Thursday, April 24, 2014

Divestment passes at University of California at Riverside

UC Riverside’s divestment campaign logo. (Courtesy UCR-SJP)
 Electronic Intifada
"Last night, the student senate at the University of California at Riverside voted to support a resolution sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine calling on the university to pull its investments from US companies profiting from Israel’s occupation.
Just before midnight Wednesday, student senators voted to uphold the resolution by a narrow margin — eight in favor, seven against and one abstaining — during an evening in which three separate California universities held divestment resolution hearings, dubbed a “divestapalooza” by student activists and boycott advocates on social media. UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara and San Diego State University held simultaneous resolution hearings; but only UC Riverside passed divestment."

Khalidi: It’s time for Palestinians ‘to get off their knees’ and turn to Europe and ICC

Rashid Khalidi.
Rashid Khalidi said today that the US opposition to the reunification of Palestinian parties exposes the “farce” that is the peace process. It is in fact a “bring them to the table on their knees process,” and the U.S. rejects a Northern Ireland model– in which George Mitchell negotiated among all parties to the conflict– because the Israel lobby won’t let it pursue that course.
And what does the future hold? Europe should put its foot down and distance itself from Netanyahu’s “obduracy and intransigence,” Khalidi said. And now that John Kerry’s promises of progress are “null and void,” the Palestinians should seek to join the International Criminal Court.

Settlers attack children walking back home from school

"This is 6 and a half year old Rasha Salameh. Today, around 2pm, she was with two other children from the Southern Hebron Hills community of Maghayir al-'Abid. The children, together with Rasha's mother, were walking back home from school in a-Tuwani. When the group was near the Israeli outpost of Havat Maon, they were attacked by two settlers riding a yellow mini-tractor, who threw stones at them. Rasha was hit in the head and taken to the government hospital in Yatta, requiring 6 stitches. We reported the incident to the Israeli police. This is not the first time this month that settlers from the same outpost, illegal even under Israeli standards, have assaulted local Palestinian school children."

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Global Earth Day coalition drops SodaStream over complicity in Israeli occupation

Today is Earth Day and just yesterday the Earth Day Network, a global environmental coalition with 22,000 partners in 192 countries, cut ties with SodaStream over its relationship to the Israeli occupation. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation sent out a press release with the news:
........"Earlier this month, SodaStream, which markets its home carbonating devices as a green alternative to bottled beverages, announced the launch of an awareness-raising campaign centered around the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Several articles reported that this “Secret Continent” campaign was developed with Earth Day Network (EDN), which works with more than 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify, and mobilize the environmental movement."
Read more

Why Fatah-Hamas reconciliation might just work this time

Unlike previous efforts, the current Palestinian reconciliation agreement appears to have been cemented from within; and it might just offer a lifeline to Gaza.
By Samer Badawi
Just as word emerged early Wednesday of an imminent unity accord between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seized upon the news to issue his Palestinian counterpart an ultimatum: Make peace with Hamas, and you can forget about peace with Israel. In lockstep, Netanyahu’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman immediately dubbed any intra-Palestinian reconciliation a veritable “termination of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”
If that was a bluff, the Palestinians did not flinch. By the end of the day, the rival factions had announced a way forward on deals they had previously inked in Doha and Cairo. There would be elections within six months, and in the interim, a unity government—with Mahmoud Abbas the “prime minister” at its helm.
Welcome to the post-Oslo world.

Palestinian factions Fatah, Hamas sign reconciliation agreement

"Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation deal on Wednesday. The political division, which also translated into a geographic division, began with clashes between the two in Gaza in 2007 and resulted in Hamas taking control of the Strip that year.
The deal is reported to include the formation of a unity government within five weeks, and new elections to be held sometime after that. In the last Palestinian elections, Hamas won, drawing the ire of Israel and parts of the international community.
Issues that the two parties will still need to work out include the fate of Hamas’s armed forces, which are separate from the Palestinian Authority security forces.
Hamas and Fatah have signed a number of reconciliation deals over the past several years that were never implemented."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

US Is an Oligarchy Not a Democracy, says Scientific Study

In America, money talks... and democracy dies under its crushing weight.
 study, to appear in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, finds that the U.S. is no democracy, but instead an oligarchy, meaning profoundly corrupt, so that the answer to the study’s opening question, "Who governs? Who really rules?" in this country, is: 
"Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, ..." and then they go on to say, it's not true, and that, "America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened" by the findings in this, the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, which shows that there is instead "the nearly total failure of 'median voter' and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."
To put it short: The United States is no democracy, but actually an oligarchy.
The authors of this historically important study are Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, and their article is titled "Testing Theories of American Politics." The authors clarify that the data available are probably under-representing the actual extent of control of the U.S. by the super-rich:
Economic Elite Domination theories do rather well in our analysis, even though our findings probably understate the political influence of elites. Our measure of the preferences of wealthy or elite Americans – though useful, and the best we could generate for a large set of policy cases – is probably less consistent with the relevant preferences than are our measures of the views of ordinary citizens or the alignments of engaged interest groups. Yet we found substantial estimated effects even when using this imperfect measure. The real-world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater.
Read more

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Then and now..The Presidents of Argentina, Brazil and Chile today, and in the 70s

On the Sarin false flag operation and related matters: False Flags and Imperial Facades: Tales of 'Progressives' in Power

By Chris Floyd 
Sy Hersh has a long piece in the London Review of Books detailing the strong evidence indicating that the Turkish government worked with Syrian rebels in a "false flag" operation of the worst sort: staging a chemical weapons attack near Damascus in August 2013. The intent was to throw blame for the attack on the Assad regime, thereby drawing the United States directly into the conflict; the use of chemical weapons against the rebels was a "red line" repeatedly laid down by Barack Obama as the trigger for an American intervention.

As we know, the gambit very nearly worked. In addition to the deep background behind the sarin attack, Hersh's story also reveals the extent of the military operation planned by Obama. Although at the time, administration officials were speaking of "surgical strikes" and a limited response, the White House was in fact planning a massive attack involving the armed forces of three Western powers (the U.S., Britain and France) that would devastate the entire country and topple the regime. As Hersh writes:
In the aftermath of the 21 August attack Obama ordered the Pentagon to draw up targets for bombing. Early in the process, the former intelligence official said, ‘the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the joint chiefs of staff as being insufficiently “painful” to the Assad regime.’ The original targets included only military sites and nothing by way of civilian infrastructure. Under White House pressure, the US attack plan evolved into ‘a monster strike’: two wings of B-52 bombers were shifted to airbases close to Syria, and navy submarines and ships equipped with Tomahawk missiles were deployed. ‘Every day the target list was getting longer,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The Pentagon planners said we can’t use only Tomahawks to strike at Syria’s missile sites because their warheads are buried too far below ground, so the two B-52 air wings with two-thousand pound bombs were assigned to the mission. Then we’ll need standby search-and-rescue teams to recover downed pilots and drones for target selection. It became huge.’ The new target list was meant to ‘completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had’, the former intelligence official said. The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.
Read more

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Israeli forces detain Hebron man after settlers invade his home

HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces detained a Palestinian man on Saturday evening after he tried to defend his family from a home invasion by Jewish settlers in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, a local activist group said.

Mofid Sharbati, 46, was detained by Israeli forces after a group of settlers entered his home on Shuhada street in central Hebron, coordinator for Youth against Settlements Issa Amro said.

His brother Zidan Sharbati was wounded during the incident, which began when Jewish settlers entered their homes and began beating the brothers as well as members of their families.

When the two attempted to respond, Israeli forces who were on the scene came to the aid of settlers and continued the assault, Amro said.
Read more

International treaties and the prospects for justice for Palestinians

A protester wearing a gas mask walks with a Palestinian flag
during a demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian
land by Israel in the village of Kafr Qaddum, in the occupied West Bank
on March 9, 2012 (AFP/File Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
  ....on April 1, 2014, Palestine decided it will be "joining 15 international treaties including those pertaining to human, civil, women and disabled rights." These include both treaties and sets of treaties, equaling more than 15 in total -- some of which Israel is not yet party to. Palestine's ability to take this step was provided by General Assembly Resolution 67/19 -- which upgraded Palestine to non-member observer state status at the United Nations. The resolution provided the State of Palestine and the Palestinian people a means to pursue justice and accountability at the international level.

So have the Palestinians finally seen their leaders employ our ability to join international treaties and organizations as a right, rather than a threat? Palestine's accessions on April 1 indicate that justice and accountability for the Palestinian people was not the priority.

Analysis: Abbas' move brings out Israeli racism

The decision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to sign 15 international treaties brought further proof of Israeli racist attitudes towards the Palestinians.

Public statements by senior Israeli officials, as well as commentaries and analyses by Israeli pundits show angry reactions to the Palestinian move, something akin to the anger one would read about when slaves did not show enough respect and actually dared "suggest" that they wanted to be free.

The Israeli prime minister set the tone during the start of the weekly Israeli Cabinet meeting. He argued that Palestinians can only get their coveted state through his style of negotiations and based on his conditions, including his new demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Read more

The new American reality: An empire beyond salvation

Ramzy Baroud
US Secretary of State John Kerry couldn't hide his frustration anymore as the US-sponsored peace process continued to falter.

After eight months of wrangling to push talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority forward, he admitted while in a visit to Morocco on April 4 that the latest setback had served as a "reality check" for the peace process.

But confining that reality check to the peace process is hardly representative of the painful reality through which the United States has been forced to subsist in during the last few years.

The state of US foreign policy in the Middle East, but also around the world, cannot be described with any buoyant language. In some instances, as in Syria, Libya, Egypt, the Ukraine, and most recently in Palestine and Israel, too many calamitous scenarios have exposed the fault lines of US foreign policy. The succession of crises is not allowing the US to cut its losses in the Middle East and stage a calculated "pivot" to Asia following its disastrous Iraq war.
Read more

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Aussie media focus on Carr’s assertion that Israel lobby had ‘direct line’ into Prime Minister’s office

Former Australian PM Julia Gillard
Former Australian PM Julia Gillard
"Yesterday I did a short post on the stunning criticism of the Israel lobby’s influence in Australia coming from a former Australian foreign minister, Bob Carr, whose memoir says that Jewish donors so preyed on the mind of a liberal prime minister that she wouldn’t let him utter a word of criticisms against Israeli settlements.
Well, sunshine is the best disinfectant, and this story just gets bigger and bigger. It’s in Haaretz (my postscript); and the Australian media are taking seriously Carr’s assertions that the lobby’s influence is “unhealthy” and that it has too much access to policymakers. The story has been propelled by lobby charges of bigotry against Carr, who trots out the usual; he recommended a Holocaust book as the most important book of the last 100 years in a book he wrote about reading. And by the fact that Carr published text messages between himself and former P.M. Julia Gillard.

6 DC heavyweights tell Kerry, Netanyahu in West Bank is like Putin in Crimea

"Israel's "expansive territorial agenda" in the West Bank is like Russia's in the Crimea, write a group of heavyweight former U.S. officials in Politico.
They say the U.S. is complicit in "morally unacceptable stances" by Netanyahu because it refuses to criticize Israel."
In a refreshing break from the usual noises inside the Beltway, here’s a piece by six heavyweights at Politico called “Stand Firm, John Kerry,” that likens Israel’s occupation of the West Bank to Russia’s occupation of Crimea. The piece contains one condemnation after another of Netanyahu and the Israelis for “morally unacceptable” positions and says that the U.S. is complicit in its failure to speak out.
The heavyweights are Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, Carla Hills, Lee Hamilton, Thomas Pickering, and Henry Siegman (former national security adviser, Defense secretary, secretary of Housing and trade rep, congressman, ambassador, and Jewish leader).

Controversy over ‘occupied territories’ climb-down

Battle for funding in Republican presidential campaign 
 Chris Christie. Photograph: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Chris Christie. Photograph: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images 
The Irish Times

In a desperate effort to clamber his way back into the race for the Republican presidential nomination for 2016, New Jersey governor Chris Christie last week kowtowed to Zionism and apologised for telling the truth.
Days earlier, Christie had been cleared of involvement in a bizarre plot last September to snarl up the George Washington Bridge between New York and New Jersey for four days in order to punish Mark Sokolich, mayor of Fort Lee at the New Jersey end of the bridge, for refusal to endorse the governor’s campaign for re-election in November. A three-lawyer commission of inquiry appointed by Christie reported to him a fortnight ago that the plot had been orchestrated from within his office by his most senior officials but that he hadn’t been aware it was happening. We know that one.

Israel 'freezes tax transfers' to Palestinians

"Israel has frozen the transfer of taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinians in retaliation for their seeking accession to several international treaties, an official said Thursday.
"It has been decided to freeze the transfer to the Palestinian Authority of the taxes collected by Israel on its behalf," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
At the same time, he said, Israel was suspending its participation with the Palestinians in developing a gas field off the Gaza Strip and putting a cap on Palestinian deposits in its banks."

Violence in Iraq grows as polls near

Militant attacks increase in Iraq ahead of this month's elections that could see Nouri Al-Maliki unseated from power
People walk past election campaign posters at Tahrir Square in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, April 10, 2014 (Photo: AP)
A series of attacks north of Baghdad killed eight soldiers Tuesday as Iraq’s election campaign enters its 10th day, leaving many believing that efforts taken to reach across the sectarian divide have failed.
Iraq’s electioneering campaign officially started 1 April marking a transition in the country's political crisis with the vote set for 30 April.
The campaigning by candidates was matched by an increase in violence in some provinces.
Read more

Jazz guitar legend John McLaughlin plays for Palestine

British Jazz musician John McLaughlin performs with 4th Dimension at a concert in the West Bank city
British Jazz musician John McLaughlin performs with 4th Dimension at a concert in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on April 9, 2014. (Photo: AFP)
 The Palestinian territories are rarely a destination for jazz musicians let alone stars of an art form that is more at home in big cities such as New York and Chicago.

Which makes the performance of jazz guitar legend John McLaughlin before a packed auditorium in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday night all the more remarkable.

McLaughlin toured areas of the West Bank before enthralling the mostly local audience who attended his "solidarity concert" for Palestinians with a fusion of Western and Eastern sounds.

The 72-year-old British musician, who has recorded with the likes of late jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, said proceeds from the concert would go to a local NGO.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Israeli Settlement Plan Derailed Peace Talks, Kerry Says

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that Israel’s announcement of 700 new apartments for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem precipitated the bitter impasse in peace negotiations last week between Israel and the Palestinians.
While Mr. Kerry said both sides bore responsibility for “unhelpful” actions, he noted that the publication of tenders for housing units came four days after a deadline passed for Israel to release Palestinian prisoners and complicated Israel’s own deliberations over whether to extend the talks.
Read more

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sign of the times. Before and after in Tunisia

Top: President Bourguiba receiving a group of women in 1950s.
Bottom: President Moncef Marzouki today.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Amnesty International welcomes Palestinian unilateral moves, calls on PA to join ICC

Human rights group slams Israeli politicians for threatening to sanction the PA for its unilateral moves. 

International Criminal Court in The Hague
International Criminal Court in The Hague Photo: REUTERS
 Amnesty International on Thursday welcomed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's move to seek admission in some 15 UN and international organizations, conventions and treaties. The group further urged the Palestinians to sign up to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Bertrand Russell on Palestine

“The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was “given” by a foreign power to another people for the creation of a new state. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their numbers increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty?It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their own country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate?
Israel has expanded by force of arms. After every stage in this expansion Israel has appealed to “reason” and has suggested “negotiations.” This is the traditional role of the imperial power, because it wishes to consolidate with the least difficulty what it has already taken by violence. The aggression committed by Israel must be condemned because every expansion is an experiment to discover how much more aggression the world will tolerate.
We are frequently told, “We must sympathize with Israel because of the suffering of the Jews in Europe at the hands of the Nazis.” What Israel is doing today cannot be condoned, and to invoke the horrors of the past to justify those of the present is gross hypocrisy. “

Uri Avnery: The Monster on the Hill

"With such exciting news to deal with, who can spare the time and energy to think about the crisis in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which never really started at all? The public knows well enough that these negotiations are a farce set in motion by an American administration which does not have the guts to stand up to the hirelings of the Israeli government in Congress and impose anything on Binyamin Netanyahu.
INDEED, IF anyone had any illusions about American politics, they were dispelled this week.
The casino mogul, Sheldon Adelson, organized a public display of his power.
He summoned to his Las Vegas betting paradise the four most probable Republican candidates for the next presidential elections, in order to choose one of them. All the invitees heeded the summons, of course.
It was a shameless exhibition. The politicians groveled before the casino lord. Mighty governors of important states did their best to sell themselves like applicants at a job interview. Each of them tried to trump the others in promising to do the Mogul’s bidding.
Flanked by Israeli bodyguards, Adelson grilled the American hopefuls. And what was he demanding from the future president of the United States? First of all and above everything else, blind and unconditional obedience to the government of another state:

Breaking News: Evidence Proves Bush Defaced Spanish Painting
"As an art lover, I took it upon myself to study the former President’s paintings in detail and came upon a startling discovery. Readers may recall the Jesus fresco in Spain which became art world news in 2012 when it was defaced allegedly by elderly woman who fancied herself an amateur art restorer. I, however, have uncovered undeniable evidence of a conspiracy to cover up the fact that the famed fresco was actually defaced by George W. Bush! Judge for yourselves, but I think the evidence speaks for itself."

Six Syrian artists have set a 2014 Guinness World Record. Using scraps from the streets of war-ravaged Damascus, in January they built the largest mural made from recycled material, beautifying the area outside a primary school in Syria’s capital.

Six Syrian artists have set a 2014 Guinness World Record. Using scraps from the streets of war-ravaged Damascus, in January they built the largest mural made from recycled material, beautifying the area outside a primary school in Syria's capital.
It took Syrian artist Moaffak Makhoul and his team six months to complete the mural in the upscale Al Mazzeh area of Damascus. Guinness announced the win on Facebook on March 26.

It took Syrian artist Moaffak Makhoul and his team six months to complete the mural in the upscale Al Mazzeh area of Damascus. Guinness announced the win on Facebook on March 26.

The team used scrap objects like broken mirrors, bicycle wheels, and aluminum cans to construct the mural, measuring 7,749.98 feet across.

The team used scrap objects like broken mirrors, bicycle wheels, and aluminum cans to construct the mural, measuring 7,749.98 feet across.
The Syrian conflict has killed more than 140,000 and displaced 9 million people since 2011. Damascus has remained largely under government control and relatively shielded from the conflict, which has devastated infrastructure and economic activity.

‘Cease illegal activity against Cuba’: Havana slams Washington for ‘Twitter’ program

Reuters/Enrique de la Osa
"Havana has blasted Washington’s so-called ‘Cuba Twitter’ texting service as illegal and subversive, saying the United States is persisting in its decades’ long plan to topple Cuba’s communist government.
According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, the US government attempted to develop a no frills ‘Cuban Twitter’ using cellphone text messaging to circumvent Cuba’s strict control over the internet. Directly alluding to Twitter, the program is known as ZunZuneo — slang for a Cuban hummingbird's ‘tweet’.
The project was financed by the US Agency for international development (USAID), best known for overseeing billions of dollars in US humanitarian aid. USAID staff had noted that text messaging had been a popular fuse in starting political uprisings in Moldova and the Philippines"

Gideon Levy: Who’s to blame for the collapse of the talks?

"After Israel repudiated its promise to release a handful of Palestinian prisoners and began to set conditions for fulfillment, published another tender for the construction of new homes in the settlements, refused to submit its maps with proposed borders, sabotaged the talks with the ridiculous demand of recognition it as a Jewish state, showed not the slightest inclination to end the occupation and continued to build unabated in the settlements and to kill innocents, also unabated – after all this, the Palestinians took a minor, almost desperate step, so they are to blame.
They turned to the world and asked to join 15 international conventions, perish the thought. The Palestinians had the great temerity to apply to join the Geneva Convention, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and conventions against genocide, racism, discrimination against women and against people with disabilities, the Hague Convention on the laws and customs of war on land and even the international convention against corruption. You broke it, you bought it, dear Palestinians.
The Palestinians did not use terror or violence; they didn’t even sign the Rome convention, which would have opened the door to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. They only approached a few international conventions and were furiously assailed from Jerusalem to Washington."

George Bush's paintings: this is the art of Forrest Gump

George W Bush
A detail of a portrait of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Ehud Olmert
'Bush's portrait of Putin looks like something you would find in one of America's trash-rich Salvation Army stores and buy to laugh at.
The Guardian
"His portrait of Putin actually looks like something you would find in one of America's trash-rich Salvation Army stores and buy to laugh at. It's got a classic amateur clumsiness and oddity to it. Bush has attempted to render shadow and shape in stylish blocks of fawn and woodchip and cookies 'n cream, but they don't sit right and the whole head looks mildly crazed. Perhaps this mad look is what is meant by revealing Putin's "soul", but it seems inept rather than insightful.

It looks as if Bush's art coach has showed him paintings by no less a model that the great pop portraitist Alex Katz, whose semi-abstract, wide-eyed style and flat backgrounds his hamfisted daubs vainly echo. But the results lack coherence or vitality. This is the art of Forrest Gump.

Idiocy in art has its charms. In the man who ran the free world into bloodstained buffers, those charms quickly sour. These empty headed daubs look the work of someone you wouldn't trust to mow a lawn without cutting someone's foot off."