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Real Health Care Advocates Should Support Repeal of the Insurance Mandate

By Kevin Zeese | Dissident Voice | March 26th, 2012

It’s Our Economy, the organization I co-direct with Margaret Flowers, MD, Single Payer Action and 50 doctors filed an amicus brief in HHS v. Florida, the challenge to the Affordable Care Act being heard in the Supreme Court this week.

We support health care reform but oppose the insurance mandate.  Merely removing two words from existing law will achieve the President’s stated goals of universal, affordable and guaranteed health care.  By removing the words “over 65” from the Medicare law, every American will have health care based on a proven public health care model that has been in existence since 1965.  This will control costs and immediately provide health care to everyone in the United States.

Forcing Americans to buy insurance is both unconstitutional and bad policy.  Even the most favorable estimates of the Affordable Care Act predict that tens of millions of Americans will not have health insurance when it is fully implemented in 2019. The number of employers offering health benefits will decline under the ACA pushing employees into the individual insurance market where coverage is skimpier and more expensive.  The cost of premiums continues to rise and insurance coverage continues to shrink, putting patients at risk of personal bankruptcy when they suffer a serious accident or illness.

The United States already spends enough to provide health care to all.  As the amicus brief states:

Studies conducted by the nonpartisan General Accounting Office and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office have consistently concluded that if a national single payer system were implemented in the United States, administrative cost-savings alone would be enough to guarantee universal coverage without increasing overall healthcare spending.

In addition, improved Medicare for all will slow the growth in the cost of health care. The cost of health care under Medicare is growing more slowly than private insurance-based health care, despite the fact that it deals with America’s elderly and disabled populations, groups that generally need more health care services.  Unlike private insurance, under Medicare the increased cost is not due to administrative costs and bureaucracy. Medicare’s administrative costs have been consistently about 2% while private insurance is 16% administrative costs.

Instead, the ACA builds and expands the system of private insurance. This system is among the least efficient of any healthcare system currently operating in developed nations.  The brief states:  “In 2009, 28 healthcare expenditures accounted for 17.4 percent of GDP in the United States, compared with only 9.6 percent in the average OECD [The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] nation” and “measured per capita, healthcare expenditures in the United States ‘are by far the highest among OECD countries.’”

Medicare provides health services that people like, as the brief points out:  “In addition to achieving universal coverage for Americans aged 65 and older and maintaining consistently low administrative costs, Medicare is also highly rated by senior citizens who are its primary beneficiaries – 51 percent of whom give their health insurance an ‘excellent” rating.’”

If the US Congress had considered an evidence-based approach to health reform instead of writing a bill that funnels more wealth to insurance companies that deny and restrict care, it would have been a no brainer to adopt improved Medicare for all. All the data points to a single payer system as the only way to accomplish universal health care and control health care costs.

It is also bad precedent to allow the federal government to mandate all Americans buy a corporate product.  This takes corporate welfare to new levels of extreme.  If this is upheld, will a future president facing an economic crisis require Americans to buy cars made in the USA – of course, with a government subsidy?  Or, will the pension crisis in the United States be ‘solved’ by setting up a pension exchange of JP Morgan, Bank of America, Well Fargo, Chase and Citibank and require Americans to buy a federally subsidized pension from Wall Street?

Finally, an improved Medicare for all system will give everyone in the United States the greatest control of their own healthcare.  The insurance industry will be removed from between doctors and patients.  Doctors will not have to convince an insurance, profit-minded, bureaucrat to pay for a treatment.  And, people will no longer be threatened with increased premiums, decreased coverage and financial ruin caused by an insurance industry that puts profits before people.

We filed the amicus brief because forcing people to purchase a flawed product, private health insurance, is not necessary and will not achieve the goals of universal, guaranteed and affordable health care. There is a health care model in the US already that will achieve these goals – that’s improved Medicare for all. Medicare for all is constitutional and simple to attain – just drop a few words from existing law and we will be on the path to joining the rest of the civilized world when it comes to health care.

Kevin Zeese is executive director of Voters for Peace.

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Real Health Care Advocates Should Support Repeal of the Insurance Mandate

India: The World’s Biggest Arms Recipient

By Sajjad Shaukat | News Center PK | March 24, 2012

In its report, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) disclosed on March 20 this year that volume of international transfers of major weapons was 24 percent higher in the period 2007-11 compared to the 2002-06 period. While indicating the purchases of arms and weapons by various countries, the report pointed out, “India is the world’s largest recipient of arms… India’s imports of major weapons increased by 38 percent between 2002-06 and 2007-11.”

It is of particular attention that under the pretext of military build up by China and Pakistan, India on March 16 this year, boosted military spending by 17 percent to $40 billion. In this regard, announcing the 2012-13 budget, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the parliament, the government is engaged in a massive programme to upgrade the country’s ageing military hardware, increasing defence spending to $40 billion for the financial year to March 31, 2013.

Now, India is the biggest importer of arms in the world. New Delhi’s military is acquiring a slew of new equipment from combat aircraft to submarines and artillery. It is currently finalising a deal with France’s Dassault Aviation to buy 126 Rafale fighter jets in a contract worth an estimated $12 billion.

Despite a series of political setbacks which exposed vulnerability of India’s beleaguered regime, it avoided bold reforms in its annual budget to shore up growth and modest targets to rein in a bloated deficit. The government reflects investors’ disappointment with Mukherjee’s half-hearted attack on the worst deficit among the emerging-markets.

However, on November 2 last year, the United States agreed to sell India the most expensive—the new F-35 fighter jets. In a report to the US Congress, the Pentagon said, “We believe US aircraft such as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)… to be the best in the world”, referring to the radar-evading F-35 jet. The Pentagon indicated that the programme faces rising costs, with a price tag of nearly $150 million each. It also noted that India is working with Russia on developing a fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

Notably, on November 3, 2011, CNN TV channel pointed out, “The Pentagon is portraying India as a major customer for US military arsenal… India also decided a major purchase of US F-16 and F-18 fighters…is a reminder of the vast sums in play.”

James Hardy, Asia Pacific Editor of Jane’s Defence Weekly stated, “With a potential contract price of US$9 billion to US$14 billion, this is the single biggest competition in the global defence aviation industry.”

While the Pentagon’s government-to-government program of foreign military sales to India have included C-17 and C-130 aircraft, Northrop Grumman E-2D, the latest version of the E-2 Hawkeye, aircraft radar systems, Harpoon weapons and specialised tactical equipments. It will cost 232 million dollars. Besides, America signed a deal of civil energy technology with India in 2008, which lifted sanctions on New Delhi in order to import nuclear technology.

In recent years, India has bought reconnaissance aircraft from US aerospace major Boeing worth 2.1 billion-dollars, medium range missiles for 1.4 billion dollars from Israeli Aerospace Industries, and signed a contract with the Russian Aircraft Corporation to upgrade its MiG 29 squadrons for 965 million dollars. Several deals are planned for the near future including one of the largest arms contracts of recent times—an 11-billion-dollar project to acquire 126 multi-role combat aircraft.

As regards New Delhi’s purchases from Israel, India’s The Tribune wrote, “Tel Aviv “agreed to share its expertise with India in various fields such as surveillance satellites and space exploration.” With the support of Israel, New Delhi has been acquiring an element of strategic depth by setting up logistical bases in the Indian Ocean for its navy.

Nevertheless, Indian defence expenditures have no bounds. In the past decade, India has spent billions of dollars on purchases of arms, planes, radars and ships from the US, Russia, Britain, Germany, Israel and France including other western countries.

Over the next 12 years, India is set to spend a whopping US$200 billion on defence acquisitions to replace its outdated inventory. In this respect, on February 15, 2010, a report of the Indian strategic defense magazine (India Strategic’s DefExpo) had pointed out that 70 per cent of the inventory of the Indian armed forces is 20-plus years old, and needs to be replaced with the modern technology. It explained that nearly half of this funding ($100b) will go to the Indian Air Force (IAF), which would need to replace more than half of its combat jet fleet as well as the entire transport aircraft and helicopter fleet. The army needs new guns, tanks, rocket launchers, multi-terrain vehicles, while the navy needs ships, aircraft carriers and a new range of nuclear submarines.

It is noteworthy that from 1994 to 1997 India’s defence budget was increased from 20 percent to 24.4 percent. In 2009, New Delhi increased its defense budget by a whopping 28.2 percent or Rs 130,000.00 million. Some experts estimate that military spending will increase further, totaling as much as 200 billion dollars over the period to 2022.

While exposing India’s ambitious defence policy, Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) has revealed in its report of April 2011, “India’s defence budget has roughly quadrupled (in real terms) since 2001—reaching $36.3 billion in the 2011–2012 budget—and enabled the implementation of long-term acquisition plans. Of the total defence budget, approximately 40 percent (some $14.5 billion) is allocated to the defence capital outlay budget.”

In fact, currently, more than half of India’s budget is allocated for armed forces, but its major portion is being expended on defence purchases and debt servicing, which leaves less than half for everything else including infrastructure development projects, education, healthcare, poverty alleviation, and various human services. New Delhi’s latest arms purchases will leave even less for what India needs most to lift hundreds of millions of its citizens from abject poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease.

Indian defence analyst Ravinder Pal Singh, while calling New Delhi’s unending defence spending at the cost of poverty-alleviation—with security requirements competing with socio-economic concerns for money calls it a guns-versus-butter question.

In this context, a report of the United Nations pointed out that India ranks 134th of 182 countries on the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index. It estimated that 50 per cent of the world’s undernourished population lives in India. Nearly 31 per cent of the billion-plus Indians earn less than a dollar a day.

Secretary General of the Control Arms Foundation of India Binalakshmi Nepram remarks, “When people are dying of poverty and bad sanitation, what protection will arms provide them?”

Indian civil society organisations, while complaining of excessive defence spending on buying, indicated that the defence budget is rapidly increasing every year because of India’s unending defence imports.

While, the world is rapidly moving towards the idea of one world as in the cyber age, states prefer welfare of their people at the cost of undue defence expenditures. Europe which learnt a drastic lesson from the two world wars, presents an ideal model by integrating the continent through the European Union. On the other side, despite criticism from various circles, the Indian government’s unlimited defence purchases are in full swing.

Ignoring regional problems and resolution of Indo-Pak issues-especially the thorny dispute of Kashmir, Indian rulers claim that they do not have any aggressive designs. But it becomes a big joke of the 21st century, reminding a maxim, “armed to the teeth, but no enemy”, if we take cognisance of India’s unlimited defence imports, raising India as the biggest arms recipient of the world.

~

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Email: sajjad_logic@yahoo.com

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

I Want My Sunni Back

By Sharmine Narwani | Al Akhbar | 2012-03-25

There is something quite unique about the Middle East’s “Resistance Axis” which includes Iran, Hezbollah, Syria, Hamas and a smattering of smaller groups opposed to western imperialism and zionism.

It is the only major grouping or alliance in the region that includes 1) Arab and Iranian, 2) Sunni and Shia, 3) Islamist and Secularist.

People in this part of the world use communal and political affiliations as a calling card. First name, last name, village of origin, neighborhood, school, mosque, church, group of friends, reading material…all of these things are a quick measure of “identity.”

This emotional link to community has often been exploited as a useful political tool to split people across national, political and religious lines. I have written before about these three “Mideast Stink Bombs,” cleverly wielded by dictators, religious extremists and western hegemonists to “divide-and-rule” the region’s populations to advantage.

The Resistance Axis poses an existential threat to these antagonists, whose very authority depends on vilifying the “Other:” the longterm Saudi project to demonize the Shia/Iran; pro-US autocrats and monarchies using “radical Islam” as an excuse to exclude moderate Islamists from the political process; manufacturing an Iranian “nuclear threat” to isolate a foe and justify weapons sales and military build-ups.

Instead, the rather successful alliance of Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah annihilates the argument that these “differences” are unbreachable fault lines in the Middle East. We can see with our own eyes, that here – standing strong and supportive in the face of common external foes – are Shiite, Sunni, Islamist, Secularist, Arab and Iranian.

Wrenching Away Our Sunni

So it is not at all surprising that the moment the Arab Spring touched a member of this Axis – Syria –all hands came on board to exploit any vulnerabilities and crow about the imminent break-up of the Resistance.

I recall the Wall Street Journal first breaking the Hamas-defecting-from-Axis story – it was called: Hamas Removing Staff From Syria – that bit was true. The next two paragraphs, however, greedily projected on the storyline: “The Islamic militant group’s parting of ways with Mr. Assad…” and the even more ambitious “Leaving Syria also distances Hamas from Iran…”

Plenty of Hamas officials went on the record denying a break with Syria and Iran, but the WSJ story grew legs, arms and heads. Not many western journalists rushed to cover the visit of Hamas’ top official in Gaza travelling to Iran afterward. But they went full-court press when the very same Ismail Haniyeh addressed a select crowd inside Cairo’s Al Azhar Mosque, saying: “I salute all people of the Arab Spring, or Islamic winter, and I salute the Syrian people who seek freedom, democracy and reform.”

The New York Times’ unabashed interpretation of that solitary quote leads its breaking story: “A leader of Hamas spoke out against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Friday, throwing its support behind the opposition…”

Actually, no. Assad and Iran and Russia and China also claim to support freedom, democracy and reform for the Syrian people. They are just as vague about from whence this freedom, democracy and reform will come as was Haniyeh during his Friday Prayer sermon.

So where exactly does Hamas stand on Resistance? And what does this mean for the future of the group and the geopolitics of the region?

The Arab Spring has made way for the “established opposition” in various countries to unseat autocratic governments. The most entrenched opponents of secular, pro-US regimes in the Mideast happen to be Islamists – most of which are of Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) origin, like Hamas.

But while Hamas was marked as an early “winner” of the Arab Spring – their co-religionists in Egypt were, after all, meant to sweep away the previous regime’s oppressive actions against Gaza – they instead found themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place in Syria.

It is the old holdover of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria that forms the backbone of the opposition there. And so Hamas found itself in the indelicate position of being expected to choose between its Islamist identity and its Resistance identity. It is worth noting that other Islamist Resistance Axis members do not seem to struggle with the issue: even other Sunni groups like Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) who have also been under scrutiny over this very issue. It really begs the question: is Hamas just too big a Resistance prize for regional players who want this Axis destroyed? The ones courting Hamas assiduously – and asking them to make these choices – are the same ones trying to break Syria’s back, isolate Iran, neutralize Hezbollah and stop armed resistance in Gaza (PIJ).

Hamas: Islamist or Resistance?

It is a difficult challenge for the group. The fact is that Hamas is both Islamist and Resistance. The question of whether one prevails over the other is an interesting one, and has been with me since my August 2010 interview with Hamas Chief Khaled Meshaal, at which time I concluded: “Hamas is clearly a national liberation movement that has at it roots a “resistance” outlook. It’s focus is the liberation of Palestine from Israeli occupation, and the group’s Islamist character complements rather than competes with Hamas’ political objectives.”

Meshaal even took a crack at explaining the roots of the Resistance Bloc, which has long been an area of interest for me: “The forming of this bloc is a natural consequence of events in the region – firstly, the presence of Israel and its atrocities against the region, and then the failure of the negotiation process to achieve something substantial… So there is a vacuum. There is a fiasco. There is a frustration. There is an increasing fury and anger among the masses. And now, embarrassment at the official level in the region. Resistance has therefore become an attractive model for states in the region.”

Prescient statement. The Arab Awakening, of course, kicked off a few short months later in Tunisia.

But then Meshaal said something very interesting, which I think goes to the heart of this Axis. Pointing to Iran, Syria, Turkey, Sudan and Qatar, Meshaal insisted: “They each have their own modus operandi and interests. Something these nations do share, however, is the self-desire to develop this new trend, but at the same time to remain open – not closed or bound – to enjoying options.”

In other words, the Resistance Axis is not an ideological grouping – it is an opportunistic one. An alliance based more on common goals than commonalities. When Saudi Prince Faisal famously quizzed Meshaal about his alliance with Iran, the Hamas chief explained: “Yes, we have relations with Iran and will do so with whomever supports us. We will say thank you to them, but this is not at the expense of our Arab relations. We are a resistance movement, open to the Arabs, to the Muslims and to all countries in the world, and we are not part of any agenda for regional forces.”

Does Hamas know where Hamas is going?

Which brings us to today. In my view, Hamas is exploring its options right now. I have confirmation from both Hamas and Iran that financial assistance continues as before. And it seems that every time speculation about worsening relations hits a peak, a senior Hamas official pops up in Tehran to dispel rumors.

Syria is a much harder problem. Hamas officials tell me that the reason for vacating their political office in Damascus is because other nationals were refusing to meet them in Syria. But let’s be honest, the sectarian undercurrents in both Syria and the region – fanned heavily by Saudis, Qataris, Salafists and the western cabal hyper-focused on Iran – are putting the screws on Hamas.

The group is under tremendous pressure from these parties to break from the Resistance Axis, which many have disparagingly dubbed the “Shiite Crescent.” They have offered money, incentives, sanctuary to Hamas. They have used threats. They have invoked the “Brotherhood” of the Sunni. But then consider this: why, a year later, are we still uncertain of Hamas’ position regarding its alliance with Iran, Hezbollah and Syria.

A rather observant pro-Resistance source remarked the other day: “Hamas is under tremendous pressure to criticize Syria, and that’s all they came up with? It’s not very convincing. Hamas is not giving opinions voluntarily about Syria, I can assure you.”

As Hamas looks to the future and finds many natural co-religionist allies in the various Ikhwan groups emerging on the Arab political landscape, it will be faced with the same dilemma – this time from a different direction. The Islamist character of Hamas may be more fulfilled, but will there be a big gaping hole in their resistance outlook?

Can the Ikhwan get them Palestine? Or can Iran, Syria and Hezbollah fulfill that long-held ambition? Part of the problem with the emerging Ikhwan political parties is that Saudi Arabia, Qatar – even the United States – are trying to guide their direction. If successful, that will not be a comfortable home for Hamas. These new “mentors” will not allow them much breathing space – these are the Old Regimes that actively support the regional Old Order and encourage “flexibility” with Israel.

The big dog-and-pony show of a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation led to Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas taking the lead. What became of Hamas’ awkward Jordanian visit that was only possible because of Qatari hand-holding? Fatah and Jordan are the last places to look for a Palestinian solution – they are too beholden to western interests.

The new mentors will bang away at Hamas; demand political blood from the group; push them toward unpalatable concessions. A wise colleague points out: “Hamas will be finished when it becomes Fatah.”

In a 2009 interview with Usama Hamdan, Hamas’ international relations chief told me: “In the West, they try to shape you before dealing with you. This is the Palestinian experience. They’ve done this with Fatah. Hamas’ position is to say what we are, what we stand for – clearly – and we can defend our rights best that way.”

An equally-senior Hamas official told me recently in a lengthy off-the-record conversation that there were “good changes” taking place in the region, but “real dangers” ahead: “The international community does not care about the people of the region… the conflict still is between real independence and being under occupation – or the influence of outsiders.”

He also refuses the notion that Islamist trends in the region will end up hostile to the Resistance: “You can’t say the Ikhwan is against Resistance – they have been real supporters of Hamas.”

There are two main priorities for Hamas these days, he says: “The needs of the people in the region and dealing with Israel and its supporters.”

Hamas may evolve in the next few years, but if it cleaves to its core values – somewhere in the middle of the current leadership’s political spectrum – I think you will find a group that will not commit itself to concepts or allies outside of those parameters. The group will talk to all players, consider all options, test the new waters of this fast-changing region – as it should. In the final analysis, it is the liberation of Palestine that bestows popular legitimacy on this group, and Hamas will need to choose the path that best serves that goal.

And Resistance itself might change, as one Hamas official hinted to me. If sectarianism can be contained, when this ferocious geopolitical Battle of the Blocs is over, we might perhaps even see a clean sweep from the Persian Gulf to North Africa of people rejecting foreign hegemony and Zionism. This is what the Old Guard fears most – and the vast majority of Arabs, Iranians, Sunni, Shia, Islamists and Secularists wholeheartedly support.

It will take some time, but I will have my Sunni back.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Comments Off on I Want My Sunni Back

Sarkozy bans Muslim cleric from visiting France

Al Akhbar | March 26, 2012

President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday that influential Qatar-based Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi was not welcome in France, adding to concerns that the French leader is fueling Islamophobia.

Egyptian-born Qaradawi, 86, has been invited to visit next month by the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF).

“I told the emir of Qatar himself that this gentleman was not welcome in the territory of the French Republic,” Sarkozy told France Info radio.

Qaradawi, who hosts a popular show on Al-Jazeera satellite television, backed Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and has launched a fund-raising effort for the Syrian opposition.

He had been due to attend the UOIF congress at Le Bourget near Paris on April 6 alongside renowned Egyptian preacher Mahmoud al-Masri.

“I said that a certain number of people, who have been invited to this congress and who maintain or who would like to take positions that are incompatible with the republican ideal, would not be welcome,” Sarkozy said.

Qaradawi, who has close ties with the leadership of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, left the country in the 1960s after being imprisoned by the regime of president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

He is accused of having made homophobic statements and was banned from entering Britain in 2008. He has been banned from entering the United States since 1999.

Sarkozy has fanned right-wing discourse ahead of French presidential elections this year in an attempt to win conservative voters wary of immigration and France’s large Muslim population.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan recently accused the French leader of inciting racism and Islamophobia in a bid to get re-elected.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Islamophobia | , , , , | 3 Comments

Eight children from Beit Ummar facing suspension from their village of residence

International Solidarity Movement, West Bank | March 26, 2012

Eight children between the ages of 14 to 17 years old were arrested in Beit Ummar during night raids from 6th to 11th of March conducted by the Israeli occupation forces following a nonviolent solidarity demonstration for the hungerstriker Khader Adnan on the 21st of February.

On Tuesday 20th of March the youth went to court at the Israeli military court at Ofer and faced a sentence of being banned from Beit Ummar, where they live with their families, for a period of 6 months. The youth are being accused of throwing stones at Israeli military installations. The detainees are Ayesh Khalid Sabri Awad (17 years), Basil Khalid Hassan Abu Hashim (15 years), Zain Hisham Khalil Abu Maria (15 years) Sami Amer Ahmed Abo Joudeh (16 years), Emad Mohammed Saed Solaiby (16 years), Mohab Jawdat Adi (14 years), Bilal Mahmud Awad Ayyad (16 years), and Ahmed Ali Mahmoud Solaiby (16 years).

The announcement of the sentence aroused opposition on the part of family members of the accused, leading to removal of the family members from the court and adjournment until the 25th of March. Issa Solaiby, father of Ahmed, says his son was also beaten by 4 soldiers in the court.

Hisham Abu Maria, father of Zain, claims that the children are being pressured to agree to false accusations. He said, “They made him (Zain) say he threw rocks at the soldiers even though there were no soldiers” present at the time noted in the charges.

The village of Beit ummar has around 17,000 inhabitants and is surrounded by illegal, Zionist settlements. According to Issa Solaiby a member of the local Popular Committee, Beit Ummar used to consist of 33,000 dunams of land. The building of the separation wall by Israel and a road that is closed off to Palestinians took 13,000 dunams of the village land.

Since then an additional 3,000 dunams have been stolen by settlers living in illegal Israeli settlements. The inhabitants of Beit Ummar suffer from violence from the settlers living in the surrounding settlements. Issa Solaiby also complains that the settlers prevent the farmers from access to their own land and destroy olive trees and grape vines.

In March the settlers living in the illegal Beit Ain settlement destroyed 14 olive trees, 21 grape vine plants, and 2 citrus trees from the village in an act of incitement.

According to Issa the settlers also enter the village with soldiers and guns to make the villagers aware of their aggressive presence. One year ago 17-year-old Yousef Ikhlayl was shot and killed by Israeli settlers as he was farming with his father. His killers remain unpunished.

Many of the villagers have been arrested and gone to jail. Imprisonment is a problem especially with young people. According to Muhannad Abu Awwad 10,000 villagers have gone to jail and at present 30 inhabitants, most of them under 16, are serving time in Israeli occupation prisoners.

Muhannad himself went to jail for two years from the age 21 until 23 and is now studying law.

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israeli occupation authority demolished 20 Palestinian homes in West Bank last week

Palestine Information Center – 25/03/2012

RAMALLAH — The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) has demolished 20 Palestinian homes in the West Bank over the past week, a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian land said on Sunday.

The report said that the demolition streak took place in the Jordan Valley and displaced 60 people including 26 children.

It said that IOA bulldozers damaged 100 dunums in Salfit’s Kufr Al-Deek village and uprooted 100 olive saplings in Beit Dajan village in Nablus at the pretext they were planted in a military area.

OCHA pointed out that 29 Palestinians were wounded in Israeli occupation forces’ crackdown on a peaceful demonstration in Kufr Qadum to the north of Qalqilia last week.

The report also said that a 14-year-old boy was badly injured when Israeli army ordnance exploded near him in the Jordan Valley.

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | Comments Off on Israeli occupation authority demolished 20 Palestinian homes in West Bank last week

Confined Cruelty: Israeli Treatment of Palestinian Minors

By Graham Peebles | Palestine Chronicle | March 24, 2012

For many Palestinian children their childhood is lived under a cloak of fear, and the threat of violence and abuse at the hands of an armed force that stalks the streets of their homeland.

In the eleven years since 2000, Israeli forces have killed “1,471” (1) children in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the bulk of which are aged between 13 and 17 years old. The children of Gaza have been and continue to be at greater risk, with almost a thousand murdered in the last twelve years, on the streets of their city, on their way to and from school, whilst playing with friends, shopping for their family or simply relaxing in their homes. Most are shot randomly, indiscriminately, or killed as a result of Israeli air and ground attacks. Around 50 were taken prematurely from their families by unexploded ordnance.

This latest attack on the people of Gaza began on Friday 9th March, “killing 25 Palestinians.” (2) The Israeli air force fired missiles from the comfort of their warplanes at civilians in an arbitrary way, shooting onto the streets of Gaza and into people’s homes, “in the Jabaliya refugee camp that were mostly full of women and children,” (PM) The faceless attackers even shot at mourners attending a funeral. Such is the callous, vicious nature of the Israeli security forces, that kills, injures and intimidates innocent women and children, destroying all hope of living peaceful decent lives, and all in the name of ‘security’. Nonsense, this is criminal violence nothing more or less.

These most recent atrocities come on the back of the massacre that took place in December ‘08/January’09, when a total of “1417” (IOAK) Palestinians were murdered, of which ‘318” (IOAK) were children and 116 women. Fresh in the children’s young memories lie the echo of that horrendous time, the constant bombardment, the loss of loved ones, and the shootings. In addition to the deaths around 1000 children were injured in the three-week assault, many children were left with severe physical disabilities and deep psychological wounds. The mental/emotional effects more difficult to see and or to treat than broken bones and scared flesh. “The Gaza Community Health Programme estimates that half of Gaza’s children – around 350,000 – will develop some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.” (3) This is staggering but unsurprising, and the attacks this March on unarmed civilians, will serve to intensify the mental suffering and anguish that these children are living with, “both parents and psychologist fear that Gaza children could be affected psychologically in the long run.” (OP)

Children make up around 45% of the four million or so total Palestinian population in the occupied territories (4) – a fact that terrifies an aging Israel. And what impact does living under the brutal Israeli occupation have on them, are they inclined towards peace and brotherhood, is tolerance fostered in their hearts and minds or are the seeds of hate and the desire for revenge being carefully sown. Does violence ever bring peace, or perpetuate conflict. Violence we see begets not harmony but further violence. Colonel Travers: “we spoke to a psychiatrist in Gaza,” (5) who said, “We already see in our schools in Gaza the next generation of Hamas revolutionaries, children exposed to so much violence, they have no option but to terminate their childhood and move into a different frame, and the likelihood is that they will never stabilize.”(Ibid) In order to justify the unjustifiable, the unjust Israel needs to instil hate into another generation of Palestinians – to maintain their (Israel’s) position as the ‘enemy within’, thereby excusing in some perverted distortion of the facts, their continued aggression, violence and violation of international laws, too many to count.

Intimidation and Torture

Palestinian children living in the West Bank and the Gaza strip under the illegal Israeli occupation are subjected to brutal treatment, illegal imprisonment, torture and intimidation by the Israeli security forces. Defence for Children International states “a pattern of systematic ill-treatment [of Palestinian children] emerges, [from their report ‘Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted’] much of which amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as defined in the UN Convention against Torture, and in some cases, torture – both of which are absolutely prohibited.” (6) Since 1967 Palestinian children as well as adults have been subjected to Israeli Military Law, a legal system based on prejudice and short on justice. In the time since this emergency system was instigated 726,000 Palestinians have been arrested and detained. The numbers of children arrested and taken from their homes is shocking. “In the past 11 years alone, around 7,500 children, some as young as 12 years, are estimated to have been detained, interrogated, and imprisoned within this system. This averages out at between 500-700 children per year, or nearly two children, each and every day.” (BBCC) Mostly the arrested children live in villages in areas of tension, “friction points, namely settlements built in violation of international law, and roads used by the Israeli army or settlers.” (Ibid) The situation seems to be escalating particularly in certain areas of the West bank. “The extreme Golani Unit of the Israeli military is escalating its arrests of Palestinian children in Al Khalil (Hebron), targeting boys between the ages of 12 to15 years old with at least 10 reported cases of child arrests made (in early February 2012) just in the span of one week.” (7)

As well as arrests, incarceration in solitary confinement has also increased, with almost a quarter of all children arrested being held in isolation. Children, mainly boys, aged from 12 to 17 years old are forcefully taken from their family, often at night, imprisoned in a tiny, dank cell, illegally beaten and tortured, intimidated and on occasion subjected to electronic shock treatment. Most children are detained for the terrible crime of throwing stones at soldiers armed with M16 rifles and tear gas, all courtesy of the American arms industry. Like 15-year-old Yahia, who, with four friends was arrested and taken to the [illegal] Israeli settlement of Zuffin, where their “hands tied behind their backs, they were blindfolded, before being forced to kneel on the ground for several hours.” (BBCC) The inevitable insults then began to rain down on the children. “After about two and a half hours the boys were loaded into a truck and transported to a police station … the boys were interrogated … the interrogator grabbed the boys head and slammed it against the wall, slapping him twice, a short time later he returned holding a small electric shock device [Taser]. ‘He placed the device on my body and I felt a great powerful shock and my body started shivering’. This shock treatment continued until ‘I couldn’t feel my arms or legs and I felt extreme pain in my head. I felt I was going to be paralysed, so I decided to confess” (BBCC) In another example of torturous abuse at the hands of the Israelis, there is 16-year-old Mohammad Shabrawi from the West Bank town of Tulkarm, arrested in January 2001, again accused of throwing stones. His ordeal mirrors in part that of Yahia – taken to a settlement, his hands tied and being forced blindfolded to kneel on the asphalt for an hour or so, before being taken to “Cell 36, deep within Al Jalame prison in northern Israel.” (8) The Guardian reports: “It is one of a handful of cells where Palestinian children are locked in solitary confinement for days or even weeks. One 16-year-old claimed that he had been kept in Cell 36 for 65 days.” (Ibid) Mohammad spent “17 days in solitary, apart from interrogations. He first saw a lawyer 20 days after his arrest, he said, and was charged after 25 days” and the effect of this terrible ordeal on the boy, since his release, he said, he was “now afraid of the army, afraid of being arrested.” His mother said he had become withdrawn.” (Ibid)

The use of hand ties and blindfolds is extensive, in 2010 the UN documented 90 cases of “ill treatment” of Palestinian children in Israeli detention (9), of which 75 had their hands tied behind their backs and were also blindfolded. Almost a third of children were under 15 years of age. Of the 90 detained “62 children reported being beaten, 35 children reported position abuse and 16 children were kept in solitary confinement. In three cases, children reported the use of electric shocks on their bodies. Particularly concerning was the fact that there was an increase in documented cases of sexual violence” (UNDOPI). All of this contravenes international law and conventions signed and ratified by Israel and the democratic principles Israel so loudly proclaims. Mark Regev, the chief Israeli purveyor of propaganda and deceit, and Spokesman for Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu said, according to the Guardian, “The test of a democracy is how you treat people incarcerated, people in jail, and especially so with minors.” (TG) Democracy damned by words of duplicity. Much of the mistreatment exercised towards Palestinian children not only contravenes international law, but also violates Israel’s own domestic laws. According to Israeli Law, “Interrogation of a minor may be conducted only by an interrogator who is trained as a youth interrogator. A parent is allowed to be present at all times,” (10) and ”Minors have the right to consult with the parent before the interrogation.” (BTSR)

When in Israeli custody, children are violently interrogated; they are shackled, blindfolded and bound to a chair whilst being questioned. They are verbally insulted “You’re a dog, a son of a whore is common. Many are exhausted from sleep deprivation. Day after day they are fettered to the chair, then returned to solitary confinement.” (TG) Eventually the majority of children sign confessions that they later state were coerced, “Children under interrogation unsurprisingly eventually admit to the ‘crimes’, DCI “in the end at least 90 percent will plead guilty, as this is the quickest way out of a system that denies children bail in 87 percent of cases.” (BBCC) Accusations of crimes justifying these illegal detentions are commonly, throwing stones, or occasionally Molotov cocktails at soldiers or settlers – both of whom, let us remember, are illegally present upon Palestinian land. A few are arrested for “more serious offences such as links to militant organisations or using weapons,” states the Guardian.

Major Violation, Minor Insecurity

And what ‘National security information’ is being elicited from the interrogation of these children, who the Israelis are abusing? “They are pumped for information about the activities and sympathies of their classmates, relatives and neighbours.” (TG) Within walls of intimidation a child can be forced to betray their friends and families, eliciting the names of other stone throwers is a primary aim of the torturer. B’Tselem: “One method the police use to identify juvenile stone throwers is incrimination: the police arrest one or more youths, they are required to give names of other youths whom they saw throwing stones, and these youths are then arrested and required to provide the names of others, and so on.” (BTSR) The children under interrogation in a frightening isolated place, far from home, are under great emotional stress and inevitably give up the names of friends, the experience then iscompounded by the added trauma of guilt.

Children are mostly held inside Israel itself, which restricts access to legal support and excludes family members from visiting, their freedom of movement is constrained under the occupation, the necessary permit to visit the prisons is often impossible to obtain. Families are therefore unable to support their children through the ordeal of confinement. Holding children in prisons inside Israel is in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits such transfers. According to DCI, “testimonies [from 310 children] reveal that the majority of children are taken away to an unknown location for interrogation.” (BBCC) This process of arrests, detention and torture operating inside Israel and outside international and national law, offers the victims no legal recourse, DCI states that “there is a general absence of effective complaint mechanisms.” (Ibid)

Legally Binding, Illegally Bound

The Israeli judicial system as it currently pertains to Palestinian children, allows illegal practices to take place within the walled settlements – themselves illegal, inside police stations and Israeli prisons. International law on the rights of the child, to which Israel is bound, is clear and extensive: “The main document establishing the rights of children is the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN in November 1989. Israel signed the Convention in July 1990 and ratified it in August 1991.” (BTSR) In the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, we find: “Condemning the targeting of children in situations of armed conflict and direct attacks on objects protected under international law, including places that generally have a significant presence of children, such as schools and hospitals.” (11) Schools are repeatedly targeted by Israeli security forces, according to the UN in 2010 there was an increase in the number of attacks on education institutions. The UN continues its findings, “these attacks resulted in damage to schools or interruption of education, placing the safety of the children in Gaza and the West Bank at risk. The majority of cases involved the presence of Israeli security forces within school compounds following raids, forceful entry, and search and arrest operations, including the use of tear gas on students.” (UNDOPI) All international treaties and conventions signed by the lawbreaker, Israel, safeguard children in conflict, and Israel ignores them all. DCI: “These treaties relevantly provide that: in all actions concerning children their best interests shall be a primary consideration; children should only be detained as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;” (BBCC) Held for ‘17 days in solitary’ as Mohammed was, is neither short nor appropriate, indeed it is illegal. It is one example within a catalogue of atrocities that sees Israel contravening another convention, breaking yet another international law and doing so with impunity. This must stop, urgent action is required to safeguard the children of Palestine and protect them from the tyranny that is Israeli policy in the OPT’s.

In order to fuel what is a raging furnace of legal standards raging around Israel, let us add The Fourth Geneva Convention, which “grants special protections to minors” (IOAK) and provides 146 articles that protect in law the lives of all Palestinians living under the illegal Israeli occupation. Israel is in breach of them all. Indeed ‘grave breaches’, which in itself constitutes war crimes, “the world has seen those [grave breaches] inflicted every day by Israel against the Palestinian people living in occupied Palestine: e.g., willful killing of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli army and Israel’s illegal paramilitary settlers.” (Ibid) Israel is guilty of ‘grave breaches’ of the convention and the more serious offense of ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ against Palestinians “as determined by the U.N. Human Rights Commission” (Ibid), which is the “legal precursor to the international crime of genocide as defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.” (Ibid) The argument that Israel is or has in fact already committed the crime of genocide, is powerful and to many indisputable.

Genocide, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, crimes against humanity; titles that all fit Israel bespoke. Call it what you will, the actions of Israel in the OPT’s are vile, murderous, calculated and illegal. It is for the international community acting in unity, and led by the UN to finally stand up and act to protect the lives of the innocent men, women and children of Palestine, lifting the shadow of constant fear, intimidation and aggression from their lives. Humanity is one. Together we must stand in the face of injustice, violence and hate to safeguard the lives of the innocent, the oppressed the defenceless.

Notes:

(1) If only Americans Knew. (IOAK) http://www.ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/dec08.html
(2) The Palestine monitor (PM) 13th March 2012 http://www.palestinemonitor.org/?p=4401
(3) Occupied Palestine (OP) 17th March 2012
(4) See Wikipedioa.
(5) See Mondoweiss.
(6) Defence for Children International report, bound-blindfolded-and-convicted-children-held-military-detention-2012 (BBCC)
(7) See International Solidarity Movement.
(8) The Guardian (TG) The Palestinian children – alone and bewildered – in Israel’s Al Jalame jail
(9) United Nations Developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel (UNDOPI) http://www.un.org/children/conflict/english/palestine.html
(10) B’TSELEM report No Minor Matter: Violation of the Rights of Palestinian Minors Arrested by Israel on Suspicion of Stone-Throwing (BTSR)
(11) OHCHR Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc-conflict.htm

Graham Peebles is Director of The Create Trust (www.the createtrust.org), a UK registered charity Supporting fundamental Social change and the human rights of individuals in acute need. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: graham@the createtrust.org.

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , | 1 Comment

Megiddo prison administration blocks visits to hunger strikers

Palestine Information Center – 26/03/2012

RAMALLAH — The administration of the Israeli Megiddo prison has blocked visits by lawyers to their clients in the jail as a punishment for going on hunger strike.

Human rights sources said that the administration cited trivial pretexts such as that detained hunger strikers were very weak and could not walk to the visitation room.

They said that lawyer Fawzi Shalloudi demanded a written explanation for preventing him from seeing the hunger strikers since Israeli law does not ban those prisoners from meeting their lawyers.

He said that the officer in-charge in the jail said that Shalloudi could not see the two prisoners, who are on hunger strike, because they could not walk, and added that he would not ask them whether they would like to see the lawyer because, as he said, “I am not a postman”.

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , , | Comments Off on Megiddo prison administration blocks visits to hunger strikers

Israel Boycotts UN Rights Council over Settlement Investigation Decision

Al-Manar | March 26, 2012

Israel decided on Monday to cut contact with the United Nations Human Rights Council after last week’s decision to establish an international investigative committee on the settlements that the occupation is building in the West Bank, Haaretz reported Monday.

According to the Zionist website, “the Israeli foreign ministry ordered the Israeli ambassador to Geneva to cut off contact immediately, instructing him to ignore phone calls from the commissioner.”

Quoting an un-named official, Haaretz pointed out that this step would enable the Zionist entity to “bar any fact-finding team dispatched by the council from entering Israel and the West Bank to investigate settlement construction.”

“We will not permit members of the human rights council to visit Israel and our ambassador has been instructed to not even answer phone calls,” the official said.

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | Comments Off on Israel Boycotts UN Rights Council over Settlement Investigation Decision