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Friday, November 30, 2007

The Annapolis "Honeymoon" is Over-US Pulls UN Middle East Draft Disliked by Israel

So the US submits the draft to the UN but NEITHER Israel or the Palestinians had seen it first.

This is just plain HUBRIS on the part of the US and is indicative of their LACK of foreign policy skills! Let's see, the "peace summit" lasted two days plus a meal that baby bush didn't even attend (most likely because Condi was afraid he would tuck his napkin under his chin) and now two days later THIS. The irony of what is written below is just blaring, "

"Although Israel apparently had no problems with the uncontroversial text, analysts suggested it was worried a formal resolution would get the United Nations too involved in Middle East peace efforts. Israel and the United States often complain of bias in the world body against the Jewish state."

But yet the US submitted it to the UN in this fashion. Is it just me, or am I seeing a MAJOR contradiction here?

U.S. pulls U.N. Middle East draft disliked by Israel

By Patrick Worsnip

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States withdrew on Friday a draft U.N. resolution endorsing action agreed at this week's Annapolis Middle East peace conference, a document Israeli officials said they felt was inappropriate.

Israeli diplomats at the United Nations said they did not object to the Security Council backing the outcome of Tuesday's meeting but did not consider a resolution the right way to do so. They also hinted Israel had not been consulted in advance on the draft the United States put to the council on Thursday.

After council discussions on the issue, U.S. envoy Alejandro Wolff told reporters Washington's "intensive consultations" had led it to conclude there was "some unease with that type of product" -- a resolution.

"In respect to both parties (Israelis and Palestinians) in terms of what they thought would be most helpful, we reached the conclusion that it would be best simply to withdraw it," he said, adding that the focus should be on Annapolis.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed at the meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, hosted by President Bush, to try to reach a peace treaty and create a Palestinian state by the end of 2008.

Israeli deputy U.N. representative Daniel Carmon told reporters Israel welcomed council support for Annapolis, but added, "We feel that the appreciation of the council has other means of being represented and reflected than resolutions."

The brief draft resolution, made available to journalists, would have endorsed actions agreed at Annapolis and called on all states to support them as well as well as to aid the struggling Palestinian economy.

Although Israel apparently had no problems with the uncontroversial text, analysts suggested it was worried a formal resolution would get the United Nations too involved in Middle East peace efforts. Israel and the United States often complain of bias in the world body against the Jewish state.


Asked in Washington about the resolution, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "You know, you take time to consider things, and you take a look at all the positive effects that have come out of Annapolis, and I'm not sure that we saw the need to add anything else to the conversation."

Instead of the resolution, the current council president, Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia, made an oral statement to journalists summarizing the feeling of the meeting -- the lowest grade of council utterance.

"We as president of the council detect and identify an overwhelming sense of welcome to what has happened in Annapolis ... (members) see the need to encourage the parties concerned to follow diligently the joint understanding that was reached," he said.

Carmon said Israel understood from the United States that the Palestinians were also unhappy about the resolution.

However, Abbas told a news conference in Tunis on Friday that the U.S. draft was "among the signals about the U.S. seriousness" to help forge a Middle East deal, although he said he had no details of the draft.

Both Israeli and Palestinian officials indicated they had not seen the text before the United States circulated it to the other 14 members of the council, who do not include either Israel or the Palestinian Authority.

Israel's U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman said on Thursday evening he would be glad to speak to his U.S. counterpart about the draft, "but at the moment I know very little about it."

A Palestinian diplomat, who asked not to be identified, said on Friday his mission had still not seen the draft and therefore had no comment on it.

French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said in a statement, "We understand the reasons put forward by the United States (for withdrawing the draft), but we remain convinced that the support of the international community to the process initiated in Annapolis remains indispensable."

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)


AH HA!! THIS article explains things!

"State Department and Israeli foreign ministry officials, and their U.N. counterparts, meanwhile, tried to trace back their steps, two officials familiar with both camps said. They attempted to figure out how Mr. Khalilzad moved to a council action mere hours after Washington decided to have the world body confer its legitimacy on the Annapolis process, and before hearing Israel's possible objections.

Traditionally, Israel had been uneasy about involvement of the council, or any U.N. body for that matter, in its negotiations with Arab counterparts. In the context of the nascent diplomacy that started in Annapolis, the council's "kibitzing" may become harmful, an Israeli diplomat said, adding, "In January, Libya will join the Security Council. Do you want Libya to become an overseer of our talks with Palestinians, which entered a very delicate stage at Annapolis?" Libya is on record opposing the two-state solution that underlines the Annapolis diplomacy."

WAIT a minute now, of course this article is from the New York Sun, but notice the wording, "before hearing ISRAEL'S possible objections" What about the PALESTINIANS? And HELLO, Libya joining the Security Council was a well-known fact, no-one thought of Israel's intransigence BEFORE this. Could it have been Israel's "ace in the pocket"- to BEGIN WITH?

How the hell is there going to be ANY "peace process" without the UN's involvement?


Hostage Situation in Hillary Clinton's Office: News Alert

News alert:

Hostages Held By Armed Man At Clinton Office

An armed man, possibly with a bomb, has taken people hostage at Hillary Clinton's campaign office in Rochester, N.H.

Clinton is attending a National Democratic Committee meeting in Virginia.

Police said a man in his 40s, with salt-and-pepper hair, is in the building and has what appears to be an explosive device strapped to his body, TV station WMUR reported.Witness Lettie Tzizik told the station that she spoke to a woman shortly after she was released from the office by the alleged hostage-taker."A young woman with a 6-month or 8-mont-old infant came rushing into the store just in tears, and she said, 'You need to call 911. A man has just walked into the Clinton office, opened his coat and showed us a bomb strapped to his chest with duct tape."

Authorities were sending a tactical bomb unit to assist local police, and the area was evacuated, said Maj. Michael Hambrook of New Hampshire State Police.Bill Shaheen, chairman of Clinton's New Hampshire campaign, said someone walked into the satellite office with what appears to be a bomb strapped to his chest. Two staffers, whom he described as volunteers, were held hostage and others were released."Hopefully, they're going to negotiate this so no one gets hurt," Shaheen said.

There are several police officers positioned across the street from the office, crouched down behind cruisers with guns drawn, Boston TV station WCVB reported."I walked out and I immediately started running, and I saw that the road was blocked off. They told me run and keep going," Cassandra Hamilton told WCVB. She works in an office adjacent to the building.

Nearby businesses have been evacuated, and the nearby St. Elizabeth Seaton School and Spalding High School have been locked down.Presidential candidate Barack Obama also has an office in Rochester, and it has been evacuated. There were no reports of any injuries.


(You can link to the source where it says to refresh the page for updates. There is also a link to LIVE COVERAGE where you can go. Apparently the man is well known in the community and has a history of mental illness)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Richard Perle Still Playing Chess With The Middle East

Richard Perle is still at it. Even though he resigned his last government post, he is still hard at work. The below article is a MUST read for all-

All links added by Robin

Grooming the next Ahmad Chalabi

Richard Perle is again propping up regime-toppling Mideast dissidents who lack credibility.
By Alan Weisman
November 28, 2007
ON A COLD MORNING last winter, I arrived at the home of Richard Perle outside Washington for a scheduled interview. I was about 10 minutes early, so I chose to shiver a bit on the front porch. Perle, the point man for the neoconservatives' drive for regime change throughout the Middle East, had agreed to spend time me with for a book I was writing about his life and times. Just then, the front door opened and out stepped Perle and a robust young man who was obviously in a hurry.

"Oh, Alan," Perle said with some surprise. "I'd like you to meet . . . " But I already knew who his guest was.

"Yes, sir," I said, extending my hand. "I recognize you from your photographs."

My, my, I thought. Mr. Perle is at it again.

The exiting guest was Farid Ghadry, an exiled Syrian dissident who, like Perle, believes it's past time to replace Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Ghadry, who heads a Washington-based group called the Syrian Reform Party, hopes to be the man in charge one day in Damascus. When I met him, he had already been granted audiences with David Wurmser, Vice President Dick Cheney's top Middle East advisor and Perle protege, and with Cheney's daughter, Elizabeth, who headed the State Department's Iran-Syria desk from 2005 until last June. I asked Wurmser about Ghadry. Was he another Ahmad Chalabi, the checkered Iraqi exile whom the United States backed as a Saddam Hussein replacement in Iraq?

"He's not asking for money, and we're not advocating money for him," Wurmser told me. "As for him wanting power, sure, he probably has an agenda. But it doesn't matter. This is where you go back to the Soviet Union, because it's the same question that we always work with, from Lech Walesa to Vaclav Havel: 'Did they have an understanding of the malady and danger posed by the totalitarian regime in their country?' "

The scenario of the U.S. backing exiles to aid in "democratizing" Middle Eastern countries is so appealing to Perle, Wurmser and their like-minded friends that they continue to pursue it despite past failures. Perle, of course, was the most prominent and aggressive advocate of Chalabi, dubbed the "Jay Gatsby of Iraq" for his social life and financial scandals, as the leader of a new Iraq. That effort collapsed when the Iraqi people, finally given a chance to vote in January 2005, did not award Chalabi's party a single seat in the new parliament.

Perle insists that his man, who has a new job with the Baghdad government, was the victim of a smear campaign led by the State Department and the CIA. The Chalabi experience has not muted Perle's unabashed affection for dissidents. "I think the best way to bring about regime change," he told me, "is to help decent people who are powerless without outside help."

People such as 32-year-old Amir Abbas Fakhravar, an Iranian dissident now living in exile in the United States. In a 2006 Washington Post Op-Ed article, Perle promoted Fakhravar as a heroic and inspirational figure around whom oppressed Iranians could rally, if only he were given America's support. Fakhravar is president of the Iran Enterprise Institute, which takes its name and some of its financial support from the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, of which Perle is a resident fellow. In the coming weeks, Fakhravar will be speaking at a conference in Palm Beach, Fla., on the subject of regime change in Tehran, addressing the Heritage Foundation in Washington and then heading to Rome to deliver a lecture on "Democracy in the Islamic World." Just recently, he was the honored guest at DePaul University's "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week," where he was introduced as "the hero of our age."

His story, as he and his supporters tell it, could be a Hollywood script. Young, handsome, bold Iranian student leads the oppressed and downtrodden against the crushing tyranny of the mullahs, rising up, a la "Les Miserables." He stands atop the barricades during student protests in Iran in 1999 and is then imprisoned and tortured. He communicates with the West from Tehran's maximum-security Evin prison via a cellphone and escapes to freedom, with a shoot-to-kill order hanging over his head.

Unfortunately, Fakhravar's detractors, including some Iranian dissidents and exiles, insist that his story might as well be a Hollywood script. In a report last November in Mother Jones, Laura Rozen interviewed Iranian dissidents and journalists who cast doubt on Fakhravar's story. They claim, for example, that in their experience, political prisoners at Evin weren't allowed to use cellphones to communicate with the outside world. And, they say, he did not so much escape from prison, he simply went AWOL while on a kind of furlough that prisoners could sometimes arrange. As for other harrowing details, in reality he took a regular flight to Dubai (where he was met by Perle). Most important, Rozen's sources told her, Fakhravar was never a major figure in the student uprising of 1999.

Writing in Progressive magazine, Muhammad Sahimi, a chemical engineering professor at USC, lists Fakhravar among the exiles who have no credibility in Iran: "They are not even known there." Although Amnesty International lists Fakhravar among those tortured by the Tehran regime, it uses the word "reportedly" to describe his ordeal.

Perle insists that Fakhravar is being smeared by forces opposed to aggressive regime change. But the fundamental problem for Perle and like-minded others is that the men they are supporting lack the stature of their successful and illustrious predecessors, the Walesas and Havels. In the first place, Walesa and Havel did not operate in exile; they remained in their countries despite repeated imprisonment, government pressure and threats. There was never any question that they were recognized as the real thing -- opposition leaders -- by the throngs in the shipyards of Gdansk and St. Wenceslas Square. They may have had personal as well as altruistic ambitions and motives, but they were nothing if not authentic.

Which brings us back to America's Middle East wannabe heroes. Take Ghadry, an American-educated Arab with a passion for technology start-ups as well as saving Syria. Unfortunately for Perle, Ghadry is seen in many quarters as a front man for Israel. Not only is he a dues-paying member of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful Israeli lobby in Washington, but a recent column on his website, titled "Why I Admire Israel," seems to play right into the hands of those who believe the Bush administration's obsession with regime change in the Middle East is really all about protecting Israel. Did Perle, the savviest of Washington power players, believe that Ghadry's tub-thumping for Tel Aviv would make him more popular in Syria?

"No," Perle replied. "I don't. But he's his own man. I don't always understand what he's doing and why he's doing it."

So, in his quest for idealistic dissidents to do in the Middle East what the Walesas and Havels achieved in Eastern Europe, Perle and his acolytes have tapped the discredited Ahmad Chalabi for Iraq, the suspect Amir Abbas Fakhravar for Iran and the allegiance-challenged Fahrid Ghadry for Syria. They're just not making heroes like they used to.

Alan Weisman is the author of the first biography of Richard Perle, "Prince of Darkness -- Richard Perle: The Kingdom, the Power, and the End of Empire in America."


Annapolis Myths

Two more items critical to understanding the "peace process" of Annapolis, both from Phyllis Bennis:

The 12 Myths of Annapolis
Phyllis Bennis
Institute for Policy Studies, 29 November 2007

* Myth 1) The Annapolis meeting was designed to launch serious new negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians that aimed at ending the occupation and producing a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region based on a two-state solution.

In fact, the two main reasons for the conference had virtually nothing to do with Israel or Palestine. The real reasons for convening the conference were 1) to strengthen Arab government support for U.S. strategies in the Middle East, including the war in Iraq and particularly the escalation of pressure aimed at Iran. 2) To provide a photo-op to reframe Condoleezza Rice’s legacy, now largely shaped by her embrace of Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon in 2006, to the legacy of a would-be peacemaker.

* Myth 2) The time is right for new talks because, as President Bush said, “Palestinians and Israelis have leaders who are determined to achieve peace.”

In fact, both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders are so weakened politically, so compromised as legitimate leaders and so unpopular among their own electorates, that they have little or no choice but to follow the demands of the White House. Both Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Abbas were democratically elected, but both of them were chosen as replacements for the powerful and popular icons of national symbolism they served.

Like his predecessor, Yasir Arafat, Abbas is simultaneously president of the Palestinian Authority and Chairman of the PLO; unlike Arafat, he is not viewed as a hero of the Palestinian national movement and a symbol of Palestinian unity. In his Annapolis speech Abbas mentioned key Palestinian national goals, including UN resolution 194 on the right of return, but his political weakness as well as his long-standing confidence in U.S. backing means he remains unable to insist on those rights; it is unclear whether he will ultimately agree to sign on to a “final” treaty denying key internationally-mandated Palestinian rights to return, to real independence in all of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, to dismantling of the settlements, etc.

Olmert replaced the right-wing General Ariel Sharon, known as the Butcher of Beirut from his role in the Sabra/Shatila massacre of 1982 and a continuing hero of the Israeli right-wing, when Sharon fell into a coma in January 2006. Olmert’s poll numbers are in the low single digits, and an Israeli criminal court judge had to issue a special hold on Olmert’s anticipated indictment on corruption charges even as his plane was about to take off for Annapolis this week.

* Myth 3) The Annapolis conference will provide hope for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank so Hamas supporters will be won over to support Abbas and the new peace process.

The only reference to the continuing U.S.-Israeli boycott and isolation of Gaza that has turned the Gaza Strip into a humanitarian disaster, a huge Israeli-controlled prison with what the World Bank calculates at 87% of Gazans living below the poverty line, came from Abbas’ call “To my people and relatives in the Gaza Strip, you are at the core of my heart.” But even he had nothing to offer them beyond the assertion that “the hours of darkness will end in the face of your resolve and determination. For your insistence on the unity of our people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as one geographical political unit without any divergence, your suffering will end. Right and peace will prevail.” Olmert referred to Gaza only as a place of terrorism and kidnapping. Bush described Gaza as the place where freedom rises, as in “when liberty takes root on the Iraqi soil of the West Bank and Gaza, it will inspire millions across the Middle East who want their societies built on freedom and peace and hope.” [yes, that is the accurate quote.] But unfortunately Palestinian children can’t eat Freudian slips.

* Myth 4) U.S. presidential “engagement” in Middle East diplomacy is inherently useful; the problem so far has been Bush’s lack of engagement.

Since 1967 the U.S. has been way too engaged in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. The U.S. already provides almost $4 billion/year in economic and military aid to Israel, has just announced an additional new $30 billion gift of military aid to Israel over the next ten years, consistently uses its UN Security Council veto to protect Israel from being held accountable for its violations of international law (half of all U.S. vetoes cast since 1970), is providing $85 million in police/military assistance to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah while maintaining the devastating complete embargo and isolation of Gaza. That’s engagement. The U.S. needs to engage differently – not more.

* Myth 5) At Annapolis the U.S. appropriately recognizes Israel and the Palestinians as two equal players, with equal responsibility for the conflict and equal obligations to compromise.

This is not a conflict between equal players. The U.S. remains the key power. The “Joint Understanding” read by President Bush at Annapolis states, “implementation of the future peace treaty will be subject to the implementation of the road map, as judged by the United States.” In fact, even the road map’s “Quartet,” the diplomatic fiction that provided political cover for the U.S. by anointing Europe, Russia and the United Nations as back-up singers for Washington’s solo act, was abandoned in Annapolis.

While the US has succeeded in preventing the SC from acting (vetoes) – like Madrid – UN silenced – here can speak, but

After Iraq – Art 14 – then arming spree – outcome of Madrid was new arms (even paletinians) – peace for the arms dealers – nothing to do with well-being on the ground

Israel is the occupying power, maintaining its occupation of Palestinian land in violation of scores of UN resolutions calling for an immediate end to the occupation of all of the West Bank, all of Gaza and all of occupied East Jerusalem. Israel is required to abide by – not to negotiate, but to abide by – all the obligations the Geneva conventions and other international laws impose on occupying powers, including the absolute prohibition of settlements, prohibition against collective punishments, and more. The Palestinians are the occupied population, whose protection is the primary obligation of the occupying power and the international community. In 1988 Palestinians made the historic (though largely forgotten) compromise when they gave up their claim to and recognized Israel as a state in 78% of historic Palestine (when even the UN Partition Agreement only assigned Israel 55%). The idea that now Palestinians should be expected to negotiate away additional major pieces of the meager 22% of the land that remains, and compromise away their other inalienable rights to self-determination and return, makes a mockery of international law and the international community.

* Myth 6) The discussions in Annapolis prove that a “two state solution” remains the only possible and legitimate outcome.

Creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state – in all of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – remains the mandate of the United Nations and international law, and the official Palestinian position. Formal support for creation of some kind of Palestinian state represents the official positions of Israel and the U.S., along with many other countries. But creation of a viable, contiguous and independent state in all the 1967 territory, as mandated by the UN and international law, would require the dismantling of huge blocs of city-sized settlements and the removal of (or agreement to become non-privileged, ordinary Palestinian citizens by) over 450,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. This is not just “small and mutually agreed adjustments” to the border. With the settlements continuing to expand, their reality and that of the Apartheid Wall are increasingly making a real two-state solution impossible. What many Israeli and U.S. policymakers quietly intend is the anointing of a Palestinian “virtual state” – it would have passports and a full seat at the UN, internet identity and a telephone country code all its own. But it would be made up of Gaza and less than 50% of the West Bank in the form of a set of non-contiguous bantustans linked by Israeli-controlled roads and bridges, with Israel remaining in control of borders, airspace, military and security capacity, and more.
As creation of a viable Palestinian state becomes less realistic, the alternative of recognizing all of historic Palestine – including what is now Israel as well as the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – as one country, with equal rights for all its citizens, begins to look like a more realistic option.

* Myth 7) Israeli participation in the Annapolis conference indicates a willingness to make serious new compromises on the long-standing obstacles to a just and lasting peace.

On settlements: the words “settler” and “settlement” did not appear in Olmert’s speech in Annapolis. Before arriving, there was a high-profile announcement that Israel would refrain from building any “new” settlements in the West Bank; this is complete spin, since the real expansion of the settler population is taking place by expanding the land controlled by and the people populating the existing settlements, not primarily by building new ones.
On Jerusalem: mentioned only as Olmert having come from Jerusalem, and having once been the mayor of Jerusalem; no reference to sharing Jerusalem, ending the occupation of East Jerusalem, Palestinian rights to their capital in Jerusalem, etc.

On Refugees: the words “refugee,” “return,” “rights,” “international law,” “resolution 194” did not appear. Olmert referred in a deliberately obscure reference to “your people who have suffered for many years” and Palestinians who “have been living for decades in camps, disconnected from the environment in which they grew up…” But Olmert, saying he “came here today NOT in order to settle historical accounts between us and you,” did not recognize Israeli responsibility for Palestinian suffering, let alone accept the international law-mandated solution under resolution 194 ensuring the right of the refugees to return. Instead he claimed Israel would “find a proper framework for their future, in the Palestinian state that will be established in the territories agreed upon between us.”
Borders: the words “border,” “Wall,” “fence,” “barrier” did not appear.

* Myth 8) Arab participation reflects U.S. and Israeli acceptance of the 2002 Arab peace initiative as part of the diplomatic framework.

In fact, only Abbas even described the actual requirements of the Arab peace initiative – Israel ending occupation to the 1967 borders, refugees, Jerusalem, the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. For Bush and Olmert, it was referenced only in the context of its consequence: IF Israel ended the occupation, recognized the refugees’ right to return, etc., THEN normalization between Israel and the Arab world was possible. Olmert’s speech included a litany of what he thinks about the Arab initiative: he is “familiar with” it, “acknowledges,” “appreciates” the initiative…but no indication he accepts or would abide by it. In fact Olmert addressed the Arab diplomats directly, reminding them that whatever their views,, the Arab governments would have no place at the table. “[E]ven if the Arab peace initiative presents principles based on the Arab narrative, You have no intention of replacing the Palestinians in the negotiations. Please support them; they need it. Without your support for compromises there will be no peace.” For Olmert, the Arab governments’ job was to collaborate in Palestinian surrender.

* Myth 9) Syria’s participation means Syria is now joining the pro-western anti-Iran contingent in the region.

Syria is a poor and relatively weak country, whose President Bashar al-Assad has never claimed the power and influence of his father, Hafez al-Assad. Despite Syria’s longstanding ties to Iran, it is a key component of the Arab world, and could not afford to insult the Arab League call for participation in Annapolis. Syrian attendance, at a relatively junior level in a partial snub to the U.S. and Israel (and even to Mahmoud Abbas) gets Damascus off the hot-seat with Washington – which continues to hope for being able to wean Syria away from Iran. Syria was able to at least mention the words “Golan Heights” and remind diplomatic listeners that the Arab peace initiative also included ending israel’s occupation of the Golan as a precondition to normalization. And Syrian participation in Annapolis could be viewed as paying a kind of protection money, reducing the influence of the “Syria Next” crowd in Washington.

* Myth 10) The speeches given at Annapolis will inspire new commitments.

The Annapolis meeting did not set forth a grandiose set of “confidence-building measures” to launch the process. The pre-Annapolis announcements of the Israeli government featured a high-profile announcement of the release of 450 prisoners (less than 5% of the more than 10,000 Israel continues to illegal hold) and a promise not to build any new settlements. This was a retreat even from the road map’s alleged call for Israel to “freeze all settlement expansion,” meaning no additional building or adding new settlers. In fact real confidence-building would require Israel to at least begin the process of actually dismantling existing settlements. Not simply the tiny symbolic “outposts” which Israel can shut down with little political and no financial cost (though they have not been shut down as promised in the road map) – but a real move to begin dismantling some of the empty or half-finished apartments currently being built throughout the existing city-sized illegal settlements such as Ariel or Ma’ale Adumim. That would be a step towards not simply preventing further deterioration, but a step towards serious peace-making.

* Myth 11) The Annapolis conference was based on implementing all relevant UN resolutions.

The presence of dozens of governments and international organizations at Annapolis gave the conference the appearance of a United Nations-style event. But it was all about style – not substance. In that way it reflected a similar scenario in 1991, when the U.S. orchestrated (ostensibly with Soviet co-sponsorship) the Madrid conference to “launch” new peace talks. A huge glittering international gathering – but the official Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Israel, setting the terms for Israeli participation, guaranteed that the sole United Nations representative would be prohibited from speaking. While current UN chief Ban ki-Moon was formally allowed to speak in Annapolis, there was not even the illusion that the world organization, which should be the centerpiece of all international diplomatic efforts on this issue, was to be allowed a serious role.

No UN resolutions were even mentioned in the joint Israeli-Palestinian statement that Bush read to open the conference. Abbas did refer to resolution 194 (ensuring refugees’ the right of return) but it was ignored by the U.S. and Israeli speeches. Olmert did mention 242 and 338, but equated UN resolutions’ authority with that of the April 14, 2004 letter President Bush sent to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promising U.S. support for Israeli annexation of huge settlement blocs and Israel’s rejection of the right of return. There was no discussion, of course, of Washington’s pattern of veto-threats and veto use in the Security Council that has consistently prevented Israel from being held accountable for its violations of international law.

* Myth 12) Annapolis was a failure.

If we understand Annapolis for what it really was, it may prove to be a great success. (See Myth #1) The Arab regimes can go home with transcripts of their own speeches, whether bluster or statesmanlike, and show their people how they stood up to Israel and the U.S., and how they helped the Palestinians. They can then show more willingness the next time Bush asks them for fly-over rights, for base rights, for political support. And Condoleezza Rice got her photo-ops. Her legacy, too early to say.
But based on its real, however unacknowledged, goals, Annapolis may turn out to be a great success.

So what does it all mean? And what do we do now?

There is another myth that says Annapolis, the latest iteration of U.S.-controlled “peace processes,” represents the epicenter of current Israeli-Palestinian peace-making efforts. That was never true. The framework of this conference, shaped by U.S. global power and unilateralism; Israel’s regional expansionism, militarism and apartheid policies; Arab governments’ repression and militarism; and Palestinian division and weakness, never held out much hope for a just or lasting or comprehensive peace. But that does not mean real peace-making work is not underway. Palestinian civil society, backed by global civil society, a few governments and sometimes the United Nations, are building non-violent movements challenging those realities.

In 2005, Palestinian and global civil society called for creation of a movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, to bring international non-violent economic pressure on Israel to comply with international law. That movement is well underway. The rising global use of the framework of an anti-apartheid movement to challenge Israeli policies of discrimination, moved forward by people like former President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and organizations like the U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation. Israel’s illegal Apartheid Wall faces challenges from global mobilizations and through the direct action of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals at places like the West Bank village of Bi’ilin, where every Friday activists non-violently gather to protest the Wall. Organizations like the U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation, the Stop the Wall Coalition and BADIL in the occupied territories, the International Coordinating Network on Palestine and so many others remain engaged in this work.

While U.S. threats and vetoes have largely prevented the Security Council from the central role it should play in this issue, other parts of the United Nations system remain thoroughly engaged. From General Assembly committees protecting the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, to the courageous work of Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories John Dugard, as well as the analysis of former UN representative to the “Quartet” Alvaro de Soto who exposed U.S. support for inter-Palestinian violence in Gaza, the UN remains an important ally. There are campaigns in U.S., European, Brazilian and many other national courts, as well as in the International Court of Justice, to hold Israel accountable for its violations. Those are the places where real peace-making is underway. There are efforts for real justice – unlike whatever “peace” comes out of Annapolis, which is likely to be neither just nor lasting.

Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies ( and the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. Her most recent book is Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer.


Used with permission under
Copyright/Creative Commons

ACTION ALERT: A Call From Gaza Asking For Your Help To End The Siege

Washington Report

November 29, 2007

A Call From Gaza Asking for Your Help to End the Siege

By News Editor Delinda C. Hanley and Managing Editor Janet McMahon

Today—the 60th anniversary of the passage by the U.N. General Assembly of the nonbinding resolution partitioning Palestine—is the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. We’ve been hearing speeches about peace all week from politicians—but talk, as we’ve learned, is cheap. We’ve seen photos of Gazans demonstrating in the streets against the Annapolis conference, to which the elected government of Palestine was not invited, but with few reporters in Gaza Americans aren’t getting the entire picture.

Yesterday our Gaza correspondent, Mohammed Omer, called us to discuss a story idea for the next issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Speaking on his cell phone from the office of a taxi cab company in Gaza City, Mohammed told us that he’d have to spend the night in Gaza City because there were no taxis available to take him home to Rafah.When we put him on speaker phone, we could hear the two other men in the office—Imad, the owner of Imad Taxis, and Mahmoud, who works for the municipalities department—ask who he was talking to. When Mohammed explained that he was speaking with his editors in Washington, DC, the floodgates opened. Our correspondent proceeded to translate what two everyday Gazans want the outside world to know. Their words were spontaneous, unpolished, and spoken from their hearts. It’s extremely urgent that Americans listen and respond.

Israel has kept Gaza’s borders sealed since June, when Palestine effectively was divided between Hamas-ruled Gaza and the Fatah-ruled West Bank. But since January 2006, when free and fair elections resulted in a Hamas parliamentary majority, Gaza’s borders have only rarely been opened. That means 1.5 million men, women and children are trapped there.

The owner of Imad Taxis told us that, because of the closure, if one of his cabs breaks down there are no spare parts to fix it. “Drivers can’t work,” he said. “Gas is getting very expensive. I can’t even pay my telephone bills, so soon customers can’t call to book a taxi.”

Mahmoud chimed in: “We’ve run out of everything. After every Israeli attack something more is ruined. Electrical poles, wires, water pipes, and we can’t replace them. Why are we being punished? What is our crime? Is it because we were born Palestinian?

“We can’t fix generators or even keep them running,” he continued. “When there is no electricity we can’t distribute water. We’ve run out of chlorine to clean the water. It’s full of bacteria. A water heater used to cost 10 shekels, but now it costs 40 or 50 shekels—if you can find one. So we don’t have hot water for bathing. Our sewage system has collapsed. There’s no power to pump sewage out and no chemicals to clean it. Look at the garbage in the streets. There is no fuel for the trucks to come to haul it away.”

“Israel is only allowing basic food supplies into Gaza: sugar, rice, flour, and oil,” Imad told us. “Every day my little girl asks me to bring home a chocolate bar. I can’t find any in Gaza. I disappoint her every night. We can’t even buy Arabic coffee. There are no razors, no shaving materials. We’ll all have to grow beards. [Laughter] There isn’t stone, not even cement, to make headstones for graves. We’re using pieces of metal to write names on graves. We can’t buy diapers. Gazans are starting to smoke molokhiya [a green leaf vegetable] because we can’t buy cigarettes. We can’t buy shoes and soon we’ll have to make them from tires. There is no printing paper.”

Their words overlap as they tumble out—we can no longer tell who is saying what.

“You can’t find jackets, wool clothes, underwear, or even socks for winter in the shops.

“Medical supplies in hospitals are exhausted. There’s no oxygen; drugs aren’t available. We cannot find the basic needs for life.

“For God’s sake open the border.”

Mahmoud tells us: “My son has had a visa to study in the United States since last year. He was admitted to San Francisco State. He speaks good English. He has high grades—'everything. Last year he missed going because the border was closed. He'’s ready to travel today. He'’s missing a second year. If my son doesn'’t have a future where will he go? Hamas is begging him to join its militia, but he doesn'’t want to. He’'s volunteering for [psychiatrist and peace activist] Dr. Eyad al-Sarraj’s International Campaign to Break the Siege on Gaza. Help prevent our children from becoming extremists. They'’re so hopeless they could find al-Qaeda. We want them educated. Don’t punish our children.”

“History will never forget. Israel and America are creating hatred in Gaza. The whole table will collapse if Gaza is excluded from the peace talks. Who is responsible for us? The U.N.? The European Union? We are not beggars. We are hard workers, educated, intelligent. We need our international human rights. We want to live like anyone in the world.

“We hope you can get our message out. Please open the borders and end this siege.”

Call or write your local editors and radio talk show hosts, and contact your elected representatives in Washington, DC.

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
(202) 456-1414
White House Comment Line: (202) 456-1111
Fax: (202) 456-2461
E-mail: <>

E-mail Vice President Dick Cheney:>

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
State Department Public Information Line:
(202) 647-6575

Any Senator
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-3121

Any Representative
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-3121
E-mail Congress: visit the Web site <> for contact information.

The Israeli Embassy, Washington, DC
(202) 364-5500

The Israeli Embassy, Canada
(613) 567 6450

For more information about this issue or to subscribe to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs visit our Web site <>. This 26-year-old publication has the largest circulation of any magazine of its kind, and is sent to both public and university libraries and bookstores in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. For a free sample copy call (202) 939-6050.

As The Saying Goes"Listen To The Doctor"

Carol Towarnicky | A DOC'S Rx FOR MIDEAST PEACE

ALOT OF people don't want to hear what Dr. Alice Rothchild has to say about what she's seen and heard as she crosses lines between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. So it wasn't unusual when, during a recent reading in the Boston area, an Israeli student walked out.

The young woman returned, still upset. "You know that story about that doctor being beaten, it's not true," she said.

Rothchild gently insisted that her friend, Allam Jarrar, a Palestinian doctor, had been beaten, cursed and humiliated by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint when he was traveling with Palestinian presidential candidate Mustafa Barghouthi.

The student paused, then said, "It can't have happened."

It can be hard for some Jews, Israeli and American, to take in the reality that Rothchild, an American Jewish ob-gyn who's worked in clinics in Gaza and the West Bank, is determined to describe: deplorable conditions in the clinics where she's worked with Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Palestinian Medical Authority, Jewish settlers throwing rocks and spewing racism, hundreds of checkpoints that constitute "a total disruption of daily life" for Palestinians.

Rothchild thinks she knows why: "If you start admitting that certain things are true, then you have to take responsibility for the fact that they happened," she said. "And then you have to make recompense. To do that requires a certain amount of pain, introspection, remorse that people don't necessarily want to go to."

Rothchild was here recently to speak to medical students and read from her book, "Broken Promises, Broken Dreams." I caught up with her at the Big Blue Marble bookstore in Mount Airy.

Much of what Rothchild has to say runs counter to U.S. Jews' love of Israel that rose from the Holocaust and the creation of a Jewish homeland 60 years ago. It also runs counter to the love and pride recorded in a diary Rothchild has of a visit to Israel with her family when she was 14. (She's now 59.) But "unraveling family secrets," as she calls her work, is perfectly in sync with the Jewish value of pursuing justice.

Using her training in listening to patients, Rothchild has seen and felt the fear that's part of everyday life in Israel, fear to do simple things like getting on a bus, fear that comes from not knowing how to recognize a mortal enemy. She watched as a 20-something female Israeli soldier at a checkpoint repeatedly yelled at the 5- and 6-year-old Palestinian children passing through.

The Boston-based doctor believes the brutality in the soldier's face came from the anxiety of wondering if one of the kids was carrying a bomb. But how will the kids remember it?

Rothchild also has seen life from the other side of the maze of checkpoints, bypass roads and the "security barrier." There are 600 checkpoints in the West Bank, which is the size of Delaware. Each day, thousands face multiple stops where they must produce an ID, be searched and questioned and eventually let through or turned back without explanation.

Sometimes the delays prove fatal: Women at checkpoints have delivered babies who later died. In response, four maternity centers have been set up. They are so crowded that women are released hours after giving birth. With fresh sutures and a new baby, they often have to walk back hundreds of yards through the checkpoints.

In the press buildup to yesterday's "Mideast Peace Conference" in Annapolis, as the expectations were systematically downgraded so that just showing up could be declared a success, there were few hints of the passion and heartbreak, the trauma and resilience on all sides that Rothchild spoke of, and few indications that either side is up to difficult negotiations.

Yet cynicism is a luxury.

"Only privileged people get to say it's hopeless," said Rothchild. "When you're getting up every day, when you can't get to your fields, you can't feed your family or whatever, you have to be fighting this, or else you'll die."

So Rothchild continues to write and speak and fend off hecklers and hate e-mails. As she wrote in my copy of her book, "Listening is the beginning of peace."

Praying with the News: May the toys we buy for the holidays be safe for our children, and may the recent recalls impel us to pay more attention to the importance of government inspection and regulations. Amen. *


To learn more about Dr. Alice Rothchild, link HERE where at the top you can link to several audio and video clips.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Meeting of the Minds at Border's Bookstore

Today I had to go to Border's book store to get my daughter a copy of Macbeth. As we reached the register I glanced down (not wearing my glasses) and caught the title on the issue of a magazine. It read "Mr. Palestine". I had sort of seen it out of the corner of my eye and said to my daughter, "OOH, what's that? Mr. Palestine" I reached down to get it and as I got closer I jumped back in horror. This picture is what I saw.

I said rather loudly, "Oh my God, I can't believe it, WHAT A JOKE"

The woman at the counter in front of me turned and said, "I take it you don't like him either?"

I guess I had a disgusted look on my face because she started laughing.

I said, "This whole meeting at Annapolis is such a farce"

She replied, "Good to hear someone knows what is going on and that it IS a farce"

She had a beautiful accent and I asked her where she was from. She replied Sicily.

We chatted for a minute or so and she ended by saying,

"If only he would just drop DEAD, and if he won't drop DEAD I wish I could just roll up a newspaper and HIT HIM with it to make him STOP".

I laughed and said "You can train dogs, that man can't be trained"

She said, "You're right, he's absolutely hopeless, unlike most dogs"

We chuckled some more and parted with smiles and a Happy Holidays.

I love it when there is a meeting of the minds with a perfect stranger.

To read the article, link HERE

On Haled's Roof (Amira Hass)

The article below by Amira Hass appeared in Haaretz but has not been translated in to English yet.
I just received the translation from a dear friend whose friend translated the article. At Annapolis SUPPOSEDLY-Israel has committed to a one year time-table. A great deal can happen in a year, and quite frankly, I'll believe it when I see it. Forty years have gone by, with illegal settlements and the roads leading to them making a viable contiguous Palestinian state impossible. Whatever the "outcome"........................

Translated from the Hebrew by Elana

On Haled's Roof

Amira Hass
Haaretz (Hebrew only)
Wednesday November 28, 2007

[In contrast to most of the 'opinion' articles, this one has not been
translated by Haaretz. Maybe it will be tomorrow or the next day or
never. It is the kind of article that is often purposely skipped over
and is never seen by non-Hebrew-speakers . - I made a quick translation,
because not only Hebrew speakers should be able to read it. - Elana]

Haled rarely takes his children to the village of his birth in the
western part of the West Bank, south of Qalqilya. It's hard for him to
sit on the roof of his parents' home and from there look out at the
family land (about 500 meters away) without being able to reach it.
This land had always been a kind of insurance; security for a continuing
income, where all the brothers and sisters worked and from which they
all benefited. It guaranteed respite from the urban crowd and was also
a kind of savings and security for a time of need - sickness, heaven
forbid; or higher education for the grandchildren. It was always
possible to sell a dunam or to build on it in order to realize a dream.

Between the roof and the promise, between him and the 20 dunams that
remained in the family's possession, was the separation fence, an ugly
scar of high fencing, barbed wire, and wide strips of exposed earth
where a row of trees had been uprooted and whose absence remains painful
like the stump of a missing limb.

The roof of his childhood home is Haled's Mount Nevo. He sees the
promised land so close and cannot reach it. Staff of the Civil
Authority take care to create lengthy, complicated bureaucratic
procedures for Palestinians to try to gain periodic entrance permits to
reach the private lands beyond the fence. By the time the processes are
understood, they change, and the criteria become yet more restricted.

The result: parents get entrance permits to their land, but they can't
work the land alone. Children and grandchildren can get permits but not
as members of the family, only as hired workers. Such permits are
limited to a small number of days, and they are not suited to those who
have regular jobs elsewhere. Moreover, the very necessity of requesting
a permit to reach the family property - all that only if you can prove
you have a justifiable reason for wanting to be on your own land - is so
infuriating that they give up without trying.

In the West Bank there are about two million Haleds. In every village
and city many families have land that Israel prevents them from
reaching, like land in area C (60% of the West Bank), by means of the
separation barrier, security roads of Jewish settlements, settlements
built on part of the land that blocks access to the land that hasn't
been confiscated, roads that are forbidden to Palestinian travel, closed
military areas, army camps, or army road blocks.

Every Palestinian has their own Mount Nevo, from which they see the
land, which has as much emotional as material value, being taken away
from them. When a fire breaks out, as has happened more than once on
the land of Kafin, it's impossible to reach it and put out the fire in
time. If one wants to grow vegetables, it's impossible to irrigate them
because the well is in the part of the private land that has been
confiscated for the use of the nearby settlement, as was the case with
Abu Fahmi from Dir Istiya. And when settlers occupy the land, it's
impossible to get rid of them, as was the case with the land belonging
to the Kadan family from El Bireh when youths from Bet El turned their
private property into a place of worship. The Civil Administration did
remove the settlers from this intrusion, but in any case the army does
not allow the Palestinians to come there. The result is the same: the
land cannot be used.

The Israeli government is praised for its vision of two states for two
peoples, apparently adopted by its leaders and brought by them to
Annapolis. But Israel refuses to commit to a time table for implementing
the vision. Meanwhile, its faithful messengers in the army and in the
Civil authority and the settlers as well hold ongoing one-sided
negotiations on the fate and shape of the future Palestinian state.
They are doing everything to ensure that millions of dunams of land, the
land reserve of the future Palestinian state, will not be returned to
its lawful owners. They cause more and more land to be seen as
abandoned land or what is known in Israeli Orwellian as absentee
property, that is, land that the state of the Jewish people has learned
to pronounce as being state owned in practice.

On Haled's Roof

250 Years of William Blake

On this day, 250 years ago, the English poet, engraver, artist, philosopher William Blake was born.

To read his "Songs of Innocence" and "Songs of Experience" link HERE.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

In honor of the quarter millenium of William Blakes gift to humanity......................


Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief,
And not seek for kind relief?

Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrow's share?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be with sorrow filled?

Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan, an infant fear?
No, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

And can He who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird's grief and care,
Hear the woes that infants bear -

And not sit beside the nest,
Pouring pity in their breast,
And not sit the cradle near,
Weeping tear on infant's tear?

And not sit both night and day,
Wiping all our tears away?
O no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

He doth give His joy to all:
He becomes an infant small,
He becomes a man of woe,
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy Maker is not by:
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy Maker is not near.

O He gives to us His joy,
That our grief He may destroy:
Till our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by us and moan.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Christians and Muslims Coexist in Gaza

MIDEAST: Christians And Muslims Coexist In Gaza
By Mohammed Omer

GAZA CITY, Nov 27 (IPS) - As Sunday dawns in Gaza City the traditional Islamic call to prayer mingles melodically with church bells.

Side by side, mosque and church doors swing open, welcoming the faithful. Greetings are eagerly exchanged.

The October kidnapping and murder of Rami Ayyad, the manager of Gaza's only Christian bookstore, sent shudders through the Christian community.

Was this a hate crime or simply a tragic occurrence?

Monsignor Manuel Musallam, head of Gaza's Roman Catholic community, doubts the attack was religiously motivated.

"Rami was not only Christian," the Musallam told IPS. "He was Palestinian. Violent acts against Christians are not a phenomenon unique to Gaza."

Immediately upon hearing of the murder, the elected Prime Minister Ismail Hanyieh of Hamas ordered the Palestinian ministry of interior to dispatch an investigative committee to "urgently look into the matter", labelling Ayyad's death a "murderous crime".

"We are all one people who suffer together for the sake of freedom, independence and restoration of our inalienable citizenship rights," Hanyieh stated publicly. "We are waging a single struggle and refuse to allow any party to tamper with or manipulate this historical relationship, [between Muslims and Christians]."

Currently, Palestine's Christian community hovers between two and 10 percent.

In Gaza, approximately 3,000 Christians still call this former Egyptian territory home -- with the majority of the community living within Gaza City near the three main churches: The Greek Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, and the Gaza Baptist.

Christians in Gaza have the same rights as their Muslim neighbours, rights guaranteed under the Palestinian Declaration of Independence. Within the Legislative Council, several seats have been reserved for Christian leaders.

Seventeen-year-old Christian student Ali Al Jeldah told IPS about attending a dual faith school: "My life is normal and I've never felt oppressed. Being Muslim or Christian is never an issue."

"I have many Muslim friends. We hang out and study together with no differences at all," Al Jeldah said.

Lelias Ali, a 16-year-old Muslim student at Holy Family School, concurs. "We have a unity of struggle, a unity of aim -- to live under the same circumstances. This land is for both of us and being a Christian or Muslim should not separate us" she said.

"I have lots of friends. Being Muslim or Christian is not an issue," Diana Al Sadi, a 17-year-old student told IPS.

"I go to my friends' homes for happy and sad occasions," Al Sadi said, "including Christmas and Easter. They visit mine during Eid [the Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting]."

When the students were asked if Christians are being harassed by Hamas or the Palestinian police, all agreed that this was not the case.

"Every society has extremists," Lelias Ali states. "Sometimes I'm criticised for not wearing my Hijab. But that has nothing to do with being Muslim or Christian. Those people don't represent our Palestinian society."

Pausing for a moment, she considered the assertions in the international media regarding Muslims and Christians: "We should not let such ideas sneak into our minds. If we don't unite, then we lose."

Asked if Christians in Gaza feel singled out or oppressed, Musallam says, "Palestinian Christians are not a religious community set apart in some corner. They are part of the Palestinian people."

But what of Hamas, a fundamentalist Islamic political organisation? Have Palestinian Christians experienced persecution or racism under their leadership, as Western papers insinuate?

"Our relationship with Hamas is as people of one nation," Musallam contends. "Hamas doesn't fight religious groups. Its fight is against the Israeli occupation.

And what of the Western media assertions that Gaza's Christians are considering emigrating because of Islamic oppression?

Sighing, Musallam corrects the misconception. "If Christians emigrate," he states resolutely, "It's not because of Muslims. It is because we suffer from Israeli siege. We seek a life of freedom. A life different from the life of the dogs we are currently forced to live."


Monday, November 26, 2007

Israeli settlers attack Palestinian schoolgirls with axes

The below article is so horrendous I just can't even find the right words for it, because there are NONE.

Israeli settlers attack Palestinian schoolgirls with axes

Monday November 26, 2007 22:37author by Saed Bannoura -

In the West Bank city of Hebron Monday morning, Israeli settlers armed with axes came after the students of the Qurtuba School for girls. The settlers broke water pipes, menaced children, blocked the path to the school, and tried to set the school on fire.

Israeli settlers on Hebron street
Israeli settlers on Hebron street

The school's principal, Reem Ash-Shareef, reported that this is not the first time Israeli settlers have attacked the school. She stated that attacks are frequent, and students on their way to school are menaced by Israeli settlers on a daily basis. International human rights workers have had to accompany the schoolgirls, but they, too, have been attacked with regular frequency by Israeli settlers.

The settlers in the Hebron area, which number several thousand, are reputed to be the most violent and extreme of Israeli settlers. They colonized an area right in the middle of a Palestinian population center of 200,000 with several dozen settlers thirty years ago. Since that time, 5,000 Israeli soldiers have been stationed around them to ‘protect’ the settlers from the Palestinians whose land they occupy.

Despite the constant provocation of the settlers, very few incidents of Palestinians attacking the settlers have been documented. But Hebron is the site of one of the bloodiest massacres of Palestinians by Israeli settlers – the 1994 massacre of 27 Palestinians praying in a mosque by Baruch Goldstein. That massacre prompted the first Palestinian suicide bombing, and resulted in the punishment of the Palestinian people of Hebron by Israeli authorities, who succumbed to the demand of Goldstein and split the Ibrahimi Mosque in half, building a Jewish synagogue to replace half of the Mosque where the massacre took place.

As for the Qurtuba School for Girls in Hebron, it is located on a site that the settlers are hoping to seize. So the girls face daily attacks and harassment by settlers hoping to force them to abandon their school. The principal points out that she has issued multiple complaints to the Israeli occupying authorities about the ongoing attacks, but nothing has been done to stop the settlers from attacking the children. (IMEMC)

This is by far not the first time this school or the children have been attacked. Read the following from this August:

Hebron: Settlers Suspected as Qurdoba School is Set Ablaze

August 6th, 2007 | Posted in Reports, Hebron Region

August 6, 2007 12:20pm

At 12:20pm international human right workers received a call from a local Palestinian coordinator that a section of Quartaba Girls School had been set on fire by Israeli settlers. Quartaba girls school is located directly across from Beit Hadassah settlement.

When internationals arrived Palestinian residents were present as well as an Israeli policeman. They found that the back screen door, which is a metal frame, had been peeled up. This was how the Israeli settlers managed to enter the school without being seen.

The settlers had placed the metal frame of a bed on top of a table and set fire to it, along with pictures of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The burning effigy was placed directly in front of a metal door that the children and teachers use to enter the school.

The fire had been burning for about 10 minutes before nearby Palestinian residents came with buckets of water and managed to put the fire out and keep it from spreading.

The internationals documented the scene and were told by the Palestinians that an electricity wire had been cut above the fire. It was apparent that this fire was started by adult settlers as the act was quite methodical and symbolic in the way it was laid out, with the pictures (of the Dome of the Rock), and the way they broke into the school. They also managed to commit the act undetected by Palestinians which no settler child could accomplish, and leads one to suspect that the act must have been planned and coordinated.

Israeli soldiers also later came to survey the scene, and at one point actually said that, for all they knew, it could have been Palestinians who had started the fire. They said that their was no solid evidence that it was Israeli settlers who had started the fire. This was obviously completely wrong, and offensive, since no Muslim would burn pictures of the Dome of the Rock or set fire to a Palestinian girls school. The only people who had motive to start the fire are Israeli settlers, who have in the past frequently attacked the schoolgirls and the school itself.

Cordoba School Fire 6th August 2007

After ten more minutes the door to the school was opened and the windows inside were opened in order to release the smoke trapped inside the school.

Except for smoke damage, which was quiet extensive, there appeared to be no more damage to the school except for the cut electricity cable which will have to be repaired.


Now tell me please, at Annapolis tomorrow are these settlements in Hebron going to be discussed? Is what is happening to these children there going to come up in conversation?

I would really like to know because MY country is hosting this conference at their own insistence

and my country also is the one who subsidizes Israel so that it can continue doing these things.

These children NEED to go to school and they NEED to be safe. Just what would happen to people who did this in America?

Amy Goodman Interview With Phyllis Bennis on the Upcoming Gathering at Annapolis

Leaders Gather in Annapolis for U.S.-Sponsored Middle East Summit, Hamas Not Invited

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Delegates from over 40 countries, including Syria, are expected to gather in Annapolis, Maryland, Tuesday to participate in a US-sponsored Middle East summit. We speak with Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies. [includes rush transcript]
Leaders from across the world will gather in Annapolis, Maryland, Tuesday to participate in US-sponsored Middle East peace talks. President Bush called for the international meeting in July 2007 to advance stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Delegates from over 40 countries, including Syria, are expected to attend the one-day summit. Hamas was not invited.

A final agenda has not yet been drawn up, but a draft of a joint document was leaked to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. It makes no mention of the situation in Gaza, nor of core issues like settlements, borders, the separation wall, Palestinian refugees, and the status of Jerusalem. Israeli and Palestinian officials arrived in Washington, D.C. over the weekend and said Sunday that the meeting would be an important starting point in strengthening dialogue and isolating "extremists" like Hamas.

Saeb Erekat, the advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the summit could mark an important turning point in the region.

  • Saeb Erekat, advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the follow-up to the summit would be crucial.
  • Mark Regev, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman.
US officials also asserted that the meeting was a chance to launch dialogue and not a negotiating session on key issues. Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies, where she focuses on US Middle East policy. Her most recent book is "Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer." She joins us from Washington, D.C.

This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
Donate - $25, $50, $100, more...

AMY GOODMAN: Leaders from around the world will gather in Annapolis, Maryland, Tuesday to participate in US-sponsored Middle East peace talks. President Bush called for the international meeting in July of 2007 to advance stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Delegates from over forty countries, including Syria, are expected to attend the one-day summit. Hamas was not invited.

A final agenda has yet to been drawn up, but a draft of a joint document was leaked to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. It makes no mention of the situation in Gaza, nor of core issues like settlements, borders, the separation wall, Palestinian refugees, and the status of Jerusalem.

Israeli and Palestinian officials arrived in Washington, D.C. over the weekend and said Sunday that the meeting would be an important starting point in strengthening dialogue and isolating "extremists" like Hamas.

Saeb Erekat, the advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the summit could mark an important turning point in the region.

    SAEB EREKAT: Today, it’s a critical juncture in the Middle East. Either we go the path of peace, stability, moderation, or we go on the path of extremism, deterioration, bloodshed, violence, and counter- violence. The key is in Annapolis.

AMY GOODMAN: Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the follow-up to the summit would be crucial.

    MARK REGEV: I think the test of Annapolis is not only to have a good meeting, but it’s in what happens in the weeks and the months following Annapolis. And what we're hopeful for is coming out of this meeting with an energized dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians on the core issues.

AMY GOODMAN: US officials also asserted the meeting is a chance to launch dialogue and not a renegotiating session on key issues.

Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies, where she focuses on US Middle East policy. Her most recent book is Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer. She joins us now from Washington, D.C.

Phyllis Bennis, what do you expect to happen at this summit?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Very little, Amy. I think there has been a great successful effort at tamping down expectations. But what has not been clarified is that the real goal of these meetings also have very little to do with actually reaching a just and comprehensive and lasting peace, which of course requires ending Israeli occupation and ending Israel’s policies of apartheid and discrimination.

There are two real goals for this meeting; neither of them have really anything to do with Palestinian rights, a Palestinian state, Israeli security or anything else. They are, number one, to shore up Arab States’ support for the US crusades against Iran and Iraq in the region, and, two, to rebuild Condoleezza Rice's legacy, which right now is grounded in her being the person who stood before the world in the summer of 2006, as Israeli bombs were devastating Lebanon, and said, “We don’t need a ceasefire yet.” She wants to change that. That’s a huge part of why this meeting is going forward.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the countries who are coming and who are not coming? We surprised, for example, by Syria?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, the question of whether Syria would participate has been an on-again/off-again question for some time, and it remains, frankly, uncertain what role they will actually play. Syria is not sending their foreign minister, as the other Arab regimes are. They're sending a deputy foreign minister, a deliberate statement that this is not quite full participation.

The Syrians had said that they would not participate unless the issue of Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied in 1967 at the same time that it occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; as long as that was on the agenda, they would agree to participate. They now say that is on the agenda. US officials don’t say that. US officials say that any country who comes is welcome to raise whatever they want and, quote, "We won’t turn off the microphone.” That’s very different than saying that it is on the agenda. So, we don’t actually know whether or not there is going to be any opportunity for discussion of the Golan Heights beyond whatever speech, whatever formal speech, the Syrian deputy foreign minister might give.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about the exclusion of Hamas?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, this has been known from the very beginning. The basis of this conference is grounded in the division within the Palestinian polity, the divide between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank led by Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas-led government in Gaza.

The fiction that exists at this point is that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is not representing the Palestinian Authority, but rather representing the Palestine Liberation Organization, the umbrella organization, which does in fact represent all Palestinians. This is the same double role or double position that Mahmoud Abbas’s predecessor, Yasser Arafat, played. He was both the head of the PLO and the president of the Palestinian Authority. The difference, of course, is that Yasser Arafat, despite widespread dissatisfaction with many of his policies, was massively recognized as the representative, the legitimate symbol and political representative, of the entire Palestinian nation. That is not true of Mahmoud Abbas. There is enormous opposition to him. The PLO has not been functioning as an independent organization.

So, this sort of claim that Mahmoud Abbas is there not as the head of the PA, but rather as the head of the PLO, isn’t convincing Palestinians. And as a result, we see in the latest Palestinian poll concluded just yesterday 62% of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories expect failure from the talks in Annapolis. 47% believe that nothing will change as a result of these talks, despite the fact that 70% agree with holding peace talks. They just want peace talks that are really aimed at dealing with the serious core issues, not peace talks that are designed to be a photo op.

AMY GOODMAN: And how much territory does Mahmoud Abbas control?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: In fact, he doesn’t control any territory. He is the elected president in the West Bank, but the Israeli military is still very completely in control of that territory, as well as that of East Jerusalem and Gaza. So, in fact, he doesn’t control the territory at all. He is the Authority’s elected leader. But the Authority is governing crumbs, if you will, while the Israelis maintain control of the whole loaf.

The question that remains is how far is Mahmoud Abbas and his team prepared to go to make additional concessions in the name of the Palestinians, whether on issues of territory, particularly the question of settlements and most importantly, I think for many Palestinians, the question of the right of return. There have been claims from the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he would not negotiate with anyone, including Mahmoud Abbas, who did not agree as a precondition to accept, in Israel's words, "Israel's existence as a Jewish state and as a state of all the Jewish people," meaning, Amy, that Jews like you and I, who have no ties in Israel, would have more rights permanently as quasi-citizens of Israel than the Palestinians who were expelled from the territory that is now Israel back in 1947 and ’48, that there would be no right of return, except to a putative Palestinian state that might be assembled out of some disconnected Bantustans in parts of the West Bank. That’s the proposal of the Israelis.

The US has agreed to that territorial approach, that the right of return would not apply, that Palestinians would be allowed to return, quote, "only to the new Palestinian state,” even if that was not their former homeland. Whether Mahmoud Abbas will, in fact, say those words, endorse that position, remains uncertain. Most Palestinians have said, he could not do that and survive as a political leader. Saeb Erekat, who we just heard from a moment ago, has said that the Palestinians will not accept the Israeli definition of Israel as a Jewish state and the state of the entire Jewish people, as opposed to being the state of all its citizens, including of course the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Palestinian. Whether that will, in fact, prevail as the official Palestinian position, we simply don’t know yet.

AMY GOODMAN: And two other questions about Lebanon and Iran. Lebanon, the fact that it doesn’t have a president right now, how will this play? And, of course, Iran -- here you have this gathering, mainly of Middle East leaders; what is the US pushing around Iran?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, on the question of Lebanon, the political crisis is very strong. There is no agreement yet on -- between the two almost-equal factions in the government about how to choose the successor to President Lahoud, who just resigned at the end of his term. There are new negotiations scheduled for this coming weekend. But it does mean that Lebanon, even if other parties are discussing it -- for example, the Syrians or the Israelis -- the Lebanese are not in a position to play much of a role at this conference. I assume they will send an official delegation, but it will be understood that it will not be a delegation that is authorized to speak in any definitive way.

The question of Iran, of course, is very central. Even European diplomats, even the Israeli Meretz Party and many others around the world, are acknowledging that this summit has more to do with Iran than it does with the Palestinians. This is a summit designed to shore up Arab States’ support for the US escalations against Iran. This is a situation in which most Arab regimes would be only too happy to jump into the US -- to jump into bed with the US in attacking Iran. The problem is that the Arab people in all those Arab countries are not so keen on that, do not see Iran as a major enemy. So, in order to gain political credibility at home and avoid being overthrown, in some cases, those governments need to be able to give their people something. The US is essentially throwing them a bone, saying, “Here, give your people this, so that you can come onboard our anti-Iran crusade and stay onboard our war in Iraq.” The bone they are throwing to the Arab regimes is this photo op in Annapolis.

AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis Bennis, I want to thank you for being with us, fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies. Her latest book is called Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer. This is Democracy Now!, We will certainly follow what takes place tomorrow in Annapolis.


Read: Francis Boyle's letter concerning Mahmoud Abbas's authority to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people.

'Wash Post' Multimedia Probes Deadly Legacy of Israeli Cluster Bombs in Lebanon

By E&P Staff Published:
November 25, 2007 12:15 AM ET

Accompanying a Washington Post report in print on Sunday, the newspaper at its Web site launched a multimedia offering on the deadly legacy of cluster bombs used by Israel in its bombing of Lebanon last year.

The site offers audio reports, graphics, a slide show and test.

Here is part of the text. The rest is at

* Rasha Zayoun grimaced as she lifted herself onto her one leg and spun from her bed into a wheelchair. Her torment wasn'tfrom her amputated left foot, mangled beyond repair when an Israeli cluster bomblet exploded in her home in southern Lebanon in January; it was from her remaining foot, speckled with shrapnel and so stiff from lack of use that putting her weight on it shot jolts of pain all the way to her face. She was 17 when she found the explosive in a bag of wild thyme that her father had brought home. "I thought it was a toy," she said.

At least 60 countries have cluster bombs, according to Human Rights Watch. Defense ministries, including the Pentagon, say the bombs work well against enemy troop formations and armored vehicles, but the civilian toll can be dire. Once dropped, the munitions scatter hundreds of bomblets randomly over a wide area, many of which fail to explode and linger on as de facto landmines. "Dozens of people still die or lose limbs in Southeast Asia each year from the millions of cluster bombs that America fired back in the 1960s and '70s," said Marc Garlasco, Human Rights Watch's senior military analyst. The group estimates that tens of thousands of civilians have been hurt or killed by such munitions in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Chechnya and some 20 other countries.

Rasha lost her foot after the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, the radical Shiite militia. U.N. officials estimate that the Israeli military dropped between 1.2 and 4 million cluster bomblets on southern Lebanon -- 90 percent of them during the last 72 hours of the 33-day conflict, which began after Hezbollah fighters seized two Israeli soldiers in a July cross-border raid and ended with a cease-fire in August. The munitions have killed or injured some 255 people since then, according to Human Rights Watch. "The vast majority of the cluster bombs Israel used in Lebanon were U.S.-manufactured, including many clunkers from the Vietnam War," Garlasco said. The Israeli military says it aimed only at military targets. (source)

Link HERE to view the multimedia report with slide shows and audio at the Washington Post.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Walls of Shame Series (Al Jazeera)

It matters little what they are called – whether walls, barriers or fences - the intention is the same: to redefine human relations into 'us' and 'them'. This series is about division, and about the barriers that men erect, in calculation or desperation, to separate themselves from others, or others from them. When diplomacy and conciliation fail, this is the alternative, and not since medieval times have walls been so in demand around the world. Tens of new walls, barriers and fences are currently being built, while old ones are being renovated. And there are many types: barriers between countries, walls around cities and fences that zig-zag through neighbourhoods.

This series will look at four examples of new and extended walls around the world. It will examine the lives of those who are living next to them and how their lives are impacted. It will also reveal the intention of the walls' designers and builders, and explore the novel and artistic ways walls are used to chronicle the past and imagine the future.

The Walls of Shame series takes its name from John F. Kennedy's reference to the Berlin Wall in his state of the union address in 1963. It will examine four new walls: The one on the American-Mexican border, the West Bank wall, the Spanish fence around Ceuta, and the walls inside the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland.


Episode 1: US/Mexico

A border of more than 3,000 kilometres separates the US from Mexico - but it is defined not only by physical barriers made of concrete and steel but by an immigration policy which is failing to address the issues behind illegal migration.

Despite the US spending billions of dollars on border enforcement, the lure of work sees illegal migrants enter the country at a rate of 850,000 a year.

A series of walls along the Mexican border were designed to stem this flow but based on current estimates it has failed.

Instead, the walls have re-routed human traffic into remote desert areas where people risk their lives in deadly conditions attempting to enter the US.

Episode 2: Morroco/Spain

The city of Ceuta is the southernmost outpost of fortress Europe. Yet it is on mainland Africa – opposite the Straights of Gibraltar. It is one of the last vestiges of Spanish rule in northern Morocco.

Madrid insists it will never relinquish control and has cordoned it off – prompting comparison with other walls of shame.

Now, though, there are growing demands for a more constructive approach to the
problem of illegal immigration. One man has already started a grass-roots initiative that proved much more successful than walls and fences.

But within the town of Ceuta is another divide – a social division that is religious and economic - between the wealthy Christian Spaniards and their poorer Muslim compatriots of Moroccan descent.

Part 3: West Bank

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A look at the most controversial wall in the world today. We look at the plight of Palestinian farmers whose land became inaccessible because of the wall, and the real intention of those who first drew its outlines

Part 4: Belfast

The modern history of Northern Ireland has been dominated by one thing, 'The Troubles' - a violent, bitter conflict, both political and religious, between those claiming to represent the predominantly Catholic nationalists and those claiming to represent the mainly Protestant unionists.

But what Northern Ireland has now is not so much 'peace' as 'an absence of conflict' after the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. Far from disappearing, the walls have grown. Instead of reconciliation, there is partition – an ill-tempered stalemate of separate identities and separated lives.

Broadly speaking, the nationalists – also called 'Republicans' - want Northern Ireland to be unified with the Republic of Ireland while the unionists want it to remain part of the United Kingdom, along with England, Wales and Scotland.