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Expert Q&A: The New Palestinian Peace Plan, Gaza Ceasefire Talks, & Israel’s Latest Land Grab

IMEU | September 4, 2014

Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, former advisor to Palestinian negotiators, and author of Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East (2013) and The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (2006).

Diana Buttu, Ramallah-based analyst, former advisor to Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian negotiators, and Policy Advisor to Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network.


Q&A

QPalestine Liberation Organization Chairman and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently announced a new diplomatic initiative calling on Israel to end its occupation within three years and to allow for the creation of a Palestinian state with borders based on the pre-1967 lines. If Israel refuses, or fails to negotiate in good faith, Abbas says the Palestinians will take action at international forums like the International Criminal Court.

How does this plan differ fundamentally, if at all, from Abbas’ previous strategy, and what is the likelihood that it will succeed, or at least advance the cause of Palestinian freedom in some way?
RK – “It appears that it would delay further the possibility of pressure on Israel by the International Criminal Court, and provide further opportunity for Israeli foot-dragging, prevarication and aggression, while settlement building and occupation continue. This Israeli government has never negotiated in good faith, and there is no proper forum or structure for a negotiation in any case, the Oslo process having been revealed as a device for strengthening Israeli occupation control and colonization of Palestinian lands.”

DB – “This plan does not differ, in any way, from previous failed plans put forward by Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas is one of the architects of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations process known as Oslo. As such, he appears to have only one plan — negotiations — and despite the indisputable fact that this process has failed to bring Palestinians any closer to their freedom after more than two decades, he continues to insist on returning to this same strategy.

“To be clear, Israel has no interest in reaching a fair and lasting peace agreement with the Palestinians, but does have an interest in resuming negotiations. Under the cover of ‘peace talks,’ Israel can continue to build and expand its illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land, and it can continue to maintain a brutal military occupation while at the same time reaping the benefits of increased trade and normalized international relations.

“Therefore, Abbas needs to change course and pursue a different strategy. Instead of demanding more negotiations, he should push the international community to isolate and ostracize Israel for its continued military occupation, colonization, and other violations of international law. This should take the form of advocating for sanctions and boycotts against Israel, and pushing for Israel’s isolation from the international arena. At the same time, he should mobilize large-scale nonviolent resistance on the ground in Palestine, something he has failed utterly to do up until now. Another three years of negotiations will only serve to provide Israel with yet more time to build more settlements, and make even further demands that Palestinians concede more of their territory to accommodate Israel’s criminal behavior.”

QAccording to reports, Israel is refusing to send negotiators to Cairo for follow-up talks to ease its blockade of Gaza and to address other issues, as stipulated in the ceasefire agreement that ended its latest bloody military assault on the occupied and besieged coastal territory last week. If Israel refuses to abide by its word to discuss a loosening of the siege and other matters, what avenues of redress do Palestinians have, and does Israel’s continued intransigence make another war in Gaza inevitable? 

RK – “If occupation and settlement continue, and in the absence of international efforts to call Israel to account for its violations of UN Security Council resolutions and international law, there will unfortunately inevitably be more violence. The Palestinians should be actively seeking to reunite their national movement, agreeing on a consensus strategy involving popular mobilization, and expanding international and regional support for their cause in order to put pressure on Israel, which has managed to maintain the status quo of occupation and colonization of Palestinian land for nearly five decades now.”

DB – “Israel has no incentive, whatsoever, to resume discussions over Gaza. Unlike its negotiations with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, in which a resumption of talks provides Israel with the opportunity to expand its settlement enterprise without international repercussions, Israel is under no pressure to open Gaza. Rather, Israel has been allowed to maintain a seven-year blockade of Gaza, deny Palestinians freedom of movement and the ability to import and export goods, and deny Palestinians access to their fishing rights without any reaction from the international community. Israel has reneged on previous promises to open a seaport and airport in Gaza and to open the crossing points. Yet, it has done so with impunity.

“Given that no people can be expected to sit idly by while being denied their freedom, caged in an open-air prison, and targeted by repeated military attacks, sadly it will only be a matter of time before yet another war in Gaza breaks out. This is why Palestinians have been urgently pressing for the international community’s involvement, and highlights the necessity of a comprehensive approach to address Israel’s military occupation and denial of Palestinian rights and freedoms.”

Q – On Sunday, the Israeli government announced plans to expropriate almost 1000 acres of occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank near Bethlehem, in what is reportedly the largest Israeli land grab in three decades. In response, the international community, including the United States and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, condemned the move, with the latter pointing out that all settlement activity is “illegal under international law and runs totally counter to the pursuit of a two-state solution.” Even before this latest large-scale Israeli theft of Palestinian land, a growing number of observers had concluded that the two-state solution, which is predicated on the creation of a Palestinian state in territories that Israel continues to aggressively colonize, was dead. What, if any, impact do you think this move will have on the situation on the ground, Abbas’ new diplomatic initiative, and prospects for a two-state solution to the conflict? 

RK – “Israel has long since buried the two-state solution with its colonization efforts all over occupied Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly publicly stated that Israel will never give up its control of these territories. It is unclear what more he could do to drive a stake through the heart of the two-state solution, so far without provoking any serious international or regional reaction. The Oslo paradigm is dead, and we seem to be in a new phase, but neither Palestinian and Arab leaders, nor the US and Europe, have yet reacted in an appropriate way, which would be to finally hold Israel responsible for its actions and to impose serious sanctions on this serial violator of international law and norms.”

DB – “Israel cannot claim to favor a negotiated settlement or to support the two-state solution while also expropriating Palestinian land, demolishing Palestinian homes and building settlements. While Israeli actions like settlement building are blatantly illegal, the international community has failed to hold Israeli leaders accountable or to censure Israel in any way, apart from the occasional toothless verbal condemnation. Unfortunately, Abbas’s ‘new’ diplomatic initiative will only serve to provide Israel with more time to build and expand more settlements while the world sits, watches, and does nothing. Israel killed the two-state solution a long time ago, aided and abetted by the international community’s apathy and inaction. One can only hope that this latest large-scale theft of Palestinian land will lead to a shift in international thinking, forcing world leaders to realize that the only way forward is to hold Israel accountable for its illegal actions — rather than demanding a return to useless, counterproductive negotiations.”

~

For further reference, see our recently released expert Q&A: Amnesty International & Human Rights Watch on Being Denied Entry to Gaza, and our recently released fact sheets, Putting Palestinians “On a Diet”: Israel’s Siege & Blockade of Gaza and The Children of Gaza: A Generation Scarred & Under Siege.

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

The unpublicized impact of a successful BDS action

By Roqayah Chamseddine | Al-Akhbar | September 4, 2014

There is no question as to how immensely successful the Block the Boat protest at the Port of Oakland, led by Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) and arranged with the help of countless organizations, was. Unless you are a supporter of Israel or a journalist at the Oakland Tribune. Thousands of protesters, including an estimated 5,000 who marched on the Port of Oakland on August 16, prevented the Zim Piraeus from unloading by keeping workers from crossing their picket line to enter the port for an historic four days, making it “the longest blockade of an Israeli ship” according to AROC.

The Oakland Tribune, Haaretz, and a number of other outlets, reported that the Israeli-owned Zim Piraeus unloaded its cargo after “delays” but after speaking to a number of distributors whose cargo was being transported by Zim Piraeus I found this to be unmistakably false and misleading.

According to a document from PIERS, a database of US international trade which provides maritime logistics, at least 23 companies are clearly listed as having goods aboard Zim Piraeus – ranging from cucumber pickles and sparkling wine to ceramic tiles and solar swimming pool heaters – with some goods originating in Israel. Though building materials and agricultural produce were listed by PIERS it should be noted that Zim Integrated Shipping Services imports ammunition “manufactured by Israel Manufacturing Industries by Federal Cartridge (Federal Premium Ammunition)” which makes defense ammunition used by U.S. law enforcement and has a weapons contract with the Department of Homeland Security. Federal Premium Ammunition is a subsidiary of Alliant Techsystems, which produces Bushmaster autocannons used by U.S. forces and NATO, the AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (an air-to-surface missile), Hellfire missile upgrades, and provides other weapons services to the US military and allies. The import report for Zim shows that the ammunition originated in Israel, at the Port of Haifa and arrived at the Port of Savannah in Georgia.

Zim’s first ship, the Kedmah, was purchased in 1947, before the creation of the State of Israel, and would carry thousand of immigrants to Palestine. In 1948 Zim ships would carry arms and ammunition used to carry out the Nakba, and according to a video published online by Zim Integrated Shipping Services “Zim would play this crucial role every time Israel faced conflict.” Ze’ev Shind, a key Mossad activist who would become managing director of Zim Israel Navigation Co., president of the American-Israel Shipping Co., and Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Communications and Ministry of Defense was a principal figure organizing immigration to Palestine, according to The Canadian Jewish Chronicle. The role of Zim in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine is well documented, even by Zim sources.

Esteson Co., a direct food and beverage importer and distributor in California, posted on their Facebook page that their “garlic is now rotting on its way to Russia to be offloaded unto (sic) another vessel,” and when contacted for comment it was mentioned that a container of Zeos beer never arrived due to the Port action. All in all, Esteson Co. has not received any of their products as of September 3.

Good Stuff Distributors, located in San Francisco, California, told Al-Akhbar English that not only did they not receive their shipment of Zadona cucumber pickles as of September 3 they do not know where the cargo is and are still waiting to hear from Zadona as to where the items are. A spokesperson for Good Stuff Distributors informed Al-Akhbar English that not only were they unaware of Zim’s ties to Israel they have made it clear to Zadona, of Sinokrot Food Company, that they are to “find another vessel” as Good Stuff Distributors will no longer be using Zim.

Alfa Omega Co., which has trading partners in France, Spain and Greece, disclosed to Al-Akhbar English that their business was “greatly affected”, as they did not receive any of their products, including olives. The spokesperson was clearly unhappy, stating that the targeting of Zim by the Block the Boat protesters, specifically, is the reason that they will now look for another vessel to use for their products, despite having worked with Zim “for years”.

The sales and marketing manager at Carmichael International Service, a customs broker and freight forwarder with laminated glass aboard Zim Piraeus, told Al-Akhbar English that customers did not receive their products as of September 3, but it was due to “delays” and “port congestion,” which is undoubtedly a brazen spin on what transpired at the Port of Oakland. When examining the vessel schedule for the Zim Piraeus, dating back to July and after August 20, we find that there are no analogous delays as there was in Oakland as the vessels usually left the same day or a day after, unlike at the Port of Oakland where the “delay” was at least four days long.

Cynara Worldwide Sourcing Inc., located in Fresno, California, said that all products on the Zim Piraeus were not only never unloaded but that they were sent to Shanghai and they wouldn’t receive them until at least the end of the month. As a result of Block the Boat, the spokesperson told Al-Akhbar English that they have put an immediate halt to “everything on Zim” and will now be looking for other vessels they can use.

The most curious case in regards to Block the Boat is that of American Metals and Chemicals, located in Hollywood, Florida. A representative told Al-Akhbar English that they did not receive their shipment of alkyl sulfonic acid, and that the cargo was diverted to Russia. When asked who they were contacted by the representative stated that a letter was delivered from an attorney’s office, though they could not find the letter at the time of the phone call so as to disclose which office. The letter stated, in part, that their shipment was “turned away because of the strike” at the Port of Oakland. There was also a follow up telephone call from the same office, letting them know that their products were being diverted.

The remaining consignees listed as having cargo delivered to the Port of Oakland by the Zim Piraeus during the Block the Boat campaign were contacted by Al-Akhbar English but did not immediately return calls for comment on the whereabouts of their goods – based on what was revealed by the 6 companies that did supply information it is not difficult to assume that they faced comparable circumstances. Regardless, Block the Boat was not only successful in keeping the Zim Piraeus from unloading the aforementioned cargo but due specifically to this action a number of companies are now either putting a hold on all products using Zim vessels or reconsidering using Zim, which is not only contrary to what the media has reported but an impressive achievement for the movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Sydney based Lebanese-American journalist and commentator. She tweets @roqchams and writes ‘Letters From the Underground.

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Guatemala defies ‘Monsanto Law’ pushed by US as part of trade agreement

RT | September 3, 2014

The highest court in Guatemala has suspended the controversial ‘Monsanto Law,’ a provision of a US-Central American trade agreement, that would insulate transnational seed corporations considered to have “discovered” new plant varieties.

The Constitutional Court suspended on Friday the law – passed in June and due to go into effect on Sept. 26 – after a writ of amparo was filed by the Guatemalan Union, Indigenous and Peasant Movement, which argued the law would harm the nation, LaVoz reported.

The Court’s decision came after several Guatemalan parliamentarians from both the governing Patriotic Party and the opposition party Renewed Democratic Freedom said they would consider repealing the law after outcry from a diverse cross-section of Guatemalans.

The decision also offers interested parties 15 days to present their arguments pertaining to the law in front of the Constitutional Court. Members of both political parties said they would present motions to resist the law.

The ‘Law for the Protection of New Plant Varieties,’ dubbed the ‘Monsanto Law’ by critics for its formidable seed-privatization provisions, is an obligation for all nations that signed the 2005 CAFTA-DR free trade agreement between Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and the United States. The agreement requires signatories to adhere to the International Convention for the Protection of New Plant Varieties.

The law offers producers of transgenic seeds, often corporate behemoths like Monsanto, strict property rights in the event of possession or exchange of original or harvested seeds of protected varieties without the breeder’s authorization. A breeder’s right extends to “varieties essentially derived from the protected variety,” thus, a hybrid of a protected and unprotected seed belongs to the protected seed’s producer.

The Rural Studies Collective (Cer-Ixim) warned that the law would monopolize agriculture processes, severely threaten food sovereignty – especially those of indigenous peoples – and would sacrifice national biodiversity “under the control of domestic and foreign companies.”

The National Alliance for Biodiversity Protection said in July that the law is unconstitutional “because it violates the rights of peoples. It will benefit transnational seed companies such as Monsanto, Duwest, Dupont, Syngenta, etc.”

“According to this law, the rights of plant breeders are superior to the rights of peoples to freely use seeds,” the Alliance said in a statement.

“It’s a direct attack on the traditional knowledge, biodiversity, life, culture, rural economy and worldview of Peoples, and food sovereignty,” the Alliance added.

Anyone who violates the law, wittingly or not, could face a prison term of one to four years, and fines of US$130 to $1,300.

It is unclear what options the Guatemalan government has given the obligations under CAFTA-DR. The US would likely put pressure on the nation to pass the law, part of a global effort using trade agreements to push further corporate control over trade sectors like agriculture in the name of modernization. Upon further refusal, the US could drop Guatemala from the trade agreement.

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Russian Experts Push Medvedev to Include GMOs in Sanctions

Sustainable Pulse | September 4, 2014

In an official letter Wednesday to Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev, a group of top Russian experts including scientists, farmers and eco groups urged him to add all foods containing GMOs to the existing food sanctions that have been placed by Russia on the EU, U.S. and Australia amongst others.

The suggested ban includes all 18 varieties of genetically modified crops, registered and approved in Russia for use in the production of food for consumers and feed for farm animals.

The experts stated that the main manufacturers and suppliers of GM seed are located in countries that support sanctions against Russia. The biotech giants who fully control the market of GM seeds include: Monsanto (USA), Dow (USA), DuPont Pioneer (USA), Bayer (Germany), BASF (Germany). Therefore, products containing GM ingredients should be one of the sanctions applied by Russia in relation to these countries.

The experts suggested that Russia should also only buy conventional non-GMO food and feed products from countries that do not support the sanctions and yet currently supply products containing GMOs (e.g. Brazil, China, India and South Africa – BRICS countries).

“Now is a good time to stop the spread of food and feed products in Russia that contain GMOs, so we are then able to obtain objective scientific data on the impact of GMOs on the health of mammals. Independent research from domestic and foreign scientists suggests that GMOs may have an adverse effect on the health of mammals and lead to the development of diseases such as cancer, allergies, obesity, infertility, and others. To clarify the mechanisms of the impact of GMOs on living organisms, we need to continue to develop independent research in this area,” stated Elena Sharoykina, who is the Director of the Russian National Association for Genetic Safety.

Earlier this year in March, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia must protect its citizens from the use of foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and that this could be done in compliance with the country’s obligations under the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In June, Russia also delayed the registration of GM varieties for the planting of GM crops, which had been planned to start in July. The current situation is that no GM crops have been grown in Russia and this will now be the case for at least the next 3 years.

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism | , , | Leave a comment

NATO to give Ukraine 15mn euros, lethal and non-lethal military supplies from members

RT | September 4, 2014

NATO has pledged some 15 million euros to Ukraine, with several of the bloc’s member states pledging separate bilateral support and military cooperation, involving medical supplies as well as lethal and nonlethal military equipment.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced a “comprehensive and tailored package of measures” including the donation of 15 million euros “through NATO” at a joint news conference with the Ukrainian president on Thursday on the first day of the NATO summit in Wales.

He said that this would be in addition to other measures such as advising Ukraine on defense reforms and further bilateral aid.

“This is about improvement of logistics, the improvement of command and control, the improvement of communications, and cyber defense,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said.

He added that bilateral aid would include the provision of “high precision weapons” as well as medical equipment.

Poroshenko made careful statements regarding Ukraine’s potential induction into NATO, saying that membership criteria need to be met first.

“The new parliamentary election will help us a lot to accelerate the reform process,” Poroshenko said, adding that the most significant reforms to be made would be to the economy, and ensuring the rule of law and anti-corruption.

He said that he had some optimism for Friday’s peace talks in Minsk, Belarus, after which a ceasefire is expected to commence.

Rasmussen expressed caution: “If recent statements from President Putin represent a genuine effort to find a political solution, I would welcome it,” Rasmussen told reporters. He said that recent offers had been a “smokescreen” for further destabilization on the ground.

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

‘Promoting peace and stability’: NATO warships enter Black Sea

RT | September 4, 2014

A US Navy destroyer and, reportedly, a French frigate have entered the Black Sea, as NATO builds up its presence in the region while tensions remain high in Ukraine. Another two warships are expected to arrive in the area by the end of the week.

The US Navy 6th Fleet official command has confirmed on its official Twitter account that the destroyer USS Ross, (DDG 71), an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, is now in the Black Sea.

“USS Ross enters Black Sea, promoting peace and stability while working with NATO allies and partners,” a statement said.

The US Navy has stressed that “the Ross’ presence in the Black Sea serves to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to strengthening the collective security of NATO allies and partners in the region.”

“The US Navy maintains an enduring commitment to forward-presence throughout the region in order to have ready-forces available if a crisis were to occur,” the statement said.

Another NATO warship, France’s Commandant Birot, also arrived in Black Sea waters on Wednesday night, according to a military diplomatic source cited by the Itar-Tass news agency.

“Both ships have passed through the Bosphorus and entered the Black Sea between 21:00 and 22:00 Moscow time,” the source was quoted as saying.

Commandant Birot has joined another French warship, the Dupuy le Lome, a surveillance ship designed to collect signals and communications from beyond enemy lines. Up until September 4, the Dupuy le Lome was the only NATO ship in the region. The vessel is scheduled to leave the area on September 5.

A total of four NATO warships are expected to enter the Black Sea before September 7. The USS Ross and Commandant Birot will be joined by Canada’s HMCS Toronto, a Halifax-class frigate, and a Spanish frigate, the Almirante Juan de Borbon.

Under the Montreux Convention of 1936, warships of non-Black Sea states can stay in the Black Sea for no more than 21 days. It also stipulates that the maximum deadweight of a non-regional warship in the area should not exceed 45,000 tons.

NATO warships have been operating in the area since this spring, when tensions started escalating between Kiev forces and rebels in southeastern Ukraine.

Despite the three-week limit, the alliance has managed to secure its presence in the area by constantly rotating warships there.

Deployed to the region in mid-May, the Dupuy le Lome was preceded by the destroyer USS Donald Cook, sent to the Black Sea in early April.

In July this year, NATO deployed a total of nine vessels, setting a record for the post-Soviet period.

On August 7, the US missile cruiser Vella Gulf entered the Black Sea and left the region at the end of the month.

NATO has been discussing its “more visible” presence in Eastern Europe, referring to the three Baltic States – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – as there has been little progress in resolving the conflict in Ukraine. The issue is now being discussed in Wales, where the military alliance is meeting on Thursday and Friday.

The US and the international community have accused Russia of supporting opposition forces in southeastern Ukraine, accusations that have been denied by Moscow.

Russia has condemned NATO’s activities in the Black Sea and branded them a provocation that hinders the normalization of the situation in Ukraine.

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Militarization, Surveillance, and Profit: How Grassroots Groups are Fighting Urban Shield

By Nadia Kayyali | EFF | September 3, 2014

While all eyes are on the disturbing evidence of police militarization in Ferguson, are you paying attention to what’s happening with law enforcement in your own back yard?

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the answer is yes. A coalition of community groups has come together to call attention to Urban Shield, a four-day long “preparedness” exercise for law enforcement and other agencies that will take place from September 4-8.  They’ve organized a week of education, including a march and demonstration outside of the event on Friday, September 5. To these community groups, Urban Shield represents state violence and political repression, not public safety.

The reasons for protesting Urban Shield are clear. It is one of the ways that local law enforcement gets access to, and romanced by, military and surveillance technologies like the ones we’ve seen turned against protesters in Ferguson, as well as low-level crimes, across the country.

Urban Shield is coordinated by the for-profit company Cytel Group, and in addition to training exercises, it also functions as a marketplace and testing site for new militarized technologies. The accompanying trade show includes exhibitors from armored vehicle manufacturers to a “counter-terrorism magazine.” In 2013, companies were encouraged “to place their products and technology directly into the hands of SWAT, Fire, EOD, and EMS professionals.” Vending at Urban Shield is touted as a way to get “invaluable real-time feedback for vendor product[s]” since “at the end of every scenario the teams are questioned concerning the benefits and drawbacks of each piece of technology used in that scenario.” It’s unsurprising that Urban Shield has a “try it out” component for law enforcement, since there is an incredible amount of profit to be made from such products, often with federal funds (i.e. taxpayer dollars) footing the bill.

The event is part of the federal Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). UASI is a grant program administered by the federal Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Grant Program (the same program that funds fusion centers). In the San Francisco Bay Area, the grants are coordinated by the Bay Area UASI, a regional coordinating body. UASI grants are supposed to go to “planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercise needs of high-threat, high-density Urban Areas.” The grants have gone to law enforcement agencies all over the country— but the program has been the subject of scathing critique from grassroots groups and lawmakers.

Much of the criticism around UASI is that the grants enable purchases of equipment that no community should adopt without a public conversation. The obvious examples are armored vehicles and so-called “less-lethal” weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets, like those used to violently suppress demonstrators in Ferguson. But UASI funds can also be used to purchase sophisticated surveillance equipment that, absent safeguards, could allow local law enforcement to spy on activists before demonstrations ever take place, or to racially profile people of color in communities like Oakland. Senator Tom Coburn’s 2012 report “Safety at Any Price” lists some of the equipment that has been purchased with UASI money, and it reads like a laundry list of privacy advocates’ concerns: surveillance cameras, mobile fingerprinting devices, automated license plate readers, armored vehicles, and drones. To make matters worse, as Senator Coburn’s report points out, there is no evidence that these purchases make anyone safer.

It should also be noted that Urban Shield is not limited to the San Francisco area. Boston and Austin also participate in similar trainings, as has Jordan. And Jordan isn’t the only international connection. As the Urban Shield website boasts, “In 2014, teams from Singapore and South Korea will participate.” Teams in the past have included the French National Police and teams from Israel, Brazil, Jordan, and Bahrain. Police departments from across the country participate as well, including SWAT teams from Newark, Dallas, Chicago, and Travis County, Texas.

None of this has escaped the attention of organizers, who have made it clear that Urban Shield is linked to surveillance of activists and violence against communities of color across the country, but also to political repression internationally. In their words: “The line between police and military is blurring as parallel military tactics are being deployed globally to repress dissent and increase state control over people who are calling for freedom and justice.”

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Fake cell phone ‘towers’ may be spying on Americans’ calls, texts

RT | September 3, 2014

More than a dozen “fake cell phone towers” could be secretly hijacking Americans’ mobile devices in order to listen in on phone calls or snoop on text messages, a security-focused cell phone company claims. It is not clear who controls the devices.

ESD America, which markets heavily-encrypted cell phones built within the body of a Samsung Galaxy S3, said it was able to locate numerous towers intercepting mobile communications – but does not know who is running them.

Speaking to Popular Science, ESD America CEO Les Goldsmith recently said that the company has used its phone – the CryptoPhone 500 – to map 17 different fake cell phone towers, dubbed “interceptors,” across the United States. Locations include New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and more.

“Interceptor use in the US is much higher than people had anticipated,” he told the website. “One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found 8 different interceptors on that trip. We even found one at South Point Casino in Las Vegas.”

Although these interceptors act as fake cell phone towers, they are not necessarily large, physical structures. They could simply be small mobile devices that act exactly like a real tower, deceiving phones into giving up information. Such devices are known as “stingrays,” after the brand name of one popular type of interceptor.

Satellite dishes and cell phone towers atop a roof of a building (AFP Photo / Thomas Coex)

Once connected to a person’s phone, they can bypass the mobile device’s encryption to either listen in on calls or capture texts. In some cases, they are also powerful enough to take over a device or make it seem as if it has shut down – only to leave the microphone on in order to eavesdrop.

The American Civil Liberties Union has been attempting to pry information about government and police use of stingray equipment, but its efforts have been met with resistance from federal officials.

According to Ars Technica, the Federal Communications Commission pledged in August to investigate the “illicit and unauthorized use” of interceptors – with a primary focus on foreign governments, criminals, and terrorists – but denied a Freedom of Information Act request to reveal more data about current stingray use.

For Goldsmith, determining who is using the interceptors is important. He speculated that the operators could be American agencies or foreign governments.

“What we find suspicious is that a lot of these interceptors are right on top of US military bases. So we begin to wonder – are some of them US government interceptors? Or are some of them Chinese interceptors?” he told PopSci. “Whose interceptor is it? Who are they, that’s listening to calls around military bases? Is it just the US military, or are they foreign governments doing it? The point is: we don’t really know whose they are.”

Outside of national governments, local law enforcement agencies are also beefing up their stingray/interceptor capabilities. In Oakland, California, police are looking to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade their cell phone surveillance system.

Meanwhile, police in Tacoma, Washington have caught the eye of civil liberties advocates after the News Tribune revealed they have been using interceptor equipment to catch cell phone calls for the last six years. Some, including Mayor Marilyn Strickland, said it was legitimate for police to do so as long as people’s rights were not violated. However, the ACLU disagreed, arguing it was like “kicking down the doors of 50 homes and searching 50 homes because they don’t know where the bad guy is.”

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Once more: It ain’t about the graffiti

Another incident of nationalist crime in the village of Yasuf, but the media only paid attention to the unimportant part: the graffiti

By Yossi Gurvitz | Yesh Din | September 3, 2014

Atallah Yassin Muhammad Gouda lives in the village of Yasuf, which has known quite a few attacks by Jewish felons; perhaps the most notorious being the torching of its mosque in 2009, which introduced the phenomenon of the price tag attacks into Israeli consciousness. Gouda lives in a neighborhood that is adjacent to the outpost Tapuach Maarav, and according to the testimonies of its residents, they suffer from frequent attacks by Israeli civilians. The residents attribute the burning of several vehicles, as well as stone attacks on the houses in the neighborhood to their Israeli neighbors.

At the beginning of August, Gouda was woken by noise, and when he hurried to see what happened, he saw the family car, which was in the courtyard, on fire. He alerted the rest of the household, and together, they managed to prevent the fire from spreading to the house, which was only two meters away from the vehicle. After dousing the flames, which had caused severe damage – estimated at several thousand NIS – to the car, they discovered a gasoline can and several rags soaked in gasoline there also. The police were called and arrived at the scene, collecting evidence and taking fingerprints. Given the record of the SJPD, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for an indictment.

The torching of the car caused the family significant damage: not only would they have to pay for fixing it, but as the only provider, the father, is a taxi driver, and as the car (bought 18 months ago) was his work vehicle, there would also be time in which they would have no income.

So, the attack by the unknown felons achieved three goals: significant damage to the car, and damaging the Gouda family income. The third goal is the wider goal of settler violence: spreading fear and despair among the Palestinian residents, in an attempt to convince them by violent methods to abandon their lands, so that Israeli civilians can take them over. A fourth, collateral, goal – the spreading of the fire to the house and its sleeping residents – was not achieved. We note this isn’t the first time that Israeli civilians are suspected of torching a vehicle in dangerous proximity to a house, as its residents are sleeping.

And, oh, yes: there was also some graffiti. When the bedlam ended, after the fire was extinguished, and the smoke and panic settled, the residents found that someone had sprayed the wall of the house with a “price tag” graffiti. Anyone following the issue through the Israeli press, might have mistakenly concluded that the graffiti is the main issue. Here is a Ynet newsflash (Hebrew): “A price tag slogan was sprayed on a house in the Palestinian village of Yasif (error in the original – Yesh Din). A Palestinian vehicle nearby was set ablaze.” And then you have Mako (Hebrew): “The residents of the Palestinian village of Yasuf in Shomron woke up this morning to a new-old troubling sight – slogans sprayed on the walls of a house and significant damage caused to a vehicle.”

Which is weird. Every journalist learns that you open your piece with the most important part, and go on to the less important. In any reasonable measure, the setting of a vehicle on fire – especially one which is close to a house – is significantly more serious than any graffiti daubed on a nearby wall. The slogan cannot kill anyone or destroy anything: a few brushes of paint, and it is gone. So why is the media obsessed with the graffiti?

Because to a certain extent, the media has swallowed the myth spread by the settlers: that their crimes are not severe, it’s merely spray paint. Nothing to write home about. When the Israeli media puts the slogans in the spotlight, it puts the fire in the background. But as we’ve already shown, the great majority of nationalist crimes in the West Bank do not include slogans – and when these are present, there is a clear correlation between them and cases of arson. That is, the slogans accompany arson, and not vice versa. And arson is the spreading of terror par excellence.

It’s time we remembered that.

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

Scottish independence to spark nuke debate

Press TV – September 4, 2014

A yes vote in the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence is expected to pose challenges over the future of the UK’s strategic nuclear Trident program.

Keeping the nuclear base in Scotland for a least a number of years would be part of the independence negotiations, says Professor Malcolm Chalmers, a research director at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) and co-author of a recent report on relocating the Trident base.

According to the report, cited Thursday in The Guardian newspaper, while any relocation could not be completed by the 2020 target date currently proposed by the Scottish government, it could be put off – under a specific UK-Scotland basing agreement – perhaps until 2028, the date a new fleet of Trident submarines is due to start entering service.

The relocation would add up to £3.5bn to the cost of retaining Britain’s nuclear forces, a program estimated to cost £80bn over 25 years.

Yet, as the Rusi report concedes, negotiations following a yes vote in the Scottish referendum this month would trigger a wider debate in the rest of the UK about whether or not the strategic benefits of retaining nuclear weapons exceed the costs involved.

Chalmers adds that the debate over British nuclear weapons has always been politically driven and the military is divided over the issue.

The US, in particular, which wants its major British NATO ally to retain nuclear weapons, has made it clear that it would not welcome such a debate.

However, Colin Fleming, a Scottish defense and security academic, put it this way in a recent edition of the Chatham House think tank Journal of International Affairs : “There is no reason why Scotland would not provide a modern, flexible, defence force capable of securing Scottish territory and playing its part in the broader security of the British Isles as a whole.”

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

More NATO Aggression Against Syria?

Media Myths and Distortions

By Rick Sterling | CounterPunch | September 3, 2014

Syria will be an important subject of discussion at this week’s NATO Summit meeting in Wales.  The US and NATO powers will evaluate whether to expand air strikes against ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq & Syria) into Syria, whether to do it in cooperation with the Syrian government and whether to increase support to the “moderate” armed opposition. The US mainstream media and politicians have been beating the war drums with Republican Senator McCain calling for military escalation and Democratic Senator Feinstein criticising President Obama for being “too cautious”.

There has been little mention of the fact that it is one year since the highly publicized chemical weapons attack in the Ghouta outskirts of Damascus. The same elements who are pushing for “regime change” military action now were doing so one year ago.  Since then, the case that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack has been effectively discredited. The diplomatically negotiated agreement to remove all Assad’s chemical weapons has been successfully implemented. One would think this would merit attention, but it has been widely ignored.

One good thing in the media this week is recognition that Libya is now in chaos. This is the country which was “liberated” by NATO bombing which led to the murder of President Ghadaffi and collapse of that government.  Nine months ago a plurality of Libyans said they are worse off than before the regime change. It’s very likely that even more Libyans are unhappy with their externally imposed regime change today. Three years ago NATO members were congratulating themselves on the air war against Libya. Now they are hopefully more sober as it goes public that Libya is in chaos, the airport shut down, competing extremists fighting for dominance, with one faction  enjoying themselves in the US Embassy swimming pool.

The Obama Administration is at another turning point where it may choose to escalate its aggression against Syria. Clearly Obama and team do not want to go solo. The dreams of a“New American Century” with unchallenged US dominance have been broken by reality in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond. But the hounds of war and aggression are noisy and persistent.

As NATO begins to deliberate whether and how to escalate aggression against Syria, let’s review some recent and long standing myths and lies about the Syrian conflict.

Myth #1.

Some articles and even the (current) Wikipedia entry for James Foley (journalist) claim that he was a prisoner of the Syrian military and that they turned him over to ISIS. This is in perfect keeping with the pervasive demonization of the Assad government. However it’s false.  A serious investigation into the disappearance of Foley is in the May 2014 Vanity Fair. Foley was captured by Nusra Front (or allied rebels) in November 2012 and later transferred or sold to ISIS.

Myth #2.

Both NY Times’ Anne Barnard  and John McCain suggest or assert that the Syrian government has collaborated with ISIS. The “evidence” of this is that the Syrian Army did not actively attack ISIS in eastern Syria during the past year.

The reality is that Syrian Army needs to pick and choose its battles and priorities. They are weakened by over three years of intense conflict resulting in at least 65 THOUSAND Syrian army and militia deaths. For reference, the total US death count in Vietnam was 58 thousand and Syria today is one tenth the size of the US in the 1970’s. In the past year the Syrian military has focused on confronting armed opposition in Aleppo (the largest city), Homs, outer Damascus and the Lebanese border area. The Syrian military has gained ground in each of these areas along with implementing the national “reconciliation” policy.

In the past two months, ISIS has gone on the offensive in eastern Syria and is pressing towards Aleppo and central Syria with US equipment and weaponry captured in Iraq. The battles have taken a heavy toll on both ISIS and the Syrian military. According to rebel aligned Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), 346 ISIS fighters were killed in a four day assault on Tabqa Air Base near Raqqa.  The fighting has been brutal with heavy losses on both sides.

Longtime Mideast journalist Patrick Cockburn writes, “A conspiracy theory, much favoured by the rest of the Syrian opposition and by Western diplomats, that Isis and Assad are in league, has been shown to be false.”

In contrast with the myth, ISIS has in fact been aided and abetted by US allies.  This includes funds from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, ideology and recruitment by Saudi media, transportation and safe haven through Turkey.

Myth #3.

It is usually claimed that the Syrian conflict is a civil war that started with peaceful protests in 2011. In reality the seeds of the conflict were planted much earlier. General Wesley Clark’s 2007 memoir  described plans for “regime change” in Syria and other countries. Also in 2007 Seymour Hersh documented the US strategy of fomenting conflict in Syria (and Iran) by working with Sunni extremists:

“The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

When mass protests began in Syria they included violent attacks and murders of police from the beginning. The situation was the same in other regions. Jesuit priest Father Frans Van Der Lugt was widely respected by Sunni Muslims and Christians in the Old City of Homs. He described the start of the protests thus:

“From the start, the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.”

The conflict in Syria has been primarily instigated and continued by some of the world’s wealthiest and powerful governments. They make no secret and call themselves, with Orwellian chutzpah, the “Friends of Syria”. Their division of labor including who pays the salaries of the rebel mercenaries, who supplies communication equipment, who does training and who supplies weapons. Thus the conflict in Syria is primarily a war of aggression using domestic and foreign mercenaries.

Myth #4.

It is often suggested the “moderate opposition” is popular, democratic and secular.

President Obama has recently proposed giving $500 million to the “moderate opposition”.

Patrick Cockburn sums up the reality in the newly released book “The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising”:

“It is here that self-deception reigns, because the Syrian military opposition is dominated by ISIS and by Jabhat Al Nusra, the official Al Queda representative, in addition to other extreme jihadi groups. In reality there is no dividing wall between them and America’s supposedly moderate opposition allies.”

This siuation is not new. A NY Times article in summer 2012 discussed the hidden presence of Al Queda within the “Free Syrian Army”. When he read this, James Foley sent out a tweet linking to the article and pondering whether the photographed black flag was necessarily Al Queda. He did not recognize the flag and wondered whether it was “some misc jihadi group”.  Ironically that was the unique flag of ISIS before it was widely recognized. The “misc jihadi” group is the one that would later murder him.

foleytweet

Foley’s last article documented the overall unpopularity of the rebels in Aleppo:

“Aleppo, a city of about 3 million people, was once the financial heart of Syria. As it continues to deteriorate, many civilians here are losing patience with the increasingly violent and unrecognizable opposition — one that is hampered by infighting and a lack of structure, and deeply infiltrated by both foreign fighters and terrorist groups.”

Myth #5.

Finally there is the myth that the Free Syrian Army and other “moderate opposition” groups were not supported.  In reality, huge quantities of weapons and ammunition have flowed which is  exactly what has allowed the terrorist organizations to continue the mayhem and bloodshed. Starting in November 2012 three thousand TONS of weapons and ammunition were flown from Zagreb to Turkey and then transferred to the Syrian rebels. In addition there were huge shipments from Benghazi Libya and more shipments paid by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

DO USA AND NATO REALLY WANT TO STOP ISIS? 

One week after the Syrian Presidential election where 73% of the electorate turned out, ISIS made its advance through western Iraq to Mosul and other cities. There were virtually no battles. Iraqi military leadership simply departed and in the confusion troops fled or disbanded. Was this a military collapse or was it planned, with key Iraqi figures either bribed or otherwise in alliance with ISIS?   Whichever is the truth,we can see the consequences and who has benefited:  the campaign for greater autonomy in the oil rich Kurdish region has advanced; the split between Shia and Sunni has been exacerbated; and one of the world’s greatest overnight military arms transfers took place with ISIS effortlessly taking control of vehicles, humvees, tanks, lethal mortar launchers, high grade military equipment and tons of ammunition.

Did  US military officers, who spent years and billions of dollars “training” the Iraqi military, have advance notice or knowledge of this seeming collusion between ISIS and Iraqi military officers?   Did wealthy enemies of Syria simply bribe the Iraqi officers? Was it a “collapse” or is there much more behind this?  How can a few hundred jihadi militants traveling in new Toyota pickup truck convoys surprise and overtake military checkpoints and bases without a fight unless there was collusion at the highest levels?

Actions reveal more than words. If the US and NATO really are worried about ISIS they can and will implement measures such as the following:

* shut down the Jihadi Highway through Turkey.

* shut down safe haven and supply routes of ISIS and other terrorist groups in Turkey

* provide useful information from surveillance flights to the Syrian army which is doing the main on-the-ground fighting

* demand and check that Saudi Arabia and Qatar stop broadcasting TV programs featuring hate speech which serve to recruit jihadis to join ISIS.

* demand and check that Saudi Arabia and Qatar implement measures to stop funding for ISIS through their banks and other financial operations.

Will the US and NATO take practical steps to counter ISIS or will they escalate their aggression against Syria, violating Syrian air space and looking for a pretext to impose a “no fly zone” as done in the disastrous aggressions against Iraq and Libya?

Will the US and NATO start a bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria which will ignite MORE support for the group in the Arab world?

Will they violate Syrian air space as a stepping stone to US bombing of Syrian army positions?

Or will the US and NATO resist the hounds of war and finally put aside the campaign of regime change against a secular, socialist inclined government that is supported by a big majority of its people?

Rick Sterling is a founding member of Syria Solidarity Movement. He can be contacted at rsterling1@gmail.com

 

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment