Aletho News


Time to bury dead ideas about Palestine

Martha Reese, The Electronic Intifada, 19 March 2010

There is a growing recognition that the Israeli settlement enterprise in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is, in practical terms, irreversible. The two-state solution, which for decades has been characterized as the preferred solution of an amorphous “international consensus” has generally been understood to involve a return to the pre-1967 occupation boundaries (referred to as the green line) with minor territorial adjustments by the parties. By now, even optimists refer to this solution as “unlikely” and “virtually impossible,” while realists recognize that the concept has outlived its usefulness as a political aspiration.

Israeli prime ministers (including Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and, most recently, Benjamin Netanyahu) have, in turn, announced their transformation from supporting an Israel-centric one-state solution to a two-state solution. In each case, these announcements have caused short-lived paroxysms of hopefulness among dispirited two-staters. But in the wake of each of these would-be conversion experiences, foreboding and gloom have returned, time and again, as it becomes evident that the language of political flexibility is merely a rhetorical ploy. Each Israeli government since 1967, whether led by Labor, Likud, or Kadima, has perpetuated the dispossession of Palestinians and the concomitant establishment of Jewish-only colonies on expropriated Palestinian land.

All talk to the contrary — including ineffectual official objections registered by the Obama Administration — it is evident that the Israeli political establishment has been and is utterly lacking the political will to take even minimal steps in the direction of a two-state solution. Official maps disseminated by Israeli government ministries show that the green line has been effectively erased; Israel stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River (see for example maps offered by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism or the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption). Although Israel’s de facto borders include the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the people who live there, the non-Jews who inhabit this land are in a condition of perpetual limbo, deprived of political rights.

Mainline Protestant Christian denominations, like other institutions, are struggling to reconcile their historic, official two-state position with the mounting awareness of its uselessness as a model. Growing numbers within those denominations are promoting an essential reexamination of their churches’ support for an outcome that, instead of delivering the hoped-for just peace, merely legitimizes decades of illegal activity and leaves the Palestinians fragmented, impoverished and virtually landless.

As the two-state solution in its historical incarnation faces abandonment on practical — if not moral and ideological — grounds, other political models for coexistence are being explored and discussed. The one-state solution remains a live option, if in an egalitarian and democratic binational expression different than the Greater Israel envisioned by many Zionists. All possible outcomes — one state, two states, and a continuation of the deplorable status quo — face opposition from one or more parties on demographic, religious, security, ideological, or economic grounds; therefore, no solution can be eliminated from consideration as hopelessly idealistic or fatally impractical. Any resolution worth aspiring to will require, over time, a profound transformation in consciousness and identity among Palestinians and Israelis.

Can the moribund two-state solution be resuscitated? Can the two-states-for-two-peoples notion be implemented in a way that does not hinge on redrawing Israel’s borders to legalize its state-sponsored land-grab of Palestinian territory? Could a “settlers-to-citizens” program offer the Jewish settlers now living in East Jerusalem and other West Bank colonies an alternative to moving back to Israel? Imagine Palestine, a democratic state with a Jewish minority, in which today’s settlers emerge from behind their razor-wire-encircled, self-inflicted ghettos and become tomorrow’s neighbors. Imagine Israel, finally at home in the Middle East, its indigenous Palestinian minority no longer second-class citizens but living in full equality with their Jewish neighbors. Can the Israeli government offer its settlers an alternative to repatriation by assisting those settlers to buy the land and dwellings they call home from the Palestinian owners on whose land those dwellings have been built? What if a state-funded Israeli reparations program were to help fund the economic redevelopment of the nascent Palestinian state, whose current state of de-development is a by-product — if not a goal — of the Israeli settlement and occupation enterprise?

The old ideas, like the peace process itself, are dead; it is time to lay them aside and move on. Because the Palestinian, Israeli and US governments have shown themselves to be obstacles to a resolution, it is up to ordinary Palestinians, Israelis and Americans to work together with allies around the globe to find the way forward. Whether a one-state, a two-state, or other solution, a just solution will leave behind the legacy of religious and ethnic discrimination that has created the current painful reality.

Martha Reese is a Chicago-based veteran interfaith peace activist who has lived and traveled in the Middle East. She is a member of the steering committee of the Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine (

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | Comments Off on Time to bury dead ideas about Palestine

Canadian government obstructs visit of Mustafa Barghouti

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East | March 19, 2010

Montreal – The Harper government has obstructed the issuance of a visa to Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, resulting in the cancellation of Dr. Barghouti’s upcoming speaking tour in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. Dr. Barghouti applied for a visa on March 5th, for entry into Canada on March 19th, yet despite the urgency of the issue being brought directly to high-level officials in Foreign Affairs and Citizenship and Immigration, the government delayed the issuance of a visa to the point where Barghouti missed two key flights, resulting in a cancellation of Barghouti’s visit. In addition to being a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and a former presidential candidate, Dr. Barghouti is a recent Nobel Peace Prize nominee. In the past, Dr. Barghouti has received a visa to Canada within 24 hours after applying.

Dr. Barghouti was scheduled to speak at three public events in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa on the topic: Palestinian political dynamics and the realities for Middle East Peace. Dr. Barghouti also had appointments with several prominent members of parliament scheduled for Monday, March 22nd. The delays with Dr. Barghouti’s visa were brought to the attention of Foreign Affairs and Citizenship and Immigration as early as Wednesday March 17th, with Minister Cannon being directly advised of the situation. On Thursday, March 18th, the Deputy Minister of Citizenship and Immigration advised the Bloc Quebecois critic Thierry St-Cyr that officials were aware of the urgency of the matter, but were still doing checks on Barghouti, and his host organization Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME.)

“This seems to be another example of the Harper government’s dislike for free speech,” declared Thomas Woodley, President of CJPME. “Dr. Barghouti has long advocated for a peaceful transition to a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine – his message should appeal to anyone with a sincere commitment to Middle East peace.” Dr. Barghouti’s record is without blemish: he is a physician and an independent Palestinian politician with a known commitment to non-violence. CJPME believes that the Harper government’s obstruction of Dr. Barghouti’s visa is part of a broader strategy to muzzle or obstruct any voice critical of the policies of the Israeli government.

In addition to his political credentials, Barghouti is also the co-founder of the Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute (1989), the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (1979), and the Palestinian National Initiative (2002), a reformist political movement positioning itself as a secular, democratic and non-violent alternative to Fatah and Hamas. Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East often hosts speaking tours, and has been a consistent advocate for a just peace in the Middle East, basing all its positions on support for international law, equal expectations for all parties, and a belief that violence is not a solution.


For more information, please contact:
Grace Batchoun
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
Telephone: (514) 745-8491
CJPME Website

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | 1 Comment

US silencing Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer

Action alert, Haymarket Books, 19 March 2010

Effectively canceling a planned speaking tour, the US consulate in the Netherlands has put an extended hold on the visa application of award-winning Palestinian journalist and photographer Mohammed Omer, scheduled to speak on conditions in Palestine, on 5 April in Chicago.

In 2008, Omer became the youngest recipient of the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, for his firsthand reportage of life in the besieged Gaza Strip. As his prize citation explained, “Every day, he reports from a war zone, where he is also a prisoner. He is a profoundly humane witness to one of the great injustices of our time. He is the voice of the voiceless … Working alone in extremely difficult and often dangerous circumstances, [Omer has] reported unpalatable truths validated by powerful facts.”

Upon attempting to return to Gaza following his acceptance of the Gellhorn award in London, Omer was detained, interrogated and beaten by the Shin Bet Israeli security force for over 12 hours, and eventually hospitalized with cracked ribs and respiratory problems. He has since resided in the Netherlands and continues to undergo medical treatment there for his subsequent health problems.

The US consulate has now held his visa application for an extended period of time, effectively canceling a planned US speaking tour without the explanation that a denial would require. In recent years, numerous foreign scholars and experts have been subject to visa delays and denials that have prohibited them from speaking and teaching in the US — a process the American Civil Liberties Union describes as “Ideological Exclusion,” which they say violates Americans’ first amendment right to hear constitutionally protected speech by denying foreign scholars, artists, politicians and others entry to the United States. Foreign nationals who have recently been denied visas include Fulbright scholar Marixa Lasso; respected South African scholar and vocal Iraq War critic Dr. Adam Habib; Iraqi doctor Riyadh Lafta, who disputed the official Iraqi civilian death numbers in the respected British medical journal The Lancet; and Oxford’s Tariq Ramadan, who has just received a visa to speak in the United States after more than five years of delays and denials.

Fellow Gellhorn recipient Dahr Jamail, expressed his disbelief at Omer’s visa hold. “Why would the US government, when we consider the premise that we have ‘free speech’ in this country, place on hold a visa for Mohammed Omer, or any other journalist planning to come to the United States to give talks about what they report on? This is a travesty, and the only redemption available for the US government in this situation is to issue Omer’s visa immediately, and with a deep apology.”

Omer was to visit Houston, Santa Fe and Chicago, where local publisher Haymarket Books was to host his Newberry Library event, “Reflections on Life and War in Gaza,” alongside a broad set of interfaith religious, community and political organizations.

Rather than cancel the meeting, organizers are calling on supporters to write letters and emails calling for the US consulate’s approval of Omer’s visa. They are also proceeding with the event as planned, via live satellite or skype, if necessary.

U.S. consulate information:
Ambassador Fay Hartog Levin
U.S. Embassy in The Hague
Lange Voorhout 102
2514 EJ
The Netherlands
T: +31 70 310-2209
F: +31 70 361-4688

Background on Mohammed Omer:

Mohammed Omer was born and raised in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He maintains the website Rafah Today and is a correspondent for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. His home in Rafah was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer while the family was inside, seriously injuring his mother. Yet, as Omer explained in an article he wrote upon winning the award, “My ambition was to get the truth out, not as pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli, but as an independent voice and witness.” His reportage features interviews with regular Palestinians in Gazan attempting to survive amidst bombing, home demolitions and the crippling economic blockade, which has created devastating shortages of electricity, water, fuel and other necessities for survival.

Omer was to visit Chicago to discuss, with Ali Abunimah, Chicago-based author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, his reportage, personal experience, and the struggle for Palestinian rights. If the delay on his visa continues, he will take part in the event via live satellite connection or Skype.

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | 2 Comments

Antiwar coalition fined by US government

Press TV – March 19, 2010

A US antiwar organization says it has been targeted by the government because it wants US troops to immediately return from Afghanistan and Iraq. The ANSWER Coalition, which stands for “Act Now to Stop War and End Racism,” has been a staunch critic of the Bush and Obama administrations for their role in the Iraqi and Afghan war.

“The government is increasingly trying to limit or eviscerate or criminalize grassroots organizing itself”, said Brian Becker from the ANSWER Coalition, Reported Press TV’s Colin Campbell. ANSWER members say they have been hit with $7,500 worth of fines for putting up anti-war posters like “US Out of Afghanistan and Iraq Now!” across Washington DC.

“We put up posters and we hand out leaflets and that is why thousands of people hear the call,” said Becker. The Department of Public Works says it levied the fines on ANSWER demanding that members of the organization “remove all posted signs” around the district.

“Starting 18 months ago, these targeting events began. There is now 70,000…80,000 in fines and it is growing,” said Becker.

The ANSWER Coalition has planned a march on the nation’s capital over the weekend to protest against the US-led wars overseas. Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend.

“We will not be leaving Iraq and Afghanistan unless enough people in this country stand up,” said Mike Ferner, President of Veterans for Peace.

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on Antiwar coalition fined by US government

The anti-Venezuela election campaign

Venezuela’s election is not until September, but the international campaign to delegitimise the government has already begun

Mark Weisbrot | | 18 March 2010

Venezuela has an election for its national assembly in September, and the campaign has begun in earnest. I am referring to the international campaign. This is carried out largely through the international media, although some will spill over into the Venezuelan media. It involves many public officials, especially in the US. The goal will be to generate as much bad press as possible about Venezuela, to discredit the government, and to delegitimise the September elections – in case the opposition should choose to boycott, as they did in the last legislative elections, or refuse to recognise the results if they lose.

There’s no need for conspiracy, since the principal actors all know what to do. Occasionally some will be off-message due to lack of co-ordination. A fascinating example of this occurred last week when Senator John McCain tried to get General Doug Fraser of the US Southern Command to back his accusations that Venezuela supports terrorist activities. Testifying before the Senate armed services committee on March 11, General Fraser contradicted McCain:

“We have continued to watch very closely … We have not seen any connections specifically that I can verify that there has been a direct government-to-terrorist connection.”

Oops! Apparently Fraser didn’t get the memo that the Obama team, not just McCain, is in full campaign mode against Venezuela. The next day, he issued a statement recanting his testimony:

“Assistant Secretary Valenzuela [the state department’s top Latin America official] and I spoke this morning on the topic of linkages between the government of Venezuela and the Farc. There is zero daylight between our two positions and we are in complete agreement.

“There is indeed clear and documented historical and ongoing evidence of the linkages between the government of Venezuela and the Farc … we are in direct alignment with our partners at the state department and the intelligence community.”

Well it’s good to know that the United States still has civilian control over the military, at least in the western hemisphere. On the other hand, it would be even better if the truth counted for anything in these Congressional hearings or in Washington foreign policy circles generally. The general’s awkward and seemingly forced reversal went unnoticed by the media.

The “documented and historical and ongoing evidence” mentioned by General Fraser refers to material alleged to come from laptops and hard drives allegedly found by the Colombian military in a cross-border raid into Ecuador in 2008. Never mind that this is the same military that has been found to have killed hundreds of innocent teenagers and dressed them up in guerrilla clothing. These laptops and hard drives will continue to be tapped for previously undisclosed “evidence”, which will then be deployed in the campaign against the Venezuelan government. We will be asked to assume that the “captured documents” are authentic, and most of the media will do so.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton‘s attacks on Venezuela during her trip to South America were one of the opening salvos of this campaign. Most of what will follow is predictable. There will be hate-filled editorials in the major newspapers, led by the neocon editorial board of the Washington Post (aka Fox on 15th Street). Chávez will be accused of repressing the media, even though most of the Venezuelan media – as measured by audience – is still controlled by the opposition. In fact, the media in Venezuela is still far more in opposition to the government than is our own media in the United States, or for that matter in most of the world. But the international press will be trying to convey the image that Venezuela is Burma or North Korea.

In Washington DC, if I try to broadcast on an FM radio frequency without a legal broadcast licence, I will be shut down. When this happens in Venezuela, it is reported as censorship. No one here will bother to look at the legalities or the details, least of all the pundits and editorial writers, or even many of the reporters.

The Venezuelan economy was in recession in 2009, but will likely begin to grow again this year. The business press will ignore the economic growth and hype the inflation, as they have done for the past six years, when the country’s record economic growth cut the poverty rate by half and extreme poverty by 70% (which was also ignored). Resolutions will be introduced into the US Congress condemning Venezuela for whatever.

The US government will continue to pour millions of dollars into Venezuela through USAid, and will refuse to disclose the recipients. This is the non-covert part of their funding for the campaign inside Venezuela.

The only part of this story that is not predictable is what the ultimate result of the international campaign will be. In Venezuela’s last legislative elections of 2005, the opposition boycotted the national elections, with at least tacit support from the Bush administration. In an attempt to delegitimise the government, they gave up winning probably at least 30% of the legislature.

At the time, most of the media – and also the Organisation of American States – rejected the idea that the election was illegitimate simply because the opposition boycotted. But that was under the Bush administration, which had lost some credibility on Venezuela due to its support for the 2002 coup, and for other reasons. It could be different under an Obama administration.

That is why it is so ominous to see this administration mounting an unprovoked, transparently obvious campaign to delegitimise the Venezuelan government prior to a national election. This looks like a signal to the opposition: “We will support you if you decide to return to an insurrectionary strategy,” either before or after the election.

The US state department is playing an ugly and dangerous game.

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | Comments Off on The anti-Venezuela election campaign

UC Berkeley student senate votes in favor of divestment

Dina Omar, The Electronic Intifada, 19 March 2010

Early yesterday morning, the University of California Berkeley Student Senate (ASUC) passed a bill to divest from companies that provide military support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Debate began the night before at 9:00pm and ended and six hours later when the vote was held at 3:00am. The session was attended by more than 150 students, educators and concerned community supporters, forcing the meeting to be relocated to a larger room. Never before has the senate chambers been so overcrowded, signifying the importance and interest in the issue of Israel-Palestine on the Berkeley campus. Ultimately, the bill passed with 16 senators in favor and 4 against.

During the debate, Rahul Patel, a Student Senator and supporter of the bill from the beginning, said that “In the 1980s the Berkeley Student Government was a central actor in demanding that the university divest from South African apartheid. Twenty-five years later, it is a key figure in shaping a nationwide movement against occupation and war crimes around the world.” He added that “Student Government can be a space to mobilize and make decisions that have a significant impact on the international community. We must utilize these spaces to engage each other about issues of justice worldwide.”

Emiliano Huet-Vaughn, a Ph.D. student in economics, co-author of the bill and a member of Berkeley’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), went to Gaza last July. He explained that the bill was informed by the devastation he witnessed as a result of Israel’s invasion of Gaza last winter, where civilian infrastructure was systematically targeted including schools, mosques, the education and justice ministries, Gaza’s main university, hundreds of factories, livestock, prisons, courts and police stations. Israel’s invasion resulted in the deaths of 1,440 Palestinians, including more than 400 children, and injuring another 5,380 Palestinians in Gaza.

The bill specifies two companies in particular, United Technologies and General Electric. It draws a direct connection between Berkeley’s investments in these companies and their products, used to indiscriminately attack civilians and infrastructure. Shoaib Kamil, a Ph.D. student in Computer Science explained that “We are not pushing for divestment from Israel. This bill is directed at US companies that enable attacks described as ‘war crimes’ in the Goldstone report.”

The Goldstone commission and report, led by respected South African judge Richard Goldstone, was authorized by the United Nations to investigate accusations of war crimes during Israel’s invasion of Gaza. The final report, submitted to the UN Human Rights Council last September, found that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes and called for both to conduct investigations. However, the Goldstone report was particularly critical of Israel’s actions, especially the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure by the Israeli military.

The ASUC has control over their $1.7 million budget and the bill calls for a committee to investigate the investments by the ASUC and the University of California Regents to ensure that no monies are invested in companies that are complicit in war crimes. Divestment will likely be implemented first by the ASUC. However, getting the Regents to recognize and implement the students’ call will be a more difficult task because students have little representation in the Regents’ decisions.

Ibrahim Shikaki, a Visiting Scholar from Palestine, spoke in favor of the bill although he did not feel that it was written from the Palestinian perspective. Shikaki explained that “If this were a Palestinian bill it would have mentioned my grandfather’s land that was stolen from him, or my friend who was shot ten feet in front of me … or my aunt who for weeks was denied travel to Egypt for cancer treatment.”

Mahaliyah Ayla O, a gender and women’s studies major and Jewish member of SJP, voiced her surprise after the bill was passed. Ayla O said “It is not that complicated, we should not support corporations that manufacture weapons to oppress people.”

Last year, the ASUC passed a bill establishing a sisterhood relationship between UC Berkeley and the three universities in Gaza: Al-Aqsa University, Al-Azhar University and the Islamic University of Gaza. With the passage of this divestment bill, Berkeley students are taking a stand against Israel’s human rights violations and war crimes and continue Berkeley’s commitment to being on the vanguard of student activism. In 1986, UC Berkeley was one of the first universities to call for a comprehensive divestment from companies that traded with or had operations in apartheid South Africa.

Dina Omar is a UC Berkeley alumni and a member of Students for Justice in Palestine. She currently works as the Membership Coordinator for the Arab Resource and Organizing Center.

Full text of bill

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | 2 Comments

Oren’s historical fiction about Lebanon war has long tradition in MSM hasbara

By David Samel | March 19, 2010

Michael Oren has an op-ed in Thursday’s NY Times about the Bibi-Biden flap. While a comprehensive dissection would consume many times the length of the original, my attention was drawn to a very narrow issue that appears in the following sentence: “Previous withdrawals, from Lebanon and Gaza, brought not peace but rather thousands of rockets raining down on our neighborhoods.”

Let’s leave aside Gaza, which is quite deserving of its own counter-analysis, and focus on Lebanon. It is widely believed that upon Israel’s “voluntary” withdrawal in 2000 from territory it had been illegally occupying in southern Lebanon for about two decades, Hezbollah repeatedly fired rockets into northern Israel, eventually resulting in the 2006 bombing and invasion of Lebanon. Oren describes this bombardment in his current op-ed, and when Gaza started 15 months ago, Ethan Bronner wrote an article in the Times stating that the 2006 Lebanon war began after “an Iranian-backed Islamist group [Hezbollah] was lobbing deadly rockets into Israel with apparent impunity and had captured an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid.”

Anyone who remembers rocket barrages from Lebanon into Israel in the six years between 2000 and 2006 is delusional. It just did not happen. There were a handful of incidents in that direction over those six years, and more deadly ones in the other direction. Israel launched its 2006 invasion allegedly in response to the “crossborder raid” alone. To be sure, after Israel’s invasion, Hezbollah launched retaliatory rockets aimed at civilian communities in northern Israel, but it was not raining “thousands of rockets” (Oren) or “lobbing with apparent impunity” (Bronner) before Israel initiated the large-scale hostilities.

This brazen rewriting of history is in turn reminiscent of Israel’s June 1982 invasion of Lebanon that took an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Palestinian and Lebanese lives. There continues to be a widespread fictional recollection that that invasion also was launched in response to rocket fire from Lebanon (from the PLO). The truth is that a cease fire had been in place for nearly a year, and had been scrupulously honored by the PLO while the Israelis occasionally tried to provoke a casus belli to justify a long-planned invasion. When Israel’s ambassador to the UK was shot in London, and not by the PLO, Israeli PM Begin proclaimed that the cease fire had been violated and ordered a massive invasion led by Defense Minister Sharon. I distinctly recall that historical revision started right away. Later that same month of June, 1982, I heard from two separate people, one a friend and one a rabbi, that the rockets had finally stopped threatening Israel.

In the years since, I have followed this factoid and it can be surprising who still gets it wrong. For example, in his book with the A-word in the title, Jimmy Carter mistakenly (I presume) says that Israel had invaded Lebanon to stop the rocket fire. Other claims to this effect are not so surprising, like this one from the ADL website: “In June 1982, after the continued shelling of northern Israel by Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) forces based in Lebanon, Israel launched a full-scale invasion of Lebanon.”

This is not insignificant. Israel repeatedly manages to alter history in its favor, resulting in common acceptance that Israel won territory in a 1967 “defensive war” and that Arafat ordered the second intifadah in 2000 to win through terror what he could not negotiate at Camp David. On the other hand, Palestinians are often unable to gain public recognition of actual realities, such as the massacres that precipitated the Nakba and Israel’s shamefully discriminatory treatment of its own non-Jewish citizens. Oren’s false comment, which I am sure passed by the paper’s staff unnoticed, reflects the carefully cultivated assumption underlying mainstream discourse, that Israel is perpetually forced to defend its populace from attack. Even many who criticize Israeli “excesses” believe that there was a legitimate reason to initiate military action. It is especially significant when considering last year’s Gaza offensive, which in many ways mirrored the Lebanon “war” two years earlier. Israel’s insistence that it was finally responding to incessant rocket fire from Gaza gets a much-needed but undeserved boost if people believe that its similar offensive against Lebanon two years earlier was in reaction to similar provocation. Oren’s and Bronner’s casual references to historical fiction are insidious and contribute mightily to this false narrative.

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | Comments Off on Oren’s historical fiction about Lebanon war has long tradition in MSM hasbara

The Inquisition for Fed Appointees

By Dean Baker | The Guardian | March 15, 2010

The Obama Administration announced its three picks for the vacant positions at the Fed last week. Not surprisingly, no one on the list was among those who had warned of the housing bubble. This is not surprising because there is virtually no overlap between the list of people who had warned of the bubble and the list of people who are politically acceptable as appointees to the Fed.

It may not be possible to get someone who could see an $8 trillion housing bubble before its collapse wrecked the economy as a member of the Fed’s Board of Governors. However, before the Senate approves these picks it should make sure the new appointees can at least recognize the housing bubble and its significance after the fact.

Specifically, the Senate should insist that the nominees give their account of the run-up to the crisis and explain where the Fed made mistakes and what they would have done differently with the benefit of hindsight. This line of questioning is especially important in the case of Janet Yellen, President Obama’s nominee as vice-chair of the Board of the Governors.

Yellen’s fingerprints are already on this crisis, having served as a Fed governor in the 90s and more recently as a president of the San Francisco Federal Bank. Dr. Yellen is on record as explicitly saying that the Fed lacks the ability to recognize asset bubbles like the housing bubble. She argued further that it lacks the tools to effectively rein in an asset bubble. And, she argued that cleaning up after the collapse of the bubble is no big deal. In terms of economic analysis, she hit a grand slam in getting it absolutely as wrong as possible.

Presumably, Yellen has changed her views of what the Fed can and should do about asset bubbles. The banking committee should give Ms. Yellen the opportunity to go on record explaining her new position and how the events of the last three years have led her to change her mind on these issues. Of course, if she still adheres to her earlier position, then she clearly is not an appropriate person to be vice-chair of the Fed.

The other Fed picks should be given this opportunity as well. It is not too much to ask that appointees to the Fed’s top policymaking body have a clear understanding of the biggest monetary policy blunder in more than 70 years.

This line of questioning can be refreshing because there still has been remarkably little public acknowledgment of the fact that the country is suffering because of a combination of unbelievably inept economic policy and Wall Street greed. There is probably little that can be done to change the latter – the financial sector is all about making money – but we can in principle do something about the quality of economic policymaking.

The country lost an opportunity to make a big first step towards improving the quality of economic policymaking when the Senate approved Ben Bernanke for a second term as Fed Chairman. Having sat as Fed governor since 2002 and as Fed chairman since 2006, no one other than Alan Greenspan bears more responsibility for the current economic crisis than Ben Bernanke. Yet, in spite of the trail of disaster – job loss, foreclosures, devastated retirement accounts – caused by his policy mistakes, Bernanke was rewarded with another four-year term as chairman. This fact is pretty hard to justify.

The new Fed appointees need to be reminded (as we all do) that tens of millions of people are out of work or underemployed today, not because they are too lazy to work or lack the necessary skills and experience. They are out of work because the people who manage the economy could not do their job right. None of the people in policy positions lost their jobs because of this failure.

We have to end a system in which those at the top are never held accountable for the harm they inflict on the rest of society. At the very least, the new Fed picks better have a story as to what they think went wrong and how these mistakes could have been prevented. If they can’t provide an answer to this question, then they are in the wrong line of work.

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of False Profits: Recovering from the Bubble Economy.

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | Comments Off on The Inquisition for Fed Appointees

East Jerusalem isn’t ‘disputed,’ it’s ‘occupied’

By Henry Norr | March 19, 2010

On CNN, Jack Cafferty called East Jerusalem “disputed.” The other day the Washington Post referred to East Jerusalem as “disputed.” As Susie Kneedler reminds us often, it’s not “disputed.” Henry Norr is on the case, in this letter to National Public Radio:

During the “Week in Review” segment of this morning’s “Weekend Edition Saturday” show, Ron Elving referred at least twice to East Jerusalem as a “disputed” area. “Disputed” is the term the Israeli government and its advocates use and actively promote as an alternative to “occupied,” in hopes they can get out of the legal implications of occupation.

But the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, the European Union, the UK, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, among other entities, all reject the Israeli usage and consistently use the term “occupied” in reference to East Jerusalem, as well as the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights. (As it happens, the U.S. Department of State issued its annual report on human rights in “Israel and the occupied territories,” including East Jerusalem in the latter category, just two days ago).

Because these terms have clear, well established, and important legal and political meanings, choosing between them is not an innocent stylistic question. Why does NPR’s Senior Washington Editor adopt Israeli usage, rather than that of our own government, the UN, and most of the rest of the world? I think you owe your listeners a correction on this matter.

Also from Rannie Amiri:

… New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, in a March 13 op-ed column titled “Driving Drunk in Jerusalem,” feigned indignation at Biden’s treatment when he wrote that he [Biden] should have “… snapped his notebook shut, gotten right back on Air Force Two, flown home and left the following scribbled note behind: ‘Message from America to the Israeli government: Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. And right now, you’re driving drunk. You think you can embarrass your only true ally in the world, to satisfy some domestic political need, with no consequences?’”

He continues, “… Israel needs a wake-up call. Continuing to build settlements in the West Bank, and even housing in disputed East Jerusalem is sheer madness.”

Disputed East Jerusalem?

By all international standards—the U.N. Charter, the Fourth Geneva Convention, the rulings of the International Court of Justice—East Jerusalem has been indisputably recognized as occupied territory since the 1967 Six-Day War.

Furthermore, U.N. Resolution 252 “considers that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, including expropriation of land and properties thereon, which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change that status.” It also reaffirms “… that acquisition of territory by military conquest is inadmissible.”

Like Friedman, the mainstream U.S. media eschews the correct designation of East Jerusalem, preferring to mindlessly label it “predominantly Arab” instead.

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | 1 Comment

Dozens of Students Injured After Israeli Police Storm Negev Secondary School

By Salman Abu Obeid | Middle East Monitor | March 18, 2010

Eyewitness accounts given to our correspondent in the Negev confirm that on Wednesday morning, the playground of the Secondary Peace School in the town of Hurra in the Negev was turned into a bona fide battlefield after a vast police force invaded the school yard and threw stun grenades and tear gas, injuring dozens of students and teachers.

According to the eyewitnesses, the clashes broke out when police attempted to arrest individuals from the school shop. One of the teachers at the school told Palestinians 48: “Initially there were students who were arguing with police in the school yard, the situation then developed into clashes when the police raided the campus and threw stun grenades and tear gas canisters. Many students were injured, there was widespread fear and panic and many have had to be transferred to Soroka Hospital to receive treatment. All students were later evacuated from the school campus”.

Our correspondent was informed that at least four female students were taken to hospital while many other students preferred not to seek treatment for fear of arrest and prosecution. The same source told Palestinians 48 that a teacher was also arrested and that students were able to film events and document what happened moment by moment.

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on Dozens of Students Injured After Israeli Police Storm Negev Secondary School

Boys disappearing from Hebron Old City

By Paulette Schroeder | March 18, 2010

I am most concerned these recent weeks in Hebron. Young teens and even smaller children are disappearing from our neighbourhood in the Old City of Hebron. It’s not by kidnapping. It’s not by trafficking. It’s not an unknown person with a criminal record perpetrating the crimes. Rather, the Israeli military is again pressing its boots down harder on the heads of the Palestinian people. If restrictions on travel and commerce, land confiscations, home invasions, and forced business closures have not succeeded in convincing Palestinian families to leave their land, then MAYBE taking their children will.

Our Palestinian neighbor sent her 15 year old son to buy bread. Fifteen minutes later, Israeli soldiers blindfolded and handcuffed him, accusing him of throwing stones. The boy insisted he did not throw stone/s at the soldiers. Nevertheless, he is now spending time in the Israeli prison system. Having spent the first 17 days in Ofir Prison among men who may/ may not have committed serious crimes, he continues to insist on his innocence. He will spend four or five months in another Israeli prison until his court case is completed. All for the “crime” of supposedly throwing a stone at soldiers!

Mohammed, and Eissa too, were walking with the 15 year old. Mohammed is 14 and Eissa is 19. The Israeli authorities held Mohammed in Ofir Prison until a donor contributed 2000 shekels. (This amounts to $500 approximately.) Eissa is also serving time in Ofir. Both these boys insist they did not throw a stone.

Near our CPT apartment soldiers accused a 12 year old boy of throwing stones. He too spent one week in Ofir prison.

Soldiers recently blindfolded and handcuffed an eight year old boy for stone throwing. They forced him to spend eight hours with a dog behind a military gate.

A 14 year old neighbor boy was helping his dad in his store, cutting cardboard boxes filled with wares. The soldiers saw him with a knife, blindfolded him, whisked him away behind the military gate, holding him for two hours while the father pleaded at the gate.

A 15 year old boy in the neighbourhood ran an errand for his father. The soldiers saw him running, grabbed him, and likewise detained him behind the military gate for 2 hrs. as his father also insisted his son did no wrong.

Besides the issue of the boys’ ages, and the severity of the sentences imposed, there is also the persistent need of the parents to travel two hours to the prison, their consequent loss of work, and their travel expenses involved. (Approximately $15 each trip) Sometimes before a child’s case is settled, the parents must travel four or five times to the courtroom.

I have only begun to enumerate the stories of children recently taken from our midst. Though the people’s patience has been great and their will to resist persists; yet anyone who witnesses these actions firsthand will call them insanity, dehumanization, oppression, collective profiling. From my point of view, this problem in Hebron and throughout the West Bank is a matter of conscience, an embarrassment to humanity, and a horrid usage of tax dollars. It is urgent that the international community pressure the state of Israel and each one’s own government to put a stop to this madness.

Paulette is with Christian Peacemaker Teams – an ecumenical initiative to support violence reduction efforts around the world. To learn more about CPT’s peacemaking work, see:

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | 5 Comments