Aletho News


Palestinian Statehood: Quality as Well as Quantity

By John V. Whitbeck | Palestine Chronicle | December 22, 2010

On December 17, Bolivia extended diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine within its full pre-1967 borders (all of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem). Coming soon after the similar recognitions by Brazil and Argentina, Bolivia’s recognition brought to 106 the number of UN member states recognizing the State of Palestine, whose independence was proclaimed on November 15, 1988.

While still under foreign belligerent occupation, the State of Palestine possesses all the customary international law criteria for sovereign statehood. No portion of its territory is recognized by any other country (other than Israel) as any other country’s sovereign territory, and, indeed, Israel has only asserted sovereignty over a small portion of its territory, expanded East Jerusalem, leaving sovereignty over the rest both literally and legally uncontested.

In this context, it may be enlightening to consider the quality as well as the quantity of the states extending diplomatic recognition.

Of the world’s nine most populous states, eight (all except the United States) recognize the State of Palestine. Of the world’s 20 most populous states, 15 (all except the United States, Japan, Mexico, Germany and Thailand) recognize the State of Palestine.

By contrast, the 72 UN member states which currently recognize the Republic of Kosovo as an independent state include only one of the nine most populous states (the United States) and only four of the 20 most populous states (the United States, Japan, Germany and Turkey). When, in July, the International Court of Justice held that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence did not violate international law because international law is silent on the subject of the legality of declarations of independence (meaning that no declarations of independence violate international law and all are “legal”, albeit subject to the political decisions of sovereign states to recognize or not the independence declared), the United States responded by calling on all countries which had not already recognized Kosovo to do so promptly. Five months later, only three more have seen fit to do so — Honduras, Kiribati and Tuvalu.

If the Arab League were now to call on the minority of UN member states which have not already recognized Palestine to do so promptly, it is certain that the response would be far superior (both in quantity and in quality) to the response to the recent American appeal on behalf of Kosovo. It should do so.

Notwithstanding that (by my rough calculations) states encompassing between 80% and 90% of the world’s population recognize the State of Palestine while states encompassing only between 10% and 20% of the world’s population recognize the Republic of Kosovo, the Western media (and, indeed, much of the non-Western media as well) act as though Kosovo’s independence were an accomplished fact while Palestine’s independence is only an aspiration which can never be realized without Israeli-American consent, and much of international public opinion (including, apparently, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah) has, at least until recently, permitted itself to be brainwashed into thinking and acting accordingly.

As in most aspects of international relations, it is not the nature of the act (or crime) which matters but, rather, who is doing it to whom. Palestine was conquered and is still occupied, 43 years later, by the military forces of Israel. What most of the world (including the UN and even five EU member states) still regards as the Serbian province of Kosovo was conquered and is still occupied, 11 years later, by the military forces of NATO, the American flag is flown there at least as widely as the Kosovo flag and the capital, Pristina, boasts a Bill Clinton Boulevard and a larger-than-life-size statue of the former American president.

Might makes right, at least in the hearts and minds of the mighty, including most Western decision-makers and opinion-formers.

Meanwhile, as a perpetual “peace process” appears suddenly threatened by peaceful recourse to international law and international organizations, the U.S. House of Representatives has adopted by a unanimous voice vote a resolution drafted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) calling on President Obama not to recognize the State of Palestine and to veto any effort by Palestine to obtain UN membership.

Western politicians and the Western media customarily apply the term “international community” to the United States and whatever countries are willing to publicly support it on a given issue and apply the term “rogue state” to any country which actively resists Israeli-American global domination. By its slavish subservience to Israel, as reflected yet again both in the absence of a single brave voice raised against this new House resolution and in the Obama administration’s recently rejected offer of a huge military and diplomatic bribe to Israel in reward for a mere 90-day suspension of its illegal colonization program, the United States has effectively excluded itself from the true international community (redefined to refer to the great majority of mankind) and become a true rogue state, acting in consistent and flagrant contempt of both international law and fundamental human rights.

One might hope that the United States could still pull back from the abyss and recover its own independence, but all signs are pointing in the opposite direction. It is a sad ending for a once admirable country.

– John V. Whitbeck, an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel, is author of “The World According to Whitbeck”.

December 23, 2010 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | Comments Off on Palestinian Statehood: Quality as Well as Quantity

Obama’s Liberty Problem

Why Indefinite Detention By Executive Order Should Scare the Hell Out of People

By BILL QUIGLEY and VINCE WARREN | CounterPunch | December 23, 2010

The right to liberty is one of the foundation rights of a free people.  The idea  that any US President can bypass Congress and bypass the Courts by issuing an  Executive Order setting up a new legal system for indefinite detention of people  should rightfully scare the hell out of the American people.

Advisors in the Obama administration have floated the idea of creating a special  new legal system to indefinitely detain people by Executive Order.

Why?  To do  something with the people wrongfully imprisoned in Guantanamo. Why not follow  the law and try them?  The government knows it will not be able to win  prosecutions against them because they were tortured by the US.

Guantanamo is coming up on its ninth anniversary – a horrifying stain on the  character of the US commitment to justice.  President Obama knows well that  Guantanamo is the most powerful recruitment tool for those challenging the US.   Unfortunately, this proposal for indefinite detention will prolong the corrosive  effects of the illegal and immoral detentions at Guantanamo rightly condemned  world-wide.

The practical, logical, constitutional and human rights problems with the  proposal are uncountable.

Our system provides a simple answer developed over hundreds of years – try them  or release them.  Any other stop gap measure like the one proposed merely pushes  the problem back down the road and back into the courts again.  While it may  appear to be a popular political response, the public will soon enough see this  for what it is – an unconstitutional usurping of power by the Executive branch  and a clear and present danger to all Americans

The US government has never publicly said who can be prosecuted and who they  have decided to hold indefinitely because they think they cannot successfully  charge them.  Now, after holding people for years and years, they think they can  create a new set of laws by Executive Order which will justify their actions?

Recall that dozens of the very same people who would now be subject to  indefinite detention have already been cleared for release by the government.   How can indefinite detention of people we already cleared to go home possibly be  legal?

The government proposes essentially to detain people for being a potential  member or friend of the enemy force – a standard that is too open ended and  inconsistent with the US and international laws of war.

Our criminal process, requiring charge, conviction and other safeguards, is the  primary means by which the government may deprive a person of liberty, with  carefully limited exceptions.

“Freedom from bodily restraint has always been at the core of the liberty  protected by the Due Process Clause from arbitrary governmental action.”  The  Supreme Court has “always been careful not to “minimize the importance and  fundamental nature of the individual’s right to liberty.” Foucha v Louisiana,  504 US 71 (1992).

The liberty of all persons is protected by the criminal process guarantees,  among other rights: the right to be free from unreasonable searches and  seizures; probable cause for arrest; right to counsel, right to indictment by  grand jury; right to trial by an impartial jury; the right to a speedy public  trial; the presumption of innocence; the right that government must prove beyond  a reasonable doubt every fact necessary to make out the charged offense; a  privilege against self-incrimination; the right to confront and cross examine  witnesses; the right to present witnesses and use compulsory process; the duty  on the government to disclose exculpatory evidence; prohibition against double  jeopardy; prohibition against bills of attainder and ex post facto laws; and a  prohibition against selective prosecution.

For hundreds of years judges and legislatures and advocates for justice have  struggled to create protections for our liberty.  People who suggest bypassing  all of these protections of our liberty in the name of safety or politics do our  people and our history a grave disservice.

Some wrongfully suggest that preventive detention by the Executive would be  allowed because the law already allows civil confinement.  But there are only  very narrow circumstances when limited civil confinement is allowed by law.  It  is clear government cannot use civil detention or anything like it to effect  punishment or to escape the comprehensive constraints of the criminal justice  system. Kansas v Crane, 534 US 407, 412 (2002) (noting that civil commitment  must not “become a mechanism for retribution or general deterrence.

Further, preventive detention also violates international law, specifically the  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), article 9.

The proposal to create a special new legal system by Executive Order is an end  run around Congress and the Judiciary. It will lengthen the illegal detentions  in Guantanamo and will force this entire system back into the courts for years.   It will further damage US efforts to portray itself as a fair country of laws,  and will threaten the liberty of every single US citizen who is not in  Guantanamo because it will damage the due process guarantees which have built up  over the years to protect each one of us.

Vince Warren is the Executive Director at the Center
for Constitutional Rights (CCR).

Bill Quigley is Legal Director of CCR and law
professor at Loyola University New Orleans. You can reach Bill at

December 23, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite | 1 Comment

Haaretz journalist doubles as anti-“delegitimization” operative

By Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 23 December 2010

Haaretz has an international reputation as Israel’s most liberal and reliable newspaper. But The Electronic Intifada has discovered that one of the newspaper’s regularly-featured reporters, Cnaan Liphshiz, used his news reports for the publication to promote the agenda of an extreme pro-Israel group with which he was also employed.

At the same time, Liphshiz appears to have made efforts to conceal his work with the Dutch Zionist group CIDI (Centre for Documentation and Information on Israel), an undisclosed conflict of interest which calls into question the reliability of his reports and the editorial standards of Haaretz.

From 2007 until the present, Liphshiz has written about 50 articles in Haaretz which quote information provided by CIDI or its executive director Ronny Naftaniel, usually without offering any countervailing opinion or sources. Many of Liphshiz’s stories are based entirely on information provided by CIDI.

CIDI has confirmed to The Electronic Intifada that Lipshiz worked for the organization, and is likely to work for them again in the future.

CIDI has earned a reputation as one of the staunchest advocates for Israel in the Netherlands, launching stinging personal attacks and smears on public figures and groups who dare to call on Israel to respect human rights. In an article for The Electronic Intifada, Stan van Houcke, a Dutch journalist and author, described CIDI as an organization whose main goal is to cover up Israel’s violations of international law (“Dutch ‘research’ group covers for Israeli crimes,” violations, 5 November 2007).

Using Haaretz to “delegitimize” The Electronic Intifada

On 17 December, Haaretz published a profile by Cnaan Liphshiz of Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal (““Dutch FM: Ties with Israel are like our bond with NATO“).

In the story, Liphshiz writes: “One of Rosenthal’s first statements regarding Israel as minister concerned the website The Electronic Intifada … .”

The Electronic Intifada has been the target of attacks orchestrated by NGO Monitor, an Israeli group linked to the Israeli government and the West Bank settler movement and funded by Islamophobic organizations and individuals in the United States (“Why NGO Monitor is attacking The Electronic Intifada,” 30 November 2010).

Liphshiz’s 17 December article went on to repeat accusations meant to defame The Electronic Intifada — that the publication frequently compares Israel to “Nazi Germany” (an accusation, incidentally, that can be made with much greater justice against Haaretz). Liphshiz did not quote from The Electronic Intifada’s extensive refutation of NGO Monitor’s accusations, or seek a comment from the publication (Haaretz subsequently appears to have removed an entire paragraph of Liphshiz’s article dealing with The Electronic Intifada).

CIDI has also promoted NGO Monitor’s attacks on The Electronic Intifada on its website, including NGO Monitor’s false and fabricated allegations of “anti-Semitism” and use of The Electronic Intifada funds for speaking tours (“Onderzoek naar financiering ICCO van Electronic Intifada,” 26 November 2010).

It would appear that Liphshiz is more interested in promoting NGO Monitor’s and CIDI’s campaign against The Electronic Intifada — and more generally against critics of Israel’s appalling human rights abuses — than acting as a professional and transparent journalist.

Liphshiz’s double role

Cnaan Liphshiz is scheduled to take part in Jewish Identity Day activities in the Netherlands on 9 January 2011. The official website promoting his participation stated that:

“Cnaan is an Israeli reporter for the well-known nespaper [sic] “Haaretz”, and the European Jewish Press, focusing on the campaign to delegetimize [sic] Israel in Europe. Cnaan also writes about immigration trends and Jewish world news.”

It explained that “His background in journalism grew out of serving in the Israel Defense Forces during the second intifada, first as a special forces combatant and then, following an injury, as an intelligence corps researcher in a unit monitoring the intelligence apparatuses of hostile and rival entities.”

It also revealed that, “Before coming to Holland to work at CIDI, He lived in Florentin, a neighborhood in the south of Tel Aviv … .”

Website metadata indicate this webpage was created in October 2010.

After The Electronic Intifada began its inquiries regarding Liphshiz’s undisclosed dual status as a frequent Haaretz reporter and an employee of CIDI, the Jewish Identity Day website was changed to omit any reference to Liphshiz’s employment with CIDI or that he apparently moved to The Netherlands specifically to work for the organization. The relevant section now simply states:

“Before coming to Holland, He lived in Florentin, a neighborhood in the south of Tel Aviv … .” (

However, Google cache and copies of the webpage made by The Electronic Intifada before it was changed confirm the apparent effort to conceal information about Liphshiz’s affiliation with CIDI.

A screenshot of the Jewish Identity Day’s website showing Lipshiz’s original bio
A closeup of the original bio showing Lipshiz was employed at CIDI …
… the bio after it was modified to hide Lipshiz’s employment at CIDI


CIDI’s public information officer, Naomi Mestrum, confirmed in a response to questions emailed by The Electronic Intifada that “CIDI knows Mr. Cnaan Liphshiz, but he is not an employee of our organisation. However Mr. Liphshiz did a project involving research for us on a freelance basis this year.”

In response to further inquiries, Mestrum added that Liphshiz “helped us update a statistical research on Jewish immigration to and from Europe. He may help us update and elaborate the same database in the future.”

Regardless of technicalities of whether he is paid as a freelancer or on regular payroll, CIDI confirmed a past and likely future pecuniary relationship between CIDI and Liphshiz. Mestrum did not respond to a question regarding the start and end dates of Liphshiz’s paid work for CIDI.

Charlotte Halle, editor of the Haaretz English edition, confirmed to The Electronic Intifada that Liphshiz had been employed by the Haaretz English edition up to August 2010, “though he has contributed the occasional piece on a freelance basis since then.”

Halle pointed out that Liphshiz’s most recent pieces, including the 17 December profile of Uri Rosenthal, had been commissioned not by the Haaretz English edition but in the online edition.

Gadi Lahav, editor-in-chief of Haaretz online, wrote to The Electronic Intifada that “Cnaan Liphshiz was previously employed by Haaretz, but is now writing occasionally on a freelance basis. Mr. Liphshiz denies that he is employed on a permanent basis by any organization, including CIDI.”

In an apparent reference to Liphshiz’s 17 December article, Lahav added, “As for this specific article, it wasn’t published by the printed edition, and it seems it ran on the website by mistake.”

Liphshiz did not respond to a request for comment emailed to him at an address provided by Mestrum.

What is now clear is that Liphshiz has maintained for an extended period an employment relationship with both Haaretz and CIDI that should have been disclosed to readers and was not. Liphshiz continues to try to evade giving his editors or the public clear answers about the status of his relationship with CIDI. This is not a case of a freelancer writing one or two articles and failing to disclose a passing relationship with an organization that might have been mentioned once or twice, but a regular writer who has contributed dozens of articles favorable to the organization for which he worked, and advancing its advocacy agenda.

Using Haaretz as a cover to push CIDI’s agenda

Liphshiz’s dual role with CIDI is both a matter of public interest, and conflict of interest for Haaretz. In his reports for the newspaper, Liphshiz frequently cites information provided by CIDI without any countervailing view or analysis and without disclosing his own relationship to the group, as a few examples illustrate.

A 9 September 2009 story headlined “Dutch Jews suffered tenfold increase in anti-Semitic attacks during Gaza war” relies entirely on statistics provided by CIDI.

In a 27 June 2008 profile of Dries van Agt, a former Dutch prime minister and outspoken critic of Israel’s human rights violations, Liphshiz counters van Agt’s charges that Israel is “making frequent and excessive use of deadly force against the Palestinians,” by citing CIDI. Liphshiz then cites accusations of “anti-Semitism” against van Agt from various “accusers,” some of whom are unnamed (“‘Dutch Jimmy Carter’ accuses Israel of terrorism in new book“). Many criticisms and questions Liphshiz directs against van Agt appear to be lifted from an article written in Dutch by CIDI founder Ronny Naftaniel (“Van Agt heeft selectief geheugen“).

In an 2 April 2008 story, Liphshiz misleadingly casts CIDI and its director Ronny Naftaniel as courageous defenders of Muslims against the rising tide of Islamophobia in the Netherlands (“Dutch Jews louder than Muslims in condemning ‘Fitna’ film“).

Naftaniel claims credit for criticizing a film by Dutch Islamophobic demagogue Geert Wilders. “We are never afraid to speak out in the harshest of terms against what we think is wrong, be it against Muslim extremism here in the Netherlands, or the Dutch or Israeli governments,” Liphshiz quotes Naftaniel as saying. “But this movie portrays all Muslims as The Enemy. And this is just not true.”

These are examples of numerous articles in which Liphshiz provides an uncritical and favorable platform to CIDI and its (his) boss in Haaretz but does not disclose his relationship.

“Delegitimization” is a political stance not a reporter’s beat

The description of Liphshiz on the Jewish Identity Day website as a journalist “focusing on the campaign to delegetimize [sic] Israel in Europe” is troubling. The characterization of the activities by Palestine solidarity activists and Israeli human rights groups as “delegitimization” is a political stance promoted by such organizations as CIDI itself, NGO Monitor, The Reut Institute and the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

On 9 December, for example, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon held a press conference at which NGO Monitor director Gerald Steinberg named The Electronic Intifada as “a very powerful organization” at the center of a global network to “delegitimize” Israel (transcript of press conference via Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

That Liphshiz may take it as a given that Palestine solidarity activities constitute “delegitimization,” suggests he is less a truth-seeking journalist, than a foot soldier in Israeli government-endorsed propaganda efforts.

In the 17 December article profiling Rosenthal, for example, Liphshiz even repeats claims made by NGO Monitor that the Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv has a “pro-Palestinian agenda” — simply because it has upheld long-standing Dutch government policies regarding the occupied Palestinian territories.

While reporters and journalists may have affiliations to, and may advocate for political and activist groups in accordance with basic freedoms of association and expression, the essence of ethical practice is disclosure of these relationships whenever relevant, especially if they could be seen as affecting the reporter’s work or judgment. In this case Liphshiz has been passing off his advocacy for CIDI as “news” reporting under the banner of Haaretz.

Perhaps Liphshiz sees his “journalism” work as a mere continuation of his time “as an intelligence corps researcher in a unit monitoring the intelligence apparatuses of hostile and rival entities” — in which case disclosure would of course be a problem.

If Haaretz wishes to rescue its journalistic reputation it would be well-advised to ensure that it does not become a mere vehicle for political smear campaigns conducted by extremist organizations and their operatives.

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

December 23, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | Comments Off on Haaretz journalist doubles as anti-“delegitimization” operative

Invasive Questioning of US Citizens at the Border

Suzanne Ito | ACLU | December 16, 2010

Over the past several years, at ports, land border crossings, and international airports across the country, U.S. citizens and lawful residents who are Muslim, or who are perceived to be Muslim, have been targeted by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers for questioning about deeply personal beliefs, associations and religious practices protected by the First Amendment. On their way home to the U.S., these Americans have been asked about their religious identity, what mosques they attend, how often they pray, their religious charitable giving, and their views on U.S. military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some have had their electronic devices, such as laptops and cell phones, searched and data copied.

The U.S. government has a legitimate interest in verifying the identity and citizenship or legal status of individuals seeking to reenter the country. It also has an interest in ensuring that individuals who pose a threat to national security are detected and brought to justice.

But no legitimate government interest is served when CBP officers question a citizen or lawful resident about his or her religious or political beliefs, associations, or religious practices, or religious charitable giving when there is no reasonable suspicion, based on credible evidence, that the person has engaged in criminal activity. This practice harms our country’s national security interests by wasting scarce government resources, generating false leads, and eroding the trust of these religious and racial/ethnic communities in law enforcement and government.

On December 16, 2010, the ACLU and Muslim Advocates sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner requesting an investigation into this troubling practice. The ACLU and Muslim Advocates also filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection for information records about whether and when government officials are permitted to ask citizens and legal residents about their protected beliefs, associations, and activities during border inspections

Questioning individuals about their protected religious and political beliefs, associations, and religious practices (like charitable giving) may infringe upon rights guaranteed by the Constitution and federal law — rights that are not surrendered at the border.

Aun Hasan Ali is a U.S. citizen, a resident of Montreal, Canada, and a Muslim. He is a graduate student at McGill University in Montreal, works as a teaching fellow, and frequently travels to New Jersey to visit his family. On August 6, 2009, Mr. Ali sought to enter the United States from Canada with his wife and three-month-old daughter on a trip to visit his parents in New Jersey. After providing a CBP agent at the Champlain border crossing with his and his wife’s U.S. passports and his daughter’s birth certificate, Mr. Ali and his family were held for over an hour of questioning and searches by CBP. Three CBP officers questioned Mr. Ali and asked, “Do you go to the mosque?”; “Why?”; “How often?”; “What mosque?”; “Are you an Imam at the mosque?”; and “Are you Shi’a or Sunni?”

The August 2009 incident was not the first time that CBP officers subjected Mr. Ali to questioning about protected beliefs and practices. In April 2004, Mr. Ali returned to the United States from Yemen, where he was studying Arabic, in order to attend his sister’s wedding. After arriving at Newark International Airport, he was pulled out of the passport control line by a CBP officer and taken to a room where he was questioned by three other CBP officers and asked, “Do you prefer Fox News or Al-Jazeera?” “How do you feel about the U.S. occupation in Iraq?” and “What are your attitudes regarding American policy in Israel?” He was held for questioning and searches by CBP for nearly three hours before being permitted to leave.

As a result of these experiences, Mr. Ali feels that he must watch what he says while he is in the United States. He is reluctant to have open and honest conversations about political or potentially controversial topics in the United States, in contrast to Canada, where he feels comfortable expressing his opinions about the government and foreign policy.


December 23, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Islamophobia | 1 Comment