Archive for February 28th, 2012
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is one of the most powerful lobby organizations in the country. AIPAC’s clout helps fuel a never-ending cycle of violence in the Middle East.
Here are ten reasons why AIPAC is so dangerous.
1. AIPAC is lobbying Congress to promote a military confrontation with Iran. AIPAC – like the Israeli government – is demanding that the U.S. attack Iran militarily to prevent Iran from having the technological capacity to produce nuclear weapons, even though U.S. officials say Iran isn’t trying to build a weapon (and even though Israel has hundreds of undeclared nuclear weapons). AIPAC has successfully lobbied the U.S. government to adopt crippling economic sanctions on Iran, including trying to cut off Iran’s oil exports, despite the fact that these sanctions raise the price of gas and threaten the U.S. economy.
2. AIPAC promotes Israeli policies that are in direct opposition to international law. These include the establishment of colonies (settlements) in the Occupied West Bank and the confiscation of Palestinian land in its construction of the 26-foot high concrete “separation barrier” running through the West Bank. The support of these illegal practices makes to impossible to achieve a solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict.
3. AIPAC’s call for unconditional support for the Israeli government threatens our national security. The United States’ one-sided support of Israel, demanded by AIPAC, has significantly increased anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle East, thus endangering our troops and sowing the seeds of more possible terrorist attacks against us. Gen. David Petraeus on March 16, 2010 admitted that the U.S./Palestine conflict “foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel.” He also said that “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the [region] and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”
4. AIPAC undermines American support for democracy movements in the Arab world. AIPAC looks at the entire Arab world through the lens of Israeli government interests, not the democratic aspirations of the Arab people. It has therefore supported corrupt, repressive regimes that are friendly to the Israeli government, such as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. Events now unfolding in the Middle East should convince U.S. policy-makers of the need to break from AIPAC’s grip and instead support democratic forces in the Arab world.
5. AIPAC makes the U.S. a pariah at the UN. AIPAC describes the UN as a body hostile to the State of Israel and has pressured the U.S. government to oppose resolutions calling Israel to account. Since 1972, the US has vetoed 44 UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel’s actions against the Palestinians. President Obama continues that policy. Under Obama, the US vetoed UN censure of the savage Israeli assault on Gaza in January 2009 in which about 1400 Palestinians were killed; a 2011 resolution calling for a halt to the illegal Israeli West Bank settlements even though this was stated U.S. policy; a 2011 resolution calling for Israel to cease obstructing the work of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees; and another resolution calling for an end to illegal Israeli settlement building in East Jerusalem and the occupied Golan Heights.
6. AIPAC attacks politicians who question unconditional support of Israel. AIPAC demands that Congress rubber stamp legislation drafted by AIPAC staff. It keeps a record of how members of Congress vote and this record is used by donors to make contributions to the politicians who score well. Members of Congress who fail to support AIPAC legislation have been targeted for defeat in re-election bids. These include Senators Adlai Stevenson III and Charles H. Percy, and Representatives Paul Findley, Pete McCloskey, Cynthia McKinney, and Earl F. Hilliard. AIPAC’s overwhelmingly disproportionate influence on Congress subverts our democratic system.
7. AIPAC attempts to silence all criticism of Israel by labeling critics as “anti-Semitic,” “de-legitimizers” or “self-hating Jews.” Journalists, think tanks, students and professors have been accused of anti-Semitism for merely taking stands critical of Israeli government policies. These attacks stifle the critical discussions and debates that are at the heart of democratic policy-making. The recent attacks on staffers at the Center for American Progress is but one example of AIPAC efforts to crush all dissent.
8. AIPAC feeds U.S. government officials a distorted view of the Israel/Palestine conflict. AIPAC takes U.S. representatives on sugar-coated trips to Israel. In 2011, AIPAC took one out of very five members of Congress—and many of their spouses—on a free junket to Israel to see precisely what the Israeli government wanted them to see. It is illegal for lobby groups to take Congresspeople on trips, but AIPAC gets around the law by creating a bogus educational group, AIEF, 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.
9. AIPAC lobbies for billions of U.S. taxdollars to go to Israel instead of rebuilding America. While our country is reeling from a prolonged financial crisis, AIPAC is pushing for no cuts in military funds for Israel, a wealthy nation. With communities across the nation slashing budgets for teachers, firefighters and police, AIPAC pushes for over $3 billion a year to Israel.
10. Money to Israel takes funds from world’s poor. Israel has the 24th largest economy in the world, but thanks to AIPAC, it gets more U.S. taxdollars than any other country. At a time when the foreign aid budget is being slashed, keeping the lion’s share of foreign assistance for Israel means taking funds from critical programs to feed, provide shelter and offer emergency assistance to the world’s poorest people.
The bottom line is that AIPAC, which is a de facto agent for a foreign government, has influence on U.S. policy out of all proportion to the number of Americans who support its policies. When a small group like this has disproportionate power, that hurts everyone—including Israelis and American Jews.
From stopping a catastrophic war with Iran to finally solving the Israel/Palestine conflict, an essential starting point is breaking AIPAC’s grip on U.S. policy.
(networkedblogs.com / 28.02.2012)
Netherlands to supply 2 state-of-the art container scanners; sign of Israeli-PA cooperation despite talks’ breakdown.
While Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are stalemated, economic cooperation continues between the two sides with the Netherlands announcing this week it will supply two state-of-the art container scanners to facilitate Palestinian trade.
According to a joint agreement signed Sunday by Dutch Ambassador Caspar Veldkamp and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj.-Gen Eitan Dangot, the scanners are to “promote the economic development of the Palestinian Authority through expanded trade flows, while safeguarding” Israel’s security.
The first scanner will be installed at the Allenby Bridge “as fast and efficiently” as possible, expected within six to nine months, and the second one – possibly at the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza — at a later date. In a unique form of cooperation, the scanners will be donated to and owned by the Palestinian Authority, but will be operated by Israel “to maintain and ensure” its security requirements.
According to a statement put out by the Dutch embassy, the scanners will boost Palestinian trade by “reducing transit costs for businesses and increasing the volume and range of goods allowed through the crossings.” The statement said that the scanner at the Allenby Bridge could increase the amount of trade flowing through the crossing by up to 33%, something that will “help the Palestinian economy grow.”
Currently, if glass manufacturers in Hebron want to export pitchers abroad they must load them into boxes and onto wooden pallets that are then placed on trucks. The trucks then go to the Allenby Crossing where each pallet is individually scanned by a pallet scanner at the site, and then loaded onto Jordanian trucks waiting on the other side of the border. These trucks then drive to Aqaba where the palletsare unloaded again, the boxes of pitchers taken out and then re-packed into containers for ship export.
Exporters complain that this significantly increases both their cost, and the time it takes for their goods to get to market, since each pallet must be unloaded at Allenby, and then at Aqaba the boxes of pitchers must be repacked into containers. The re-packing itself into containers is an additional expense.
The new container scanners will allow the manufactures to load their product at their factories directly into the containers, and the goods will not have to be touched again in shipment, reducing the risk of damage in handling, theft, and exposure to the elements.
Since the scanners are expected to lead to greater volume of import and export into the West Bank, it is also expected to raise additional tax revenue for the PA. An estimate from the office of Quartet envoy Tony Blair, which was instrumental in brokering the deal, the introduction of container scanners at Allenby could increase Palestinian trade by $35.5 million a year, which would yield the PA an additional $10.4 million a year in tax revenue.
Talks about putting container scanners into place have been ongoing for years. Veldkamp said it was the “trust and friendship between Israel and the Netherlands” that was able to seal the deal at this time.. “This benefits Palestinian economic development, and takes into account Israel’ssecurity needs, which we really care about,” he said.
Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal announced the deal in Brussels on Monday at the monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers. The issue was discussed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte when they met last month in Holland. Rutte and Rosenthal previously discussed it with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
(www.jpost.com / 28.02.2012)
“There are credible reports that the death toll now often exceeds 100 civilians a day, including many women and children,” UN Under-Secretary-General for political affairs Lynn Pascoe told the UN Security Council.
“The total killed so far is certainly well over 7,500 people.”
Syria’s government said in December that “armed terrorist groups” had killed more than 2,000 soldiers and police.
As world dismay mounted over the bloodshed, France said the Security Council was working on a Syria resolution and urged Russia and China not to veto it, as they have previous drafts.
Secretary of State Clinton told the US Senate it could be argued that Assad is a war criminal, but said using such labels “limits options to persuade leaders to step down from power.”
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe had said on Monday it was time to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court and warned Assad that he would face justice.
However, Tunisia, where a revolt toppled a president last year, would be willing to offer Assad asylum if this would help stop the bloodshed, a senior Tunisian official said.
Security Council resolution
Juppe told the French parliament that work had begun at the Security Council on a resolution that “could order an immediate halt to the hostilities and (allow) humanitarian access while also renewing support for the Arab League plan.”
“I solemnly call on Russia and China not to block this Security Council resolution,” he said.
Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution on February 4 that would have backed an Arab League call for Assad to step down.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said he had discussed the situation with former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, now the UN-Arab League envoy on Syria.
“He is charged with promoting a political solution and I hope he will bring his persuasive powers to bear on Russia and China as well,” he said in response to questions in parliament.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the US ambassador to Moscow had discussed Syria’s “acute humanitarian issues” with a Russian deputy foreign minister on Tuesday — an indication they may have explored a potential UN Security Council resolution.
The Cairo-based Arab League will host an international conference to coordinate humanitarian aid to Syria on March 4, Laila Nagm, a League official, told Reuters.
British photographer Paul Conroy, of London’s Sunday Times, was spirited safely out of Homs into Lebanon. “He is in good shape and in good spirits,” the newspaper said.
Conroy had been among several foreign journalists trapped in Baba Amro, where Marie Colvin, a veteran war correspondent also with the Sunday Times, and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed in a bombardment on Feb. 22.
Confusion surrounded the fate of wounded French reporter Edith Bouvier. President Nicolas Sarkozy initially said he had been informed that Bouvier had been evacuated, but later said it was not clear. “It has not been confirmed that today she is safe in Lebanon,” he said.
Opposition groups say hundreds of civilians have been killed or wounded in the siege of Baba Amro and other rebellious districts in Homs, where terrified residents are enduring dire conditions, without proper supplies of water, food and medicine.
The Syrian military’s latest bombardment of Baba Amro was the heaviest in a 24-day-old assault, activists said, adding that tanks from an elite armored division, which is led by Assad’s brother Maher, had moved into Homs overnight.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 16 people were killed in Homs on Tuesday, a day after 84 were killed in the city, out of an overall death toll of 122 civilians across Syria. The British-based group said 29 security force members had been killed in clashes with rebels on Monday.
In Hama province, security forces bombarded the town of Helfaya, a centre of anti-Assad protests, killing 20 people.
The reports could not be independently confirmed. Syrian authorities tightly restrict media access to the country.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had delivered food and other aid to Homs and Idlib, but called for a “humanitarian ceasefire” to improve access.
Assad, projecting an aura of normality in a land ravaged by conflict over his right to power, promulgated a new constitution on Tuesday after officials said nearly 90 percent of voters had endorsed it in a referendum two days earlier.
Opposition groups and Western leaders seeking Assad’s removal denounced the vote as a charade. Assad says the new constitution will lead to multi-party elections within three months.
Russia repeated its calls for Western and Arab nations to press armed opponents of Assad to stop fighting.
“Thanks to our work with the Syrian authorities, it was possible to lead them to interact with international humanitarian organizations, but we are not seeing similar signals addressed to the militants,” Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov as saying in Geneva.
Trying to “instill democracy through force is doomed to disaster,” Gatilov to the UN rights forum in a swipe at Western interventions, notably in neighboring Iraq.
Syria’s UN ambassador in Geneva, Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui, stormed out of the session after calling on countries to stop “inciting sectarianism and providing arms” to Syrian rebels.
He said foreign sanctions were preventing Damascus from buying medicines and fuel. The European Union imposed additional punitive measures on Tuesday.
The outside world has proved powerless to halt the killing in Syria, where repression of initially peaceful protests has spawned an armed insurrection by army deserters and others.
Foreign powers have argued over whether to arm Syrian rebels, but there is little appetite in the West for any Libya-style military intervention. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have advocated sending weapons to anti-Assad insurgents.
Assad says he is battling a foreign conspiracy featuring “armed terrorist groups” and al Qaeda militants. His opponents scorn his calls for dialogue as meaningless while Syrian security forces are violently repressing dissent.
Arutz 7 (settler radio) short news item in English
Knesset Member Uri Ariel`s Hebrew Press Release – translated by Adam Keller
MK Uri Ariel presents a political program at the Jerusalem Conference: `Annex all of Judea and Samaria`
In a special panel on `Alternatives to a Palestinian state` at the [extreme right] Jerusalem Conference, MK Uri Ariel today introduced his political program, which means annexation of the whole of Judea and Samaria to Israel and giving a chance to a 100% of the residents there to obtain Israeli citizenship.
According to this program, the entire territory will be annexed and all Judea and Samaria Arabs will have the status of permanent residents in Israel. This will give them the very same status enjoyed by 284,000 residents of East Jerusalem, of whom many opinion polls indicated that if given a choice between the State of Israel or a Palestinian state they would choose for Israel.
This status will give them: a blue identity card, social security, health services and all other services given to every citizen in Israel, and the vote in municipal elections for the municipal authority within whose borders they live – but no right to vote in Knesset elections.[Emphasis by translator.]
Any Arabs of Judea and Samaria interested in having a full Israeli citizenship would be able to get it after a five years` waiting period, as in getting the United States citizenship, at whose end they will have to undergo a citizenship test and a Hebrew language test and to sign an oath of loyalty to the State of Israel. After that they would be able to vote to the Knesset.
In order to maintain a Jewish and democratic state, the electoral system will be adapted into a proportional-regional system. When the constituency boundaries are determined, there should be created a situation in which Judea and Samaria will not constitute a single electoral district, as that would give the Arabs a significant representation in the Knesset. Rather, Judea and Samaria will be divided among several constituencies – e.g. Jenin will be incorporated in the Afula Constituency, Nablus – in the Metropolitan Tel Aviv Constituency, Ramallah – in the Greater Jerusalem Constituency, and so on. Thus, a democratic Jewish majority in the Knesset will be maintained.
MK Uri Ariel rejects the suggestion that within 30 years Arab demography will overcome the Jewish one: `This is a fundamental mistake derived from years-long scare propaganda. The trend is reversed, already years they give birth to less and less children, while in the Jewish sector the birth rate is steadily rising. If we also take Aliya into consideration, a two-thirds Jewish majority can be maintained for a considerable period.
MK Uri Ariel continued by emphasizing the importance of a strong economy in the territories. A major element to the success of the program is the ability of Israel to provide equal services and a strong economy for all the Arabs of Judea and Samaria. `There are many indications that the Arab population itself is very tired of the terrorism and lawlessness which prevail over them since Oslo. Experience shows that inside Israel – in the Galilee, Negev and East Jerusalem – the Arabs very much don`t want to give up their blue Identity Cards and the privileges associated with them. It is of great importance that all Judea and Samaria Arabs who become part of Israel will be given an adequate level of services, including good education, welfare, infrastructure, and of course employment. A good and strong economy and equal services are the condition for success.`
MK Uri Ariel summarized the plan and said: `It is clear that it would be difficult to get this idea accepted in the public mind, but what`s a better choice? A Palestinian state in the 1967 lines, with all the dangers which this entrails? And anyway, is it possible to reach a Palestinian state in the present reality? It`s time to stop fearing to exert our rule. The Government of Israel should govern the Jews, the Arabs, the Palestinians and the Druze, and every person who lives in Israel – no longer constantly make efforts to find easy, useless solutions. It`s time we stop burying our heads in the sand. We can continue to blab on Palestinians statehood, but if we don’t put our act together now we will find ourselves in a bi-national state which would be forced upon us and where somebody else will make the rules. If only we stop fearing to seriously govern this country, we can get to that bi-national state with us setting the rules and defining how it would look like. The idea of Palestinian statehood west of the Jordan River was conceived by the Left and quite few Right-wingers were dragged into it, who nowadays try to justify themselves by asserting that you must be `realistic`. But this idea had been tried, and it failed. It`s time to change reality, to present a new alternative and bring the Israeli public – in the end, even the left – to this idea. If only we manage to muster a bit of courage, in a few years we could have a majority supporting full Israeli sovereignty west of the Jordan. That is the best option`.
(occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com / 28.02.2012)
The female prisoner is one of the detainees re-arrested by Israeli forces over the past few weeks. The detainees were freed from Israeli jails in October and December last year under a deal mediated by Egypt to free 1,027 Palestinian inmates in exchange for Hamas-captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Shalabi has reportedly been on a hunger strike since February 16, when she was re-arrested at her home in the occupied West Bank. She has been under “administrative detention” and her lawyer says she has been put in “solitary confinement as punishment for the hunger strike.”
Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza expressed solidarity with the female prisoner. They also chanted slogans against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and censured the United States for supporting Israel.
Meanwhile, a similar demonstration was also held outside the Red Cross office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday
Above: Palestinian demonstrators in Bi’lin marching against Israeli land confiscation.
Your phone calls, emails, and letters to Members of Congress will help us hold Israel accountable for gross human rights violations committed with U.S.-supplied weapons. Below are some talking points to use during your phone call with Members of Congress, and when educating people in your community about this issue.
1. Hold Israel accountable for its misuse of U.S.-supplied high-velocity tear-gas canisters along with Egypt and Bahrain in the State Department’s upcoming report to Congress on tear gas. Israel should be held to the same standard as all other countries. Don’t single Israel out and thereby facilitate more human rights abuses by exempting the Israeli military.
2. The pattern of abuses by the Israeli military against civilians and non-violent demonstrators will continue unless it is held accountable by the supplier of the weapons in question.
3. The Israeli military has repeatedly fired high-velocity tear gas canisters directly at protesters in violation of the military’s own rules of engagement. By using these weapons to deliberately target civilians with disproportionate force, causing grave injuries and deaths, the Israeli military is violating both U.S. and international laws to commit human rights abuses with these tear gas canisters.
4. For the United States to be a credible advocate for human rights, freedom, and equality, we need to back our words with action, and ensure that U.S.-supplied weapons are not being used against non-violent civil rights activists.
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GAZA, (PIC)– All types of Israeli warplanes were seen filling the skies over Gaza Strip on Monday evening as Palestinian security agencies evacuated their buildings in anticipation of possible air strikes.
Quds Press quoted field sources as saying that big numbers of Israeli F-16s, Apache choppers, and drones were seen flying over all areas of the Strip.
The sources pointed out that the warplanes flew at low altitudes, which spread fear among Gazans that they intend new invasion or raids on the enclave.
(occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com / 28.02.2012)