USC Students for Justice in Palestine

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Archive for April, 2015

Al Jazeera: Israeli soldiers kill Palestinian youth in Jerusalem

Posted by uscsjp on April 25, 2015

Israeli soldiers have shot and killed a young Palestinian man after an incident near a checkpoint in the East Jerusalem area, police say.

Israeli police said the young man wielded two knives and had tried to attack the soldiers on Saturday, however the dead man’s relatives have denied the claim.

The youth was aged 16, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The incident occurred around midnight near the A-Zayyim checkpoint at the outskirts of East Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.

The dead man’s cousin, Haitham Abu Ghanam told the Reuters news agency that his cousin was killed for no reason.

“We were shocked to hear the news of the death of our cousin, he is a martyr,” Ghanam said.

“He arrived to A-Zayyim checkpoint when the soldiers shot him for no reason, without him attacking them. Witnesses told us that they saw them (the soldiers) shooting him and executing him,” he said.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri told Reuters that paramilitary border police fired warning shots into the air to warn the man.

Samri said the troops “fired precise shots neutralising him (the suspect)” when he failed to heed their warnings, and that doctors had confirmed the suspect had died of his injuries.

Israeli tanks fired at Gaza on Friday after Israel said a rocket was fired from the territory during Independence Day celebrations a day earlier. There were no casualties in those incidents.

–Al Jazeera, April 25th, 2015


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Ron Jacobs in CounterPunch: Talking About Palestine

Posted by uscsjp on April 25, 2015

The recent re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel was a resounding blow to the fantasy of a peace process in Palestine. His anti-Arab pronouncements in the last minute of the campaign were an indication of the true sentiments of the Israeli establishment and much of Israel’s Jewish population. Likewise, his easy rejection of those pronouncements after his victory was assured proved once again the meaninglessness of the so-called peace process. In other words, there really is no process working towards peace between Israel and Palestine. Indeed, the only process occurring between the two nations is one that is intended to wipe any fact of Palestine from human memory. If there is no history that mentions Palestine, then there will be no future that includes it. This is the intention of the Zionist project.

The fact of this intention is not new. Nor is the ongoing media relations attempt to pretend that the erasure of Palestine is not Zionist Israelis’ design. As Noam Chomsky and historian Ilan Pappe make quite clear in a new book of conversations and essays edited by human rights activist Frank Barat, erasing history is a weapon of the powerful. In terms of how this relates to Israel and Palestine—where the mediators in the “peace process” accept the same definitions as the Israeli government, “…the past becomes an obstacle to the so-called mediators, but the past is everything in the eyes of the occupied and oppressed people.” Similarly, when the US tells Iraq to forget about the US invasion and move on, it is an attempt by the more powerful nation to obfuscate its true role.OnPalestine_cover_2

This new book, titled simply On Palestine, includes a series of dialogues between Chomsky and Pappe with Barat gently guiding the direction the dialogues take. Because the conversations took place in 2013 and 2014, the reality of Netanyahu’s continued rule does not exist. However, this makes very little difference and actually verifies the general veracity of the point being made: that Israel’s intent has always been to push the Palestinians out of their homes, their lands and history itself. As the dialogues make clear, this truth is present in the documents of and statements of early Zionist settlers and in more recent ones. Despite the varieties of Zionism that have existed historically and exist today, the intent of most of its adherents is that objective and that objective alone.

Chomsky makes an interesting point during the discussion about the right of a state to exist. There is no such thing, he states. To demand other peoples and nations to accept any nation’s right to exist is absurd and without precedent. Yet, this is precisely what Israel has demanded. In addition, now Israel demands that others recognize its right to exist as a Jewish state. As the book points out in terms of a comparison, Iran has named itself an Islamic Republic, yet that does not mean it can demand that it be recognized as such. Returning to Israel and Palestine, the Palestinians (from Hamas to the Palestinian Authority) have acknowledged that Israel exists as a geographical fact; however this does not require them to officially recognize that. As a comparative example, Washington did not even recognize the People’s Republic of China until 1979, thirty years after the fact of its existence.

Some readers of On Palestine will want to emphasize the differences between the two men, specifically in regards to their differences regarding the academic aspect of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. However, a more useful reading in reviewer’s mind would be one that sees this and other disagreements that arise in the conversations transcribed in the text as the beginnings of an attempt at synthesis between the various approaches that have arisen in support of the Palestinian struggle. As both men point out, the Palestinian groups that compose the national liberation movement itself are anything but unified. This therefore makes it more difficult for those supporters who are not Palestinian to come up with a single approach in their work, as well.

This book is a very accessible discussion of the issues surrounding the question of Israel/Palestine. It is a lesson in the politics and history of the conflict between the two peoples that by its nature includes philosophical inquiries into questions of nationhood and nationalisms, religion and ethnicity, imperialism and the struggle against it. Through the questions from Frank Barat, Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky provide the interested reader with an honest and profound discourse on all of the above. While doing so, the discussion broadens and deepens the context of this issue into an exploration on the meaning of history and politics as only these two intellectuals can. The inclusion of a few essays by each man at the conclusion of the text enhances the dialogue that precedes them.

Ron Jacobs is the author of a series of crime novels called The Seventies Series.  All the Sinners, Saints, is the third novel in the series. He is also the author of  The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground . Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden.    He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. His book Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies will be published by Counterpunch. He can be reached at:

–CounterPunch, April 24-26, 2015

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Pervez Hoodbhoy: Hooray for the Iran-US Deal – but watch out for Israeli-Saudi sabotage

Posted by uscsjp on April 10, 2015

There was jubilation in Teheran as Iranians took to the streets to celebrate, while at Mehrabad airport Iran’s negotiating team received a hero’s welcome. They had just returned from the nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, at the end of tortuous negotiations that had dragged on for many months. A fuller agreement is to be finalized by the end of June, but both sides are claiming victory: President Obama said that “every path leading for Iran to make a nuclear weapon has been cut off”, while most Iranians are jubilant at the partial acceptance of their key demands. In a world where things go wrong more often than right, for once peace has been given a chance.

But there is gloom in the capitals of Washington’s two closest allies – Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the deal as posing a “grave danger” to Israel while newspapers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia dourly noted that Iran had succeeded in furthering its deceptions. Both countries would much rather have seen Iran bombed, preferably with bunker busting nukes, but now this is only a remote possibility. Worried at the possibility of a still wider Iran-U.S. rapprochement, and asserting that Iran will cheat along its nuclear path, both had strongly denounced the talks. But the United States, still licking its wounds after its Iraq debacle, is in no mood to start another war.

U.S.-Israeli relations are unusually frosty these days. Netanyahu’s address to the U.S. Congress last month was a calculated insult to President Obama. Manipulating the deep divide within American domestic politics, and backed by AIPAC together with other powerful Jewish groups, he brazenly called for obstructing U.S. policy. To Obama’s chagrin, Netanyahu’s anti-Iran rant received thunderous applause with several Democrats joining in. Then, last Sunday, denouncing the talks yet again, Netanyahu told his cabinet, “The Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis is very dangerous to humanity, and must be stopped.”

Anti-Obama forces in the U.S. teamed up with their Israeli counterparts to obstruct a deal. On March 24, the head of the Senate Armed Forces Committee and a former presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, suggested that Israel “go rogue” – meaning it should bomb Iran without U.S. support. Else, he said, Israel’s security would remain threatened for the remaining 22 months of the Obama presidency. Earlier, 47 Republican senators sent a letter to the Iranian leadership that the nuclear agreement will not outlast President Obama.

Saudi Arabia, for its own reasons, is even more gung ho. While expressing token opposition to Israel’s stash of nuclear weapons, it has long concentrated its fire on Iran’s nuclear program. Thanks to Wikileaks, it is now well known that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had repeatedly urged the U.S. to destroy Iran’s nuclear program and launch military strikes to “cut off the head of the snake”. In 2011, the influential former head of Saudi intelligence and ambassador in London and Washington, Prince Turki bin Faisal, described Iran as a “paper tiger with steel claws”, which used these claws for meddling and destabilizing efforts in countries with Shi’ite minorities. Saudi Arabia has reportedly given tacit assent to overflights by Israeli bombers en route to the Persian Gulf.

And what of my country, Pakistan? A former supplier of centrifuges to Iran via the covert A.Q. Khan network, and formerly its friendly neighbor, it has maintained a studious silence. For long a Saudi client state, Pakistan is now rushing to defend Saudi interests in Yemen, implausibly claiming that Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity is threatened by Yemen’s impoverished Houthi minority. Which side Pakistan would have taken if the nuclear talks had failed, and if Iran had been attacked, is not in doubt.

While the Israeli-Saudi cause has received a terrific setback, a determined campaign to derail the agreement may well have just begun.  At the core, Iran and the United States have widely divergent interests. Therefore many fears and fault lines are just waiting to be exploited.

Here’s the problem: Iran currently does not have an active program to convert its fissile material into bombs. But it does want a capacity to make nuclear weapons as insurance against an American (or Israeli) effort at regime change. It cannot forget that a 1953 CIA coup had removed Mohammed Mossadegh and installed Reza Shah Pehlavi as head of state. Also, as an ideological state, Iran seeks to extend its influence beyond its borders. So if it could become a nuclear state, its punch and prestige would increase dramatically.

The world, in fact, has long suspected that, contrary to official denials, the Iranian program had a bomb component. In 1998, Iran was delighted by Pakistan’s successful nuclear tests. Just five days later, foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi arrived in Islamabad to congratulate Pakistan. Iran had hoped at that time to benefit from Pakistan’s expertise and eventually purchased the Chinese nuclear weapon design from the A.Q. Khan network. From the economic point of view, moreover, Iran’s massive investment in nuclear infrastructure makes no economic sense.

The United States has diametrically opposite interests. It is Iranophobic and will strain every muscle to prevent Iran from ever getting a nuclear weapon. It realizes, however, that eliminating the Iranian nuclear program is impossible. Therefore its immediate objective is reducing Iran’s “break-out” capacity to at least one year. So, if someday Iran tries to race for a bomb, the U.S. wants enough time to detect and destroy it.

At Lausanne the U.S. got some of what it wanted. Iran agreed to increased access by the IAEA to Iran’s nuclear facilities; no enrichment beyond that needed for nuclear power production; sharply reduced stockpiling of fissile material stockpiles; far fewer centrifuges; reconstruction of the Arak reactor (so that it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium); and close monitoring of weapon related issues. If implemented, these will drastically curtail Iran’s ability for a break-out. In exchange Iran got some of what it wants: sanctions relief from the U.S. and EU, a transparent procurement channel for its civilian nuclear development, and international cooperation to help Iran in R&D.

The triumph of Iranian pragmatism has left Israel and Saudi Arabia deeply dismayed. Their diplomats and lobbyists will now be assigned the task of destroying the Lausanne agreement. They must so wish the easily discreditable firebrand, Mahmoud Ahmedijad, rather than the moderate Hassan Rouhani, was their adversary. But now Iran may well be on its way towards ending its international isolation. Could this also lead to a more normal, and less interventionist, Iran?  My Iranian physicist friends across the border tell me that they are delighted at the agreement for this reason more than any other.

A final note: sadly, the irony of today’s situation is likely to be lost on countless millions of Muslims, including the majority of my university’s faculty and students, who have long imagined an Islamic bomb as the solution to the Muslim world’s current situation – a predicament for which they blame the enemies of Islam. Who could that bomb be aimed at?

1977: Deposed prime-minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto addressed posterity from his death cell in Rawalpindi Jail saying he had gifted Pakistan an “Islamic” bomb. He had India in mind.

1992: Iranian vice-president Sayed Ayatollah Mohajerani appealed to all Muslims asking them to jointly produce an atomic bomb. He surely had Israel in mind.

2015: If the Sunni Kingdom of Saudi Arabia could somehow make its “Islamic” bomb – perhaps with Sunni Pakistan’s help – it would have only Shia Iran in mind.

The author teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad

–Pervez Hoodbhoy, ZNet (original source: teleSUR English), April 7, 2015

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