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Medea Benjamin: “In Busting Peace Efforts, Israel Lobby Group May Be Sabotaging Itself”

Posted by uscsjp on March 13, 2015

Early in the morning of March 3, on AIPAC’s national lobby day and just hours before Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was set to address the joint session of Congress, AIPAC President Robert Cohen, along with the group’s Policy Director and two associates, briskly approached the Congressional office of Speaker of the House John Boehner. To their horror, they found the office locked and surrounded by crowd of CODEPINK activists staging a sit-in to protest the Netanyahu speech. After trying unsuccessfully to get in a side door, the AIPAC officials scurried away. But a CODEPINK swarm followed through the maze of Congressional halls, thrilled at the unique opportunity to confront the powerful AIPAC officials [3] about their efforts to quash a nuclear deal with Iran.

When finally cornered after seeking refuge in the office of Congressman Stivers, the policy director agreed to talk to the CODEPINK group. But he kept repeating the mantra that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and as such, cannot be trusted in a nuclear deal.

This is the AIPAC line, and its strategy is to sabotage the negotiations. It pushes for greater sanctions on Iran through the Kirk-Menendez [4] bill knowing that—as Secretary of State John Kerry has said—additional sanctions would likely drive Iran from the table. It is also promoting the Corker bill, which would give Congress a chance to veto any deal the administration makes with Iran. And there is speculation [5] that AIPAC was behind the letter by 47 Republican senators to the Iran government insisting that any deal signed with President Obama could be overturned by the next president.

AIPAC’s underhanded efforts to scuttle talks with Iran threaten to move us down a dangerous path towards war. But it’s not just AIPAC’s position on Iran that poses a threat to peace. AIPAC tries to undermine any attempts by the Palestinians to take their grievances to the international community. AIPAC describes the United Nations as a body hostile to the State of Israel and has pressured the US government to oppose any resolution holding Israel accountable or granting Palestine statehood at the UN. Incensed by Palestine’s request for membership at the International Criminal Court (ICC), AIPAC pushed the Obama administration to pull funding from the Palestinian Authority.

AIPAC has consistently supports Israel’s military incursions in Gaza, claiming Israel is simply defending itself against Hamas. AIPAC supported the Israeli offensive during the summer of 2014 that resulted in thousands of Palestinian deaths (including over 500 children), six UN schools and hospitals flattened, 18,000 housing units destroyed and 108,000 people displaced from their homes. While the bombs were raining down mercilessly on civilians in Gaza, AIPAC President Robert Cohen [6] told Congress that Hamas was responsible for the death of its own citizens. AIPAC also supported the prior two invasions of Gaza and the siege that has so devastated the lives of the strip’s 1.8 million residents.

As part of its efforts to influence Congress, AIPAC takes US representatives on free, sugar-coated junkets to Israel, trips considered almost obligatory for every new member of Congress. The congresspeople see precisely what the Israeli government wants them to see. It is illegal for lobby groups to take elected officials on trips, but AIPAC skirts the law by creating a bogus educational group, AIEF (American Israel Education Foundation), to “organize” the trips for them. AIEF has the same office address as AIPAC and the same staff. These trips help cement the ties between AIPAC and Congress, furthering their undue influence.

To judge AIPAC’s grip on Congress, look no further than how itboasts [6] about its policy conference, i.e. that it is “attended by more members of Congress than almost any other event, except for a joint session of Congress or a State of the Union address.”

AIPAC keeps a careful record of how members of Congress vote and this record is used by donors to make contributions to the politicians who score well. Congresspeople who fail to support AIPAC legislation have been targeted for defeat, including Senators Adlai Stevenson III and Charles H. Percy, and Representatives Paul Findley, Pete McCloskey, Cynthia McKinney, and Earl F. Hilliard.

More recently, AIPAC supporters vowed to use their wealth and extensive resources to punish Democrats who skipped Prime Minister Netanyahu’s March 3 speech before Congress. A representative of billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson said [7]that “if these Democrats would rather put partisan politics ahead of principle and walk out on the prime minister of Israel, then we have an obligation to make that known.”

The bottom line is that AIPAC, which is a de facto agent for a foreign government, has influence on US policy out of all proportion to the number of Americans it represents. When a small group like this has disproportionate power, it hurts everyone—from Palestinians and Iranians to Israelis and American Jews.

If we are to stop a catastrophic war with Iran or finally solve the Israel/Palestine conflict, an essential element is breaking AIPAC’s grip on U.S. policy. That may well be happening right now. In the past, AIPAC fiercely guarded its bipartisan reputation. But its ultra-hardline stance on Iran puts it squarely on the side of Obama’s most ferocious Republican detractors.  This is making many liberal Jewish AIPAC supporters jittery and diminishing AIPAC’s power among Democrats in Congress and the White House.

AIPAC, in its strong-arm attempts to blow up the talks with Iran, may well be losing its grip and careening towards its own demise. And that’s one implosion worth rooting for.

Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of www.codepink.org [8] and www.globalexchange.org [9]. She is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

 

–Alternet, March 11th, 2015

 

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/busting-peace-efforts-israel-lobby-group-may-be-sabotaging-itself

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“Noam Chomsky: Why Israel’s Netanyahu Is So Desperate to Prevent Peace with Iran” (Alternet)

Posted by uscsjp on March 2, 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in the United States as part of his bid to stop a nuclear deal with Iran during a controversial speech before the U.S. Congress on Tuesday. Dozens of Democrats are threatening to boycott the address, which was arranged by House Speaker John Boehner without consulting the White House. Netanyahu’s visit comes just as Iran and six world powers, including the United States, are set to resume talks in a bid to meet a March 31 deadline. “For both Prime Minister Netanyahu and the hawks in Congress, mostly Republican, the primary goal is to undermine any potential negotiation that might settle whatever issue there is with Iran,” says Noam Chomsky, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “They have a common interest in ensuring there is no regional force that can serve as any kind of deterrent to Israeli and U.S. violence, the major violence in the region.” Chomsky also responds to recent revelations that in 2012 the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, contradicted Netanyahu’s own dire warnings about Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear bomb, concluding that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”…

NOAM CHOMSKY: For both president—Prime Minister Netanyahu and the hawks in Congress, mostly Republican, the primary goal is to undermine any potential negotiation that might settle whatever issue there is with Iran. They have a common interest in ensuring that there is no regional force that can serve as any kind of deterrent to Israeli and U.S. violence, the major violence in the region. And it is—if we believe U.S. intelligence—don’t see any reason not to—their analysis is that if Iran is developing nuclear weapons, which they don’t know, it would be part of their deterrent strategy. Now, their general strategic posture is one of deterrence. They have low military expenditures. According to U.S. intelligence, their strategic doctrine is to try to prevent an attack, up to the point where diplomacy can set in. I don’t think anyone with a grey cell functioning thinks that they would ever conceivably use a nuclear weapon, or even try to. The country would be obliterated in 15 seconds. But they might provide a deterrent of sorts. And the U.S. and Israel certainly don’t want to tolerate that. They are the forces that carry out regular violence and aggression in the region and don’t want any impediment to that.

And for the Republicans in Congress, there’s another interest—namely, to undermine anything that Obama, you know, the Antichrist, might try to do. So that’s a separate issue there. The Republicans stopped being an ordinary parliamentary party some years ago. They were described, I think accurately, by Norman Ornstein, the very respected conservative political analyst, American Enterprise Institute; he said the party has become a radical insurgency which has abandoned any commitment to parliamentary democracy. And their goal for the last years has simply been to undermine anything that Obama might do, in an effort to regain power and serve their primary constituency, which is the very wealthy and the corporate sector. They try to conceal this with all sorts of other means. In doing so, they’ve had to—you can’t get votes that way, so they’ve had to mobilize sectors of the population which have always been there but were never mobilized into an organized political force: evangelical Christians, extreme nationalists, terrified people who have to carry guns into Starbucks because somebody might be after them, and so on and so forth. That’s a big force. And inspiring fear is not very difficult in the United States. It’s a long history, back to colonial times, of—as an extremely frightened society, which is an interesting story in itself. And mobilizing people in fear of them, whoever “them” happens to be, is an effective technique used over and over again. And right now, the Republicans have—their nonpolicy has succeeded in putting them back in a position of at least congressional power. So, the attack on—this is a personal attack on Obama, and intended that way, is simply part of that general effort. But there is a common strategic concern underlying it, I think, and that is pretty much what U.S. intelligence analyzes: preventing any deterrent in the region to U.S. and Israeli actions…

 

To read the rest of the interview, visit: http://www.alternet.org/world/noam-chomsky-why-israels-netanyahu-so-desperate-prevent-peace-iran

 

Interview orignally posted on Democracy Now!

March 2, 2015

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2015/3/2/noam_chomsky_opposing_iran_nuclear_deal

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Alternet: Obama Is Right: Christian Violence Is Just as Bad as Muslim Violence—Or Worse

Posted by uscsjp on February 6, 2015

This week, President Obama met with Muslim leaders in a private political meeting for the first time in his six-year presidency. The meeting set off predictable angry reactions from the political right, with Fox News’s Sean Hannity even saying [3] that he wished Obama had demanded that the leaders assembled publicly denounce radical Islam. Obama further raised the hackles of the Christian right when he said at the National Prayer Breakfast that no religion has a monopoly on violence, saying [4]:

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Robert Barsocchini: Facts All US Citizens Need to Know About Israel and Palestine

Posted by uscsjp on January 19, 2015

This blog post from several months ago during the height of the Israeli bombardment continues to resonate urgently in 2015. We re-print it in its entirety. –USC SJP Blog Editor

Facts All US Citizens Need to Know About Israel and Palestine

  • Gaza (along with the West Bank and East Jerusalem) is occupied Palestinian territory underinternational law, determined by the vast majority of the world, as well as the highest court in the world, the UN’s International Court of Justice. Gaza cannot commit aggression against Israel, since Israel is in constant and continual commission of illegal aggression against Palestine by occupying it (illegally and sadistically blockading it and frequently committing terrorism against its civilians, including by targeting them with chemical weapons provided by US taxpayers – see “Rain of Fire” by Human Rights Watch). As documented by Amnesty Int’l, Human Rights Watch, and many others,Israel intentionally targets and murders civilians, including children, en masse.
  • But, even ignoring international law and that Gaza is under illegal Israeli occupation, Gaza did not initiate this current round of violence; Israel did:
    • Western/US/Israeli propaganda says the violence started with the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli youths on June 12th. That is a lie:
    • On May 20th, the Israeli government murdered 2 unarmed Palestinian teens, one on video, and wounded a third.
    • The firing of pathetic scrap metal rockets from impoverished Gaza, which have killed no one, were in fact launched in response to earlier Israeli bombings, killings, assassinations, and arrests of Palestinians, including children.
  • Since the year 2000, Israel has killed 1,500 Palestinian children, while Palestinians have killed 132 Israeli children. That means Israel has killed over 1,000% percent more Palestinian children than vice versa.
  • According to a landmark, comprehensive study of all of Israel’s wars, by Zeev Maoz, Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Davis, former head of the Graduate School of Government and Policy and of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, and former academic director of the M.A. Program at the Israeli Defense Forces’ National Defense College:
    • “. most of the wars in which Israel was involved were the result of deliberate Israeli aggressive design . None of these wars – with the possible exception of the 1948 War of independence – was what Israel refers to as Milhemet Ein Berah (war of necessity). They were all wars of choice . ” – Defending the Holy Land, pg. 35, (bold added)
    • “I review a number of peace-related opportunities ranging from the Zionist-Hashemite collusion in 1947 through the collapse of the Oslo Process in 2000. In all those cases I find that Israeli decision makers – who had been willing to embark upon bold and daring military adventures – were extremely reluctant to make even the smallest concessions for peace . I also find in many cases Israel was engaged in systematic violations of agreements and tacit understandings between itself and its neighbors.” – Defending the Holy Land, pg. 40
  • Israel has violated more UN resolutions than any other country. That includes Iraq under Hussein.
  • Hamas is the government elected by Gaza in elections that Jimmy Carter (and many others) observed and said were completely fair and free. Israel constantly says Hamas uses human shields. But in Israel’s biggest massacre of Gaza, the one in 2009, all the human rights organizations, including Amnesty, HRW, and the jurist Richard Goldstone, found that Hamas DID NOT use human shields. On the contrary, Israel used human shields, which is a regular practice for Israel. Israel uses civilians as human shields.
    • Israel forced Palestinian civilians to dig and lay naked in trenches around Israeli tanks. See hereat 6:45.
      • XIV. THE USE OF PALESTINIAN CIVILIANS AS HUMAN SHIELDS
      • “The Mission received allegations that in two areas in north Gaza Israeli troops used Palestinian men as human shields… The Mission found the foregoing witnesses to be credible and reliable. It has no reason to doubt the veracity of their accounts and found that the different stories serve to support the allegation that Palestinians were used as human shields.”
  • Noam Chomsky: “Hamas is regularly described as ‘Iranian-backed Hamas, which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.’ One will be hard put to find something like ‘democratically elected Hamas, which has long been calling for a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus’—blocked for over 30 years by the US and Israel. All true, but not a useful contribution to the Party Line, hence dispensable.”
  • In the history of all rocket and mortar fire into Israel, 26 people, total, have been killed. And remember, Palestine breaks ceasefires far less often than Israel, as documented above.
    • This number of 26 is in contrast to the minimum number of 1,400 people who were murdered by Israel in a single one of its terrorist atrocities, the 2009 Gaza Massacre.
    • Noting that in the current massacre, zero Israelis and over 100 Palestinians have thus far been killed, and noting that Gaza is a concentration camp – Israel allows no one to enter or leave – Dan Sanchez gives a perfect description of the disparity in arms between the US/Israeli war machine and Palestinian scrap metal projectiles: “They [the Gazans] are like fish in a barrel, being blasted by a shotgun from above. It’s like some of the fish in the barrel pathetically spitting water at the gunman, and [US media calls] that a “shooting battle.”
  • The rhetoric and tactics of Hamas and other groups resisting Israeli occupation and colonization can be brutal (though far less so than Israel). Propagandists try to attribute this to anti-Semitism, to distract from the fact that these groups are resisting having their country stolen and their people dispossessed and annihilated. Native American resistance to European colonizers was sometimes extremely brutal, as was their rhetoric, but everyone universally recognizes that this was not because of “anti-White-ism”, or “anti-European-ism”, but because they were having their land stolen and their people massacred, the same thing that Israel is doing to the Palestinians.
    • Palestinians have the right under international law to resist occupation, ethnic cleansing, colonization, aggression, and annexation. Miko Peled, son of an Israeli general, recently statedthat if Israel doesn’t Like rockets, they should decolonize Palestine. Dr. Norman Finkelstein notesthat “The Palestinians have the right to use arms to resist an occupation . However, the fact that morally and legally they have that right doesn’t mean that it’s the most prudent strategy. In my opinion, a national Palestinian leadership committed to mobilizing nonviolent resistance can defeat the Israeli occupation if those of us living abroad lend support to it.”
  • In 1948, the people who wanted to form a Jewish state carried out a massive terror and ethnic cleansing campaign against the occupants of Palestine, expelling about half of them (750,000) from their land and into concentrated areas (Gaza and West Bank). Israel has slowly continued colonizing even those areas, which were specifically reserved by the UN for Palestinians. Israel takes all the best land and resources, such as water. Here is a visualization of what has happened, and is currently happening with massive support from Obama:

  • Israeli settlement building in Palestine is a war crime under international law. Under Obama, Israeli settlement building is up over 130%.
  • For about 40 years, there has been an international consensus that Israel must stop colonizing territory outside its 1967 borders. The consensus has been blocked by the United States, in isolation from the international community (much like the USA’s isolated, strong support for South African Apartheid). Every year there is a UN vote on the issue, and every year it goes about 165 to 2, the world against the US and Israel. This continues under Obama. All human rights groups support the consensus, as does Hamas, the Arab League, Iran, the Organization of the Islamic Conference… Virtually everyone, except the US and Israel. (More details on this page.)
  • Palestinians are brutalized, repressed and impoverished by Israel. To get a quick visual understanding of the difference between Gaza and Israel, take a look at the images of people and cities being wantonly pummeled by Israeli terrorism when you search the word “Gaza“, and the images of opulence, wealth and luxury that come up when you search “Tel Aviv“.
  • Israel, whose government intentionally targets, tortures, and murders civilians, including children, including with chemical weapons, and whose government uses Palestinian civilians as human shields, and whose government is the last entity on Earth carrying out old-style ethnic cleansing and colonization of foreign countries, is the single biggest recipient of US aid, at over three billion dollars a year and huge amounts of lethal weaponry such as attack helicopters and white phosphorous chemical explosives.
  • To reiterate, Obama requested more military aid for Israel than any president ever. This is not because Obama and the USA love Jewish people. Obama was recently an accomplice in a literal neo-Nazi-led coup d’etat in Ukraine, and is currently fully supporting the junta-integrated Ukrainian government, which is staffed with several neo-Nazis in high ministries, and which uses neo-Nazi paramilitaries to carry out massacres (and possibly genocide) against people resistant to the junta. The actual reason the US supports Israel is discussed below.
  • As Amnesty International has noted, all aid to Israel is illegal under international (and US) law, because Israel is a consistent violator of human rights.

Amnesty International also noted that Israel’s 2009 massacre of Gaza would not have been possible without the illegal funding (money and weapons) and support Israel gets from the USA.

This is also true of the current massacre Israel is committing in Gaza.

However, in a way, that is good news.

That means US citizens can STOP the massacres.

If we stop our money and weapons-flow to Israel, which is illegal anyway, we stop Israeli terrorism! All we have to do is stop committing a crime, and we will stop more crimes! That’s great news.

Here is a previous example of how this has worked: When the USA cut its funding for Indonesia’s genocide against East Timor, which the USA was funding almost exclusively, Indonesia was forced to stop and withdraw. All it took was cutting off our illegal flow of money and weapons to the criminals.

The same thing would happen if we cut our illegal funding for Israel’s genocides and acts of terrorism, ethnic cleansing, colonization, and annexation against Palestine.

But since the USA is an anti-democratic country, the only way to stop US plutocrats from using our money to fund Israeli terrorism is to force it through massive, non-violent pressure.

One way it happens is when it becomes too politically costly for the plutocracy to keep funding genocide and terror, meaning the costs of their illegal support outweigh the benefits, as in Indonesia. In that case, massive publicity and indigenous resistance accomplished the goal.

But Israel is the USA’s main imperial – and nuclear – base for controlling the Middle East, which US planners, in 1945, called the greatest material prize in world history, due to the oil and gas. Thus, it might require more, as in non-violently making our country into a democracy so that people control their own institutions and money, and thus the way we operate as a society and interact with the world.

Last note: To be clear, Israel is a legal state, but only within the borders allotted to it by the United Nations – the Pre-1967 borders, which existed before Israel started eating away, through terror, ethnic cleansing, colonization, and annexation, at the areas reserved by the United Nations for Palestinians, as well as areas of other countries, such as Syria (the Golan Heights).

Per international law, US domestic law, and common sense, Israel doesn’t deserve any support until it abandons isolationism and accepts that it can’t steal other people’s countries, and stops blockading and withdraws its soldiers and settlers, all there illegally, from those countries.

Israel is, militarily, the most powerful country in the Middle East, by far. Removing our support for the Israeli government (which we are legally required to do) will not put Israelis in danger. It will pressure the Israeli government to stop doing what endangers Israelis, which is committing aggressive acts against Israel’s neighbors.

If Israel ends its status as a consistent violator of human rights, decolonizes Palestine, and respects its neighbors, it could be a pleasure – and legal – to work with and support Israel.

Germany, Japan, and South Africa went from being the most reviled countries on Earth to being some of the most admired. Maybe Israel could undergo the same transformation, but not unless we, US citizens, help by ceasing to enable Israeli terrorism and war crimes by illegally supporting them.

 

— Robert Barsocchini, July 12, 2014.

 

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/07/facts-us-citizens-need-know-israel-palestine.html

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George Monbiot: “Why stop at Isis when we could bomb the whole Muslim world?”

Posted by uscsjp on January 12, 2015

Humanitarian arguments, if consistently applied, could be used to flatten the entire Middle East


By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 1st October 2014

Let’s bomb the Muslim world – all of it – to save the lives of its people. Surely this is the only consistent moral course? Why stop at blowing up Islamic State, when the Syrian government has murdered and tortured so many? This, after all, was last year’s moral imperative. What’s changed?

How about blasting the Shia militias in Iraq? One of them selected 40 people from the streets of Baghdad in June and murdered them for being Sunnis(1). Another massacred 68 people at a mosque in August(2). They now talk openly of “cleansing” and “erasure”(3), once Islamic State has been defeated. As a senior Shia politician warns, “we are in the process of creating Shia al-Qaida radical groups equal in their radicalisation to the Sunni Qaida.”(4)

What humanitarian principle instructs you to stop there? In Gaza this year, 2,100 Palestinians were massacred: including people taking shelter in schools and hospitals. Surely these atrocities demand an air war against Israel? And what’s the moral basis for refusing to liquidate Iran? Mohsen Amir-Aslani was hanged there last week for making “innovations in the religion” (suggesting that the story of Jonah in the Qu’ran was symbolic rather than literal)(5). Surely that should inspire humanitarian action from above? Pakistan is crying out for friendly bombs: an elderly British man, Mohammed Asghar, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, is, like other blasphemers, awaiting execution there after claiming to be a holy prophet(6). One of his prison guards has already shot him in the back.

Is there not an urgent duty to blow up Saudi Arabia? It has beheaded 59 people so far this year, for offences that include adultery, sorcery and witchcraft(7). It has long presented a far greater threat to the west than Isis now poses. In 2009 Hillary Clinton warned in a secret memo that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban … and other terrorist groups.”(8) In July, the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, revealed that Prince Bandar bin Sultan, until recently the head of Saudi intelligence, told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”(9) Saudi support for extreme Sunni militias in Syria during Bandar’s tenure is widely blamed for the rapid rise of Isis(10,11). Why take out the subsidiary and spare the headquarters?

The humanitarian arguments aired in parliament last week(12), if consistently applied, could be used to flatten the entire Middle East and West Asia. By this means you could end all human suffering, liberating the people of these regions from the vale of tears in which they live.

Perhaps this is the plan: Barack Obama has now bombed seven largely-Muslim countries(13), in each case citing a moral imperative. The result, as you can see in Libya, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan,Yemen, Somalia and Syria, has been the eradication of jihadi groups, of conflict, chaos, murder, oppression and torture. Evil has been driven from the face of the earth by the destroying angels of the west.

Now we have a new target, and a new reason to dispense mercy from the sky, with similar prospects of success. Yes, the agenda and practices of Isis are disgusting. It murders and tortures, terrorises and threatens. As Obama says, it is a “network of death”(14). But it’s one of many networks of death. Worse still, a western crusade appears to be exactly what it wants(15).

Already Obama’s bombings have brought Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra, a rival militia affiliated to Al Qaeda, together(16). More than 6,000 fighters have joined Isis since the bombardment began(17). They dangled the heads of their victims in front of the cameras as bait for war planes. And our governments were stupid enough to take it.

And if the bombing succeeds? If – and it’s a big if – it manages to tilt the balance against Isis, what then? Then we’ll start hearing once more about Shia death squads and the moral imperative to destroy them too – and any civilians who happen to get in the way. The targets change; the policy doesn’t. Never mind the question, the answer is bombs. In the name of peace and the preservation of life, our governments wage perpetual war.

While the bombs fall, our states befriend and defend other networks of death. The US government still refuses – despite Obama’s promise – to release the 28 redacted pages from the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11, which document Saudi Arabian complicity in the attack on America(18). In the UK, in 2004 the Serious Fraud Office began investigating allegations of massive bribes paid by the British weapons company BAE to Saudi ministers and middlemen. Just as the crucial evidence was about to be released, Tony Blair intervened to stop the investigation(19). The biggest alleged beneficiary was Prince Bandar, mentioned above. The Serious Fraud Office was investigating a claim that, with the approval of the British government, he received £1bn in secret payments from BAE(20).

And still it goes on. Last week’s Private Eye, drawing on a dossier of recordings and emails, alleges that a British company has paid £300m in bribes to facilitate weapons sales to the Saudi National Guard(21). When a whistleblower in the company reported these payments to the British ministry of defence, instead of taking action it alerted his bosses. He had to flee the country to avoid being thrown into a Saudi jail. Smirking, lying, two-faced bastards – this scarcely begins to touch it.

There are no good solutions that military intervention by the UK or the US can engineer. There are political solutions in which our governments could play a minor role: supporting the development of effective states that don’t rely on murder and militias, building civic institutions that don’t depend on terror, helping to create safe passage and aid for people at risk. Oh, and ceasing to protect and sponsor and arm selected networks of death. Whenever our armed forces have bombed or invaded Muslims nations, they have made life worse for those who live there. The regions in which our governments have intervened most are those which suffer most from terrorism and war. That is neither coincidental nor surprising.

Yet our politicians affect to learn nothing. Insisting that more killing will magically resolve deep-rooted conflicts, they scatter bombs like fairy dust.

http://www.monbiot.com

References:

1. http://www.theguardian.com/guardianweekly/story/0,,1818778,00.html

2. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/22/shia-attack-sunni-mosque-iraq

3. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/24/iraq-frontline-shia-fighters-war-isis

4. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/24/iraq-frontline-shia-fighters-war-isis

5. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/29/iran-executes-man-heresy-mohsen-amir-aslani

6. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/29/stand-up-for-blasphemers-like-mohammed-asghar-frankie-boyle

7. http://www.amnesty.se/upload/apps/webactions/urgentaction/2014/09/23/52302414.pdf

8. http://www.theguardian.com/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/242073

9. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/iraq-crisis-how-saudi-arabia-helped-isis-take-over-the-north-of-the-country-9602312.html

10. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/06/isis-saudi-arabia-iraq-syria-bandar/373181/

11. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/islamic-state-us-failure-to-look-into-saudi-role-in-911-has-helped-isis-9731563.html

12. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm140926/debtext/140926-0001.htm#1409266000001

13. https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/09/23/nobel-peace-prize-fact-day-syria-7th-country-bombed-obama/

14. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm140926/debtext/140926-0001.htm#1409266000001

15. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/26/west-isis-crusade-britain-iraq-syria

16. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/28/isis-al-qaida-air-strikes-syria

17. http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/1.616730

18. http://nypost.com/2013/12/15/inside-the-saudi-911-coverup/

19. http://www.theguardian.com/world/bae

20. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/feb/05/bae-saudi-yamamah-deal-background

21. Richard Brooks and Andrew Bousfield, 19th September 2014. Shady Arabia and the Desert Fix. Private Eye.

–George Monbiot, September 30th, 2014

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The Economist: Will joining the International Criminal Court further Palestine’s cause?

Posted by uscsjp on January 10, 2015

THE “nuclear option” was how American and Palestinian officials described the application by Mahmoud Abbas, Palestine’s president, to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. His move follows a vote against a Palestinian attempt to have the UN Security Council set a deadline for Israel to end its occupation of territories it captured in 1967. It might open Israel—or Palestine—to charges of committing war crimes. Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the UN, said Palestine would join the court on April 1st.

Before Mahmoud Abbas applied on January 1st to join the ICC, Israeli officials promised it would result in an appropriate “Zionist response”: the expansion of settlements that would in effect bisect the West Bank near Jerusalem. Moreover, said officials, an application would also effectively spell the end of talks to establish an independent Palestinian state: never again, they said, would Israel negotiate with Palestinians over the future of Jerusalem, an issue that would have to be the cornerstone of any agreement since both sides claim it as their capital.

Given such hyperbole, the response of Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, looks fairly mild. For now he has acted as in past rows, by withholding customs revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the PA on Palestinian imports, a sum of $127 million that comprises two-thirds of Mr Abbas’s monthly budget. Even that act earned Mr Netanyahu copious reprimands. A spokesman for the Obama administration ticked him off. So did Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, the veteran if maverick hardliner from Mr Netanyahu’s own party, Likud, who has turned into Israel’s leading advocate of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. Threatening Mr Abbas with bankruptcy and the Palestinian Authority (PA) with collapse, Mr Rivlin said, was bad not just for Palestinians, but for Israel too.

He has a point. Israel’s retention of tax revenues has left Mr Abbas unable to cover this month’s salaries for 160,000 state employees. The president’s men insist that Mr Abbas’ critics, who always thought the old man was bluffing about joining the ICC, will now cheer rather than stir up the street. But unions representing PA employees are smarting from previous pay cuts. Banks might have the reserves to cover their salaries for only a couple of months.

A Palestinian businessman asks: once the money dries up, for how long will PA security forces remain quiet before they start selling their guns to make ends meet? On a previous occasion when that happened in 2006, Hamas’s military wing was a willing buyer of weapons. Shortly thereafter it took over Gaza. Israel’s freeze on tax receipts, therefore, seems likely to be thawed just as previous ones were.

Israel is appealing to a sympathetic Congress to withhold the $400m it gives the PA each year when Palestine brings its first petition to the ICC. But Palestinians hope that will not happen. “Will the Americans really topple one of the last secular rulers,” asks a Palestinian official, “while IS is itching to take over next door?” In any case, Saudi Arabia, which has chipped in cash before, sounds more sympathetic than normal.

Now that Mr Abbas has followed through, the question is whether the ICC will do much. Israeli officials fret that soldiers travelling abroad may be subject to arrest. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are already said to be paying lawyers in western capitals to prepare the writs. Palestinians and their supporters abroad, meanwhile, hope to seek the prosecution for war crimes of any Israeli accused of occupying Palestinian territories. Among those that could be targeted is Uri Ariel, the settler housing minister who is driving the expansion of settlements on the West Bank.

Yet both sides seem to invest the ICC with powers that it has never hitherto shown itself to have. And it could take many years for an investigation to reach conclusion. “Look at Africa,” says a sober Israeli official, in reference to investigations that have stalled in Kenya and Sudan.

Just a few days after the Palestinian application, Israel’s Supreme Court (which prides itself on keeping on the right side of international law) prevented the government from building its separation barrier through Battir, a delightful West Bank village set on a gorge through which the old Ottoman railway line to Jerusalem passes.

The monks of Cremisan, whose monastery is also threatened by the barrier, wonder whether Israel’s judges will similarly spare their property. If not, they could turn out to be among the first applicants to head for the international court.

–The Economist, 10 Jan, 2015

 

http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21638151-will-joining-international-criminal-court-further-palestines-cause-see-you

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Rasmea Defense Committee statement: “Without a full and fair trial, Rasmea found guilty”

Posted by uscsjp on November 10, 2014

The following was sent out at 8:34 am this morning to the Committee to Stop FBI Repression listserve:

 

Rasmea Defense Committee statement

Without a full and fair trial,
Rasmea found guilty

In a travesty of justice, Rasmea Odeh today was found guilty of one count of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization. For over a year, Rasmea, her supporters, and her legal team have been battling this unjust government prosecution, saying from the start that the immigration charge was nothing but a pretext to attack this icon of the Palestine liberation movement. And although there is real anger and disappointment in the jury’s verdict, it was known as early as October 27th that she would not get a full and fair trial.

On that day, Judge Gershwin Drain made a number of rulings that made her defense virtually impossible. The government’s indictment stated that she had unlawfully gained U.S. citizenship because she had allegedly answered a number of questions falsely on her visa application in 1995 and her naturalization application in 2004. She had been in this country as a lawful permanent resident for almost 20 years, and a citizen for over nine, when she was arrested on October 22nd, 2013.

The main basis for the arrest a year ago was that she had allegedly falsely answered “No” to a question asking whether she had ever been arrested or imprisoned. The government claimed that she failed to disclose that she had been convicted by the Israelis of participating in bombings in 1969. This conviction in a military court was the result of a false confession made after she was viciously tortured and raped by Israeli military authorities for weeks. There is no due process in Israeli military courts, which “convict” over 99% of Palestinians who come before them, and “evidence” from these should not be accepted in a court in the U.S.

But Judge Drain did allow the conviction in Israel to be entered into evidence; and even though he suggested that Rasmea’s assertion that she faced torture and sexual abuse at the hands of her Israeli captors was “credible,” he still ruled that it could not be brought up in the course of her trial. So her attorneys had to scrap plans to call to the stand an expert witness, clinical psychologist Dr. Mary Fabri, who has decades of experience working with torture survivors, to testify that the allegedly false answers on the immigration forms were the result of Rasmea’s chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The judge also rejected Rasmea’s selective prosecution motion, even though it was clear that the case against her grew out of the investigation of 23 anti-war and Palestinian community organizers in Chicago and Minneapolis, who were subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in 2010. Make no mistake. Rasmea came under attack by the U.S. government because she is Palestinian, and because for decades, she has organized for Palestinian liberation and self-determination, the Right of Return, and an end to U.S. funding of Israeli occupation. Palestine support work, especially the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, has made a number of recent gains, and the long arm of federal law enforcement has attempted to crack down on it, like it has on all effective and impactful movements for social justice in the history of this country. The crackdown reached Rasmea.

More than 200 people from across the Midwest, especially from Chicago, traveled to stand with her throughout the trial. They bore silent witness to her incredible testimony, for despite the judge’s rulings, she and her defense team did put the crimes of Israel on record. Her story of being exiled from the village of her birth, Lifta, in 1948; of being exiled again during the 1967 war; of experiencing the death of her sister after the raid on her home in 1969; and of being a political prisoner, one of the most famous in the history of the Palestine liberation movement—all these are stories of the crimes of apartheid Israel, crimes that continue today in the racist settler and military assaults we have seen in the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, 1948 Palestine, and the West Bank. Israel’s terrorism, and the U.S. government’s complicity, were exposed for all the world to see.

Rasmea’s honesty in the face of cross-examination from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel was thoroughly convincing as well. She said clearly that she thought the questions on the immigration forms were being asked about her time in the U.S., because she said she had nothing to hide and did not need to lie. She had testified about her torture at the United Nations when she was released in 1979, and as her lead attorney, Michael Deutsch, said, “It was well known that she was convicted, and traded [in a prisoner exchange]. The U.S. Embassy knew it, the State Department knew it, and Immigration should have known it.” So although the government had to prove that she “knowingly lied,” it never met that burden, regardless of what the verdict says.

For over a year, the Rasmea Defense Committee has been organizing educational events, rallies, protests, and call-in days to demand that U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade and Tukel drop the charges against her. We now have more work ahead of us. Rasmea’s brilliant legal team—Deutsch, Jim Fennerty, Bill Goodman, and Dennis Cunningham—will undoubtedly file an appeal, and have strong grounds to do so, based on Judge Drain’s unjust decisions. And we will continue to support their work with our political organizing and mobilizations.

Just like our people in Palestine and across the world will never rest until every inch of historical Palestine is free, we will never rest in our defense and support of Rasmea as she moves forward to challenge this conviction. As Deutsch said in his closing statement to the jury, “It has been one of the great privileges of my long legal career to represent this extraordinary woman of great passion and dignity.” Rasmea’s story is the story of millions of Palestinians, and of millions of freedom-loving defenders of justice everywhere. Her eventual victory will be a victory for Palestine and for all the people’s movements across the world.

Today, we thank everyone who stood with Rasmea this past year, and ask you to continue fighting with us until we achieve that victory.

www.uspcn.org and www.stopfbi.net

Posted in Activism/Divestment, Analysis | Leave a Comment »

EI: “‘A political prosecution': inside the trial of Rasmea Odeh”

Posted by uscsjp on November 10, 2014

“The Rasmea [Odeh] Defense Committee has asserted that the US attorney’s prosecution of Rasmea is a political prosecution — it’s because Rasmea is this iconic and legendary Palestinian figure,” reporter and contributor to The Electronic Intifada Charlotte Silver said on Friday from Detroit after the week-long trial of Palestinian American human rights activist Rasmea Odeh concluded. Jurors have begun deliberation.

Odeh was indicted last year “for allegedly giving false answers on her application for citizenship, which she was granted in 2004. The four questions she is alleged to have answered falsely inquired about her criminal record,” Silver reports.

“You have to really think about the fact that the Detroit US attorney’s office [has] been working for four years with the Department of Homeland Security to build this case against Rasmea Odeh,” she told The Electronic Intifada on Friday.

Silver has been reporting each day from the week-long trial in Detroit for The Electronic Intifada and other media outlets.

Verdict expected on Monday

In her latest report, published on Saturday, Silver writes that “After a week in court, the last day brought some relief to Odeh and her lawyers, who have been preparing for this trial for a year.”

Silver added in her report that “Before the jury entered Judge Gershwin A. Drain’s Detroit courtroom on Friday morning, Odeh’s lead attorney Michael Deutsch asked the court to have a directed verdict of not guilty; this was was denied by Drain. A directed verdict is when a presiding judge decides that no reasonable jury could arrive at a guilty verdict.

“For the last week, her defense team has stoutly contested the allegation that Odeh ‘knowingly’ answered falsely, arguing instead that her brother first filled out her application for a visa in 1995 and that she misinterpreted the questions on her application for citizenship in 2004.”

The jurors are expected to return a verdict on Monday.

Listen to the interview via the media player above, or read the following transcript.

“Peoples’ hopes are high”

Charlotte Silver: What the trial has been focused on is Rasmea’s immigration applications — her visa application that she filed in 1995 and her application for naturalization that she filed for nine years later, in 2004. The judge has made the parameters of the case extremely narrow, so really the jury is just supposed to look at her application, look at the four questions she’s alleged to have answered falsely, and determine if she knowingly answered them falsely.

So whereas before, the defense had a very extensive argument to make in Rasmea’s defense as for why those four questions were answered the way they were, they’ve had to really focus on proving that Rasmea Odeh’s interpretations of those questions — or the questions as they’re written — are ambiguously written. So it’s been very focused on that.

The prosecutor, the US government, has brought into court nearly 100 Israeli documents that were used to convict Rasmea Odeh in 1969 of participating in two bombings, a series of bombings in Jerusalem — one which resulted in the death of two people.

Rasmea Odeh was convicted of this charge after enduring 25 days of torture by Israeli security, and this has been documented several times over the course of the last 45 years. She gave a testimony in Geneva about this torture, she has spoken to various media outlets, to various human rights organizations about the torture she endured, and again she told a clinical psychologist, Mary Fabri, who’s based in Chicago, has worked with torture victims for over thirty years, told how she was tortured in 1969 to Mary Fabri, and none of that is being allowed into the trial.

Yet, the jurors are hearing over and over again that Rasmea Odeh was convicted of bombings that killed two people. What I think is significant is that in the gallery, there are dozens of supporters of Rasmea. There is also the brother of one of the victims of the bombing in 1969, and he’s sitting on the bench of the US attorneys, not at the table, but at the bench in the gallery that’s been reserved for US attorneys. And he has been following this case very closely, and he’s obviously in close contact with the US prosecuting attorneys — so even though the judge has strictly instructed the court to minimally refer to the 1969 conviction that Rasmea Odeh is now being brought up against, it’s very clear that the prosecutor is being motivated by this charge that was brought about by 25 days of torture.

And on the part of the defense, Rasmea Odeh has worked in the Chicago community of Arab and Muslim immigrant women since 2004, in this sort of spectacular way. And yesterday, testifying for the defense was Nadine Naber, who’s a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, who testified to Rasmea Odeh’s incredible work helping immigrant women from Arab and Muslim communities integrate among themselves and mount this challenge of isolation. Rasmea Odeh has been working with the Arab American Action Network for nine years with women, but also more generally with the youth, trying to reduce violence in the community, and this is why she has dozens of people driving out from Chicago, staying in Detroit to watch this trial, to support her throughout this. Because she has become such a prominent leader in the Chicago Palestinian and Arab community.

And it’s why the Rasmea Defense Committee has asserted that the US attorney’s prosecution of Rasmea is a political prosecution — it’s because Rasmea is this iconic and legendary Palestinian figure. You have to really think about the fact that the Detroit US attorney’s office has spent four years, they’ve been working for four years with the Department of Homeland Security to build this case against Rasmea Odeh.

They filed this indictment nine years after she filed her immigration forms, after she became a citizen. The defense wrote that this was an example of selective prosecution, specifically for Rasmea exercising her First Amendment rights, which was being an active participant in the Palestinian American community. And none of that is being allowed in.

So the jurors don’t know that the FBI had conducted this mass investigation into Palestinian and Palestine solidarity activists in Chicago, and that’s how they discovered this very small false answer on her application. All of that’s being excluded from the trial — but it’s important background for people outside of the trial to understand.

Nora Barrows-Friedman Finally, Charlotte Silver, today, Friday was the last day of the trial — there was a cross-examination and now the jury has gone into deliberation. In speaking with her supporters and Rasmea Odeh’s lawyers, what do people expect? I know it’s always hard to speculate in terms of what a jury decides, but based on your experience inside the courtroom this week, what are her supporters and her lawyers expecting?

CS: Well, peoples’ hopes are high. I think that the defense has done a really fantastic job developing a defense strategy given the constraints that they were under, and I think they’ve done a very good job at presenting Rasmea Odeh as who she really is in the community, as not a criminal. They have been able to touch on the background to her conviction in 1969, and they have been able to put forth an argument that she could reasonably have misinterpreted the questions as she answered them, so that she did not knowingly give false answers, she misunderstood the questions that were provided and answered them according to how she interpreted them. And they’ve been able to show inconsistencies within the application and the language of the application itself, and also over the different versions of the applications.

They’ve developed what I think is a strong argument to be made. Of course, there are no Muslim or Arab jurors — it’s eight women and four men, mostly white, and so those are the demographics of it. But it’s hard to know how they are going to rule.

The jurors will return to deliberate on Monday.

–Nora Barrows-Friedman, The Electronic Intifada, Sun, Nov 9, 2014

Posted in Analysis, Blogroll | Leave a Comment »

Amy Goodman Interviews Chomsky after his Address to the UN General Assembly

Posted by uscsjp on October 24, 2014

…AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is the most—the single most important action the United States can take? And what about its role over the years? What is its interest here?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, one important action that the United States could take is to live up to its own laws. Of course, it would be nice if it lived up to international law, but maybe that’s too much to ask, but live up to its own laws. And there are several. And here, incidentally, I have in mind advice to activists also, who I think ought to be organizing and educating in this direction. There are two crucial cases.

One of them is what’s called the Leahy Law. Patrick Leahy, Senator Leahy, introduced legislation called the Leahy Law, which bars sending weapons to any military units which are involved in consistent human rights violations. There isn’t the slightest doubt that the Israeli army is involved in massive human rights violations, which means that all dispatch of U.S. arms to Israel is in violation of U.S. law. I think that’s significant. The U.S. should be called upon by its own citizens to—and by others, to adhere to U.S. law, which also happens to conform to international law in this case, as Amnesty International, for example, for years has been calling for an arms embargo against Israel for this reason. These are all steps that can be taken…

–Democracy Now!, October 22, 2014

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/10/22/noam_chomsky_at_united_nations_it

 

 

 

 

Posted in Analysis, Opinion/Editorial | Leave a Comment »

Juan Cole: Must Muslim Americans Condemn IS? Must Turkish Jews Condemn Gaza War?

Posted by uscsjp on September 17, 2014

This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s Web page.

During the recent Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, a controversy broke out in Turkey about whether Turkish Jews were required to condemn Israel’s actions, as some pro-Palestinian Turks suggested.

  Turkish Jewish intellectuals wrote in an open letter to the newspaper Hurriyyet [“Liberty,” Istanbul]:

“”Israel’s latest attack on Gaza led, once again, to cries of ‘Why does the Jewish community remain silent?’ A campaign was even launched that claimed that the Jews of Turkey bear responsibility for what Israel does in Gaza.

“No citizen of this country is under any obligation to account for, interpret or comment on any event that takes place elsewhere in the world, and in which he/she has no involvement. There is no onus on the Jewish community of Turkey, therefore, to declare an opinion on any matter at all.

“It is anyway not possible for a community of 20,000 to declare a unified opinion. No human community can be monolithic and the Jewish community is not. Its members include people of all kinds, with a great variety of views.”

Many Jewish organizations stigmatized the demand as Antisemitism.

Asking people to take stances based on their ascribed identity (what they were born into most often) rather than on the basis of their individual choices in life goes against everything that modern human rights thinking stands for.  It is like forcing all Russian-Americans to say publicly what they think about Vladimir Putin.

So if all this is correct, and it certainly is, why do right wing Americans continue to demand that Muslim-Americans condemn Muslim extremists in the Middle East?  They have nothing to do with the latter and aren’t responsible for them.  Some of the inhabitants of the American Southwest in the early modern period were secret Muslims from southern Spain who had been forcibly converted to Catholicism by the Inquisition.  My birthplace, Albuquerque, is an Arabic word (al-Barquqi).  Some 10% of the some 4 million Africans kidnapped and trafficked to Southern landowners as slaves in the U.S. before the slave trade was abolished were Muslim.  Hundreds of thousands of people practiced Islam in North America long before there was a United States.  The White House was built with slave labor and likely some of that was Muslim labor.  Some of the founding Fathers likely owned Muslim slaves.  As late as the 1930s, elderly ex-slaves reported in interviews that they remembered their mothers bowing toward the east at dawn.  Some Arab-American Muslims can trace their family roots in the U.S. back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  The religion is an American religion, deeply interwoven with American history and Muslim-Americans are not responsible for developments in the contemporary Middle East.

So they shouldn’t have to, but they do:

VOA: “U.S. Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State” 

 

Juan Cole, Truthdig, September 16, 2014,

 

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/must_muslim_americans_condemn_isil_turkish_jews_condemn_gaza_war_20140916

Posted in Analysis | Leave a Comment »

 
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