Aletho News


Abbas’ Big Bluff on War Crimes Bid against Israel

Palestinians at the Hague

By Jonathan Cook | Dissident Voice | January 8, 2015

Intense pressure from Israel and the US last week on members of the United Nations Security Council narrowly averted Washington’s embarrassment at being forced to veto a Palestinian resolution to end the occupation.

The Palestinians’ failure to get the necessary votes saved the White House’s blushes but at a cost: the claim that the US can oversee a peace process promising as its outcome a Palestinian state is simply no longer credible.

Looming is the post-peace process era. Its advent appears to have been marked by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ decision in the immediate wake of the Security Council vote to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.

Israel furiously opposes the move, justifiably fearful that its politicians, military commanders and settler-leaders may now be put on trial for war crimes.

But the Palestinian leadership has long been apprehensive about such a move too. Abbas has spent years postponing the decision to sign the Rome Statute, which paves the way to the ICC.

Israeli statements at the weekend implied that Abbas’ reticence signalled a concern that he might expose himself to war crimes charges as well. Israel had “quite a bit of ammunition” against him and his Palestinian Authority, said one official menacingly.

In truth, the Palestinian president has other, more pressing concerns that delayed a decision to move to the legal battlefield of the Hague.

The first is the severe retaliation the Palestinians can now expect from the US and, even more so, from Israel. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu began by halting the transfer of tax revenues Israel collects on the Palestinians’ behalf. Israel is also preparing to lobby the US Congress to enforce legislation that would halt aid to the PA in the event of it launching an ICC action. More punishments are due to be announced.

In selecting the “nuclear option”, as Israeli analysts characterised it, Abbas has also left himself empty-handed in future diplomatic confrontations – and for no obvious immediate gain. War crimes allegations may take years to reach the court and, even then, be stymied by pressures the US will bring to bear in the Hague, just as it currently does in the Security Council.

But most problematic of all, as Abbas knows well, a decision to pursue war crimes trials against Israel threatens the PA’s very existence.

The PA was the offspring of the two-decade-old Oslo accords, which invested it with two temporary functions. It was supposed to maintain stability in the parts of the occupied territories it governed while serving as Israel’s interlocutor for the five years of negotiations that were supposed to lead towards Palestinian statehood.

It has excelled in both roles. Under Abbas, the PA has been doggedly faithful to the idea of the peace process, even as Netanyahu spurned meaningful talks at every turn.

Meanwhile, the PA’s security forces – in coordination with Israel’s – have kept the West Bank remarkably quiet even as Israel expanded and accelerated its settlement programme.

But as Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, argued on Sunday, the Palestinians’ move to the Hague court is further proof that the Oslo accords have expired.

Without a peace process, or any Israeli commitment to Palestinian statehood, why would the PA continue to cooperate on security matters with Israel, let alone consider such coordination “sacred”, as Abbas termed it last year? If the accords are seen to be dead, the impression can only grow that the PA is nothing more than Israel’s security contractor, assisting in its own people’s oppression.

Until now, that reality had been partially obscured by Abbas’ image as the Palestinian peace-maker. But if the process is indeed over, the contradictions in the PA’s role will be dramatically on show.

Right now, Palestinian security forces are committed to coordinating with the very people the PA is intending to indict as war criminals. And by maintaining calm in the West Bank, the PA is furthering the building of the very settlements the Rome Statute defines as a war crime.

Abbas is in a bind. If he ends coordination and goes on the offensive, why would Israel allow the PA to continue functioning? But if his security forces continue to collaborate with Israel, how can he retain credibility with his people?

This leaves the Palestinian leader with only two credible strategic options – aside from dissolving the PA himself.

The first is to adopt a sophisticated model of armed resistance, though the PA has specifically rejected this in the past and is poorly equipped for it compared with militant factions like Hamas.

The other is to accept that Palestinian statehood is a lost cause and adopt a new kind of struggle, one for equal civil rights in a single state. But the PA’s rationale and bureaucratic structure preclude that. It is in no position to lead a popular struggle.

That is why Abbas will continue pursuing a Palestinian state through the UN, as he promised again at the weekend, undeterred by the realisation that it is unlikely ever to come to fruition.

The door to the Hague may be open, but Abbas is in no hurry to venture through it.

January 8, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gazans shiver in ruined homes, tents after brutal storm

Al-Akhbar | January 8, 2015

Gazans who survived a brutal summer war are now struggling with the worst storm of the winter, as freezing rain and gale-force winds battered the besieged Gaza Strip on Thursday.

At least ten Palestinians were injured in the Gaza Strip after a winter storm, dubbed “Huda,” hit the embattled coastal enclave, Gaza’s civil defense department said.

More than 96,000 homes were destroyed or damaged during the latest Israeli assault on Gaza, which killed more than 2,300 Palestinians during 50 days in July and August.

Gazans are now living by candlelight and wood fire because of electricity shortages, and rely on sandbags to stop their ruined homes from flooding. Some Gazans have sought shelter in the Sheikh Shaaban cemetery outside Gaza City, living in makeshift hut and tents.

Wael al-Sheikh, 37, lost his home last summer during an Israeli airstrike and now lives with his two sons in a tent pitched among the ruins. But with no access to electricity, it is impossible to fend off the cold.

Fearing that the winds of 80 kilometers per hour would simply blow their makeshift home away, they have sought refuge with relatives.

Imad Mutlaq’s home was also largely destroyed in the war, leaving the wind whistling through the cracks in the walls.

“We have no electricity or heating,” he said, describing the first night of the storm as “difficult.”

Thirty-year-old Mohammed Ziyad, a father of two young sets of twins, is trying to put on a brave face.

During a previous storm, the ground floor of the building where they live flooded, but this time he said the family was well prepared.

“We have stocked up on milk and nappies in case we find ourselves stuck indoors,” he said.

With or without a proper roof over their heads, everyone is facing the same problem: the chronic electricity shortages which has plagued the tiny, impoverished strip that is home to 1.8 million people.

Gaza’s sole power station, which was damaged during the war, is struggling with a severe lack of fuel and is only able to supply the enclave with six hours of power per day.

Raed al-Dahshan, head of Gaza’s civil defense, said his staff were facing “a difficult situation which was compounded by a lack of infrastructure” to help those suffering from the storm.

Gaza is also prone to severe flooding, exacerbated by a chronic lack of fuel that limits how much water can be pumped out of flood-stricken areas. The fuel shortages are a result of the eight-year-old Israeli blockade, which limits the import of other kinds of machinery related to pumping and sewage management that could help Gazans combat the floods. The most recent war has exacerbated the crisis.

In early November, flooding from days of torrential rains forced hundreds of Gaza City residents to flee their homes, as a massive week long storm flooded the city’s streets and homes with water and sewage.

Dispute over reconstruction funds

The Hamas resistance movement on Tuesday accused the Palestinian Authority(PA) of interfering with money earmarked for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

In a statement, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said some ministers of the Palestinian national consensus government “admitted that the money allocated for Gaza reconstruction was being added to the PA budget.”

This confession, he said, “proves that the real reason behind the delay in reconstruction of Gaza is that the PA has been messing with the reconstruction money and exploiting the suffering of Gaza’s people.”

For 51 days this summer, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip – by air, land and sea – with the stated aim of ending rocket fire from the coastal enclave.

More than 2,310 Gazans, 70 percent of them civilians, were killed and 10,626 injured during unrelenting Israeli attacks on the besieged strip.

According to the UN, the Israeli military killed at least 495 Palestinian children in Gaza during “Operation Protective Edge.” The al-Mezan Center for Human Rights puts the number at 518, while the Palestinian Center for Human Rights puts it at 519. All three figures exceed the total number of Israelis, both civilians and soldiers, killed by Palestinians in the last decade.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that 3,106 Palestinian children were injured in the war. The UN estimates that 1,000 children will suffer a permanent disability as a result of their injury.

Moreover, the UN said as many as 1,500 children have been orphaned by Israeli attacks that killed their parents, while 6,000 children will have a parent with a lifelong disability.

In addition, 145 Palestinian families had three or more members killed in a single Israeli attack, for a total of 735 lives lost.

The assault ended with an Egypt-brokered ceasefire agreement that called for reopening Gaza’s border crossings with Israel, which, if implemented, would effectively end the latter’s years-long blockade of the embattled territory.

However, Israel had repeatedly blocked the entry of building material, prompting the UN in September to broker another deal. The reconstruction of Gaza has yet to begin.

The Palestinian Authority has estimated that the rebuilding Gaza will cost $7.8 billion.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said during a visit to the Gaza Strip in October that the devastation he had seen was “beyond description” and “far worse” than that caused in the previous Israel-Gaza conflict of winter 2008-2009.

According to the UN, over 106,000 of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents have been displaced to UN shelters and host families.

(AFP, Anadolu, Al-Akhbar)

January 8, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Egypt to raze Rafah city

MEMO | January 8, 2015

Egyptian authorities have decided to raze the city of Rafah, in Sinai, in order to establish a buffer zone with the besieged Gaza Strip, North Sinai governor Abdel-Fattah Harhoor said in a press conference yesterday.

1,220 homes are to be demolished in Rafah in the coming days.

2,044 families will be affected.

“The establishment of a buffer zone requires the complete removal of the city and, in fact, it will be completely destroyed,” Harhoor said.

He said that a new Rafah will be established, and until that happens, “each family whose home will be demolished will receive $210 as a down payment to rent a house”.

Cairo claims its buffer zone is intended to fight terrorism in Sinai and prevent cross border attacks on Israel.

January 8, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment

Report: Israeli Occupation Forces killed six Palestinians last month

Palestine Information Center – January 8, 2015

946036434GAZA – Israeli occupation forces (IOF) killed six Palestinians and kidnapped hundreds in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip last December, according to a report released by the Hamas Movement on Wednesday.

According to the report, the IOF shot dead one Palestinian last month in Gaza while another died of wounds he had sustained during the last war.

Four Palestinians were killed by IOF gunfire in the West Bank.

The IOF also detained 327 Palestinians, including 58 children and four women, mostly from the West Bank.

During the reporting month, the IOF demolished 40 Palestinian homes, 10 commercial stores, 31 structures as well as one restaurant and one forge, and issued demolition orders against other homes.

The Israeli occupation authority, in turn, approved plans for the construction of 316 housing units in Jerusalem and annexed 321 dunums of Palestinian land last month.

The report also touched on some of the violations committed by the Palestinian Authority’s security forces during the month, stating that they detained 235 cadres and supporters of the Palestinian resistance, mostly from Hamas, summoned 151 others for interrogation, and extended the detention of 32 others.

January 8, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

France, Islam and Violence: Who Planted the Seeds?

By Robert Fantina | Aletho News | January 8, 2015

This week, France experienced a horrific incident when twelve people, staff members and visitors of a magazine were shot and killed. The world naturally condemns this violent act, mourns the loss of the dead and offers condolences to their loved ones.

That said, it is necessary to put this situation in its proper perspective. The targeted magazine, Charlie Hebdo, has a record of publishing satirical pieces about Islam that Muslims find extremely offensive. This does not, of course, mean that any magazine shouldn’t publish articles that someone might find offensive; doing so would put all magazines out of business. Yet those offended can take legal action against such occurrences. For example, in 2006 the Union of French Islamic Organizations sued Charlie Hebdo, charging racism. Although the executive editor was acquitted of the charge, the lawsuit itself was a reasonable response by the Islamic community.

In 2012, another series of derogatory cartoons appeared in the magazine, shortly after a company in the United States produced an anti-Islam film called ‘Innocence of Muslims’. This movie was met with several protest demonstrations in France, another viable, legal and peaceful response by the Muslim community. Such demonstrations against a variety of movies and issues are commonplace, but France took an unusual turn in response to these; it banned them. “I have issued instructions so that this does not happen again. These protests are forbidden.” So said French Interior Minister Manuel Valls in an interview with France 2 television network.

So Muslims who only want their religion and lifestyle to be accurately portrayed in the media, and who want to protest the twisted lies that are sometimes presented in books, magazines or movies, are denied any public way of doing so. Oh, they can still write letters to the editors of magazines and newspapers, but in any real democracy, they would be able to protest in a manner that would at least begin to approach the level of publicity that the offending item had garnered. Letters to the editor are not the same as movies in theaters.

Let us look a little deeper at the most recent unspeakable act of violence. By all accounts, the men who invaded the offices of Charlie Hebdo were well-trained and well-armed. This was, apparently, not some ragtag group that stole a few guns and shot their way into the office. Evidence suggests that the three men responsible for the shooting recently returned from Syria, where they were fighting with rebel groups there. So where might they have been trained, and who might have financed their training?

It has been widely reported that Syrian rebels have been trained by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. This is not without historical precedent, and one need look no farther than the U.S. for some examples. During the Russian war against Afghanistan, the U.S. armed and trained the Taliban, looking for some group that could successfully oppose the Soviets. Fast forward two decades, the Taliban is in power in Afghanistan, and this resulted in the longest war in U.S. history, as the U.S. moved to remove the Taliban from power.

Has France been guilty of the same thing? By arming and training fighters, then preventing Muslims from exercising their democratic right to protest, France, perhaps, paved the way for the recent attack on Charlie Hebdo. It provided known radicals with the skills required to kill, and the tools to do so. It fanned the flame of anger by condoning the criticism and mocking of Islam, certainly allowed in any democratic nation, but then prevented Muslims from exercising their democratic right to protest.
None of this justifies the violence that was perpetrated on January 7. But for anyone to imply that this represents Islam, or to consider that France was an innocent bystander, minding its own business when terrorists suddenly invaded, is simply so shortsighted as to be ridiculous.

During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, Representative Ron Paul (R- Texas) said that terrorism resulted at least in part from U.S. policies in the Middle East. Former New York City mayor and Republican presidential candidate wannabe Rudy Giuliani was greatly angered by this statement, and said, in response: “They hate us for our freedoms”. According to Mr. Giuliani, repeated bombing of cities, support for the vicious, apartheid regime of Israel, financing the unspeakable suffering of the Palestinians, invading Iraq, sanctioning Iran, etc., all do nothing to spark hatred for the U.S. No, said he, ‘they hate us for our freedoms’.

Might France now have fallen into the same self-created trap? Does France not recognize any part it might have played in this act of terrorism? Does it consider itself at all culpable? Or, in true, U.S. fashion, does it simply say that Muslims are evil people who hate all that is good and just in the world, as represented, of course, by France? So what if Muslims aren’t allowed to protest insults to their religion? What does that have to do with anything?

Terrorism anywhere in the world must be stopped, whether perpetrated by radicals in a magazine office in France, by IDF (Israel Defense Forces) terrorists in Palestine, or U.S. terrorists in Yemen. Yet when terrorism is met by terrorism, looking for any different motivation is counterproductive. When Israel says that it is merely defending itself from rocket fire from Gaza, the constant terrorism that Gazans experience on a daily basis from Israel must not be ignored. When the U.S. is the target of any attack, the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children by bombs dropped by drones must be considered in the motivation. And France, too, is not exempt; its policies may stimulate hatred and hostility, which results in acts of violence.

Goliath can only assault David for so long, before he falls to the inevitable. Any nation, France, the U.S. , Israel or any other, can only discriminate against, assault, torture and kill people for so long before their victims and their victims’ sympathizers say ‘enough’, and take action. The better course would be for these world powers to show genuine, unconditional concern for the basic human rights of everyone on the planet, and act accordingly. Until that happens, such actions as those perpetrated in Paris this week, must be expected.

January 8, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism | , , | 5 Comments

97 Journalists Killed in Mexico in Past 4 Years

teleSUR | January 7, 2015

According to a new study released by the National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) Wednesday, 97 journalists have been killed in Mexico in connection with their work since 2010.

The new research also revealed 22 cases of disappearances and 433 attacks against journalists and media offices since 2005. Investigations into the crimes have been carried out in very few cases.

The CNHD has criticized the Mexican government for their lack of action regarding violence against journalists in the country. It also emphasized the importance of guaranteeing freedom of expression in the country to ensure the free flow of news and information, which means guaranteeing the right of journalists to work in a safe environment.

“The state is first required to become a guarantor of freedom of expression, since the institutions must assume their primary responsibility and give validity to democracy in our country,” said the organization.

January 8, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

What to Say When You Have Nothing to Say?

By Diana Johnstone | CounterPunch | January 7, 2015


What do you say when you have nothing to say?

That is the dilemma suddenly thrust on political leaders and editorialists in France since three masked gunmen entered the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and massacred a dozen people.

The assassins got away.  But not for long. The men were well-armed killers. Charlie Hebdo regularly received death threats since publishing derisive cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed several years ago. But the controversy seemed to be largely forgotten, the weekly’s circulation had declined (like the press in general) and police protection had been relaxed. The two policemen still on guard were easily shot by the gunmen before they entered the offices in the midst of an editorial meeting. Rarely were so many cartoonists and writers present at once.  Twelve people were slaughtered with automatic weapons, and eleven others wounded, some critically.

In addition to the cartoonist known as Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier, age 47) who was current editor in chief of the magazine, the victims included the two best-known cartoonists in France: Cabu (Jean Cabut, age 76), Georges Wolinski (80 years old). A couple of generations have grown up with Cabu and Wolinski, gentle mirrors of the sentiments of the French left.

As they left, one killer came back to finish off a policeman who lay wounded in the street. They stopped to shout: “The Prophet is avenged!” Then they fled toward the northeastern suburbs.

Crowds gathered spontaneously in the Place de la République in Paris, not far from the tiny street where the Charlie Hebdo had its offices. Brave, false slogans spread: “We are Charlie!” But they are not.  “Charlie lives!”  No, it doesn’t.   It has been just about wiped out.

Everyone is shocked. That goes without saying. This was cold-blooded murder, an unpardonable crime. That also goes without saying, but everyone will be saying it. And there is a lot more that everyone will be saying, such as “we will not allow Islamic extremists to intimidate us and take away our freedom of speech”, and so on. President François Hollande naturally stressed that France is united against the assassins. Initial reactions to an atrocity of this sort are predictable. “We will not be intimidated!  We will not give up our freedoms!”

Yes and no.  Surely even the most crazed religious fanatic could not imagine that this massacre of humorists would convert France to Islam. The result is certain to be quite the opposite: a reinforcement of growing anti-Muslim sentiment. If this is a provocation, what did it mean to provoke? And what will it provoke? The obvious danger is that, like 9/11, it may strengthen police surveillance, and indeed weaken French liberties, not in the way that the killers allegedly seek (limiting freedom to criticize Islam) but in the way liberties have been restricted in post-9/11 America, by some imitation of the Patriot Act.

Personally, I never liked the provocative covers of Charlie Hebdo, where the cartoons insulting the Prophet – or for that matter Jesus – tended to be displayed. A matter of taste. I don’t consider scatological, obscene drawings to be effective arguments, whether against religion or authority in general. Not my cup of tea.

The individuals who were murdered were more than Charlie Hebdo.  The drawings of Cabu and Wolinski appeared in many publications, and were known to a public that never bought Charlie Hebdo. The artists and writers at that editorial meeting all had their talents and qualities which had nothing to do with the “blasphemic” cartoons.  Freedom of the press is also freedom to be vulgar and stupid from time to time.

Charlie Hebdo was not in reality a model of freedom of speech. It has ended up, like so much of the “human rights left”, defending U.S.-led wars against “dictators”.

In 2002, Philippe Val, who was editor in chief at the time, denounced Noam Chomsky for anti-Americanism and excessive criticism of Israel and of mainstream media. In 2008, another of Charlie Hebdo’s famous cartoonists, Siné, wrote a short note citing a news item that President Sarkozy’s son Jean was going to convert to Judaism to marry the heiress of a prosperous appliance chain. Siné added the comment, “He’ll go far, this lad.” For that, Siné was fired by Philippe Val on grounds of “anti-Semitism”.  Siné promptly founded a rival paper which stole a number of Charlie Hebdo readers, revolted by CH’s double standards.

In short, Charlie Hebdo was an extreme example of what is wrong with the “politically correct” line of the current French left. The irony is that the murderous attack by the apparently Islamist killers has suddenly sanctified this fading expression of extended adolescent revolt, which was losing its popular appeal, into the eternal banner of a Free Press and Liberty of Expression. Whatever the murderers intended, this is what they have achieved. Along with taking innocent lives, they have surely deepened the sense of brutal chaos in this world, aggravated distrust between ethnic groups in France and in Europe, and no doubt accomplished other evil results as well.  In this age of suspicion, conspiracy theories are certain to proliferate.

Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book, Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton, will be published by CounterPunch in 2015. She can be reached at

January 8, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | | 1 Comment