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Our Palestinian Future in Israel: How Long Can We Be Dehumanised in a Racist State?

By Khalil Nakhleh | January 16, 2009

Every month or so I drive for three hours from Ramallah to my native village in Upper Galilee to hike in the olive orchards engulfing my village and to reminisce about my childhood. My village, which was perched alone on that hill under the cold drift from Mount Hermon, as I remember it, now is forced to share the surrounding hills with Jewish-only colonies. One morning, one of those Saturday hiking mornings, two Jewish colonists from a nearby colony passed me on their dirt bikes on their way to promenade in our olive orchards and hurled at me a soft and humane “boker tov” (good morning), to which I responded, equally softly and humanely. They continued their ride, and I was forcefully left with my unanswered questions about the nature of our “living together.”

On the face of it, the “boker tov” greeting was natural and expected. But why did it upset me? Something did not settle well with me. By itself, it was a natural human greeting, but in an unnatural context and environment: these two men were there, on my land, only because they happened to be Jews (and, most likely, Zionists). Thus, they were rendered privileged to live in a subsidised house that was built for them on stolen Arab land, while people in my village are not even permitted to build or expand their houses on their very own land in order to meet the need of their extended families, only because they happened to be Palestinian Arabs. This is what did not settle well with me. Because, as they passed me on that October Saturday morning, we were not equal under this Zionist-Jewish system, nor did we have access to the same resources – economic, legal, political, etc. – in a place where I should have been “more equal” and more privileged, having been born on this very land. My narrative has been undermined by force and mythology.

How do I interpret what I might call our expropriated narrative? And how can we, as a people – individuals and collectives – repossess this narrative?

I begin by posing two interrelated questions: What does it mean to be a Palestinian Arab living in Israel? And what does it mean to be part of an indigenous minority that is a remaining fragment of the Palestinian people, living in a country that is directly responsible for this historical evil?

To heighten our Palestinian narrative, I propose to look at three interconnected events in our very recent history, threaded by the same historical sequence, and underpinned by the same racist ideology. The focus on these events will shape the answer to the above two questions. The three events are Yawm al-Ard (Land Day) of March 1976, Habbet October (the October uprising) of October 2000, and the Zionist-Jewish attack on Palestinian Arab Citizens in Akka of October 2008.

Yawm al-Ard, 1976

Yawm al-Ard refers to the day of the general strike that was held on 30 March 1976 among the Palestinian communities in Israel to protest the new wave of government-approved expropriation of Arab-owned lands, hitting at the heart of Arab villages in Central Galilee. The decision to strike was an exercise of the Palestinian community’s right to protest and civil disobedience, as a means of affirming the indigenous Palestinian struggle against the gradual dispossession of their patrimony, the “Judaisation” (tahweed) of historical Palestine, and the “de-indigenisation” of their native place. Through protest and public strike, the Palestinians in Israel sought to halt the vicious and determined process aiming toward their ethnic cleansing. The Israeli security apparatus made a conscious attempt to forcefully put down the strike by deploying police, “border guards,” and army units in the heart of Palestinian communities. As a result, 6 Palestinian civilians were killed, about 50 injured, and about 300 arrested.

Israel’s colonisation plans for the Galilee were explicitly expressed in 1976 in what became known as the “Koenig Memorandum,” which was submitted to and approved by the Israeli government. The Memorandum detailed the “Judaisation of the Galilee Project,” whose objective was to expropriate Arab lands in the Galilee and develop 58 additional Jewish colonies by the end of the decade, increasing the Jewish population of the Galilee by 60 percent. The explicit purpose of this “development” was to break up the concentration of the Palestinian Arab population in large contiguous areas by infusing them with new Jewish colonies.

Since the breakup of the indigenous demographic contiguity of the Galilee and al-Naqab and their transformation from Arab majority areas have not yet been completed, the Israeli government created in 2005 a new portfolio for its deputy prime minister at the time (Shimon Peres) to “develop” al-Naqab and the Galilee. In a follow-up speech, Peres stated, “The development of al-Naqab and the Galilee is the most important Zionist project of the coming years.” Thus, the responsible ministerial committee allocated US$ 450 million “to building Jewish majorities in the Galilee and al-Naqab over the coming 5 years.”

Habbet October, 2000

Habbet October (or the October uprising) refers to the subsequent events that occurred during the general strike and protest marches of the Palestinian community in Israel on 1 October 2000, heeding the call of the “Higher Follow-up Committee of the Arab Masses” a week after Sharon’s insistent entry to al-Haram al-Sharif, which resulted in the killing of 80 Palestinians and the injuring of hundreds in the West Bank and Gaza during the week following Sharon’s visit.

As for the protest marches during the day of the general strike of the Palestinian communities inside Israel, the police were instructed by Ehud Barak, the minister of internal security at the time, to use all means possible to quell the protest. As a result, the police used live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets, and snipers, which resulted in the killing of 13 Palestinian civilian citizens. According to documented testimonies, the police used violent means to “inflict the maximum damage possible.” To avert severe protests from all quarters, and with the approach of elections for the prime minister, the government appointed an official commission of inquiry headed by a judge of the Supreme Court (Theodore Orr) eleven months later.

The Orr Commission laid the blame for what happened on the Palestinian community in Israel and its political leadership, on the basis that the protest marches were illegal and unjustified and that they were only intended to disrupt the public order; on the other hand, the Commission maintained that the response of the police was equally illegal and unjustified. Thus, in their “balanced” response, the Commission blamed the victim.

The allusions in the Commission’s conclusions are very telling. I shall focus only on two: the first has to do with the relationship of the police with the Palestinian community in Israel, and the second has to do with what is referred to as “Arab-Jewish relations.”

Regarding the first: the Commission emphasised the need for “conceptual transformation” in how the police deal with the “Arab sector.” The police are viewed in the Arab sector not as an agent of support, or assistance provider, but as an “enemy agent that serves an enemy authority.” The Commission emphasised the need for re-training and re-indoctrination among the police, stressing that the Arab communities in the state are not an enemy and that they should not be treated as such.

As for the conclusion regarding “Jewish-Arab relations,” the Commission stated, as summarised two years later by the academic member of the Commission (Shamir’s lecture, Tel Aviv University, 19 September 2005, p. 6):

· The Arab minority population of Israel is an indigenous population which perceives itself subject to the hegemony of a society that is largely not indigenous.

· The Arab minority in Israel is a majority transformed; it bears a heritage of several centuries of belonging to the majority, and views with disapproval its minority status, forced upon it with the establishment of the state.

· This reversal was the result of a harsh defeat suffered by the Arabs which, in their historical memory, is tied to the Nakba – the most severe collective trauma in their history.

· There was a continuous dynamic aspect to the decisive outcome gained by the Zionist movement in the struggle over the establishment of the State, reflected primarily in the takeover of extensive lands, clearing space for the masses of new immigrants. This fact fostered a feeling among the Arabs that the Israeli democracy is not as democratic toward the Arabs as it is toward the Jews.

Regarding the two events above, it is worth remembering that in all previous violent confrontations with Jewish protest movements in Israel, e.g., Black Panthers, the Rabbi Uzi Meshulem Movement, etc., never before was live ammunition used to quell a protest by Israeli Jews; and never was a Jew killed by the agents of the state.

The Zionist-Jewish attack on Palestinian Arab citizens in Akka, October 2008

This refers to the events that happened in Akka (Acre) on the eve of the Jewish Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). The sequence of events went this way (based on a meticulously documented report by the Akka Residents Coalition):

A 48-year-old Arab citizen of Israel from Akka rides in his car to the house of relatives … who live in the eastern part of the city (with a Jewish majority), to pick up his daughter … He drove slowly and quietly with no radio or speakers turned on (to respect the solemn Jewish holiday). Jewish youth attacked the car with stones.…

After Yom Kippur ended (9 October,) a large group of Jewish residents, estimated at 1,500, gathered around the train station in the eastern and northern parts of the city (where a small minority of Palestinian Arabs live in Jewish-majority neighbourhoods) … The Jewish rioters threw stones, clashed with the police, and attacked Arab passersby.

In these areas of the city, there is a Jewish majority; about twenty Arab families live there in total. The Jewish rioters gathered in the streets and cried “death to the Arabs.” They attacked Arab family homes trying to make their inhabitants flee; they damaged the homes and set them on fire … A text message distributed to Jewish residents called for a boycott of Arab tradesmen and shopkeepers.

Violent harassment by Jewish-Zionist extremists against Arab residents of the city of Akka did not start on Yom Kippur 2008; it started at least since 2002 when slogans such as “death to Arabs” started appearing on walls, elevators of apartment buildings, etc. This is not accidental vandalism; it is part of a trend to establish Jewish “purity” in the so-called Arab-Jewish mixed cities such as Akka, Lod, Ramleh, and Yaffa, which Jewish-Zionists consider areas of “demographic risk.” This trend is being pushed by the national right-wing party called “the seeds of the settlements” in recent years, by transplanting Jewish “yeshivas” and settlers into the Arab areas, brought in generally from the most extreme racist Jewish colonies in the West Bank. Today there are around 200 yeshivas in Akka, in addition to approximately 1,000 settler-extremists. The clear and overt purpose is to “Judaise” these cities.

In an interview (on Channel 7), the head of the Hesder Yeshiva in Akka, Rabbi Yosi Stern, stated:

“Akka is a national test. Akka today is Israel in ten years’ time. What happens in Akka today is what will happen in Israel.…

“Co-existence is a slogan. Ultimately Akka is a town like Raanana, Kfar Saba, or Haifa, and must safeguard its Jewish identity. I think everyone would agree that Akka is the capital city of Galilee, of thousands of years of Jewish history. We are here to preserve that Jewish identity and to reinforce that spirit, to stand for our nation’s honour.”

Concluding remarks

How are these three events that happened over the last thirty-some years interconnected? And how do they shape the answer to the two questions I posed earlier?

The ideological underpinnings of the three events are the same and focus on two levels with overt objectives: one is the Judaisation of the entire country through the Jewish colonisation of the land and the prevention of the existence of any Arab majority concentration (hence, the targeting of Galilee, al-Naqab and the Triangle, etc.). The second is the forced disconnection in identity and shared future between the Palestinian minority in Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and in the shatat (diaspora).

The only future for us, as an indigenous national minority that can exercise our inherited basic human rights on our land and that can achieve true justice and equality, is to reclaim and re-assert our narrative. We should seek to regain our status as part of our national Palestinian majority, in historical Palestine, as we struggle for the dismemberment and dissolution of the Zionist racist system and its transformation into a “normal” democratic system, responsive to the needs of all its citizens. Our future, as a national minority in and on our land, and as part of the Arab nation, is organically connected to the future of the Arab nation and to the entire Palestinian people – the communities in the West Bank and Gaza, the refugees, and all those dispersed throughout the world; and it has to be realised in a democratic society in historical Palestine, where we would be ready to co-exist with non-Zionist Jews. Our repossessed narrative cannot be a reinterpretation of our history as a dull shadow of Jewish-Zionist narrative. Our repossessed narrative must be based on the deconstruction of the racist Zionist-Ashkenazi system, which itself is a precondition for such a just solution. The existing Israeli system is, by definition, racist and exclusivist, and it is inherently and structurally incapable of providing justice and genuine equality to my Palestinian people.

Dr. Khalil Nakhleh is a Palestinian anthropologist, writer, and independent development and educational consultant from Galilee who resides in Ramallah. He is the editor of The Future of the Palestinian Minority in Israel (Ramallah: Madar Center, 2008). He may be reached at abusama@palnet.com

December 9, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Outdated Electronic Privacy Laws Allow Police to Access Sensitive Data Without a Warrant

ACLU | December 9, 2013

WASHINGTON – Law enforcement requests for a variety of cellphone users’ data continued to surge in 2012, according to responses from the nation’s major cellphone carriers prompted by inquiries from Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.).

Last year alone, AT&T and T-Mobile documented 600,000 requests for customer information made by local, state, and federal law enforcement. Verizon, in its response to Sen. Markey’s request, said that police requests for customers’ call records have approximately doubled over the last five years. Often, no warrant is required to compel cellphone carriers to turn over their customers’ information to police.

“Have no doubt, police see our mobile devices as the go-to source for information, likely in part because of the lack of privacy protections afforded by the law,” said Christopher Calabrese, legislative counsel at the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “Our mobile devices quite literally store our most intimate thoughts as well as the details of our personal lives. The idea that police can obtain such a rich treasure trove of data about any one of us without appropriate judicial oversight should send shivers down our spines.”

The companies’ responses to Sen. Markey’s office also show that law enforcement conducts real-time surveillance of targets’ web browsing habits. According to AT&T’s letter, the company allows law enforcement to do “real time web browsing surveillance.” Police are also requesting “tower dumps,” whereby cellphone companies give law enforcement the records of all cellphone users who have connected to a particular cellphone tower in a given time range.

“There is an easy fix to part of this problem,” said Calabrese. “President Obama and members of Congress should pass legislation that updates our outdated privacy laws by requiring law enforcement to get a probable cause warrant before service providers disclose the contents of our electronic communications to the government. Anything less is unnecessarily invasive and un-American.”

Currently there are many proposals in Congress to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Passed in 1986 before widespread usage of email or the existence of Internet-connected mobile devices, ECPA allows law enforcement agencies to obtain electronic communications content older than 180 days—including text messages—without a warrant. The ACLU supports bipartisan ECPA reform legislation introduced by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Senate and Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) in the House, which would require police obtain a warrant before compelling service providers to divulge the contents of their customers’ electronic communications.

Wireless carriers’ responses to Sen. Markey are available at:
markey.senate.gov/Markey_Receives_Responses_from_Wireless_Carriers_on_Law_Enforcement_Requests.cfm

More information on ECPA reform is available at:
aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/modernizing-electronic-communications-privacy-act-ecpa

December 9, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Witness In No Fly List Trial, Who Was Blocked From Flying To The Trial, Shows That DOJ Flat Out Lied In Court

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | December 9, 2013

On Friday the case against the US government, brought by Rahinah Ibrahim over her being placed on the “no fly list,” officially concluded with closing arguments, but that may have been the least interesting part of everything. Apparently, the day got off to a rocky start, after Ibrahim’s lawyers informed the DOJ that they intended to file bar complaints against some of the DOJ legal team for their actions in court, specifically concerning “misrepresentations” made to the court. It seems clear that this was mainly about the DOJ denying that the US government (mainly DHS) had done anything to prevent Ibrahim’s daughter, Raihan Mustafa Kamal, an American citizen, from coming to the US to be a witness in the trial. As you may recall, on Monday it had come out that she had been denied in her attempt to board her flight in Malaysia, and the DOJ claimed, flat out, that Kamal had merely missed her flight and rebooked on another flight.

It appears that none of that was true.

Instead, while Kamal had been rebooked by her travel agent earlier in the week to a different flight (because Expedia informed her that her original flight was full and she wouldn’t be able to travel on it), she arrived at the airport with nearly 3 hours to spare for her own flight, and was then denied the ability to board. There was a lot of back and forth, but eventually she obtained the email that had first been sent to Philippines Airlines (she was flying from Malaysia to the Philippines and then on to San Francisco), warning that Kamal was “a possible no board request.”

While that’s not a full on “denial” it was enough to have the airline deny her passage, and clearly shows that, contrary to the DOJ’s claims, DHS specifically had targeted Kamal and was hinting very strongly to airlines not to let her fly. It seems unlikely that they ever expected that email to get out. Either way, Kamal had spent nearly $2,000 of her own money on the original flight, and noted in her own deposition that she was unable to afford another immediate flight to the US (especially given that it’s holiday travel season).

Judge Alsup held a closed hearing about all of this, so it’s not entirely clear what he’s going to do, though from the public statements he has made to date, he did not appear to be happy about all of this. During the closing arguments — some of which involved kicking the public out — he even noted how ridiculous it was that they had to have a closed session since he didn’t think any of the “sensitive security information” was really that sensitive. He also challenged the government’s argument that they can properly review people who “appeal” their status without ever letting anyone know if or why they’re on the list. From Edward Hasbrouck’s transcript of the exchange:

JUDGE ALSUP: That’s just going back to the same sources that were wrong in the first place, and of course they are going to say, “We were right the first time.”

That troubles me.

Do you know what happened to Robert Oppenheimer?

He was denied his clearance. It was totally unjust. The information was bogus. They suspected him of being a Communist, but that was wrong.

It was a low point for America, to do that wrongly to an American hero.

You’re not seeing the other side of what can happen.

DEFENDANTS’ COUNSEL: TRIP is a continually improving process…

JUDGE ALSUP: We know that there’s going to be mistakes in your system, in any system, and people are going to get hurt.

What do we need? Should there be some sort of follow-up FBI interview to find out if there is contrary evidence?

DEFENDANTS’ COUNSEL: When a TRIP letter is sent, the recipient is offered the possibility of review by a Court of Appeals. Review by a Court of Appeals would reveal any improper basis for the decision.

JUDGE ALSUP: How could the Court of Appeals tell that from the file it is handed up by the agency?

Even if it includes the derogatory information, how is the Court of Appeals going to know from looking at the face of the document whether it’s true?

Couldn’t there be some process where you tell the person the nature of the allegations (”You contributed money to Al Qaeda”) without revealing the specific sources or methods for the information containing those allegations?

DEFENDANTS’ COUNSEL: We can say more in closed session, but we can’t do that.

The government also appeared to admit in its closing that the original no fly determination on Dr. Ibrahim was a mistake, but then seems to bend over backwards not to take responsibility for all the additional fallout from that incorrect designation — including the repeated denial of a visa to go back to the US (even for this very trial).

December 9, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

Iran-US Interim Agreement: Historic Breakthrough or Historic Sellout?

By James Petras :: 12.08.2013

Introduction

The recent interim accord between the six world powers and Iran has been hailed as an “historic breakthrough”, a “significant accomplishment” by most leading politicians, editorialists and columnists (Financial Times, (FT) 11/26/13, p. 2), the exceptions being notably Israeli leaders and the Zionist power brokers in North America and Western Europe (FT 11/26/13, p. 3).

What constitutes this “historic breakthrough”? Who got what? Did the agreement provide for symmetrical concessions? Does the interim agreement strengthen or weaken the prospects for peace and prosperity in the Gulf and the Middle East? To address these and other questions, one also has to include the powerful influence wielded by Israel on US and European policymakers (Stephen Lendman).

The Historical Record: Past Precedents

For over a decade the major US intelligence agencies have published detailed accounts of Iran’s nuclear program (see especially the National Intelligence Estimate 2007 (NIE)). The common consensus has been that Iran did not have any program for developing nuclear weapons (National Intelligence Estimate 2004, 2007). As a consequence of this ‘absence of evidence’, the entire Western offensive against Iran had to focus on Iran’s “potential capacity” to shift sometime in the future towards a weapons program. The current agreement is directed toward undermining Iran’s potential ‘capacity’ to have a nuclear weapons program: there are no weapons to destroy, no weapon plans exist, no war plans exist and there are no strategic offensive military operations on the Iranian ‘drawing board’. We know this, because repeated US intelligence reports have told us that no weapons programs exist! So the entire current negotiations are really over weakening Iran’s ongoing peaceful, legal nuclear program and undermining any future advance in nuclear technology that might protect Iran from an Israeli or US attack, when they decide to activate their “military option”, as was pulled off in the war to destroy Iraq.

Secondly, Iran’s flexible and accommodating concessions are not new or a reflection of a newly elected President. As Gareth Porter has pointed out: Nearly ten years ago, on November 15, 2004, Iran agreed “on a voluntary basis to continue and extend an existing suspension of enrichment to include all enrichment related and reprocessing activities” (Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service 11/26/13). According to Porter, Iran was ending “all manufacturing, assembly, installation and testing of centrifuges or their components”. Despite these generous concessions, on March 2005, the Europeans and the US refused to negotiate on an Iranian proposal for a comprehensive settlement that would guarantee against enrichment toward weapons grade. Iran ended its voluntary suspension of all enrichment activity. The US, led by Zionists embedded in Treasury, (Stuart Levey) then escalated sanctions. Europe and the UN Security Council followed in kind. The practice of the US and Europe first securing major concessions from Iran and then refusing to reciprocate by pursuing a comprehensive settlement is a well established diplomatic practice. Iran’s flexibility and concessions were apparently interpreted as “signs of weakness” to be exploited in their push toward ‘regime change’ (An Unusual Success for Sanctions Policy, FT 11/27/13, p. 10). Sanctions are seen as “effective” political-diplomatic weapons designed to further weaken the regime. Policy-makers continue to believe that sanctions should be maintained as a tool to divide the Iranian elite, disarm and dismantle the country’s defensive capacity and to prepare for “regime change” or a military confrontation without fear of serious resistance from the Iranians.

The entire charade of Iran’s ‘nuclear weapons as a threat’ has been orchestrated by the Israeli regime and its army of ‘Israel Firsters’ embedded in the US Executive, Congress and mass media. The ‘Big Lie’, promoted by Israel’s propaganda machine and network of agents, has been repeatedly and thoroughly refuted by the sixteen major US Intelligence Estimates or NIE’s, especially in 2004 and 2007. These consensus documents were based on extensive research, inside sources (spies) and highly sophisticated surveillance. The NIEs categorically state that Iran suspended all efforts toward a nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has not made any decision or move to restart that program. However, Israel has actively spread propaganda, based on fabricated intelligence reports, claiming the contrary in order to trick and push the US into a disastrous military confrontation with Israel’s regional rival. And the President of the United States ignores his own intelligence sources in order to repeat Israel’s ‘Big Lie’!

Given the fact that Iran is not a ‘nuclear threat’, now or in the past, and given that the US, European and Israeli leaders know this, why do they continue and even increase the sanctions against Iran? Why do they threaten to destroy Iran with pre-emptive attacks? Why the current demands for even more concessions from Tehran? The current negotiations and ‘agreement’ tell us a great deal about the ‘ultimate’ or final strategic aims of the White House and its European allies.

The ‘Interim Agreement’: A Most Asymmetrical Compromise

Iran’s negotiators conceded to the’ 5 plus 1’ all their major demands while they received the most minimum of concessions, (FT 1/25/13, p. 2).

Iran agreed (1) to stop all enrichment to 20 percent, (2) reduce the existing 20 percent enriched stockpile to zero, (3) convert all low enriched uranium to a form that cannot be enriched to a higher level, (4) halt progress on its enrichment capacity, (5) leave inoperable half of its centrifuges at Natanz and three-quarters of those at Fordow, and (6) freeze all activities at Arak heavy water facility which when built could produce plutonium. Iran also agreed to end any plans to construct a facility capable of reprocessing plutonium from spent fuel. The Iranian negotiators agreed to the most pervasive and intensive “inspections” of its most important strategic defense facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been closely allied with the US and its EU counterparts. These “inspections” and data collection will take place on a daily bases and include access to Natanz and Fordow. The strategic military value of these inspections is inestimable because it could provide data, heretofore unavailable, for any future missile strike from the US or Israel when they decide to shift from negotiations to the ‘military option’. In addition, the IAEA inspectors will be allowed to access other strategic facilities, including sites for developing centrifuges, uranium mines and mills. Future “negotiations” may open highly sensitive military defense sites such as Parchin, where conventional missiles and warheads are stored.

Obviously, there will not be any reciprocal inspections of the US missile sites, warships and military bases in the Persian Gulf, which store weapons of mass destruction aimed at Iran! Nor will the IAEA inspect Israel’s nuclear weapons—facilities in Dimona – despite Israeli threats to attack Iran. No comparable diminution of “military capacity” or nuclear weapons, aimed at Iran by some members of the ‘5 plus 1 and Israel’ is included in this “historic breakthrough”.

The ‘5 plus 1’ conceded meager concessions: Unfreezing of 7% of Iranian-owned assets sequestered in Western banks ($7 billion of $100 billion) and ‘allowing’ Iran to enrich uranium to 5 percent –and even that “concession” is conditioned by the proviso that it does not exceed current stockpiles of 5% enriched uranium. While the Iranian negotiators claim they secured (sic) ‘the right’ to enrich uranium, the US refused to even formally acknowledge it!

In effect, Iran has conceded the maximum concessions regarding its strategic national defenses, nuclear facilities and uranium enrichment in what is supposedly the ‘initial’ round of negotiations, while ‘receiving’ the minimum of reciprocal concessions. This highly unfavorable, asymmetrical framework, will lead the US to see Iran as ‘ripe for regime change’ and demand even more decisive concessions designed to further weaken Iran’s defensive capacity. Future concessions will increase Iran’s vulnerability to intelligence gathering and undermine its role as a regional power and strategic ally of the Lebanese Hezbollah, the current beleaguered governments in Syria and Iraq and the Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

The ‘Final Settlement’: Decline and Fall of the Islamic Nationalist Republic?

The real goals of the US sanctions policy and the recent decision to enter into negotiations with Iran have to do with several imperial objectives. The first objective is to facilitate the rise of a neo-liberal regime in Iran, which would be committed to privatizing major oil and gas fields and attracting foreign capital even at the cost of strategic national defense.

President Rohani is seen in Washington as the Islamic version of the former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev. Rohani, like his ‘model’ Gorbachev, ‘gave away the store’ while expecting Iran’s imperial adversaries to reciprocate.

The ‘5 plus 1’, mostly veterans of the ‘imperial shake down’, will take all of Rohani’s concessions and demand even more! They will “allow” Iran to recover its own frozen assets in slow droplets, which the neo-liberals in Tehran will celebrate as ‘victories’ even while the country stagnates under continued sanctions and the people suffer! The US Administration will retain sanctions in order to accommodate their Israeli-Zionist patrons and to provoke even deeper fissures in the regime. Washington’s logic is that the more concessions Teheran surrenders, the more difficult it will be to reverse the process under public pressure from the Iranian people. This ‘rift’ between the conciliatory government of Rohani and the Iranian people, according to CIA strategists, will lead to greater internal discontent in Iran and will further weaken the regime. A regime under siege will need to rely even more on their Western interlocutors. President Rohani ‘relying on the 5-plus-1’ will be like the condemned leaning into the hangman’s noose.

Rohani and the Neo-Liberal Collaborators

The ascendancy of Rohani to the Presidency brings in its wake an entire new political-economic leadership intent on facilitating large-scale, long-term penetration by Western and Chinese oil and gas companies in the most lucrative sites. Iran’s new oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, has made overtures to all the oil majors, and offers to revise and liberalize the terms for investment and provide concessions designed to greatly enhance multinational profits, in the most lucrative fields (FT, 11/27/13, p. 2). Zangeneh has kicked out the nationalists and replaced them with a cohort of liberal economists. He is preparing to eventually lay-off tens of thousands of public sector oil employees as an incentive to attract foreign corporate partners. He is prepared to lower fuel subsidies for the Iranian people and raise energy prices for domestic consumers. The liberals in power have the backing of millionaires, speculators and political power brokers, like Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani head of the key Expediency Council, which drafts policy. Many of Rafsanjani’s followers have been appointed to key positions in President Rohani’s administration (FT, 11/26/13, p.3).

Central to the ‘Troika’s (Rohani-Rafsanjani-Zangeneh) strategy is securing the collaboration of multi-national energy corporations. However that requires lifting the US-imposed sanctions against Iran in the shortest time possible. This explains the hasty, unseemly and one-sided Iranian concessions to the ‘5-plus-1’. In other words, the driving force behind Iran’s giveaways is not the “success of sanctions” but the ascendancy to power of the Iranian comprador class and its neo-liberal ideology which informs their economic strategy.

Several major obstacles confront the ‘Troika’. The major concessions, initially granted, leave few others to concede, short of dismantling the entire nuclear energy infrastructure and lobotomizing its entire scientific and technical manpower, which would destroy the legitimacy of the regime. Secondly, having easily secured major concessions without lifting the sanctions the ‘5-plus-1’ are free to escalate their demands for further concessions, which in effect will deepen Iran’s vulnerability to Western espionage, terrorism (as in the assassination of Iranian scientists and engineers) and preemptive attack. As the negotiations proceed it will become crystal clear that the US intends to force the ‘Troika’ to open the gates to more overtly pro-western elites in order to eventually polarize Iranian society.

The end-game is a weakened, divided, liberalized regime, vulnerable to internal and external threats and willing to cut-off support to nationalist regimes in the Middle East, including Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The US recognized and seized upon the rise of the new neo-liberal Rohani regime and secured major unilateral concessions as a down payment to move step-by-step toward bloody regime change. Washington’s “end game” is the conversion of Iran to a client petrol-state allied with the Saudi-Israeli axis.

As far-fetched as that appears today, the logic of negotiations is moving in that direction.

The Israeli-US Differences: A Question of Tactics and Timing

Israeli leaders and their Zionist agents, embedded in the US government, howl, pull out their hair and bluster against the ‘5-plus-1’ transitional agreement with Iran. They downplay the enormous one-sided concessions. They rant and rave about “hidden agenda”, “deceit and deception”. They fabricate conspiracies and repeat lies about secret “nuclear weapons programs” beyond the reach (and imagination) of any non-Zionist inspector. But the reality is that the “historic breakthrough” includes the dismantling of a major part of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, while retaining sanctions – a huge victory of the Zionists! The ‘5-plus-1’ negotiated a deal which has secured deeper and more extensive changes in Iran while strengthening Western power in the Persian Gulf than all of Netanyahu’s decade-long campaign of issuing ‘military threats’.

Netanyahu and his brainwashed Zionist-Jewish defenders in the US insist on new, even harsher sanctions because they want immediate war and regime-change (a puppet regime). Echoing his Israeli boss Netanyahu, New York Senator Chuck “the schmuck” Schumer, commenting on the interim agreement brayed, “The disproportionality of this agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will pass additional sanctions” (Barrons 12/2/13 p14) This is the same stupid policy that the embedded Zionists in Washington pursued with Iraq. Under the Bush Presidency, top neo-con Zionists, like Wolfowitz, Ross, Indyk, Feith, Abrams and Libby, implemented Ariel Sharon’s war dictates: (1) murdered Saddam Hussein (regime change) (2) destroyed Iraq’s economy, society and modern infrastructure, and (3) provoked ethnic fragmentation and religious war – costing the US over 2 trillion dollars on the war, thousands of US lives (millions of Iraqi lives) and at a cost of hundreds of billions in high oil prices to US consumers – further shattering the US domestic economy.

Among the few moderately intelligent and influential Zionist journalists, Gideon Rachman, who realizes the strategic value of the step-by-step approach of the Obama regime, has called for the White House “to take on the Israel lobby over Iran” (FT, 11/26/13, p. 10). Rachman knows that if Israel’s howling stooges in the US Congress drag the country into war, the American people will turn against the Israeli lobby, its fellow travelers and, most likely, Israel. Rachman and a few others with a grain of political sophistication know that the Rohani regime in Tehran has just handed over key levers of power to the US. They know that the negotiations are moving toward greater integration of Iran into the US orbit. They know, in the final instance, that Obama’s step-by-step diplomatic approach will be less costly and more effective than Netanyahu’s military ‘final solution’. And they know that, ultimately, Obama’s and Israel’s goal is the same: a weak neo-liberalized Iran, which cannot challenge Israel’s military dominance, nuclear weapons monopoly, annexation of Palestine and aggression against Lebanon and Syria.

Conclusion

Having secured a “freeze” on Iran’s consequential nuclear research and having on site intelligence on all of Iran’s major national defense and security facilities, the US can compile a data base for an offensive military strategy whenever it likes. Iran, on the other hand, receives no information or reports on US, European or Israeli military movement, weapons facilities or offensive regional capabilities. This is despite the fact that the ‘5-plus-1’ countries and Israel have recently launched numerous devastating offensive military operations and wars in the region (Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Libya and Syria). Having set the agenda for negotiations as one of further unilateral concessions from Iran, the US can at any point, threaten to end negotiations – and follow up with its ‘military option’.

The next step in the unilateral disarmament of Iran will be the US demand to close the strategic Arak heavy water plant. The US will demand that Iran produce a basic minimum amount of uranium and retain a stock pile to cover a few days or weeks for energy, research or medical isotopes. Washington will strip Iran of its capacity to enrich by imposing quantitative and qualitative limits on the centrifuges that Iran can possess and operate. During the next round of negotiations, the US will preclude Iran from undertaking the reprocessing of uranium at Arak or any other site. The US will tell ‘the Troika’ that the “right” (sic) to enrich does not extend to the right to reprocess. The US will demand stringent “transparency” for Iran, while maintaining its own high level secrecy, evasion and ambiguity with regard to its military, diplomatic and economic sanctions policy.

In a word, the US will demand that Iran surrender its sovereignty and subject itself to the colonial oversight of an imperial power, which has yet to make a single move in even reducing economic sanctions. The loss of sovereignty, the continued sanctions and the drive by the US to curtail Iran’s regional influence will certainly lead to popular discontent in Iran – and a response from the nationalist and populist military (Revolutionary Guards) and the working poor. The crisis resulting from the Troika’s adoption of the “Gorbachev Model” will lead to an inevitable confrontation. Over time the US will seek out an Islamist strongman, an Iranian version of Yeltsin who can savage the nationalists and popular movements and turn over the keys to the state, treasury and oil fields to a “moderate and responsible” pro-Western client regime.

The entire US strategy of degrading Iran’s military defenses and securing major neo-liberal “reforms” depends on President Rohani remaining in power, which can only result from the Obama regime’s compliance in lifting some of the oil and banking sanctions (FT 12/1/13, p. 6). Paradoxically, the greatest obstacle to achieving Washington’s strategic roll-back goal is Netanyahu’s power to block sanction relief – and impose even, harsher sanctions. The result of such an Israel Firster victory in the US would be the end of negotiations, the strengthening of Iran’s nuclear program, the demise of the oil privatization program and added support to regional nationalist movements and governments. President Rohani desperately needs western imperial reassurance of the benefits (sanction relief) of his initial giveaways. Otherwise his credibility at home would be irreparably damaged.

The imperial prize of a militarily weakened and neo-liberalized Iran, collaborating in maintaining the status quo in the Middle East, is enormous but it clashes with the Zionist Power Configuration, which insists on all power to the Jewish state from the Suez to the Persian Gulf!

December 9, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama administration ‘cherry-picked intelligence’ to justify Syria strike

RT | December 9, 2013

Washington knew Syrian rebels could produce sarin gas but “cherry-picked” intel to blame President Assad for the Aug. 21 attack on Ghouta, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed, citing senior US security sources.

The report was published in the London Review of Books after two of Hersh’s regular publishers, The New Yorker and The Washington Post, turned the article down.

Hersh, whose Pulitzers were for his exposes on American military misconduct in the Iraq and Vietnam wars, got his information on Syria from whistle-blowing acting and former intelligence and military officers, who for security reasons were not identified in the report.

According to Hersh’s findings, months before the chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus, which almost prompted US air strikes on Syria, “the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports… citing evidence that the Al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity.”

The attack took place on August 21, the same day UN inspectors arrived in Damascus to investigate allegations of use of chemical weapons. The casualty figures have ranged from several hundred to more than 1,400 deaths.

Before the attack, the Obama administration repeatedly described the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a “red line,” which would signal the US could intervene in the conflict.

Hersh wrote that he does not believe that the intelligence data, pointing at the rebels’ having capability for making sarin, could have in any way escaped the White House’s attention.

“Already by late May, the senior intelligence consultant told me, the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on Al-Nusra and its work with sarin,” he wrote.

Obama’s laying the blame for the nerve gas attack on Assad’s forces, completely disregarding Al-Nusra as a suspect in the case, is thus described in the report as the administration’s having “cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.”

“The cherry-picking was similar to the process used to justify the Iraq war,” Hersh wrote.

It’s because of the lack of sufficient evidence against Assad that Obama quickly abandoned his plan for military strikes.

“Any possibility of military action was definitively averted on 26 September when the administration joined Russia in approving a draft UN resolution calling on the Assad government to get rid of its chemical arsenal,” the report reads. “Obama’s retreat brought relief to many senior military officers. (One high-level special operations adviser told me that the ill-conceived American missile attack on Syrian military airfields and missile emplacements, as initially envisaged by the White House, would have been ‘like providing close air support for al-Nusra’.)”

The investigative journalist then points at an annual budget for all national intelligence programs, leaked to the media by Edward Snowden and partly published by The Washington Post. According to the document, by the time of the Eastern Ghouta chemical attack, the NSA “no longer had access to the conversations of the top military leadership in Syria, which would have included crucial communications from Assad, such as orders for a nerve gas attack”. That puts to question the confidence with which Obama spoke of Assad’s responsibility for the deaths.

The same document described “a secret sensor system inside Syria, designed to provide early warning of any change in status of the regime’s chemical weapons arsenal”. Hersh wrote it was suspicious that the US intelligence received no alarm, if the Assad forces really prepared for an attack.

Hersh also analyses the news coverage of the chemical gas attack investigation, pointing to instances when the media outlets omitted the information that suggested there could be other suspects, beside Assad.

The UN September 16 report, confirming the use of sarin, contained one part that noted that the organization’s experts did not have immediate access to the attack sites controlled by rebels, so potential evidence could have been manipulated there. The passage was largely ignored in the news.

Following the release of the report, the spokesman for Director of National Intelligence, Shawn Turner, denied the report’s major point – that the US knew of the rebel group being capable of creating sarin.

“We were clear with The Washington Post and Mr. Hersh that the intelligence gathered about the 21 August chemical weapons attack indicated that the Assad regime and only the Assad regime could have been responsible,” Turner told Buzzfeed. “Any suggestion that there was an effort to suppress intelligence about a nonexistent alternative explanation is simply false.”

Hersh has remained unconvinced by the denial and has summed it up with a warning against ignoring alleged Al-Nusra’s chemical weapons potential.

“While the Syrian regime continues the process of eliminating its chemical arsenal, the irony is that, after Assad’s stockpile of precursor agents is destroyed, Al-Nusra and its Islamist allies could end up as the only faction inside Syria with access to the ingredients that can create sarin, a strategic weapon that would be unlike any other in the war zone. There may be more to negotiate.”

December 9, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Unwelcome Return of Navi Pillay

Navi Pillay

By Daniel McAdams | Ron Paul Institute | December 3, 2013

You could very well say that Navi Pillay was more than anyone else the person responsible for NATO’s disastrous invasion of Libya. As UN Human Rights Commissioner she chaired that fateful meeting in February, 2011 where Libyan NGO leader Soliman Bouchuiguir was allowed to repeat incredible tales about the “massacres” taking place in Libya – tales he openly admitted after the NATO invasion he had just made up. “There is no evidence,” he exclaimed when asked after the invasion to back up his claims, which were the basis of the chain of events that led to NATO bombing.

The first link in that chain was the UN Human Rights Commission hearing chaired by Pillay, where Bouchuiguir’s lies led to the suspension of Libya from that body and the referral of the Libya issue to the UN Security Council. At the hearing, Pillay took her cue from the falsifier Bouchuiguir, exclaiming that, “The Libyan leader must stop the violence now.” Eventually the Security Council passed Resolution 1973, cracking the interventionist door to Libya, which NATO very soon kicked open.

Commissioner Pillay wasted no time setting her “humanitarian interventionist” sights on another crisis just waiting for a military solution. As early as August, 2011 she began urging the International Criminal Court to take up the case against the Syrian government, which was fighting against a foreign-sponsored insurgency seeking its overthrow. Never mind the illegality of her position urging the overthrow of a sovereign state, Pillay has argued relentlessly from the beginning in favor of a Libya-style NATO invasion of Syria.

Now Pillay is back in the news, releasing an incredibly dubious “report” concluding that the Syria government is guilty of war crimes in its fight against a foreign-sponsored insurgency. Pillay’s methodology would be laughed out of any courtroom except perhaps those of Stalin’s show trials. Her “investigators” had no access to Syria, conducted no on-the-ground investigations, but instead conducted their interviews in neighboring countries or via Skype. As with her previously discredited Libya claims, there is no independent verification of her findings, no way of even knowing who she talked to in the collection of this “evidence.” In fact, she would not even reveal the names of the accused, a list of perpetrators which she claims was secretly handed to her. No, she prefers to keep her information secret in hopes that the International Criminal Court would finally take up her case against the Syrian government.

Pillay’s fanaticism and the religious fervor of her devotion to the doctrine of “humanitarian interventionism” harkens back to an earlier era where the murder of millions was justified in pursuit of the historical inevitability of utopia on earth. It is a dangerous and deadly philosophy, which justifies all manner of death and destruction. The oft-cited C.S. Lewis quote comes most often to mind when thoughts wander to the Navi Pillays of the world:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

December 9, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel, Jordan and PA to sign Red Sea–Dead Sea Canal agreement

MEMO | December 9, 2013

20131209_IsraelJodanPA-MapIsrael, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are scheduled to sign an agreement on Monday to build a pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The project will be launched during a ceremony at the headquarters of the World Bank in Washington DC.

A senior reporter for Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Nahum Barnea, reported that: “according to the plan, also known as the Two Seas Canal agreement, nearly 100 million cubic metres of water will be transferred annually from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, which will hopefully slow down the Dead Sea’s desiccation.”

Starting in the middle of last century, the Dead Sea began to rapidly shrink, falling roughly one cubic metre a year. Its surface area today is about 30 per cent smaller than it was only 20 years ago. Increasing demands for water, especially for agricultural production in Israel, have exacerbated the problem, in addition to the practice of building dykes that create evaporation ponds to exploit the mineral wealth of the Dead Sea.

According to the new agreement, a joint purification plant will be established and Israel, Jordan and the PA will all share the water.

Israel’s Minister for Regional Cooperation and Infrastructure, Silvan Shalom, will sign the agreement along with the Jordanian and Palestinian ministers of water. Shalom was quoted as saying that: “this is a historic agreement. It is a dream come true.”

According to the agreement, nearly 200 million cubic metres of water will be pumped annually from the Red Sea, with around 80 million cubic metres desalinated in a special distillation plant in Aqaba yet to be established. Israel will receive 30-50 million cubic metres of water for the Eilat area in southern Israel, while Jordan will receive 30 million cubic metres of water for its southern population as well as 50 million cubic metres of grey-water from Lake Tiberias for the north.

According to Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, the PA had requested a foothold in the northern part of the Dead Sea near Ain Fashukha, but Israel refused. Instead, the PA will receive nearly 30 million cubic metres of water from Lake Tiberias, either desalinated water or grey-water, at production cost.

The entirety of the pipeline will be laid in the Jordanian territories to avoid any disputes with environmental organisations in Israel. The pipeline and the purification facilities are expected to be completed within four to five years.

~

Background:

Palestinian NGO statement on the World Bank-sponsored Red-Dead Sea Canal

Palestine Center for Human Rights | November 1, 2013

The undersigned Palestinian NGOs call on the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to halt all forms of cooperation with the World Bank-sponsored Red Sea – Dead Sea Conveyance Project (RSDSCP) and to take an unequivocal public stance of rejection to the project.

It has become clear beyond doubt that the project is an unacceptable attempt to force the Palestinian population to consent to their own dispossession and to compromise on their own rights.

Any lack of a clear position by the Palestinian leadership on this outrageous project, any stand of ambiguity or positive criticism towards it, contributes to the impunity that for far too long has allowed Israel to appropriate Palestinian water and deny Palestinians their rights.

Five reasons why the RSDSCP must be rejected:

1. The project undermines Palestinian water rights and legitimizes Palestinian dispossession from the Jordan River. Israel unilaterally controls the flow from the upper Jordan River and prevents Palestinians from making use of their rightful share of the lower river’s water. This is the sole cause for the gradual disappearance of the Dead Sea. Instead of addressing Israel’s water theft, the project aims to maintain the unjust status-quo of the river and allegedly “save” the Dead Sea through large scale Red Sea water transfer.

2. The project attempts to replace the river’s natural fresh water appropriated by Israel from the upper Jordan River with desalinated Red Sea water sold at high costs to severely water-dispossessed Palestinians and at pitiful quantities. Even these sales remain merely an “option” and the World Bank studies plan to ‘supply’ only Jericho, which is currently the only water-rich place in the occupied West Bank. With every drop of water that Palestinians purchase, they capitulate to their own deprivation.

3. Neither the World Bank’s Feasibility Study (FS) nor its Environmental & Social Assessment study (ESA) address the grave damage to the West Bank Eastern Aquifer, currently the only source Palestinians have for water supply and development. The Eastern aquifer is rapidly depleting, and its water table is dropping at an alarming rate – both as a direct result of the shrinking Dead Sea. Consenting to the project entails closing an eye to the rapid destruction of the only other water resource in the Eastern West Bank. Instead, Israel should be held accountable for the damage it caused to this vital resource on which over 1 million Palestinians currently depend.

4. Far from “saving the Dead Sea”, the RSDSCP will actually destroy the unique features of the Dead Sea and its ecosystem. Under the project, the Dead Sea is slated to turn into a dead, engineered pool of Red Sea water and desal brines, destroying this Palestinian and world heritage site.

5. Both Red-Dead studies (FS & ESA) and the entire conduct of the World Bank lack credibility and transparency, and make a mockery of the alleged consultation and participation process. Throughout the process, the Bank has systematically turned a blind eye to Israeli violations of Palestinian water rights.

The Bank repeatedly and deliberately ignored key concerns expressed by Palestinians since the project’s inception and during the “consultation” meetings in severe breach of its very own Code of Conduct, as well as the project’s Terms of Reference.

In addition, the Bank management has so far refused to make public the results of the Feasibility and ESA studies. The World Bank’s actions are tantamount to a cover-up.

Palestinian civil society organizations reiterate their rejection of the Red Sea – Dead Sea Conveyance Project and invite Palestinians of all walks to demand that the PLO and the PNA honor their aspirations for self-determination and justice by voicing a clear, loud and unequivocal “No!” to the Red-Dead Sea scam.

This project can only result in further damaging and undermining Palestinian water rights and all cooperation with it should cease immediately. Reparation and compensation for past damages and respect for Palestinian water rights are long overdue and the only way forward.

Endorsing organizations and individuals:

1. Palestinian Environment NGO Network (PENGON)
2. MAAN Development Center
3. Palestinian Wastewater Engineers Group (PalWEG)
4. Stop the Wall
5. Palestinian Farmers Union
6. Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ)
7. Land Research Center
8. Media Environmental Center
9. Palestine Hydrology Group (PHG)
10. Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC)
11. Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UWAC)
12. Environmental Education Center (EEC)
13. Institute of Environmental and Water Studies – Birziet University
14. Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)
15. Palestinian Environment Friends (PEF)
16. Arab Center for Agricultural Development (ACAD)
17. Earth and Human Center for Research and Studies (EHCRS)
18. Palestinian Farmers Association
19. The Arab Agronomists Association (AAA)
20. Prof. Dr. Hilmi S. Salem, Palestine Technical University – Kadoorie (PTUK)
21. Clemens Messerschmid, Hydrologist
22. Prof. Dr. Samir Afifi, Environmental & Earth Sciences Department, Islamic University of Gaza

December 9, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism | , , , | Leave a comment