Nov 15, 2010

The Latest from Mondoweiss for 11/15/2010


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Here are the headlines from Mondoweiss for 11/15/2010:

Israeli settlers have started building 1,649 homes in the last two months
Nov 14, 2010 03:34 pm | Kate

And more news from Today in Palestine:

Settlers / Land, property, and resource theft and destruction / Ethnic cleansing

Watchdog: Israel started 1,650 new settler homes since freeze end (AFP)
Jewish settlers have started building 1,649 homes since the end of a freeze in construction on 26 September, watchdog Peace Now said Sunday, more than making up for the 10-month ban on new building. Figures compiled in a new report by the Israeli group show that in more than two-thirds of the cases, building work had begun on the foundations for new homes, with work being carried out in 63 separate settlements. During 2009, construction work began on 1,888 new housing units, the report said, citing data from Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics. "Had the construction continued at the same speed without the freeze, work would have begun on 1,574 units during the 10 months of the moratorium," Peace Now said. "In the six weeks since the end of the moratorium, the settlers have managed to start construction on a similar number of units."

Post-freeze: Settlers build with frenzy
Yesha Council official says Netanyahu 'prone to pressure', so 'it is obvious that this is a temporary recess' as settler leaders struggle to build as many homes possible before another construction moratorium takes hold,7340,L-3984451,00.html

Settlement mayor sought tax cuts for city 'not ruled from Israel'
The message Ariel's Mayor Ron Nachman and the Ariel municipality have been trying to stress over the past few months regarding the refusal of some artists to appear at the city's new cultural center because it is not within Israel, is that the residents of Ariel are Israeli citizens just like anywhere else ... However, it has recently come to light that in 2001, the municipality of Ariel petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court against the tax authorities to return the Value Added Tax it paid between 1994 and 1998, arguing that it is not part of Israel according to the law, because "the Ariel Local Council and the municipality, composed of residents of the region, convenes in the region and is managed from Ariel," and the city is not governed from Israel.

Massive protest in Sheikh Jarrah against displacement of Palestinians
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Dozens of Jerusalemite citizens and foreign activists participated in a protest in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood against Israel's plan to displace Palestinians from their homes and Judaize the neighborhood. A large number of Israeli troops stormed and cordoned off the neighborhood to prevent other Palestinians from joining the protest.

Israel unanimously approves immigration of 8,000 Falashmura from Ethiopia
Unlike Ethiopian Jews, Falashmura are not allowed into Israel under the Law of Return and will convert during absorption process.

Palestinians say settlers torched their olive trees (AFP)
SALEM, Palestinian Territories – Palestinians said that Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank burned about 200 of their olive trees on Sunday and also torched surrounding grazing land. Settlers denied the allegations. The alleged attackers were seen heading in the direction of the nearby Elon Moreh settlement after setting fire to the trees on land owned by the Palestinian village of Salem, village council spokesman Adli Ishtayeh said.

Destroying Palestinian olive trees / César Chalala
Olive trees have been mentioned in the Bible, the Qur'an and the Torah. Olive oil is a key product of the Palestinian national economy, making up 25% of the total agricultural production in the West Bank. César Chelala explores why the Israel Defense Forces have been accused of uprooting olive trees to facilitate the building of settlements ... What do settlers actually want? To destroy Palestinians' livelihood with impunity? To create a barren land, unfit for trees and people?

Activism / Solidarity / Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions

ISM: Weekly demonstration report - High velocity tear gas canisters used in An Nabi Saleh
(with photos) Al Nabi Saleh demonstrators assaulted with high velocity tear gas canisters and rubber bullets ... Some canisters were shot directly at demonstrators. High velocity tear gas canisters were used despite their illegality for the danger they pose: high velocity tear gas canisters have killed and seriously injured many demonstrators in the past ... Also: Bil`in, Al Walaja

ISM: Beit Hanoun commemorates 2006 massacre, Israeli forces shoot Gaza rubble collector
...The Israeli operation was called 'Autumn Clouds'. One day after the Israeli army declared that it had finished the operation in Beit Hanoun after international pressue, 20 people were killed and at least 45 were injured as a large number of shells were fired at the town. Many of the victims were women and children and 11 were from the same Al-A'athamein family. The massacre took place after a siege and street occupation by Israeli ground troops between the 2nd and 8th of November 2006 ... A group of 1500 unarmed women demonstrated during the 7 day siege of the town in an effort to free men gathered in a mosque, only for Israeli troops to open fire on them too. 2 of the women were killed and a further 20 injured, highlighting that however the peaceful the resistance is, the same brutality applies.

Israel detains 5 international activists in West Bank Saffa Valley
Five internationals were arrested this morning (14 November) in the West Bank's Saffa Valley near the village of Beit Ummar, where they were working with local Palestinian farmers to clear the land.  Four Israeli army jeeps descended on the group of volunteers at 10 a.m., only one hour after they had started working. The soldiers told the Palestinians to leave the area, and proceeded to arrest the internationals, according to Mousa Abu Maria, co-founder of the Palestine Solidarity Project (PSP), a non-violent direct action group that organizes the Saffa Valley replanting project. "The people every week they go two times, Sunday and Thursday. They clean the land and the rubbish because we have a program to plant 5,000 olive trees," Abu Maria said. "We have all the documents. We don't work against any law."

Gary Moore supports boycott: is summer on the way?
As winter falls, some glimmers of hope. The news earlier this month from the Irish section of the cultural boycott is that Gary Moore, a name beloved - or at least vaguely familiar to aficionados of '70s and '80s hard rock/blues, is joining the boycott of Israel. On tour in Russia, he declared that he wouldn't visit the 'criminal state' of Israel 'because of its racist policies against the Palestinian people' . This is one of the straightest statements of support for boycott from an artist. Nice in itself, nice also to add another name to the roster. But I think someone like Gary Moore joining the boycott has wider resonance. Here's why

Action: Help Women in Black documentary fundraising campaign
If I don't make my goal I will lose all the pledges. We Are Still Standing - Stories of Women in Black. Go to Kickstarter ( for GREAT REWARDS View the trailer at: Women in Black is the largest grass-roots women's peace group in the world and a small pledge will help us reach our goal to complete this important documentary.

'Gaza aid ship crew released in Greece'
14 Nov - "The convoy members, who were abducted then detained in Greece, have been released following examination of video footage. The captain has been arrested," Press TV broadcaster Lauren Booth said on Saturday after receiving contact from the Road to Hope convoy members.

Activist on Gaza-bound boat denies hijack, claims trapped (AFP)
LONDON (Sat 13 Nov) – One of several activists hoping to take aid to Gaza on board a Greek ship denied Saturday they had tried to hijack the vessel and said they had been trapped on board without food and water for several days. Irish filmmaker David Callander, 35, said the activists had paid 82,000 dollars through an agent to hire the Strofades IV to take aid to Gaza, but the ship's captain "went mental" as they tried to set off earlier this week.


Authors speak out against cultural boycott
Joseph Finder and Jeremy Blachman says Israeli citizens should not be punished, international media and Israeli government are to blame ... Are authors set to join musicians, and most recently, filmmaker Mike Leigh in boycotting Israel? After a wave of cancellations from musicians like the Pixies and Elvis Costello, who decided to boycott Israel, the question on everyone's lips is what will happen, if anything in the book market?,7340,L-3972567,00.html

Netanyahu: Cultured people don't boycott
Netanyahu told the weekly cabinet meeting that calls against participating in cultural events in the West Bank's Jewish communities must come to an end and noted that "anyone who considers himself a person of culture should not engage in boycotts and tongue-lashing against a minister or city in Israel.",7340,L-3984284,00.html

Ada Yonath: Why I didn't join anti-boycott campaign
Israel's most recent Nobel laureate, Professor Ada Yonath, refused to sign a Nobel laureate petition which calls for opposition to an academic boycott of Israel. Many were surprised to find her name missing from the list. On Sunday she clarified that she is opposed to any and all boycotts, saying "it only gives others ideas".,7340,L-3984347,00.html

Siege / Restriction of movement / Humanitarian issues

GEDCO: Power failures expected in Eid
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) announced on Saturday that the sole power plant in Gaza Strip was suffering acute fuel shortage and would be forced to cut electricity supplies during Eid Al-Adha. GEDCO director general Suhail Skeik said in a press statement that the power plant needs 9.6 million liters monthly to operate its two turbines while last month only 8.1 million liters were admitted into Gaza.

2 Israel-Gaza crossings partly open
Israeli authorities told Palestinian officials that two crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip would be partially open Saturday for the transfer of goods, humanitarian aid and fuel.

Almost 6.000 cross Gaza border at Rafah [in past week]
Border administrators said 2,239 Palestinians returned to Gaza, most of whom were patients who had received treatment in Egyptian hospitals, while 3,680 left Gaza through the terminal. Officials said 255 Palestinians were refused permission to cross. Pilgrims leaving the Strip for Mecca to perform Hajj account for the unusually high number of residents departing over the week.

European campaign warns of believing Israel's lies about easing Gaza's siege
BRUSSELS, (PIC)-- The European campaign to end Gaza siege warned of believing Israel's lies about alleviating its blockade on the Gaza Strip, affirming that the visiting international delegations are witnesses to the escalating destructive impacts of the siege on all aspects of life in the Strip. Member of the campaign Mohamed Hanoun said that the reports issued by the UN institutions operating in Gaza and the Palestinian health ministry confirm that Israel's siege is still stifling more than one and a half million Gazans.

Gaza blockade hasn't eased
Despite Israel's promises, Palestinians are still being denied basic necessities of life

Book: Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting and Everything In Between / Laila El-Haddad
With Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between, El-Haddad takes us into the life and world of a busy Palestinian journalist who is both covering the story of Gaza and living it—very intensely. This book is El-Haddad's self-curated choice of the best of her writings from December 2004 through July 2010.

Violence / Detention

IOF tanks fire shell, machine guns at Palestinian houses
GAZA, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation forces (IOF) stationed at the borders of Gaza Strip fired a shell at a deserted area in Juhr Al-Deek northeast of Breij refugee camp in central Gaza Strip on Sunday. Security sources said that the IOF tanks fired the shell then opened heavy machine gun fire at citizens' homes east of the refugee camp. They said that no casualties were reported but women and children were frightened at the sound of the explosions.

Israeli forces detain teenage girl in Hebron
Israeli forces detained a Palestinian girl in Hebron's Old City on Sunday, the director of the local detainees' society said. Amjad Najjar said 15-year-old Hadeel Talal Issa Abu Turky was detained near the Ibrahimi Mosque and taken to a police station. Hadeel was previously detained in 2009 accused of attempting to stab an Israeli soldier in the same area, but Ofer military court found her innocent and she was released on bail, Najjar said.

National campaign: 120 missing Palestinians held by Israel
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- The national committee to restore the bodies of missing Palestinian martyrs announced that it documented 120 names of missing Palestinian bodies held by Israel. Nasha'at Al-Wahidi, the campaign's spokesman, said in a press release on Saturday that some of those Palestinians were missing for more than 25 years. He added that the names of those missing persons would be published within the few coming days.

Political/Diplomatic news

Israel mulls US settlement deal (AJ)
The US has offered Israel an incentive package to reinstate a 90-day moratorium on West Bank settlement building, in an effort to revive stalled peace talks with the Palestinians, diplomatic sources said. The proposed moratorium, which would not include building in occupied East Jerusalem, was discussed in Israel's weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, but Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, said final details of the plan were still being worked out.

Netanyahu: US proposal not final
PM tells cabinet American incentives package offered in exchange for 90-day construction freeze in West Bank 'undergoing consolidation process' ... Ahead of the meeting, four ministers from the Likud party ... expressed their opposition to the three month renewal of the settlement construction freeze. Ya'alon called the US offer a "honey trap" that would eventually result in another crisis with the US once the three-month freeze expires, or "perhaps even earlier."
What does the American package offer in return for 'one final freeze'?
*US agrees to veto all UN Security Council and international resolutions that are critical of Israel or unilaterally advance Palestinian statehood and boost efforts to fight against Israeli de-legitimization.
*Requesting that Congress approve the supply of 20 stealth fighter jets worth $3 billion. *Additional and wider security guarantees when an agreement is reached with the Palestinians.
Yet the agreements with the US are as of this moment, unwritten and merely a verbal agreement. [much more in this article],7340,L-3984137,00.html

Palestinians critical of US settlement proposal (AP)
Chief negotiator Erekat says Palestinians have 'major problem' with the fact that Washington not demanding construction freeze in east Jerusalem,7340,L-3984065,00.html

Palestinians refuse to discuss US offer to Israel until 'official' word from Obama
The Palestinian Authority said Sunday that it had not heard any news from Washington regarding a package of incentives in exchange for a temporary Israeli construction freeze in the West Bank.

Settlers: Netanyahu's word worthless
Leaders of West Bank's Jewish communities blast plan to impose 90-day construction freeze. 'No limit to deceitfulness and dishonesty; PM waging war on Land of Israel,' they say ... Speaking to Ynet on Sunday, Naftali Bennett said, "Three weeks ago Netanyahu told the world he would not extend the freeze even by one day unless the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Now – nothing ... Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika said any announcement on the renewal of the West Bank construction freeze would "begin the countdown to the end of Netanyahu's government.,7340,L-3984114,00.html

Fatah-Hamas talks to resume after Eid
GAZA CITY: Reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas have been "deferred to next year," a well-known source told the London-based daily Al-Quds. The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the issue of security was the main obstacle in the meetings that started last Tuesday in Damascus.  The source added that the gap between the two sides is very big.  However, officials from both sides confirmed that the meetings would continue after Eid Al-Adha holidays.

Fayyad: Security pluralism exhausting us
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Saturday that efforts to reconcile with Hamas should focus on security rather than political issues, the London-based Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported ... Security was the most important issue to achieve the main objective, the creation of a Palestinian state, the prime minister said.

Fatah, Hamas accuse each other for failing unity talks (Xinhua)
GAZA -- The major Palestinian rival groups Fatah and Hamas on Sunday traded accusations over failure of reaching reconciliation in the second round meeting held in Syria' s capital of Damascus last week, which concentrated on the thorniest security issue.

Other news

Nigerian security rejects reports that arms were bound for Gaza
Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) -- Security forces in Nigeria believe a recently-seized arms shipment -- reportedly from Iran -- was bound for the western African nation, not another land. Marilyn Ogar, spokeswoman for the county's security service, on Friday rejected reports that the material was headed to the Palestinian territory of Gaza, as claimed by some reports in Israel.

Netanyahu: Israel to begin to build Egypt border fence within two weeks
Number of African infiltrators has reached more than 10,000 since beginning of 2010, according to recent Justice Ministry report ... The government has said that the central purpose of this fence is to keep the growing number of illegal migrants from infiltrating the country.

UNRWA employee hospitalized after hunger strike
...Hussein Masharqa, 50, was evacuated to Al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron in the southern West Bank Thursday after eight days on hunger strike protesting UNRWA policies toward Palestinian workers and employees, according to Ahmad Daniel, another member of the union.

Bodyguard: Poison wasn't in Arafat's food
Palestinian leader's personal bodyguard rules out possibility that poison was injected into his food. 'We all ate the same food 45 minutes before he did," Abu Zaki tells Al-Hayat ... However, Abu Zaki did not rule out the possibility that Arafat was poisoned. "It is safe to assume that he was poisoned, but not with food," the bodyguard said in the interview.,7340,L-3984202,00.html

Renowned Palestinian band to perform in Bethlehem
The renowned Palestinian band Al-Ashiqeen will perform for the first time in Bethlehem on Wednesday ... Al-Ashiqeen was established in Damascus in 1977. The band was then led by Hussein Munthir and Hussein Nazik was the main composer. In 1982, the band performed before late Palestinian president and historic leader Yasser Arafat and most of the PLO leaders when they first appeared in public after withdrawal from Beirut. The band was dissolved in the 1980s only to re-form in 2002. The group is now based in Ramallah

Analysis / Opinion / Human interest

The Palestinians are in the driving seat, their time is now / Zvi Bar'el
Today, it is not Israel which is dictating the international consensus but the Palestinians; this is their opportunity to establish the Palestinian state.

Would this not be close to treason?
Cantor pledges Republicans will stand with Israel against Obama (btw, Cantor is Jewish, does that matter?)
More on Netanyahu's power inside American politics. There is a justifiable uproar over the fact that Eric Cantor, the Republican whip, has pledged his party's greater allegiance to Netanyahu than Obama [data below]. Andrew Sullivan calls it a "scandal." Jim Traub at Foreign Policy asks, "Did Bibi win the midterms?" and then picks up a statement Cantor--"the leading GOP voice on Israel"--made on talk radio:

Is the American public about to toss Israel? / Franklin Lamb - Beirut
Some opinion analysts, like the 2009 Zogby International poll of American attitudes toward Israelis and Palestinians, express surprise with what they are learning from the American public and detect significant changes in American public attitudes favoring US disengagement from Israel

Remembering a martyr for Palestine: to a child who dreamt of freedom / Reham Alhelsi
You dreamt of playing with your friends in the streets and alleys of Palestine, you dreamt of playing without fear of F-16s and tanks, you dreamt of playing without blood and tears. You dreamt of running in the streets, up the hills and on the beach. You dreamt of playing hide and seek in a world where playing wars and soldier and civilian would be just a game, an uninteresting game. You dreamt of a Palestine that is free ... You will forever remain, Faris Odeh, the 15 year old Palestinian hero who confronted the Zionist tank with his little stone and won.

Vox Taxi - Vox Dei / Uri Avnery
...In the eyes of our conversation partners, questions about whether it is worthwhile to make peace or not, whether peace is good or bad for the Jews, are meaningless, if not downright stupid. Questions which make no sense, since we are having a debate only with ourselves. There will never be peace, because the Arabs will never want peace. End of discussion. Who is to blame for this attitude? If there is one person who is guilty more than anyone else, it is Ehud Barak.

GAZA: Book explores vibrant, diverse graffiti-art scene in war-torn strip
...The book, titled "Gaza Graffiti: Messages of Love and Politics," is written by Swedish photojournalist Mia Grondahl ... According to the book, graffiti first began appearing in Gaza during the first Palestinian Intifada in 1987 as a means of communication and information due to the Israeli control of the media output in the enclave ... Bahaa Qidra is presented in the book as one of most talented graffiti artists in the Gaza strip, commissioning paintings and murals for both Hamas and its political rival, Fatah.

Budrus 'built a model of civil resistance' - Interview with Ayed Morrar
Seven years on, Ayed al-Morrar, founder of the first popular committee to resist Israel's separation wall, discusses with The Electronic Intifada contributor Jody McIntyre his village's struggle and victory and the future of the movement.

Interview: Jane Frere, artist
Artist Jane Frere's time in the West Bank inspired her to create work that gave a voice to the people there ... [Her paintings] are dynamic, insistent works, all drawing on "the wall", the eight-metre high concrete barrier built by the Israelis to segregate Palestinian areas and further restrict movement of people. One series of paintings, Checkpoint Births – Madonna and Child, deal with women who are forced to give birth at checkpoints when they are not allowed through to get to hospital, putting mother and baby's lives at risk.

Perhaps rather too much of "Sheena Queen of the Jungle" to this, but interesting
Queen of the desert / Yaron Sasson
British tourist who married Bedouin man 17 years ago, converted to Islam, and made Negev her home aims to make a change in Bedouin society in terms of treatment of women and animals ... The Israel Land Administration recently razed the unrecognized village of al-Arakib, north of Rahat, for the sixth time. Janice, like her friends, is very uncomfortable with the situation. "It's hard for me to see this. It's their land," she says. "It's very hard to put a person who has been free all these years between four walls. My husband's father lives in a tent next to his home. It was hard for him to move into a house.",7340,L-3978977,00.html


Sunday: 12 Iraqis killed, 21 wounded
At least 12 Iraqis were killed and 21 more were wounded in new attacks across the country. Meanwhile, a leading international lawyer warned that the credibility a British inquiry (Chilcot) into the Iraq invasion is in danger over a lack of transparency.

Iraq violence kills nine (AFP)
KIRKUK, Iraq  – Violence in central and northern Iraq killed nine people, four of them troops, on Sunday, security officials said. In the deadliest attack, a roadside bomb killed three soldiers in a town south of the ethnically mixed northern oil hub of Kirkuk, police Colonel Ahmed al-Barazanchi said.

Iraq MPs salvage power-sharing pact after walk-out (AFP)
BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraqi lawmakers appear to have salvaged a power-sharing deal that gives Nuri al-Maliki a second term as premier, days after a dramatic walk-out from parliament by his former rivals ... Leaders from the three main parties to the pact met before a session of parliament on Saturday and agreed to reconcile their differences and address the protests of the Sunni-backed bloc led by former premier Iyad Allawi. MPs passed the deal by consensus, a parliamentary official told AFP

Iraq initials 2 deals to develop oil fields (AP)
A pair of international energy consortiums have initialed deals with Iraq to develop two prized gas fields. Turkey's TPAO, with partners Kuwait Energy and Korea's KOGAS, signed deals with Iraq's government on Sunday to develop the 4.6 trillion cubic feet Mansouriya field in eastern Iraq for $7 per barrel of oil equivalent. Kuwait Energy and TPAO will also work together to develop the 1.1 trillion cubic feet Siba field in the south. They will be paid $7.50 per barrel of oil equivalent.,7340,L-3984327,00.html

Baghdad plans makeover for deadly airport road (AFP)
BAGHDAD – Long known as the globe's most dangerous highway, Baghdad authorities are now aiming to turn the Iraqi capital's airport road into "the most beautiful street in the world". Known within the US military as "Route Irish" and grimly dubbed "RPG (rocket propelled grenade) alley", those using the road were subject to daily attacks from insurgents during the peak of Iraq's sectarian war in 2006 and 2007.

Why Iraqi Christians are running scared - in Sweden (TIME)
...Swedish immigration officials have been deporting Iraqi refugees to Baghdad on flights about every three weeks, declaring that some of them have no legitimate claim to political asylum in Sweden. That includes Iraqi Christians — a category that does not automatically imply a risk of persecution, according to Swedish guidelines. Of the 80,000 or so Iraqi refugees in Sweden, about 6,000 of them are Christian,8599,2031275,00.html#ixzz15HUQotgB

Iraq's disappearing Christians are Bush and Blair's legacy / William Dalrymple
The irony of the Iraq invasion is it may have wiped out their faith where other conquests failed

Other Mideast

Lebanon arrests formerly British-based radical cleric (AFP)
TRIPOLI - Lebanese police on Sunday arrested radical Islamic preacher Omar Bakri, just days after the formerly British-based cleric boasted he would "not spend one day" of a life sentence behind bars.

Lebanon's Hariri vows he won't give in to 'threats' (AFP)
BEIRUT -- Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has vowed not to give in to "threats" in a television interview, after his Hezbollah rivals ramped up rhetoric against a UN-backed probe into his father's murder ... Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned on Thursday that his powerful Shiite group would "cut off the hand" of anyone who tried to arrest any of its partisans over the 2005 assassination of former premier Rafiq Hariri.

Egyptian refusenik arrested, will receive service exemption
Pro-Israeli pacifist spends uneasy night held by Egyptian authorities after declaring that he wouldn't serve in military,7340,L-3984004,00.html

Candidates for Egyptian parliament to officially launch campaigns (dpa)
More than 5,000 candidates running in Egypt's parliamentary elections will officially launch their campaigns on Sunday, two weeks before voters head to the polls ... The poll is seen as a window into how next year's presidential election will unfold. It is largely expected that the ruling National Democratic Party will maintain its grip on parliament.

Saudis fear terror attacks as hajj begins (AFP)
The world's largest annual pilgrimage, the hajj, began on Sunday with hundreds of thousands of Muslims pouring into the camp of Mina from Mecca to prepare for the solemn rituals. This year's attendance is estimated at up to 2.5 million, posing a major headache for the Saudi authorities, who also fear terror attacks aimed against the pilgrims.,7340,L-3984483,00.html

Saudi Arabia unblocks Facebook after brief ban (AP)
Kingdom's communications authority reverses its decision to block the popular social networking site because it doesn't conform with Saudi conservative values.

U.S. and other world news

Congressional letter questioning Saudi arms sale gets 198 signatures
A joint letter demanding more information about the Obama administration's proposed $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia was sent to top administration officials on Friday with the signatures of 198 lawmakers from both sides of the aisle ... The lawmakers question whether Saudi Arabia is acting in conjunction with U.S. interests and whether the deal has enough checks and balances to ensure U.S. as well as Israeli interests.,0

Which 'human rights' do you call for? / Kourosh Ziabari
One of my close friends is suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a severe mental illness which has almost paralyzed his entire life ... Psychiatrists in Iran have prescribed several drugs for my friend and he has been taking them over the past years; however, when I met him a few weeks ago, he informed me of a shocking, unanticipated incident which I'm still unable to believe. My friend told me that the Canadian and Italian manufacturers of his medicines have ceased exporting their products to Iran following the imposition of United Nations Security Council's fourth round of sanctions against Iran and it's possible that they refuse to export their other pharmaceutical products to the country as a result of the sanctions, as well ... Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon regularly lashes out at other countries for what he claims to be their abuses of human rights; however, his own country, with a long period of abusing the rights of its ethnic minorities, refuses to export medicines to Iran because it wants to "abide by the UNSC resolutions".

In western Afghan city, Iran makes itself felt
In Herat, the tie to Iran is hard to miss. Iranian money builds roads and industrial parks, store goods are likely to be from Iran, and Iranian cash buoys new mosques and opulent homes.,0,4699165.story

5 NATO troops die in bloody day of Afghan fighting
It's the most lethal day for Western troops this month. Meanwhile, militants free an Afghan diplomat held for two years.,0,7106719.story

US senator says 'stunned' at Karzai comments (Reuters)
WASHINGTON - Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a recent visit, said on Sunday he was "stunned" at Karzai's comments to a Washington newspaper, which appeared at odds with U.S. military strategy. In an interview with The Washington Post, Karzai said he wants the U.S. military to scale back the visibility and intensity of its operations in Afghanistan and end night raids that he said incited people to join the Taliban insurgency.

Palestinian stowaways found on freighter
New Bedford, Massachusetts - Two Palestinian men were found stowing away on a New Bedford-bound freighter, authorities said yesterday. Crew members found the two late last week and notified authorities. The ship was kept offshore, and state and local police as well as Coast Guard officials boarded it to take custody of the two men. Federal agents searched the ship before it was allowed to enter New Bedford, said Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Feinstein said the men were trying to get to Canada, and that authorities believe it may be a case of human smuggling. Authorities said the men posed no threat to national security.

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Protest the Hebron Fund this Tuesday as they head out to sea
Nov 14, 2010 11:53 am | Adam Horowitz

From a press release sent out by protest organizers:

Sixteen human rights groups are preparing to picket an annual New York City fundraising event that raises money for Jewish settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Hebron.  Organizers say they will hold a silent protest at the entrance to the Chelsea Piers, 23rd Street and West Side Highway, on November 16 from 5:30 to 7:00pm (details below). 

This will be the third consecutive year in which the Brooklyn-based Hebron Fund's annual fundraiser has faced protests. Last year, human rights groups criticized the New York Mets and Major League Baseball for hosting the event at Citi Field. In 2008 the Marriott Marquis was the site of a protest against the fundraiser. It is unclear if protests have led the Hebron Fund to change venues annually.

Susan Beschta from Code Pink explained, "All Israeli settlements violate international law, and Hebron's settlers are among the most violent and racist of Israel's settlers. It's outrageous that on top of the billions of our tax dollars that our government gives to Israel annually, the US gives a tax break for donating to groups like the Hebron Fund that help to drive Palestinians from their homes." According to all major human rights organizations, the UN, the International Court of Justice, and governments around the world, all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem violate the Fourth Geneva Convention.

This year's Hebron Fund fundraiser has been organized as a Hudson River cruise and entitled the "Hebron Aid Flotilla" in an apparent attempt to mock the international Freedom Flotilla that sailed last spring to break the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza. The Israeli military attacked the flotilla in international waters, shooting and killing nine passengers, including an American citizen, aboard a Turkish-flagged ship, the Mavi Marmara, and injured an additional 58 passengers.

The Hebron Fund announcement for the event states that "settlements are legal," that "this administration may decide to fly in the face of US law and commitment," and that "the tax deductible status of the meager donations to Hebron's Jews comes under repeated scrutiny - for no good reason except for racism and Anti-Semitism." Keynote speaker and former Netanyahu advisor Caroline Glick has written in the Jerusalem Post that President Obama is "treating Israel like an enemy."

In a recent New York Times report on the many US nonprofits that fund Israeli settlements, a senior US State Department official was quoted saying "It's a problem. It's unhelpful to the efforts that we're trying to make."

According to a 2007 report on Hebron, "Ghost Town," by the Israeli human rights organizations B'Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Hebron is characterized by "a phenomenon of routine and sometimes extremely violent settler abuse of Palestinians" that aims to "get them to leave the area." The two groups documented settler attacks that included physical assault, including beatings, at times with clubs, gunshots, stone throwing, hurling of refuse, destruction of shops, shattering of windows, thefts, cutting of fruit trees, and verbal insults.

In 2007, Hebron Fund Executive Director Yossi Baumol told The American Prospect's Matthew Dussthat "[d]emocracy is poison to Arabs," "Israel must not give Arabs a say in how the country is run," and "[y]ou'll never get the truth out of an Arab." Noam Arnon, a 2009 Hebron Fund fundraiser honoree, called Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein "an extraordinary person'' in 1995, according to a report by the Associated Press. In 1994 Goldstein massacred 29 unarmed Palestinians who were praying in a Hebron mosque, and wounded over 100 more.

WHAT: Silent picket with photographic images of anti-Palestinian acts by Israeli settlers and soldiers in Hebron, Palestine

WHERE: in front of the Chelsea Piers, 23rd Street and the West Side Highway

WHEN: Tuesday, November16, 2010, 5:30-7:00 p.m.

ENDORSED BY:  Adalah-NY:  The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, Al-Awda NY, American Jews for a Just Peace, Brooklyn For Peace, Code Pink, Columbia University Students for Justice in Palestine, Delaware Valley Veterans for Peace, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say No!, Middle East Crisis Response, Siege Busters working group, WESPAC, Women in Black – Union Square, Women of a Certain Age, Woodstock Veterans for Peace

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Talk to Rep. Brian Baird before he leaves office in conference call sponsored by Ta'anit Tzedek – Jewish Fast For Gaza
Nov 14, 2010 11:13 am | Rabbi Brant Rosen

When Congressman Brian Baird (D-Washington) announced last December that he would not be seeking another term, the cause of justice in Israel/Palestine lost one of its truly courageous advocates in Congress. Especially when you consider the face of the incoming House and Senate – a Congress that is already gearing up to do Netanyahu's every bidding – the loss of one such as Baird is profound indeed.

If you'd like to participate in what will likely be Baird's final public discussion of Israel/Palestine as a congressman, you should know that he will be featured in a conference call hosted by Ta'anit Tzedek - Jewish Fast For Gaza on Thursday, November 18 at 12:00 pm (EST). The access information for the call is at the bottom of this post.

In truth, Baird has been one of the precious few politicians in Washington who has been willing to openly advocate for Palestinian human rights. Take a look at the clip above and you'll see him say the US should consider withholding aid to Israel if it continues to settle the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He also pleads the case of the Palestinians because "ignoring the plight of these good people is at our peril."

Baird has been particularly fearless on the issue of Gaza. He has visited the strip on three separate occasions, the second of which occurred immediately following Cast Lead in February 2009. While the rest of Congress was lining up to defend Israel's right to decimate Gaza, this is what Baird had to say:

The amount of physical destruction and the depth of human suffering here is staggering... Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed, schools completely leveled, fundamental water, sewer, and electricity facilities hit and relief agencies heavily damaged. The personal stories of children being killed in their homes or schools, entire families wiped out, and relief workers prevented from evacuating the wounded are heart wrenching – what went on here, and what is continuing to go on, is shocking and troubling beyond words...If this had happened in our own country, there would be national outrage and an appeal for urgent assistance.

After his third visit to Gaza in February 2010, Baird called on the US to break Israel's blockade by delivering aid in a "Berlin airlift" style mission. You may also recall that he was also one of the few members of the House to vote against (and in fact openly excoriated) the infamous House Resolution 867 - the bill that "unequivocally opposed any endorsement or further consideration" of the Goldstone Report.

Baird also happens to be the Corrie family's Congressman, supporting them steadfastly since Rachel's killing in 2003. He continues to stand by Craig and Cindy Corrie as they pursue their wrongful death suit against the Israeli government.

From an LA Times article at the start of the trial:

Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), who represents the Olympia area, said the family had been subjected to an ugly counter-campaign for pursuing their daughter's case. He and others say it's a pattern that's increasingly common. "Any questioning of Israel is met with hostility, no matter who asks the questions -- a congressman, a journalist or even the president of the United States," said Baird, adding that his support of the Corrie family had cost him campaign donations.

What else can we say except that Congressman Baird's fearless voice will be sorely, sorely missed in Congress?

Here's the info on this Thursday's conference call. It promises to be a powerful and important conversation:

"After the Elections: US Policy, Israel and Gaza" - A Conversation with Congressman Brian Baird

Thursday, November 18 at 12:00pm (EST)

Access Number: 1.800.920.7487

Participant Code: 92247763#

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Supporting the Other Israel Film Festival is not 'good news'
Nov 14, 2010 10:55 am | Sami Hermez

A post by Philip Weiss yesterday spoke of the Other Israel Film Festival (OIFF) in good light.  It is important that we also hear the other side of this story and recognize the politics behind the event.

Recently, the director of the OIFF, Carole Zabar, wrote an article where she threw several unfounded accusations at the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). PACBI published a statement on the festival just yesterday, which I think asks readers of this site to carefully think through the agenda and mission statement of the OIFF before promoting the festival.  Here is one excerpt from the PACBI letter that is revealing:

(1) In a recent statement, Mr. Isaac Zablocki, the Director of the Israel Film Center, OIFF's main partner, said: [3]

 "The goal of the center is to share with the public these amazing [Israeli] cinematic achievements coming out of a country that is normally only seenthrough news headlines. Through our viewing library, screenings and promotion of films, we hope to share with the public a new slice of Israeli reality… an Israel filled with innocence, humor, and ideals."

 This strikingly echoes the logic of the official Israeli propaganda campaign title Brand Israel, which aims to divert attention from Israel's violations of international law and Palestinian rights to its artistic and scientific achievements.  One of its main founders of the Brand Israel campaign, Arye Mekel, the deputy director general for cultural affairs in the Israeli foreign ministry, described it to the New York Times [4]:

 "We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits. This way you show Israel's prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war."

 A former deputy director general of the Israeli foreign ministry, Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, explained upon launching the Brand Israel campaign in 2005: "We are seeing culture as a hasbara tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between hasbara and culture."[5]

The problem here is that the OIFF project claims not to take a political position but partners with an institution like the Israel Film Center whose views are clear, not to mention that OIFF director, Carole Zabar, endorses the idea of Israel as a democracy "albeit with some challenges," as PACBI writes. Thus, for those wishing to adhere to the criteria for cultural boycott the festival's positions seem suspect, despite some of its intentions.

At least one Palestinian filmmaker has refused to screen her film at the festival, and perhaps it would be important for many other filmmakers to do the same in order to pressure the festival organizers to think more carefully about the event's role in promoting Israel's image.

On a separate point, Zabar's own accusations at the boycott movement and her disinformation should warrant pause.  Of note is Zabar's claim in the article that the South African anti-apartheid boycott movement was just economic.  I suppose this was a cheap attempt to delegitimize the academic and cultural component of the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.  It would have helped, however, if she had gotten her facts straight.  A brief Google search online would have been enough to show how the cultural boycott of South Africa was even endorsed formally by the United Nations Committee Against Apartheid. 

Sami Hermez is a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Lebanese Studies, St. Antony's College, Oxford University.

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The Goldbergian principle: People who hate Jews are anti-Semites, anti-Zionists are anti-Semites, thus anti-Semites who like Israel are just fine.
Nov 14, 2010 10:35 am | Ali Gharib

After the break-up the latest plot by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to attack the U.S. by FedExing bombs set to blow up in mid-air, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic set out to use the attempted attack as a way to disprove 'linkage' -- ie, the notion that solving (or even pressuring Israel to solve) the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a productive step towards helping the U.S. with its myriad problems in the Mid East, including international extremist Muslim terror.* 
Goldberg specifically offers a roundabout defense of settlements:
[T]he people... who manufactured these bomb are fundamentally annihilationist in outlook, meaning that they have as a primary goal the killing of Jews, everywhere. This shouldn't be a controversial conclusion to make, but there are many people out there who believe that al Qaeda and its fellow travelers are angry over settlements. They are not. They are angry over the continued existence of Jews.

It's a bit of a funny stance to take for someone who has participated in several loud attempts (despite his logic's severe flaws) to characterize harsh criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism. Another poignant example of Goldberg's conflation is his attempt to conflate Judaism with Zionism -- cf, his attempt to label Weiss and other anti-Zionists as 'not Jews.'  I'm in no way endorsing the logic (I'm a tireless advocate of non-violence to the point of dabbling in pacifism), but if you say that 'all Jews are Zionists' you no longer have the privilege of saying that those who attack Jews outside of Israel are not doing so because of Israel.

Goldberg tirelessly works to erase the very distinction he blames these terrorists for not seeing. In short, Goldberg wants to have his cake (Judea and Samaria, maybe) and eat it, too: Those who dare take on Israel do it because they hate the Jews, but those that attack the Jews don't care a whit about Israel.

At some point, Goldberg will have to make the choice between defending all Jews everywhere (yes, Jeffery, even anti-Zionists) and defending/apologizing for Israel's expansionist policies. Or, given his booming silence on the matter of Glenn Beck's anti-Semitic tirade, maybe his choice is already quite clear.

* Linkage does not, as the common straw-man argument would have it, mean immediately solve these problems, mind you, but help to solve them by reducing one of the strongest recruiting points for violent Islamic radicals and one of the starkest points of contention between the U.S. and even 'moderate' Muslims worldwide.

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Foxman on Fox
Nov 14, 2010 10:30 am | Adam Horowitz

David Sheen sent the following video taken from his interview with Abe Foxman:

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Cantor pledges Republicans will stand with Israel against Obama (btw, Cantor is Jewish, does that matter?)
Nov 14, 2010 09:21 am | Philip Weiss

There is a justifiable uproar over the fact that Eric Cantor, the Republican whip, has pledged his party's greater allegiance to Netanyahu than Obama [quotes below]. Andrew Sullivan calls it a "scandal." Jim Traub at Foreign Policy asks, "Did Bibi win the midterms?" and then picks up a statement Cantor--"the leading GOP voice on Israel"--made on talk radio:

Cantor said that "it is very controversial" to "slam our ally, Israel," adding that "most Americans understand that Israel's security is synonymous with America's security." Actually, it's extraordinary to think that any country's security can be "synonymous" with that of the United States...

Glenn Greenwald lands on the declaration, too.

I'll quote Greenwald in a moment, but I want to get to my slight irritation with the coverage. Does it matter that Cantor is Jewish? All the commenters step around this fact. (Except Laura Rozen: Cantor "is set to become the highest ranking Jewish member of Congress in history.") They don't want to feed anti-Semitism; some of them are Jews, they obviously believe that you can be Jewish and American and not be biased toward Israel. And that's true, you can.

But I think his Jewishness is relevant. Whenever an article praises Cantor for his support of Israel, they like to point out that he is only Jewish GOP member of Congress. And I bet that if any one of these writers told you about Cantor's siding with Netanyahu over a drink, they'd mention his Jewishness. It would be like talking about about political opposition to stem-cell research without referring to evangelical Christians.

Are there evangelical Christians who support stem-cell research? I'm sure. But the politics of the question have a strong religious component; and journalists make generalizations, justifiably. And Zionism (whatever its imperial or Christian veneers) is a religiously-borne ideology.

I can't wait till Jewish attitudes here are diverse. They are not now. Zionism captured Jewish life 40-70 years ago; Dershowitz says that it is the sacred mission of Jews to defend Israel. This is an invocation that I and every other Jew has heard. As J Street proclaimed the other day, "a deep commitment to Israel...[is] interwoven deep in the soul of American Jewish political identity." I agree, lamentably. It's woven, and the only way we will unweave it is to acknowledge its prominent presence. And as to dual loyalty, Eric Alterman and John Judis both explained that dual loyalty is part of support for Zionism. So did the anti-Zionist Rabbi Elmer Berger 70 years ago. So did Herzl's rich English hosts 110 years ago when they told him to get lost, they were doing fine in England.

And the reason it's vital to talk about these things now is that you can't unpack the disastrous American decision to invade Iraq or the push now to go to war with Iran (or indeed the unending support for Israeli colonization of the West Bank, or the defeat of the right of return in the 40s and 50s when American presidents were demanding the return of the refugees) without talking about the lobby and the construction of Jewish identity. I submit that not acknowledging the Jewish piece of this is a kind of forcible political stupidity that inhibits genuine understanding. But here is Greenwald:

[Cantor] vowed that he and his GOP colleagues would protect and defend Israeli interests against his own Government.  According to a statement proudly issued by Cantor's own office:

"Regarding the midterms, Cantor may have given Netanyahu some reason to stand firm against the American administration.

"Eric stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington," the readout continued. "He made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other."

Leave aside the absurdity of believing that Israel needs to be protected from the extremely deferential and devoted Obama administration.  So extraordinary is Cantor's pledge that even the Jewish Telegraph Agency's Ron Kampeas -- himself a reflexive American defender of most things Israel -- was astonished, and wrote

"I can't remember an opposition leader telling a foreign leader, in a personal meeting, that he would side, as a policy, with that leader against the president.  Certainly, in statements on one specific issue or another -- building in Jerusalem, or somesuch -- lawmakers have taken the sides of other nations.  But to have-a-face to face and say, in general, we will take your side against the White House -- that sounds to me extraordinary."

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In Israel, 'likeminded' people just like to live in the same neighborhood, and town too
Nov 14, 2010 08:51 am | Philip Weiss

Nathan Jeffay has a story in the Forward from Tel Aviv about a new bill, headed for passage, that would authorize housing-sale discrimination in certain small communities on the basis of "social suitability"-- which seems to mean Jewish not Palestinian.

Israel is poised to enshrine in law the right of some villages to handpick residents, following the advance of legislation that some decry as carte blanche for ethnic discrimination.

There is an interesting comment in the piece from a guy who evidently grew up in the U.S. He is talking about the "absorption" committees that carry out the discrimination:

Joel Golovensky, president of the Institute for Zionist Strategies, a think tank dedicated to Israel's continuation "as both a Jewish and a viable democratic state," said that critics of the committee ignore Israel's culture of likeminded people living together, and view Israel as if its culture is the same as America's. "I was educated in America, and it was very difficult for me to see how life in this respect is different here." The committees, he said, "clearly separate people, like a million other things separate people, but I would not call it discrimination; I would call it empowering [for communities]."


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