Sunday, March 29, 2015

Israel killed more Palestinians in 2014 than in any other year since 1967

More than 2,300 Palestinians killed and more than 17,000 injured, according to annual report by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
The Guardian
Israel killed more Palestinian civilians in 2014 than in any other year since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip began in 1967, a UN report has said.
Israel’s activities in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem resulted in the deaths of 2,314 Palestinians and 17,125 injuries, compared with 39 deaths and 3,964 injuries in 2013, according to the annual report (pdf) by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Israeli school workssheet has this question "which is the superior race and which is the inferior race in Israel?”

Teenagers in an alternative school program were surprised this week to discover the following question on a worksheet on “Nazi ideology and policy”: “From your acquaintance with the peoples that live in Israel, which is the superior race and which is the inferior race?”
The students were part of the Hila program in Petah Tikvah — Hila provides education for teenagers who have dropped out of the state school system. Some 8,000 students are enrolled in the program nationwide. The teachers are employed as subcontractors and not by the Education Ministry.
The worksheet was a prep sheet for a test culminating 10 years of Holocaust studies; for these students the test takes the place of Israel’s matriculation exam in history.

Mideast Apocalypse 2030: Why Obama wants the Palestine Issue Solved. Now.

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) 
It began in Hebron, which Palestinians call “al-Khalil,” the city of Abraham. Hundreds of thousands of Israel squatters had been enticed into this Palestinian city of 400,000 by the Likud government with cheap rent in cookie-cutter apartment buildings constructed on stolen Palestinian land. The raids on Palestinian olive orchards, their main source of income, had become daily affairs, leaving the environs denuded and full of stumps. Then it went beyond killing trees. Palestinian young men were kidnapped, tortured, killed. Graffiti threatened the rest of their families and warned them to escape to Jordan while they could. The Jordanian army moved tank and sniper units to the best crossing points over the Jordan River, announcing it would shoot on sight any Palestinians who attempted to immigrate illegally.

Big Bank’s Analyst Worries That Iran Deal Could Depress Weapons Sales

Featured photo - Big Bank’s Analyst Worries That Iran Deal Could Depress Weapons Sales 
By Lee Fang
Could a deal to normalize Western relations with Iran and set limits on Iran’s development of nuclear technology lead to a more peaceful and less-weaponized Middle East?
That’s what supporters of the Iran negotiations certainly hope to achieve. But the prospect of stability has at least one financial analyst concerned about its impact on one of the world’s biggest defense contractors.
The possibility of an Iran nuclear deal depressing weapons sales was raised by Myles Walton, an analyst from Germany’s Deutsche Bank, during a Lockheed earnings call this past January 27. Walton asked Marillyn Hewson, the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, if an Iran agreement could “impede what you see as progress in foreign military sales.” Financial industry analysts such as Walton use earnings calls as an opportunity to ask publicly-traded corporations like Lockheed about issues that might harm profitability.

How Al Qaeda’s Biggest Enemy Took Over Yemen (and Why the U.S. Government Is Unlikely to Support Them)
By Casey L. Coombs and Jeremy Scahill
 Sanaa – Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, his prime minister and entire government cabinet resigned en masse today, just 24 hours after Houthi rebels occupied the presidential compound in Sanaa. The resignations give unprecedented power to the Houthis, a Shiite minority from the country’s isolated northern highlands. The political crisis also opens the door to an all-out war over control of the Yemeni capital, involving Sunni political factions and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. The conflict could also draw in Saudi Arabia, the United States and Iran. The streets in Yemen’s capital are now a maze of checkpoints, a few still manned by government forces wearing military uniforms, but most these days are controlled by Houthis. Unlike government forces, the Houthis are typically dressed in tribal garb–a shawl wrapped around their face and a skirt known as a ma’awaz.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Cross and the Sword: The Making of a Christian Taliban in Ukraine

Poster in the living quarters of the Brotherhood.

THE RECRUITMENT POINT for volunteers in Dmytro Korchynsky’s holy war is located in the basement of a building in central Kiev, on Chapaev Street, in what used to be a billiard club. Anyone can sign up, and the location isn’t secret — its address and phone number is on the Internet.
Inside, lying on the billiard tables, are toy Kalashnikovs, which recruits can use to shoot at targets on the wall. Behind the bar, shelves are lined not with liquor bottles but with Molotov cocktails left over from the violent protests that ousted the government a year ago; the firebombs may be useful in the next stage of Ukraine’s upheavals.

Netanyahu’s Spying Denials Contradicted by Secret NSA Documents

Featured photo - Netanyahu’s Spying Denials Contradicted by Secret NSA Documents 
By Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday vehemently denied a Wall Street Journal report, leaked by the Obama White House, that Israel spied on U.S. negotiations with Iran and then fed the intelligence to Congressional Republicans. His office’s denial was categorical and absolute, extending beyond this specific story to U.S.-targeted spying generally, claiming: “The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies.”
Israel’s claim is not only incredible on its face. It is also squarely contradicted by top-secret NSA documents, which state that Israel targets the U.S. government for invasive electronic surveillance, and does so more aggressively and threateningly than almost any other country in the world. Indeed, so concerted and aggressive are Israeli efforts against the U.S. that some key U.S. government documents — including the top secret 2013 intelligence budget — list Israel among the U.S.’s most threatening cyber-adversaries and as a “hostile” foreign intelligence service.

"The “logic” of capitalist development has left a nightmare of environmental destruction in its wake." Noam Chomsky

Magna Carta Messed Up the World, Here’s How to Fix It

In a few months, we will be commemorating the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta—commemorating, but not celebrating; rather, mourning the blows it has suffered.
The first authoritative scholarly edition of Magna Carta was published by the eminent jurist William Blackstone in 1759. It was no easy task. As he wrote, “the body of the charter has been unfortunately gnawn by rats”—a comment that carries grim symbolism today, as we take up the task the rats left unfinished.
Blackstone’s edition actually includes two charters: the Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest. The former is generally regarded as the foundation of Anglo-American law—in Winston Churchill’s words, referring to its reaffirmation by Parliament in 1628, “the charter of every self-respecting man at any time in any land.” The Great Charter held that “No freeman shall be arrested or imprisoned,” or otherwise harmed, “except by the lawful judgment of his equals and according to the law of the land,” the essential sense of the doctrine of “presumption of innocence.”

French firm pulls out of controversial Jerusalem cable car project

Palestinian Authority complained to Paris about Safege’s involvement in the project. French finance and foreign ministries warned the company about the legal risks, and it pulled out.
 By Nir Hasson-Haaretz

Safege of France, which was slated to play a key planning role in the Jerusalem cable car project, has canceled its participation after being warned against it by the French finance and foreign ministries, a Wednesday media report said.
To “avoid giving any political interpretation,” Suez Environnement “has decided not to continue,” Le Figaro on Wednesday quoted a spokesman for Safege’s parent as saying.
Another French company that was mentioned in connection with the Jerusalem cable car has also declined to get involved.
The project, described in detail in Haaretz three weeks ago, is expected to encounter much opposition for its political as well as environmental and urban-planning implications. Many observers are skeptical that the plan will ever come to fruition.

Ex CIA officer calls pro-Israel Congress members "useful idiots" to "Likudist ideology.

Netanyahu and Obama talk, March 2012

Spy vs. Spy: Espionage and the U.S.-Israel Rift 

 By Jeff Stein (Newsweek)
If more evidence was needed to show that the relationship between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama has morphed from tragedy to farce, it came late Monday with the revelation that Israel had spied on the nuclear talks between the United States and Iran.  
“The White House discovered the operation,” according to the blockbuster account by Adam Entous in The Wall Street Journal, “when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel intercepted communications among Israeli officials that carried details the U.S. believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks, officials briefed on the matter said.”
Talk about spy vs. spy, the old Mad magazine trope featuring two pointy-nosed, masked cartoon creatures. The National Security Agency, eavesdropping on Israeli officials (as usual, according to the revelations of Edward Snowden), overheard them discussing intelligence their own spies had gathered by spying on U.S. officials talking about the Iran negotiations.


‘Gloves are coming off’ in US-Israel clash over Iran, says intel insider

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama
 An American former intelligence operative has called the latest revelations of Israeli spying against the United States “appalling” and warned that “the gloves are coming off” in the clash between Washington and Tel Aviv over Iran. The unnamed former operative, described as having “long, firsthand familiarity with Israeli operations”, told Newsweek magazine’s intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein that he was not surprised to find out Israel has been spying on the closed-door talks between the US and the Islamic Republic.

Is Obama really going to get tough with Israel?

It is late in Obama’s term for him to be considering minimal actions against Israel and to expect them to have any real impact on its rogue behavior.
Ali Abunimah (Electronic Intifada)
While Obama has remained circumspect, his administration has sent up trial balloons through David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist closely allied with the US administration.
Ignatius reports that the White House is “privately weighing” the following “pressure tactics”:
  • Drafting a new UN Security Council resolution outlining the framework for a Palestinian state. Such a resolution might summarize the parameters that emerged during Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiations with Israelis and Palestinians that collapsed last year.
  • Deterring Netanyahu’s plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, perhaps through warnings in a planned report to Congress on loan guarantees to Israel. President George H.W. Bush briefly cut off loan guarantees in 1991 to protest settlements, creating a political uproar but no lasting success in halting settlements.
  • Altering current US policy that opposes Palestinian efforts to take complaints against Israel to the International Criminal Court. Similarly, the United States might relax its pressure against European allies that are advocating sanctions against Israel.
  • Weighing future vetoes of UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israeli settlements or other activity. In the past, the United States’ use of the veto to support Israeli positions has been all but automatic.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Israel worshiper ‘shocked’ by report Israel spied on Iran nuclear talks..

Speaker of the House John Boehner listens to questions during a news conference (AFP)
Speaker of the House John Boehner listens to questions during a news conference (AFP)

The top Republican in Congress said Tuesday he was “shocked” by a report that Israel spied on Iranian nuclear talks but insisted he did not know whether information was shared with US lawmakers.
The Wall Street Journal reported late Monday that in addition to Israelis spying on the highly-sensitive negotiations between Tehran and world powers, details were back-channeled to US legislators in an effort to sabotage the deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

Joint List to lead mass march on Jerusalem, as Netanyahu forms a gov’t

Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List, at campaign headquarters in Nazareth, Israel. (Photo: Allison Deger)
Joint List party head Ayman Odeh campaigned for Israeli elections like a troubadour. He went town to town speaking of civil rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel often quoting poets and peaceniks alike, even the Hebrew bible. Now Odeh is bringing the goods to Jerusalem. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the final hours of forming a ruling coalition to lead the country, Odeh’s group is organizing a mass march. Unrecognized villagers will camp and walk their way to Israel’s seat of government, all while their party’s leadership is tightening ties with presumed opposition heads in the Zionist Camp.
Allison Deger (Mondoweiss)

US accuses Israel of spying on nuclear talks with Iran

Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman
The Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, denied the Wall Street Journal report: ‘We reached a decision a long time ago not to spy on the US.’ Photograph: Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images 
The US has accused Israel of spying on international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme and using the intelligence gathered to persuade Congress to undermine the talks, according to a report on Tuesday.
The Wall Street Journal cited senior administration officials as saying the Israeli espionage operation began soon after the US opened up a secret channel of communications with Tehran in 2012, aimed at resolving the decade-long standoff over Iran’s nuclear aspirations.
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Mother's day in Gaza..

Photo :unknown
Rafah-Gaza..She lost her mother and nine brothers and sisters, most of her time sitting by the grave.

American Jews are taking back their power from Israel

A demonstrator holds a sign during a rally near the Israeli Consulate in New York to protest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech in front on Congress. (Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
Philip Weiss (Mondoweiss)
The last month has seen the greatest change in the US relationship with Israel in more than 40 years, maybe since the 1973 war, or possibly even Suez, or the creation of the state. We see President Obama repeatedly faulting the Israeli prime minister’s conduct, politicians boycotting the Israeli p.m.’s speech in Washington, and suggestions in the official press that Democrats are going to run against Israel in the next election season. The 1991 fight between George Bush and Yitzhak Shamir that helped elect Bill Clinton and Rabin doesn’t approach what we are seeing today. Yesterday the White House chief of staff got rousing cheers in Washington from J Street, the liberal Zionist group, as he slammed Israel as an occupier: “An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end.”

Netanyahu will be remembered for speaking Israel's truth

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, March 18, 2015. 
For at least 25 years most Israeli statesmen have been lying, misleading the world, the Israelis and themselves, until Netanyahu arose. Better late than never.

By Gideon Levy for Ha'aretz | Mar. 22, 2015

I would like to say thank you to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Thank you for telling the truth. Last week you were revealed as the first Israeli prime minister to tell the truth. For at least 25 years most Israeli statesmen have been lying, misleading the world, the Israelis and themselves, until Netanyahu arose – he of all statesmen – and told the truth. If only this truth had been told by an Israeli prime minister 25 years ago, maybe even 50 years ago, when the occupation was born. Still, better late than never. The public rewarded him for this truth, and Netanyahu was elected for a fourth term.
Netanyahu said last week that if he were to be reelected, a Palestinian state would not be established on his watch. Plain and simple, loud and clear. This simple, pure truth was the case for all his predecessors as well – all the prime ministers, peace lovers and justice seekers from the center and the left, who gave false promises. But who thought to admit it before him? Who had the courage to reveal the truth? The latest of these deceivers was Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog: His daring plan included five years of negotiations. The public rewarded him for that.
After all, one had to deceive the Americans, bluff the Europeans and cheat the Palestinians, fudge things for the Mideast Quartet and lie to some Israelis. One also had to play for time, to build settlements and get rid of every possible Palestinian partner – Yasser Arafat, who was too strong; President Mahmoud Abbas, who is too weak; and Hamas, which is too extreme. One has to play for time, so the Palestinians become more extreme and everyone understands that there’s no one to talk to.
Now comes the man who is considered a bluffer, and only he tells the fateful, historic truth: there will be no Palestinian state. Not during his term, which now seems eternal. And not after it, because by then it will be too late. The end of negotiations, the end of games. No more shuttle diplomacy, Quartets, emissaries, processes, outlines, mediators and plans. That’s it; it will not happen.
It had no chance from the very beginning. In Israel, there was not one single prime minister – including the two Nobel Peace Prize laureates – who intended for one second to let a Palestinian state be established. But the bluff of the century was convenient for everyone. Now Netanyahu has put an end to it.
If Israel had played its cards openly from the outset, as Netanyahu has done now, perhaps we would be in a different place, a better place.
If only Israel had told the truth: that it covets the occupied territory for itself and will never give it up; that hundreds of thousands of Jews are living there and it has no intention of evacuating them; that it does not care about international law, and cares nothing for what the whole world thinks; that the Palestinians have no rights there; that Abraham our patriarch is buried there; that Rachel our matriarch weeps there; that Israel’s security depends on it, and that the Holocaust is at the door. The reasons are many and varied, and they all say one thing – now and forever, from Hebron to Jenin. Yes to autonomy, to self-administration, to village leagues or a Palestinian Authority. But no to a state. Never.
If an honest leader like Netanyahu had arisen years ago, we Israelis would have known, the Palestinians would have known, and so would the whole world: it will not be. Then it would have been possible to deal with other solutions, instead of wasting time cheating, time in which hatred only grew and blood spilled for nothing. We could have begun long ago to think of alternatives to the two-state solution – and there’s only one: one state. And we could have begun debating what regime it would have – and there are only two: democracy or apartheid. Instead, we were misled.
Now Benjamin Netanyahu has come and put an end to all this. We must be grateful to him for this. History will remember that he was the first Israeli prime minister to speak the truth.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Miko Peled: Time to give Palestinians their country back

More than the threat of war on Iran, Netanyahu’s re-election is a call for war on Palestinians everywhere. It is a call for war on human rights and international law. It is a mandate for the Israeli government to murder Palestinians. It gives Netanyahu license to continue Israel's seven-decade policy of racism and apartheid towards the people from whom they stole the land. It is also a call for people of conscience to impose boycotts and sanctions to divest and to isolation Israel. No more business as usual - it is time for outrage, for action, the type of action that brought down apartheid in South Africa. It is a call to finally allow Palestinians to have their country back.
Netanyahu can thank the U.S. House of Representatives for his victory. The boost from the "campaign stop" here in early March did the trick. The unprecedented exposure, weeks of discussion on CNN and other major networks, including the printed press - first prior to his arrival, then during his visit and speech and then the aftermath -  all of this was a gift to his campaign. He entered The House of Representative like Caesar entering Rome. Then upon his vanquishing and humiliating the president of the United States who was opposed to the visit and the speech, Netanyahu returned to Jerusalem where all of his opponents seemed like children in comparison.
Comparisons to Nazi Germany are a dangerous thing, particularly in this context. Still, in his speech to members of Congress Netanyahu crossed this dangerous threshold. In a well directed gesture that could not but have been planned, Netanyahu pointed to Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel who was seated in the gallery. “Elie,” Netanyahu called out, “your life and work inspires to give meaning to the words, never again.” “And” he added, and here he crossed the line, “I wish I could promise you, Elie, that the lessons of history have been learned. I can only urge the leaders of the world not to repeat the mistakes of the past. …not to ignore aggression in the hopes of gaining an illusory peace.”
This reference without a doubt draws a line between President Obama and former British PM Neville Chamberlain. Chamberlain served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. He is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the German speaking Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Germany. However Adolf Hitler was not appeased but rather invaded Poland after which Britain declared war on Germany. Chamberlain was consequently forced to resign and Winston Churchill took his place as PM. Netanyahu is comparing Obama to Chamberlain and Iran to Nazi Germany.
Well, since he opened the door, other comparisons can be made as well.  The election of Netanyahu is not unlike that of other leaders who invoke a racist ideology, are elected democratically and then lead their nation and their region to catastrophe.  The U.S. must no longer appease Netanyahu’s Israel.
Israeli voters like power and they saw just that when Netanyahu returned from Washington DC. Israelis also vote in high numbers. This time they voted for a leader that promised promises to attack and kill Palestinian civilians, promised to deny Palestinians water, (Palestinians receive only 3 percent of the entire water supply though they make up more than 50 percent of the population), and deny Palestinians basic human rights we all take for granted. Netanyahu promises that 1.7 million people in Gaza will be subject to the brutally cruel siege, live in catastrophic conditions, and all this just minutes away from Israelis who live a life of plenty.
In many ways Israeli voters told the U.S. to go to hell. So will the U.S. continue to conduct "business as usual" with Israel or listen to the growing voice of the Palestine solidarity movement. Will the U.S. finally answer the call of countless Palestinian civil society and impose boycott, divestment, sanctions and once and for all isolate Israel? Perhaps now it is time to give Palestinians their country back.
Miko Peled is the son of the Israeli general Matti Peled and a peace activist, author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Israel is protesting Hungary’s Eurovision entry, which includes condemnation against Operation Protective Edge and mentions the number of Palestinian children killed during the 2014 Israeli military campaign. 
Israeli Ambassador Ilan Mor turned to the Hungarian broadcasting authority, expressed his country’s reservations over the planned song and asked that the problematic segment be removed.
The Eurovision Song Contest will be held in May in Vienna, Austria. Hungary’s song this year, “Wars for Nothing,” will be performed by a group of three singers led by Hungarian singer-songwriter Boggie. The song has an anti-war message, focusing on the victims of violence and wars in the world. One of the captions in the song’s video refers to Operation Protective Edge, stating: “2014 – Gaza – two-thirds of the victims were civilians, including more than 500 children.”
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Friday, March 6, 2015

Norway calls for opening of Gaza crossings, reconstructing of Gaza

Deputy Foreign Minister of Norway Bard Pedersen called on the Israeli authorities to open the border crossings with Gaza and to permit the entry of construction materials into the Strip as well as allowing commercial traffic.
At the same time, Pedersen called on the international donors to abide by their pledges for Gaza reconstruction.
In a news conference held in Gaza on Thursday, Pedersen stressed the need, now more than ever, for taking an urgent action to accelerate the reconstruction process.
The Norwegian official revealed that both Foreign Ministers of Norway and Egypt are writing to the donor countries asking them to abide by their pledges for Gaza reconstruction.
The Deputy Foreign Minister said that “the State of Norway is working on supporting the Palestinian Authority and is keen on the arrival of reconstruction funds in the Gaza Strip”.
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“Religion is all magical thinking”

"Religion is all magical thinking": Professional skeptic The Amazing Randi has a moral duty to debunkJames "The Amazing" Randi (Credit: Flim Flam FIlms)
Magician. Escape artist. Exposer of faux psychics and trickster preachers alike. For over half a century James “The Amazing” Randi has been all this and more, charming the audiences of Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” while simultaneously invoking the wrath of folks like the (self-proclaimed) faith healer Peter Popoff and (self-proclaimed) psychokinesis-abled Uri Geller.
In Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom’s extraordinary documentary “An Honest Liar,” we get an up-close and personal look at this legendary showman whose greatest lesson in deception may lie closer to home. Salon spoke with the razor-sharp octogenarian prior to the film’s theatrical release (in New York and Los Angeles on March 6, with a national rollout to follow).
So what was it about Tyler and Justin that convinced you to allow them to make a documentary about you? You’ve led (and continue to lead) such an incredibly unique life I’m surprised a film hasn’t been made before.
I was approached by them to do the film, and I asked to see samples of their previous work. After seeing “Sons of Perdition” and “Being Elmo,” I was convinced that these were the right people to do my documentary. They treated their subjects with respect, care, and had a real vision to tell their stories properly. I felt they could do the same for me.
It’s difficult to find the proper match in creative endeavors, but we understood one another almost immediately. Just hours after my expression of dismay [during filming Randi learns that he himself may have been personally deceived] I contacted Tyler and Justin and told them, “Warts and all was what I said, and I have to honor that. Tell it all.”
Does it ever frustrate you that you’ve spent most of your career engaged in a Sisyphean battle? After all, there will always be tricksters – because there will always be people who need to be deceived. Magical thinking and denial just seem to be an inherent part of our makeup.
Well, a bit, but just because we — as a species — will always be affected by a disease, it doesn’t automatically mean that we are going to stop monitoring or treating it. It goes without saying that it’s our civil and moral duty to stand up for the less fortunate and the victims in our society. It’s our duty to provide them with tools so they can arm themselves properly in life.
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Senior BBC journalist Jeremy Bowen under fire for accusing Israeli PM of 'playing the Holocaust card'

  • Veteran journalist: Jeremy Bowen said claims he is anti-Semetic are 'untrue and offensive'Veteran journalist:¬†Jeremy Bowen said¬†claims he is anti-Semetic are 'untrue and offensive' 
  • BBC's Jeremy Bowen accused Israeli PM of 'playing the Holocaust card 
  • Middle East editor tweeted comments during PM's speech at U.S. Congress
  • Tweet sparked outrage, with critics calling veteran journalist a 'slime bag'
  • In response, he said claims he is anti-Semitic are 'untrue and offensive'

Syria's al-Nusra Front commander 'killed in strike'

A screen grab of Abu Homam al-Shami taken from an al-Nusra Front video made in March 2014  Al-Shami was pictured in a Nusra Front video in March last year
 The military chief of Syria's al-Nusra Front has been killed in an air strike, according to social media accounts linked to the jihadist group.
The online sources claim three other leaders died along with Abu Homam al-Shami.
Syria's state-run news agency reported his death was the result of a "special army operation" targeting Nusra leaders as they met in northern Idlib province.
Al-Nusra is one of the most powerful groups fighting the army.
It has long been seen as an affiliate of al-Qaeda and was involved in a major attack on the Air Force Intelligence headquarters in the embattled city of Aleppo on Wednesday.
The US lists al-Nusra as a terrorist group and it is under UN Security Council sanctions. However recent reports suggest it may be seeking to break its ties with al-Qaeda.

Nimrud: Outcry as IS bulldozers attack ancient Iraq site

Archaeologists and officials have expressed outrage about the bulldozing of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud by Islamic State militants in Iraq.
IS began demolishing the site, which was founded in the 13th Century BC, on Thursday, according to Iraqi officials.
The head of the UN's cultural agency condemned the "systematic" destruction in Iraq as a "war crime".
IS, which controls large areas of Iraq and Syria, says shrines and statues are "false idols" that have to be smashed.
"They are erasing our history," said Iraqi archaeologist Lamia al-Gailani.
Ancient statue of a winged bull with a human face at the archaeological site of Nimrud, south of Mosul in northern Iraq, in 2001 IS says ancient shrines and statues are "false idols"
Iraqi workers clean a statue at an archaeological site in Nimrud, 35km (22 miles) southeast of Mosul, northern Iraq, in 2001 Nimrud (pictured) lies just south-east of Mosul, which IS controls
Assyrian relief Remarkable bas-reliefs, ivories and sculptures have been discovered in Nimrud
Man walks past two ancient Assyrian winged bull statues at Iraq's National Museum in Baghdad on 1 March 2015 Some Nimrud artefacts have been moved - such as these statues now housed in Baghdad

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Banksy goes to Gaza
British graffiti artist and political activist Banksy has turned his attention to the streets and walls of the Palestinian territory Gaza.
Banksy wants to highlight the plight of the nearly two million Palestinian people confined there beacuse of Israeli land and air blockade.
While his work bemuses some Palestinians in Gaza, others see a political message.
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Iraqis mourn destruction of ancient Assyrian statues

Jane Arraf
Baghdad - On Baghdad’s al-Mutanabi street, Iraqis mourned the destruction of 3,000-year old statues in Mosul almost as if they’d been alive.
"I’m so upset I can’t speak about it," said an old friend, her eyes filling with tears.
The huge statues of winged bulls with human heads at the gates of Assyrian palaces are among the most iconic symbols of ancient Mesopotamia. Known as lamassu, they were meant as protective spirits. Their images are recreated on everything from copper plates to the walls of embassy buildings abroad.
The stone statues have guarded the gates of Nineveh in present-day Mosul since the palace was built in the 7th century BC. They stood during the sacking of Nineveh, the rise and fall of the huge Assyrian empire and all the empires that followed.
They stood while the palace was excavated in the 1840s and its treasures carried off to Britain and America. Last week, they fell to men with a power drill and a mission to eradicate every trace of Iraq’s pre-Islamic civilisation.
"Believe me, I couldn’t sleep all night when I heard the statues were destroyed," said Abdullah Doshan, a self-taught sculptor sitting on the ground with a chisel and pieces of stone.
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Iraq launches offensive to take back Tikrit from ISIL

Thousands of government troops, Shia militia and armed Sunni tribesmen converge in Samarra for the ground offensive.
ISIL has launched preemptive strikes as government forces and their allies advance into Tikrit and Samarra [Reuters]
ISIL has launched preemptive strikes as government forces and their allies advance into Tikrit and Samarra [Reuters]
Iraq has launched a military offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the latest attempt to oust the armed group from the strategic province of Salaheddin, which includes the ancient city of Tikrit.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi arrived on Sunday in the northern city of Samarra in Salaheddin to oversee the military operation, and vowed to "liberate" the province "from the tyranny of the terrorists".
Thousands of government troops, fighters from Shia militia and Sunni tribes have gathered around Samarra for the operation in the nearby strongholds of ISIL near the Tigris River, Al Jazeera has learned.
Iraq's military also told Reuters news agency that around 2,000 Shia militia fighters have arrived near Tikrit in preparation for the major operation.
Raed Jabouri, governor of Salaheddin, had said last week that 5,000 fighters from the security forces and Hashid Shaabi militia, which was formed last year with Iranian support, would join the operation.
Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said that "this is one of the biggest military operations that will eventually proceed to take back Mosul," referring to main city of Nineveh province, which is the stronghold of ISIL.
Our correspondent said that US air strikes are also expected to provide back-up for the Iraqi troops on the ground.
"This is not expected to be an easy fight," she said. "ISIL has dug in there."
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The long struggle of the Palestinians in Israel

Hatim Kanaaneh- The Electronic Intifada

A young Palestinian marks Land Day in Jaffa, present-day Israel, March 2014.
(Keren Manor / ActiveStills)
Concomitant with Israel’s founding in 1948, its armed forces systematically expelled Palestine’s native population and razed some 500 of their communities to the ground in the largest and most successfully denied ethnic cleansing campaign in modern times.
A mere six and a half decades later, who knows about Damoun, for example? Who remembers it except for its surviving refugee sons and daughters and their descendants?
Imprisoned in Gaza’s open-air jail or in Lebanon’s camps, they are terrorized daily by Israel’s sonic booms or real air raids to force on them an alternative narrative of history. Yet Damoun was another Palestinian village, of an equal size to that of Arrabeh, my home village.
Like Arrabeh, it was continuously inhabited for some 4,000 years, since the days of the Canaanites who first founded it. And like the rest of Palestine, each had absorbed into itself one conquering invader after another, adapted to a softened version of their dictates, practiced an altered version of their beliefs, and survived on the gifts of its good earth and its hardy crops, its olives, figs and wheat.
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Israeli settlers increase their attacks on Palestinian Christian sites

Graffiti sprayed on a church in Latrun in September reads “Jesus is a monkey” and the names of two West Bank settlements.

At the same time that thousands of Christian Zionist tourists descended on Jerusalem last week to display their unequivocal support for Israel, local Christian leaders say they fear a recent increase in attacks on their holy sites signals the potential for future, more extreme violence.
“Today, they attack holy sites in the night. Tomorrow, they will attack the holy sites while they are filled with people, and then [it] will end [with them] bombarding churches and mosques while people are praying,” Rifat Kassis, coordinator of Kairos Palestine, a Palestinian Christian activist organization, told The Electronic Intifada.
“If we fail to see this from now, and to stop this from now, then the whole international community is complicit with this,” he warned.
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Land theft: Settlers build Star of David on Palestinian land

Star of David built by settlers in West Bank (photo: Guy Hircefeld)
Star of David built by settlers in West Bank (photo: Guy Hircefeld)
 Settlers built a Star of David made out of rocks on private Palestinian lands in the village of Shweika in the South Hebron Hills on Saturday. The settlers, who live in the illegal outpost Eshtamoa near the village, built the Star of David in order to obstruct Palestinian residents’ sheep from grazing, and as a crude way of marking territory.
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