was The Deer Hunter which, according to Time, "articulates the new patriotism." The film celebrated immigrant America, with Robert de Niro as a working class hero ("liberal by instinct") and the Vietnamese as sub-human Oriental barbarians and idiots, or "gooks.".....

These are extraordinary times. Vicious colonial wars and political, economic and environmental corruption cry out for a place on the big screen. Yet, try to name one recent film that has dealt with these, honestly and powerfully, let alone satirically. Censorship by omission is virulent. We need another Wall Street, another Last Hurrah, another Dr. Strangelove. The partisans who tunnel out of their prison in Gaza, bringing in food, clothes, medicines and weapons with which to defend themselves, are no less heroic than the celluloid-honored POWs and partisans of the 1940s. They and the rest of us deserve the respect of the greatest popular medium."

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

This latest poll asks:

Do you expect a fair trial for Mountathar Al-Zaidi (the Iraqi journalist who tossed his shoe at Bush)?

With over 700 responding so far, 96% said no.

Today's Arab Condition....
By Emad Hajjaj

Leading article: The Middle East starts to feel the Obama effect

The Independent

"Sooner or later it had to happen: someone had to start talking to Hamas. Today we report that a back channel already exists. French parliamentarians have met the Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal, with Syria as the go-between. MPs from other European countries, including Britain, have met lower-level Hamas representatives since the start of the year. This makes perfect sense. It is the way all pariah groups or states are enticed in from the cold. Negotiations begin unofficially, through third parties and with the necessary element of deniability.

Hamas, it can be argued, should never have found itself in the pariah category. It was encouraged to take part in the Palestinian parliamentary elections, only to be cold-shouldered by the United States, then by Israel and the European Union, when it won. That was a mistake....."

Afghanistan: Slipping out of control

US to send in 17,000 extra troops as Karzai loses grip

By Kim Sengupta
The Independent

"A grim picture of spiralling violence and a disintegrating society has emerged in Afghanistan in a confidential Nato report, just as Barack Obama vowed to send 17,000 extra American troops to the country in an attempt to stem a tide of insurgency.

Direct attacks on the increasingly precarious Afghan government more than doubled last year, while there was a 50 per cent increase in kidnappings and assassinations. Fatalities among Western forces, including British, went up by 35 per cent while the civilian death toll climbed by 46 per cent, more than the UN had estimated. Violent attacks were up by a third and roadside bombings, the most lethal source of Western casualties, by a quarter. There was also a 67 per cent rise in attacks on aircraft from the ground, a source of concern to Nato which depends hugely on air power in the conflict.

The document, prepared by the Pentagon on behalf of the US-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan and seen by The Independent, also reveal how swathes of the country have slipped out of the control of President Hamid Karzai’s government. According to a poll taken towards the end of last year, a third of the population stated that the Taliban had more influence in their locality....."

Click on cartoon by Steve Bell to enlarge.

To Gaza, With Love

By Medea BenjaminGlobal Exchange

"When I traveled to Gaza last week, everywhere I went, a photo haunted me. I saw it in a brochure called "Gaza will not die" that Hamas gives out to visitors at the border crossing. A poster-sized version was posted outside a makeshift memorial at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. And now that I am back home, the image comes to me when I look at children playing in the park, when I glance at the school across the street, when I go to sleep at night.

It is a photo of a young Palestinian girl who is literally buried alive in the rubble from a bomb blast, with just her head protruding from the ruins. Her eyes are closed, her mouth partially open, as if she were in a deep sleep. Dried blood covers her lips, her cheeks, her hair. Someone with a glove is reaching down to touch her forehead, showing one final gesture of kindness in the midst of such inhumanity.

What was this little girl's name, I wonder. How old was she? Was she sleeping when the bomb hit her home? Did she die a quick death or a slow, agonizing one? Where are her parents, her siblings? How are they faring?

Of the 1,330 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military during the 22-day invasion of Gaza, 437 were children. Let me repeat that: 437 children-each as beautiful and precious as our own.

As a Jew, an American and a mother, I felt compelled to witness, firsthand, what my people and my taxdollars had done during this invasion. Visiting Gaza filled me with unbearable sadness......."

Abbas warns Barghouthi not to criticize him

Press TV

"The Palestinian Authority has warned Marwan Barghouthi in Israeli jail not to make any critical remarks about the PA if he is released.

A Fatah official told The Jerusalem Post that the PA warned Marwan Barghouthi, the former top ranking official of Fatah, not to criticize Acting Palestinian Authority Chief and Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas, if he is released from the Israeli detention.

According to the source, Hussein a-Sheikh, a senior Fatah official who is close to Abbas, met with Barghouthi in prison earlier this week, warning him over his possible remarks against the PA and Abbas.....

Barghouthi has been among the Hamas' list of Palestinian prisoners whose release has been demanded for the exchange of Israeli Gilad Shalit.....

But Israel has been trying to use Barghouthi's release as a goodwill gesture meant to bolster Fatah against Hamas.

Abbas however is concerned that Barghouthi will use his close personal ties with some Hamas leaders to undermine his Fatah leadership......"

Also, see this from Al-Manar:

'Barghouti Release May Divide Fatah'

".....In the message that was relayed to Barghouti, the PA leadership stressed that his release would be the result of Abbas's efforts and pressure on Israel, and not because his name appears on the list of detainees that Hamas is demanding in return for captured Israeli occupation soldier Gilad Shalit.

The message also reminded Barghouti of the damage he caused Fatah when he decided to challenge Abbas in the presidential election that was held in January 2005. Then, Barghouti was forced to drop his candidacy after coming under heavy pressure from Abbas and old-guard Fatah leaders, who continue to maintain that he was partially responsible for the divisions in Fatah that brought Hamas to power a year later.

Abbas is also concerned that Barghouti will use his close personal ties with some Hamas leaders to undermine the veteran Fatah leadership. According to the Fatah official, even as he sits in prison Barghouti is exchanging messages with Khaled Mashaal, the Damascus-based Hamas politburo Chief, and Osama Hamdan, the movement's representative in Lebanon.

Barghouti's release would also likely agitate the power struggle between the young guard and the old guard in Fatah. As a representative of the young guard, Barghouti has long been demanding major reforms in Fatah, which has failed to hold internal elections for two decades......."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lab tests verify white phosphorus in Gaza soil

Press TV

"Laboratory tests conducted by a Turkish university on Gaza soil have confirmed the use of phosphorus bombs by Israel in the coastal sliver.

Istanbul's Yildiz Technical University conducted the tests on soil transferred by the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER).

The tests yielded results confirming the existence of white phosphorus particles in the samples, the daily Vakit reports.

White phosphorus, classified as a 'chemical weapon' by US intelligence, is an incendiary material that causes horrific burns, severe injuries or death when it comes in contact with humans.

During Israel's 23-day offensive in the Gaza Strip, a fierce controversy broke out over the alleged use of white phosphorus -- also known by the military as WP or Willie Pete -- by the Israeli army.

The legality of the toxic chemical agent is a matter of debate, with many groups recognizing it as an illegal weapon, while international law allows its usage solely for smoke-screening.

Israel maintains that its actions were being conducted under international laws, despite contradictory reports of the Israeli claim.

Following the laboratory results in Turkey, MAZLUM-DER filed a criminal complaint against Israel at Istanbul's Prosecutor's Office on Tuesday.

The Turkish human rights group MAZLUM-DER has also accused Israel of directly attacking civilians "with the aim of annihilating them" and employing internationally-banned weapons in the process.

"The suspects, who wanted to wipe out the Palestinian people through systematic attacks, have committed genocide and crimes against humanity," said a petition by the human rights group.

On Sunday, an international conference in Morocco called for Israeli civil and military officials to be sued for "war crimes and crimes against humanity."

Some 5,700 Iranian lawyers have also filed a compliant against 24 Israeli leaders and commanders over the alleged Israeli war crimes.

International organizations and human rights groups remain concerned over Tel Aviv's use of forbidden arms, such as depleted uranium and white phosphorus, in the Gaza war......"

Al-Jazeera Video: Jordan curbs Muslim groups after Gaza sympathy - 18 Feb 09

"The relationship between Jordans Muslim Brotherhood and the government was seriously tested during the war on Gaza.

Although anti-Israel protests sponsored by the group were tolerated, restrictions were re-imposed on some of the Brotherhood's activities.

It's a sign that that the Jordanian government walks a fine line when it comes to Palestinian issues...."

Understanding the Crisis - Markets, the State and Hypocrisy

By Noam Chomsky
and Sameer Dossani

"February 10, 2009 -- Noam Chomsky is a noted linguist, author, and foreign policy expert. Sameer Dossani interviewed him about the global economic crisis and its roots.....

DOSSANI: Will the current crisis open up space for other countries to follow more meaningful development goals?

CHOMSKY: Well, it's been happening. One of the most exciting areas of the world is South America. For the last 10 years there have been quite interesting and significant moves towards independence, for the first time since the Spanish and Portuguese conquests. That includes steps towards unification, which is crucially important, and also beginning to address their huge internal problems. There's a new Bank of the South, based in Caracas, which hasn't really taken off yet, but it has prospects and is supported by other countries as well. MERCOSUR is a trading zone of the Southern cone. Just recently, six or eight months ago, a new integrated organization has developed, UNASUR, the Union of South American Republics, and it's already been effective. So effective that it's not reported in the United States, presumably because it's too dangerous.

So when the U.S. and the traditional ruling elites in Bolivia started moving towards a kind of secessionist movement to try to undermine the democratic revolution that's taken place there, and when it turned violent, as it did, there was a meeting of UNASUR last September in Santiago, where it issued a strong statement defending the elected president, Evo Morales, and condemning the violence and the efforts to undermine the democratic system. Morales responded thanking them for their support and also saying that this is the first time in 500 years that South America's beginning to take its fate into its own hands. That's significant; so significant that I don't even think it was reported here. Just how far these developments can go, both dealing with the internal problems and also the problems of unification and integration, we don't know, but the developments are taking place. There are also South-South relations developing, for example between Brazil and South Africa. This again breaks the imperial monopoly, the monopoly of U.S. and Western domination. China's a new element on the scene. Trade and investment are increasing, and this gives more options and possibilities to South America. The current financial crisis might offer opportunities for increasing this, but also it might go the other way. The financial crisis is of course harming — it must harm — the poor in the weaker countries and it may reduce their options. These are really matters which will depend on whether popular movements can take control of their own fate, to borrow Morales' phrase. If they can, yes there are opportunities."

The Taliban get their first wish

By Syed Saleem Shahzad
Asia Times

"The guns are silent in the Swat Valley in the Malakand division of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province following Monday's peace agreement between the government and militants. Islamic law will also be implemented. This is a significant victory for the Pakistan Taliban and their al-Qaeda colleagues after two years of fighting, and an extremely ominous development for the United States-led troops just across the border in Afghanistan....."

Gaza's forgotten elderly

Report, PCHR, 17 February 2009

(This report is part of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights' series "Aftermath" that looks at the aftermath of Israel's 22-day offensive on the Gaza Strip, and the ongoing impact it is having on the civilian population.)

"At the nursing home of al-Wafaa Hospital in the northeastern Gaza Strip, frail women lie curled in their beds, most of them bedridden. In Gaza's close-knit society, nursing homes are not very common, as most people prefer to care for their elderly family members at home. However, the patients at al-Wafaa have nowhere else to go.

While many reports have been released on the effect of the conflict on children, other vulnerable groups such as the elderly and disabled are often disregarded......

In the early hours of 16 January 2009, al-Wafaa Hospital, the only rehabilitation center of its kind in Gaza, was hit several times by artillery fire, including rounds of white phosphorus. The holes in the wards of the hospital's eastern wing attest to the damage sustained that night, estimated to cost around half a million dollars.

Rahma and the other patients reported "a long night of terror," trapped in the hospital, unable to leave. Even now, three weeks after Israel's unilateral ceasefire, Rahma is in tears......."

Israel Braces for Wave of Lawsuits

By Mel Frykberg

"RAMALLAH, Feb 17 (IPS) - Israel is bracing for a wave of lawsuits accusing the Jewish state of substantial human rights violations during its 22-day military assault on Gaza which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead and nearly 5,000 wounded, more than half of them civilian.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have confirmed that phosphorous bombs were used over Gaza. It is against international law to use phosphorous in densely crowded civilian areas.

According to Amnesty, Israel tanks also fired flechettes, 4cm long metal darts in civilian neighbourhoods. Shells containing 5,000 to 8,000 flechettes explode in the air and scatter in a conical pattern over an area about 300m wide and 100m long.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Euro- Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) also hit out at Israel.

The rights organisations had a group of monitors in the Palestinian territories for a number of days during Israel's military operation codenamed Operation Cast Lead.

"We are appalled at the horror of the war launched in the Gaza Strip, the major loss of civilian lives and the wide-scale destruction of civilian property and infrastructure in the context of the operation," they said in a joint statement........"

Israeli Elections: From Bad to Ugly

By Dr. Ahmed Yousef - Gaza
Palestine Chronicle

"Pundits have asked Palestinians of every persuasion what they think of Israeli elections over the past several weeks. Opinions are varied and thoughtful; yet the truth is that to prefer one of the leading groups over another is an exercise in futility. Asking for a choice is akin to opting hypothetically for France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen (Lieberman), Dutch parliamentarian Geet Wilders (Livni), or Russia’s Vladimir Zhirinovsky (Netanyahu), with South Africa’s Pieter W. Botha (Peres) playing the presidential role of whom to ask for the formation of a national unity government.

Israeli democracy is an oxymoron, a reality underscored by the abuse of any non-Jewish party vying for equal representation.....

There is no benefit in trying to resurrect dead ideas like those offered in and since Oslo because the Israeli leadership of today denies the very humanity of Palestinians. Those initiatives and declarations have been rendered irrelevant; and a new reality exists that the Israelis will have no choice but to address. Palestinians will not give up the right, enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights, to resist occupation. The group is, however, willing to reach long term solutions through the international community....."

The Magic Potion

By William S. Lind

".....In such an environment, elections do not substitute for war but rather prepare the way for it. They exacerbate differences, heighten local conflicts, and lengthen the lists of "injustices" each party uses to justify fighting.

This unfortunate reality points again to what America needs to do in Iraq: get out now, fast, while it can. If we are lucky, history will grant us a "decent interval" between our departure and the next round of 4GW in Iraq. If we dawdle until the fighting ramps up again, we may find it difficult, politically if not militarily, to leave at all.

This brings us to another election, that in Israel. It is not clear what government will emerge from Israel's vote. It is clear the Knesset has shifted to the right. From the standpoint of America's interests, that is a negative outcome.

The danger is not only to prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which are probably small in any event. The danger is that a new Israeli government in which Likud and voices to Likud's right are stronger is more likely to attack Iran.

As I have said repeatedly in past columns, an attack on Iran by the U.S. or Israel threatens consequences disastrous to America. The worst potential consequence is the possibility of the destruction of the army the U.S. now has in Iraq. As almost no one in Washington seems to realize – thanks, as usual, to hubris – that possibility is all too real. All one need do to see it is look at a map. Iran sits alongside our main line of communications, supply, and retreat all the way from Baghdad to the straits of Hormuz. Add in the probability that various Shi'ite militias and perhaps much of the new Iraqi army as well would join with the Iranians in attacking us, and the possibility of finding 100,000 American troops in an operational Kessel is frighteningly evident......"

اعتقال صبي قذف سيارة فياض بحذائه يثير ضجة في الضفة

اعتقال صبي قذف سيارة فياض بحذائه يثير ضجة في الضفة

"رام الله ـ 'القدس العربي': أثار اعتقال الاجهزة الأمنية الفلسطينية صبيا من مخيم الدهيشة للاجئين في محافظة بيت لحم الخميس الماضي على اثر قذفه سيارة رئيس الوزراء الدكتور سلام فياض قبل ايام بحذائه اهتماما شعبيا. وأوضحت مصادر صحافية أن الصبي ساهر احمد البالغ من العمر (15 عاما) ألقى بحذائه وببرتقالة باتجاه سيارة فياض عند مرور موكبه بأحد الطرق العامة، من دون أن يسفر ذلك عن وقوع إصابات. وحدث ذلك قبل ايام عندما جاء فياض لبيت لحم لالقاء كلمة امام الدورة الخامسة عشرة للمؤتمر الدولي 'لوحدة الشعوب الارثوذكسية'.
حول دور الديانات في البحث عن قرارات السلام والتحديات العالمية والتهديدات الاقليمية في قصر المؤتمرات بالمدينة.
وحسب المصادر فان قوات الامن الفلسطينية التي كانت مرافقة لموكب فياض نجحت في القبض على الصبي بعد مطاردته في أزقة المخيم واعتقاله بعد ان تعرض لضرب مبرح قبل نقله إلى مركز اعتقال وهو لا يزال رهن الاعتقال

Assad responds

The Guardian, Wednesday 18 February 2009

"......But what Syria calls the "steadfast" position, combining alliance with Iran, support for Hezbollah and Hamas, hostility to Israel and opposition to the policies of the United States, has for some time been less monolithic than it once appeared.

With Turkey acting as the go-between, Syria has been tentatively exploring the possibility of peace with Israel.....

President Bashar al-Assad's readiness to respond to gestures from the new American administration, as expressed in the interview he gave yesterday to our Middle East editor, Ian Black, is to be welcomed.....

President al-Assad indicated yesterday that he might also have discussions with General David Petraeus, which would obviously concern Iraq. In theory a new Israeli government might find it easier to move on the Golan than on the West Bank and Gaza, so a scenario can be constructed in which Washington and Damascus move closer, and a Syrian-Israeli peace deal becomes a serious possibility....

The price for the Golan would be a high one for Syria, involving at least a reduction in its ties with Iran, as well as hard decisions about its support for Hezbollah....."

Obama has reached for the tsars

Advisers abound, and conflict could follow, in the US president's multi-layered government

Simon Tisdall, Tuesday 17 February 2009

"......If Obama is daunted by this responsibility and his lack of management experience, it does not show. In his first month in office, he has confidently upended old organisational structures. Even before his $787bn economic stimulus package was approved by Congress, he had become a one-man job creation programme. By one estimate, up to 160 people will have jobs in the West Wing of Obama's White House, compared with 60 under George Bush.....

Obama's enthusiasm for bipartisanship, unreciprocated by Congressional Republicans, has afforded even wider bureaucratic employment opportunities. Thus has Robert Gates, Bush's defence secretary, been kept on in his old job. Obama has also extended his "two is better than one" approach to Hillary Clinton's state department. Instead of simply leaving Clinton to direct foreign policy, as was the norm in the past, Obama has sub-divided the job several times over.

Primary responsibility for Israel-Palestine has been given to George Mitchell, Afghanistan-Pakistan has gone to Richard Holbrooke and Iran, possibly, will be handled by Dennis Ross. All three are seasoned negotiators and diplomats summoned from retirement. All three are men of strong opinions who probably know more about their respective tasks than does Clinton.

Quite where that leaves US policy in these crucial areas, and quite where it leaves the not easily dismissed Clinton, will be another developing story of the job-intensive Obama era."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Israel Takes More Land in West Bank, Expands Settlements

srael says it plans to build 2,500 more housing units in the West Bank - a move likely to make any peace negotiations more difficult.[I Cringe when I hear "peace negotiations"]

Officials said Monday the decision was made earlier this month to expand the Efrat settlement, south of Jerusalem, declaring adjacent lands state property. Construction is not expected for several years.

Israel engaged in covert war inside Iran: report


"Israel has launched a covert war against Iran as an alternative to direct military strikes against Tehran's nuclear program," Britain's Daily Telegraph said on Tuesday. "It is using hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents to disrupt the regime's illicit weapons project, the experts say."....

Israel exporting Golan apples to Syria

Apples grown by Israeli farmers in the Golan Heights will be exported to Syria, the IDF announced in a statement Tuesday. The move followed a request from the Red Cross, and was approved by relevant government departments in Jerusalem and Damascus.

A Druse man from the Golan...

A Druse man from the Golan Heights crosses over into Syria via the Kuneitra crossing [archive].
Photo: Brenda Gazzar 

The transfers, beginning Tuesday, will be facilitated via the Kuneitra crossing, and supervised by Red Cross and United Nations officials on both the Israeli and the Syrian sides, the IDF said....