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Over 500 activists detained in Bahrain

Press TV – April 8, 2011

The Bahraini Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has announced that the number of detained opposition activists in the Persian Gulf state has exceeded 500.

According to BCHR, 17 women are also among the detainees and 18 other activists are reportedly missing, a Press TV correspondent reported.

Since the beginning of the uprising in Bahrain dozens of anti-government protesters have been killed and many others have gone missing. The bodies of the missing are frequently found days after.

The head of BCHR, Nabeel Rajab, says now one in every 1,000 Bahraini is in detention for political reasons.

Witnesses say regime forces are conducting house to house searches to detain opposition activists.

Six opposition leaders have also been arrested and the Manama government has so far refused to provide any information on their fate.

The opposition leaders, five Shia and one Sunni, were rounded up on March 17.

Among the opposition leaders is Hassan Mushaima, the head of the Haq party, who returned to Bahrain from Britain in mid-February after Manama dropped charges against him.

His family members say Saudi troops were among Bahraini forces taking part in the arrest operation.

Reports coming from Bahrain suggest that regime forces backed by Saudi troops have intensified their crackdown on opposition figures and anti-government protesters.

April 8, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on Over 500 activists detained in Bahrain

The Theory That’s Killing America’s Economy—and Why It’s Wrong

By Ian Fletcher | April 8, 2011

I wrote in a previous article how America’s disastrous embrace of free trade is ultimately based on a false theory of how the global economy works: the so-called Theory of Comparative Advantage. This is what economists, from the government on down, believe in. This matters.

But I didn’t explain why the theory is wrong—which it is. Understanding its flaws is the price of admission to serious criticism of free trade, so it’s well worth getting a grasp on them. Economic theory can be a tough chew, but it’s worth the effort, if only to gain the intellectual confidence not to be intimidated by the so-called experts.  So… let’s take a look at some of that machinery behind the wizard’s curtain, shall we?

The theory’s flaws,  which are fairly well known to economists but mostly ignored, consist of a number of dubious assumptions upon which the theory depends. To wit:

Dubious Assumption #1: Trade is sustainable.

The problem here is that the theory of comparative advantage pays no attention to the long term.  So it can quite easily recommend a trade policy that gives us the highest possible living standard in the short run—but by way of selling off our country out from under us.
This is what happens when a nation runs a trade deficit, which necessarily means that it’s either sinking into debt to foreigners or selling off its existing assets to them.

The theory of comparative advantage is blind to this problem because it treats people’s time horizons as a given.  So if a nation wants a short-term consumption binge followed by long-term decline, the theory says “OK, no problem. You wanted it, you got it, what’s not to like?”

A saner theory of trade (and of economics generally) would advise people that it’s not a good idea to engage in decadent binges, regardless of how good it feels right now.  It would recommend protectionist restraints on imports to force trade into balance, not free trade.

Dubious Assumption #2: There are no externalities.

An externality is a missing price tag. More precisely, it is the economists’ term for when the price of a product does not reflect its true economic cost or value.

The classic negative externality is environmental damage, which reduces the value of natural resources without raising the price of the product that harmed them. The classic positive externality is technological spillover, where one company’s inventing a product enables others to copy or build upon it, generating wealth that the original company can’t capture.

If prices are wrong due to positive or negative externalities, free trade will produce suboptimal results.

For example, goods from a nation with lax pollution standards will be too cheap. So its trading partners will import too much of them. And the exporting nation will export too much of them, overconcentrating its economy in industries that are not really as profitable as they seem, due to ignoring pollution damage.

Positive externalities are also a problem. If an industry generates technological spillovers for the rest of the economy, then free trade can let that industry be wiped out by foreign competition because the economy ignored its hidden value. Some industries spawn new technologies, fertilize improvements in other industries, and drive economy-wide technological advance; losing these industries means losing all the industries that would have flowed from them in the future.

Dubious Assumption #3: Productive resources move easily between industries.

As noted in my original article, the theory of comparative advantage is about switching productive resources from less-valuable to more-valuable uses.  It’s about putting our economy to its own best use.

But this assumes that the productive resources used to produce one product can switch to producing another. Because if they can’t, then imports won’t push our economy into industries better suited to its comparative advantage. Imports will just kill off our existing industries and leave nothing in their place.

When workers, for example, can’t move between industries—usually because they don’t have the right skills or don’t live in the right place—shifts in an economy’s comparative advantage won’t move them into a more appropriate industry, but into unemployment.

In the United States, because of our relatively low minimum wage and hire-and-fire labor laws, this problem tends to take the form of underemployment, rather than unemployment per se. So $28 an hour ex-autoworkers go work at the video rental store for eight dollars an hour.

The same goes for other inflexible factors of production, like real estate.  That’s why the shuttered factory rivals the unemployment line as a visual image of trade problems.

Dubious Assumption #4: Trade does not raise income inequality.

Even if free trade expands the economy overall (dubious), it can tilt the distribution of income so much that ordinary people see little or none of the gains.

For example, suppose that opening up a nation to freer trade means that it starts exporting more airplanes and importing more clothes than before.  Because the nation gets to expand an industry better suited to its comparative advantage and contract one less suited, it becomes more productive and its GDP goes up.

So far, so good.

Here’s the rub: suppose that a million dollars’ worth of clothes production requires one white-collar worker and nine blue-collar workers, while a million dollars of airplane production requires three white-collar workers and seven blue-collar workers. So for every million dollars’ change in what gets produced, there is a demand for two more white-collar workers and two fewer blue-collar workers. Because demand for white-collar workers goes up and demand for blue-collar workers goes down, the wages of white-collar workers go up and those of blue-collar workers go down.

But most workers are blue-collar workers—so free trade has lowered wages for most workers in the economy!

This is not a trivial problem: Dani Rodrik of Harvard estimates that freeing up trade reshuffles five dollars of income between different groups of people domestically for every one dollar of net gain it brings to the economy as a whole.

Dubious Assumption #5: Capital is not internationally mobile.

The theory of comparative advantage is about the best uses to which America can put its productive resources, what economists call “factors of production.” We have certain cards in hand, so to speak, the other players have certain cards, and the theory tells us the best way to play the hand we’ve been dealt. Or more precisely, it tells us to let the free market play our hand for us, so market forces can drive all our factors to their best uses in our economy.

Unfortunately, this relies upon the impossibility of these same market forces driving these factors right out of our economy. If that happens, all bets are off about driving these factors to their most productive use in our economy. Their most productive use may well be in another country, and if they are internationally mobile, then free trade will cause them to migrate there.

This will benefit the world economy as a whole, and the nation they migrate to, but it will not necessarily benefit us.

This problem applies to all factors of production, but the crux of the problem is capital. Capital mobility replaces comparative advantage, which applies when capital is forced to choose between alternative uses within a single national economy, with absolute advantage. And absolute advantage contains no guarantees whatsoever about the results being good for both trading partners.

Capital immobility doesn’t have to be absolute, but it has to be significant and as it melts away, trade shifts from a guarantee of win-win relations to a possibility of win-lose relations.

David Ricardo, the British economist who invented the theory of comparative advantage in 1817, actually knew about this problem perfectly well, and wrote about it in his book on the subject. So there’s no excuse for modern economists to ignore it.

Dubious Assumption #6: Short-term efficiency causes long-term growth.

The theory of comparative advantage is what economists call “static” analysis. That is, it looks at the facts of a single instant in time and determines the best response to those facts at that instant. But it says nothing about how today’s facts may change tomorrow. More importantly, it says nothing about how one might cause them to change in one’s favor.

So even if the theory of comparative advantage tells us our best move today, given our productivities in various industries, it doesn’t tell us the best way to raise those productivities tomorrow. That, however, is the essence of economic growth, and in the long run much more important than squeezing every last drop of advantage from the productivities we have today.  Economic growth is ultimately less about using one’s factors of production than about transforming them—into more productive factors tomorrow.

The theory of comparative advantage is not so much wrong about long-term growth as simply silent.

Analogously, it is a valid application of personal comparative advantage for someone with secretarial skills to work as a secretary and someone with banking skills to work as a banker. In the short run, it is efficient for them both, as it results in both being better paid than if they tried to swap roles. (They would both be fired for inability to do their jobs and earn zero.) But the path to personal success doesn’t consist in being the best possible secretary forever; it consists in upgrading one’s skills to better-paid occupations, like banker. And there is very little about being the best possible secretary that tells one how to do this.

Dubious Assumption #7: Trade does not induce adverse productivity growth abroad.

When we trade with a foreign nation, this will generally build up that nation’s industries, i.e. raise its productivity in them. Now it would be nice to assume that this productivity growth in our trading partners can only make them ever more efficient at supplying the things we want, and we will just get ever cheaper foreign goods in exchange for our own exports, right?

Wrong. Consider our present trade with China. Despite all the problems this trade causes us, we do get compensation in the form of some very cheap goods, thanks mainly to China’s very cheap labor. The same goes for other poor countries we import from. But labor is cheap in poor countries because it has poor alternative employment opportunities. What if these opportunities improve? Then this labor may cease to be so cheap, and our supply of cheap goods may dry up.

This is actually what happened in Japan from the 1960s to the 1980s, as Japan’s economy transitioned from primitive to sophisticated manufacturing and the cheap merchandise readers over 40 will remember (the same things stamped “Made in China” today) disappeared from America’s stores. Did this reduce the pressure of cheap Japanese labor on American workers? It did. But it also deprived us of some very cheap goods we used to get.

And it’s not like Japan stopped pressing us, either, as it moved upmarket and started competing in more sophisticated industries.

Oops!

When Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson— author of the best-selling economics textbook in history—reminded economists of this problem in a (quite accessible) 2004 article, he drew scandalized gasps from one end of the discipline to the other. But nobody was able to explain why he was wrong.

They still haven’t.

I don’t expect most readers to get all the above analysis the first time through.  But I do hope that everyone who’s read this far now understands that there is no good reason—regardless of what most economists say—to assume that free trade is necessarily best.  The economic logic of those who say it is, is riddled with enough holes to sink a container ship.

April 8, 2011 Posted by | Economics | 5 Comments

Israeli army strikes Gaza after school bus hit – Deconstructed

Associated Press Deconstructed | April 8, 2011

First, let’s look at what has happened in Gaza in the past week:

Following is how AP reported on this. This story is on hundreds of newspaper websites around the country:

Israeli army strikes Gaza after school bus hit

By MATTI FRIEDMAN

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli aircraft and ground forces struck Gaza on Friday, killing two Hamas gunmen and three civilians

No mention in either the headline or the lead paragraph that Israeli forces killed a total of 14 people in the past 24 hours, including a mother, her young daughter (injured another of her children), and an elderly man, and that they injured dozens of others.

in a surge of fighting sparked by a Palestinian rocket attack on an Israeli school bus the day before.

No mention that this rocket attack was sparked by Israeli forces killing five Gazans in the preceding few days.

Just over two years after rocket fire from Gaza triggered

Israel had already broken the cease fire three times, killing seven Palestinian, which is what triggered the rock fire.

a devastating Israeli military offensive in the territory,

which killed approximately 1400 Palestinians, at least 773 of them civilians – hundreds of them children.

Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers seemed on the brink of another round of intense violence.

AP still chooses not to mention the five Palestinians in Gaza that Israeli forces had killed in preceding days.

In Thursday’s attack, Gaza militants hit an Israeli school bus near the border with a guided anti-tank missile, injuring the driver and badly wounding a 16-year-old boy. Most of the schoolchildren on the bus got off shortly before the attack.

By Friday morning, Israel’s ongoing retaliation

AP calls the Israeli action retaliation (for two injured, one with minor injuries) but fails to calls that the rocket attack retaliation (for the killing of five people).

had killed 10 Gazans – five militants, a policeman and four civilians – and wounded 45. The dead Friday included three civilians killed by Israeli tank fire and two militants killed in an air strike, both near the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis.

Still no mention of the mother and children.

Hamas, which had largely held its fire since Israel’s last major offensive, claimed responsibility for the bus attack.

Had the bus been full, broader Israeli retaliation would have been all but inevitable and the region – already destabilized by the popular revolts sweeping the Arab world – could have been drawn into another war.

It’s odd to put such speculation in a news article, especially when AP left out so many newsworthy facts.

It is unclear if Hamas was trying to provoke a new conflagration, if it was not fully in control of all of its fighters, or if it believes Israel would pull back before invading Gaza again.

Again, it’s odd to put such speculation and commentary in a news article, especially when AP left out so many newsworthy facts.

Israel was condemned internationally after the last incursion.

“Incursion” is an odd word for the massive invasion by Israeli forces that was condemned in detailed reports issued by numerous highly respected international organizations.

Hamas said the rocket attack was in retaliation for the killing of three fighters in an airstrike earlier in the week. At around midnight Thursday, with Gaza rocked by explosions, the organization announced a cease-fire.

This was actually announced earlier and included all sectors of the Gazan resistance. The announcement about this also spoke of the 21-year-old killed on Tuesday, whom AP never mentions in the report.

But the Israeli strikes continued, hitting Hamas facilities and smuggling tunnels.

And many other facilities. AP also fails to mention that the tunnels are a response to Israel’s suffocating siege of Gaza, noted by groups such as Christian Aid.

Electricity lines and transformers were damaged, causing power blackouts in some parts of the territory, according to Jamal Dardsawi, a spokesman for Gaza’s Electric Distribution Company.

While AP speculated about what would have happened if the nearly empty Israeli bus had been full, there is no mention here about what electricity blackouts are actually doing to Gazan patients on respirators, in hospital operating rooms, etc.

In Israel, studies at some schools near Gaza were canceled Friday because of concerns for the students’ safety.

No mention of schools in Gaza, whose students have been injured, one killed, and parents killed and injured.

Palestinian militants launched nine mortars and rockets into Israel, causing damage to at least one building, the military said. Israeli casualties have been kept low thanks to reinforced rooms and early warning systems.

and the fact that the Israeli military, thanks to Americans’ $8 million per day to Israel, is the fourth or fifth most powerful military in the world.

Matan Vilnai, the Israeli Cabinet minister in charge of the home front, told Army Radio that Israel was acting to deter attacks. “We are acting as we see fit so that this type of fire will not continue, and so that the people behind the fire will regret it,” Vilnai said.

Israel’s education minister, Gideon Saar, said in a briefing with reporters that any civilian casualties in Gaza were unintentional and that Israel did not target “anyone except the terrorists.”

AP fails to report that numerous international investigations have found evidence indicating that Israel has often targeted civilians.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday condemned the bus attack and expressed concern over civilian casualties in Israel’s strikes. He called for “de-escalation and calm to prevent any further bloodshed.”

Thousands of rockets from Gaza have hit Israeli towns and cities since 2001.

AP fails to mention that these have killed a total of approximately 20 Israelis. AP also fails to mention that during the same period Israeli forces have killed thousands of Gazans, including numerous children.

Israel’s attempts to stop the rockets have included military incursions and covert operations abroad aimed at disrupting Hamas’ efforts to procure arms.

AP again gives the Israeli narrative. It fails to report that Israeli military incursions and covert operations preceded Gazan rockets.

In February, a Palestinian engineer was seized from a sleeper train in Ukraine and showed up several days later in Israel,

The normal way to report this would be to state that Israel kidnapped a Palestinian engineer in the Ukraine.

where he has been charged with masterminding Hamas’ rocket program.

Once again, AP emphasizes Israeli claims without including countering claims.

Last year a Hamas operative was assassinated in Dubai, and Israeli agents are widely assumed to have been responsible. Israel identified the man as a Hamas agent responsible for obtaining weaponry from Iran.

Again, we get the Israeli narrative, and only the Israeli narrative.

This week, Sudan accused Israel of being behind an explosion that killed two in Port Sudan. The blast was thought to be linked to arms smuggling to Gaza. Israel would not comment.

AP doesn’t bother supplying any information about the two human beings in Port Sudan who were just killed.

——

Ibrahim Barzak contributed reporting from Gaza City, Gaza Strip.

Yet, the story was written and edited in Israel by Matti Friedman, a journalist who may have family ties to the Israeli military.

#

In case anyone is curious about what occurred before this period, March had seen increased Israeli hostilities, including tightening the siege and a gradual escalation of Israeli  military attacks that killed at least 11 Palestinians and injured over 40.

April 8, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | Comments Off on Israeli army strikes Gaza after school bus hit – Deconstructed

Corrie lawsuit challenging Israeli impunity

Nora Barrows-Friedman, The Electronic Intifada, 8 April 2011

Several Israeli soldiers testified at the witness stand in the Haifa district court earlier this week, as trial hearings continued in the case of Corrie vs. the State of Israel. As the trial drags on, years after Rachel Corrie’s killing, Israel’s impunity is being challenged and carefully cross-examined.

Eight years ago last month, 23-year-old American solidarity activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an armored US-made Caterpillar D9 bulldozer in Rafah, at the southern edge of the occupied Gaza Strip.

Wearing a fluorescent orange vest and wielding a bullhorn, Corrie attempted to defend the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home by the Israeli military along the Philadelphi corridor, a wide swath of land in Rafah at the border with Egypt in which hundreds of homes were demolished from 2002-2004, according to field reports from Human Rights Watch.

After years of legal proceedings, Rachel Corrie’s parents, Cindy and Craig, were able to bring soldiers who were on duty that day in Rafah into the Haifa district court. Hearings began in March 2010 and continued in September, November and earlier this week.

The Corries are suing the Israeli military for one dollar in damages, but, more significantly, are charging those responsible with the wrongful death of their daughter and criminal negligence.

Eyewitness testimony from fellow International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activists, supported by photographic evidence, shows that Rachel was crushed underneath the massive blade of a bulldozer and died shortly afterwards. The Israeli military and its defense team argues that Rachel’s death was an accident, that the bulldozer driver didn’t see her and that it was not the blade that killed her but perhaps a pile of rubble that was dropped on her body by the bulldozer as it was razing the land.

Saturated throughout the soldiers’ testimonies is the unwavering argument that all Palestinians in that area were considered armed and a danger to the military unit, and that the military orders had a strict shoot-to-kill policy as they demolished homes. They infer that because this was a closed military zone, Rachel and the other activists with the ISM put themselves at risk and therefore the soldiers and their commanders cannot be responsible for her killing.

But what fails to be addressed by the judge is how and why the soldiers and their armored bulldozers were there in the first place. The soldiers driving the bulldozers and their commanders operated from orders to destroy houses along the Philadelphi corridor — the name Israel gives to the strip of land it has used as a buffer zone– starting in 2002 and continuing throughout the next two years, displacing thousands of residents. Human Rights Watch reported that after the homes were demolished, a steel wall was constructed along the Philadelphi corridor (“Razing Rafah,” 17 October 2004). The demolition of Palestinian homes is a violation of Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons … is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”

Israel, which is a signatory to the convention, contends that the law “does not apply to its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” according to a detailed report by Amnesty International (“Document – Israel and the Occupied Territories: Under the rubble: House demolition and destruction of land and property,” 17 May 2004).

Amnesty International adds “Whether it justifies such action on grounds of ‘military/security needs’ or whether such action is imposed as a form of collective punishment, or whether carried out in enforcement of planning regulations such large-scale forced evictions are inconsistent with the realization of the right to adequate housing. The obligation of the state under international law is that it must refrain from forced evictions.”

The occupying forces had been willingly engaged in layered violations of international law — violations that Rachel Corrie and her fellow activists attempted to confront and remediate.

S.R., a unit commander in the Israeli army who gave his testimony on Wednesday and was obscured by screens so the Corries could not see his face, stated that “none of the houses [in the area being razed] had anyone living inside … They were all being used as positions for terror activities.”

This blanket statement is untrue; the home that Rachel died trying to protect was inhabited by the Nasrallah family. Neither Dr. Samir Nasrallah, a pharmacist, nor his family members living in the home, were ever charged by the Israeli military with “terror activities.” Dr. Nasrallah was obviously never a threat to the Israeli military or its government, as Israel even allowed him to travel to the United States on a speaking tour with the Corries — something that would never be allowed for any Palestinian accused of being linked with such activities.

When I attended a round of hearings last September, another military training leader brazenly stated to the courtroom that “during war, there are no civilians.” Craig Corrie told me then that this admission was a shock to the family and to their supporters in the courtroom, but not a surprise given the attitude of the Israeli military since its inception.

This was not a war in Gaza; this was — and still is — an aggressive, lethal and unequal military occupation meted out against Gaza’s 1.5 million residents.

Human Rights Watch states that more than 2,500 homes were destroyed in Gaza from 2000-2004, as the Israeli military implemented its so-called “buffer zone” policies after the breakout of the second intifada. The buffer zone is a 300-meter-wide militarized no-go area near the boundary with Israel which has since taken 35 percent of Gaza’s total agricultural land — and the lives of more than 100 Palestinians who have been shot and killed since March 2010.

Attending this week’s hearing were members of the Corrie family, activists, journalists and legal observers from the the US embassy, the National Lawyers Guild, Human Rights Watch, Al-Haq, Avocats Sans Frontieres, Amnesty International, Yesh Din and other Palestinian, Israeli and international human and civil rights organizations.

In a press release, Zaha Hassan of the National Lawyers Guild stated that “[i]t has been eight years now and Rachel’s family and all of us who are attending the trial in support have been waiting for an answer to the question of why the unit commander ordered the bulldozer driver to move forward directly over the location where Rachel stood yelling into a blow-horn” (“National Lawyers Guild Free Palestine Subcommittee to Observe Resumption of Trial Brought by Family of Slain Peace Activist Rachel Corrie,” 4 April 2011).

Hassan added: “Justice demands that these questions be answered and that those responsible for her death be held to account.”

The judge, Oded Gershon, admitted proudly in court on Wednesday that he had been a military judge earlier in his career. It remains to be seen whether his potential proclivity toward defense of military policies will influence the final decision in the Corrie case, but the entire process sets an incredibly important precedent.

Israeli soldiers responsible for the demolition of homes and the killing of Palestinians and internationals are now being brought inside courtrooms. Military mandates are being meticulously scrutinized. Cracks in the solidified Israeli military system of impunity are starting to appear, and the Corries are determined to widen those cracks so that other bereaved families can seek justice, too.

The next round of hearings begins on 22 May, and the courtroom will once again be packed. For the Corries, and the family members of countless Palestinians awaiting true justice from the occupier state since 1948, the legal process may be tedious and excruciating but it is vital. And long overdue.

~

Nora Barrows-Friedman is an award-winning independent journalist, writing for The Electronic Intifada, Inter Press Service, Al-Jazeera, Truthout and other outlets. She regularly reports from Palestine.

For summaries of the hearings, and for more information, visit the Rachel Corrie Foundation website at rachelcorriefoundation.org.

April 8, 2011 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | Comments Off on Corrie lawsuit challenging Israeli impunity

Italian activists call on company to withdraw from Israeli railway project in the occupied territories

By Stephanie Westbrook | Mondoweiss | April 8, 2011

In Italy, “Stop That Train” launches a campaign calling on Pizzarotti & C. SpA to withdraw from the construction of the Israeli high-speed railway crossing the occupied Palestinian territories. The German Ministry of Transport defines the project as “potentially in violation of international law.”

The Italian Coalition “Stop That Train” recently met with Pizzarotti & C. SpA, a private company from Parma involved in the construction of a new Israeli railway that would allow Israeli commuters to travel from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in just 28 minutes. In particular, Pizzarotti is involved in Section C, which crosses the internationally recognized borders of Israel and penetrates the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank.

The A1 railway is the largest infrastructure project the Israeli government has undertaken in the last ten years and for 6.5 km cuts through the occupied Palestinian territories, resulting in further confiscation of land and putting at least three communities at risk, including the villages of Beit Surik and Beit Iksa.

The call to action of the Italian Coalition “Stop That Train” has already been endorsed by more than 60 national and international organizations, including Israeli, as well as local groups throughout Italy. The coalition calls on Pizzarotti to withdraw from the project, which constitutes a flagrant violation of International Law, in contravention of international norms on human rights, including the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibiting exploitation of land by an occupying power.

During the meeting with “Stop That Train,” Pizzarotti representatives reiterated what had already been declared in a statement issued by the company on March 17. “Pizzarotti has never played and does not currently play a decision-making role in the planning and design of the railway” and the company is involved exclusively in the construction of a tunnel (T3) for the area “which is fully located within the boundary marked by the Green Line.”

The Italian Coalition “Stop That Train” maintains that regardless of Pizzarotti’s involvement or not in the design of the A1 line, the company has an obligation to verify that projects in which it is involved are in accordance with human rights and international law. This is particularly true in areas of conflict such as Israel and Palestine.

The Israeli feminist organization, the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP), which authored a 28-page dossier on the project, stresses that Pizzarotti, through a joint venture with the Israeli Shapir Civil and Marine Engineering, “signed a contract to construct the entire T3 tunnel. Nowhere in the contract signed by Pizzarotti does it state that the company is not involved or not responsible for the section of the tunnel that is located in the West Bank. … Stating, as Pizzarotti does, that it is not responsible for the eastern portal of the tunnel and that it will not carry out the excavation of the section that crosses the West Bank is, therefore, simply a way of evading the issues and an attempt to dodge its responsibilities.”

The project also includes involvement of DB International, a company fully owned by the German government, which has a contract with the Israeli Railways to provide engineering expertise for the electrification of the rail line. In a letter dated March 14, 2011, the German Minister of Transport defined the project for the A1 railway as “problematic for foreign policy and potentially in violation of international law”, indicating that DB International has confirmed in writing that it will cease all activities in the project.

The Italian Coalition “Stop That Train” is committed to continue the campaign with determination, calling on Pizzarotti to withdraw from the project. A new web site for the campaign was recently launched (www.stopthattrain.org) and on April 9 a demonstration will be held at Pizzarotti headquarters in Parma. In addition, actions similar to those used against Veolia, a French company forced to announce its withdrawal from the light rail construction project in occupied East Jerusalem, are currently being planned.

The Italian Coalition Stop That TrainFor more information or to endorse the campaign: fermarequeltreno@gmail.com

April 8, 2011 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on Italian activists call on company to withdraw from Israeli railway project in the occupied territories

The Fiction of the Jewish History in Palestine

By Hasan Afif El-Hasan | The Palestine Chronicle | April 8, 2011

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told NNC Pierce Morgan on March 18, 2011 that he might agree to a Palestinian state through negotiations. And he added, “We will make territorial concessions although it is very painful to do that in our ancestral land.” Netanyahu was not talking about Poland where his ancestors lived. He was talking about Palestine where generations of its indigenous population ancestors lived, cultivated the land and are buried.

By the end of the nineteenth century, Zionism created a new Jewish identity of blood and soil. To mobilize their followers and supporters and appeal to their emotions, the Zionists created myths. Zionism started as a tribal religion without god, but in order to fulfill its function as a unifying force, Zionism required external religious and race symbols, not inner content. Its leaders regarded metaphysical religious belief and purity of race as having value in itself. They created a divine paradisiacal state of merger with the gods. Despite his non-religious ideology, Herzl’s writings were replete with religious references. The Jews should settle in Palestine because, in his words, “the Temple will be visible from long distance, for it is only our ancient faith that has kept us together”.

The Zionists and their supporters have invested tremendous financial and scholarly resources to work within the Hebrew Bible historical narratives to affirm the links between the intrusive Zionist population and the ancient Israelite past, and by doing so assert the right of that population to the land. The political end-game shaped the investigation and the outcome. Tracing the roots of Israel’s ethnic state in biblical antiquity is effectively to silence the indigenous Palestinian claim to the past and therefore to the land. The Biblical scholarship employs a bewildering array of terms for the region: “the Holy Land”, “the Land of the Bible”, “Eretz Israel”, “the Land of Israel”, or “Judah and Samaria.” To the casual reader these names appear interchangeable, but they all imply connection to ancient Israel.

Biblical narratives or poems that cannot be supported by archeology and common sense are treated by the Zionists and their supporters as historical language. Historians have to differentiate between biblical myths and the history of real people living in real places and real time. They should have the intellectual courage to challenge any source including the “revealed truth” of higher order as presented in Biblical text if it is used to justify injustice and cruelty by one people against another. Gamla, an ethnic cleansing advocacy group founded by former Israeli military officers, Knesset members and settler activists publishes detailed plans for how to carry out the “complete elimination of the Arab demographic threat to Israel” by forcibly expelling all Palestinians and demolishing their towns and villages. This, the plan argued is “the only possible solution” to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and it is “substantiated by the Torah.” Biblical studies have focused on inventing “Ancient Israel” while ignoring the reality of Palestinian history over thousands of years. Many historic experiences related to the ancient Israelite conquest and settlement of Palestine were described in terms of divine acts with religious zeal.

Many scholars, mostly moderate Jewish, who give primacy to archaeology, relegate the biblical text to a secondary place as a historical source. On 2001 Passover, Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Westwood, Los Angeles told his congregation: “The truth is that virtually every archaeologist who has investigated the story of the Exodus [from Egypt], with very few exceptions, agrees that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all.” He based his conclusions on the fact that no archeological findings have produced evidence of the Jews wandering the Sinai Desert for forty years, and the excavations in Palestine show settlement patterns different from the Biblical account of a sudden influx of Jews from Egypt.

Nadva Na’aman of Tel Aviv University wrote, “The comprehensive conquest saga in the book of Jashua is a fictive literary composition aimed at presenting the occupation of the entire Land of Israel, initiated and guided by the Lord and carried out by the twelve tribes under Jashua.”  Jashua, the man, was according to the Bible the right-hand man of Moses. After Moses death and the ancient Israelites camping near Jericho, Jashua commenced the military campaigns that, according to the biblical account, culminate in the conquest of the heartland of Palestine where he carried out a systematic campaign against the civilians of Canaan that amounts to genocide.

The historian Giovanni Garbini argues that “we should not even try to write a modern critical history of Israel largely on the basis of a single amalgamated, culturally self-serving, and essentially private version of history [the Bible]?”

Professor William Dever of the University of Arizona writes about the Hebrew Bible that “Many of the biblical stories are legend-like and abound with miraculous and fantastic elements that strain the credulity of almost any modern reader of any religious persuasion. All these factors have contributed to the rise of doubts about the Bible’s trustworthiness.”

In July of 2000, the New York Times ran a lead story under the title, “The Bible, as History, Flunks New Archaeological Tests.” Questioning the biblical stories of the Exodus and Conquest that recounts in lavish and dramatic detail of the ancient Israelites exodus from Egypt and establishing themselves in Palestine, calls into question the Zionists’ rationale for Jewish claims to Palestine.

The American archaeologist and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor, Joseph Callaways wrote in 1985 when he discovered that the city of Ai that is described in the Bible did not exist: “For many years, the primary source for the understanding of the settlement of the first Israelites was the Hebrew Bible, but every reconstruction based upon the biblical traditions has floundered on the evidence from archeological remains.”

The Bible and the claim of the Jews as a distinct race have been used as a tool to cement the inner unity of the Zionist movement and an indispensable weapon in the struggle for claiming the land of Palestine. The religio-historical element as a focus of national identity had greater importance in Zionism than in other national movements. It was religion in the broadest sense, with all its national and historical connotations, that provided the justification for the conquest of Palestine and legitimization of Jews’ return.

Although Semitic originally referred to certain languages and peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean that included not only Jews but also Palestinians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Phoenicians, claim of hostility only toward Jews is generally known as anti-Semitism.

Jews are a religious body, not a separate biological human group. The history of the Jews reveals that they have always interbred with non-Jews and many non-Jews have become Jews. The only valid criterion for determining membership in the group is confessional.

By insisting that a cultural trait, Jewishness, is inherited, the self-proclaimed Jews have contributed to the idea that they belong to an exclusive family, a distinct race, and a chosen people. Under Israel’s “Law of Return” of Jews to Israel, Ethiopian Jews (Falashas) were verified as descendants of an ancient Israelite tribe by testing samples of their males DNA Y-Chromosome. The claim of identifying the Jewish DNA is the pinnacle of charlatan science, an ideology driven hoax!

There was no written history prior to 3,200 B.C. (Before Christ) on Palestine, but archeological excavations suggest the existence of people living in Palestine as early as 8000 B.C. As far as the period of pre-pottery stone-age between 8000 and 5000 B.C, Palestine and Syria were inhabited by farmers and hunters. Their progression from simpler to more complex culture was evidenced in the development of farming technique, the domestication of animals and the establishment of towns.

Ancient Canaanites ruled all Palestine and Jordan until around 1200 B.C, when the Philistines conquered the southern coastal area. Archaeologists found evidence that Canaan migrant tribes settled Palestine and Jordan in the later period of the fourth millennium B.C. Pottery containing offerings in graves suggest the Canaanites believed in after-life. The Canaanite known history coincided with the Early Bronze Age that began around 3200B.C, but some of their settlements have been dated as old as 7000 B.C.

The indigenous Palestinians, the legitimate owners of the land, are the descendants of Ancient Canaanites, Philistinians, ancient Hebrews, Assyrians, ancient Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Muslims, Christian crusaders and Turks. The groups that lived in Palestine fought, interacted and collaborated, but no group was obliterated.

Modern historians, writers and statesmen should liberate themselves from the biblical myths when reviewing history even if they believe in a revealed truth in their private lives. The challenge for them is to sort out fact from fiction. Palestine belongs to its indigenous population not the hordes of foreign settlers.

– Hasan Afif El-Hasan is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York).

April 8, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | 8 Comments

Family denies assassination of key Hamas figure in Sudan

Ma’an – 08/04/2011

Abdul Latif Al-Ashqar [MaanImages]

GAZA — The family of a senior Hamas figure reported killed in an alleged Israeli strike in Sudan, said on Friday that the man had not in fact been killed.

Palestinian security officials said Monday that Abdul Latif Al-Ashqar was the target of a strike which hit a car on Sudan’s Red Sea coast near the main port killing two on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmad Karti accused Israel of carrying out the attack.

Arab media quoted ‘Israeli sources’ saying the assassination was executed by a special unit that entered Sudanese territory from the sea and fired on the car with a ground-to-ground missile.

Al-Ashqar’s uncle, senior Hamas figure Ismail Al-Ashqar, told Ma’an that Abdul Latif was well, having been the subject of several Israeli assassination attempts in the past, and been tracked by Israeli forces for many years.

Hamas Deputy Politburo Chief Moussa Abu Marzouq, told the Jerusalem-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper that the two “were not Palestinian and had no connection to Hamas.”

There were conflicting media reports, with Sudanese media claiming both victims were nationals of the country, while daily London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Arabiya said one of the victims was a national of an Arab country, and said the man was involved in arms smuggling for Hamas.

Israeli newspapers also reported the strike, with one running the headline “IDF carried out attack on Sudan,” but the Israeli military and foreign ministry both declined to comment.

Abdul Latif Al-Ashqar, a senior member of Hamas’ military wing, is said to have taken over the role of weapons gathering formerly carried out by Mahmoud Mabhouh, who was assassinated in a Dubai hotel room last year.

In his 40s, Al-Ashqar was born in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip and was arrested by Israel during the First Intifada.

He was a founder of Hamas’ “aid and logistics department,” which coordinated weapons smuggling to the Gaza Strip. It is not known when he arrived in Sudan, or how long he resided there.

April 8, 2011 Posted by | War Crimes | Comments Off on Family denies assassination of key Hamas figure in Sudan

Despite Ceasefire Declared by Palestinian Factions, Israel Bombards More Areas In Gaza

By Saed Bannoura – IMEMC & Agencies – April 08, 2011

Despite the fact that the Palestinian factions, including the Hamas movement, in Gaza declared a ceasefire with Israel starting Thursday midnight, the Israeli army bombarded several areas, and carried out a number of aerial attacks in Gaza.

The decision was made following talks between different Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, and talks held by the Hamas-led government in Gaza with a number of Arab and international parties.

The ministry of interior in Gaza said that the decision was made to curb any future Israeli assaults against Gaza.

The Israeli strikes had resumed on Thursday afternoon after a Palestinian shell hit a bus in southern Israel seriously wounding one student.

The al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack and stated that it came in retaliation to the assassination of three Qassam leaders identified as Ismail Lubbad, Abdullah Lubbad, and Mohammad al-Dahya.

The three were killed in an Israeli Air Strike in Khan Younis in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

On Thursday, the Israeli army killed three Palestinians in Gaza and wounded more than 40 others, including children.

Nabil Abu Rodeina, spokesperson of President Mahmoud Abbas, said that the escalation against Gaza is unjustified and that Abbas contacted several world leaders urging them to intervene.

Background

April 8, 2011 Posted by | Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | Comments Off on Despite Ceasefire Declared by Palestinian Factions, Israel Bombards More Areas In Gaza