Aletho News


US general says no evidence of links between Venezuela and FARC-ETA

AFP | March 11, 2010

The general in charge of US military activities in Latin America said Thursday he had no evidence of links between Venezuela’s leftist government and Colombian and Basque guerrilla groups. “We have not seen any connections specifically that I can verify that there has been a direct government-to-terrorist connection,” General Douglas Fraser, head of the US Southern Command, told a Senate hearing.

“We have continued to watch very closely for any connections between illicit and terrorist organization activity within the region,” he said. “We are concerned about it. I’m skeptical. I continue to watch for it.”

Fraser’s comments follow charges by a Spanish judge linking alleged assassination plots in Spain by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Basque separatist group ETA to Venezuelan “governmental support.”

Venezuela has rejected the charges, which raised tensions with Spain.

Arturo Valenzuela, the assistant secretary of state responsible for Latin American affairs, told another congressional panel Wednesday there had been some evidence of some kind of Venezuelan assistance to the FARC.

Fraser, however, said he was aware only of “old evidence” of assistance.

“But I don’t see that evidence. I can’t tell you specifically whether that continues or not,” he said.

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The peace-process masquerade falls apart

By Paul Woodward | March 11, 2010

It turns out that at least when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the difference between the Bush administration and the Obama administration is this: team Bush had better choreography.

The Guardian now reports:

The US vice-president, Joe Biden, today attempted to salvage the Middle East peace talks after the Palestinians announced they were pulling out of a new round of indirect negotiations before they had begun.

The Palestinian move was in protest against Israel’s decision to build hundreds of new homes in a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem.

The withdrawal from negotiations, announced in Cairo by Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League, represents a major setback to months of diplomacy by the US administration prior to Biden’s visit to the region.

The US vice-president said an agreement would be “profoundly” in Israel’s interests and appealed to the Israeli government to make a serious attempt to reach peace with the Palestinians

Even so, Biden went on to say that in Israel the US has “no better friend”.

Does the vice president, does this administration, have no dignity?

Is it so craven that in the moment of its humiliation it feels driven to ingratiate itself even further?

What Goliaths are these that never fail in turning America’s leaders into gibbering fools?

Gideon Levy offers credit where credit is due:

Here’s someone new to blame for everything: Eli Yishai. After all, Benjamin Netanyahu wanted it so much, Ehud Barak pressed so hard, Shimon Peres wielded so much influence – and along came the interior minister and ruined everything.

There we were, on the brink of another historic upheaval (almost). Proximity talks with the Palestinians were in the air, peace was knocking on the door, the occupation was nearing its end – and then a Shas rogue, who knows nothing about timing and diplomacy, came and shuffled all the proximity and peace cards.

The scoundrel appeared in the midst of the smile- and hug-fest with the vice president of the United States and disrupted the celebration. Joe Biden’s white-toothed smiles froze abruptly, the great friendship was about to disintegrate, and even the dinner with the prime minister and his wife was almost canceled, along with the entire “peace process.” And all because of Yishai.

Well, the interior minister does deserve our modest thanks. The move was perfect. The timing, which everyone is complaining about, was brilliant. It was exactly the time to call a spade a spade. As always, we need Yishai (and occasionally Avigdor Lieberman) to expose our true face, without the mask and lies, and play the enfant terrible who shouts that the emperor has no clothes.

For the emperor indeed has no clothes. Thank you, Yishai, for exposing it. Thank you for ripping the disguise off the revelers in the great ongoing peace-process masquerade in which nobody means anything or believes in anything.

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite | Comments Off on The peace-process masquerade falls apart

Alan Dershowitz was right about Obama

Why I support Obama and Israel

By Alan Dershowitz | Huffington Post | October – 2008

I am a strong supporter of Israel (though sometimes critical of specific policies). I am also a strong supporter of Barack Obama (though I favored Hillary Clinton during the primaries). I am now getting dozens of emails asking me how as a supporter of Israel I can vote for Barack Obama. Let me explain.

I think that on the important issues relating to Israel, both Senator McCain and Senator Obama score very high. During the debates each candidate has gone out of his and her way to emphasize strong support for Israel as an American ally and a bastion of democracy in a dangerous neighborhood. They have also expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself against the nuclear threat posed by Iran which has sworn to wipe Israel off the map [sic] and the need to prevent another Holocaust.

There may be some difference in nuance among the candidates, especially with regard to negotiations with Iran, but supporters of Israel should not base their voting decision on which party or which candidates support Israel more enthusiastically. In the United States, Israel is not a divisive issue, and voting for President is not a referendum on support for Israel, at least among the major parties.

I want to keep it that way. I want to make sure that support for Israel remains strong both among liberals and conservatives. It is clear that extremists on both sides of the political spectrum hate Israel, because they hate liberal democracies, because they tend to have a special place in their heart for tyrannical regimes, and because they often have strange views with regard to anything Jewish. The extreme left, as represented by Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney, Norman Finkelstein and, most recently, Jimmy Carter has little good to say about the Jewish state. But nor does the extreme right, as represented by Pat Buchanan, Robert Novak, Joseph Sobran and David Duke. When it comes to Israel there is little difference between the extreme right and the extreme left. Nor is there much of a difference between the centrist political left and the centrist political right: both generally support Israel. Among Israel’s strongest supporters have always been Ted Kennedy, Harry Reed, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The same is true of the centrist political right, as represented by Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, Oren Hatch and John McCain.

Why then do I favor Obama over McCain? First, because I support him on policies unrelated to Israel, such as the Supreme Court, women’s rights, separation of church and state and the economy. But I also prefer Obama to McCain on the issue of Israel. How can I say that if I have just acknowledged that on the issues they both seem to support Israel to an equal degree? The reason is because I think it is better for Israel to have a liberal supporter in the White House than to have a conservative supporter in the oval office. Obama’s views on Israel will have greater impact on young people, on Europe, on the media and on others who tend to identify with the liberal perspective. Although I believe that centrists liberals in general tend to support Israel, I acknowledge that support from the left seems to be weakening as support from the right strengthens. The election of Barack Obama — a liberal supporter of Israel — will enhance Israel’s position among wavering liberals.

As I travel around university campuses both in the United States and abroad, I see radical academics trying to present Israel as the darling of the right and anathema to the left. As a liberal supporter of Israel, I try to combat that false image. Nothing could help more in this important effort to shore up liberal support for Israel than the election of a liberal president who strongly supports Israel and who is admired by liberals throughout the world. That is among the important reasons why I support Barack Obama for president.

Alan M. Dershowitz is a Professor of Law at Harvard. His most recent book The Case Against Israel’s Enemies: Exposing Jimmy Carter and Others Who Stand In The Way of Peace which has recently been published by Wiley.

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Wars for Israel | 3 Comments

Toronto Restricts Academic Freedom: ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ Not Permitted to Take Place

By Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East | March 11, 2010

Toronto Restricts Academic Freedom: ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ Not Permitted to Take Place

Last week, Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Director of Education Chris Spence announced in a statement that “‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ and its activities are not permitted to take place on school or Board property, or as part of any activity under the jurisdiction of the TDSB.” Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) considers this announcement a clear attempt to discourage rational discussion of the constellation of issues addressed by Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), and therefore considers it an unacceptable restriction on the academic freedom that should be enjoyed by the TDSB’s community.

Spence’s announcement came on the heels of a motion on IAW introduced by Thornhill MPP Peter Shurman which condemned the use of the term Israeli Apartheid Week; that motion was passed by 30 members of the Ontario Legislature on February 25. Shurman’s motion had no legal weight, and stopped short of actually urging that IAW activities themselves be prohibited. Spence’s statement, however, went further by prohibiting IAW activities at TDSB schools. It thereby limits the discussion of Middle East issues – of vital interest to TDSB students and their families and meriting informed and open debate – within public education institutions.

“This is a disturbing precedent on several counts,” notes CJPME President Thomas Woodley. “First, however, singling out IAW activities and prohibiting them at TDSB schools or properties restricts freedom of expression, thereby violating Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” CJPME believes that limiting discussion on Israeli institutions of apartheid – institutions well-documented by human rights organizations and internationally respected figures – will only exacerbate the sense of frustration felt by many Torontonians who disagree with many actions of the Israeli government and its institutions. Spence’s decision appears to have been reached without public consultation or even a full and open debate by TDSB trustees. “The TDSB trustees need to insist that the right to freedom of expression be respected in TDSB schools,” continued Woodley. “Singling out IAW activities and censoring them is counterproductive with respect to both the intents and principles of our educational institutions,” concluded Woodley.

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is one of many organizations which have catalogued some of the numerous manifestations of Apartheid in Israel. These include racially-based family reunification laws, racially-based municipal development practices, racially-based approval of building permits, non-recognition of Palestinian villages, racially-based inequalities for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and discriminatory policing of Palestinian citizens of Israel. Many Israeli human rights organizations are at the forefront in terms of documenting such practices, and scores of these practices have been highlighted in highly public reports, including the Israeli Or Commission of 2003.

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties | Comments Off on Toronto Restricts Academic Freedom: ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ Not Permitted to Take Place

Brutalizing Palestinian Children

By Stephen Lendman | March 11th, 2010

As an isolated incident, it would be appalling and criminal. As a regular occurrence, it’s state-sponsored terrorism against defenseless children, subjected to barbarism by Israeli soldiers committing crimes against humanity to crush their will for wanting to live free on their own land – what Westerners take for granted; what Palestinians since 1948 haven’t had, and since 1967, under military occupation denying their very humanity.

Nora Barrows-Friedman does heroic reporting for Pacifica Radio’s KPFA Flashpoints Radio and as an activist/teacher/journalist in Occupied Palestine during regular visits. On March 8 on the Electronic Intifada, she wrote about Amir al-Mohteseb, a 10-year old Hebron child, arrested, detained, and savagely beaten after his 12-year old brother Hasan endured similar treatment a week earlier.

On March 7 at 2AM, “Israeli soldiers (broke) into (his) house, snatch(ed) Amir from his bed, threatened his parents with death by gunfire if they” interfered, took him down the stairwell, and brutally beat him causing internal abdomen bleeding, requiring overnight hospitalization. “In complete shock and distress, Amir would not open his mouth to speak for another day and a half.”

Before the incident, he told Barrows-Friedman he was playing in the street on his way with Hasan to see their aunt when:

“Two….soldiers stopped us and handcuffed us, (took) us to two separate jeeps, (took) me to the settlement and put me in a corner, (put) a dog next to me,” refused to let him use the bathroom, threatened to hold him forever, wouldn’t let him call his mother, blindfolded him, and held him until his father managed to get him late at night.

He was terrified, held for 10 hours, traumatized by the incident, and unable to sleep, “worried sick about his brother in jail and extremely afraid that the soldiers would come back” and do it again, which they did, and do repeatedly to hundreds of Palestinian youths, their siblings, parents and friends, guilty of being Palestinian on land Israel wants to make historic Palestine an ethnically pure Jewish state.

On March 9, Haaretz writer Nir Hassan headlined, “Israel using strong arm tactics against young Palestinian stone-throwers,” saying several Silwan, East Jerusalem youths “were arrested and taken from their home(s) in handcuffs in the middle of the night over the past few months, as part of a police crackdown on suspected stone-throwers….,” not militants, gunmen, murderers, or bomb throwers threatening civil society – alleged stone-throwers punishable by imprisonment up to 20 years under Military Order 378 if convicted.

Children 12 – 15 have been targeted, arrested, detained, and savagely beaten following complaints by Jewish settlers who usually take the law into their own hands using weapons they’re allowed to carry.

Parents intervening are threatened, often beaten, and at times detained and charged with interference. Some arrested children “had their remands extended by the court, and others were released on certain conditions. All the suspects against whom (authorities have dubious evidence) will be brought to trial” before military or Magistrate Court judges where due process and judicial fairness are denied, so their fate is pre-determined.

On February 17, B’Tselem highlighted the same story about Silwan, East Jerusalem youths seized from their beds in the middle of the night, handcuffed, taken to the Russian Compound police station and interrogated “on suspicion of stone throwing.” According to some, children aged 12 – 15 were threatened, detained, and beaten.

Muhammad Dweik, aged 12 said:

“Around 4:30 – 5:00 in the morning, I woke up from the sound of knocking at the door. Shabak (ISA) agents asked my father for (his son’s) ID card. My father told them that I don’t have” one. They refused his father’s request to let him bring him to the police station later that morning.

“They tied my hands behind my back and took me. The policemen put me into a Border Police jeep. A friend of mine was also inside it. A policeman who sat next to me kept kicking me in the leg all the way.”

Lu’ai a-Rajabi, aged 14, was also arrested and interrogated, denied he threw stones at settler houses, and was punched in the nose with his hands and legs cuffed. He was then hit in the face and head, ordered to confess, and, while he was sitting, three interrogators beat and kicked him “all over my body, and (swore) at me and Allah.”

They told him to sign a Hebrew document saying he wasn’t beaten. He refused and was beaten again. The next day, he was brought before a Magistrates Court judge who extended his detention for a week.

Others, as young as 12, told similar stories of arrests, detentions, interrogations, and beatings when they denied doing anything. One youth told B’Tselem he hasn’t been able to sleep, afraid he’ll again be arrested.

This treatment “contravenes the Youth Law, as amended in 2008 (Amendment No. 14),” under which suspected minors are entitled to consult a parent or relative prior to interrogation, and have an adult present while ongoing. “The Law also generally prohibits interrogating a minor at night and states (they) should not be arrested if the objective can be achieved in a less harmful way.”

Nonetheless, Israeli security forces violated their rights for being alleged stone-throwers, and all of them are Israeli residents. It’s virtually impossible for Israeli Jews to be subjected to similar treatment, either adults or youths. Palestinians get no such respect or safety under laws not protecting them or their rights.

As for Amir, after Barrows-Friedman’s interview, he “sent a message to American children,” saying:

“We are kids, just like you. We have the right to play, to move freely. I want to tell the world that there are so many kids inside the Israeli jails. We just want to have freedom of movement, the freedom to play,” and grow up like kids in America and the West. In Occupied Palestine, he’ll be lucky to survive, perhaps never his former self or living free from occupation and brutality.

Relevant International Law

Since September 2000, the beginning of the Second Intifada, over 2,500 Palestinian children (as young as 12 or younger) have been arrested, hundreds at any time imprisoned within Israel, treated the same as adults, kept with Israeli prisoners, stabbed or otherwise harmed as a result, subjected to sexual abuse, and denied family visits or other outside contacts.

Yet, numerous international laws, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Israeli law define a child as anyone under 18. So do UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty with provisions stating:

— imprisoning children should only be a “last resort and for the minimum period and should be limited to exceptional cases;”

— fundamental international law must be respected at all times with no exceptions;

— the welfare, special needs, best interests, and human rights of juveniles “shall be a primary consideration;” and

— they must be helped to return to society as soon as possible.

Yet, in violation of international law, Israel willfully and repeatedly arrests children randomly, at checkpoints, on streets, at play, and in the middle of the night at home, then subjects them to threats, cursing, beatings, detention, and imprisonment, often without informing their parents.

In facilities like Megiddo military prison, Hasharon (Telmond) prison, and others, children are held in inhumane conditions in overcrowded filthy cells. Some are kept in 1.5 square meter windowless solitary confinement under bright 24-hour light. None get enough or proper nutrition, medical care, clothing changes, sleep, or consideration for basic sanitation standards.

They’re subjected to harsh interrogations, including torture, abuse, and degrading treatment, hard enough on adults, but on children are traumatically life changing.

Most are accused of stone-throwing. In isolation, they’re pressured to confess, even if innocent, then sign a Hebrew document they can’t read or understand stating their guilt – to stop the pain that continues until they do for up to eight days after which they’re brought before a military or magistrate judge. Some are also coerced to be collaborators under threat of future arrests, imprisonment, and mistreatment, including against parents and siblings.

Israel remains unaccountable because world nations violate their obligations under Geneva’s Common Article 1 obliging:

“The High Contracting Parties (to) undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances;”

— the Lisbon Treaty obliging the 27-member EU states to affirm fundamental freedoms, peace, democracy, human rights and dignity, justice, equality, the rule of law, security, tolerance, solidarity, mutual respect among peoples, the rights of the child, strict adherence to the UN Charter and international law, and to prevent conflicts and combat social exclusion and discrimination; along with

— the indifference and complicity of Arab states.

Short of fundamental change, Palestinian men, women and children will continue to be victimized by state-sponsored terrorism, a condition no longer to be tolerated by nations claiming they’re civilized.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | 3 Comments

The Beginning of the End of Data Retention

By Eddan Katz | Electronic Frontier Foundation | March 10, 2010

Last week, the German Constitutional Court issued a much-anticipated decision, striking down its data retention law as violating human rights. It was an important victory for Europe’s Freedom Not Fear movement, which was formed to oppose the EU Data Retention Directive. But it was also a reminder of the political work which remains to be done to defeat it.

When the European Union first passed the Data Retention Directive in 2006, despite a hard-fought campaign by European activists, it seemed like the beginning of the end for Internet privacy. The directive sought to require telecommunications service providers operating in Europe to retain a detailed history of each of their customers’ activity for up to 2 years for possible use by law enforcement; including phone calls made and emails sent and received.

The response from European citizens was swift and outraged. Under the banner of Freedom Not Fear, mass protests were held in cities all across Europe and beyond. The charge was led by the German Working Group on Data Retention (AK Vorrat), which in 2007 filed a class-action lawsuit of nearly 35,000 people challenging the German law.

The suit’s complaints were mostly upheld by last week’s German Constitutional Court decision. The court held that the blanket data retention mandated by the EU directive violated Article 10 of the German Constitution, which guarantees the basic right to private life and correspondence. The Court said that an infrastructure of exploratory surveillance results in an exceptional intensity of interference with human rights, which must be proportionately protected with appropriate safeguards. It also significantly narrowed the options for similar EU retention laws on other types of data. The court ordered the immediate deletion of all the data stored since the law went into effect in 2008 and ordered the suspension of data collection until a revised national law is proposed.

However, the court did choose to leave many important questions about the EU directive unanswered. In highlighting the need for increased safeguards, the court failed to recognize that the storage of data itself is what violates human rights. For instance, a survey of German citizens in 2008 found that 1 in 2 people would not have conversations with counselors or therapists by phone or email because of their concern about data retention.

A bolder stance was taken in October 2009 by the Romanian Constitutional Court, which ruled that the EU directive fundamentally violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to respect for private life and correspondence. Data retention itself, the court wrote, is “likely to overturn the presumption of innocence and to transform a priori all users of electronic communication services or public communication networks into people suspected of committing terrorism crimes or other serious crimes.” As a result, all citizens would become “permanent subjects to this intrusion into their exercise of their private rights to correspondence and freedom of expression.”

The rulings in Romania and now Germany set the stage for an imminent series of decisions on the status of national data retention laws across Europe. The recent Bulgarian vote on data retention legislation met with sharp criticism and protests. Petitions against the Belgian data retention law are available in both French and Flemish. The constitutional challenge against the Retention of Data Bill brought by Digital Rights Ireland may be referred to the European Court of Human Rights. In the meantime, despite the fact that the European Commission won its lawsuit against the government of Sweden for failing to implement the directive, the minimal penalty turns out to be worth the political risk.

In order to overturn a directive, the European Commission, Parliament, and Council have to agree. Viviane Reding, the incoming European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights, and Citizenship, declared at her confirmation hearings her dedication to defending the right to privacy. The members of the European Parliament, inaugurating their new term, flexed their political muscle when they recently rejected assenting to the SWIFT agreement that would have enabled the wholesale transfer of Europeans’ financial data to the US. The European Council, representing the ministries of the individual Member States, will respond to the political climate in their home countries.

All in all, the threats to privacy and free speech posed by the Data Retention Directive are on their way to being nullified. In Germany, AK Vorrat launched its campaign against the new law being devised and set its sights on ending data retention on the European level. They will need the help of citizens across Europe to raise awareness and speak out for their rights on national levels.

Freedom Not Fear is planning another series of protests later this year – stay tuned to Deeplinks or sign up for FNF’s mailing list to find out what is being planned near you.

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | Comments Off on The Beginning of the End of Data Retention

Homes and livelihoods gone in an instant

Eva Bartlett writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 11 March 2010

Israeli bulldozers destroyed three homes and 17 dunams of agricultural land in eastern Khan Younis on 18 February.

Radia Abu Sbaih, 47, lives with her sister and one niece on family land roughly 700 meters from the “green line” boundary between Israel and Gaza. Until 18 February 2010, they had nearly 600 olive, fruit, date and nut trees, an agricultural cistern, a water well, various vegetables and a house.

Theirs was one of three homes demolished by Israeli military bulldozers that day in al-Mossadar, eastern Gaza. Around 8am that morning, approximately five Israeli military bulldozers and upwards of 10 Israeli tanks, accompanied by more than 50 foot soldiers, invaded the farming region, according to locals.

“We were in our home when we heard the Israeli tanks and bulldozers approaching. We ran off immediately,” says Sbaih.

She walks over felled trees, past the bulldozed cistern, and to the ruins of their home.

“It’s all destroyed. Look, our clothes are buried,” she shouts, pulling at a sweater caught beneath the concrete block pile.

Household belongings are strewn on top of and beneath the pyramid of rubble. A gas range, several cooking pots, a plastic water bottle filled with olives, another with olive oil — both from their land and their destroyed olive trees — denote where the kitchen once stood.

Radia Abu Sbaih on her land after it was destroyed by Israeli military bulldozers.

“We were self-sufficient. Twenty people lived off this land. We had our own water source and we grew all our own vegetables: onions, spinach, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, beans …” Nothing, save a stray sprig of green onion, remains.

Beyond the lean-to sun shade, a donkey stands next to the crushed remnants of his cart.

“Now we have no electricity, no shelter, no water. I walk one hour both ways every day to bring jugs of water for drinking,” says Sbaih.

But for her, it is the loss of their trees that hits the hardest. In the hour or less it took the bulldozers to raze all their property and possessions, Radia Sbaih’s trees were cut to the ground and plowed into the valley. Haggard limbs studding the earth and thick ground-level stumps are all the evidence of the 10 dunams (a dunam is the equivalent of 1,000 square meters) of formerly thick growth.

“They were healthy trees, many over 50 years old. And so many fruit trees: guava, orange, lemon, pomegranate, date, almond, sugar cane, cactus fruit …” recalls Sbaih.

“This was our life, we grew up here, we put our sweat, love and everything we had into the land,” she says. “We watched the trees mature and cared for them as though they were family.”

Sbaih’s niece feeds trampled olive branches to kindle a smoky fire for tea. An Israeli warplane thunders over and Sbaih comments, “It’s normal, they’re always over us.” The roar is accompanied by the continual whine of Israeli “drones” (unmanned aerial vehicles) patrolling the skies.

“We actually didn’t have any problems during the war,” Sbaih says, recalling the winter 2008-2009 Israeli massacres on Gaza. “But now we are destroyed. If it rains, where will we go? We have no shelter, not even a tent.”

As the tea boils, the rain starts to fall.

Sbaih’s words and losses are echoed by the two other families half a kilometer south.

Moin Abu Said, 32, stands beside the fresh ruins of his home roughly 600 meters from the border. His father Ali, 63, sprawls on a blanket spread nearby on churned earth.

“I’ve got three children. When the bulldozers and tanks came, I was taking my son Nassim to school, around 7:30am. I heard the noise of the invasion even from the school.”

Abu Said returned to find the house that he had worked eight years to build completely flattened.

“We only lived in it one month,” he says in disbelief.

He points out the wreckage of a chicken barn, home to 1,000 chickens, the stubs of olive, date and lemon trees.

Like most in the border region, this is not the first time Abu Said’s land has been razed.

“Ten years ago they bulldozed everything, but we replanted. Now it’s all gone again.”

Aouni Abu Said, Moin’s brother, still has a home. Shot-up by Israeli machine-gun fire, the nearby one-level house somehow escaped the bulldozers. But his family was caught in the attack, terrified.

“My wife and kids were in kitchen when the Israelis began shooting at our house,” he says, pointing out the lattice of bullet holes in the kitchen windows and walls, children’s bedroom and nursery.

“The area was filled with Israeli tanks, bulldozers and soldiers from morning till around 4:30pm,” he says.

Closer to the border fence, but still 450 meters away, Abdel Hai Abu Said, 40, his wife and their six children sit with his father near the A-frame wreckage of their two-story home.

Two of Abdel Hani Abu Said’s children sit on the ruins of their home.

Five dunams of olive and date trees were mowed, along with 150 pigeons and a donkey.

“[The donkey] was in a concrete shelter when the bulldozers attacked,” he explains, pointing out the carcass in the treeless field.

One room of the house remains partially intact, ceiling corners sloped at 45 degree angles and walls punctured by bullet holes and cracks. The cramped, dust- and rubble-filled room serves as their shelter at night, despite the dangling clumps of concrete and the threat that the house might completely collapse.

A plastic bag keeps the surviving items of clothing protected, another the pieces of bread.

“We lived in this house for 11 years,” Said says. “Upstairs there were three bedrooms for my wife and our children. My father and aunt slept downstairs.”

Salem Abu Said, Abdel Hai’s father, was born 1943 in Beerseeba, before the 1948 ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine by the nascent Israeli military.

“First I was expelled from my land, and now our house is destroyed. Once again, I have to start all over.”

All the families report that the area was calm, without regular Israeli invasions, at the time of the invasion. They had a false sense of security and worked the land, lived off of it and planned their futures. In half a day this was all destroyed.

All images by Eva Bartlett.

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian human rights advocate and freelancer who arrived in Gaza in November 2008 on the third Free Gaza Movement boat. She has been volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement and documenting Israel’s ongoing attacks on Palestinians in Gaza. During Israel’s recent assault on Gaza, she and other ISM volunteers accompanied ambulances and documenting the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | 3 Comments

Greenpeace’s Corporate Overreach

Controversial Hire is an Opportunity to Start Building a Democratic Environmental Movement

By DRU OJA JAY, Montreal – March 11, 2010

Greenpeace has come a long way since the Rainbow Warrior, the retrofitted trawler used to challenge nuclear testing and whaling, was enough of a threat that the French government dispatched commandoes to sink her in 1985.

On February 13th, Greenpeace International announced that was hiring ForestEthics founder Tzeporah Berman as director of its global climate and energy campaign. The move has provoked intense outrage among many Greenpeace supporters, staff and activists. The conflict raging within Greenpeace has the potential to be an important first step in addressing two heretofore taboo subjects in the environmental movement: the corrupting influence of corporate cash and the absence of democratic structures.

The announcement marked an acceleration of a long-term drift away from Greenpeace’s origins in direct action environmental and anti-war work. Back in 2007, Greenpeace lauded Coca-Cola for its “commitment to use climate-friendly coolers and vending machines.” (The same year, campaigns against Coke’s complicity in paramilitary assassination of union leaders in Colombia were in full swing, while a year earlier, the government of Kerala had banned Coca-Cola after a revolt over overuse and pollution of groundwater.)

If the Coke deal was Greenpeace testing the waters of corporate collaboration, hiring Berman is Greenpeace jumping in.

The hire marks a full-circle return for Berman, who rose to prominence within Greenpeace but left in 2000 to found ForestEthics, where she broke new ground in the “collaborative approach” to conservation. According to Berman’s ethos, “the notion of activists vs. corporations, of good vs. evil, no longer applies… It’s about creating dialogue, and finding the solutions that will be mutually beneficial to all.”

While heading up ForestEthics, Berman undertook a series of collaborations with companies like Home Depot, Dell, Staples and most recently General Electric. Immediately before being hired by Greenpeace, Berman headed PowerUp Canada, an initiative funded mostly by the Tides and Ivey Foundations that pushed the privatization of British Columbia’s rivers in the name of green energy. She has since backed away from the fruits of her efforts, claiming she does not support the privatization of “all” rivers in BC.

Grassroots environmentalists in Canada were furious at Berman long before she took the Greenpeace job, starting with the elimination of public oversight during her stint as lead negotiator of the Great Bear Rainforest deal. (In the deal that was finally signed, only 32 per cent of the rainforest was protected.)

Berman’s return to Greenpeace as it approaches its 40th year of existence has stoked the ire of the organization’s supporters to white-hot levels.

In an email that has made the rounds of Canadian environmental lists, Greenpeace International co-founder Rex Weyler called Berman’s hire “an all-out betrayal of environmentalism, of the groups and activists who built the environmental movement in Canada and in the world, and a betrayal of the Earth itself.”

70 people have signed a statement calling on Greenpeace to rescind Berman’s hire and “renounce collaboration and partnership with destructive corporations”.

Greenpeace staffers and activists in Canada — where Berman is well-known, and where Greenpeace has a high-profile anti-tar sands campaign underway — have privately expressed a mix of bafflement and rage at the decision.

One anonymous “Greenpeace activist or staff” remarked in testimony posted to “Greenpeace actually started the Kyoto Plus campaign to battle Power Up, the organization that Tzeporah started. And now they’re hiring her. The hypocrisy blows my mind. It’s astonishing. It’s like they just hired the devil. No one will take us seriously… with decisions like this.”

Greenpeace’s decision comes at a point when questions about Environmental organizations lack of democracy or accountability, and their corresponding closeness with corporations involved in environmental destruction, are looming larger than ever.

A recent report in The Nation ends with a 30-year veteran of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stating outright: “We’re close to a civil war in the environmental movement. For too long, all the oxygen in the room has been sucked out by this beast of these insider groups, who achieve almost nothing…. We need to create new organizations that represent the fundamentals of environmentalism and have real goals.”

The report, whose author was subsequently interviewed on Democracy Now!, raises issues that are echoed in the anonymous testimonies of disgruntled Greenpeacers. Phrases like “disenfranchised,” “no consultation,” “no transparency,” “more concerned with getting a ‘seat at the table,'” point repeatedly to the same pair of problems: addiction to corporate and foundation cash and a total lack of democracy.

While the debate rages inside Greenpeace, early reports seem to indicate that many on the inside are channeling their frustration at the lack of consultation and their own disempowerment into rage against the small number of people willing to publicly oppose the Berman hire and discuss her record.

The frustration is understandable, but if the goal is a strong, democratic environmental movement, there are much better targets for their rage.

The overreach of Greenpeace’s turn towards corporate collaboration and the ensuing grassroots backlash affords the rarest of moments: an opportunity to articulate and push for demands that normally bounce harmlessly off of the bureaucratic carapace of big organizations like Greenpeace.

It’s an opportunity to demand an end to corporate collaboration, but it’s also an opportunity to demand democratic accountability to a supporting membership that is there because of the organization’s forty years of direct action. Small-scale financial supporters, volunteer activists and staff alike have no formal say in Greenpeace’s strategic direction. Nearly all of their complaints emanate from the frustration created by that contradiction.

At a moment where tensions are at their highest, the irony of an NRDC functionary describing “civil war” and calling for “new organizations that represent the fundamentals of environmentalism and have real goals” while Greenpeacers seethe, lash out at those pointing to Berman’s record, or quit, should not be lost on anyone.

Greenpeace International’s head office has raised the stakes. If the resistance to Berman’s hire is broken, the descent of the organization will be far swifter than the Coked-up years leading to its fortieth birthday. If the resistance continues to grow and spreads to supporters of other unaccountable, corporate-partnered big greens, then we’ll win with Greenpeace or without it.

If Greenpeace’s transformation into another public relations contractor for corporations and foundations is allowed to continue, everyone loses.

Corporate collaboration will never do more than slightly curtail environmental destruction. In many cases, the results of collaboration have been disastrous. The only things that can stop it are organizations rooted in communities and grassroots movements that are immune to “leaders” selling them out for money and ego.

If that’s what folks working with and supporting Greenpeace want, they won’t get a better shot at it than this one.

Tzeporah Berman is slated to start work in April.

Dru Oja Jay is co-author of the report Offsetting Resistance: The effects of foundation funding from the Great Bear Rainforest to the Athabasca River. He is a member of the editorial collective of the Dominion, and lives in Montreal.

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Corruption, Environmentalism | Comments Off on Greenpeace’s Corporate Overreach

The Rogue Nation

By Philip Giraldi | March 11, 2010

In spite of the fact that the United States faces no enemy anywhere in the world capable of opposing it on a battlefield, the Defense budget for 2011 will go up 7.1 percent from current levels.  A lot of the new spending will be on drones, America’s latest contribution to western civilization, capable of surveilling large areas on the ground and delivering death from the skies. It is a peculiarly American vision of warfare, with a “pilot” sitting at a desk half a world away and pressing a button that can kill a target far below.  Hygienic and mechanical, it is a bit like a video game with no messy cleanup afterward. The recently released United States Quadrennial Defense Review reports how the Pentagon will be developing a new generation of super drones that can stay airborne for long periods of time and can strike anywhere in the world and at any time to kill America’s enemies.  The super drones will include some that can fly at supersonic speeds and others that will be large enough to carry nuclear weapons.  Some of the new drones will be designed for the navy, able to take off from aircraft carriers and project US power to even more distant hot spots.  Drones are particularly esteemed by policymakers because as they are unmanned and can fly low to the ground they can violate someone’s airspace “accidentally” without necessarily resulting in a diplomatic incident.

Washington’s embrace of drones as the weapon of choice for international assassination is one major reason why the United States has become the evil empire.  Drones are the extended fist of what used to be referred to as the Bush Doctrine.  Under the Bush Doctrine Washington asserted that it had a right to use its military force preemptively against anyone in the world at any time if the White House were to determine that such action might be construed as defending the United States.  Vice President Dick Cheney defined the policy in percentage terms, asserting that if there was a 1% chance that any development anywhere in the world could endanger Americans, the United States government was obligated to act.  It should be noted that President Barack Obama has not repudiated either the Bush doctrine or the 1% solution of Dick Cheney and has actually gone so far as to assert that America is fighting Christianity-approved “just wars,” a position disputed by Pope Benedict XVI among others.  Far from eschewing war and killing, the number and intensity of drone attacks has increased under Obama, as has the number of civilian casualties, referred to by the splendid bloodless euphemism “collateral damage.”

Drones are currently killing people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.  It should be noted that the United States is not at war with any of those countries, which should mean in a sane world that the killing is illegal under both international law and the US Constitution. America’s Founding Fathers used constitutional restraints to make it difficult for Americans to go to war, requiring an act of war by Congress.  Unfortunately it has not worked out that way.  The US has been involved in almost constant warfare since the Second World War but the most recent actual declaration of war was on December 8, 1941. And then there are the special and clandestine operations that span the globe. Apart from Israel, no other country in the world has an openly declared policy of going around and killing people.  One would think that the international community would consequently regard both Tel Aviv and Washington as pariahs, but fear of offending the world’s only super power and its principal client state has aborted most criticism.  Most nations are resigned to letting assassination teams and hellfire armed drones operate as they please.  If Iran were operating the drones and bumping off its enemies in places like Dubai you can be sure the reaction would be quite different.

And it doesn’t stop there.  Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder has effectively blocked any inquiry into the use of torture by US government officials, mostly from the CIA.  The Administration claims to have stopped the practice but has declared that no one will be punished for obeying orders to waterboard prisoners, an argument that was not acceptable at the Nuremberg trials in 1946 and should not be acceptable now.  The United States is a signatory to the international agreement on torture and there are also both federal and state laws that prohibit either carrying out or enabling the practice, so the ruling by Holder is essentially a decision to ignore serious crimes that were committed against individuals who, in many cases, were both helpless and completely innocent.  It also ignores the participation of Justice Department lawyers and CIA doctors in the process, involvement that most would consider both immoral and unethical.  Worst of all, it lets off the hook the real war criminals, people like George Tenet and those in the White House who approved the practice.  Tenet, one recalls, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a $4 million book deal.  He still teaches at Georgetown University.  Justice Department lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who made the legal arguments for torture are now respectively a tenured professor at Berkeley and a federal appeals court justice.  One assumes that the actual CIA torturers continue to be employed by the federal government or are enjoying a comfortable retirement.  So much for accountability for war crimes under President Obama.

Finally there is assassination.  On February 3rd Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair commented during a congressional briefing that the United States reserves the right to kill American citizens overseas who are actively “involved” with groups regarded as terrorist.  Involvement is, of course, a very slippery expression providing maximum latitude for those seeking to make a case for summary execution.  The death list involves a due process of sorts in that a government official makes the decision who shall be on it based on guidelines but it does not allow the accused to challenge or dispute evidence.  It should also be noted that no one in Congress objected to the Blair statement and the media hardly reported the story, suggesting that tolerance of illegal and immoral activity now pervades the system.  As former Reagan Deputy Attorney General Bruce Fein has commented, the claimed authority to suspend one’s constitutional rights overseas can be extended to anyone in the United States by declaring one an enemy combatant under the terms of the Military Commissions Act.  Jose Padilla was denied his constitutional rights to a fair trial even though he was an American citizen and was arrested in Chicago, not overseas.  Can we anticipate extrajudicial killing of American citizens in America as part of the war on terror?  Of course we can.

Three strikes and you’re out, Mr. Obama.  Your government stands for preemptive killing and missile strikes on people living in countries with which America is not at war, lets torturers and torture enablers go free, and has asserted the right to assassinate its own citizens anywhere in the world based on secret evidence.  Ronald Reagan once described his vision of America as a shining city on a hill.  Over the past ten years the shining city has become the ultimate rogue nation, pumped up with power and hubris in spite of the clearly visible signs of decline and moving inexorably towards a catastrophic fall.

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | 4 Comments

CIA tainted French bread with LSD for test

Press TV – March 11, 2010
After 50 years of suspicions over the cursed bread of the French village of Pont-Saint-Esprit and its people’s hallucinations, a journalist found CIA in the background of the tragedy.

In summer 1951, the whole quiet village of Pont-Saint-Esprit in southern France was suddenly and mysteriously affected by psychosis and hallucinations among its residents.

The out break of acute psychotic episodes and various physical symptoms killed at least seven residents, and admitted about 50 to asylums. The mysterious incident left hundreds of people afflicted.

Hank Albarelli, an investigative journalist, has claimed hallucination occurred for a covert experiment directed by the CIA and the US Army’s top-secret Special Operations Division (SOD) at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

He traced the alimentary intoxication to cursed bread. Albarelli discovered the US had poisoned the bread with Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) as part of a secret experiment.

The journalist came across CIA documents while investigating the suspicious suicide of Frank Olson, a biochemist working for SOD. He fell from a 13th floor window two years after the cursed bread incident.

Albarelli published the result of his investigations in a book titled A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments in 2009.

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | Comments Off on CIA tainted French bread with LSD for test