Aletho News



Steve Amsel | Desert Peace | January 13, 2011

And what’s not to love? They are separated from their families and loved ones by a concrete wall making visits difficult, or impossible. Access to mosques is forbidden during Holy Days. Their children are accosted daily by Israeli soldiers on their way to and from school …. often imprisoned or murdered just for the fun of it.

And the great outdoors….. where else but in Occupied Jerusalem can a family be evicted from its home to make room for illegal Jewish settlers…. sanctioned by a court order?

Just think of the money these Palestinians can save by not having to bring gifts to loved ones they cannot visit … or contributions to their mosques that they are forbidden to go to … or having to feed an imprisoned or murdered child … or the city taxes they no longer have to pay as living in a tent is tax free.

Just think about those things so you won’t be surprised at the results of a Poll just held in Occupied East Jerusalem. I’m sure ever Jew living there was questioned as the results are definitely not a reflection of what any Palestinian is thinking.

Reading the Israeli press lately has become like reading America’s satirical newspaper ‘The Onion’…. it’s just not real. Case in point is the following;

Poll: Jerusalem Arabs prefer Israel

US poll: 39% of east Jerusalem Arabs prefer to live under Israeli sovereignty; 30% didn’t answer

YNET | January 13, 2011

WASHINGTON – The future of Jerusalem is considered one of the core issues in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and one of the most significant obstacles to a permanent agreement between the two sides. However, it appears that on the Palestinian side, those who live in Jerusalem have already made their decision on the matter – and the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah may not like it. …

January 13, 2011 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | Comments Off on PALESTINIANS: LIVING UNDER THE OCCUPATION AND LOVING IT

UK nuke sites put public at risk

Press TV – January 13, 2011

A nuclear safety watchdog says UK nuclear weapons sites pose great public and environmental risks, amid complications caused by the government’s spending review.

The Ministry of Defense’s nuclear safety watchdog said in a report that there are 11 bomb-making sites and ports housing nuclear submarines across the UK that pose potentially significant risks, the daily Guardian reported.

Budget cuts and staff shortages were already hurting nuclear safety before the new government began slashing government spending, the report added.

The reports warns that efforts to reduce radioactive risks have been “weak”, safety analyses “inconsistent” and attempts to cope with change “poor.”

The danger zones include nuclear weapons sites and the two places where nuclear submarines no longer in use are docked, nine at Devonport in Plymouth and seven at Rosyth on the Firth of Forth in Scotland, said the report.

The report also reveals that there is “no funded plan” for the decommissioning of Britain’s 16 defunct nuclear submarines.

The report by Rear Adm. Nigel Guild, chairman of the defense nuclear environment and safety board, is restricted, but the newspaper said it had been allowed to look at Ministry of Defense documents.

Guild said no money has been allocated to decommission the nuclear submarines. The report, which covers 2006 and 2007, identified 11 sites, including Devonport and Rosyth, where there are “potentially serious risks” — as well as Aldermaston and Burghfield, the nuclear weapons factories, and nuclear submarines near Glasgow.

A 10 percent shortage of suitably qualified staff was “one of the greatest challenges to the sustainable future of the defense nuclear program,” he said.

According to the documents seen by the Guardian, funding cuts have already been hampering the MoD’s ability to ensure good safety performance at nuclear weapons sites even before the coalition government began imposing the spending squeeze.

“Often, in government, the management approach is to first impose a reduction in resource, and only then to assess its implications,” added Guild.

“Fulfilling the legal requirement to reduce radiation exposure to as low as reasonably practical was often weakened by excessive cost estimates and delays”, he said.

Guild described the MoD’s response to major organizational changes as “generally poor and significantly below best practice in the civil nuclear programs”.

The control of potentially hazardous activities was also said to be “below best practice” at several sites, with particular problems highlighted at Devonport in 2006.

Arrangements for the transport of warheads and other nuclear materials were “inconsistent” and emergency plans “have not accorded with standard UK practice”.

According to one former MoD official, nuclear safety had been compromised.

Fred Dawson, who worked for the MoD for 31 years and was head of its radiation protection policy team before he retired in 2009, described the absence of funds for decommissioning nuclear submarines as “particularly damning”.

“It suggests that the need to make cost savings is being put ahead of the need to meet regulatory safety and environmental standards”, he said.

January 13, 2011 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | Comments Off on UK nuke sites put public at risk

Book review: Arafat’s ghost and the Palestinian national movement

Osamah Khalil, The Electronic Intifada, 13 January 2011

November 2010 marked the sixth anniversary of the death of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. For the last two years of his life, the once peripatetic leader who was a constant fixture on the world stage for almost four decades, was reduced to living in a small compound-cum-prison. Only after he became gravely ill did Israel permit Arafat to leave for medical treatment in France. Less than three weeks later, he returned to Ramallah in a coffin and was buried in a chaotic funeral. While the circumstances surrounding his death remain shrouded in controversy, its impact on the Palestinian national movement is indisputable.

Although As’ad Ghanem’s new book Palestinian Politics after Arafat: A Failed National Movement focuses on the post-Arafat era, the dead leader permeates the pages and his legacy hangs like a specter over the Palestinian body politic. As Ghanem documents, Arafat’s actions and decisions as chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) (1969-2004) and as president of the Palestinian Authority (1996-2004) served not only to consolidate his rule, but were directly responsible for the current crisis in the Palestinian national movement and its inability to achieve its goals.

A senior lecturer in the School of Political Science at the University of Haifa, Ghanem is unsparing in his assessment of the current state of Palestinian politics and unsentimental in his analysis. The Palestinian national movement has not only failed as the book’s subtitle declares, but is “disintegrating.” What follows, Ghanem argues, is fratricidal chaos.

Ghanem’s main argument is bleak. “The crisis among the Palestinians is so severe,” he writes, “that the street fighting and confrontations covered by the media barely scratch the surface” (p. x). He adds that “the Palestinians have actually lost the ability to function efficiently, internally or externally, as a single national group” (p. 173).

Drawing on primary and secondary sources in English and Arabic, Ghanem identifies three internal and external indicators that demonstrate that the Palestinian movement has failed. Internally, he argues, the movement has descended into “internecine struggle and internal collapse” (p. 18). More importantly, he contends that the movement has not achieved a single goal in its conflict with Zionism: it has not liberated Palestine, established an independent state, or even achieved a stable peace with Israel. Nor has Zionism been rejected internationally as a colonial movement. Finally, the stature of the Palestinian national movement in the Arab and international arenas has “plummeted” (p. 18).

What is the cause of this failure? Ghanem argues that the seeds were planted during the Oslo period (1993-2000). He asserts that a combination of factors have led to the “political bankruptcy” of the PA and the PLO (p. 12). These include the PLO’s shift from pursuing a comprehensive solution to a partial resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as embodied by the Oslo accords, Arafat’s dominance over the national movement and the increased corruption under his leadership.

Palestinian Politics after Arafat picks up where works by Yezid Sayigh and Rashid Khalidi left off. But while Ghanem cites and references Sayigh’s Armed Struggle and the Search for State (1997), Khalidi’s The Iron Cage (2007) is notably absent. Ghanem also benefits from and draws upon his earlier critical examination of the Palestinian national movement and the PA in The Palestinian Regime (2001). In both books Ghanem’s analysis echoes many of Edward Said’s criticisms of Arafat and the PA, particularly those discussed in his edited volumes Peace and its Discontents (1996), The End of the Peace Process (2001), and From Oslo to Iraq and the Road Map (2005). Indeed, Ghanem substantiates many of Said’s claims of the cronyism, corruption and authoritarianism that pervaded the PA and became synonymous with Arafat’s regime.

In chapter 1, Ghanem addresses the influence of external factors on the Palestinian national movement, offering a compelling analysis of Israel’s “post-Oslo strategy.” Adopted in the wake of the failed Camp David Summit in 2000, he argues that Israeli policy toward the Palestinians under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon shifted from conflict resolution to conflict management. The key element of this strategy was the separation of the two populations through the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the construction of Israel’s “separation wall” in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the existence of the PA allowed Palestinians to retain some measure of limited self-governance. Ghanem convincingly demonstrates that Israel’s goal was the establishment of a “Palestinian entity,” offering “more than autonomy and less than a state” (p. 36).

The reorientation of Israeli policy was driven by two related factors: first, Israel’s preoccupation with the “demographic threat” — in other words, that Palestinians will become the majority within the boundaries of historic Palestine. And second, the fear that Israel will be transformed into a binational state. Ghanem argues that in spite of Israeli efforts to ensure a Jewish majority, the higher birth rate of Palestinians portends the opposite, creating a constant source of “concern among Jewish politicians and academics interested in the character and identity of the state, prompting many of them to seek new ways of guaranteeing a Jewish majority” (p. 23). He demonstrates that Israeli academia, think tanks and the government often worked closely in researching and assessing strategies to deal with this issue. However, Israel’s post-Oslo strategy has been complicated by the parallel policies of increased settlement activity and the annexation of the Jordan River Valley. As a result, Israel’s goal of separation from the Palestinians is undermined by the greater desire for Palestinian land and resources.

In chapter 2, Ghanem discusses recent Israeli public opinion polls to demonstrate that the shift in Israeli policy has benefited from broad-based support. More importantly, these polls reveal that the maximum the Israeli public would be willing to concede in any peace agreement does not meet the minimum of Palestinian demands or fulfill their rights under international law. Thus, barring a dramatic shift in Israeli public opinion, the strategy adopted by the Palestinian leadership of negotiations accompanied by attempts to convince Israelis of their willingness to achieve peace is bound to fail.

The core of Palestinian Politics after Arafat focuses on the internal causes for the current state of affairs and their implications. In chapter 3, Ghanem analyzes Arafat’s successful effort to consolidate power first within the PLO and then the PA. He convincingly argues that the failures of the PA were rooted in the structure of the PLO and Arafat’s leadership of the organization, which “provide a partial explanation for both Palestinian achievements since the 1950s and also for the Palestinians’ failure to attain their national goals” (p. 71). Indeed, as Sayigh demonstrates, after the assassinations of Fatah’s cofounders and his closest advisors, Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad) and Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad) in 1988 and 1991, respectively, Arafat had few rivals within Fatah or the PLO with the authority to challenge his decision-making. Therefore, with the decline of the leftist wing of the PLO by the end of the Cold War and the predominance of Fatah within the organization, Arafat was able to consolidate his rule over both.

Building on Sayigh’s Armed Struggle and the Search for State, Ghanem demonstrates that the Oslo accords and creation of the PA represented the logical conclusion of Arafat’s leadership of the PLO. In other words, the agreement could not have been signed if the PLO were truly a democratic and representative organization with a leadership that was elected by and responsive to its constituency or with functional independent institutions. Instead, the PLO’s quota system was exploited by Arafat “to guarantee passage of the decisions he supported and the selection of his confidants to important posts” (p. 72). Meanwhile, it allowed for representation of the different Palestinian political groups and “independents” in the Palestinian National Council (i.e., the Palestinians’ “parliament in exile”) and the PLO’s Central and Executive Committees based largely on their size. In reality, the independents were largely aligned with Fatah, further bolstering its weight within the PLO and enhancing Arafat’s power. The end result was that the PLO’s different legislative and executive organs “had no real power, a vacuum was created at the top of the power structure — a vacuum that was filled by one man, a single individual who had replaced the institution” (p. 73).

The implications of Arafat’s control over the national movement were evidenced after his death with the scission of the Palestinian body politic. While the election of Mahmoud Abbas as Arafat’s successor in 2005 appeared to ensure Fatah’s hold on power, Hamas’s victory under a banner of “Reform and Change” in the parliamentary elections a year later represented the most significant threat to Fatah’s nearly forty years of dominance over the national movement. The ensuing clashes led to a rift between the two organizations as well as between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that has yet to be resolved. Ghanem asserts that the conflict between Fatah and Hamas is “substantial in every respect” and that it “relates to deep and fundamental political, social and cultural differences in approach between the two movements.” Overcoming these differences, he argues, will require “great effort” to resolve the conflict between the two organizations based on their mutual embrace of “democratic principles” (p. 143-144).

However, Ghanem is pessimistic that such a rapprochement is possible. He concludes that “new thinking” is required by Palestinians “about all of the options available to them in their internal affairs and their relations with Israel, the West and the Arab world” (p. 182). While the current crisis in the national movement can be directly attributed to the “choice of Arafat and the PLO to guide Palestinian affairs,” Ghanem opines that “it is hard to envision the various factions and currents in the Palestinian national movement taking a consensual and logical step in this direction, and therefore it is improbable that it can extricate itself from the crisis” (p. 183).

Palestinian Politics after Arafat is a welcome addition to the literature on the Palestinian national movement, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Middle East peace process. It is written in a clear style that makes it accessible to both specialized and general audiences. Although the text does suffer from repetition and would have benefited from closer and more thorough editing, these minor flaws do not diminish the overall work. It is highly recommended for readers seeking a better understanding of the history and current state of Palestinian politics.

Six years after his death, Arafat’s ghost still haunts the Palestinian national movement. From the cult of personality he constructed to the institutions he established and the agreements he signed, Arafat’s influence was not only profound but enduring. Indeed, the politics of divide and rule, and governance through intimidation, wasteful duplication and destructive rivalries that Ghanem describes have been adopted by Arafat’s children — his former supporters and associates who are ubiquitous inside and outside of government and who have chosen to mimic his style of leadership. Thus, Arafat’s specter is likely to hang over yet another generation of Palestinians. If Palestinians are to find a way out of this crisis, they must begin not by glorifying the national movement but by demystifying and demythologizing its history, and conducting a frank assessment of its successes and failures. Palestinian Politics after Arafat is an important step in that direction.

Osamah Khalil is a PhD candidate in US & Middle East History at the University of California, Berkeley. This essay was originally published by H-Net Reviews and is republished with the author’s permission.

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January 13, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | Comments Off on Book review: Arafat’s ghost and the Palestinian national movement

Clinton: US “Can’t Stop” Israel From Settling

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton (PNN Images)
PNN | January 13, 2011

Doha – At a press conference in Doha, Qatar, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said the power of American foreign policy was inherently limited when it came to pressuring Israel.

Asked by an al-Jazeera reporter why Arab countries should take US advice when US pressure on Israel proved ineffectual, Clinton explained, “Israel is a sovereign country and it makes its own decisions. [The US] can’t stop a lot of countries from doing things that we disagree and we speak out against. I wish there was a way we could tell a lot of countries what they should do because there are a lot of countries doing things that are not in the best interests of their own people, their neighbors, or the world.”

American pressure on Israel’s illegal settlement policies has amounted, in the past months since Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were derailed over the issue of settlements, to statements of disappointment and discouragement. Most recently, Clinton called the demolition of the historic Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem a “disturbing development.”

However, neither Clinton nor US President Barack Obama has been able to enforce any kind of settlement freeze in the Palestinian territories. Clinton speculated that Israel’s intransigence was due to caution over possible new violence in the West Bank.

“You often make decisions based on your own experience and history,” said Clinton. “And when the Israelis pulled out of Lebanon they got Hezbollah and 40,000 rockets and when they pulled out of Gaza they got Hamas and 20,000 rockets.”

Secretary Clinton was in Doha for a regional development conference.

January 13, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | 2 Comments

The ethnocentric blindness of left Zionism

By Henry Norr | Mondoweiss | January 12, 2011

Haaretz doesn’t often run columns by Uri Avnery, but last week they printed a piece of his entitled “Freedom of expression in Israel is a hollow pretension.” It starts with a well-deserved tribute to Jonathan Pollak, the courageous Israeli activist who has just begun serving three months in jail, officially for taking part in a protest bicycle ride in Tel Aviv during Operation Cast Lead, but actually for his longtime work as a leader of the Anarchists Against the Wall and an ally and advocate for the Palestinian grassroots resistance movement.

Avnery uses the prosecution of Pollak to make a larger point. “Israel is sliding down a slippery slope,” he writes. “A country that imprisons its Jonathan Pollaks will end up with jails filled with ‘opponents of the regime.’ We have seen that in other places − let’s hope we don’t see it here.”

Now, I happen to be an admirer of Avnery, even though I consider his brand of left Zionism morally and practically bankrupt. For decades he has bravely written and demonstrated in opposition to Israeli occupation and aggression, and for his trouble he has to endure intense hostility from most of his fellow Jews. I can only hope that when I reach his current age (87), I’m half as active and outspoken as he remains.

That said, I find the lines just quoted from his column appalling, because they are infected by the same Judeo-centrism that blinds most of Avnery’s compatriots to the realities around them.

In fact, it’s not just in “other places” that the jails are filled with “opponents of the regime” – that’s true in Israel today, and has been not just since 1967, but since the state was born in 1948 and martial law was imposed on the Palestinian population. As of Nov. 30, 2010, there were 5,741 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, according to data from the Israeli Prison Service compiled by B’tselem. That’s down from the more than 8,000 who were incarcerated two years ago, but still more than four times as many as were held in 2001. Overall, it is estimated that about a fifth of the Palestinian population has been imprisoned by the Israelis at one time or another since 1967. Since most (though by no means all) of those arrested are men and boys, one-fifth of the population translates into somewhere been a third and two-fifths of adult male Palestinians.)

Avnery, I’m sure, knows all this much better than I. Yet when he writes in Haaretz, he chooses, consciously or not, to focus only on the Jews: what troubles him is not the present reality of Palestinians by the thousands languishing in prison, but the specter of a similar fate befalling Jewish dissidents in the future.

“Let’s hope we don’t see it here,” he writes. But “it” is already there, just not for Avnery and his (and my) tribe. Let’s hope he and his readers do see that, and soon.

January 13, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | Comments Off on The ethnocentric blindness of left Zionism

Canada’s double standards

Yves Engler, The Electronic Intifada, 13 January 2011

Canada’s tax system currently subsidizes Israeli settlements that Ottawa deems illegal, however, the Conservative government says there’s nothing that can be done about it.

In June of last year, Guelph activist Dan Maitland emailed Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon concerning Canada Park, a Jewish National Fund of Canada initiative built on land Israel occupied after the June 1967 War. Three Palestinian villages (Beit Nuba, Imwas and Yalu) were demolished to make way for the park.

A few weeks ago Maitland received a reply from Keith Ashfield, Minister of National Revenue, who refused to discuss the particulars of the case but provided “general information about registered charities and the occupied territories.” Ashfield wrote that “the fact that charitable activities take place in the occupied territories is not a barrier to acquiring or maintaining charitable status.”

This means Canadian organizations can openly fundraise for settlements Ottawa (officially) deems illegal under international law and get the government to pay up to a third of the cost through tax credits for donations. To justify the government’s position, Ashfield cited a September 2002 Federal Court of Appeal case (Canadian Magen David Adom for Israel v. Minister of National Revenue), which reversed the Canadian Revenue Agency’s previous position.

The exact amount is not known but it’s safe to assume that millions of Canadian dollars make their way to Israeli settlements every year. In 1997, when it was more of a legal grey area, tax lawyer David Drache claimed that “there are hundreds of [Canadian] organizations … supporting organizations directly or indirectly beyond the Green Line,” referring to the internationally-recognized armistice line between Israel and the occupied West Bank.

In the late 1990s, Israel’s largest settler group, Yesha, raised more than $700,000 a year in Canada. When former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited in the mid-1990s, the Canadian Arab Federation’s Jehad Aliweiwi said he “left with more than $1 million in tax-deductible funds, with no secret as to the destination.” Through the 1990s the Press Foundation was probably the largest known source of funds for settlements, raising as much as $5 million annually for settlers in the occupied West Bank town of Hebron and in the occupied Golan Heights, which was captured from Syria in 1967.

Illegal settlements are not the only questionable activities in Israel that Canadians subsidize through their tax system. A mid-1990s survey found more than 300 registered Canadian charities with ties to Israel, a relatively wealthy country. Every year Canadians send a few hundred million dollars worth of tax-deductible donations to Israeli universities, parks, immigration initiatives and, more controversially, “charities” that aid the Israeli army in one way or another.

One example is Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel or Beit Halochem (Canada), which brings soldiers singled out as heroes by the Israeli military on trips to Canada. Many Canadians, including the Charles R. Bronfman Foundation, support the Libi Fund — “The Fund For Strengthening Israel’s Defense.” In early 2008, Major Gil Chemke, a member of the Israel’s elite search and rescue team, toured the country on behalf of the Canadian Magen David Adom for Israel (CMDAI), which operates in the occupied West Bank. Established to assist wounded soldiers and the population during disasters, CMDAI has raised millions of dollars. Chemke drummed up financial contributions for CMDAI by showing “behind-the-scenes video footage of a rescue operation in Lebanon for a female air crew member whose helicopter was shot down by Hizballah” during Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon.

Established in 1971, the Association for the Soldiers of Israel in Canada (ASI) provides financial and moral support to active duty soldiers. In 2009, ASI (Canada) — which provides tax receipts through the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association — and El Al airlines granted a 50 percent discount on flights to Israel from Canada for families of “lone soldiers” who join the Israeli military.

While it’s legal — and government will foot part of the bill — to finance charities linked to a foreign army responsible for numerous war crimes and settlements that contravene international law, Ottawa has made it illegal for Canadians to aid a hospital operated by the elected Hamas government.

Ottawa’s post-11 September 2001 terrorist list makes it illegal to financially assist Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the Abu Nidal Organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, the Palestine Liberation Front, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and groups associated with these organizations. Only one Israeli group, the marginal Kahane Chai, is on the list.

On 25 December, Hamas criticized Canada for re-listing it a “terrorist” entity. “The decision is a clear bias to Israel,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Xinhua. “This encourages Israel to commit more crimes against the Palestinian people.”

Ottawa makes it difficult for Canadians to support many Palestinian groups all the while subsidizing expansionist and militaristic Israeli institutions. Canadians of good conscience should protest and demand change.

Yves Engler’s most recent book is Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid.

January 13, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | Comments Off on Canada’s double standards