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Pentagon blows up thousands of homes in Afghanistan

Repeating the horrors of the Vietnam War

By Brian Becker | ANSWER Coalition | November 18, 2010

Father and child in Afghanistan near soldierBorrowing a page from its infamous “pacification” effort in South Vietnam, where peasant villages were napalmed and burned to the ground to “save them from the communists,” the Obama-ordered surge in Afghanistan has been secretly blowing up thousands of homes and leveling portions of the Afghan countryside.

As tens of thousands of U.S. troops have surged into southern Afghanistan, villagers have fled. Then the Petraeus-led occupation forces have determined which homes will be destroyed.

“In Arghandab District, for instance, every one of the 40 homes in the village of Khosrow was flattened by a salvo of 25 missiles, according to the district governor, Shah Muhammed Ahmadi, who estimated that 120 to 130 houses had been demolished in his district,” reported the New York Times, Nov. 16, 2010.

The Pentagon asserts that they must destroy the homes because some of them may have explosive devices inside.

The Pentagon’s murderous rampage and terror campaign 40 years ago against South Vietnamese villages, in areas that were considered sympathetic to the resistance forces, used much of the same kind of explanation. In fact, the New York Times in a throw back to Vietnam quotes the Arghandab District Governor, who is working with the occupation forces:

“We had to destroy them to make them safe.”

That this tactic is part of a high-tech terror campaign against Afghan villages and the people who inhabit them is evident even by the descriptions and accounts of western media outlets that are supporting the war.

Again, from the New York Times, Nov. 16, 2010, which describes weapons as tools:

“American troops are using an impressive array of tools not only to demolish homes, but also to eliminate tree lines where insurgents could hide, blow up outbuildings, flatten agricultural walls, and carve new “military roads,” because existing ones are so heavily mined, according to journalists embedded in the area recently.

“One of the most fearsome tools is the Miclic, the M58 Mine-Clearing Line Charge, a chain of explosives tied to a rocket, which upon impact destroys everything in a swath 30 feet wide and 325 feet long. The Himars missile system, a pod of 13-foot rockets carrying 200-pound warheads, has also been used frequently for demolition work.

“Often, new military roads go right through farms and compounds, cutting a route that will keep soldiers safe from roadside bombs. In Zhare District alone, the 101st Airborne’s Second Brigade has lost 30 soldiers since last June, mostly to such bombs.”

Activists at the organization Afghanistan Rights Monitor described the destroyed homes. “These are all mud houses, quite humble houses.”

When Gen. David Petraeus describes his counter-insurgency strategy, he always puts in a few diplomatic words about the need of surging troops to win the “hearts and minds” of the people in Afghanistan’s poverty stricken villages. That is purely for public consumption—a message echoed endlessly by the complicit corporate-owned media and the politicians of both parties that serves as a mask for the Pentagon’s campaign of systematic terror employed to subdue an occupied people.

On Dec. 16, 2010, anti-war veterans and people of conscience will stand up in a dramatic action in opposition to the terror campaign waged from the White House and Pentagon. Join us in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 16 and be part of history.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | 39 Comments

US to spend $85bn on nuclear complex

Press TV – November 19, 2010

The US plans to allocate more than $85 billion during the next decade to modernize its nuclear weapons complex, according to the White House.

Under the George W. Bush administration, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), tasked with ensuring the safety and reliability of the US nuclear weapons stockpile, lost 20 percent of its purchasing power, UPI reported.

The NNSA said it is committed to modernizing the country’s nuclear weapons and that it has the backing of the White House.

US president Barack Obama has called for $7 billion to be made available to fund the NNSA by 2011, which would represent close to a 10 percent increase from 2010.

In addition to the funding Obama is seeking, the NNSA would be funded with another $600 million in 2012.

The White House said $85 billion is to be made available to the NNSA in the coming decade, which would enable the agency to comprehensively update the country’s nuclear arsenal.

Earlier this year, US lawmakers, made a proposal to allocate $80.9 billion to the NNSA. The White House plan calls $4.1 billion more than the proposal of Congress.

“This level of funding is unprecedented since the end of the Cold War,” the White House said in a statement.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | Comments Off on US to spend $85bn on nuclear complex

Israel’s War Against the Dead

Mamilla Cemetery and the Simon Wiesenthal Center

By LAWRENCE SWAIM | CounterPunch | November 19, 2010

In June, 2005, the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles began construction in Jerusalem of an ambitious new facility. This project was variously referred to by Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and “dean” of the SWC, as the “Center for Human Dignity,” the “Center for Human Dignity—Jerusalem” and most pretentiously, the “Center for Human Dignity—Museum of Tolerance.” (Ground-breaking on the construction site had occurred in 2004, giving Arnold Schwarzenegger an opportunity to fly to Israel for one of his many photo ops with Rabbi Heir.) This sprawling structure was to be built on a parking lot that was supposedly adjacent to a historic Muslim ceremony; but which actually turned out to be directly on top of a part of it.

The cemetery, called the Mamilla Cemetary (Ma’Man Allah in Arabic), was an extremely old Muslim burial ground that was once the most important in Palestine, and in the Middle East generally. The Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, in a petition to the UN and other international organizations to stop construction of the Wiesenthal Museum, wrote as follows: “The Mamilla Cemetery is an ancient Muslim burial ground and holy site believed to date back to the 7th century, when companions of the Prophet Muhammad were reputedly buried there. Numerous saints of the Sufi faith and thousands of other officials, scholar, notables and Jerusalemite families have been buried in the cemetery over the last 1000 years. The Muslim Supreme Council declared the cemetery a historical site in 1927, and the British Mandate authorities pronounced it an antiquities site in 1944. It was an active burial ground until 1948.”

“After the new State of Israel seized the western part of Jerusalem in 1948, the cemetery fell under Israeli control, and like other Islamic endowment properties, or waqf, Mamilla Cemetery was taken over by the Custodian for Absentee Property. Since then, Muslim authorities have not been allowed to maintain the cemetery.” At that time, in 1948, the Israeli Religious Affairs Ministry itself acknowledged Mamilla “to be one of the most prominent Muslim cemeteries, where seventy thousand Muslim warriors of [Saladin’s] armies are interred along with many Muslim scholars.” It added: “Israel will always know to protect and respect this site.”

But that is not what happened.

In the early 1980s, Muslims became aware that the cemetery was being encroached on and human remains were being disinterred, and protested to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In 1984 Israel responded to that protest by stating flatly that “no project exists for the de-consecration of the site and that on the contrary the site and its tombs are to be safeguarded.” In fact even as Israel said this, however, it was engaged in parceling off pieces of the cemetery for various kinds of private developments, even as they assured UNESCO that they were protecting it.

Sadly, Palestinians had no legal instrument by which they could stop this. Although Mamilla cemetery in on a list of “Special Antiquities Sites,” it is not protected as a religious site. All of the cemeteries in Israel that are protected as religious sites are Jewish. (The Israeli government designates 137 holy sites that receive such protection, but all are Jewish, a fact that the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report of 2009 protested against.) Furthermore successive governments have sought to obliterate reminders of Palestinian culture in Jerusalem; successive governments parceled out sections of Mamilla for buildings, then for the construction of the parking lot mentioned above—and in 1992, the site was transferred to the Jerusalem municipality. At one point the government built a park over a part of the cemetery, which they named Independence Park, a reference to the founding of Israel in 1948 (and a clear attempt to provoke and humiliate Palestinians).

This is completely unlike the treatment meted out to Jewish cemeteries. On the Mount of the Olives, for example, the Jewish cemetery has been lavishly refurbished and even expanded, and finally transformed into a “heritage site.” On the other hand, Israel’s Muslim cemeteries have been allowed to fade into disuse, and are even destroyed when the government thinks it can get away with it. The 900-year-old Hittin mosque built by Saladin in the Galilee region has been deliberately fenced off and allowed to go to ruin. According to Bethlehem-based journalist Jonathan Cook, some mosques are used by rural Jewish communities as animal sheds. “And yet more,” he writes, “have been converted into discos, bars or nightclubs, including the Dahir al-Umar mosque—now the Dona Rosa restaurant—in the former Palestinian village of Ayn Hawd.”

Meron Benvenisti, a former Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem who wrote Sacred Landscape: Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948, has been vocal in pointing out that Muslim groups, contrary to what the Simon Wiesenthal camp is saying, pleaded over the years to be allowed to officially refurbish and keep up their sacred sites and cemeteries, but were never allowed to do so. Many important Islamic sites, he has written, have been “turned into dumps, parking lots, roads and construction sites.”

The Israeli government has recently added Ibrahimi and Bilal Bin Abi Rabah Mosques to the Jewish heritage list, which means they are not protected as religious sites. This means that the Israeli government could easily sell off, close or develop the sites, just as it has the Mamilla site, which is also on the heritage list but not protected as a religious site.

On a tour of East Jerusalem in late summer 2010, activist and author Phillip Weiss wrote on his website Mondoweiss:

Maybe the most pitiable sight I saw yesterday, inside the West Bank but close to the north Jerusalem colonies of Ramot and Ramat Shlomo, [was] the hilltop tomb of the prophet Samuel, which is worshiped by Jews and Muslims. The tomb is both a mosque with a minaret and a Jewish place of worship. Well when we visited, busloads of Jewish schoolchildren were arriving and Israeli soldiers were in the tomb davening and Hasidic boys were descending, too.

But next door it was a different story:

The door is chained, pigeons fly into the outer rooms, the Palestinian who runs a store there told us that the authorities had shut down the minaret. There are no Palestinian worshipers.

Weiss points out that this is an Israeli National Park in the West Bank, which is supposedly Palestinian land and supposedly—if there were actually ever to be a two-state solution—the future site of a Palestinian state. But being under the authority of the Israeli army, the Jewish site is protected as a religious site, whereas the Muslim worship facility next to the tomb of the prophet Samuel has been closed down. It is hard not to conclude that the closing and degradation of Muslim religious sites is a deliberate and coordinated policy of the Israeli government to humiliate Palestinian Muslims, an extension of the slow ethnic cleansing currently underway in the occupied territories. The message seems to be, “If you don’t like what we’re doing to Muslim holy sites, why don’t you leave?”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center similarly claims that Mamilla deserves no protection as a religious site, citing the fact that in 1964 the government set up a Muslim trust and that the head of that council “deconsecrated” Mamilla—and supposedly declared it no longer sacred ground, thus opening it up to partial development. But the person in question was apparently a government plant brought in to give political cover to those anxious to make money by developing the cemetery. (The bogus 1964 proclamation was aggressively overturned—or ruled “void”—by the Shari’a Court of Appeals in Israel, which found the sanctity of cemeteries to be “eternal” in Islam.) Certainly one person—especially one who in 1964 had been given no authority by Muslims to represent them—cannot speak for the many families whose ancestors are buried in Mamilla. Although some tombstones appeared to have been replaced in recent years, individual attempts at upkeep haven’t been as successful as organized efforts by a Muslim trust would be.

In Death in Jerusalem, Noga Tarnopolsky writes of her friend Sari Nusseibeh, a philosopher and university president, who located the tomb of two illustrious ancestors in the Mamilla cemetery: “Nusseibeh then contacted a friend working at the Ministry for Religious Affairs and requested permission to place a plaque on the crypt. ‘I thought it was important to commemorate this, and to tell people that in the case of a family like mine, we are not claiming roots here in the abstract or national sense, but in the familial sense, which is a much closer thing,’ he said.”

“Nusseibeh secured permission and affixed a stone plaque explaining that the tomb belonged to Islam’s Kabrkabiyyan period and contained the remains of one Prince Iddaghji and a certain Judge Nusseibeh. The next day it was removed by municipal workers, who claimed sole jurisdiction over the entire park.” This was despite the permission he had supposedly gotten from the Ministry for Religious Affairs. This could stand as a paradigm interaction of Israel and its Palestinian citizens. One can jump through all the hoops, do all the paperwork required, but if you are Palestinian you can be ignored and shut down at any moment, simply because you do not have the right religion. And your attorney will be able to do nothing for you, because in Israel the legal system is completely skewed against Palestinians.

Thus the location for SWC’s “Museum of Tolerance” had already been contested ground for some time before 2004, and in the opinion of most Palestinians a prime example of Israel’s swaggering and increasingly aggressive religious intolerance. Even the design for the new structure—by the internationally-known architect Frank Gehry—seems to have pleased nobody. (Gehry claims that it represents a bowl of fruit, a strange idea that got little traction in Jerusalem.)[i] Meron Benvenisti complained about its “geometric forms that can’t be any more dissonant to the environment in which it is planned to put this alien object.” Noga Tarnopolsky characterized its design as “the image of a supernatural edifice resembling nothing so much as a crab in the process of hatching a sapphire spider with huge, glassy eyes. It is neither beautiful nor ugly; it is striking and odd.” The management of the Vad Yashem Holocaust memorial were unhappy about the competition in Holocaust tourism (there’s a great comic novel in there somewhere), and the people of Jerusalem, perhaps wary of busloads of ecstatic tourists from southern California, were generally mystified by Heir’s grandiose ideas.

The “Museum of Tolerance” was built on a parking lot that was supposed to be adjacent to Mamilla cemetery. In reality it was built over part of it. This fact became painfully clear to the Wiesenthal Center as workmen began to encounter human remains. (Laying electrical cables and sewer lines probably resulted in digging deeper than had been required for building the parking lot.) At first the presence of human remains was kept secret by the SWC, but it couldn’t have surprised many people in Jerusalem, since they knew that the government had been parceling off the cemetery for some time. What the government had chosen to ignore was how resentful of this Palestinians had become over the years, especially those families with ancestors buried in Mamilla.

Reports vary, but the Wiesenthal Center workers apparently encountered remains of about two hundred people; and a decision was supposedly made to take the remains to another Muslim cemetery and re-inter them there. (What really happened can’t be confirmed because the Wiesenthal Center won’t reveal where they were taken.) The centuries-old remains have been the main sticking point for Hier and the SWC, the seriousness of which can be inferred from their insistence that they “respectfully” re-interred the bones. (If that is true, why won’t they allow journalists to take photos of their final resting place?) If the Wiesenthal Center is simply building something on a parking lot, why were they engaged in digging up human remains? And if the claims of local Muslim families were all lies, why was the Wiesenthal Center, by its own admission, re-interring those same human remains in another Muslim cemetery?

In fact, Hier and the Wiesenthal Center had known for a very long time that they were building their “Center for Human Dignity—Museum of Tolerance.” on top of an historic Muslim cemetery. During the building of the original parking lot back in the 1960, hundreds of graves were disinterred, which caused anguished protests by Muslims; the same thing happened in 1984, when they appealed to UNESCO. Furthermore, as early as 1993 the municipal authorities offered the SWC the parking lot for the building of the project. Both Teddy Kollek and Ehud Olmert had encouraged the Simon Wiesenthal Center to build the current or similar projects at precisely this site, and they above all were in a position to know that the parking lot had been built over part of Mamilla Cemetery. Therefore Kollek, Ehud Olmert and Rabbi Hier knew exactly what lay under the parking lot. In fact, the case can be made that Hier wanted to build on a Muslim cemetery, especially given his apocalyptic ideas about the inevitability of religious war between Muslims and Jews. What could be better for fund-raising than a nice little religious war, with the frenetic Hier leading his faithful troops into the fray?

In 2005, Gideon Suleimani, a Palestinian archeologist, personally warned representatives of the SWC that the area was an antiquities site; at Seleimani’s request, the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) dug test trenches, and it was revealed that hundreds of graves—as many as four layers of graves—were located under the parking lot. One has the sense that Suleimani thought that he could get the Wiesenthal Center to back off if only he could appeal to their common humanity. If so, he didn’t know the group he was dealing with—the SWC continued, in spite of being so advised; and when reports surfaced of their digging up remains and carrying them away surreptitiously in boxes, several Palestinian families in the area decided to act.

The Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) then moved to investigate further. Suleimani, who was the Chief Excavator on the project, found that there were “at least 2000 graves,” on at least four levels, with exhumed remains dating back to the 12th century, and the lowest level dating back to the 11th century. But, as Suleimann later testified in an Affidavit, people from the Simon Wiesenthal Center began to put pressure on the IAA, as did interested politicians who were invested in getting the construction done. For their part the IAA, according to Suleimani, tried to get him to stop his excavating and to alter his report. Suleimani also said that “representatives of the SWC started coming by on a daily basis, pressing for the excavation to progress quickly, to prevent the Muslims from stopping the project,” not to mention entrepreneurs whose connection to the site was unclear, but who were now threatening to sue the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

In 2006 a lawsuit was filed that resulted in a court order that temporarily stopped construction. But the pressures were growing on the government. The Israeli Antiquities Authority decided, while defending against the lawsuit, to suppress the evidence their Chief Excavator Gideon Suleimani had uncovered. The High Court of Israel never found out that there were around 2,000 graves under the parking lot, going down four levels, the lowest level of graves dating back to the 11th century. They did not find out about it because the IAA suppressed the evidence that Seluimani collected, and that the IAA had asked him to collect. In an equally cynical move, the IAA apparently lied (according to affidavits by Suleimani) about his finding that only about ten percent of the excavations had been done, instead claiming that ninety percent was done.

What caused these criminal misrepresentations to the High Court, the first of which was suppression of evidence, and the second of which was perjury? For one thing, the Simon Wiesenthal Center had arranged to pay the workers doing the excavation, perhaps a violation of the law, but one that gave the SWC greater leverage over facts on the ground. Secondly, there is some evidence that the “Museum of Tolerance” was part of a larger deal which may not have been strictly legitimate (since it may have involved patronage from politicians). Thirdly, why did the IAA falsify the report they had initiated, and what did they receive in return from the Simon Wiesenthal Center? This critical piece of information can’t be determined until the principals to the controversy can be examined under oath. But given the value of the land involved it is hard to believe that they acted alone, or that they decided to suppress evidence on their own volition.

The High Court allowed construction to continue in October, 2008. Efforts were made to appeal this, since the Israel Antiquities Authority had repressed the only evidence that really counts in this case, which was testimony (and evidence) of the Chief Excavator assigned by the IAA itself, Gideon Suleimani. Despite the suppression of everything he had to say and all the evidence he had obtained, the court refused to open the case again, and insisted that construction must proceed. Exhumation of human remains resumed, and there was nothing that could be done about it. This constituted the exhaustion of appeals within the Israeli system of justice, and made the later appeal to the United Nations inevitable.

Contrary to what the IAA had told the High Court, ninety percent of the area intended for the Wiesenthal Center project still had to be dug up. The Israeli Antiquities Authority claimed that the disinterring of human remains occurring after October, 2008, involved manual removal after documentation so that the remains could be re-interred, but both the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the IAA have engaged in extreme secrecy, and it is impossible to say exactly what they did with the remains. (Needless to say, they refused to consult with appropriate Muslim authorities.) It was reported by the Palestinian News Network that during one week in 2009, some 300 Muslim graves were opened up, and the remains dumped into a mass grave. It is impossible to confirm this, but one can imagine how such reports affect the Palestinians that read them. The apparent collusion of the IAA and the Simon Wiesenthal group, and the extreme secrecy with which they operated—not to mention Rabbi Hier’s violent rhetorical attacks on any who oppose their projects as terrorists, anti-Semites, and “Islamists”—have for the time being removed hope for resolution using any of the instruments of Israeli civil society.

Therefore on 10 February 2010, in New York, Jerusalem, Geneva and Los Angeles, a petition was filed with several United Nations agencies to stop desecration of Mamilla Cemetary by Israeli authorities and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. (Press conferences were held in Geneva, Jersalem and Los Angeles.) The UN agencies to whom this was appealed were the UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Religion and Belief and on Contemporary Forms of Racism; the Independent Expert on Culture; the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and the Director General of UNESCO, the agency that was involved in investigations of previous desecrations of Mamilla Cemetary in 1984. The Petition was filed on behalf of some 60 Palestinians from 15 Jerusalem families whose ancestors, going back to the 12th century, are buried in the cemetery. The filing was done by the Center for Constitutional Rights located in New York, which has made information about the campaign to save Mamilla available at

The press release accompanying the filing said as follows:

“This will be the first known time Palestinian individuals have taken collective action against Israel to bring such an issue before a UN forum and comes after all remedies in Israel were exhausted. The families, NGOs, and attorneys argue the desecration of the cemetery violates international conventions protecting cultural heritage, the manifestation of religious beliefs, and the right to family.” Maria LaHood, a Senior Attorney as CCR, added: “Left with no recourse in Israel, families of people buried in Mamilla cemetery have come together to petition the United Nations to safeguard their international human rights to be free from discrimination, to manifest religious beliefs, and to have their cultural heritage protected. We call on the international community to denounce this shameful desecration of a historic Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights was found in 1966 by lawyers involved in the civil rights movement in the US, and is “committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.” In the international arena, the CCR sees itself as “dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Predictably, the Simon Wiesenthal Center sees the Petition filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights as a scheme to overthrown the authority of the Jewish state, in the same way that the Goldstone Report is seen by them as an unfair use of international law to attack and destroy Israel.

In 2009, in the New York Sun and the Jewish press, the Simon Wiesenthal Center presented “evidence” (in the form of a story from the Palestine Post of 1945) that the Supreme Muslim Council of Jerusalem was planning a business center on the site of the Mamilla Cemetary in 1945. The Palestine Post (precursor to the Jerusalem Post) was violently Labor-Zionist in its politics, and in 1945 was not the best source for anything going on within the Palestinian community, nor the best advocate for its interests. Furthermore, the nominal head of the Muslim Council at that time was the notorious Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, who although out of the country in 1945 was still the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem; and who, besides being one of the worst anti-Semites of the 20th century, was also an enthusiastic propagandist for Hitler and the Nazis. Furthermore, the entire Muslim Council in Jerusalem at that time was rife with cronyism, corruption, and the infighting of various Jerusalem families.

Although it is somewhat dangerous to generalize, it could be said that Al-Husayni and Jerusalem’s Muslim Council in 1945 represented a snapshot of exactly what a great many secular Arab nationalists (not to mention the later Islamic Revival throughout Muslim-majority countries) aimed to get rid of—not merely cronyism, greed and class oppression but also, in the case of Al-Husaybi, European-style fascism and anti-Semitism. The fact that neither Arab nationalism nor the Islamic Revival was entirely successful in doing so does not change the fact that Al-Husayni and the Muslim Council of 1945 engaged in behavior that the best Arab thinkers were irrevocably opposed to. It was for precisely this reason that the Palestinian Liberation Organization was careful to sideline al-Husayni and to downplay his influence in the years before his death in 1974.

In any case, neither al-Husayni nor the Muslim Council of 1945 are authoritative guides to the important cultural and political decisions that face Israel/Palestine in 2010, if for no other reason than that both Palestinian and Jewish communities today are entirely different than they were in 1945, as are their leaders. Sadly but not unsurprisingly, that is difficult for Rabbi Hier and the Simon Wiesenthal Center to accept. For them, there are only “the Palestinians,” much as Christians once referred to that mysterious entity known as “the Jews,” who were supposedly the enemy of Christendom; in the same way, Hier sees all Palestinians as enemies of Israeli Jews.

But Hier’s rhetoric is the self-delusion of the bully, who projects his own bad conscience onto his weaker victim. In reality, there is no they in those organizations and individuals who seek to defend Mamilla Cemetary, but Muslims, Christians and Jews of many different temperaments and affiliations who share an interest in preserving one of the most important and compelling religious sites of the Middle East. But Mamilla Cemetery is also a dispute in which a dominant group of people have the power to hurt and humiliate another and weaker group of people, whose religious sites furthermore receive no protection from the government. And the most dangerous thing in the world is unlimited executive power over aggrieved but powerless people, with the impunity to hurt them and get away with it.

* * *

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is an extreme rightwing Jewish organization, tinged by neo-fascism and with many of the characteristics of a hate organization. It is based almost completely on a vulgarized, pervasive form of religious nationalism. Its vision for Israel is consistent with the neo-fascist Jabotinsky tendency within Zionism that was modeled on Italian fascism, and it also promotes the Likudnik doctrine that Judaism itself has no practical or demographic existence separate from Israel. The SWC supports the neo-con belief in permanent war in the Middle East, and it engages in the vigorous dissemination of religious bigotry against Muslims in the US. It portrays anti-Semitism as worse than it is, partly for fund-raising purposes and partly to establish an imagined victim status. It similarly uses the Holocaust both to discourage criticism of Israel and to justify Israel’s own violence, aggressively insisting that every criticism of Israel is really aimed at destroying the Jewish people. Above all, the SWC is a dangerous cultural force that seeks religious war as the standard for religious authenticity.

What kind of people make up the “400,000 member-families” the SWC claims as supporters in southern California and the US? If the SWC does indeed have that many families that contribute annually, that makes it very much a mass organization, which means that it must be taken seriously. One has the sense that Hier’s followers are primarily lower (and middle) middle-class people, perhaps small businesspersons and conservative professionals who reject Judaism’s traditional concern for social justice, whose level of cultural literacy is not particularly high, and who are attracted to the us-against-them aggression of religious nationalism. The frenetic and frequently duplicitous advocacy emanating from the Simon Wiesenthal Center has a pronounced middlebrow flavor—that is, it is pretentious, self-congratulatory and sometimes unintentionally funny. (Last year an e-mailed Passover invitation to SWC members billed Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper as “featured Scholars-in-Residence at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel and Spa.”) Above all, the “member-families” of the Simon Wiesenthal Center are incessantly indoctrinated with the idea that Israel—and the Center itself—never make mistakes and are never at fault, because criticisms of them are invariably the work of anti-Semites.

The Wiesenthal Center’s exaggerations and fabrications regarding anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli attitudes are well-known. The SWC claimed that the 2002 World Social Forum in Mumbai was ‘hi-jacked by anti-Israel and anti-American forces.’ This was completely untrue, as Jewish peace activist Cecilie Surasky, who was in attendance, later testified. (The SWC also claimed in the Jerusalem Post to be ‘the only Jewish NGO’ at Mumbai, whereas in reality there were several, including Jewish Voice for Peace, with which Surasky is affiliated.) The Wiesenthal Center also engaged off a strenuous campaign to portray Hugo Chavez as an anti-Semite, which they attempted to do by strategically doctoring a quote by Chavez. This interventionist attitude shouldn’t surprise us—the Wiesenthal Center once presented Jeanne Kilpatrick, a US diplomatic defender of the murderous Pinochet regime in Chile, with its Humanitarian of the Year Award. (They also honored such noted humanitarians as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Robert Murdoch.)

The Wiesenthal Center also has the unenviable distinction of involvement in one of the worst journalistic blunders of modern times. In the late spring of 2006, Douglas Kelly, editor of the National Post, a Canadian newspaper, became aware of an item in a column by Iranian exile Amir Taheri, indicating that the Iranian Parliament might require Jews to wear yellow stars. A Post editor contacted the Simon Wiesenthal Center, thinking it was a legitimate human rights agency. Both Rabbi Marvin Hier and Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the SWC excitedly insisted to anybody that would listen, both verbally and in an email to the Post, that the tale was “absolutely true.” The Post went ahead with the story on Page One, but Taheri was a neo-con plant, and the story was a fabrication.

Within days, Post editor Kelly was obliged to make a long and detailed apology to his readers. He referred directly to the Post’s contact with both Cooper and Hier at the Wiesenthal Center, mentioning pointedly that they had both, on separate occasions, confirmed the story. The implication of having been consciously betrayed by the Wiesenthal Center was quite clear. For Hier and Cooper, however, it was a big victory—they’d been able to place a great piece of propaganda on Page One of a large daily newspaper, while managing to make the connection between Nazis and Iranians, a staple theme of the SWC.

The Wiesenthal Center is silent on the rise of fascism in Israel in 2010, probably because the Center’s own tactics are borrowed from classical fascism, such as their tireless dissemination of religious bigotry. Their more overt activity in this area involves their promotion and showing of the violently anti-Muslim film The Third Jihad, which was a project of the Clarion Fund, a shadowy rightwing Zionist operation that produced Obsession: Radical Islam’s War with the West. According to recent investigative reporting by Pam Martens appearing in Counterpunch, the Clarion Fund’s main financial supporters—Donor Capital Fund and Donors Trust—are managed by people who have a long association with Charles G. Koch, billionaire donor to the Tea Party.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center also cooperated with Aish HaTorah, a extremist rightwing Jewish group that Atlantic Magazine’s pro-Israel pundit Jeffrey Goldberg has referred to as “just about the most fundamentalist movement in Judaism today,”[ii] a group that has strong ties to the racist settlers in Israel’s occupied territories. Before the election of 2008, the Clarion Fund functioned as a loosely-constituted front group in America for Aish HaTorah, whose operatives had produced a film in 2003 alleging Palestinian incitement against Israel and Jews. Then, in the heady post-9/11 atmosphere, the Clarion Fund went ahead to produce Obsession, and then The Third Jihad, both wildly inflammatory propaganda films that were supposedly about a minority of “radical” Muslims, but which made fantastic allegations about mainstream Muslims organizations in the US such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), alleging them to be part of a hostile international plot to infiltrate and take over America.

In the spring of 2009, the Clarion Fund released The Third Jihad, with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles enthusiastically opting to sponsor its West Coast premiere on May 17th, 2009, thereby making it a major event in their spring calendar. The Wiesenthal premiere was co-sponsored by the American Freedom Alliance, an unsavory far-right group that was unabashedly Islamophobic and pro-torture (books by John Yoo and Marc Thiessen were on sale at their website). The Washington D.C. opening of The Third Jihad, which occurred at the same time as the SWC event in Los Angeles, was co-sponsored by the International Free Press Society, another unsavory rightwing group, this one authentically neo-fascist. Two months before the Washington Premiere, the IFPS had been involved in publicizing and promoting Geert Wilders, the well-known Dutch neo-fascist with links to several far-right parties in Europe.

The climax of The Third Jihad was a supposed Federal Bureau of Investigation discovery of a subversive document—a “Grand Jihad Manifesto”—outlining a Muslim plot to take over America. Why the FBI wasn’t out making arrests, if the plot violated any laws, was left unanswered. The document was depicted as being so sensitive it couldn’t be released to the general public, perhaps because it would demoralize the nation. (Or perhaps, on the other hand, it really doesn’t exist.) “The 15-page document outlines goals and strategies for the infiltration and domination of America from within,” The Third Jihad insists. “Among the strategies discussed is the establishment of ‘moderate’ groups, mosques and Islamic centers across North America in an effort to strategically position Islam so that it might weaken western culture and promote the implementation of Sharia Law.” (The resemblance of the alleged secret “Grand Jihad Manifesto” to the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was not lost on Jewish progressives.)

The Wiesenthal Center’s cooperation with Aish HaTorah, the group behind the Clarion Fund, is problematical for other reasons. Experts on cults suggest that Aish HaTorah has either become a cult or developed profoundly cult-like behavior. Some information about these concerns—including the first-person account of a Jewish mother whose son was indoctrinated—appears on the website of the Ross A. Rick Institute, which monitors cult behavior. Ross writes that cult-like Orthodox Jewish groups like “Aish HaTorah and Ohr Somayach have generated serious and repeated complaints from Jewish families, including Orthodox Jewish families….Aish/Ohr has repeatedly been accused of ‘brainwashing’ American Jewish tourists in Israel. These are typically young people that started out on vacation and were instead sucked into Aish/Ohr. These recruits then often gave up school, work, previously set goals and relationships to study at times for years with Aish/Ohr and stayed in Israel.”

Ross continues: “Recruiting was often done at the Western Wall and began with a simple invitation to a dinner or ‘Shabbat.’ Families should be aware of all this before sending their kids to Israel for any programs or vacations….Some of the most hateful and nasty emails I have ever received from any group mentioned on the Ross Institute database have been from Aish and Ohr participants, which have denounced other Jews (e.g. Reform and Conservative) and have expressed often extreme, bigoted and even violent sentiments.” Like many cults, Aish HaTorah uses various excerpts from holy books to rationalize coercive or violent behavior by leaders.

At present Aish HaTorah is also little more than an extension of the worldwide Israeli propaganda effort. People associated with Aish Hatorah devised the Hasbara Fellowships, which invite (or lure) young people to Israel, indoctrinate them, and send them back to fight “the enemies of Israel.” Honest Reporting, which claims to be the world’s largest pro-Israel media organization, is also a product of Aish HaTorah—its claimed 150,000 members worldwide that report on journalism they believe to be “anti-Israel.” Aish HaTorah is also known to partner with a national US Jewish fraternity to run a three-week tour of Israel trip for their undergraduate members, who then receive “education” from the group. Aish HaTorah runs a plethora of groups and seminars that purport to teach “core values” of Judaism, but which actually teach a fanatical, apocalyptic version of rightwing religious Zionism. For its leaders, the final goal of life is the death or defeat of Palestinians and Arabs. In some interviews, Aish HaTorah participants have made statements that suggest that they believe that it is God’s will that the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem be destroyed—an eventuality that would, of course, spark a major religious conflagration.

It is this background of incessant Islamophobia and extremely aggressive religious nationalism that must be kept in mind when considering the Wiesenthal Center’s motivation for building the “Center for Human Dignity—Museum of Tolerance.” Rabbi Hier and the SWC knew very well about the bodies buried under the parking lot at Mamilla Cemetery in Jerusalem. They had reportedly contemplated buying the site since at least 1993; they have been repeatedly warned that the site was built over a historic Muslim cemetery; and they have repeatedly refused suggestions of both Muslims and Jews to build somewhere else. Leaders of the Simon Wiesenthal Center cannot say that they did not know the potential for conflict in their choice. At its core the conflict over Mamilla Cemetery is, besides its potential for sparking religious conflict, one more attempt by rightwing Zionists to redefine Judaism as a religion that can somehow redeem the Holocaust by hurting and humiliating Palestinians.

Words like “Tolerance” and “Dignity” from the liberal and social-democratic past of European Jewry are gleefully flaunted by the SWC, but are used in the same way that Stalinists used words such as “democratic“ or “liberation,” to disguise the real nature of Stalinism. There is nothing “ironic” about the use of such words, as many liberal and religious-liberty groups believe, because this use of language it is a ploy, a part of SWC strategy; it serves the main function of deliberate Orwellian language, which is to communicate contempt for logic and to distract with its absurdity. Finally, it is an expression of raw illegitimate power, saying in effect to the Palestinians: “We control everything, even language. If we say that black is white, we will force you to accept it, because we have the power to humiliate and kill you.” Finally, like most extremist rightwing movements, people in the leadership of the Wiesenthal Center will lie and misrepresent things anytime they think they can get away with it.

The Mamilla Cemetery site was chosen for a reason. The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s real objective in building the “Center for Human Dignity—Museum of Tolerance” in Jerusalem is almost surely to ignite religious conflict, and ultimately religious war in the region. It is this pathological aggression that makes the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and its fundamentalist allies like Aish HaTorah, so dangerous. The fight over Mamilla Cemetery is a dispute in which Rabbi Hier, the very incarnation of the charismatic but morally corrupt religious fanatic, seeks to invent a new Judaism that, like medieval Christianity, defines itself by its ability to wound and torment the underdog. As American neo-conservatives made clear in their famous letter to Netanyahu in 1996, the American empire they seek depends on a state of permanent war in the Middle East. By all appearances, the Simon Wiesenthal Center aspires to be a pivotal part of this approaching religious war.

Lawrence Swaim is executive director of the Interfaith Freedom Foundation.


[i] Gehry latter pulled out of the project. In November, 2010, Jewish Voice for Peace announced that Gehry had joined a group of theatre professionals and people in the arts that were boycotting the Ariel performance center in the West Bank.

[ii] Ben Harris, “Rabbi Noah Wienberg, Founder of Aish HaTorah, Dies,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 6 Feb. 2009.

(This article is based on a column written for InFocus News, the national Muslim newspaper.)

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | Comments Off on Israel’s War Against the Dead

Cantor Crosses the Line

Way Beyond Chutzpah

By RANNIE AMIRI | CounterPunch | November 19, 2010

Even the United States Congress’ most rabid pro-Israel supporters have not dared propose what incoming House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) has.

Cantor told the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) that he wants to see Israel’s massive three billion dollar annual stipend—the largest of any U.S. aid recipient—reclassified and not considered “foreign” aid. Its enormous subsidy would no longer be the purview of the State Department, but the Pentagon. If he had his way, Israel would be directly funded by the U.S. military.

The reason is because Cantor hopes to make sweeping cuts in assistance to Middle East countries that do not operate according to “U.S. interests.” This may entail the House defunding the entire foreign operations budget. Allowing the Pentagon to control money for Israel would likewise shield it from newly-elected Tea Party members who are prepared to drastically slash the aid budget if not freeze it altogether.

“Minority Whip Cantor’s proposal is as transparent as it is reckless,” said Rep. Nita Lowery (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Foreign Operations subcommittee. She said this not because Cantor is making Israel an exception to other countries and circumventing (theoretical) congressional oversight of its assistance package, but because killing the foreign aid bill could hamper diplomatic efforts in the Middle East and ultimately hurt Israel.

Cantor may be oblivious to the fact that some military analysts—despite the perfunctory qualifications—have begun to openly question whether Israel has become a strategic liability.

General David Petraeus too had the temerity to probe the ramifications of the U.S. relationship with Israel. In prepared testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March, he indicated that lack of progress in settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict created a hostile environment for the United States, and by extension, American troops:

“The [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples … and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”

Beyond the gall of suggesting Israel be exempt from inclusion in the U.S. foreign aid bill, Cantor’s insolent remarks undermining the authority of the U.S. president in front of a foreign leader were equally distasteful.

Cantor met visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a New York hotel on Nov. 11—prior to Netanyahu’s talks with Secretary of State Clinton. Curiously, Cantor was the only American lawmaker present.

A brief released by his office about the one-on-one meeting with Netanyahu read:

“Eric stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington. He made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other.”

Ron Kampeas, Washington bureau chief of the JTA, said of the statement:

“I can’t remember an opposition leader telling a foreign leader, in a personal meeting, that he would side, as a policy, with that leader against the president … to have-a-face to face and say, in general, we will take your side against the White House—that sounds to me extraordinary.”

Is it any wonder that the notoriously intransigent Netanyahu now has even more reason to rebuff the half-hearted Middle East peace overtures made by President Obama? Knowing that the House Majority Leader has your back at his own government’s expense?

Cantor’s remarks are unconscionable. As a U.S. government representative, undermining the authority of the president in a private, face-to-face meeting with the leader of a foreign country (yes, Israeli is that) should be considered grounds for censure.

Those who have followed Cantor’s career know this is not the first time he has criticized American policy, even when on foreign soil.

When George W. Bush was in office, it was many a Republican who clamored that foreign policy should be at the president’s directive, not Congress’. Indeed, Cantor himself wrote that Nancy Pelosi, when visiting Syria in 2007, had “usurped the executive branch’s time-honored foreign-policy authority.”

It is only natural to speculate where Cantor’s loyalty lies. Readers are left to draw their own conclusion. What is clear, however, is that Cantor has crossed the line, and more than once. Unlike Israel, he must not be given a free pass.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Wars for Israel | 1 Comment

Evidence of Iran Nuclear Weapons Program May Be Fraudulent

By Gareth Porter | t r u t h o u t | 18 November 2010

Since 2007, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – with the support of the United States, Israel and European allies UK, France and Germany – has been demanding that Iran explain a set of purported internal documents portraying a covert Iranian military program of research and development of nuclear weapons. The “laptop documents,” supposedly obtained from a stolen Iranian computer by an unknown source and given to US intelligence in 2004, include a series of drawings of a missile re-entry vehicle that appears to be an effort to accommodate a nuclear weapon, as well as reports on high explosives testing for what appeared to be a detonator for a nuclear weapon.

In one report after another, the IAEA has suggested that Iran has failed to cooperate with its inquiry into that alleged research, and that the agency, therefore, cannot verify that it has not diverted nuclear material to military purposes.

That issue remains central to US policy toward Iran. The Obama administration says there can be no diplomatic negotiations with Iran unless Iran satisfies the IAEA fully in regard to the allegations derived from the documents that it had covert nuclear weapons program.

That position is based on the premise that the intelligence documents that Iran has been asked to explain are genuine. The evidence now available, however, indicates that they are fabrications.

The drawings of the Iranian missile warhead that were said by the IAEA to show an intent to accommodate a nuclear weapon actually depict a missile design that Iran is now known to have already abandoned in favor of an improved model by the time the technical drawings were allegedly made. And one of the major components of the purported Iranian military research program allegedly included a project labeled with a number that turns out to have been assigned by Iran’s civilian nuclear authority years before the covert program is said to have been initiated.

The former head of the agency’s safeguards department, Olli Heinonen, who shaped its approach to the issue of the intelligence documents from 2005 and 2010, has offered no real explanation for these anomalies in recent interviews with Truthout.

These telltale indicators of fraud bring into question the central pillar of the case against Iran and raise more fundamental questions about the handling of the Iranian nuclear issue by the IAEA, the United States and its key European allies.

Drawings of the Wrong Missile Warhead

In mid-July 2005, in an effort to get the IAEA fully behind the Bush administration’s effort to refer the Iranian nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council, Robert Joseph, US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, made a formal presentation on the purported Iranian nuclear weapons program documents to the agency’s leading officials in Vienna. Joseph flashed excerpts from the documents on the screen, giving special attention to the series of technical drawings or “schematics” showing 18 different ways of fitting an unidentified payload into the re-entry vehicle or “warhead” of Iran’s medium-range ballistic missile, the Shahab-3.

When IAEA analysts were allowed to study the documents, however, they discovered that those schematics were based on a re-entry vehicle that the analysts knew had already been abandoned by the Iranian military in favor of a new, improved design. The warhead shown in the schematics had the familiar “dunce cap” shape of the original North Korean No Dong missile, which Iran had acquired in the mid-1990s, as former IAEA Safeguards Department Chief Olli Heinonen confirmed to this writer in an interview on November 5. But when Iran had flight tested a new missile in mid-2004, it did not have that dunce cap warhead, but a new “triconic” or “baby bottle” shape, which was more aerodynamic than the one on the original Iranian missile.

The laptop documents had depicted the wrong re-entry vehicle being redesigned.

When I asked Heinonen, now a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center, why Iran’s purported secret nuclear weapons research program would redesign the warhead of a missile that the Iranian military had already decided to replace with an improved model, he suggested that the group that had done the schematics had no relationship with the Iranian missile program. “It looks from that information that this group was working with this individual,” said Heinonen, referring to Dr. Mohsen Fakrizadeh, the man named in the documents as heading the research program. “It was not working with the missile program.”

Heinonen’s claim that the covert nuclear weapon program had no link to the regular missile program is not supported by the intelligence documents themselves. The IAEA describes what is purported to be a one-page letter from Fakrizadeh to the Shahid Hemat Industrial Group dated March 3, 2003, “seeking assistance with the prompt transfer of data” for the work on redesigning the re-entry vehicle.

Shahid Hemat, which is part of the Iranian military’s Defense Industries Organization, was involved in testing the engine for the Shahab-3 and, in particular, in working on aerodynamic properties and control systems for Iranian missiles, all of which were reported in the US news media. “Project 11” was the code name given to the purported re-entry vehicle project.

Heinonen also suggested that the program’s engineers could have been ordered to redesign the older Shahab-3 model before the decision was made by the missile program to switch to a newer model and that it couldn’t change its work plan once it was decided.

However, according to Mike Elleman, lead author of the most authoritative study of the Iranian missile program thus far, published by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) last May, Iran introduced the major innovations in the design of the medium-range missile, including a longer, lighter airframe and the new warhead shape, over a period of two to five years. Elleman, told me in an interview that the redesign of the re-entry vehicle must have begun in 2002 at the latest.

The schematics on the laptop documents’ redesigned warhead were dated March-April 2003, according to the IAEA report of May 2008.

Heinonen’s explanation assumes that the Iranian military ordered an engineer to organize a project to redesign the warhead on its intermediate-range ballistic missile to accommodate a nuclear payload, but kept the project in the dark about its plans to replace the Shahab-3 with a completely new and improved model.

That assumption appears wholly implausible, because the reason for the shift to the new missile, according to the IISS study, was that the Shahab-3, purchased from North Korea in the early to mid-1990s, had a range of only 800 to 1,000 km, depending on the weight of the payload. Thus, it was incapable of reaching Israel. The new missile, later named the Ghadr-1, could carry a payload of conventional high-explosives 1,500 to 1,600 kilometers, bringing Israel within the reach of an Iranian missile for the first time.

The missile warhead anomaly is a particularly telling sign of fraud, because someone intending to fabricate such technical drawings of a re-entry vehicle could not have known that Iran had abandoned the Shahab-3 in favor of the more advanced Ghadr-1 until after mid-August 2004. As the IISS study points out, the August 11, 2004, test launch was the first indication to the outside world that a new missile with a triconic warhead had been developed. Before that test, Elleman told me, “No information was available that they were modifying the warhead.”

After that test, however, it would have been too late to redo the re-entry vehicle studies, which would have the biggest impact on news media coverage and political opinion.

Iranian statements about the Shahab-3 missile would have been misleading for anyone attempting to fabricate these schematics. The IISS study recalls that Iran had said in early 2001 that the Shahab-3 had entered “serial production” and declared in July 2003 that it was “operational.” The IISS study observes, however, that the announcement came only after the US invasion of Iraq, when Iran felt an urgent need to claim an operational missile capability. The study says it is “very dubious” that the missile was ever produced in significant numbers.

Skepticism and Resistance at the IAEA

A second inconsistency between the laptop documents and the established facts emerged only in 2008. At a briefing for IAEA member states in February 2008, Heinonen displayed an organization chart of the purported research program, showing a “Project 5” with two sub-projects: “Project 5/13” for uranium conversion and “Project 5/15” for uranium ore processing. Kimia Maadan, a private Iranian firm, is shown to be running “Project 5.”

One of the key documents in the collection, a one-page flow sheet for a uranium-conversion process, dated May 2003, with Kimia Maadan’s name on it, is marked “Project 5/13.”

Bush administration hardliners and the IAEA safeguard department had been convinced in the 2004-2005 period that Kimia Maadan was a front for the Iranian military. In a 2005 report, the IAEA questioned how that company, with such “limited experience in ore processing,” could have established an ore processing plant at Gchine in such a short time from 2000 to mid-2001 on its own.

But in January 2008, Iran provided documents to the IAEA showing that Kimia Maadan had actually been created by the civilian Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) in 2000 solely to carry out a contract to design, build and put into operation an ore-processing facility. The documents also established that the firm’s core staff consisted entirely of experts who had previously worked for AEOI’s Ore Processing Center and that the conceptual design and other technical information had been provided to Kimia Maadan by AEOI.

But the most explosive new evidence provided by Iran showed that the code number of “Project 5/15” on ore processing, supposedly assigned by the Iranian military’s secret nuclear weapon research program, had actually been assigned by the AEOI more than two years before the purported nuclear weapons program had been started. In the context of the documents on Kimia Maadan’s relationship with AEOI, the IAEA report of February 2008 acknowledged, “A decision to construct a UOC [uranium ore concentration] plant at Gchine, known as ‘project 5/15,’ was made August 25, 1999.”

An unpublished paper by the IAEA safeguards department, leaked to the media and the Washington, DC-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in 2009, identified early 2002 as the formal beginning of what it called the Iranian military’s “warhead development program.”

Asked about this contradiction, Heinonen told me he couldn’t answer the question, because he did not recall the specific dates involved.

After the IAEA had acquired that new evidence of fraud in January 2008, an IAEA official familiar with the internal debate inside the agency told me that some IAEA officials had demanded that the agency distance itself publicly from the intelligence documents. But IAEA reports made no concession to those demands. Instead, beginning with the May 2008 report, the agency began to use language implying that the documents were considered reliable.

Behind the scenes, a conflict was about to boil over between Heinonen and then IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei, who was skeptical about the authenticity of the laptop documents and refused to give them any official IAEA endorsement. In late 2008, Heinonen began pushing ElBaradei to approve publication of his department’s favorable assessment of the intelligence documents, which concluded that Iran had done research and development on nuclear weapons components and speculated that it was continuing to do so.

But ElBaradei refused to do so and in August 2009, diplomats from the UK, France and Germany, who were supporting Heinonen’s view of the documents, leaked to Reuters and The Associated Press that, for nearly a year, ElBaradei had been suppressing “credible” evidence of Iran’s covert work on nuclear weapons.

ElBaradei responded to those political pressures to publish the safeguards department speculative study in an interview with The Hindu on October 1, 2009, in which he declared, “The IAEA is not making any judgment at all whether Iran even had weaponisation studies before because there is a major question of authenticity of the documents.”

Evidence of Israel’s Role

The origin of the laptop documents may never be proven conclusively, but the accumulated evidence points to Israel as the source. As early as 1995, the head of the Israel Defense Forces’ military intelligence research and assessment division, Yaakov Amidror, tried unsuccessfully to persuade his American counterparts that Iran was planning to “go nuclear.” By 2003-2004, Mossad’s reporting on the Iranian nuclear program was viewed by high-ranking CIA officials as an effort to pressure the Bush administration into considering military action against Iran’s nuclear sites, according to Israeli sources cited by a pro-Israeli news service.

In the summer of 2003, Israel’s international intelligence agency, Mossad, had established an aggressive program aimed at exerting influence on the Iran nuclear issue by leaking alleged intelligence to governments and the news media, as Israeli officials acknowledged to journalists Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins. According to the book, “The Nuclear Jihadist,” as part of the program, Mossad sometimes passed on purported Iranian documents supposedly obtained by Israeli spies inside Iran.

German sources have suggested that the intelligence documents were conveyed to the US government, directly or indirectly, by a group that had been collaborating closely with Mossad. Soon after Secretary of State Colin Powell made the existence of the laptop documents public in November 2004, Karsten Voight, the coordinator of German-American cooperation in the German Foreign Ministry, was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as saying that they had been transferred by an Iranian “dissident group.” A second German source familiar with the case was even more explicit. “I can assure you,” the source told me in 2007, “that the documents came from the Iranian resistance organization.” That was a reference to the Mujahideen-E-Khalq (MEK), also known as the People’s Mujahideen of Iran, the armed Iranian exile group designated as a terrorist organization by the US State Department.

The National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), the political arm of the MEK, was generally credited by the news media with having revealed the existence of the Iranian nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak in an August 2002 press conference in Washington, DC. Later, however, IAEA, Israeli and Iranian dissident sources all said that the NCRI had gotten the intelligence on the sites from Mossad.

An IAEA official told Seymour Hersh that the Israelis were behind the revelation of the sites and two journalists from Der Spiegel reported the same thing. So did an adviser to an Iranian monarchist group, speaking to a writer for The New Yorker. That episode was not isolated, but was part of a broader pattern of Israeli cooperation with the MEK in providing intelligence intended to influence the CIA and the IAEA. Israeli authors Melman and Javadanfar, who claimed to have good sources in Mossad, wrote in their 2007 book that Israeli intelligence had “laundered” intelligence to the IAEA by providing it to Iranian opposition groups, especially the NCRI.

Israeli officials also went to extraordinary lengths to publicize the story of covert Iranian experiments on a key component of a nuclear weapon, which was one of messages the intelligence documents conveyed. As a result of satellite intelligence brought to the attention of the IAEA in 2004 by Undersecretary of State John Bolton, the IAEA requested two separate investigations at the main Iran military research center at Parchin. The investigations, in January 2005 and November 2005, were aimed at examining the charge that Iran was using facilities at Parchin to test high explosives used in the detonation of a nuclear weapon. In each investigation, the IAEA investigators were allowed complete freedom to search and take environmental samples at any five buildings in the complex and their surroundings. But they failed to find any evidence of any Iranian nuclear weapons-related experiments.

At that point, Israeli intelligence came up with a new story. Hersh reported that, earlier in 2006, Mossad had given the CIA an intelligence report – purportedly from one of its agents inside Iran – claiming that the Iranian military had been “testing trigger mechanisms” for a nuclear weapon. The experiment supposedly involved simulating a nuclear explosion without using any nuclear material, so that it could not be detected by the IAEA. But there were no specifics on which to base an IAEA investigation – no test site specified and no diagrams – and CIA officials told Hersh they could not learn anything more about the identity of the alleged Israeli agent.

The CIA evidently did not regard the Israeli claim as credible, because the intelligence community issued a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) in late 2007, which said that Iran had ended all work on nuclear weapons in 2003 and had not restarted it. Israel expressed dismay at the US intelligence estimate, but Israeli officials admitted that the official position that Iran was still working actively on a nuclear weapon was based on an assumption rather than any hard evidence.

Israel encountered yet another problem in its effort to promote the covert Iranian nuclear weapon narrative. The IAEA analysts doubted that Iran would be able to develop a nuclear weapon small enough to fit into the missile it had tested in 2004 without foreign assistance, as David Albright, former IAEA contract officer and director of the Institute for Science and International Security, wrote in a letter to The New York Times in November 2005.

Sometime between February and May, however, yet another purported Iranian document conveniently materialized that addressed the problem of the US NIE and the “small bomb” issue noted by Albright. The document was a long, Farsi-language report purporting to be about the testing of a system to detonate high explosives in hemispherical arrangement. Based on the new document, the IAEA safeguard department concluded that the “implosion system” on which it assumed Iran was working “could be contained within a payload container believed to be small enough to fit into the re-entry body chamber of the Shahab-3 missile.”

The document was given to the IAEA by a “Member State,” which was not identified in the leaked excerpts from an unpublished IAEA report describing it. But Albright, who knows Heinonen well, told me in a September 2008 interview, that the state in question was “probably Israel.”

The day before the Reuters and Associated Press stories attacking ElBaradei over his refusal to publish the report appeared in August 2009, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Israel “has been striving to pressure the IAEA through friendly nations and have it release the censored annex.” The operation was being handled by the director general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission and the Foreign Ministry, according to the report. The Israeli objective, Haaretz reported, was to “prove that the Iranian effort to develop nuclear weapons is continuing, contrary to the claims that Tehran stopped its nuclear program in 2003.”

Rethinking the Case Against Iran

Once the intelligence documents that have been used to indict Iran as plotting to build nuclear weapons are discounted as fabrications likely perpetrated by a self-interested party, there is no solid basis for the US policy of trying to coerce Iran into ending all uranium enrichment. And there is no reason for insisting that Iran must explain the allegations in those documents to the IAEA as a condition for any future US-Iran negotiations.

News coverage of the purported intelligence documents over the past few years has created yet another false narrative that distorts public discourse on the subject. Almost entirely ignored is the possibility that the real aim of Iran’s nuclear program is to maintain a bargaining chip with the United States, and to have a breakout capability to serve as a deterrent to a US or Israeli attack on Iran.

The evidence that documents at the center of the case for a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program are fraudulent suggests the need for a strategic reset on Iran policy. It raises both the possibility and the need for serious exploration of a diplomatic solution for the full range of issues dividing the two countries, which is the only sensible strategy for ensuring that Iran stays a non-nuclear state.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | Comments Off on Evidence of Iran Nuclear Weapons Program May Be Fraudulent

Israel ‘to raze 88 Palestinian homes’

Press TV – 19 November 2010

Israel has ordered demolition of around 88 Palestinian homes in the East al-Quds (Jerusalem) neighborhood of Silwan, Palestinian officials say.

Israeli Attorney Yehuda Weinstein ordered the destruction in al-Bustan area under the pretext that they were illegally built, said Ahmed al-Rowaidhi, the chief of al-Quds Unit at the Palestinian presidency.

“Israeli will evict 1,500 Palestinians from al-Bustan to make room for a tourist center in the area,” Rowaidhi said.

The Palestinian official further added that Weinstein’s order may affect 20,000 homes in East al-Quds.

He also warned that Israel will displace around 100,000 Palestinians from East al-Quds if it implements its demolition threats.

Israel occupied al-Quds in the 1967 war — a move not recognized by the international community and the United Nations.

Meanwhile, Israel reportedly plans to sell 3,000 new settler units in al-Quds next year after Tel Aviv approved the construction of 1,300 units in East al-Quds.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | 2 Comments

Dutch Film Director Accuses Ariel Sharon of Killing Two Palestinian Children in 1982

By Ane Irazabal – IMEMC & Agencies – November 19, 2010

George Sluizer declared that in 1982 he saw then Israeli defense minister Ariel Sharon shooting Palestinian children from near the Sabra-Shatilla refugee camp, Beirut, while he was filming a documentary. Israel officials called the report a ‘modern blood libel’.

The accusation was first made in Volkskrant, a Dutch newspaper, during an interview to George Sluizer, who was promoting the screening of his most recent film about Israel in the International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam.

According to Sluizer, who has made several documentaries about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he saw Sharon killing two Palestinian children with a pistol in 1982, near the refugee camp Sabra-Shatilla in Lebanon. Sharon was an Israeli minister of defense at that time.

“Sharon shot two children like you shoot rabbits, in front of my eyes,” he added.

Sluizer gave more details and reported hat the children were two or three years old and that Sharon shot them from a distance of 10 meters with a pistol. However, he could not specify in which month the event occurred, but he thought it was in November.

Meanwhile, Israeli government’s officials have been quick to deny accusations, claiming that the statement is not supported by a single shred of evidence and that it is very cruel to accuse Sharon of committing a murder when he cannot defend himself, Haaretz reported.

“Firstly, Sharon would never shoot a child; secondly, he was not in Lebanon in November of 1982: and thirdly, protocol prohibits ministers from wearing weapons,” Sharon’s successor as defense minister, Moshe Arens, explained.

In an interview for Haaretz, Sluizer defended his statement and said that after seeing the shooting, he had complained against Sharon in the International Court of Justice in Hague and the European Court of Human Right in Strasbourg, in 1983.

However, Israeli officials pointed out that no evidences that support that complaint have been found and added that they have warned the Dutch magazine to be careful when publishing anything that is not corroborated.

Sharon is currently in a permanent vegetative state after suffering a stroke in January 2006.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | 2 Comments

Federal Judge Orders CIA to Release Records on Secret Experiments on Soldiers

By David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | November 19, 2010

The CIA is being forced to produce specific information regarding secret tests conducted on thousands of soldiers over a 25-year period.

In response to a lawsuit filed by three veterans groups and six individual veterans, a federal judge, James Larson, ordered the CIA and other government agencies to turn over documents about testing programs and the substances used on soldiers from 1950 through 1975. The plaintiffs allege that the government used about 7,800 military personnel as human guinea pigs to research biological, chemical and psychological weapons at Edgewood Arsenal and Fort Detrick in Maryland.

The soldiers volunteered for the testing, but were not told at the time to what they were being exposed. They also were required to sign an oath of secrecy about their participation.

The CIA has put forth a variety of arguments to avoid revealing information about the 35-year-old experiments, including privacy protections, state-secrets privilege, the fact that the Department of Defense is conducting its own investigation, the passage of time, the fact that witnesses no longer work for the government, that the gathering of relevant information would take too much time, and the questionable claim that it never funded or conducted research on military personnel.

Judge Larson has insisted that the CIA must produce evidence relating to a 1963 CIA Inspector General report on an experiment called MKUltra; the basis for each redaction in that report; the doses and effects of certain substances administered to test subjects; any payments made to contractors or university researchers, any outside-party proposals concerning the experiments; a confidential Army memo about the use of volunteers in research; all government-led human experiments from 1975 to date involving specific drugs; and whether the government secretly administered MKUltra materials to “the patrons of prostitutes” in safe houses in New York and San Francisco, as the veterans allege.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, War Crimes | Comments Off on Federal Judge Orders CIA to Release Records on Secret Experiments on Soldiers

Shin Bet Torture ‘Investigator’ Moved to Israeli Justice Department

By Saed Bannoura – IMEMC News – November 18, 2010

The Israeli secret service, or Shin Bet, has always depended on ‘internal investigations’ to respond to allegations of torture and mistreatment. Now, the Shin Bet officer in charge of complaints will be moved under the jurisdiction of the Justice Department.

Israeli activists demonstrate Shin Bet torture technique (photo by 'Abolish Torture')
Israeli activists demonstrate Shin Bet torture technique (photo by ‘Abolish Torture’)

The ‘internal investigations’ have, in 100% of cases, resulted in a dismissal of complaints, often with a single sentence reply to the complainant: “There is no basis for the complaints in your letter.” The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel recently released a report showing that every single one of the 650 complaints brought to the Israeli government’s legal advisors were dismissed out of hand.

After the report’s release, Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced that he will move the employee who deals with complaints from within the Shin Bet to the Justice Department for “the sake of appearances”.

According to the Attorney General’s office, it is unlikely that the shift in jurisdiction will result in any actual change in how ‘investigations’ of complaints are conducted.

The Shin Bet has a reputation among Israeli military branches for harsh interrogation and torture of prisoners. Palestinians who have been abducted by the Shin Bet report horrific techniques used by the Shin Bet officers during interrogations, and officers within the organization have publicly admitted their use of certain techniques including the so-called ‘Palestinian hanging’, in which prisoners are hung by their handcuffed hands from a wall.

Despite the violations of international law and human rights conventions, Shin Bet officers continue to authorize the use of torture against Palestinian prisoners, including children, on a regular basis.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | 1 Comment

End of Free Internet: US Senate Committee Approves Internet “Blacklist” Bill

Activist Post | November 18, 2010

It seems the lame duck Congressional session is becoming anything but unproductive. Yesterday, we saw the cloture of the Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510), and today the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act was unanimously approved by the US Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday with a 19-0 vote. The COICA has been overwhelmingly viewed by bloggers as a corporate hijacking of the Internet by mega-media cartels.  Indeed, its eventual passage will be the end of the free Internet as we now it.

The Associated Press reported on the COICA vote:

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, which has the support of the entertainment industry but has been strongly criticized by digital rights and other groups, was approved by a vote of 19-0.

“Few things are more important to the future of the American economy and job creation than protecting our intellectual property,” said Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont who co-sponsored the bill.

“That is why the legislation is supported by both labor and industry, and Democrats and Republicans are standing together,” Leahy said.

The bill gives the Justice Department an expedited process for cracking down on websites engaged in piracy or the sale of counterfeit goods including having courts issue shutdown orders against domains based outside the United States.

“Rogue websites are essentially digital stores selling illegal and sometimes dangerous products,” Leahy said. “If they existed in the physical world, the store would be shuttered immediately and the proprietors would be arrested.”

“We cannot excuse the behavior because it happens online and the owners operate overseas,” he said. “The Internet needs to be free — not lawless.”

This legislation may be the most dangerous weapon against free speech in modern history.  The infringing activity that may land a website on the “Blacklist” is defined very broadly.  It appears that the blacklist can be enforced without a court order via ISPs.  This is total information tyranny and all independent voices need to stand up and protest or surely we’ll face the arbitrary blacklist.  David Segal reported on the blacklist regulations:

COICA creates two blacklists of Internet domain names. Courts could add sites to the first list; the Attorney General would have control over the second. Internet service providers and others (everyone from Comcast to PayPal to Google AdSense) would be required to block any domains on the first list. They would also receive immunity (and presumably the good favor of the government) if they block domains on the second list.

The lists are for sites “dedicated to infringing activity,” but that’s defined very broadly — any domain name where counterfeit goods or copyrighted material are “central to the activity of the Internet site” could be blocked.

Segal has also established a petition against this hijacking of the free internet which can be signed here. However, given that this bill passed out of committee unanimously proves that our corporate-owned public officials will surely jam this legislation down our throats.  It will likely change the Internet as we know it, essentially redirecting the flow of free information to media conglomerates.  The bill is proposed as a piracy protection bill where according to AP:

The US Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill on Thursday that would give US law enforcement more tools to crack down on websites abroad engaged in piracy of movies, television shows and music.

Clearly this was funded by media cartels, but this has a lot more to do with Internet censorship as it does about copyright infringement.  Further, this law gives the Department of Justice power to block access to websites located outside the United States.  This self-appointed global power grab is explained by activist Francis Anthony Govia:

The Justice Department will be granted power to serve court orders upon the registry where the domain name registrar is not located in the United States, and upon receipt of such an order, the domain registry must suspend operations of, and lock, the domain name of the infringing site.

During the action intended to “lock the domain name,” a court may determine, at a minimum threshold, that an Internet site is not conducting business to residents in the United States if the Internet site “states that it is not intended, and has measures to prevent, infringing materials from being accessed in or delivered to the United States,” including other provisions in subsection (d)(2)(B). The owner or operator of the “infringing site” shall also have recourse to petition the Justice Department to remove his domain name from an offending list, or petition the court to modify, suspend, or vacate the order in accordance with subsection (h)(1)(B).

This is very bad news for alternative voices and news aggregators.  Although it may be futile, we encourage everyone to call the Senate switchboard and voice their strong objection to this legislation, or we and many other “truth” sites may be essentially finished. The U.S. Capitol Hill Switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | 3 Comments