Squatter on his own land

Gush Shalom

The detained Bedouin human rights activist Nuri el Okbi will be brought to the Be'er Sheba Magistrate's Court (Shalom Court) tomorrow (Mon. March 1) at 12.00 noon.

El Okbi is well known for his prolonged fight for the rights of his family to its land. He has lived on the disputed land for many years although the state has tried its utmost to remove him. El Okbi was arrested last Thursday by the Rahat police. A draconian charge sheet, with no less than 28 counts, was presented against him. Most charges refer to "Trespassing"and "causing damage" – i.e. erecting a tent on the land, staying in this tent and trying to stop workers of the JNF (Jewish National Fund) from working on the land. There is, of course, no mention of the fact that this is the land where el Okbi was born and spent his first ten years, until his family and tribe were all expelled from their land.

The charges make no sense as the land is his, or is at least disputed. He is conducting a lengthy civil suit in the Beer Sheba District Court to prove his ownership, Nuri is almost 70 and has heart problems – he should not be arrested.

Further details:

Saul Davis, Adv. 054-4222892 Chaya Noach 052-4269011 Ya'akov Manor 050-5733276

Hebrew text of the 20 page charge sheet

Uri Avnery's Column - White Lie

by Uri Avnery

Gush Shalom

THIS COMING Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Israel will consider an application by a group of Israeli citizens to compel the Interior Ministry to register them as belonging to the “Israeli nation”.

Odd? Indeed.

The Israeli Interior Ministry recognizes 126 nations, but not the Israeli nation. An Israeli citizen can be registered as belonging to the Assyrian, the Tatar or the Circassian nation. But the Israeli nation? Sorry, no such thing.

According to the official doctrine, the State of Israel cannot recognize an “Israeli” nation because it is the state of the “Jewish” nation. In other words, it belongs to the Jews of Brooklyn, Budapest and Buenos Aires, even though these consider themselves as belonging to the American, Hungarian or Argentine nations.

Messy? Indeed.

THIS MESS started 113 years ago, when the Viennese Journalist Theodor Herzl wrote his book “The State of the Jews”. (That’s the true translation. The generally used name “The Jewish State” is false and means something else.) For this purpose he had to perform an acrobatic exercise. One can say that he used a white lie.

Modern Zionism was born as a direct response to modern anti-Semitism. Not by accident, the term “Zionismus” came into being some 20 years after the term “Antisemitismus” was invented in Germany. They are twins.

In Europe and the Americas another modern term was flourishing: Nationalism. Peoples which had been living together for centuries under dynasties of Emperors and Kings wanted to belong to nation-states of their own. In Argentina, the USA, France and other countries, “national” revolutions took place. The idea infected almost all peoples, big, small and tiny, from Peru to Lithuania, from Colombia to Serbia. They felt a need to belong to the place and the people where they lived and died.

All these national movements were necessarily anti-Semitic, some more, some less, because the very existence of the Jewish Diaspora ran counter to their basic perceptions. A Diaspora without a homeland, dispersed over dozens of countries, could not be reconciled with the idea of a homeland-rooted nation seeking uniformity.

Herzl understood that the new reality was inherently dangerous for the Jews. In the beginning he cherished the idea of complete assimilation: all the Jews would be baptized and disappear in the new nations. As a professional writer for the theater, he even devised the scenario: all Viennese Jews would march together to St. Stephen’s cathedral and be baptized en masse.

When he realized that this scenario was a bit far-fetched, Herzl passed from the idea of individual assimilation to what may be called collective assimilation: if there is no place for the Jews in the new nations, then they should define themselves as a nation like all the others, rooted in a homeland of their own and living in a state of their own. This idea was called Zionism.

BUT THERE was a problem: a Jewish nation did not exist. The Jews were not a nation but a religious-ethnic community.

A nation exists on one level of human society, a religious-ethnic community on another. A “nation” is an entity living together in one country with a common political will. A “community” is a religious entity based on a common faith, which can live in different countries. A German, for example, can be Catholic or Protestant; a Catholic can be German or French.

These two types of entity have two different means of survival, much as different species in nature. When a lion is in danger, it fights, it attacks. For that purpose, nature has equipped it with teeth and claws. When a gazelle is in danger, it runs. Nature has given it quick legs. Every method is good, if it is effective. (If it were not effective, the species would not have survived to this day.)

When a nation is in danger, it stands and fights. When a religious community is in danger, it moves elsewhere. The Jews, more than any others, have perfected the art of escape. Even after the horrors of the Holocaust, the Jewish Diaspora has survived and now, two generations later, it is again flourishing.

IN ORDER to invent a Jewish nation, Herzl had to ignore this difference. He pretended that the Jewish ethnic-religious community was also a Jewish nation. In other words: contrary to all other peoples, the Jews were both a nation and a religious community; as far as Jews were concerned, the two were the same. The nation was a religion, the religion was a nation.

This was the “white lie”. There was no other way: without it, Zionism could not have come into being. The new movement took the Star of David from the synagogue, the candlestick from the Temple, the blue-and-white flag from the prayer shawl. The holy land became a homeland. Zionism filled the religious symbols with secular, national content.

The first to detect the falsification were the Orthodox Rabbis. Almost all of them damned Herzl and his Zionism in no uncertain terms. The most extreme was the Rabbi of Lubavitch, who accused Herzl of destroying Judaism. The Jews, he wrote, are united by their adherence to God’s commandments. Doctor Herzl wants to supplant this God-given bond with secular nationalism.

When Herzl originated the Zionist idea, he did not intend to found the “State of the Jews” in Palestine, but in Argentina. Even when writing his book, he devoted to the country only a few lines, under the headline “Palestine or Argentina?” However, the movement he created compelled him to divert his endeavors to the Land of Israel, and so the state came into being here.

When the State of Israel was founded and the Zionist dream realized, there was no further need for the “white lie”. After the building was finished, the scaffolding should have been removed. A real Israeli nation had come into being, there was no further need for an imaginary one.

THESE DAYS Israel’s largest newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, is running a TV ad showing selected past issues. The day the State of Israel was founded, the giant headline announced: “Hebrew State!”

“Hebrew”, not “Jewish”. And not by accident: at that time, the term “Jewish state” sounded decidedly strange. In the preceding years, people in this country had got used to making a clear distinction between “Jewish” and “Hebrew”, between matters that belonged to the Diaspora and those belonging to this country: Jewish Diaspora, Jewish language (Yiddish), Jewish Stetl, Jewish religion, Jewish tradition - but Hebrew language, Hebrew agriculture, Hebrew industries, Hebrew underground organizations, Hebrew policemen.

If so, why do the words “Jewish state” appear in our Declaration of Independence? There was a simple reason for that: the UN had adopted a resolution to partition the country between an “Arab state” and a “Jewish state”. That was the legal basis of the new state. The declaration, which was drafted in haste, said therefore that we were establishing “the Jewish state (according to the UN resolution), namely the State of Israel”.

The building was finished, but the scaffolding was not taken down. On the contrary: it became the most important part of the building and dominates its facade.

LIKE MOST of us at the time, David Ben-Gurion believed that Zionism had supplanted religion and that religion had become redundant. He was quite sure that it would shrivel and disappear by itself in the new secular state. He decided that we could afford to dispense with the military service of Yeshiva bochers (Talmud school students), believing that their number would dwindle from a few hundred to almost none. The same thought caused him to allow religious schools to continue in existence. Like Herzl, who promised to “keep our Rabbis in the synagogues and our army officers in the barracks”, Ben-Gurion was certain that the state would be entirely secular.

When Herzl wrote of the “state of the Jews” he did not dream that the Jewish Diaspora would continue to exist. In his view, only the citizens of the new state would henceforth be called “Jews”, all other Jews in the world would assimilate in their various nations and disappear from view.

BUT THE “white lie” of Herzl had results he did not dream of, as did the compromises of Ben-Gurion. Religion did not wither away in Israel, but on the contrary: it is gaining control of the state. The government of Israel does not speak of the nation-state of the Israelis who live here, but of the “nation-state of the Jews” – a state that belongs to the Jews all over the world, most of whom belong to other nations.

The religious schools are eating up the general education system and are going to overpower it, if we don’t become aware of the danger and assert our Israeli essence. Voting rights are about to be accorded to Israelis residing abroad, and this is a step towards giving the vote to all Jews around the world. And, most important: the ugly weeds growing in the national-religious field – the fanatical settlers - are pushing the state in a direction that may lead to its destruction.

TO SAFEGUARD the future of Israel one has to start by removing the scaffolding from the building. In other words: burying the “white lie” of religion-equals-nation. The Israeli nation has to be recognized as the basis of the state.

If this principle is accepted, what will the future shape of Israel – within the Green Line - be like?

There are two possible models, and many variations between them.

Model A: the multi-national one. Almost all the citizens of Israel belong to one of two nations: the majority belongs to the Hebrew nation and a minority to the Palestinian-Arab nation. Each nation will enjoy autonomy in certain areas, such as culture, education and religion. Autonomy will not be territorial, but cultural (as Vladimie Ze’ev Jabotinsky proposed a hundred years ago for Czarist Russia). All will be united by Israeli citizenship and loyalty to the state. The inbuilt discrimination of the Arab minority will become a thing of the past, as well as the “demographic demon”.

Model B: the American one. The American nation is composed of all US citizens, and all US citizens constitute the American nation. An immigrant from Jamaica who acquires US citizenship automatically becomes a member of the American nation, an heir to George Washington and Abe Lincoln. All learn at school the same core program and the same history.

Which of the two models is preferable? In my view, Model B is much better. But it would depend on a dialogue between the Hebrew majority and the Arab minority. In the end, the Arab citizens will have to decide whether they prefer the status of equal partners in a general Israeli nation, or the status of a recognized, autonomous national minority in a state that acknowledges and cherishes their separate culture, side by side with the culture of the majority.

In four days, the Supreme Court will decide whether it is prepared to take the first step in this historic march.


Robert Fisk’s World: Scenes from a busy Beirut correspondent's notebook

by Robert Fisk

The Independent

The Israeli police turn up to see what we are doing prowling on the Jewish Sabbath

It's back-of-the-book time again, those little funny, sad stories that don't quite make it from the reporter's notebook into a fully fledged dispatch but which shouldn't be thrown away.


*I am in Hebron, on Macintyre Tours (see last week's column) and -- noticing our Palestinian West Bank correspondent – the Israeli police turn up to see what we are doing, prowling this supposedly sacred city on the Jewish Sabbath. I try to cool the cops down by asking the uniformed guy at the window of the police car where he lives in Israel. "Sderot," he says at once. Sderot, city of Hamas rockets, marginally the most dangerous place in Israel. So which do you prefer, I ask? The dangers of Sderot or the stone-throwing of the Jews and Arabs of Hebron? The cop bursts into laughter. "Good question," he says.

*I am back in Beirut. A Sunday, and Missak Keleshian, an Armenian researcher – actually, he's in love with film and photographs and is a technician by trade – is showing an original archive movie on the Armenian genocide. It was made by German cameramen in 1918 and 1920. Never before shown. I sit at the back of the big Armenian hall in the Beirut suburb of Dbayeh and the camera tracks across a terrible wasteland of dry hills. Southern Turkey – or western Armenia, depending on your point of view – just after the 1915 genocide of one and a half million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. And a woman comes into focus. She is sitting in the muck and holding her child – alive or dead, I cannot tell. She is weeping and wailing and there before our eyes is the 20th-century's First Holocaust – which our precious US President Barack Obama dare not even call a genocide lest he offends Turkey. Literally moving proof. Later footage shows 20,000 Armenian orphans in Beirut, 30,000 in Aleppo. Where are their parents? Ask not Obama. In one extraordinary scene, the orphans of the First Holocaust are sitting at a breakfast table two miles in length. I am both mesmerised and appalled. They smile and they laugh at the camera. Dr Lepsius, a German working for Near East Relief – how swiftly the good Germans who cared for the Armenians turned into more dangerous creatures – holds the children in his arms. Outside an orphanage, other children plead for help. Then there is a picture of an orphanage run by the Turks in Beirut in 1915, in which the children, Nazi-style, were "Turkified", given Muslim names to eradicate their identity. Enough. This will be a big report in The Independent. But there is a long, panning shot across Beirut. It is Lebanon, 1920; there are tents for the Armenians but the sweep of film shows the port. There are steam ships and sailing ships and the long coast which I see each morning from my balcony.

*To my Beirut balcony, today, beyond which a modern ship, Odyssey Explorer, is passing. It is pale blue and attractive and real – "real" ships for me have a smokestack in the middle of the vessel, not at the back – but its gloomy role this past month has been to find the 54 corpses still on board the Ethiopian Airlines flight which took off from Beirut international airport on 25 January and crashed into the sea just over four minutes later. I took off a few hours earlier en route to Amman. The weather was awful, tornado-wind and rain. We bumped around the sky. When Macintyre called me later to tell me the flight was lost, I just told him I wasn't surprised. But the rumours soon started. The plane was blown up. It was sabotaged. The wife of the French ambassador was on board. Alas, she was. But the terrible truth soon came out. The black box flight recorder was presented to the Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri (son of the man assassinated just over five years ago). You can hear the crew as they fly their aircraft – inexplicably – straight up to 9,000 feet and then fall backwards out of the sky. In Amharic – the language of Ethiopia – the pilot blurts out: "We are finished. May God save our souls." It is heartrending. The word is that he had not completed his full year's flight training for his Boeing aircraft. And what did the Odyssey Explorer find? First of all, it found another aircraft at the bottom of the sea – not the Ethiopian plane. I think it was probably the hull of the Hungarian Malev aircraft accidentally hit by a shell in 1975 at the start of the civil war. No one survived. But incredibly, ever since the first word came in of the Ethiopian crash – ironically, from a gunman of Abu Nidal's repulsive old militia, who thought he was under attack by Israel when the aircraft hit the Mediterranean – the Lebanese have found every body of those flying on the plane. I called by a member of the security forces this week to ask what it was like. "Robert, it's the fish. That's the problem. The last sack of remains came up with six backbones inside." Yes. God spare us.

*But let us end gently. I have called up Andrew Buncombe – Our Man in Delhi – to warn him that I may shortly be arriving in the Raj and expected him to provide me with peacock-strewn and manicured lawns whereon cummerbunded waiters will serve me gin and tonic at sundown. Buncombe said he'd have to hire the lawns, waiters and peacocks. Readers will be kept informed.

Ni’lin Wards Off IOF Invasion

International Solidarity Movement

Nearly 100 youth of Ni’lin were tear gassed and shot at with rubber-coated steel bullets as the IDF attempted to invade their village. Near the edge of the village, the soldiers scaled a house to attack the demonstrators from a heightened vantage point.

Ni'lin 26/2/2010

Ni'lin 26/2/2010

Undeterred by inclement weather, residents of Ni’lin attempted to reach the Apartheid Wall for their weekly demonstration. The rolling thunder accentuated their chants which demanded justice, the destruction of the wall that kept them from their crops and to be heard. However, the protest’s course was redirected after the Israeli soldiers brought two military jeeps and tried to enter the village.

IOF Invades Home in Ni'lin

IOF Invades Home in Ni'lin

The Palestinian protesters walked up to the gate of their village where they were met with volleys of tear gas. The demonstration retreated, and the Israeli forces moved forward, entering a Palestinian home, climbing onto the roof and firing down into the street. Other soldiers moved behind buildings to fire on the protesters from the side. At this point, the Palestinians built an improvised road blockade to stop the soldiers from advancing further into their village. This was successful, and prevented the military from wreaking further havoc on villagers in their residences. This position was held for approximately two hours, after which residents returned home and soldiers moved out of the area.

The Clouds over Ni'lin

The radical babes of Gaza

by Laila El-Haddad

Gaza Mom

I want another baby. I really do. Yassine-not so much.

But he may not have to worry-at least not if Martin Kramer has his way. The current fellow at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs has suggested I -and other Palestinian women from Gaza- should deliberately be stopped from having babies because chances are, they will be grow up to be radicals.

According to the Electronic Intifada, who first broke the story last week, Kramer offered this fasinating piece of solicited advice in the annual Herzliyah Conference in Israel earlier this month in which he called on “the West” to take measures to limit the births of Muslim Palestinians of Gaza and consider it a form of terrorism, or, as Kramer puts it, “extreme demographic armament”. He also praised the unconscionable Israeli siege for getting the ball rolling already and reducing the numbers of Palestinian babies there (see: infanticide; Gaza Diet). If your skin didn’t curl watching the audience clap at the end of that video, well, save your soul somehow.

Family Planning, the Martin Kramer way

Kramer’s argument: Gaza is a cauldron of crazy; there is already an excess of aimless young Muslim men loitering around and many most all of them will be extremists! Solution: they shouldn’t be born to start with. Like I said: brilliant!

How does he suggest they implement this ground-breaking plan? Stop providing “pro-natal subsidies” that encourage these births. Pro-natal subsidies, you might ask? Is that like pre-natal vitamins? Close, but spinal bifida or not, a baby is still a baby. Kramer is referring to food and humanitarian assistance for “Palestinians with refugee status”, who make up 70% of the Gaza Strip ( and of whom, I might add, 40% are already malnourished, and 80% rely on food hand-outs for survival).

Yes, you read that correctly. In other words, says MJ Rosenburg, “starve the Palestinians so they don’t have babies and starve the babies so they don’t grow up”

Lest an outraged public be all up in arms about…plagiarism, Kramer himself notes the idea is “not at all original”. Got THAT right…let’s see, where HAVE we heard this kind of chilling drivel before? Hmmm. Oh wait- the Nazis beat you to it! Except back then they called it Eugenics. Juan Cole contends it is a recycled form of Malthusianism.

Nice company you keep, Kramer. Way to hog the limelight.

One would think such unapologetic racism need not even warrant discussion. Ever the flag bearer of academic iniquity freedoms, Harvard disagrees.

This, despite the fact that Kramer’s ideas appears to meet the international legal definition of a call for genocide according to the Geneva Convention (which includes measures “intended to prevent births within” a specific “national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”).

Electronic Intifada founder Ali Abunimah spread the word about it, trying to force Harvard to take a stand, but instead they rushed to his defense.

I wonder how long Mr. Kramer’s views would be tolerated if — all other things being equal — he were an Arab scholar who had called for Jews to be placed in a giant, sealed enclosure which virtually no one is allowed to leave and enter, and deprived of food and schooling for their children in order to reduce their birthrate?” Abunimah asked.

The ghastliness of it all was best summed up by an exchange between the mock Dan Halutz and Doron Almog to the real Martin Kramer on Twitter:

danhalutz RT @doronalmog: @DanHalutz Remember that time u, me, & @Martin_Kramer debated @Harvard over drinks on how to get rid of those superfluous Gazans? Good times

danhalutz @DoronAlmog Of course! @Martin_Kramer was all about the “pro-natal subsidies” and you just wanted to bulldoze those Gazans. Me, I like F16s

danhalutz @Martin_Kramer Dear Sir: I admire your brilliant ideas but fear ending pronatal subsidies will not eliminate superfluous Arabs fast enough.

danhalutz @Martin_Kramer: I say replace ‘pronatal’ subsidies with ‘pro-morbid’ ones: cluster bombs, white phosphorus, napalm. Let’s co-author a paper!


Listen to the heroes of Israel

by John Pilger

The New Statesman

The moral courage of Israeli dissidents.

I phoned Rami Elhanan the other day. We had not spoken for six years and much has happened in Israel and Palestine. Rami is an Israeli graphic designer who lives with his family in Jerusalem. His father survived Auschwitz. His grandparents and six aunts and uncles perished in the Holocaust. Whenever I am asked about heroes, I say Rami and his wife, Nurit, without hesitation.

Soon after we met, Rami gave me a home videotape that was difficult to watch. It shows his daughter Smadar, aged 14, throwing her head back, laughing and playing the piano. "She loved to dance," he said. On the afternoon of 4 September 1997, Smadar and her best friend, Sivane, had auditions for admission to a dance school. She had argued that morning with her mother, who was anxious about her going to the centre of Jerusalem. "I didn't want to row," said Nurit, "so I let her go."

Rami was in his car when he turned on the radio to catch the three o'clock news. There had been a suicide bombing in Ben Yehuda shopping precinct. More than 200 people were injured and several were dead. Within minutes, his mobile phone rang. It was Nurit, crying. They searched the hospitals in vain, then the morgue; and so began, as Rami describes it, their "descent into darkness".

Rami and Nurit are two of the founders of the Parents Circle, or Bereaved Families Forum, which brings together Israelis and Palestinians who have lost loved ones. "It's painful to acknowledge," he said, "but there is no basic moral difference between the [Israeli] soldier at the checkpoint who prevents a woman who is having a baby from going through, causing her to lose the baby, and the man who killed my daughter. And just as my daughter was a victim [of the occupation], so was he." Rami describes the Israeli occupation and the dispossession of Palestinians as a "cancer in our heart". Nothing changes, he says, until the occupation ends.

Open your eyes

Every "Jerusalem Day" - the day Israel celebrates its military conquest of the city - Rami has stood in the street with a photograph of Smadar and crossed Israeli and Palestinian flags, and people have spat at him and told him it is a pity he was not blown up, too. And yet he and Nurit and their comrades have made ­extraordinary gains. Rami goes to Israeli schools with a Palestinian member of the group, and they show maps of what ought to be Palestine, and they hug each other. "This is like an earthquake to children who have been socialised and manipulated into hating," he said. "They say to us, 'You have opened my eyes.'"

In October, Rami and Nurit sat in the Israeli high court as the state counsel, "stammering, unprepared and unkempt", wrote Nurit, "stood like a platoon commander in charge of new recruits and refuted . . . allegations". Salwa and Bassam Aramin, Palestinian parents, were there, too. Tears streaked Salwa's face. Their ten-year-old daughter, Abir Aramin, was killed by an Israeli soldier firing a rubber bullet point-blank at her small head as she stood beside a kiosk buying sweets with her sister. The judges seemed bored and one of them remarked that Israeli soldiers were rarely indicted, so it would be best to forget it. The state counsel laughed. This was normal.

“Our children," said Nurit, at a rally last December to mark the first anniversary of the Israeli assault on Gaza, "have learned this year that all the disgusting qualities which anti-Semites attribute to Jews are actually manifested among our leaders: deceit, greed and the murder of children . . . What values of beauty and goodness can we squeeze into such a sophisticated apparatus of brainwashing and reality distortion?"

Rami now tells me the high court has decided to investigate the case of Abir Aramin after all. This is not normal: it is a victory. “Where are the other victories?" I asked him.

“In America last year, a Palestinian and I spoke five times a day in front of thousands. There is a big shift in American public opinion, and that's where the hope lies. It's only pressure from outside Israel - from Jews especially - that will end this nightmare. People in the west must know that while there is a silence, this looking away, this profane abuse of Israel's critics as anti-Jew, they are no different from those who stood aside during the days of the Holocaust."

Guilty Silence

Since Israel's onslaught on Lebanon in 2006, its devastation of Gaza in 2008-2009, and Mossad's recent political murder in Dubai, the criminality of the Israeli state has been impossible to disguise. On 11 February, the influential Reut Institute in Tel Aviv reported to the Israeli cabinet, which it advises, that violence had failed to achieve Israel's ends and had produced worldwide revulsion instead.

“In last year's Gaza operation," the report said, "our superior military power was offset by an offensive on Israel's legitimacy that led to a significant setback in our international standing and will constrain future Israeli military planning and operations." In other words, proof of the murderous, racist toll of Zionism has been an epiphany for many people; justice for the Palestinians, wrote the expatriate Israeli musician Gilad Atzmon, is now "at the heart of the battle for a better world".

However, his fellow Jews in western countries, such as Britain and Australia, whose influence is critical, are still mostly silent, still looking away, still accepting, as Nurit said, the "brainwashing and reality distortion".

And yet the responsibility to speak out could not be clearer, and the lessons of history - family history for many - ensure that it renders them culpable should their silence persist. For inspiration, I recommend the moral courage of Rami and Nurit.

This Week's Message - "HERITAGE"

Gush Shalom


The modest “Rachel’s Tomb”
In the heart of Bethlehem,
Sacred to the three faiths,
Has been turned
Into a fortified position
Forbidden to Muslims.

The “Cave of Machpelah”
Which is also “Ibrahim’s Mosque”
Has become the nest of
Baruch Goldstein and his admirers.

Instead of serving as a
Model of inter-religious tolerance,
Both symbolize now the “heritage”
Of hatred and death.

Ad published in Haaretz, February 26, 2010


GI Clyde Gunn pleads not guilty in death of Okinawan, blames victim

by David Allen

Stars & Stripes, Imperialist News

NAHA, Okinawa — Army Staff Sgt. Clyde Gunn, 27, pleaded not guilty in a Japanese court here Wednesday to charges of vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident.

"I paid due care ... both ahead and to the sides," said Gunn, who stood at attention, dressed in an open collar blue shirt and dark gray suit.

"There was no gross neglect of my duty leading me to a criminal prosecution," he told the Naha District Court judge.

Gunn, 27, is charged with hitting Masakazu Hokama, 66, who was taking his usual morning walk alone along a narrow road through farmland in Yomitan Village around 5:50 a.m. on Nov. 7.

Hokama’s body was discovered lying in bushes along the side of the road about 12 hours later. An autopsy showed he died of a broken neck.

Gunn, of Ocean Springs, Miss., is a combat medic with 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group at Torii Station. He was identified as a suspect when the car he had been driving was spotted at an auto repair shop with a damaged front end and cracked windshield.

Okinawa police said Gunn admitted he thought he had struck something as he drove to his apartment, but did not see a body when he stopped his car and looked around.

In his statement to the court Wednesday, Gunn said he prayed for "Mr. Hokama’s soul to rest in peace" and acknowledged that he hit Hokama.

"At the time, it was before dawn, and it was pitch-dark," Gunn said.

His parents sat solemnly behind him in the packed courtroom.

"The road had bushes growing on both sides. There are no homes or lights."

Gunn said he did not realize someone could be walking along the road at that time of the morning.

"At that time, I could not foresee that Mr. Hokama, who had a hearing problem, would be walking on the road while listening to a radio with earphones and dressed in black," Gunn said.

"Since obtaining my license, I believed that pedestrians who walk on the road in such a condition should take care to avoid accidents by wearing reflective clothes and carefully watch and hear cars."

In entering Gunn’s plea, defense attorney Toshimitsu Takaesu argued that since Gunn was not aware he was involved in an accident, he was not required to report it and, since he found no victim, there was no duty to render aid.

The next hearing is set for March 10.

CPT: Israeli soldiers arrest Palestinian shepherd, assault Palestinian youth

Christian Peacemaker Team

On Tuesday afternoon, February 23, 2010, Israeli soldiers arrested a Palestinian shepherd, Khalil Ibrahim Abu Jundiyye, from the village of Tuba.

Abu Jundiyye, 19, was grazing his flock near Tuba when four Israeli soldiers, coming from the nearby Ma’on settlement, chased him and another shepherd back to Tuba. The soldiers aggressively pursued the two shepherds while Tuba families attempted to keep the soldiers away from them. One soldier head-butted a Palestinian youth who was pleading for an explanation why his brother was being arrested. Another soldier loaded his rifle and pointed it in the air, threatening to shoot, forcing the families to quell their protest.

Handcuffing him, the soldiers quickly led Abu Jundiyye away, threatening arrest for anyone who followed. Two members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), standing at a distance, saw that the soldiers forced Abu Jundiyye to walk blindfolded over rugged terrain for nearly one kilometer. An Israeli human rights organization later reported that Abu Jundiyye was taken to the Beit Yatir checkpoint near the southern edge of the Green Line, adjacent to the Mezadot Yehuda settlement.

Abu Jundiyye remained in custody overnight, but his whereabouts are unknown. According to the Israeli District Coordinating Office, Abu Jundiyye was presumably arrested for assaulting an Israeli soldier. The two CPT members present during the incident did not witness Abu Jundiyye assault a soldier. Nor is that charge supported by any of their video footage of the incident.

Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.


Settlers cut down 45 olive trees in Nablus

The Palestine Telegraph

A Jewish group from Yitzhar settlement near Nablus, in north West Bank, cut down 45 olive trees belonging to residents of Bourin village on Tuesday morning.

Ghassan Douglas, an official at the Nablus office of the Palestinian Authority, said some settlers of Yizhar settlement truncated 45 olive trees belonging to the Najjar family: Shail, Murad and Mahmoud, residents of Burin village, south of Nablus.

Douglas condemned the continuation of attacks by settlers on farmers in the West Bank, especially in Nablus near Jewish settlements, "where settlers cut down hundreds of trees during the past few months." These trees belonged to Palestinian citizens and are considered major source of livelihood for them.

He called on human rights institutions and international organizations to immediately intervene to provide assistance to farmers who are exposed to attacks by settlers. It is clear that settlers are adamantly determined to cut tress and obliterate Palestine's villages history, where olive in particular trees are a special part of Palestinians legacy.


AT-TUWANI: Israeli settlers chase, intimidate Palestinian school children after Israeli soldiers refuse to continue daily escort

Christian Peacemaker Team

AT-TUWANI – On Monday morning, 22 February 2010, four Israeli settlers
chased Palestinian school children who were walking home after school in
At-Tuwani village. For one hour they awaited the Israeli military escort
assigned to ensure their safe passage to their home villages of Tuba and
Maghaer Al-Abeed. Because the Israeli military failed to arrive, the
children were forced to take a circuitous path home taking over an hour.
They finally arrived in Tuba and Mughaer Al-Abeed three hours after the
end of the school day.

After the Israeli military refused to respond to members of Christian
Peacemaker Teams’ repeated phone calls for over half an hour, Israeli
settlers approached on a farm tractor. Two men, one masked, drove down to
the children’s regular waiting point on the dirt road that bisects the
Ma’on settlement and the Havat Ma’on settlement outpost. Using the
tractor, they tried to form a barricade by pushing boulders onto the road

Normally, the road is in daily use by the children and their escort,
because it connects their home villages with At-Tuwani and Palestinian
cities to the north. However, three times in the previous three school
days, the Israeli soldiers had failed to perform their assigned escort.

The two settlers returned to their outpost. After waiting for an hour for
the military to arrive, the children decided to return home by a longer
path around the settlements. As they walked, four settlers came out from
Havat Ma’on and chased them. As the children ran from the settlers,
Israeli military jeeps appeared ahead of them, but stopped while soldiers
spoke with the four settlers.

Soldiers detained the children for approximately one hour and refused to
provide safe passage around the settlement. The children detoured yet
again, taking a circuitous path home through dangerously rugged terrain.
They finally arrived in Tuba and Mughaer Al-Abeed three hours after

The school children of these villages require the military escort because
of Israeli settlers’ repeated attacks and harassment, year after year.
Whenever the soldiers fail to meet them promptly before and after school,
the children wait in dangerous areas under “de facto” settler control.

For a thorough report on the school escort in 2007 and 2008, including
maps, photos and interviews with the children, please see “A Dangerous

Journey” at www.cpt.org/files/Dangerous-Journey-Summary-2008.pdf.

For more information contact:
Christian Peacemaker Teams 054 253 1323
Operation Dove 054 992 5773


Letter from prison: Abdallah Abu Rahmah

by Abdallah Abu Rahmah

International Solidarity Movement

Dear Friends and Supporters,

It has been two months now since I was handcuffed, blindfolded and taken from my home. Today news has reached Ofer Military Prison that the apartheid wall on Bil’in’s land will finally be moved and construction has begun on the new route. This will return half of the land that was stolen from our village. For those of us inOfer, imprisoned for our protest against the wall, this victory makes the suffering of being here easier to bear. After actively resisting the theft of our land by the Israeli apartheid wall and settlements every week for five years now, we long to be standing along side our brothers and sisters to mark this victory and the fifth anniversary of our struggle.

Ofer is an Israeli military base inside the occupied territories that serves as a prison and military court. The prison is a collection of tents enclosed by razor wire and an electrical fence, each unit containing four tents, 22 prisoners per tent. Now, in winter, wind and rain comes in through cracks in the tent and we don’t have sufficient blankets, clothes, and other basic necessities.

Food is a critical issue here in Ofer, there’s not enough. We survive by buying ingredients from the prison canteen that we prepare in our tent. We have one small hot plate, and this is also our only source of warmth. Those whose families can put money in an account for us to buy food, do so, but many cannot afford to. The positive aspect to this is that I have learned how to cook! Tonight I made falafel and sweets to celebrate the news about our victory. I cannot wait to get home and cook for my wife and children!

I was arrested in my slippers, and to this day my family has been unable to get permission to supply me with a pair of shoes. I was finally given my watch after repeated requests. For me this is an essential way to keep oriented; it was unbearable not being able to see the rate at which time passes. Receiving it, I felt so overjoyed, like a child getting his first watch. I can barely imagine what it will be like to have a pair of proper shoes again.

Because of our imprisonment, the military considers our families to be a security threat. It is very hard for our wives, children and extended family to visit. My friendAdeeb Abu Rahmah , also a political prisoner from Bil’in, cannot receive visits from his wife and one of his daughters. Even his mother, a woman in her eighties who is currently in bad health, is considered a security threat! He is afraid that he will not see her before she dies.

I am a teacher and before my arrest I taught at a private school in Birzeit and also owned a chicken farm. My family had to sell the farm at a loss after I was arrested. I don’t know if I will have my position at the school when I am released.Adeeb ’s family of nine is left without their sole provider, as are many other families. Not being able to care for our loved ones who need us is the hardest part of being here.

It is the support that I receive from my family and friends that helps me go on. I am grateful to the Palestinian leaders who have contacted my family, the diplomats from the European Union and to the Israeli activists who have expressed their support by attending my hearings. The relationship we have built together with the activists has gone beyond the definition of colleague or friend, we are brothers and sisters in this struggle. You are an unrelenting source of inspiration and solidarity. You have stood with us during demonstrations and court hearings, and during our happiest and most painful occasions. Being in prison has shown me how many true friends I have, I am so grateful to all of you.

From the confines of my imprisonment it becomes so clear that our struggle is far bigger than justice for only Bil’in or even Palestine. We are engaged in an international fight against oppression. I know this to be true when I remember all of you from around the world who have joined the movement to stop the wall and settlements. Ordinary people enraged by the occupation have made our struggle their own, and joined us in solidarity. We will surely join together to struggle for justice in other places when Palestine is finally free.

Missing the five-year anniversary of our struggle in Bil’in will be like missing the birthday of one of my children. Lately I think a lot about my friend Bassem whose life was taken during a nonviolent demonstration last year and how much I miss him. Despite the pain of this loss, and the yearning I feel to be with my family and friends at home, I think that if this is the price we must pay for our freedom, then it is worth it, and we would be willing to pay much more.


Abdallah Abu Rahmah
From the Ofer Military Detention Camp


Uri Avnery's Column - Dubious in Dubai

by Uri Avnery

Gush Shalom

FROM TIME to time I ask myself: what would happen if the world’s governments decided to abolish all their spy agencies simultaneously?

True, it would be a great blow to the authors and movie producers who make their living from secret service stories. Their products would lose their appeal.

It would be a disaster for the huge army of fans which gobbles up spy adventures, the enthusiastic consumers of books and movies about superhuman heroes like James Bond and super-devious geniuses like John La Carre’s Smiley.

But what would be the real damage if Washington stopped spying on Moscow and Moscow stopped spying on Washington, and both on Beijing? The result would be a draw. Immense sums of money would be saved, since a large part of the efforts of every spy agency is devoted to obstructing the intrigues of the competition. How many diseases could be overcome? How many hungry people fed, how many illiterates taught to read and write?

The popular books and movies celebrate the imaginary successes of the intelligence agencies. Reality is much more prosaic, and it is replete with real failures.

THE TWO classic intelligence disasters occurred during World War II. In both, the intelligence agencies either provided their political bosses with faulty assessments, or the leaders ignored their accurate assessments. As far as the results are concerned, both amount to the same.

Comrade Stalin was totally surprised by the German invasion of the Soviet Union, even though the Germans needed months to assemble their huge invasion force. President Roosevelt was totally surprised by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, even though the bulk of the Japanese Navy took part in it. The failures were so fantastic, that spy aficionados had to resort to conspiracy theories to explain them. One such theory says that Stalin deliberately ignored the warnings because he intended to surprise Hitler with an attack of his own. Another theory asserts that Roosevelt practically “invited” the Japanese to attack because he was in need of a pretext to push the US into an unpopular war.

But since then, failures continued to follow each other. All Western spy agencies were totally surprised by the Khomeini revolution in Iran, the results of which are still hitting the headlines today. All of them were totally surprised by the collapse of the Soviet Union, one of the defining events of the 20th century. They were totally surprised by the fall of the Berlin wall. And all of them provided wrong information about Saddam Hussein’s imaginary nuclear bomb, which served as a pretext for the American invasion of Iraq.

AH, OUR people say, that’s what’s happening among the Goyim. Not here. Our intelligence community is like no other. The Jewish brain has invented the Mossad, which knows everything and is capable of everything. (Mossad – “institute” – is short for the “Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations”.)

Really? At the outbreak of the 1948 war, all the chiefs of our intelligence community unanimously advised David Ben-Gurion that the armies of the Arab states would not intervene. (Fortunately, Ben-Gurion rejected their assessment.) In May 1967, our entire intelligence community was totally surprised by the concentration of the Egyptian army in Sinai, the step that led to the Six-Day war. (Our intelligence chiefs were convinced that the bulk of the Egyptian army was busy in Yemen, where a civil war was raging.) The Egyptian-Syrian attack on Yom Kippur, 1973, completely surprised our intelligence services, even though heaps of advance warnings were available.

The intelligence agencies were totally surprised by the first intifada, and then again by the second. They were totally surprised by the Khomeini revolution, even though (or because) they were deeply imbedded in the Shah’s regime. They were totally surprised by the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections.

The list is long and inglorious. But in one field, so they say, our Mossad performs like no other: assassinations. (Sorry, “eliminations”.)

STEVEN SPIELBERG’S movie “Munich” describes the assassination (“elimination”) of PLO officials after the massacre of the athletes at the Olympic Games. As a masterpiece of kitsch it can be compared only to the movie “Exodus”, based on Leon Uris’ kitschy book.

After the massacre (the main responsibility for which falls on the incompetent and irresponsible Bavarian police), the Mossad, on the orders of Golda Meir, killed seven PLO officials, much to the joy of the revenge-thirsty Israeli public. Almost all the victims were PLO diplomats, the civilian representatives of the organization in European capitals, who had no direct connection with violent operations. Their activities were public, they worked in regular offices and lived with their families in residential buildings. They were static targets – like the ducks in a shooting gallery.

In one of the actions – which resembled the latest affair – a Moroccan waiter was assassinated by mistake in the Norwegian town of Lillehammer. The Mossad mistook him for Ali Hassan Salameh, a senior Fatah officer who served as contact with the CIA. The Mossad agents, including a glamorous blonde (there is always a glamorous blonde) were identified, arrested and sentenced to long prison terms (but released very soon). The real Salameh was “eliminated” later on.

In 1988, five years before the Oslo agreement, Abu Jihad (Khalil al-Wazir), the No. 2 in Fatah, was assassinated in Tunis before the eyes of his wife and children. Had he not been killed, he would probably be serving today as the President of the Palestinian Authority instead of Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas). He would have enjoyed the same kind of standing among his people as did Yasser Arafat - who was, most likely, killed by a poison that leaves no traces.

The fiasco that most resembles the latest action was the Mossad’s attempt on the life of Khalid Mishal, a senior Hamas leader, on orders of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The Mossad agents ambushed him on a main street of Amman and sprayed a nerve toxin in his ear – that was about to kill him without leaving traces. They were caught on the spot. King Hussein, the Israeli government’s main ally in the Arab world, was livid and delivered a furious ultimatum: either Israel would immediately provide the antidote to the poison and save Mishal’s life, or the Mossad agents would be hanged. Netanyahu, as usual, caved in, Mishal was saved and the Israeli government, as a bonus, released Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the main Hamas leader, from prison. He was “eliminated” by a hellfire missile later on.

DURING THE last weeks, a deluge of words has been poured on the assassination in Dubai of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, another senior Hamas officer.

Israelis agreed from the first moment that this was a job of the Mossad. What capabilities! What talent! How did they know, long in advance, when the man would go to Dubai, what flight he would take, in what hotel he would stay! What precise planning!

The “military correspondents” and “Arab affairs correspondents” on screen were radiant. Their faces said: oh, oh, oh, if the material were not embargoed…If I could only tell you what I know…I can tell you only that the Mossad has proved again that its long arm can reach anywhere! Live in fear, oh enemies of Israel!

When the problems started to become apparent, and the photos of the assassins appeared on TV all over the world, the enthusiasm cooled, but only slightly. An old and proven Israeli method was brought into play: to take some marginal detail and discuss it passionately, ignoring the main issue. Concentrate on one particular tree and divert attention from the forest.

Really, why did the agents use the names of actual people who live in Israel and have dual nationality? Why, of all possible passports, did they use those of friendly countries? How could they be sure that the owners of these passports would not travel abroad at the critical time?

Moreover, were they not aware that Dubai was full of cameras that record every movement? Did they not foresee that the local police would produce films of the assassination in almost all its details?

But this did not arouse too much excitement in Israel. Everybody understood that the British and the Irish were obliged, pro forma, to protest, but that this was nothing but going through the motions. Behind the scenes, there are intimate connections between the Mossad and the other intelligence agencies. After some weeks, everything will be forgotten. That’s how it worked in Norway after Lillehammer, that’s how it worked in Jordan after the Mishal affair. They will protest, rebuke, and that’s that. So what is the problem?

THE PROBLEM is that the Mossad in Israel acts like an independent fiefdom that ignores the vital long-term political and strategic interests of Israel, enjoying the automatic backing of an irresponsible prime minister. It is, as the English expression goes, a “loose cannon” – the cannon of a ship of yore which has broken free of its mountings and is rolling around the deck, crushing to death any unfortunate sailor who happens to get in its way.

From the strategic point of view, the Dubai operation causes heavy damage to the government’s policy, which defines Iran’s putative nuclear bomb as an existential threat to Israel. The campaign against Iran helps it to divert the world’s attention from the ongoing occupation and settlement, and induces the US, Europe and other countries to dance to its tune.

Barack Obama is in the process of trying to set up a world-wide coalition for imposing “debilitating sanctions” on Iran. The Israeli government serves him – willingly – as a growling dog. He tells the Iranians: The Israelis are crazy. They may attack you at any moment. I am restraining them with great difficulty. But if you don’t do what I tell you, I shall let go of the leash and may Allah have mercy on your soul!

Dubai, a Gulf country facing Iran, is an important component of this coalition. It is an ally of Israel, much like Egypt and Jordan. And here comes the same Israeli government and embarrasses it, humiliates it, arousing among the Arab masses the suspicion that Dubai is collaborating with the Mossad.

In the past we have embarrassed Norway, then we infuriated Jordan, now we humiliate Dubai. Is that wise? Ask Meir Dagan, who Netanyahu has just granted an almost unprecedented eighth year in office as chief of the Mossad.

PERHAPS THE impact of the operation on our standing in the world is even more significant.

Once upon a time it was possible to belittle this aspect. Let the Goyim say what they want. But since the Molten Lead operation, Israel has become more conscious of its far-reaching implications. The verdict of Judge Goldstone, the echoes of the antics of Avigdor Lieberman, the growing world-wide campaign for boycotting Israel – all these tend to suggest that Thomas Jefferson was not talking through his hat when he said that no nation can afford to ignore the opinion of mankind.

The Dubai affair is reinforcing the image of Israel as a bully state, a rogue nation that treats world public opinion with contempt, a country that conducts gang warfare, that sends mafia-like death squads abroad, a pariah nation to be avoided by right-minded people.

Was this worthwhile?


Robert Fisk’s World: An eventful, yet typical, day out with Our Man in Jerusalem

by Robert Fisk

The Independent

I haven’t been through this type of illusory world since the Lebanese civil war

I'm a great believer in Correspondent Tours, a company which perhaps The Independent should create. It involves travelling to the cities of our scribes and being taken by them on a guided tour of their city/country.

A few weeks ago, I took a David McKittrick tour – he's Our Man in Belfast – and, feeding what I saw and heard through the prism of the Middle East, I think I realise just how the war I covered in Northern Ireland 35 years ago has ended, and how bad the body politic of the place still is.

Donald Macintyre is Our Man in Jerusalem (think of a younger Jack Hawkins, say, General Allenby in Lawrence of Arabia) who managed to drive Fisk (think, alas, of a younger Woody Allen) through more checkpoints and acquire more accreditation passes in one week in the occupied West Bank, Israel and Gaza than I've ever achieved in six months. Macintyre is a slightly laid-back, rugged sort of guy whose favourite expressions include "How very, very interesting". Or – this in the manner of a family doctor – "Well I'm really sorry to hear that"; the problem is that Macintyre's patients – "Palestine" and Israel – seem to me to be in a pretty poor state of health. The first pretends to exist when it doesn't; the second says it fears it won't exist when everyone knows that it will.

Macintyre is at ease in any part of his (very tiny) Holy Land, sitting with me in the King David Hotel, briefing me on Israeli political leaders before the Herzliya conference, driving down to Gaza. At the Israeli-Gaza border crossing at Erez – for which the Israelis have built a massive terminal of iron doors, cameras and mile-long steel mesh fences (not to mention the Wall), I point out that I can't have my passport stamped because I have to return to Beirut. No one gets back into Lebanon with an Israeli stamp.

Macintyre calls up a friendly Israeli security man, explains the problem and the Israeli in the booth stamps a piece of paper instead of my passport. Macintyre's Gaza driver Ashraf meets us before the first checkpoint – which is run by the Palestinian Authority – and the second, which is run by Hamas (in this case, both entities pretending that the other doesn't exist).

I've said it before. Ye gods! I haven't been through this kind of illusionary world since the Lebanese civil war. All Macintyre's contacts come up trumps in Gaza, homeless families, former Irish UN soldier John Ging.

I meet our Gaza correspondent, Fares Akram, whose father – a 48-year-old judge in the Palestinian Authority with no connections to Hamas – was killed in the Israeli onslaught in January of last year. What reader can forget his front-page story "The Death and Life of my Father"? Banning foreign correspondents from covering the Gaza war was the worst thing the Israelis could have done. For the first time we heard the voices of Palestinians reporting their own tragedy.

Akram is a quiet, deeply informed man with a fund of stories, from Hamas to tunnels to schools. There's a kind of sparkle in his eyes which you notice when journalists know their story.

The journey from Gaza to Beirut is very much part of that story. By sailing boat it would take about six hours. By road and air it's going to take me 12. At the Erez checkpoint, we go through the same old routine again. The Hamas lady signs us out and the Palestinian Authority down the road tells the Israelis we are here and then, after all that fencing and wall and those iron doors and flashing green lights – go when the light goes green, stand when it shows red, place your feet on the places marked on the scanner – there is my bag on the security belt and I can't find my bloody press card until Macintyre smilingly says: "Steady – these places make you lose things," and of course it's there.

"Why are you coming to Israel?" I'm asked at the booth. Because I'm going to Jerusalem. Halfway to Jerusalem a relieved Macintyre hands me over to an Israeli photographer who is taking pictures of me by the Wall in Jerusalem. It's a weird experience. Palestinian kids play in the street and I can hear them playing on the other side of the concrete. Cars race up the road but when I turn round, they aren't there. That's because they are on the other side too.

Issa Farhan drives me off though the Israeli-occupied West Bank. I can't drive across the Allenby Bridge without a Jordanian visa in my passport. So I go through the occupied Palestinian Area "C" up the side of the Jordan river (where my Lebanese mobile "pings" to tell me that I'm already in Jordan). But to reach the King Hussein Bridge, I have to re-enter Israel.

"Why are you coming to Israel?" the Israeli girl asks me. Because I'm going to Beirut. Ye gods. No problems at the Israeli side of the Jordan river (or muddy stream) but the Jordanians want to stamp my passport. "No!" I holler. Then the Lebanese will see where I entered Jordan. So he gives me another piece of paper with a stamp on it and I approach Jordanian immigration.

Captain Mohamed prowls through my bag. "What is this?" he asks. He suspiciously pulls a book from my bag. It is Helen Gardner's 1972 Penguin edition of The Metaphysical Poets. "What is it about?" I tell him I read poetry when I travel. What else can I say? "Wait here." I am dreaming now. Wait here. Go into the security room. Wait for the green light or the red light or an iron door or a concrete wall. Stand with your feet apart. Keep them together. Stand on your head. It's the story of the Middle East. Am I supposed to deliver a lecture on Marvell and Donne? For whom the bell tolls? It tolls for me.

Captain Mohamed is studying the book's cover with distaste. It shows a woman in bed! It is a detail of John Souch's Sir Thomas Aston at the Deathbed of his First Wife in the Manchester Art Gallery. Yes. YE GODS!

In two hours I am at Amman airport. Passport stamped. No problem now. One hour to Beirut and, on arrival, there are smiling immigration men and my nice "clean" UK passport and friendly customs guys and Abed, my Lebanese driver. And after almost 34 years in the Middle East, Ladies and Gentlemen, it's all, as Macintyre might say, another day's work...

Mass Demo Bil’in: Five Years of Resistance Commemorated

International Solidarity Movement

Today Bil’in commemorated the fifth anniversary of popular demonstrations against the settlements and the Apartheid Wall. Israel’s occupation has confiscated over 50% of Bil’in’s land. Only last week the construction work to reroute the Wall began, nearly two and a half years after the High Court of Justice ordered the Wall to be moved. Approximately 30% of land will be returned to the village. This victory strengthens Bil’in’s resistance and counterbalances the hardships the Israeli Occupation Army has inflicted upon the village. Throughout the past five years, Bil’in’s non-violent demonstrations have met with severe army violence, injuring over 1,200 people and killing one person. Another 85 villagers have been arrested for organizing or merely taking part in the demonstrations. The Israeli Occupation Army terrorizes the entire village, entering Bil’in at night, often using sound bombs and tear gas. It not only deprives villagers of their sleep but also prevents children from having a normal, peaceful home life.

Today’s mass demonstration counted over 3000 activists who supported Bil’in’s resistance and encouraged the villagers to continue its struggle. Among them were Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad and Remy Pagany, the mayor of Geneva. Other politicians were present to show support, such as members of the Legislative Council and Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The massive crowd of demonstrators held banners, Palestinian flags and chanted slogans, accompanied by drums and dancing clowns while marching towards the Apartheid Wall. Altogether they called for national unity and resistance against Israel’s occupation.
Upon arrival at the Wall, the Israeli Occupation Forces seemed to be absent, which was an open invitation for the demonstrators to cross the gate towards the Palestinian land. The crowd started tearing down the Wall, allowing some of the protesters to get access to the military outpost. Suddenly, the crowd was attacked with spraying skunk water, a chemical smelling like sewage water. Afterwards vast amounts of tear gas canisters, both plastic and aluminium, were fired and sound bombs were shot. Dozens of people suffered from tear gas inhalation and at least ten people were directly injured by the canisters.


The Chagos archipelago – where conservation meets colonialism

by Fred Pearce

The Guardian

Islanders expelled from their homes in the 1960s won't be welcome back under plans to convert the idyllic archipelago into a 'nature reserve'

How do you greenwash a large airforce base? A base that is responsible for bombing nearby countries, and which was built on an island you confiscated from residents who are now living in exile on the other side of the world?

Easy. You announce the creation of a giant nature reserve which will be off-limits to its former inhabitants. Not to the military, of course. That might create complications. But the people-free zone will cover the islands and oceans all around. Then, if you're really clever, you get the world's premier network of conservation scientists to endorse your plan.

That's what happened last week.

The Foreign Office is currently "consulting" on the establishment of a marine protected area covering the Chagos archipelago, a large swathe of coral islands across the Indian Ocean that Britain neglected to hand back to the locals when it abandoned most of the rest of its empire east of Suez in the 1960s.

This is bad news for the Chagossians, who were removed from the islands by British naval vessels almost half a century ago, so that the US could establish a large air base on the largest of the islands, Diego Garcia. The Chagossians have always wanted to return, and two years ago they published detailed plans to go back to some of the more distant islands of the archipelago.

But successive British governments have said this can never be. Foreign secretary David Miliband appears intent on cementing this position by creating a protected area where Chagossians would not be allowed to live. Americans will be welcome, of course. The consultation document (pdf) notes coyly that "it may be necessary to consider the exclusion [from the protected area] of Diego Garcia and its territorial waters."

Last week, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) endorsed the plan despite, as New Scientist magazine has revealed, angry dissent from its own legal advisers.

The conservation case for protecting the Chagos archipelago is undoubtedly strong. It is one of the most pristine coral reef systems in the world. Announcing his plan last November, Miliband said: "This is a remarkable opportunity for the UK to create one of the world's largest marine protected areas and double the global coverage of the world's oceans benefiting from full protection."

More than 10,000 British greens have signed in support of the move to create "Britain's [sic] Great Barrier Reef". The campaign is backed by the Chagos Environment Network, a coalition that includes Kew Gardens, London Zoo, the RSPB, the Royal Society and the Marine Conservation Society.

The question is whether Britain has any legal or moral right to do this unilaterally.

What about the claims of the 4,000-plus Chagossian exiles – many of them live close to Gatwick airport in readiness for their return home? The glossy pamphlet (pdf) encouraging people to support the conservation plan is silent on their expulsion and desire to return.

Most international lawyers believe the expulsion was a breach of international law, and the exiles should be allowed to return forthwith. Robin Cook is the only British foreign secretary to have agreed with them. Under the conservation plan, the only way any of them could return would be as employees of the park.

What about the fact that Britain accepts that neighbouring Mauritius should have sovereignty over Chagos when the Brits and Americans no longer need it? Protests from the Mauritian government about the plan last week fell on deaf ears.

The Chagos Conservation Trust says: "Strong support for this initiative for conservation was expressed by both Chagossian leaders who spoke at [a] meeting on 9 April 2009 at The Royal Society. The creation of a protected area would clearly be without prejudice to the outcome of the pending legal case [in the European Court of Human Rights] in regard to Chagos Islanders and the arrangements for the protected area could be modified if necessary in the light of any change in circumstances."

Indeed so. The law would have to be obeyed. But some environmental lawyers see the conservation plan as an attempt to greenwash the status quo.

There is a frightful row going on at the IUCN over the decision of its executive director Julia Marton-Lefevre last week to side with Britain over the creation of the marine protected area. Klaus Bosselmann, the chair of the IUCN's ethics group, part of its Commission on Environmental Law, wrote that it "violates IUCN's own commitments towards sustainability" because the plan would "invalidate... the right of the Chagos Islanders to return."

Bosselmann, director of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law, told the Guardian that "concern for ecological integrity and human and indigenous rights have to be mutually reinforcing." For IUCN to back the permanent exclusion of the Chagossians from the islands "is severely unethical and against everything the international conservation movement stands for."

Marton-Lefevre denied this. She called for consultation with "all stakeholders", including the Chagossians. And she said the IUCN's position "in no way takes or endorses a position with regard to the sovereignty of the archipelago."

At least we are talking about Chagos now. Back in 1994, when Britain published the first biodiversity action plan for its surviving specks of empire, it literally removed the zone, known as the British Indian Ocean Territory, from the map.

Now, rather than airbrushing out Chagos, the mandarins want to paint it green. Conservation seems to be the last hurrah of the British Empire.

Felicity Arbuthnot: Weeping for Gaza

by Felicity Arbuthnot

UN Observer

"The diagnosis is evil ... the cure is truth and love." David S. Halpin, FRCS., Founder, "Dove and Dolphin."

Today, assembling a pile of reference material, I was planning to write something entirely different. Then, with the mail, came a small, beautifully produced newsletter from Dove and Dolphin, a charity with a difference.

Founded by retired trauma and orthopaedic surgeon, David Halpin, the organization reaches out to the people of Gaza, not alone with essentials as medicines and other vital needs, but with projects aiming to bring dignity, pockets of normality and humanity back to a people living where normality is crushed brutally, daily, under the searing cruelty of Israeli occupation.

The newsletter makes eye watering reading, combined with a silent scream at the world's silence. As with Iraq and Afghanistan, an inaudible, creeping, holocaust is taking place. But in Gaza it has amounted to official Israeli policy since this state landed in the Middle East, in 1948.

"The five million people in the three remnants of Palestine - the 'West Bank', 'East' Jerusalem and Gaza, have never suffered so much since El Nakba (the catastrophe) when two thirds of the Palestinian Arab population were driven from their homes, their land and thus their living, by terror and force of arms in 1948", writes Halpin, referring to their "torment and loss."

The newsletter spans a fifteen month period, late because constantly overtaken by events in the horrors the people of Gaza have suffered, since November 2008.

That month. Halpin and fifteen fellow medical professionals had planned a further fact finding visit to Palestine, with three days in Gaza. Physicians for Human Rights in Israel worked strenuously, liasing with the authorities regarding the delegation's entry to Gaza, but failed: "I wondered if the Israelis were preparing for an invasion .." In February of 2008, Israeli Defence Minister Matan Vilnai "promised a 'greater shoah' for the people of Gaza." Shoah means holocaust. The powerful in Israel would seem to resemble the abused child, who as an adult, in turn, abuses.

Unable to reach Gaza, the physicians had meetings in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Nablus. Two. especially impressed, meetings with Addameer and Defence for Children International (DCI), both who defend the rights of the children of Palestine. "As I write, there are over four hundred children in Israeli jails .." Halpin relates the story of one, traumatised, but free (if anyone in Palestine can be called "free.") Husam, aged ten, was chased, beaten and detained for approximately eleven hours by Israeli soldiers.

He told DCI: " .. I feel scared whenever I remember what happened to me ... it might happen to me again ... they threatened to kill me or lock me up."

Welcome to "the only democratic country in the Middle East."

"The holocaust promised by Vilnai was released on 27th December 2008 ... Military and some other Rabbis encouraged attacks on the civilian population", notes Halpin. Further, the assault began during Hannukkah, the eight day Jewish religious Feast of Dedication, or Festival of Lights. Named "Operation Cast Lead", this alluded to " a dreidel, a four sided spinning top, with a Hebrew letter on each side (a) game of chance played by families during the festival."

"Over two hundred people were killed in the first fifteen minutes of the bombardment." They included schoolchildren "as packed schools" were changing shifts; in the same time frame, all of the Civil Defence centres were destroyed, rendering ambulance co-ordination beyond challenging. Ambulances and medical personnel were challenged, breaching the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Nuremberg Principles, as a war of choice and aggression, the supreme war crime" from which all other crimes flow." Halpin includes here reports from journalist Eva Jasiewicz. ( http://www.tiny.cc/hauGI )

"Most of the five hundred pages of the Goldstone Report to the UN Human Rights Commission focus on Israeli actions." These "actions" include the fate of the Samouni family. Fleeing the bombardment: "They were ... herded in to a basement in their dozens. The building was then shelled. Ambulances were prevented from going to the dead and wounded for two days. A live child lay alongside a dead parent."

"Goldstone (states) in no uncertain terms that Gaza was not an aberration in Israel's treatment of the Palestinians", writes Halpin, adding that the former Judge Richard Goldstone's Report concludes that a "collective penalty" was inflicted upon Gaza's people, amounting to "intimidation and terror."

This from a man described by his daughter as: " A Zionist who loves Israel."

"Israel could and would not, have engaged in the level of wholesale destruction ... without the support of the outgoing Bush Administration and acquiescence of the incoming Obama one”, comments Halpin, adding "and not without full UK and EU support." (see http://www.tiny.cc/IHzUG )

On 29th December 2008, David Halpin flew to Larnaca, Cyprus, to join with the Free Gaza movement, on behalf of Dove and Dolphin, in solidarity with the people of Gaza. As night fell, just an hour after he landed, they left Larnaca for Gaza, in the MV Dignity, a fifty metre motor yacht, with three tonnes of medical supplies, mostly donated by the Cyprus government - in stark contrast to vaunted Western democracies. "I wanted to offer myself as a doctor or surgeon", failing that, "help the living to find the dead."

"Just after 5.30 a.m., there was a tremendous crash off the bow ... then another, then another ... it was still pitch dark, with a stiff wind and a ten ft sea." They had been rammed by one of two Israeli gun boats. As the Master put out a "Mayday" distress call, an Israeli Captain came on the radio accusing the group of being terrorists, saying he would shoot at the boat, which was taking in water, badly damaged, "not seaworthy", but somehow, still afloat. Former US Congresswoman, Cynthia McInney, who had also joined in solidarity, said simply: "I can't swim, David." Without enough fuel to return to Larnaca, they limped in to Tyre, in Lebanon, "to a massive and jubilant reception."

The age of the vessel, its sturdiness, saved them. One "of glass reinforced plastic would have shattered (survivors) would have been run down." The official line, suggests Halpin, would have been: "The MV Dignity with sixteen 'activists' on board, has been lost (in) poor weather (in) a vessel nearly thirty years old."

The Dignity had broken the siege of Gaza five times. Repairs could not be done quickly enough. She sank, in April 2009. (See "Piracy off the Promised Land", and "The Ramming of the Dignity with Clear Lethal Intent." http://www.tiny.cc/nckIF )

On return, Dove and Dolphin sent £30,000, donated by the charity's supporters, to a trusted friend and contact, to be split three ways: for basic medical supplies, cash grants for families whose homes had been badly damaged and for the poor to buy groceries, by way of vouchers. In spite of continuous electrical failures, email communications updated on the life sustaining projects.

Halpin describes speaking to a close medical friend in Gaza one night; huge explosions halted the conversation. The line went dead. "I thought he and his family (had) been killed. It transpired the (bombing) was four miles away at the Islamic University of Gaza ...(maybe) those which razed the two science towers of this splendid university, which started in tents." ( http://www.tiny.cc/qQhAO )

Dove and Dolphin also supports the Al Jazeera (the island) Sports Club for the Disabled. "About forty thousand people have been injured since September 2000 in the West Bank and Gaza." Providing for all ages and men and women, it needed to expand. '$35,000, in stages", has helped rapidly and "to a high standard. Teams of athletes, some missing both legs, some paraplegic", have competed overseas, .. including Japan ... returning with medals .. keen as mustard to represent their people, in spite of all." Halpin was invited to speak at the inauguration ceremony and to meet the athletes, when the expansion of this remarkable project was completed. Israel barred his way and Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth, declined to help, as ever, playing dead.

$10,000 have been contributed to the Turathona cultural centre, where men and women create crafts, from embroidery to carving, distributed abroad for sale, providing income, morale and "maintaining Palestinian cultural identity."

Thirty students in secondary school are given a $30 a month allowance. Reaching the age of eighteen, they are replaced by younger needy ones. D and D supporters contribute by monthly banker's orders and "know the children" they support, human to human solidarity "the essence of D and D".

Grants to small businesses "have been difficult to maintain since last January, but we hope to continue with this... in an economy where 80% live below the poverty line."

"Our optics centre has been a great success, providing eye tests and spectacles at low costs", another project which is expanding.

Further help goes to the Lajee Youth Centre in Aida Camp, Bethlehem, another "inspiring" project, about which Photographer Rich Wiles has just had a book published: "Behind the Wall, Life, Love and the Struggle in Palestine". ( http://www.borders.com/online/store/TitleDetail?sku=1597974390 )

Dove and Dolphin's International Medical Centre was to include a distance learning project, also interrupted by last year's bombardment. Medical experts from abroad were to join their Palestinian colleagues and impart new knowledge and methodology. Also, for the moment, disrupted. However, the Ibn Zuhr Medical Forum website has been set up "to help unify (medical disciplines) in the remnants of Palestine." ( http://www.ibnzuhrmedicalforum.org )

"As the MV Dignity steamed north for Tyre, I thought of simple words (to) say to the media in Lebanon .. I chose these:

'We must control barbarism, uphold international law and cherish all children everywhere. We must never give up, however Herculean the task.' "

The remarkable and courageous David Halpin admits he "wept" over Gaza. So should we all - and for the complicity in the silence of governments.

A personal appeal from the writer: many do not give, because they feel the small amount they are able will make no difference. But if all in one small community - say of five thousand - gave just one pound or dollar, that would raise £/$'s five thousand. If half or quarter of those in a larger community of, say thirty thousand, gave the same ...

Dove and Dolphin is throwing a life line to the people of Gaza and Palestine's other remnants - and takes no overheads out of donations. Every pound, dollar, euro counts, shows solidarity, confirmation that a proud, brave and betrayed people are not alone and forgotten. All details: ( http://www.doveanddolphin.co.uk )

Dove and Dolphin Newsletter Number 10

Felicity Arbuthnot

Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist and activist who has visited the Arab and Muslim world on numerous occasions. She has written and broadcast on Iraq, her coverage of which was nominated for several awards. She was also senior researcher for John Pilger's award-winning documentary,
"Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq".
and author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of “Baghdad” in the “Great Cities” series, for World Almanac Books (2006.)

Please also see:

United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (The Goldstone Report) http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/FactFindingMission.htm

Robert Fisk: Britain's explanation is riddled with inconsistencies. It's time to come clean

by Robert Fisk

The Independent

How could the Arabs pick up on a Mossad killing, if that is what it was? Well, we shall see

Collusion. That's what it's all about. The United Arab Emirates suspect – only suspect, mark you – that Europe's "security collaboration" with Israel has crossed a line into illegality, where British passports (and those of other other EU nations) can now be used to send Israeli agents into the Gulf to kill Israel's enemies. At 3.49pm yesterday afternoon (Beirut time, 1.49pm in London), my Lebanese phone rang. It was a source – impeccable, I know him, he spoke with the authority I know he has in Abu Dhabi – to say that "the British passports are real. They are hologram pictures with the biometric stamp. They are not forged or fake. The names were really there. If you can fake a hologram or biometric stamp, what does this mean?"

The voice – I know the man and his origins well – wants to talk. "There are 18 people involved in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Besides the 11 already named, there are two Palestinians who are being interrogated and five others, including a woman. She was part of the team that staked out the hotel lobby." Two hours later, an SMS arrives on my Beirut phone from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It is the same source.

"ONE MORE THING," it says in capital letters, then continues in lower case. "The command room of the operation was in Austria (sic, in fact, all things are "sic" in this report)... meaning the suspects when here did not talk to each other but thru the command room on separate lines to avoid detection or linking themselves to one another... but it was detected and identified OK??" OK? I ask myself.

My source is both angry and insistent. "We have sent out details of the 11 named people to Interpol. Interpol has circulated them to 188 countries – but why hasn't Britain warned foreign nations that these people are using passports in these names?" There was more to come.

"We have identified five credit cards belonging to these people, all issued in the United States." The man will not give the EU nationalities of the extra five – this would make two women involved in Mr Mabhouh's murder. He said that EU countries were cooperating with the UAE, including the UK. But "not one of the countries we have been speaking to has notified Interpol of the passports used in their name. Why not?"

The source insisted that one of the names on a passport – the name of a man who denies any knowledge of its use – has travelled on it in Asia (probably Indonesia) and EU countries over the past year. The Emirates have proof that an American entered their country in June 2006 on a British passport issued in the name of a UK citizen who was already in prison in the Emirates. The Emirates claim that the passport of an Israeli agent sent to kill a Hamas leader in Jordan was a genuine Canadian passport issued to a dual national of Israel.

Intelligence agencies – who in the view of this correspondent are often very unintelligent – have long used false passports. Oliver North and Robert McFarlane travelled to Iran to seek the release of US hostages in Lebanon on passports that were previously stolen from the Irish embassy in Athens. But the Emirates' new information may make some European governments draw in their breath – and they had better have good replies to the questions. Intelligence services – Arab, Israeli, European or American – often adopt an arrogant attitude towards those from whom they wish to hide. How could the Arabs pick up on a Mossad killing, if that is what it was? Well, we shall see.

Collusion is a word the Arabs understand. It speaks of the 1956 Suez War, when Britain and France cooperated with Israel to invade Egypt. Both London and Paris denied the plot. They were lying. But for an Arab Gulf country which suspects its former masters (the UK, by name) may have connived in the murder of a visiting Hamas official, this is apparently now too much. There is much more to come out of this story. We will wait to see if there are any replies in Europe.

Guam leaders balk at U.S. militiary buildup

by Teri Weaver

Stars and Stripes, News for War Criminals

TOKYO — Guam’s leaders in recent days have ratcheted up criticism of a proposed massive military buildup, with the island’s sole delegate to Congress vowing to withdraw support unless the Pentagon slows its plans.

In her biennial speech Tuesday night to the Guam Legislature, Madeleine Bordallo asked the Navy to stretch the construction phase to eight to 10 years as the military moves 8,600 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

Currently, the plan calls for reaching the construction peak in four years, a move that could temporarily add nearly 80,000 people to the island by 2014.

“We will do everything that we can, federally and locally, to stop that from happening,” Bordallo said during her address. “We have our foot on the brakes.”

On Monday, Gov. Felix Camacho had a similar tone in his State of the Island speech, calling on the military to rethink plans to dredge acres of coral out of Apra Harbor to make way for an aircraft carrier berth.

He also said he would not support any move by the military to force the island to give up specially designated lands for native Chamorro and other islanders, a part of which the military would like for firing ranges.

And last Friday, the legislature unanimously passed a local resolution calling the military’s voluminous impact statement on the project “grossly flawed.”

The resolution outlined multiple complaints about the military’s proposal to lessen the impact of its expansion, including a lack of money to help upgrade the island’s infrastructure as it prepares to handle a permanent influx of nearly 34,000 new residents.

The flurry of commentary — including from buildup supporters such as Bordallo and Camacho — came as time was running out for public comment on the military’s nine-volume environmental impact statement detailing the project. The deadline for submission was Wednesday.

The solicitation period began before Thanksgiving, followed by more than a dozen public hearings on the buildup plan earlier this year. As residents and leaders learned more, some began focusing on what they saw as worrisome: disrupting fishing areas, digging more wells into the island’s aquifer, and bringing in thousands of migrant construction workers without explaining how the temporary surge in population will affect the island’s aging infrastructure.

Some of those issues are being addressed, just not in the environmental impact statement, said Simon Sanchez, who chairs the island’s Consolidated Commission on Utilities. The commission — which includes local water, power and sewage officials — meets regularly with military planners to talk about the next phase in planning for the buildup: how to nail down the military’s pledges to help pay for its impact outside its fences.

“We are making progress,” Sanchez said Wednesday.

Those discussions aren’t a part of the impact statement, a federally required document meant to assess the project’s effects on the island. And the statement, to this point, is in draft form. The military must gather the hundreds of comments, analyze them and explain whether they will incorporate or reject them. The final document — called an EIS — is due out this summer.

“We appreciate Governor Camacho and Congresswoman Bordallo’s continued support for the build-up,” Marine Corps Maj. Neil Ruggiero, a spokesman for the military’s Joint Guam Program Office, wrote in a statement. “Their comments, like all comments, are important and will be taken into consideration for the final EIS.”

Sanchez said he understood the growing concern from the island, and he, too, worries the military’s current explanations fall short of explaining how the federal government will help the island deal with population growth outside military bases during construction.

“We’re worried about the surge phase,” Sanchez said. “That’s the biggest concern.”

That’s what Bordallo, a Democrat, has asked the military to stall. Both she and the governor, a Republican, support a slower building phase so that the island’s current population of 178,000 can accommodate the incoming workers and troops. As a delegate from a U.S. territory, Bordallo cannot vote on the floor of Congress. But she does have a full vote in committees, including the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, which handles Pentagon spending.

Two requests Wednesday by Stars and Stripes for comment from Bordallo, who was on the island, were not answered by her staff.

Bordallo repeated her overall support for the military expansion on Guam during her speech Tuesday, despite her funding caveat.

“It would not be an exaggeration to say that this draft EIS has done more harm than good,” she told the island’s legislature. “I see great opportunities in this buildup and we must not let these challenges overcome the greater goal of creating a better life and more opportunities for our people.”

The governor, on Monday, struck a different tone.

While he too said he supports the basic idea of the buildup, he wants to make sure that Guam and its future generations are treated with respect.

“Throughout the past four and a half centuries, our people have adapted to changes that have been thrust upon us,” Camacho said. The island’s “culture is dynamic, adaptive and vibrant, as evidenced in our language, beliefs and practices. We have retained important aspects of our culture that we cherish — our social values, respect for elders, love for family and our faith in God.”

To that end, he has proposed legislation to change the island’s name from Guam to Guahan, the Chamorro name for the island that means “we have.”