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Israel, Oil, & Military-Industrial Complex Drive Syria Regime Change

11:31 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Anyone with any sense of who and what drives U.S. foreign policy has been blackly pessimistic as the Congressional ‘bomb Syria’ vote approaches. But the charade of a debate goes forward in our campaign-contributions-driven Congress, Secretary of State Kerry giving them assertions not evidence (If the evidence underlying the assertions were real don’t you think Kerry would’ve shown it to us immediately?), but ‘our’ representatives magically in a buying mood for that b.s. I could pause and point out that even the assertions indicate a catastrophic accident occurred, where Syrian conventional bombardment hit rebel sarin gas stores, and that this matches what on-the-ground Ghouta residents say happened (in the year’s most important ignored news story — thanks mintnews.com).

But hell, discussing evidence and assertions … what does it matter when three of America’s main determiners of foreign policy all are bent on destroying Syria? By my count the U.S. has four main foreign policy power constellations: (in no particular order) the Israel lobby, the oil and gas lobby, the military-industrial complex, and the finance industry. Finance is sitting this one out but the other three are gung ho for regime change or Syria destroyed (transformed into squabbling, unstable mini-states).

ISRAEL LOBBY: While I agree with Ohio Barbarian (in The Pro-Israel Argument Against American Military Intervention in Syria) that chaos or regime change in Syria doesn’t help the people of Israel, it is nonetheless what Israeli neocons have long wanted. And they are employing the full force of their Israel Lobby in order to get what they want

This goes back at least to 1996 and “A Clean Break,” the neoconservative game plan that they’ve with great success gotten the U.S. to implement. Syria is mentioned with great deja vu:

“Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which Americans can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon, including … by establishing the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces…”

Back to the present, we of course have plenty to choose from, beginning with this news yesterday on the pinnacle of the Israel Lobby, AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee):

AIPAC comes out for strike on Syria– and mentions Iran more often than Syria:

As NJ Senator Robert Menendez said at the Kerry hearing today in the Senate, Syria is about Iran. And it is for AIPAC too. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee broke its silence today, urging a vote for the Syrian strike.

… why does Obama need AIPAC? Could it be because AIPAC can get 70 Senators’ signatures on a napkin in 24 hours?

But, as I said, there’s much to choose from. Read the following from July, 2006, when Israel was slaughtering Lebanese villagers and razing ‘Shia’ apartment blocks:

Seeing a major opportunity to regain influence lost as a result of setbacks in Iraq, prominent neoconservatives are calling for unconditional U.S. support for Israel’s military offensives in Gaza and Lebanon and “regime change” in Syria and Iran, as well as possible U.S. attacks on Tehran’s nuclear facilities in retaliation for its support of Hezbollah.

And just cuz I like the word ‘stoopid’ in a headline: Syria is About Iran & Israel, Stoopid

OIL & GAS LOBBY: The stakes are high and this lobby surely will do its best to get the U.S. to bomb and kill Syrians for its interests.

Iran, Iraq, Syria sign major gas pipeline deal

July 25, 2011: “Iran, Iraq, and Syria have signed a deal for the construction of the Middle East’s largest gas pipeline, which would transit Iranian gas from Iran’s South Pars gas field to Europe via Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea.”

War against Iran, Iraq AND Syria?

On July 23, 2011, Pepe Escobar writes: “Against the interests of Washington, for whom integrating Iran is anathema, the pipeline bypasses two crucial foreign actors in Syria – prime “rebel” weaponizer Qatar (as a gas producer) and logistical “rebel” supporter Turkey (as the self-described privileged energy crossroads between East and West).” …

“Europeans – who endlessly carp about being hostages of Gazprom – should be rejoicing. But instead,” …

“It’s not far-fetched to imagine the EU totally forgetting about a pipeline that will ultimately benefit its citizens and issuing – under US pressure – a directive branding Iran-Iraq-Syria as a terrorist axis; lobbying for a no-fly zone applying to all; and recruiting jihadis all over for a Holy War against the axis, supported by a fatwa issued by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.”

Syria intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concern

This is a recent article in the Guardian by Nafeez Ahmed, subtitled “Massacres of civilians are being exploited for narrow geopolitical competition to control Mideast oil, gas pipelines.” It also provides the story going back more than a decade of neocon plans to undermine Syria in order to get at Israel nemesis Hezbollah. Ahmed is executive director of the UK’s Institute for Policy Research & Development.

MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX: Hell, I don’t have much that is immediate on these folks other than Rep Alan Grayson: “Nobody Wants This Except the Military-Industrial Complex”. And note that the Israel Lobby’s neoconservative “search for enemies” serves the Pentagon’s most pressing need, and neoconservatives have close ties to the Pentagon.

In an essentially all-capitalist world, one that is (unfortunately) increasingly united on the policies of generating profits for millionaires and squeezing the poor, the best policy for every economic sector except for oil and gas and arms is peace. So the real ‘need’ for massively bloated military power is minimal, and the last couple decades’ conflict of the ages — the Islam fanatics thing — has been mostly hype and false flag b.s. brought to us by the U.S., Saudi Arabia (Al Qaeda’s homies), and Israel (which has its own military-industrial complex that needs to NOT solve the Israel-Palestine conflict).

A little more Grayson: “I did notice, for what it’s worth, that the manufacturer of the missiles that would be used has had an incredible run in their stock value in the last 60 days. Raytheon stock is up 20 percent in the past 60 days as the likelihood of the use of their missiles against Syria becomes more likely. So I understand that there is a certain element of our society that does benefit from this, but they’re not the people who vote for me, or by the way the people who contribute to my campaign. Nobody wants this except the military-industrial complex.”

Thanks Mr. Grayson for at least mentioning one of the three elephants in the room.

‘Israel’ Disappears Palestinian Village, AP Disappears Perpetrators

4:29 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Scratch an obscure hillside in Israel and you find the tragedy and brutality of the Nakba, Israel’s 1948 ethnic cleansing [big map file] of Palestine’s Arab peoples. So, when the AP published Friday one of its many ’normal country’ articles about Israel, describing the excavation of an ancient hillside that was the Philistine town of Gath and later the Arab village of Tell es-Safi (the location also happens to be on the ‘Palestine’ side of the 1947 UN armistice line), a reader should demand that the article answer the following question: “What about Tell es-Safi, why was it abandoned by its inhabitants in 1948?” Wikipedia:

On 7 July [1948] Givaiti* commander Shimon Avidan issued orders to the 51st Battalion to take the Tall al-Safi area and “to destroy, to kill and to expel [lehashmid, leharog, u´legaresh] refugees encamped in the area, in order to prevent enemy infiltration from the east to this important position.”[16] According to Benny Morris, the nature of the written order and, presumably, accompanying oral explanations, probably left little doubt in the battalion OC’s minds that Avidan wanted the area cleared of inhabitants.[17][18]

*The Givati was a brigade of the Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary force from 1920-1948 that would later form the core of the Israeli Defense Forces.

The AP instead reports the ethnic cleansing of the village in the following way, the passive construction excusing and disappearing the Israeli perpetrators:

… later the site became home to an Arab village, Tel el-Safi, which emptied during the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948.

(The Israeli university conducting the archaelogical dig is even more demure, referring not at all to the Arab ghost town or 1948 but only to “the site known as Tell es-Safi.”)

Almost always, when a news story touches on recent Palestinian or Israeli history, the anonymous Wikipedia army crushes the mainstream press. Wikipedia regularly provides readers the full, important truth. Wikipedia of course has lots of flaws — among them that it doesn’t have an encyclopedia entry entitled ‘The Nakba’ — but in this case: Wikipedia good, unafraid, unbiased, complete truth; AP bad, afraid, pro-ethnic-cleansing biased, very important truth left out.

And the whole truth matters, because it would inform clueless Americans — on this topic the vast majority — about ‘why they hate us’. ‘They’ hate the U.S. government for its always unquestioning but now increasingly enthusiastic support for Israel’s ethnic cleansing project, which is ongoing in July 2011, 63 years after the village of Tell es-Safih was cleansed and disappeared.

In the late 19th century, Tell al-Safi was described as a village built of adobe brick with a well in the valley to the north.[13] James Hastings notes that the modern village prior to its depopulation also contained a sacred walī.[7]

The villagers of Tall al-Safi were Muslim, and they had a mosque, a marketplace, and a shrine for a local sage called Shaykh Mohammad. In 1944 a total of 19,716 dunums [1 dunum = .25 acres] of land were used for cereals, while 696 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards.[14]

To stop the ethnic cleansing please support Desmond Tutu’s call for the boycott of and divestment from an apartheid Israel.

Send Barbara Boxer a human rights for Palestinians message

4:24 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Barbara Boxer Gets Progressive Support Despite Checkered Record on Human Rights, International Law
Boxer takes the positions she does not because AIPAC forces her, but because she can get progressives to campaign for her, donate money to her, and vote for her anyway.
By Stephen Zunes
October 18, 2010

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Barbara Boxer shaking hands with Ariel Sharon

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"The army knows the kids are there to collect. They watch them every day and they know they have no weapons," said Mohammed Abu Rukbi, a fieldworker with DCI. "They usually fire warning shots but the kids don’t take much notice."

Mohammed Sobboh, 17, [ABOVE] was shot just above the knee on August 25 when he was 800 metres from the border, he said. The 12 people in his family have no other income and are not entitled to aid from the UN as they are not refugees.

Israeli soldiers shot dead a horse and a donkey used by Mohammed and his brothers to carry the rubble, he said.

Gaza teens brave IDF fire to collect salvaged building materials
In three months, soldiers shot and wounded 10 youths collecting building materials in expanded buffer zone.
By Amira Hass
October 10, 2010

In the course of three months this summer Israeli soldiers shot and wounded 10 Palestinian teenagers who collect building materials from demolished structures in the former Israeli settlements and the Erez industrial zone in the northern Gaza Strip, dozens or hundreds of meters from the border. Palestinians believe the shootings are aimed at keeping people away from these areas, but despite the great risk dozens of nearby residents, many of them minors, continue to come in order to collect bits of cement and gravel from inside the buildings that were destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces around the time of the 2005 disengagement, and sell them to contractors and factories in the Strip. …

Every day dozens of people come to the ruins of the industrial zone and the settlements, such as Elei Sinai, in wagons drawn by donkeys or horses. One of the teens, who was shot on August 25, told Defence for Children that in recent months soldiers also shot and killed one of the donkeys and three of the horses.

Most of the children tell of a father who is unemployed. Some were among the thousands of Gazans who worked in Israel up until 2006, when their work permits were revoked. The father of one of the teens was forced to close his store as a result of Israel’s ban on the entry of goods it did not define as "humanitarian" into the Strip. After the death, about two years ago, of a 14-year-old shooting victim identified as "N.," the teen dropped out of school to help support his family. That is the story of all these teens, dropping out and going out to work. They all said in their statements that they are afraid to go back to collecting gravel. Some have difficulty walking or carrying heavy loads as a result of their injuries.

Some of the teens sold vegetables in the streets of Gaza City, earning only about NIS 20 or NIS 30 per day, before hearing from neighbors or acquaintances that one could make NIS 40 or more from collecting gravel.

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Nine year old Amal and her twelve year old brother Mahmoud witnessed their father and brother being shot dead. Their house was also destroyed. Amal was injured and now lives with shrapnel embedded in her brain which leads to blinding headaches and visual impairment. She struggles with her homework and often finds it difficult to help her mother around the house. Amal says her wish is to become a doctor and help sick people.

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Omsyatte, whose home was destroyed by F16s during the 2008 military offensive.

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Nasser Abu Said outside the shrapnel-riddled home where his wife, Ne’ema, was killed by Israeli artillery.

Mother of five killed by Israeli artillery fire close to Gaza buffer zone
Three relatives also wounded in shelling on Gaza border, as family say no rockets were heard being fired before attack
Harriet Sherwood in Johar a-Deek
Friday 16 July 2010

…According to the woman’s husband, Nasser Abu Said, 37, the attack began without warning at about 8.30pm on Tuesday with two shells being fired as the family of 17 sat outside their house in the village of Johar a-Deek. Apart from Nasser and his 65-year-old father, the entire group was women and children.

"It was completely quiet, there were no rockets being fired or we wouldn’t have been sitting outside," he said, referring to Qassam missiles launched by militants into Israel.

His sister and his brother’s wife were injured by shrapnel. The family moved indoors and called an ambulance. "About 10 minutes later the ambulance called back to say the Israelis had refused them permission to come to the house," said Nasser.

His wife Ne’ema, 33, soon realised their youngest son, Jaber, was not among the children she was attempting to calm down, and was probably asleep on a mattress outside that he often shared with his grandfather.

As she went to fetch the toddler, another shell landed. "I called to my wife three times," said Nasser, who realised his father had also been badly injured in his leg and stomach. "I could hear small noises coming from her. I knew she was dying."

Via Palestinian co-ordinators, the IDF told the family that anyone going outside the house would be shot dead. Nasser began to tend to his injured father, knowing he could not reach his dying wife.

"I was holding myself in, especially in front of the children," he said. The children were crying hysterically and some had wet themselves, he added.

After two hours, an ambulance was allowed to reach the family. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), which investigated the incident, said Ne’ema and her wounded relatives were taken to al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al-Balah, where it was confirmed she had died from shrapnel wounds.

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) said it had identified a number of suspects close to the border. "An IDF force fired at the suspects and identified hitting them," it said. The incident was being investigated, it added, but declined to say why ambulances had not been allowed to reach the family. …

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29 December 2008: Palestinian children walk past a destroyed mosque and houses after they were hit by an Israeli missile strike that killed Jawaher Baalusha, 4, and her four sisters in the northern Gaza Strip.

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29 December 2008: A Palestinian man carries his wounded child to the treatment room of Kamal Adwan hospital following an Israeli missile strike in Beit Lahiya.

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1 January 2009: A Palestinian woman with two wounded members of her family in hospital following an Israeli missile strike in Beit Hanoun. Israel dropped a bomb on the home of a Hamas strongman, killing him along with two wives and four children in the first attack on the top leadership of Gaza’s rulers.

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5 January 2009: A Palestinian woman sits on the floor beside her baby wounded by an Israeli tank shell, at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza. An Israeli tank shell killed three Palestinian children in their home in eastern Gaza City, medical officials said.

Gaza’s children suffer as conflict enters the classroom
The Israeli blockade and years of fighting have taken their toll on Gaza’s schools, where failure rates are rapidly rising
Rory McCarthy in Gaza City
Friday 16 May 2008

On this morning there was no electricity for the first four hours of school, there were no lights and staff had to use a whistle instead of the electric school bell. There was no running water, save what had been held in reserve in a spare tank at the bathroom. There was no bread for sale in the canteen because of shortages at the bakeries, even though many of the children rely on the small school shop to buy their breakfast. This, a result of the Israeli economic blockade of Gaza, was an ordinary day in extraordinary times.

More worrying are warning signs of a broader disintegration of society, such as those seen in exam results. Last autumn, the UN, which runs some of the best schools in Gaza, noted a sharp increase in exam failures. The failure rate in Arabic between ages nine and 15 was between 34.9% and 61.1% . In maths at the same age the failure rate was even higher at more than 65% , peaking at around age 11 with an astonishing failure rate of 90%. That compares with a failure rate of just 10% at UN schools in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria.

"There’s been a big change. There’s no enjoyment in the children’s lives, no going out, no picnics. There’s a lot of pressure on them and I can feel it in the class," said al-Katib. "They don’t do their homework, they make any excuse – no electricity, or they were sick, or tired. They are less attentive in class than they used to be."

It is not hard to cast a protest vote for a U.S. Senate candidate who expresses your values on Israel and Palestine.

Israel/Palestine position of Green Party California U.S. Senate candidate, Duane Roberts:

Duane Supports… Ending all U.S. military and economic aid to the state of Israel and the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people, including the right of refugees to return.

Israel/Palestine position of Green Party Illinois U.S. Senate candidate, LeAlan Jones:

We should adopt the Israel-Palestine single-state solution and end apartheid in the Middle East. Nations should be based on our collective humanity, not our divisive religions. and we must take steps guarantee that no taxpayer money supports state-sponsored terrorism or assassination. This means no more investing in Israel bonds, Saudi Arabia or China.

‘Show Us a Map; We’ll Recognize an Israel that Doesn’t Include West Bank & E. Jerusalem’

12:44 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

We officially demand that the US administration and the Israeli government provide a map of the borders of the state of Israel which they want us to recognize. …

We want to know whether this state includes our lands and houses in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. …

If this map is based on the 1967 borders and provides for the end of the Israeli occupation over all Palestinian lands… then we recognize Israel by whatever name it applies to itself in accordance with international law.

Senior Palestinian Official Yasser Abed Rabbo

This of course under-reported in the U.S. move by the Palestinians (the latest U.S. ‘news’/propaganda on I/P, by the way, is "Israel offers settlement freeze in exchange for recognition; Palestinians say ‘no’") is smart if it increases international attention on what the U.S. and Israel are asking Palestinians to recognize: a borderless state fully expanded into Palestinian territory. Abed Rabbo added:

It is important for us to know where are the borders of Israel and where are the borders of Palestine. Any formulation the Americans present – even asking us to call Israel the ‘Chinese State’ – we will agree to it, as long as we receive the 1967 borders. We have recognized Israel in the past, but Israel has not recognized the Palestinian state.

Other Israel occupation news:

One year sentence for peacefully protesting ‘apartheid wall’
October 13, 2010; The Independent (UK)

That peaceful protester could be Israel’s partner for peace
By Libby Lenkinski Friedlander
September 24, 2010; Haaretz

Gazan Samir Al-Nadeem dies after waiting 35 days for exit visa to receive heart treatment
October 13, 2010; IPS

BDS Success: Unilever to Move Factory out of West Bank
October 12, 2010; Alternative Information Center (AIC)

Helen Thomas: You cannot criticize Israel in the U.S. and survive
October 12, 2010; Haaretz

Top 10 worst errors Israel is about to make
By Bradley Burston
October 12, 2010; Haaretz

The Jewish Republic of Israel
By Gideon Levy
October 10, 2010; Haaretz

Netanyahu, Lieberman and Barak are making Israel into a ghetto
By Avirama Golan
October 13, 2010; Haaretz

Golan’s is a passionate whine, but one of the Haaretz comments smacks it down with, I guess, the right degree of pessimism/realism:

Compelling but misleading analysis
Michael N; 10.13.10

To argue that the Crazy Right is scuttling the dream of the Old Zionist to create a normal state is misleading. There is plenty on the record to conclusively show that Ben-Gurion and many in the leadership of the Yishuv aspired to create a Jewish state to the exclusion of the Palestinians. The difference is that they were not as obtuse and ‘thuggy’ about their intentions and how to go about implementing it. The other salient differences are the reservoir of good intentions towards the new struggling state, which by now is all but gone, and the demise of the successor to MAPAI, the old labor party. The train has long left the station. There is nothing to lament. Likud and Israel Beiteinu are the true reflection of Israel and its people today. There is no viable center-left party that can lead a sober-sane electorate. Israel moves down the slippery slope of jingoism. Too bad.

Israel Now Punishing Palestinians Shamelessly

2:25 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Amira Hass asks what is delaying treatment of a 47-year-old Palestinian woman, Khalida Jarrar, who needs diagnostic brain tests that cannot be done in the West Bank due to lack of the necessary medical equipment?

This is a mere footnote in the chronicle of the Palestinians’ life under foreign rule. But this footnote is a typical chapter in the history of Israeli society: a democratic society that gives those wonderful fellows from the Shin Bet a blank check to act like the last of the great dictators and juggle with their subjects’ lives – without elections, without oversight, without supervision. Their word is sacrosanct. And if they say, as they did in reply to Haaretz, "Relevant information exists indicating that [Jarrar's] exit from the area poses a risk to our security," we all salute.

‘Salute’ cuz that’s what’s done in an incorrigibly (?) militarized society (things seem to have gone much further militarization-wise than they have in the U.S., though Americans _can_ relate). And, of course, as Hass notes, if there were any evidence that Jarrar was dangerous, she would’ve been arrested long ago. The real explanation for her brutal treatment may relate to the fact that she is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, representing the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. She wants the Israel occupiers out, and the occupiers don’t like that.

Hass concludes:

For what is the endless postponement of an urgent medical test if not torture of a sick person and her family? . . .

Until six or eight years ago, a journalist’s report of a similar situation would have embarrassed someone up there on the security ladder and an exit permit for medical reasons would have been issued despite the "security considerations." But today, the sense of shame has disappeared. Society’s backing is assured.

What has happened to Israel that virtually no one there anymore stands up against this sort of brutal injustice and bullying? Why are the good people both of Israel and among her sympathizers so silent?

Can’t say ‘Israeli apartheid’ in Toronto

4:19 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Let them in the parade and let people along the parade route judge for themselves. I’ve booed and shouted opinions at a few organizations in gay pride parades.

Do we have to act as if everyone with a sign in a gay pride parade has to follow a certain script?

Geena | June 9, 2010 12:29 PM

It’s strange that the phrase ‘Israeli apartheid’ is now banned at a major political event in Toronto. This involves a pro-Palestinian group that has marched in Toronto’s gay pride parade for many years, as have groups supporting Israeli government policies. That ‘both sides’ approach seems so civilized and democratic, but times are a-changing and not for the better.

Pride festival bans ‘Israeli apartheid’
Toronto parade marshal resigns in protest
By Carmen Chai
Windsor Star
June 8, 2010

This year’s Toronto Gay Pride Parade Grand Marshal has resigned and 23 former Pride Toronto activists announced on Monday they have pulled out of Pride festivities after organizers banned the term "Israeli apartheid" from its 10-day event.

"Pride’s recent decision to ban the term ‘Israeli apartheid’ and thus prohibit the participation of the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid in Pride celebrations this year is a slap in the face to our history of diverse voices," said Alan Li, a co-founder of Gay Asians Toronto who rejected his appointment as grand marshal.

"Pride’s choice to take a pre-emptive step to censor our own communities’ voices and concerns in response to political and corporate pressure shows a lack of backbone to stand up for principles of inclusiveness and anti-oppression." . . .

Pride Toronto is a not-for-profit organization that hosts an annual festival held during the first weekend of July in Toronto. With attendance of more than 1.2 million people, it is the third-largest Pride celebration in the world and the largest in North America.

Pride would have lost as much as $600,000 in sponsorship money and city funding" forced the organizers of the march, Pride Toronto, to betray free speech.

Len Rudner, Ontario director for the Canadian Jewish Congress, said characterizing the dispute as matter of free speech versus censorship is inaccurate.

“This is not about free speech, this is about financial accountability,” said Mr. Rudner.

“The Pride committee found itself in a situation where it had to consider whether it was placing its funding in jeopardy.”

As usual, the language of politically correct censorship was employed by the oppressors (p.c. arguments answered well by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (pdf) (in short, it’s a parade, not a work environment)):

PT issued a statement on its website, saying the decision to ban the term "Israeli Apartheid" was not taken lightly.

"The board of Pride Toronto listened to members of our community," it said. "What we heard overwhelmingly was that the use of the words ‘Israeli Apartheid’ made participants feel unsafe."

Tim McCaskell, a member of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA), spoke to Xtra after PT’s release.

"If people feel unsafe, I would suggest that they are being manipulated," he said. "If the word is ‘uncomfortable,’ well, Pride makes a lot of people uncomfortable."

Oh, and yeah, Israel’s rule in the occupied territory fully qualifies as apartheid. As the folks who know say:

‘This is like apartheid’: ANC veterans visit West Bank
By Donald Macintyre in Hebron
Friday, 11 July 2008

Veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle said last night that the restrictions endured by Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories was in some respects worse than that imposed on the black majority under white rule in South Africa.

Members of a 23-strong human-rights team of prominent South Africans cited the impact of the Israeli military’s separation barrier, checkpoints, the permit system for Palestinian travel, and the extent to which Palestinians are barred from using roads in the West Bank.

After a five-day visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories, some delegates expressed shock and dismay at conditions in the Israeli-controlled heart of Hebron. Uniquely among West Bank cities, 800 settlers now live there and segregation has seen the closure of nearly 3,000 Palestinian businesses and housing units. Palestinian cars (and in some sections pedestrians) are prohibited from using the once busy streets.

"Even with the system of permits, even with the limits of movement to South Africa, we never had as much restriction on movement as I see for the people here," said an ANC parliamentarian, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge of the West Bank. "There are areas in which people would live their whole lifetime without visiting because it’s impossible."

Mrs Madlala-Routledge, a former deputy health minister in President Thabo Mbeki’s government, added: "While I want to be careful not to characterise everything that I see here as apartheid, I just do find comparisons in a number of places. I also find differences."

Comparisons with apartheid have long been anathema to majority Israeli opinion, though they have been somewhat less taboo since the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, last year warned that without an early two-state agreement Israel could face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights.

Fatima Hassan, a leading South African human rights lawyer, said: "The issue of separate roads, [different registration] of cars driven by different nationalities, the indignity of producing a permit any time a soldier asks for it, and of waiting in long queues in the boiling sun at checkpoints just to enter your own city, I think is worse than what we experienced during apartheid." She was speaking after the tour, which included a visit to the Holocaust Museum at Yad Vashem and a meeting with Israel’s Chief Justice, Dorit Beinisch.

One prominent member of the delegation, who declined to be named, said South Africa had been "much poorer" both during and after apartheid than the Palestinian territories. But he added: "The daily indignity to which the Palestinian population is subjected far outstrips the apartheid regime. And the effectiveness with which the bureaucracy implements the repressive measures far exceed that of the apartheid regime."

Whether Israel within its pre-1967 borders is an apartheid state, I’d say not, but this website disagrees with me:

ISRAELI APARTHEID LAWS

UC Berkeley ‘divest from the occupation’ bill still undecided

10:25 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

ASUC Senate Still Undecided on Vetoed Divestment Bill

By Allie Bidwell and Nick Myers
Contributing Writers
Last Updated Thursday, April 15, 2010 | 9:46 am

Following a nearly nine-hour discussion that began at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday evening and lasted into Thursday morning, ASUC senators have yet to reach a decision on whether or not they would uphold or override President Will Smelko’s March 24 veto of a controversial bill urging the student government and the UC to divest from two companies that have supplied Israel with materials for alleged war crimes.

After an initial 12-7-1 vote to uphold Smelko’s veto, the senate tabled the bill and will reconsider it next week. Several senators said they would work to alter the bill.

The student who abstained said she just did not feel qualified to vote on the measure, which I think we all can sympathize with. On the other hand, as I’ve written before, the illegality and stark immorality of Israel’s occupation and colonization of occupied Palestine doesn’t take a Middle East expert to ‘get’, in my opinion. Richard Falk (Albert G. Milbank Professor of International Law & Practice Emeritus and Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestinian Territories, UN Human Rights Council), in a letter to the UC Berkeley student senate, states the case for divestment extremely well. It’s not that complicated:

First of all, it has become painfully clear that neither the United Nations, the United States, the actions of other governments, nor world public opinion are willing or able to persuade or pressure Israel to terminate policies that are both violations of Geneva Convention IV, governing occupation, and international criminal law, relating to both war crimes and crimes against humanity. At the same time, there is reason to believe that efforts by Palestinians to wage what might be called the Legitimacy War, are having a strong impact on Israel and elsewhere. . . .

Secondly, we in the United States face a special challenge as our tax dollars, economic and military assistance, and unconditionally supportive diplomacy have shielded Israel from mechanisms of accountability for criminal behavior. . . .

It should be also noted that the people of Gaza have been subjected to an unlawful Israeli blockade that has for more than 32 months limited the entry of food, medicine, and fuel to subsistence levels, with widely reported drastic harm to physical and mental health of the entire population. There are two related points here: the allegations of criminality are abundantly documented, including by a range of respected human rights organization in Israel and occupied Palestine; and the U.S. Government has done its best to ensure the continuation of Israeli impunity and it has been complicit as arms supplier and as a country deferential to the blockade despite its gross and clear violation of the prohibition against collective punishment contained in Article 33 of Geneva IV. . . .

Thirdly, by targeting General Electric and United Technologies for divestment, the Senate shows that it is not acting arbitrarily or punitively, but seeking to take action against corporations that are supplying precisely the weaponry used by Israel to impose its unlawful will on occupied Palestinian territories. . . .

Although most emphasis on criminality has been placed on Israeli policies toward the Gaza Strip, it is also relevant to note that Israeli policies on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem have consistently ignored the obligations imposed on an occupying power by Geneva IV, and have done so in a manner that has consistently undermined hopes for peace. Israel has continued to build and expand settlements, unlawful by Article 49(6) of Geneva IV prohibiting transfers of population of the occupying power to an occupied territory; the scale of these unlawful settlements, with some 121 settlements established on the West Bank alone and over 200,000 Israel settlers now living in East Jerusalem, has produced an aggregate settler population of about 450,000. . . .

A final expression of Israeli lawlessness can be noted in its continued construction of a separation wall on occupied Palestine land despite a 14-1 judgment by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that the wall was unlawful, should be dismantled, and Palestinians compensated for the harm done. It is notable that the ICJ is a diverse and respected international institution that rarely reaches such a level of unanimity on controversial issues.

It was dissapointing to find, in the Daily Californian article, that those in favor of upholding the ASUC President’s veto argued not against the substance of the bill — which targets two companies and asks the University of California "to divest from companies that profit from and enable Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, Israel’s illegal settlements, Israel’s illegal wall, and Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes" — but instead took the victim approach:

Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman, the executive director of Berkeley Hillel, said he felt overriding the veto would be detrimental to the Jewish student population at UC Berkeley because students told him they would feel unsafe and uncomfortable being a Jewish student on campus.

A majority, or at least a very substantial minority, of those UC Berkeley students most actively in support of divesting from the occupation — no, not divesting from Israel or Jews — are themselves Jewish. Oh well, it’s these deliberately failed distinctions that drive what passes for debate in this mainstream-media-messed-up country.

Let’s hope for a slightly better result when the student senate takes up the bill again next week. Only one vote needs to change for the veto to be overriden. In order to gain that one vote, senators said they are considering modifying the bill. One humble but strategic suggestion I would make — under a heading of ‘keep it simple’ — is to change the name of the measure from ‘divest from war crimes’ to ‘divest from the occupation’.

Singling Out Israel in Berkeley: 5 Reasons

2:57 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

This Wednesday, UC Berkeley’s Student Senate will vote to override its President’s veto of a measure that calls for the University of California "to divest from companies that profit from and enable Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, Israel’s illegal settlements, Israel’s illegal wall, and Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes.” In a statement defending the veto, senate President Will Smelko — who had been inundated by e-mails opposing the meaure — cited the divisiveness of the proposal and that it would be unfair to single out Israel for divestment (J Street cites the ‘singling out’ argument too, in its opposition to the measure). Further reporting and background on the measure can be found here.

Yaman Salahi*** wrote ably that Singling out Israel is the right thing to do, but I don’t think he voices all of the arguments as to why in particular a single-minded activist focus on BDSing institutions connected to the illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories is a great strategy and the right thing to do.

So, given that Israel is just one among many nations grossly violating the human rights of people under its control, why is it smart for activists to concentrate some of their activism on making Israel – rather than, for example, Iran, Sudan, Sri Lanka, or North Korea – stop its unjust, inhumane policies towards occupied Palestine?

1. Chances for Success. Relative to those other places, focusing on Israel’s injustice toward the Palestinians in the illegally occupied Palestinian Territories is where activist efforts will likely be most successful. Naomi Klein writes, "Boycott is not a dogma; it is a tactic. The reason the BDS [Boycott, Divest & Sanction] strategy should be tried against Israel is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work."

2. ‘The West’ Is Already Handling Sudan, Iran & North Korea. Assuming those four other nations are a fair representation of where activists should be spreading their efforts, instead of concentrating them on Israel (not that there is any proof that Israel/Palestine activists – or defenders of Israeli policies for that matter – are singularly focusing their activism on Israel/Palestine), the U.S. government is already ably carrying the ball on the Sudan, North Korea and Iran injustice fronts. In fact, today President Obama convenes a conference whose purpose is to focus world efforts, including stiff boycotts and sanctions, on pressuring North Korea and Iran to go non-nuclear. (The UC Berkeley Student Senate, by the way, has in its history passed divestment bills on Darfur, Sudan, and against apartheid South Africa.)

3. Injustice in the Palestinian Occupied Territories is Unambiguous. Sri Lanka (and an array of similar places of seeming injustice) is a different matter, its injustices largely ignored by the U.S. and ‘the West’. So, why are U.S. progressives and others much more active trying to right wrongs done to Palestinians rather than the wrongs done to the Tamils of Sri Lanka? Well, the obvious answer is that most of us know a lot more about the Israel/Palestine issue, and perhaps we are wrong but the Palestinian Territories injustice (occupation and colonization in direct violation of UN resolutions) in ‘I/P land’ seems unambiguous, while (perhaps because we are not knowledgeable enough) the injustice in Sri Lanka (and similar ‘ignored’ settings) is not nearly as clear.

4. Concentrate Activism Where Success is Most Likely. I hope it’s not repetitive to talk about ‘bang for buck’ theory, which means that it’s smart for activists to concentrate their efforts where they are likely to have the most success. That’s how human rights activists best leverage their activism. Justice for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, for a variety of reasons, has a much greater chance for success than does justice for Sri Lanka’s Tamils. Not to diminish the efforts of the millions of individuals in the Tamil diaspora, but for whatever reason their cause is little known among most Americans and others in the West. Secondly, as I have mentioned, the clarity of the injustice against the Palestinians, an occupation and Israeli colonization specifically illegal under international law, makes it easier to persuade uncommitted individuals to be sympathetic to and supportive of the Palestinian cause. Thirdly, there already is a ‘Boycott, Divest, and Sanction’ movement that is having rapidly escalating success.

5. Concentrate Activism Where Success is Most Important. Finally, activists should focus their efforts on Palestine/Israel because correcting injustice there has much greater realpolitik significance than does correcting injustice in more localized conflicts (such as injustice in Sri Lanka). Israel’s policies toward Occupied Palestine is perhaps the most important stumbling block to long-term peace between ‘the West’ and the people of the Middle East, if not between the entire Muslim and Western worlds.

The ASUC meeting is scheduled to take place Wednesday, April 14, at 7 p.m, in the senate chambers, 400 Eshelman Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. Senate President Smelko’s e-mail address is president@asuc.org. The names and e-mail addresses of the Senate members are here.

***I particularly like these sentences from Salahi’s opinion piece:

Those who believe that confronting Israel is unfair are themselves relying on an unacceptable double standard, "singling out" Israel, so to speak, as the one country expressly permitted to wantonly attack and persecute its minority citizens and subjects while the rest of the world passively watches. However, there can be only one universal standard of human rights. Privileging one state or actor over all others to remove it from accountability creates double standards that undermine the integrity of social justice activism all over the world.

NO 2 IDF Chief, YES 2 Gaza & Corrie, Today 5pm NYC

12:47 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

(Details on where, when, why of march/protest at bottom of diary)

Hundreds set to turn out for anti-Israel Defense Forces demo in NY
Protesters plan to march outside Waldorf Astoria, where Friends of the IDF will host dinner for IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi
By E.B. Solomont
Jerusalem Post
March 9, 2010

. . . The protest is being sponsored by a broad coalition of about 25 left-wing groups, including American Jews for a Just Peace, Codepink, Gaza Freedom March and Jewish Voice for Peace. Organized by Jews Say No!, the protest was endorsed by the Israeli groups Coalition of Women for Peace and BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS From Within.

“We think it’s inappropriate for an American organization to be feting the Israeli army, when the Israeli army is implicated in violations of international law,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson, director of Jewish Voice for Peace. She said Operation Cast Lead opened up people’s eyes to the role that the Israeli army plays. The Goldstone Report also made people consider the notion that the IDF is fallible, she added.

“Definitely, it has opened up a big conversation in the Jewish community,” she said, observing that in the past year more Jews have begun “questioning the idea that Israel is always right.”

Okay, I admit, the actual Jerusalem Post headline was "Hundreds set to turn out for anti-Israel demo in NY." I.e., equating support for Israel with support for its the criminal actions of its military, like labeling an anti-Iraq war protest an anti-U.S. protest. But, okay, par for the Jerusualem Post course, and we move on. . . . to more important positive news out of Israel/Palestine from a basic humanitarian perspective. Note btw the efforts by Israel to avoid a fair verdict:

Israeli Defense Ministry goes on trial for Corrie death
March 9, 2010
Ma’an News

Jerusalem – On Wednesday, the Israeli Defense Ministry will go on trial as a court hears a case filed by the parents of an American woman run down by an Israeli military bulldozer in Gaza, in March 2003.

A civil suit seeks to hold Israeli forces responsible for the death of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old activist who was crushed to death as she protested a Palestinian home from demolition in the Gaza Strip.

"We claim that her assassination was intentional," or, at the very least, that the army is guilty of "huge negligence," Hussein Abu Hussein, the attorney who filed the petition on behalf of Corrie’s parents, commented.

Abu Hussein cites the state’s acknowledgment of the fact that Corrie and other members of the International Solidarity Movement—a Palestinian-led peace organization that advocates non-violent means of resistance to the Israeli occupation—were demonstrating in the area for several hours before Corrie was struck by the bulldozer. He also points out that Corrie was wearing a fluorescent orange vest to increase her visibility.

At the time of her death, the Israeli military response was that the driver of the machine did not see Corrie.

"If you see people, you should stop and think of all the needed steps not to harm [them]. Instead of stopping the D9, which weighs 64 tons, they continued. And due to that, [Corrie] was killed," Abu Hussein said.

Four of Corrie’s fellow activists who witnessed her death were initially denied entry into Israel where they were asked to testify at the trial, but US pressure reportedly changed the Israeli position. A US citizen and three UK nationals will now be able to speak at the trial, which is expected to last two weeks.

Israel will not issue an entry permit to Dr Ahmed Abu Nakira, the Gazan physician who saw Corrie after she was injured and declared her dead. The state rejected the request for his entry on the grounds that there is no coordination between Israel and Gaza, due to the Israeli blockade that began after Hamas rose to power in 2007.

"It’s an obstacle to justice," Abu Hussein said. "On the one side, [Israel] won’t give permission [for Dr Abu Nakira] to come; on the other they won’t allow him to testify by videoconference, which is used daily by courts everywhere in the modern world."

More from the Corrie family, Cindy and Craig, here:

Call to Action: Corrie Trial in Israel, March 10-24, 2009

Friends,

As many of you know, a civil lawsuit in the case of our daughter Rachel Corrie is scheduled for trial in the Haifa District Court beginning March 10, 2010. A human rights observer and activist, Rachel, 23, tried nonviolently to offer protection for a Palestinian family whose home was threatened with demolition by the Israeli military. On March 16, 2003, she was crushed to death by an Israel Defense Force (IDF) Caterpillar D9R bulldozer in Rafah, Gaza.

The lawsuit is one piece of our family’s seven-year effort to pursue justice for our daughter and sister. We hope this trial will illustrate the need for accountability for thousands of lives lost, or indelibly injured, by occupation—in a besieged and beleaguered Gaza and throughout Palestine/Israel; bring attention to the assault on nonviolent human rights activists (Palestinian, Israeli, and international); and underscore the fact that so many Palestinian families, harmed as deeply as ours, cannot access Israeli courts.

In order to deliver these interconnected messages as effectively as possible, we are asking for large-scale participation in the trial itself as well as in the events surrounding it. We hope you will join us for all or some of the events listed below and help us to put the call out to others. . . .

Craig and Cindy Corrie

Their PDF press release is here: Family Seeks Accountability Seven Years After An Israeli Military Bulldozer Crushed Their 23 Year Old Daughter To Death

Okay, let’s give you the details on today’s protest/march:

PROTEST THE ANNUAL FUNDRAISING DINNER OF THE FRIENDS OF THE ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES & KEYNOTE IDF CHIEF OF STAFF GABI ASHKENAZI

WHEN: Tuesday, March 9, 2010, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.

WHERE: New York City, 53rd St and Lexington Ave. Signs and procession route provided. (The dinner is at the Waldorf Astoria)

WHAT: The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a registered 501-(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that provides support and services to members of Israel’s national army, will be holding a $1,000 a plate fundraiser at the Waldorf Astoria, New York City. The keynote speaker will be Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, IDF Chief of General Staff, who was responsible for the prosecution of last year’s Operation Cast Lead against the people of Gaza. At the same time as the dinner, a broad coalition of local groups will stage a mobile protest outside the hotel to highlight the crimes committed by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead as well as Israel’s ongoing illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip.

WHY:

NO TO THE IDF’s BRUTALITY!

NO TO THE OCCUPATION AND SIEGE OF GAZA!

YES TO THE GOLDSTONE REPORT!

YES TO JUSTICE FOR THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE!

Please wear black if you can. We will provide dynamic signs!

Co-sponsored by Jews Say No!, Adalah-NY, Gaza Freedom March, Judson Church, Women In Black Union Square, Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism, Codepink, Brooklyn For Peace, Women of a Certain Age, Center for Immigrant Families, Wespac, Middle East Crisis Response, Regeneración Childcare NYC, National Lawyers Guild-NY Chapter, Post Road, American Jews for a Just Peace, Jewish Voice For Peace, Woodstock Veterans For Peace, A.R.T. (Activist Response Team), Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA, Progressive Democrats of America, NYC Anti-War Coalition, and New York Collective of Radical Educators

Endorsed by Coalition of Women for Peace, and BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS From Within

Finally, other news you may not have seen about the ongoing injustice in Palestine/Israel. Yup, consider it semi-official, it’s apartheid:

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine on March 3rd concluded the EU should sanction Israel until violations stop, ruling in Barcelona, Spain on six questions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The jurists were assembled from around the world and issued their conclusions, among them stipulating that Israel practices a form of apartheid. The Tribunal’s judgements are not judicially binding but are meant to examine the complicity of the European Union in perpetuating what the Tribunal called Israel’s "policy of war, occupation, and colonization for 60 years."