Israel’s “Excessive Force” Kills Two More Children

Mourners carry the body of Haitham Saada, shot and killed by Israeli soldiers, during the boy’s funeral in Hebron on 6 February.

Two Palestinian children were shot dead by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank this past week as a United Nations human rights investigator called on Israel to investigate its excessive use of force against Palestinians.  Continue reading

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Wounded Warriors Project is a Fraud- Making Millions Off Disabled Veterans

WWPscoundrels

My first experience with the Wounded Warriors Project came in 2006, when I made several donations from between $200 and $500 to the organization. I was a stock broker at the time and my income allowed for such idiocy. I guess you could say that I had more money than I had sense, but more importantly, I gave the money because I felt that I needed to do something to take part in the war effort, and what better way than to provide financial assistance to those who were coming back from the wars in the Middle East maimed and wounded. At least that is where I thought the money that I was donating was going.  Continue reading

Drug Lord El Chapo Tells ISIS His Men Will Destroy Them

el chapo ISIS

The world’s most wanted drug lord has declared war on the Islamic State, promising the terror group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, that his narcotics cartel will wipe them off the planet.

“My men will destroy you,”’ El Chapo huffs to the ISIS leader in an encrypted email that was leaked to a cartel-linked blogger in Mexico. Continue reading

Rand Paul Asked About Funding Israel

Rand Paul Rally 3

Rand Paul addresses the funding of ISIS while Authentic Enlightenment’s Chris Perkins asks him about the funding of Israel. Shortly after Rand’s speech, Chris meets him and tries to get him to answer another question. Watch to see and hear the results!

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Mass grave uncovered containing dozens of Palestinians killed in 1948 war that founded Israel

Six mass graves features the remains of dozens of Palestinians killed during the Israeli-Arab war of 1948, when the Jewish state was founded have been uncovered in the Jaffa district of Tel Aviv.

An official at the Muslim cemetery there told AFP that the grisly find happened on Wednesday when ground subsided as builders carried out renovation work.

In 1948 Jaffa was a Palestinian town but there was an exodus of most of its Arab population when it fell to the fledgling Israeli army and right-wing Jewish militias.

Human skeletons are clearly visible in a mass grave found at a cemetery in the Jaffa district of Tel Aviv, IsraelHuman skeletons are clearly visible in a mass grave found at a cemetery in the Jaffa district of Tel Aviv, Israel

 

The grisly find occurred on Wednesday when ground subsided as workers carried out renovations The grisly find occurred on Wednesday when ground subsided as workers carried out renovations

Researcher and historian Mahmoud Obeid, a Jaffa resident, told As-Safri newspaper: ‘We discovered six mass graves, two of which we dug up. Our estimate is that they contain around 200 bodies, with an unknown additional number in the other graves.

‘The remains belong to people of different ages, including women, children and the elderly, some of which bear signs of violence.’

 

 

A local fisherman Atar Zeinab, 80, said that as a teenager during the final months of fighting in 1948 he helped to collect the Arab dead in the area south of Jaffa.

They were then brought for a quick burial in the cemetery, the area’s main graveyard.

Tthe head of the Islamic Movement in Jaffa, Sheikh Mohammed Najem (right) looking at the hole that was made above the mass grave Tthe head of the Islamic Movement in Jaffa, Sheikh Mohammed Najem (right) looking at the hole that was made above the mass grave

 

Estimates are that the six mass graves could contain the bodies of around 600 peopleEstimates are that the six mass graves could contain the bodies of around 600 people

‘I carried to the cemetery 60 bodies during a period of three or four months,’ he told AFP. ‘We used to find the people in the street and most of the time we didn’t know who they were.’

He said that the danger of being hit by flying bullets or grenade fragments was such that bodies were dumped one on top of the other in existing family crypts in the cemetery, contrary to Muslim custom.

‘We carried them early in the morning or in the night. We put women, children and men in the same place… nobody prayed for these people.

In 1950 Jaffa was incorporated into Tel Aviv, and was renamed Tel Aviv-Jaffa. It now a mixed Arab and Jewish population.

Around 760,000 Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in the Israeli-Arab war of 1948.

The remains are thought to be Palestinians killed during the Israeli-Arab war of 1948The remains are thought to be Palestinians killed during the Israeli-Arab war of 1948

 

The cemetery in the Jaffa district of Tel Aviv contains six mass gravesThe cemetery in the Jaffa district of Tel Aviv contains six mass graves

 

 

Israelis open fire, 9 hurt in West Bank

Israeli forces have shot and injured nine Palestinian men in the occupied West Bank, Press TV reports.

Palestinian paramedics said the men were hit in the legs near the city of Ramallah.

Earlier in the day, Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian demonstrators protesting against Tel Aviv™s plans to expand an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

Scores of Palestinians marched toward the Efrat settlement near Bethlehem to express their outrage over Tel Aviv™s expansion project, which would see more land taken away from the Palestinians in the village of al-Masaara.

Israeli troops fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, witnesses said.

The UN and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbids construction on occupied lands.

The presence and continued expansion of these settlements has created a major obstacle for the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East.

Israel agreed to freeze settlement construction under the Roadmap for Peace plan in 2002. But it has failed to comply with that commitment despite repeated and widespread international condemnation.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel™s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds in 1967.

MP/HGL

This article originally appeared on : Press TV

Plan to seize 7 million square metres in Negev and displace 90,000 Palestinians

The "Prawer Plan" will displace about 90,000 people and eliminate 40 villages

 

The Israeli Ministerial Committee on Legislation passed a draft law yesterday regulating Bedouin settlement in the Negev known as the “Prawer Plan”, which will allow the seizure of approximately 700,000 dunams of the Negev and the destruction of 40 unrecognized villages. The government will present the draft law to the Knesset for approval over three readings before it becomes law.

Hundreds of “1948 Palestinians”, most of whom are Negev Bedouins, protested in front of the office of Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in objection to the “Prawer Plan”. The protestors held signs saying “Work towards stopping the Prawer Project” in Arabic, Hebrew, and English and chanted “Listen Prawer… the land of the Negev will not surrender to you.” The protest was in response to the Israeli Ministerial Committee on Legislation’s discussion held yesterday on the Prawer Plan and its plans to regulate the settlement of Negev Bedouins.

The Israeli government ratified a “plan for the regulation of Bedouin settlements in the Negev” during its earlier sessions. This decision was based on reports prepared by the Goldberg Committee and the Prawer report to relocate the Bedouins in the Negev, the Israeli government has allocated a budget for this process.

Atiya al-Aassam, head of the Regional Committee for unrecognised villages in the Negev, said in a speech before the protestors, “We want to tell Prawer, Tzipi Livni (Minister of Justice) and all decision-makers that we have endured 65 years of water scarcity and all forms of torture, and we will continue to endure and will not give up one inch of our land.” He stressed that “the Prawer Plan being passed as law aims to expel us from our land, displace about 90,000 citizens, seize 700,000 dunams of land to establish settlements on, eliminate 40 villages and concentrate the Bedouins in cities amounting to only 100,000 dunams.”

He then spoke in Hebrew and said, “I urge the Ministers not to pass their discriminatory law; do not drive us to violence.” About 200,000 Bedouins live in Israel, with over half in the Negev desert, but they do not benefit from any of the municipality’s services such as water and electricity because the Israeli authorities do not recognise them.

Iraqi Birth Defects Are Much Worse Than Hiroshima

iraqi birth defects
(warning: graphic images)
The United States may be finished dropping bombs on Iraq, but Iraqi bodies will be dealing with the consequences for generations to come in the form of birth defects, mysterious illnesses and skyrocketing cancer rates.

Continue reading

U.S. Commandos in 75 Countries Are Teaching Militaries to Torture, Kill, and Abuse Civilians

u.s., commandos, in, 75, countries, are, teaching, militaries, to, torture,, kill,, and, abuse, civilians, US Commandos in 75 Countries Are Teaching Militaries to Torture Kill and Abuse Civilians

(PolicyMIC) -While aggressive war, drone strikes, and a global network of military bases are the most visible aspects of American hegemonic power, what is often overlooked is the U.S. policy of training, assisting, and subsidizing foreign militaries. Although these actions are largely covert and discreet, they serve the same purpose of hegemonic control, diminish peace and national security, and help contribute to the subjugation of foreign citizens.

The training of foreign militaries to serve the interests of the American state goes all the way back to at least the Cold War. The U.S. used taxpayer money and weapons to subsidize foreign governments and militaries that were “anti-communist” even if the regimes were incredibly brutal and ruthless. All an authoritarian had to do was refer to his political opponents as “communists” and the Americans came rushing in.

In nearly every continent, the U.S. taught extremely fascistic, right-wing governments the art of cracking down on domestic dissent, jailing and torturing political opponents, centralizing power, making deals beneficial to American corporations, and employing death squads. Cheaper and less visible than directly invading and overthrowing governments the U.S. didn’t like, sock puppet dictators were the preferred means of implementing policy.

The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 left very little justification for an American imperial position throughout the globe, yet those same Cold War policies were not only not discarded, but expanded upon. Back in 2010, President Obama and the Pentagon began implementing a strategy with a larger emphasis on “combat operations” and military-to-military coordination. U.S. Special Forces are now operating in (at least) 75 countries, teaching their governments more efficient means of subjugating their populations, creating chaos, and serving the interests of the American empire.

Syria is the most recent example of this policy. While publicly claiming that the U.S. is helping build schools and hospitals in Syria, the Associated Press and New York Times reports document that the U.S. is training and arming Syrian “rebels” opposing the Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad. With the help of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, most of the weapons are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, many of whom belonging to groups that just a few years ago were killing U.S. Marines in Iraq.

President Obama, secretly and without the consent of Congress, sent more than 150 Special Forces to Jordan to train the anti-Assad fighters on the use of sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons.

What is even more disturbing is that the Syrian “rebels” have most likely already used chemical weapons, have a reputation for beheading prisoners, and that U.S. support is prolonging the conflict in the region. The reasons for U.S. intervention are of course complicated and multifaceted, but it most likely has to do with attempts to destabilize Iran’s strongest ally and what the Romans called divide et impera.

Syria may be the most dangerous example of the Obama administration’s enhanced policy of covert military training and assistance, but unfortunately it is nowhere near the only one. In Mali, along with building a brand new drone base, U.S. AFRICOM chief General Carter Ham admitted that while training Mali’s military, they “skipped ethics.” Targeting dissidents based on ethnicity and executing them is a staple of the U.S.-trained Mali government.

In Indonesia, the Obama administration resumed training and assisting an elite Indonesian military unit whose members have been convicted of massive human rights abuses in East Timor. U.S.-trained forces in Guatemala have incredibly close ties to some of the region’s most violent drug cartels and are notorious for their brutal treatment of civilians during the Guatemalan civil war.

A report from the Washington Office on Latin America details a U.S. policy called “the Merida Initiative” designed to “help the region’s militaries take on internal security roles” and use American police to train local police. Although President Obama publicly denounced the 2009 military coup in Honduras, Wikileaks cables later revealed that the Obama administration had members of the State Department meet with the illegitimate new Honduran “president” to help coordinate the implementation of the Merida Initiative.

The policy of militarizing, arming, and subsidizing foreign governments, especially those with well-known and documented human rights abuses and commissions of war crimes, appears to be a staple of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. But these policies help contribute to the spread of dictatorships, humanitarian crises, and instability while making the possibility of resentment and blowback much more likely.

It is becoming more and more clear that the bipartisan consensus policy of military interventionism is a threat to peace and security. Neutrality and non-intervention, as the Founders recommended, is a far more practical alternative and is still the best way to spread the American values our politicians are so fond of endorsing.

Using secret travel ban, Israel prepares to deport activist Adam Shapiro preventing him from being at the birth of his first child

Huwaida Adam(mondoweiss.net) Israel’s deportation policy entered a new phase on Monday when Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro, co-founders of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), arrived at Ben Gurion airport and discovered an entry ban on Shapiro, despite inquires made in advance by a lawyer for the couple. Arraf and Shapiro, now expecting their first child, are perhaps the most recognizable pair in the Palestine solidarity movement, and architects for building an international activist presence on the ground since the beginning of the second Intifada.

At the airport on Monday afternoon Israeli authorities informed Shapiro that in 2009, unknown to him, the Israeli Ministry of Interior issued a 10-year entry ban for him. Initially the border police “weren’t making much sense,” Arraf told Mondoweiss, but then Shapiro was taken to jail where he remained for two days until he and Arraf were briefly reunited at a court hearing Tuesday.

After Shapiro’s Monday arrest, Arraf sent a letter to friends and supporters on her husband’s arrest:

Adam and I are expecting our first child, a boy in about 5 weeks. As joyful as this blessing is, we’ve had / we have to make some difficult decisions (besides what to name our son that is!) I am an Israeli citizen (in addition to a US citizen). This fact has made it possible for me to continue accessing my homeland all these years in spite of some attempts by Israel to kick me out. Israel did however deport Adam in 2002 because of our human rights work and banned him from re-entering the country (including the occupied Palestinian territory) since, which is why we’ve had to spend so much of our married life apart. In order for us to ensure that in the future, if Israel remains the racist, apartheid state that it is, it won’t deny our son the right to visit his homeland and all his family in Palestine, we’ve had to think about getting Israeli citizenship for our son. However, because I’m Palestinian, and not a Jewish citizen of Israel, our child will not have the automatic right to visit the country or to claim citizenship. The only way for me to pass down my citizenship to our son is to have him in Israel.

Arraf explained that in Tuesday’s court hearing the state claimed that Shapiro was presented “a document all in Hebrew” that stipulated a 10-year entry ban when he was detained by Israeli authorities in 2009 and “they said that Adam refused to sign.” But Arraf says Shapiro was never given such a document, “this is the first time he’s been told he has a 10-year ban.” Yet at the trial, Arraf says the state’s attorney produced a copy of the letter, “it’s the state’s word against Adam’s.”

“When the judge ruled, it was basically a technical ruling,” explained Arraf. He “wouldn’t listen to evidence on the ban itself, whether it is legal,” and Arraf summarizes it was clear “they did not want Adam to enter the country.”

Arraf is Palestinian with U.S. and Israeli citizenship, and Shapiro is a U.S. citizen—facts that dictate the couple’s ability to live together, travel together, and now will impose a separation during the birth of their first child after 11 years of marriage. Because of Arraf’s Palestinian national identity, she traveled to Israel late in her pregnancy so she could give birth to her son in country, ensuring she could bequeath her Israeli citizenship. Although it is technically possible for Arraf to transfer citizenship abroad, for Palestinians it is an arduous task. By contrast, children of Israeli-Jews born outside of the country can be issued Israeli identification numbers, even in instances where the child is not registered by the parents. This past year an American activist born to an Israeli father toldMondoweiss that despite never applying for citizenship, the Israeli Ministry of Interior told her she was already registered in the system. They said it was illegal for her to enter on a U.S. passport as the state already considered her an Israeli citizen.

Last month a lawyer for Arraf and Shapiro twice inquired with the Israeli government on Shapiro’s ability to enter Israel. Both times Arraf said Shapiro “was never given any written notice that he has a 10-year ban.” In addition, in 2008 Arraf wrote a letter to the Ministry of Interior to inquire into Shapiro’s travel status. At the airport on Monday, border officials produced a copy of the letter and told Arraf that she should have waited for a response before entering. “Well it’s been five years, you want us to wait longer for a response?” said Arraf.

Arraf and Shapiro’s current predicament dates back to 2002 when Shapiro was working in the West Bank as a human rights activist. After an arrest that led to deportation Shapiro discovered he was persona non grata, when attempting to re-enter through an Israeli controlled border. Over the next ten years he tried to enter the country three times. The pair was advised that Shapiro had been issued one of the notoriously vague 10-year entry bans, typically given to activists without notice, or formal explanation. Indeed Shapiro was never officially told he had a 10-year ban, but it was a logical deduction.

Later in 2009 while aboard the flotilla to breach the Israeli sea blockade of the Gaza Strip, Shapiro was taken into Israel by Israeli forces against his will and was again deported. According to Arraf, at the time the judge in that case acknowledged that Shapiro did not intend to enter Israel and was taken into the country while under custody of Israeli authorities. Now the state is alleging a new entry ban was issued at that time.

Because Arraf and Shapiro have been in communication with Israeli officials about their travel plans, Shapiro’s secret 10-year entry ban is especially alarming. The couple seems to have taken every measure to ensure Shapiro could be present for the birth of their son. But with Shapiro’s looming deportation anticipated to take place this evening, their case demonstrates that Israel not only issues entry bans, but also conceals them until the time of arrival.

“A couple of years ago,” said Arraf, “a lawyer once told me that [the 10-year entry ban] is not in any official Israeli law.” Yet, the threat of a 10-year ban is considered a final banishment doled out to the most high profile activists. It is viewed as a punitive measure for internationals who are known supporters of Palestinian rights, a fact that is underscored by the fact that only Palestine solidarity activists have received it.

Because of an Israeli policy that allows for anyone who is a perceived “security threat,” to be denied entry on spot, Arraf was aware her husband could face complications upon arrival. It is not uncommon for activists working in the West Bank to be deported from Israel, even without ever exiting the airport. This policy was employed en masse in 2012 and in 2011 when dozens of internationals were denied entry when traveling for a “fly-in,” a protest against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

“I’m usually very optimistic” said Arraf in regards to Shapiro’s ability to be present for the birth of their son. But with “all of his human rights work and his activism the state doesn’t like him.”

Arraf has a reputation for hopefulness and resilience, and it is not surprising that despite this situation she is still committed to working for the rights of Palestinians. I interviewed her after she was arrested on the 2010 flotilla, and Arraf told me that the Israeli police beat her until she was concussed, ultimately dumping her from their car. She regained consciousness while medics put her on a stretcher after seemingly being left for dead in the middle of the desert. Arraf was then taken to a hospital. After treatment she left on her own and walked until she found a phone to call her family. She didn’t know where she was, or how much time had passed.

But a few days later Arraf was back on the ground, demonstrating and fighting for her cause. Now, just as in 2010, she moves forward even though her husband’s case will likely become a benchmark for secret travel bans.

“We continue our work on the larger picture,” wrote Arraf in her latest update to friends. “If our situation can be used to help shed more light on the racism and inhumanity rampant here (as well as Israel’s contempt for human rights defenders), with the goal of changing the system someday for the future of all the children of this region, that would be one of the best things that we could hope for.”

Americans Protest Against AIPAC Conference

 

Presstv.ir March 7, 2013

With mock settlements, an apartheid wall and chants urging for cuts in funding to Israel, protesters collected outside of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee commonly called AIPAC.

They’ve come here from around the country for what they say is an important issue largely ignored by US media. Activist groups such as CODEPINK and others spring into activist mode every year to protest the Israel lobby’s annual policy conference.

AIPAC is considered the most powerful lobbying group in support of Israel. The power comes from money. The committee operates on a budget of $67 million each fiscal year. Some of that money goes to politicians through smaller organizations and committees, many of which support Israeli interests.

There are an estimated 13,000 people who attend the AIPAC conference. It’s a gathering that reportedly attracts more members of the US government than virtually any event other than the President’s State of the Union address.

Michael Moore vs Buzzfeed

BuzzFeed is once again being lambasted for its reporting — this time by the filmmaker Michael Moore — and much like the last time this happened, the viral-news website is finding few defenders from within the journalism community.

Michael Moore Lashes Out At BuzzFeed, And Few Jump To Its Defense

 

(IBITimes) -Moore went on a Twitter tirade on Tuesday afternoon after an article by Tessa Stuart, a Los Angeles-based BuzzFeed reporter, implied that he exaggerated some of the facts regarding a story about a Palestinian filmmaker being detained at Los Angeles International Airport. Moore had been tweeting about his efforts to vouch for Emad Burnat, the Oscar-nominated co-director of “5 Broken Cameras,” who said he and his family were detained for some 90 minutes at U.S. Customs and Border Protection when they arrived at LAX from Turkey.

According to Moore and Burnat’s version of the story, customs officers threatened Burnat with deportation if he could not produce documents proving that he was invited to Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony. Burnat — who is Palestinian, and whose wife was wearing a hijab — showed the officers the invitation that was sent to all Oscar nominees, but that allegedly wasn’t good enough. According to Moore’s tweets, it was only after Moore personally intervened that the filmmaker was permitted into the country.

 

However, BuzzFeed’s article, first posted on Monday, called that version of the story into question. In it, Stuart cited an LAX source “familiar with the situation” who said that Burnat was held only for 25 minutes and released after he produced his Oscar ticket. The source claimed that Moore and Burnat were overplaying the incident for publicity.

 

 

Continuing in a series of tweets, Moore proceeded to call Stuart’s source’s version of the story an “outright lie.” The “Fahrenheit 9/11” filmmaker went on to explain that Burnat could not have shown an Oscar ticket to customs officers — as Stuart’s source claims — because physical tickets weren’t issued to any of the Oscar attendees until the Thursday before the ceremony.

“It’s that way every year,” Moore continued. “Oscar tickets are available only on Thursday through Saturday, the day before the Oscars.”

Stuart later updated her story with Moore’s tweeted version of what happened. (She had also apparently been trying via Twitter to get him to tell her his side of the story directly.) In her update, she explained that the differences in the two stories hinge upon what type of documentation Burnat was asked to produce to customs officers. Was it a ticket, an invitation or something else? She wrote that she had reached out to her source at LAX for clarification but had not yet heard back.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, Stuart’s story had still not been updated. In an email to IBTimes, Stuart said she is still reporting on the incident and that new information would be added shortly.

Meanwhile, media reporters have been running amok with the “BuzzFeed vs. Michael Moore” narrative, with many either taking Moore’s side or publishing stories that bolster his account. The Hollywood Reporter’s Jordan Zakarin quoted a representative for the filmmakers who backed up Moore’s claim. Blasting BuzzFeed, the rep told THR via email, “It’s pretty insensitive to attempt to minimize anguish of this experience for Emad and his family.”

The Atlantic Wire’s Alex Abad-Santos wrote in a blog post Tuesday morning that “Someone’s not telling the truth about what happened,” adding that, at least for now, BuzzFeed appears “to be on the losing end of this one.” Abad-Santos noted that the original subhead and first sentence of Stuart’s article referred to “sources” at LAX that have refuted Moore’s account. As it turns out, Stuart talked to only a single source, a fact that was later clarified in a correction posted at the end of Stuart’s article.

Stuart, a former reporter for LA Weekly, joined BuzzFeed in December, according to FishbowlLA — just two months after BuzzFeed announced it was opening a Los Angeles bureau. In January, the rapidly growing website announced that it had raised another $19.3 million in Series D financing led by the venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates.

But that growth has not come without its growing pains, as this latest debacle shows, and this is not the first time BuzzFeed has been called out in recent months for its reporting. In December, the website found itself in hot water after contributor Jack Stuef published a would-be expose on The Oatmeal cartoonist Matthew Inman in which Stuef characterized Inman as a Republican and, essentially, a hypocrite. However, Inman posted a lengthy rebuttal to the piece, revealing that Stuef had built his thesis partially around an online profile that, it turned out, didn’t belong to Inman. BuzzFeed’s editor, Ben Smith, later told GigaOM that he regretted the “major factual error.” Then, like this week, no shortage of media reporters jumped on the story, eager to report on BuzzFeed’s mistake.

Moore, for his part, said via Twitter that he was not looking to shame the website. “Sorry you guys had to go through this,” he tweeted just after midnight Tuesday morning. “I did not want to publicly embarrass you. I like Buzzfeed.”

[Update: 4:34 pm] Stuart posted a new article on Tuesday afternoon again countering Moore’s account of the events — in particular, his contention that Burnat was detained for 90 minutes. Citing a handwritten log maintained by federal agents at LAX, Stuart wrote that the records show that Burnat was detained for 23 minutes, confirming her source’s account of the timeline.

[Update: Feb. 27] On the Huffington Post Wednesday morning, Moore wrote what he calls his “final word” on the issue. In response to Stuart’s follow-up piece, he argues that the handwritten logs were only from one interrogation area. LAX has multiple interrogation areas, he wrote, and the 23 minutes only accounted for the secondary area, not the total time Burnat and his family were detained. Read the full piece here.

Correction: An earlier version of this article identified the editor of BuzzFeed as Ben Stein. The editor is Ben Smith (although we’re not saying Mr. Stein woudln’t make a great editor).

Israeli Sniper Posts Photo of Child in Crosshairs

ht israeli soldier instagram lpl 130218 wblog Israeli Sniper Posts Photo of Child in Crosshairs
An Instagram photograph of what appears to be a rifle sight targeted on a Palestinian boy by Israeli soldier, Mor Ostrovski, has prompted a military investigation.

(ABCNEWS) A photo posted online by an Israeli soldier showing a child in the crosshairs of a rifle scope has created a firestorm on the internet, drawing widespread criticism.

The photo was reportedly posted on Jan. 25 by Mor Ostrovski, 20, a member of an Israeli sniper unit. It shows crosshairs zeroed in on the back of the head of what appears to be a Palestinian boy in a village. The photo has since been taken down and Ostrovski’s account has been deactivated.

“There are no other images to suggest that the photographer actually fired at the person in the image in this case,” wrote Palestinian activist Ali Abuminah who runs the site Electronic Intifada and drew much of the attention to the photo. “The image is simply tasteless and dehumanizing. It embodies the idea that Palestinian children are targets.”

Before the account was taken down, Abuminah posted other photos from Ostrovski’s account that showed him in his olive green uniform holding a variety of weapons, including a sniper rifle.

Eytan Buchman, a  spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, told ABC News that Ostrovski told his commander on Saturday that he had not taken the photo himself but that he’d taken it off the internet. No disciplinary action will be taken.

“The picture in question does not coincide with IDF’s values or code of ethics,” the spokesman added in an e-mailed statement.

The uproar over the photo follows another posted by an Israeli infantryman on Facebook around a week ago. In it, he mocked the four Palestinian prisoners he was guarding by posing bound and blindfolded next to them. He was sentenced to 14 days detention after the brigade’s commanders discovered the photo and ordered it taken down.

“Before the investigation began, it was discovered that the soldier was already judged by his commanders,”  Buchman said in a statement. “Since the documented offense isn’t criminal and since the legal procedure conducted by the soldier’s commanding officer was found appropriate, a disciplinary action was decided to be sufficient.”

The IDF is active on social networking, disseminating statements on Twitter and Facebook and photos on Flickr and Instagram. But individual soldiers using social media have a history of getting the Israeli military into trouble.

In November, the head of the IDF spokesperson’s social media unit landed in hot water after he posted a photo on Facebook with mud on his face, captioned “Obama style.” In 2010, a reservist named Eden Abergil sparked outrage after posting pictures with blindfolded Palestinian prisoners. She told Israeli Army radio she didn’t understood what she did wrong, but the IDF called the photos “shameful behavior.”

Israel Using Deadly ‘Less-Lethal’ Crowd Control Weapons ‘Unlawfully’

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JERUSALEM, Jan 31 2013 (IPS) – The Israeli army is systematically using crowd control weapons and live ammunition unlawfully against Palestinians in the West Bank, signaling a widespread breach of military regulations and an alarming culture of impunity, a leading Israeli human rights group has warned.

At least ten Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army’s use of crowd control weapons in so-called “disturbance of the peace” situations in the West Bank since 2005, Israeli group Btselem stated in a new report, titled ‘Israel’s Use of Crowd Control Weapons in the West Bank’.

Additionally, Israeli soldiers killed 46 Palestinians with live ammunition in the same time period.

“Members of the security forces make almost routine use of these weapons in unlawful, dangerous ways, and the relevant Israeli authorities do too little to prevent the recurrence of this conduct,” the report found.

When used properly, Israel’s crowd-control weapons – which include tear gas, stun grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets, water cannons, foul-smelling liquid called ‘The Skunk’, and more – are meant to disperse crowds. The way the Israeli army uses these weapons today, however, can make them deadly, Btselem said.

“The authorities must ensure that the troops on the ground obey the open-fire regulations and use crowd control weapons within the parameters that keep them non-lethal. It follows that every soldier, officer, or police officer violating these rules must be prosecuted,” the report stated.

In an e-mail to IPS, the Israeli army spokesperson’s office disputed Btselem’s findings as “biased”, and stated that the incidents outlined in the report “are exceptions to IDF policy, rather than the rule.”

“The IDF does everything in its power to ensure that the use of riot dispersal means is done in accordance with the Rules of Engagement, minimising collateral damage and maintaining stability and security in the region,” the spokesperson’s unit stated.

Still, since the beginning of 2013 alone, at least five Palestinian youths were killed by live ammunition fired by the Israeli military in the West Bank.

Seventeen-year-old Samir Awad was killed after sustaining four bullet shots near the separation fence in Budrus village on Jan. 15. The Israeli army said Awad was trying to enter Israel illegally when he was shot.

On Jan. 23, 22-year-old Palestinian student Lubna al-Hanash was shot and killed on a main road near Al Aroub refugee camp, in the southern West Bank. The Israeli army said soldiers only fired after Molotov cocktails and rocks were thrown at them.

United Nations humanitarian coordinator James Rawley released a statement on Jan. 30 highlighting his concern at the Israeli army’s use of live fire in the West Bank, which has killed eight Palestinians since mid-November, and urged “maximum restraint in order to avoid further civilian casualties.

“Using live ammunition against civilians may constitute excessive use of force and any such occurrences should be investigated in a timely, thorough, independent and impartial manner. Individuals found responsible must be held accountable,” Rawley stated.

Palestinians have engaged in non-violent civil disobedience against Israel’s policies of occupation and colonisation for decades. Weekly, non-violent demonstrations have taken place in several West Bank villages since 2005.

A handful of Palestinians have been killed, and dozens more have been seriously injured by Israeli soldiers attempting to quell these protests and through the army’s inappropriate use of crowd control weapons.

In April 2009, Bassem Abu Rahmah was killed in the Palestinian village of Bil’in after being hit in the chest by an Israeli army-fired extended range tear gas grenade. Abu Rahmah’s sister, Jawaher, was killed in January 2011 after inhaling massive amounts of tear gas during another protest in the village.

Twenty-eight-year-old Mustafa Tamimi, from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, was also killed in December 2011, when a tear gas canister struck his head. The Btselem report stated that despite photographic evidence proving a soldier fired the tear gas canister directly at Tamimi, the Israeli army continues to deny this direct-firing practice.

“The IDF carefully investigates complaints that are tendered, instigating military police investigations when necessary, as per the policy determined by the Supreme Court and in line with the IDF’s ethical code,” the army spokesperson’s unit told IPS.

According to Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, however, only 3.5 percent of complaints received by the Military Police Criminal Investigations Unit of crimes committed by Israeli soldiers against Palestinians and their property in the West Bank lead to indictments.

“The State of Israel is not meeting its obligation to protect the civilian population living in the area it occupied through the proper and effective investigation of suspicions of criminal offences committed by soldiers,” Yesh Din found. (END)

Israel boycotts UN forum, first state in history to ignore human rights review

(RT) Israel has boycotted the UN human rights forum over fears of scrutiny of its treatment of residents of the occupied territories. Israel is now the first state in history to win a deferment of the periodical review of its human rights record.

Tel Aviv has refused to send a delegation on Tuesday to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva for the Universal Periodic Review procedure where UN member states have their human rights record evaluated every four years.

Israel’s cooperation with the council stopped last March after the UN set up a committee to inspect the effects of the Israeli settlements on Palestinians.

Israel which earlier accused the United Nations of anti-Israel bias reiterated its stance, recalling that the council has passed more resolutions against Israel than all other countries combined.

“After a series of votes and statements and incidents we have decided to suspend our working relations with that body,” Yigal Palmor, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, told the Financial Times. “I can confirm that there is no change in that policy.”

“There have been more resolutions condemning Israel than the rest of the world put together,” an Israeli government official said on Tuesday. “It’s not a fair game – it’s not even a game.”

Following the Israeli decision, the council has decided to postpone its review until no later than November.

The Council president has also called on the body to adopt a draft response to an unprecedented move by Israel.

Egypt’s representative meanwhile has warned that a “soft” approach would create a dangerous precedent and leave“a wide-open door for more cases of non-cooperation,” the AFP quoted.

Activist groups lash out against Israel’s disregard for international law.

“By not participating in its own review, Israel is setting a dangerous precedent,” Eilis Ni Chaithnia, an advocacy officer with al-Haq, a human rights organisation based in Ramallah has told the FT. “This is the first time any country has made a determined effort not to attend.”

Others thought that the council’s decision to delay gives Tel Aviv the opportunity to make amends. Eight Israeli human rights organizations issued a statement saying, “Israel now has a golden opportunity to reverse its decision not to participate,” adding “it is legitimate for Israel to express criticism of the work of the Council and its recommendations, but Israel should do so through engagement with the Universal Periodic Review, as it has done in previous sessions,”JTA quotes.

The investigation into Israel’s Human Rights record began in 2007, but last year the UN started to pay particular attention to Israel’s activities in the West Bank.

The probe at the time prompted an angry response from the country’s leader.

“This is a hypocritical council with an automatic majority against Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Senior Israeli officials announced last month that Israel does not intend to cancel plans to accelerate settlement construction.

Netanyahu himself said in an interview with Israeli Channel 2 last month that the disputed area “is not occupied territory” and that he “does not care” what the UN thinks about it.

Around 500,000 Israelis and 2.4 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, areas that, along with Gaza, the Palestinians want for a future state.

The United Nations regards all Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal. Tel Aviv last attended the human rights review in 2008. Israel is not a member of the Council, which is comprised of 47 UN member states.

Extremists Attack Arab Children In Jerusalem For Boarding Israeli Bus

(imemc.org) Last Sunday, and following the end of a normal school day in Jerusalem, a number of Arab Palestinian schoolchildren from Jerusalem (around age 12) boarded an Israeli bus while heading home; a number of adult Israeli extremists started insulting the children, and one of them spit a gum he was chewing on a child’s face.

Israeli Bus, file - reprinted from Arabs48

Israeli paper, Haaretz, reported that after the Palestinian children boarded the bus, two settlers “noticed” that the children were speaking in Arabic, and started cursing at them, insulting them and one of the settlers even spit a gum, he was chewing, in the face of one of the children.

The Arab children study at a Jerusalem school attended by both Arab and Jewish students.

After the two settlers left the bus, a settler woman started harassing the children, cursing at them and uttered a number of racist statements against the Arabs and Palestinians.

The settler woman did not only use words to show her racist nature against the Palestinians, but even physically attacked one of the children by grabbing her hair and pulling it.

The bus driver then stopped his bus, and demanded the settler woman to leave, and when she refused he called the police who detained her.

Haaretz said that “Ayyoub”, the father of the child, said that his daughter goes to school through Jewish neighborhoods every single school day, and that she is repeatedly subject to verbal insults, but this time extremists decided to move to physical assault.

US supports governments in 4 of 7 least free nations

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(Digital Journal)  –  The United States provides economic, military  and diplomatic support to four of the seven least free nations on earth,  according to a Digital Journal analysis of this year’s Freedom House freedom  rankings.

Freedom House, a Washington, DC-based think tank that conducts  research on democracy, freedom and human rights, has released its annual report  on the state of freedom around the world. The report, “Freedom  in the World 2013,” gave seven nations the lowest possible rankings for both  political rights and civil liberties. Of these seven– North Korea,  Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia,  the United States provides significant economic, military and/or diplomatic  support to the governments of four of them. Here’s a breakdown of how the Obama  administration aids and enables brutal repression in each country:

Saudi Arabia:  Arbitrary arrest and torture  of reform advocates, religious minorities and totally innocent people are  commonplace. The Saudi legal system is a cruel farce, with defendants often denied  legal counsel and tortured into making false confessions. This has led to  wrongful executions, usually by public  beheading. Among the crimes for which one can be beheaded in Saudi Arabia:  apostasy (renouncing Islam), blasphemy, prostitution, witchcraft,  sorcery, adultery and homosexuality. Lesser criminals often have their hands and  legs amputated without anesthesia.

Being born female in Saudi Arabia is to  be condemned to a hellish life of virtual slavery. Not only are women not  allowed to vote, they cannot drive cars. They cannot be treated in a hospital or  travel without written permission from their husbands or male relatives. One  woman who was kidnapped and gang-raped was sentenced  to 90 whip lashes for being with unrelated males. When she went to the media to  complain, her sentence was increased to 200 lashes. In 2002, 15 schoolgirls  needlessly died when  members of the dreaded morality police locked them inside their burning school  and stopped firefighters from saving them simply because the girls were not  properly dressed in robes and headscarves.

The Saudi education system reinforces  this medieval barbarism. School textbooks disparage women, call for gays to be  put to death, teach how to cut off thieves’ hands and stress the importance of  the destruction of the Jewish people. “The hour of God’s judgment will not come  until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them,” reads  one textbook.

Such is life in the absolute monarchy  of Saudi Arabia, a kingdom without an elected parliament where the courts are  run by religious extremists, adherents of a super-strict brand of Islamic  fundamentalism called Wahhabism.  It was Wahhabism that spawned al-Qaeda; Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 9/11  hijackers were Saudis. In a bid to consolidate and protect its power and curry  favor with powerful extremist clerics, members of the Saudi royal family  routinely make large donations  to Islamic ‘charities’ that in turn fund terrorist groups. The Saudi government  also supported the Taliban right up until 9/11 and then refused to help US  intelligence officials with background checks on the Saudi hijackers.

These truths have been ignored by  successive US administrations, including Barack Obama’s. Rather than rebuke  Saudi repression, Obama rewarded it by allowing the sale of $60  billion worth of advanced military aircraft to the kingdom and by warmly  welcoming Saudi King Abdullah to the White House.

Equatorial Guinea:  This tiny but oil-rich West African nation is ruled by the fantastically corrupt Teodoro  Obiang, Africa’s longest ruling leader and a close US ally. Obiang, who was  trained in Franco’s Spain, rose to power in 1979 after executing his even more  brutal uncle. The US State Department report on Equatorial Guinea cites “torture  of detainees by security forces, life-threatening conditions in prisons, and  arbitrary arrests.” Locals joke– behind closed doors, of course– about North  Korea’s Kim Jong-un being Obiang’s role model.

Oil exports and corruption have made  the Obiang family among the richest in Africa, with the dictator’s personal  fortune worth an estimated $600 million. His family lives in ostentatious  opulence while one out of every three Equatorial Guineans dies before the  age of 40.

Somehow, despite the misery of most of  his people, Obiang still managed to “win”  reelection with 95 percent of the vote in 2009.

Obiang has endeared himself to the Bush  and Obama administrations (Condoleezza Rice called him a “good  friend”) by opening his country’s oil wealth up for exploitation by US  corporations, which have invested billions of dollars there. Secret diplomatic  cables published by Wikileaks in 2009 reveal that Washington advised  “abandoning a moral narrative” regarding the brutal Obiang regime and the Obama  administration was more than happy to oblige. Just two months before he “won”  his impossible landslide reelection victory, Barack and Michelle Obama met the  friendly dictator and posed for photos with him and his wife at a lavish  Manhattan reception.

Uzbekistan: This  Central Asian country is a police state that has been ruled continuously by the  wicked Islam  Karimov since it was part of the Soviet Union. There is zero freedom of  expression or of the press in Uzbekistan, and although Karimov holds periodic  elections, they are farcical affairs in which he always receives around 90  percent of the vote.

But Uzbekistan sits smack in the middle  of the region’s massive oil and natural gas resources and is also a valuable  ally in the War on Terror. The Northern Distribution Network, a supply line to  Afghanistan, passes right through it.

Unfortunately, tens of thousands of  Uzbek political prisoners are locked up in horrific conditions and subjected to  medieval tortures. Prisoners are forced to stand in freezing water for hours,  have their skin torn off with pliers or are occasionally boiled  to death. Uzbek authorities have also imprisoned, tortured or killed  thousands of Muslims just for practicing their faith.

The Bush administration cozied up to  the vile Karimov regime, inviting the dictator to the White House and lavishing  him with half a billion dollars in aid, much of it directly funding the police  and intelligence services that torture and murder. When Uzbek forces committed a  vodka-fueled massacre of  hundreds of peaceful protesters in Andijan in 2005, Pentagon officials helped block  an international investigation of the incident.

President Obama has continued to extend  the hand of friendship to Karimov, sending Hillary Clinton, Gen. David Petraeus  and the late Richard Holbrooke to Tashkent to shore up relations. Last February,  Obama announced that the US would resume  military aid to the despotic regime despite its continued grave human rights  abuses.

Turkmenistan: Home to  the world’s fifth-largest natural gas reserves, Uzbekistan’s southern neighbor  was for decades run by President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov, whose bizarre  cult of personality knew no limits. Niyazov renamed a town, a meteor and the  month of January  after himself. He also scrapped the Hippocratic Oath for  doctors and replaced it with an oath to– guess who– Niyazov. The eccentric  dictator outlawed gold teeth, opera, ballet and lip-syncing. He even published a  ‘Book of the Soul’ that was elevated to the level of the Bible and Koran. When  one Islamic cleric objected, he was sentenced to 23 years behind bars.  Stalinesque show trials, torture and murder were everyday facts of life.

Niyazov died  in 2006. But the nation remains one of the most repressive and corrupt  in the world. Successive US administrations, however, have  ignored the brutality as they pursue lucrative pipeline deals and access to  routes to supply the war in Afghanistan. The dictator Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow  “won” reelection last year with 97 percent of the vote, a troubling development  that was met with silence and continued friendship from the Obama  administration. The US has also provided millions of dollars in aid to the  brutal tyrant.

 

LEGAL PALESTINIAN ‘SETTLEMENT’ ILLEGALLY EVACUATED BY ISRAELI FORCES

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 ”We intend to carry out the eviction without the use of force,” a police statement said, “but we shall act with determination against anyone who partakes in riots and jeopardizes the security forces.” 

Palestinian sources said that the outpost’s inhabitants sat on the ground as an act of passive resistance when the forces arrived at Bab al-Shams.

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Security forces evacuate E1 outpost

Some 150 Palestinians evicted from Bab al-Shams outpost in area E1, without violent resistance, injuries. At least two Palestinians arrested, including Mustafa Barghouti

 

IDF and police forces evacuated some 150 Palestinians from the Bab al-Shams outpost in area E1 early on Sunday morning.

 

The Palestinians were placed on buses and taken to the Qalandiya checkpoint. Palestinian National Initiative director Mustafa Barghouti was arrested during the eviction as well as at least one other person, according to the Palestinians.

 

One tent was torched by the outpost’s inhabitants who had complained that officers attacked Arab and Palestinian journalists.

Earlier, the Shai District Police said that the eviction was part of efforts to implement the closed military zone order. “We intend to carry out the eviction without the use of force,” a police statement said, “but we shall act with determination against anyone who partakes in riots and jeopardizes the security forces.” 

 

Palestinian sources said that the outpost’s inhabitants sat on the ground as an act of passive resistance when the forces arrived at Bab al-Shams.

(צילום: רויטרס)

Forces evict Palestinians (Photo: Reuters)

(צילום: AFP)

Photo: AFP

 

There were no indications of violent resistance and no injuries were reported during the incident.

 

“Thousands of Israeli officers surrounded the tents and arrested the inhabitants one by one,” Barghouti told the French news agency. However, police stressed that the Palestinians were “escorted out of the area” and were not arrested for violating the closed military zone order.

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Palestinians after arriving at Qalandiya

 

The IDF spokesman ordered officers to prevent journalists from entering the outpost as per the cabinet’s orders. However, Arab and Palestinian journalists were allowed to get close to the outpost prior to the eviction.

אחד הפלסטינים מורחק מהמקום (צילום: רויטרס)

Palestinian cleared from outpost (Photo: Reuters)

כוחות הביטחון בין האוהלים במאחז (צילום: רויטרס)

Photo: Reuters

כוחות צבא ומשטרה בשטח, אחרי הפינוי (צילום: אוהד צויגנברג)

Forces after the eviction (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)

 

“An urgent evacuation is required due to a pressing security need,” the State said in a petition filed with the High Court of Justice late on Saturday.

 

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said in the document that the State has issued orders to define the outpost as a closed military zone and to remove squatters from its land.

 

Weinstein argued that the encampment was set up in order to provoke riots “of national and international consequence,” citing up-to-date intelligence information.

 

 

According to the petition, most of the tents have been pitched on the State’s lands, and allowing the protesters to stay where they are will create friction with settlers and could trigger widespread unrest.

 

The State “indents to act urgently to fulfill the right to evacuate everyone from the area,” Weinstein wrote. The State will then examine whether the law requires the tents to remain or be removed.

המאחז הפלסטיני ב-E1. "לפעול בדחיפות למנוע מהומות" (צילום: AFP)

Bab al-Shams on Saturday night (Photo: AFP)

 

The document was filed in response to a temporary injunction issued by the High Court in order to bar the State from removing the protesters from the outpost as long as there isn’t an emergency warranting an evacuation. In the meantime, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the routes leading up to the outpost to be closed to traffic, rendering the area a closed military zone.

 

A group of 200 Palestinians, backed by foreign activists, created the encampment, whose name means “Gate of the Sun,” near Ma’aleh Adumim on Friday, setting into motion a series of legal exchanges between the Palestinians’ representatives and the State.

מאחז באב אל-שאמס. המדינה מבקשת לפנותו  (צילום: אוהד צויגנברג)

The outpost (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)

 

On Saturday, the government ordered the leaders of Bab al-Shams to immediately vacate the premises.

 

The outpost’s leaders then petitioned the High Court to block the warrant, claiming that the encampment was set up on their own private land and it is part of the village of At-Tur, where they reside. The tents, they claimed, where meant to act as a tourist center spotlighting Bedouin heritage. The decision to evict them went against zoning laws because it did not give them a chance to voice their arguments, they said.

 

The leaders said that if Israeli security forces were to make them leave, they would do so with only passive resistance.

 

Mahmoud Zawara, of the Popular Palestinian Committees, told Ynet that the 30-tent outpost was set up as part of the “Palestinian struggle” against Israel’s planned construction in the area.

 

 

 

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U.S. Drone Pilot: ‘Did We Just Kill A Kid?’

(PekinTimes)

After Barack Obama joined the rest of us in mourning the slaughter of innocent children in Newtown, Conn., Sanford Berman, a Minnesota civil liberties activist, wrote me: “Obama’s tears for the dead Connecticut kids made me sick. What about weeping over the 400 or more children he killed with drone strikes?”

Indeed, our president has shown no palpable concern over those deaths, but a number of U.S. personnel — not only the CIA agents engaged in drone killings — are deeply troubled.

Peggy Noonan reports that David E. Sanger, in his book “Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power,” discovered that “some of those who operate the unmanned bombers are getting upset. They track victims for days. They watch them play with their children.” Then what happens: “‘It freaks you out’” (“Who Benefits From the ‘Avalanche of Leaks’?” Wall Street Journal, June 15).

For another example, I introduce you to Conor Friedersdorf and his account of “The Guilty Conscience of a Drone Pilot Who Killed a Child” (theatlantic.com, Dec. 19).

The subtitle: “May his story remind us that U.S. strikes have reportedly killed many times more kids than died in Newtown — and that we can do better.”

The story Friedersdorf highlights in the Atlantic first appeared in Germany’s Der Spiegel about an Air Force officer (not CIA) who “lamented the fact that he sometimes had to kill ‘good daddies’” … (and) “even attended their funerals” from far away.

And dig this, President Obama: “as a consequence of the job, he collapsed with stress-induced exhaustion and developed PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).” Yet these drones, “Hellfire missiles,” are President Obama’s favorite extra-judicial weapons against suspected terrorists.

Getting back to the Air Force officer, Brandon Bryant, with the guilty conscience. Friedersdorf’s story quotes extensively from Der Spiegel’s article, which recalls that, when Bryant got the order to fire, “he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof (of a shed) with a laser. The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact …

“With seven seconds left to go, there was no one to be seen on the ground. Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point. Then it was down to three seconds …

“Suddenly a child walked around the corner, he says. Second zero was the moment in which Bryant’s digital world collided with the real one in a village between Baghlan and Mazar-e-Sharif. Bryant saw a flash on the screen: the explosion. Parts of the building collapsed. The child had disappeared.

“Bryant had a sick feeling in his stomach.

“‘Did we just kill a kid?’ he asked the man sitting next to him.

“‘Yeah. I guess that was a kid,’ the pilot replied.

“‘Was that a kid?’ they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.

“Then someone they didn’t know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. ‘No. That was a dog,’ the person wrote.

“They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs?”

Friedersdorf adds: “The United States kills a lot of ‘dogs on two legs.’ The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported last August that in Pakistan’s tribal areas alone, there are at least 168 credible reports of children being killed in drone strikes.” As for those in other countries, he adds, that’s “officially secret.”

He writes: “Presidents Bush and Obama have actively prevented human-rights observers from accessing full casualty data from programs that remain officially secret, so there is no way to know the total number of children American strikes have killed in the numerous countries in which they’ve been conducted, but if we arbitrarily presume that ‘just’ 84 children have died — half the bureau’s estimate from one country — the death toll would still be more than quadruple the number of children killed in Newtown, Conn.”

Are you proud, as an American, to know this?

After reading about Obama’s silence in “The Guilty Conscience of a Drone Pilot Who Killed a Child,” does the conscience of those of us who re-elected Obama ache?

As Friedersdorf writes, Obama has never spoken of these deaths as he did about the ones in Newtown, when he said: “If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent … then surely we have an obligation to try. … Are we really prepared to say that dead children are the price of our freedom?”

Do you mean, Mr. President, only the dead children of Newtown?

These targeted killings continue in our name, under the ultimate authority of our president — as the huge majority of We The People stays mute.

Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. He is a member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Cato Institute, where he is a senior fellow.

Ron Paul: New Year’s Resolutions for Congress

 

Ron-Paul

(Ron Paul) -As I prepare to retire from Congress, I’d like to suggest a few New Year’s resolutions for my colleagues to consider.  For the sake of liberty, peace, and prosperity I certainly hope more members of Congress consider the strict libertarian constitutional approach to government in 2013.

In just a few days, Congress will solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against ALL enemies, foreign and domestic.  They should reread Article 1 Section 8 and the Bill of Rights before taking such a serious oath.  Most legislation violates key provisions of the Constitution in very basic ways, and if members can’t bring themselves to say no in the face of pressure from special interests, they have broken trust with their constituents and violated their oaths. Congress does not exist to serve special interests, it exists to protect the rule of law.

I also urge my colleagues to end unconstitutional wars overseas.  Stop the drone strikes; stop the covert activities and meddling in the internal affairs of other nations. Strive to observe “good faith and justice towards all Nations” as George Washington admonished.  We are only making more enemies, wasting lives, and bankrupting ourselves with the neoconservative, interventionist mindset that endorses pre-emptive war that now dominates both parties.

All foreign aid should end because it is blatantly unconstitutional. While it may be a relatively small part of our federal budget, for many countries it is a large part of theirs–and it creates perverse incentives for both our friends and enemies. There is no way members of Congress can know or understand the political, economic, legal, and social realities in the many nations to which they send taxpayer dollars.

Congress needs to stop accumulating more debt. US debt, monetized by the Federal Reserve, is the true threat to our national security. Revisiting the parameters of Article 1 Section 8 would be a good start.

Congress should resolve to respect personal liberty and free markets. Learn more about the free market and how it regulates commerce and produces greater prosperity better than any legislation or regulation. Understand that economic freedom IS freedom.  Resolve not to get in the way of voluntary contracts between consenting adults.  Stop bailing out failed yet politically connected companies and industries. Stop forcing people to engage in commerce when they don’t want to, and stop prohibiting them from buying and selling when they do want to.  Stop trying to legislate your ideas of fairness.  Protect property rights.  Protect the individual.  That is enough.

There are many more resolutions I would like to see my colleagues in Congress adopt, but respect for the Constitution and the oath of office should be at the core of everything members of Congress do in 2013.

237 Israeli soldiers committed suicide in ten years: Report

Israeli soldiers (file photo)

(PressTV) -At least 237 Israeli soldiers have committed suicide over the past ten years, a report says.

According to secret data released by the Israeli military, an average of 24 troops decide to take their own lives every year, Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Thursday.

According to the report, an annual average of 40 Israeli army forces also killed themselves between 1990 and 2000.

The official data regarding the suicide rate had been released for the first time by an unknown Israeli blogger, who was later investigated by Israeli police.
The blogger also found out that the real number of suicides in the Israeli army had been much greater than what the official data show.
The Israeli newspaper Maariv published an article in 2003, saying that suicide had been the number one cause of death in the Israeli army.
The Israeli ministry for military affairs recently reported that the number of Israeli soldiers who committed suicide exceeds that of those killed in battles.

U.S. Gov’t Asks Federal Judge to Dismiss Cases of Americans Killed by Drones

 

a1obdrone

(Activist Post) – As Americans mourn the deaths of 20 children and 6 adults in the Newtown, CT tragedy – and the gun control debate has reached a fever pitch – autonomous killing systems are being funded by American taxpayers, and drone strikes continue to kill an increasing number of civilians abroad.

Barack Obama and the U.S. government policy makers have shown an incredible level of hypocrisy before; on the one hand lamenting such senseless deaths as have occurred in “mass shootings” while conducting their own mass killing, torture, and terror campaigns in foreign lands.

A culture of violence can’t have it both ways, though, and the welcoming of drones into American skies by Congress is sure to unleash physical havoc shortly after concerns over surveillance and privacy are dismissed.

As a clear sign of what can be expected, the U.S. government has asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit brought by the families of three Americans killed by drone strikes in Yemen. If federal courts rule that these cases are without merit, it will set a dangerous precedent that only the executive branch of government can decide which Americans have a constitutional right to due process, while further enhancing a framework where the government will decide who is fit to be mourned and who should be forgotten

Tweeters ‘could be military targets’

(The Age) -Social media users who use tweets and online posts to comment on a military operation could be regarded as legitimate military targets.

Australian army Land Warfare Studies Centre analyst Chloe Diggins on Thursday said a recent social media war between Israel and Hamas raised complex ethical questions about who was a combatant and therefore a legitimate military target.

A key question was whether such comments constituted an act of war.

“If that’s the case, this might mean that those using social media in support of military operations are now legitimate targets,” she wrote in a blog for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

 

The Geneva Convention defines legitimate military targets as objects “which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralisation, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage”.

The convention protects civilians unless they are taking a direct part in hostilities.

“So if social media operators or users engage in the conflict by uploading, downloading, sharing, or otherwise adding to content in any way, they then become actors contributing to hostilities,” Ms Diggins said.

“In doing so, civilian social media users lose their protected status and can become legitimate targets.”

Ms Diggins said if a country could declare war over Twitter – as Israel did when it announced the start of recent hostilities – who’s to say Twitter users could not “fight” in the information space of that war?

“Moreover, who’s to say they shouldn’t reasonably expect to become legitimate targets themselves?” she said.Ms Diggins stressed her views did not reflect those of the Australian Defence Force.

Finnish politician: Jews control money, media in US

(jpost.com) Finland’s vice chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, asserted on the state television program YLE Aamu TV on Thursday that American Jews hold vast control over the wealth and media in the United States and that impedes the US government from remaining neutral toward the Palestinians.

Salolainen’s remarks sparked sharp criticism from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international human rights group with its headquarters in Los Angeles, and the Finnish media watchdog website Tundra Tabloids.

Finland’s government voted in favor of the Palestinians’ status upgrade.

Mark Weitzman, from the Wiesenthal Center, wrote to Ritva Koukku- Ronde, the Finnish ambassador to the US, condemning the decision.

“That such remarks can come from a pillar of the political elite in Finland is dismaying and astonishing; but that this remark was unchallenged makes it appear that such ideas are part of acceptable discourse in Finland,” he wrote.

Weitzman continued that Finland joined the International Task Force for Holocaust Education, Research and Remembrance and “at this point, Finland must immediately act to show that it remains committed to these ideals,” by officially condemning and repudiating Salolainen’s remarks. He called on the Finnish government to take steps to remove the parliamentarian from any official position.

The pro-Israel Helsinki-based website Tundra Tabloids posted a translation of Salolainen’s comments and the television clip with a translation.

Tundra Tabloids termed Salolainen “a part-time anti-Semite” and said he propagated a modern version of the 19th century anti-Semitic document Protocols of the Elders of Zion with his diatribe of Jew-hatred and conspiracy theories.

When asked in early November by The Jerusalem Post if statements from Hezbollah calling for the murder of Jews and Israelis and praise for Holocaust denial are anti-Semitic, Pekka Marttila, from the Finnish Foreign Ministry, refused to answer.

Frank Johansson, the head of Finland’s Amnesty International office, caused an anti-Semitism scandal in 2010 when he labeled Israel a “scum state” on the website of Finland’s third largest newspaper Iltalehti. In an interview with the Post, Johansson defended the term, saying he would only apply it to the Jewish state and some Russian officials. He retained his job with the human rights organization.

Israel withholds $120mn in Palestinian tax funds as revenge for UN vote

(RT) -Israel has canceled the transfer of US$120 million collected in taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in response to Palestine’s UN-bid, which saw it granted non-member observer status, thus implicitly recognizing the state.

The halted money, collected in taxes for the month of November, was scheduled to be passed on to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which constitutes a large percentage of the Palestinian budget, including paying the salaries of PA officials, Israeli media reported.

Now, instead, the money will be used to pay for the PA’s debt to Israel’s Electric Company.

The decision was made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and announced during a weekly government cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

“This is a Palestinian provocation and an attempt to advance their state without recognizing Israel,” Steinitz stated.

Israel’s change of mind comes as a response to UN’s decision last week. The Palestinian bid was upheld with 138 votes in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions.

The new status allows the PA access to numerous UN agencies, and to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Also, following the status upgrade, Israel announced it will be building 3,000 new settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Israel has been charged with collecting taxes on behalf of the PA, since the latter has no access points such as ports, airports, etc. The system is very complex and is governed by the 1994 Paris Protocols with the Palestinians.

Israel collects around $100 million a month in taxes and customs duties on goods imported into the Palestinian territories.

Israel has halted tax revenue money in the past during times of diplomatic tensions.

For instance, in 2008 Israel delayed transferring tax funds to the Palestinian government after Prime Minister Salam Fayyad angered Israeli leaders by urging the European Union not to renew its ties with Israel.

And in 2011, Israel froze $100 million it owed in taxes to the PA in retaliation after UNESCO, the UN educational and cultural agency, decided to admit Palestine as a member.

Reining in Obama and His Drones

(Ralph Nader) -Barack Obama, former president of the Harvard Law Review and a constitutional law lecturer, should go back and review his coursework. He seems to have declined to comport his presidency to the rule of law.

Let’s focus here on his major expansion of drone warfare in defiance of international law, statutory law and the Constitution. Obama’s drones roam over multiple nations of Asia and Africa and target suspects, both known and unknown, whom the president, in his unbridled discretion, wants to evaporate for the cause of national security.

More than 2,500 people have been killed by Obama’s drones, many of them civilians and bystanders, including American citizens, irrespective of the absence of any “imminent threat” to the United States.

As Justin Elliott of ProPublica wrote: “Under Obama…only 13 percent (of those killed) could be considered militant leaders – either of the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, or Al Qaeda.” The remaining fatalities, apart from many innocent civilians, including children, were people oppressed by their own harsh regimes or dominated by U.S. occupation of their country. Aside from human rights and the laws of war, this distinction between civilian and combatant matters because it shows that Obama’s drones are becoming what Elliott calls “a counterinsurgency air force” for our collaborative regimes.

The “kill lists”  are the work of Obama and his advisors, led by John O. Brennan, and come straight from the White House, according to The New York Times.  Apparently, the president spends a good deal of time being prosecutor, judge, jury, executioner and concealer. But he does so quietly; this is no dramatic “thumbs-down” emperor.

Mr. Brennan spoke at Harvard Law School about a year ago and told a remarkably blasé audience that what he and the president were doing was perfectly legal under the law of self-defense. Self-defense that is defined, of course, by the president.

It appears from recent statements on The Daily Show that President Obama does not share the certitude boldly displayed by Mr. Brennan. On October 18, President Obama told John Stewart, and his audience, that “one of the things we’ve got to do is put a legal architecture in place, and we need Congressional help in order to do that, to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president is reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making.”

So in the absence of “a legal architecture” of accountability, do presidents knock off whomever they want to target (along with bystanders or family members), whether or not the targeted person is actually plotting an attack against the United States? It seems that way, in spite of what is already in place legally, called the Constitution, separation of powers and due process of law. What more legal architecture does Mr. Obama need?

Obviously what he wants is a self-contained, permanent “Office of Presidential Predator Drone Assassinations” in the White House, to use, author, scholar and litigator Bruce Fein’s nomenclature. According to The New York Times, President Obama wants “ explicit rules for targeted killing…. So that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures.” Mr. Fein notes that “clear standards and procedures without accountability to the judiciary, Congress, or the American people” undermine the rule of law and our democracy.

Indeed, the whole deliberation process inside the Obama administration has been kept secret, a continuing process of morbid over-classification that even today contains secret internal legal opinions on targeted killings. The government refuses even to acknowledge that a drone air force operates over Pakistan – a fact that everybody knows including the hundreds of injured and displaced Pakistanis. This drone air force uses, what The New York Times called, “signature strikes against groups of suspected, unknown militants.”

Predictably, these strikes are constantly terrorizing thousands of families who fear a strike anytime day or night, and are causing a blowback that is expanding the number of Al Qaeda sympathizers and affiliates from Pakistan to Yemen. “Signature strikes,” according to the Times, “have prompted the greatest conflict inside the Obama administration.” Former CIA director under George W. Bush, Michael V. Hayden has publically questioned whether the expansion in the use of drones is counterproductive and creating more enemies and the desire for more revenge against the U.S.

Critics point out how many times in the past that departments and agencies have put forth misleading or false intelligence, from the Vietnam War to the arguments for invading Iraq, or have missed what they should have predicted such as the fall of the Soviet Union. This legacy of errors and duplicity should restrain presidents who execute, by ordering drone operators to push buttons that target people thousands of miles away, based on secret, so-called intelligence.

Mr. Obama wants, in Mr. Fein’s view, to have “his secret and unaccountable predator drone assassinations become permanent fixtures of the nation’s national security complex.” Were Obama to remember his constitutional law, such actions would have to be constitutionally authorized by Congress and subject to judicial review.

With his Attorney General Eric Holder maintaining that there is sufficient due process entirely inside the Executive Branch and without Congressional oversight or judicial review, don’t bet on anything more than a more secret, violent, imperial presidency that shreds the Constitution’s separation of powers and checks and balances.

And don’t bet that other countries of similar invasive bent won’t remember this green-light on illegal unilateralism when they catch up with our drone capabilities.

UN votes 139-8 to recognize Palestinian statehood

(Digital Journal) -The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state on Thursday, a stinging diplomatic defeat for Israel and the United States, both of whom strongly opposed the Palestine’s statehood bid.

 
The Associated Press reports that the UN voted 138-9, with 41 abstentions, in favor of a resolution upgrading Palestine’s status to non-member observer state.

 

The occasion was marked by the unfurling of a large Palestinian flag on the floor of the General Assembly behind the Palestinian delegation. Meanwhile, raucous celebrations broke out in cities, towns and villages throughout the occupied Palestinian West Bank as well as in Gaza, which is still reeling from Operation Pillar of Defense, an Israeli bombing campaign that killed more than 160 people, including many innocent civilians, in response to Hamas rocket attacks against Israel. Revelers waved Palestinian flags and chanted “God is great!”

 

Palestine now gains access to UN agencies and international organizations, notably the International Criminal Court (ICC), which could provide the Palestinians with the opportunity to sue Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity associated with the ongoing occupation of the West Bank and the physical and economic blockade of Gaza. The UN has previously passed scores of resolutions concerning Israeli conduct in the occupied territories and against its neighbors.

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the resolution “meaningless” and condemned a pre-vote speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as “defamatory and venomous” and “full of mendacious propaganda.”

 

“UNGA resolutions are not worth the paper they are written on,” Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Danny Ayalon defiantly told Israel Radio.

 

The United States was also quick to slam the historic vote.

 

“Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path of peace,” Susan Rice, Washington’s embattled UN ambassador said, echoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also called the vote “unfortunate” and “counterproductive.”

 

Seven other UN member states joined Israel and the US in voting against recognition of Palestinian statehood. These were: Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama.

 

Notable nations among the 41 abstentions included: Australia, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

 

The November 29 vote came on the same day that the fledgling United Nations voted to recognize a Jewish state in Palestine in 1947. Great Britain, which had ruled Palestine from the end of World War I until a campaign of Jewish terrorism drove them to withdraw in the summer of 1947, handed control of the territory over to the UN, which then partitioned it without the approval of the indigenous Arab population. Zionists– Europeans who emigrated to Palestine with the goal of establishing a Jewish homeland– exalted. Although Jews controlled just 5 percent of Palestine’s land area and comprised just 33 percent of its population, they were awarded 55 percent of Palestine’s territory.

 

The following year, Israel declared its independence, an event accompanied by an ethnic cleansing campaign known among Arabs as the Nakba, or catastrophe, and an invasion of the new Jewish state by five Arab nations. Some 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were expelled from their homes, often by force and sometimes by massacre, never to return. Today, they and their descendants number around four million. Today, Israel controls nearly all of Palestine. The West Bank has been occupied since 1967, despite dozens of UN resolutions condemning Israeli actions, and the Jewish state maintains a physical and economic stranglehold on the Gaza strip. Palestinian attempts to resist Israeli occupation and oppression, often by resorting to terrorism, are usually met by overwhelming Israeli military force.

 

Despite this history, or perhaps because of it, Israel fought an intense yet ultimately unsuccessful diplomatic battle to quash Palestine’s bid for UN state recognition. But Thursday’s vote does not mean that Palestine is by any means independent. The vote does, however, affirm that the global community overwhelmingly supports Palestine’s statehood aspirations. It could also bolster Abbas’ position in future peace talks with Israel and lend credibility to his government, whose power has been eroded in recent years as rival Hamas has gained traction.

Despite Ceasefire, Israel-Gaza War Continues Online

(Wired) -It’s been a week since Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire pausing their war in Gaza. But on the internet, a different kind of fighting never stopped — and has actually intensified since the rockets stopped falling and the warplanes returned to their bases.

About two hours before last week’s ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, supporters of both sides intensified their barrage of distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks against each other, according to CloudFlare, a U.S. company that provides DDOS protection services to websites that come under attack. The volume of attacks continuing after the ceasefire has outpaced those occurring during the offline hostilities.

CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince doesn’t know who is behind the attacks, but he says that 10 “fairly high-profile” sites representing both sides of the conflict have been hit, and have now become CloudFlare customers.

The attacks may not harm anybody, but the fact that they’ve outlasted a formal ceasefire stresses the idea of what constitutes the end of hostilities online. If Israel or Hamas is actually behind any of the DDOS attacks, they may be seeing what damage (or even just inconvenience) they inflict on their adversary without incurring a reprisal. And if they’re performed by partisans of either side of the conflict — as with Anonymous’ ongoing #OpIsrael campaign — then they show how amateurs can piggyback online to a major conflict. That was actually the case in the wake of Israel’s last war with Gaza, when Israeli students wrote a program to overwhelm pro-Hamas websites.

 

CloudFlare doesn’t want to talk about who exactly its customers are, but they include the Israeli Defense Forces website and, controversially, one belonging to Hamas’ al-Qassam paramilitary wing.

As the cyber conflict broke out, CloudFlare was able to take it all in, watching both sides take out pro-Israeli and Palestinian websites in a kind of rampaging slugfest of site outages. “We were sitting there watching this from a very strange vantage point,” says Prince. “Often you see these attacks and they’re very one-sided. One side launches an attack to silence the other side and there’s not much response. In this case there were attacks going in both directions.”

The attacks have been fairly strong, typically in the 10-gigabits-per-second range, targeting web programs such as Apache. The extra traffic connects to the web server so many times that it can’t work properly for legitimate visitors. This type of DDOS, known as a Layer 7 attack, needs much less bandwidth to take down a site than other forms of DDOS. In a blog post, Prince wrote the attacks have run pretty much nonstop since the ceasefire was declared.

As is usually the case with these type of online attacks, it’s hard to figure out who’s responsible for the hacking. CloudFlare says that it has seen some DDOS traffic come from infected botnet networks of computers in China, but Prince has no idea who is controlling them. “We haven’t done any work on who the attribution is behind the attacks,” Prince says. “We’re must more concerned with stopping the attacks.”

In the past, politically motivated DDOS attacks during conflicts, like those in Georgia and Estonia over the last decade, came from vigilante groups — some with weak or even no clear ties to the parties involved in the dispute. That may be the case here too, at least for some of the attacks. Starting a few days before the ceasefire, Anonymous launched an effort to DDOS and deface websites associated with Israel. Since then, the Anonymous News site has itself come under attack, Prince says.

Without knowing the identities of the attackers, it’s impossible to know their intent. But it’s perhaps worth noting that the eight-day Gaza war has been notably inconclusive, to the point where partisans of both sides are struggling to figure out who won. Israel showed off its newfound prowess at stopping Hamas’ rocket and missile attacks, but Hamas claims that Israel has subtly eased its maritime blockade. And both Israel and Hamas have launched information operations on each other throughout the conflict, tweeting taunts and boasting of their tactical successes on social media. No matter who’s actually responsible, defacing each side’s websites is entirely commensurate with a war that emphasized spinning the public.

EU countries consider sanctions on Israeli settlers

(EUObserver)- EU diplomats have given the green light for member states to impose visa bans on violent Israeli settlers.

The Political and Security Committe (PSC) – a group of EU ambassadors dealing with conflict zones – approved the step at its meeting in Brussels on 16 November.

The PSC memo – seen by EUobserver and copied below – says: “Individual EU member states could explore possibilities of denying access of known violent settlers to the EU.”

It also says EU diplomats in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Tel Aviv should “step up monitoring” of the problem, including to “attend trials in the most serious cases” – an activity more often reserved for countries with egregious human rights problems, such as Belarus or Russia.

It notes that settler violence “mainly targets Palestinian civilians, including children, and their property and includes vandalizing religious sites such as mosques and Christian institutions.”

It adds that “the attacks appear … to be becoming more severe and, in some areas, more co-ordinated” in what amounts to “coercion aimed at forcing Palestinian communities in area C [part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank] to leave with a view to expanding settlements or outposts.”

The memo recognizes that Israel has stepped up action against settler radicals.

But it says they still operate in a “culture of impunity … There are worrying reports of incidents in which the Israeli military, despite being present, have failed to intervene to protect Palestinians.”

The settler sanctions idea has been bandied around by EU heads of mission in Ramallah for over a year.

But it never became public EU policy because Israeli-friendly member states routinely blocked it.

Meanwhile, EU ministers did not discuss the memo at their meeting in Brussels last week because the Middle East agenda was hijacked by the eruption of fighting in Gaza.

An EU diplomat told this website that PSC-level approval falls short of making sanctions into official EU policy.

But it raises – for the first time – the prospect of concrete action: under the EU’s so-called Schengen passport-free travel zone, if one Schengnen member red-flags a name in the border-control system, all the other Schengen members are legally obliged to keep that person out.

It also highlights EU frustration with Israeli settlement expansion ahead of a UN vote on 29 November on upgrading Palestine’s status.

For its part, Israel reacted angrily to the development.

“As for the inflammatory proposal to refuse to admit what they call ‘known violent settlers’ because Israel hasn’t put them on trial, there’s an internal contradiction there. How will a person be defined as a ‘violent settler’ if he hasn’t been convicted?” its foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, told the Haaretz newspaper on Monday.

Israel’s line is that settlers are a side issue in the conflict, which can only be solved if Palestinians agree to recognise Israel in bilateral peace talks.

Did the Head of the Israeli Military’s Social Media Pose in Black Face?

(MotherJones) -Following reports that he posted a photo of himself in what appears to be black face, with the caption “Obama style,” Sacha Dratwa, the 26-year-old lieutenant heading the Israel Defense Forces’ social media campaign is shutting down public access to his Facebook profile, according to a statement he sent Mother Jones and posted online.

A screenshot of the photo, which was originally posted by Dratwa on September 29, was published Saturday by the website, Your Black World. Mother Jones asked Dratwa for a comment, and he said:

There have been attempts to make use of private photos from my Facebook profile in order to publicly misrepresent my opinions. Due to the amount of public attention I’ve garnered in recent days I have decided to restrict access to my page, in order to protect my privacy and prevent further cynical use of the information therein.  I am, and have always been, completely candid about my beliefs and have nothing to hide – as reflected by my Facebook profile, which until recently was open to everyone. The aforementioned photos do not reflect my beliefs and have no bearing whatsoever on my position in the IDF.

ABC News, which says it has confirmed the photo is real, reports  that Dratwa responded to a user on Twitter accusing him of racism by  saying, “I’m not a racist, please stop [spreading] lies about me.”

In charge of  the Israel Defense Forces’ official Twitter account, @IDFSpokesperson, Dratwa became a high-profile figure during the recent Israel-Hamas conflict. According to a profile by Gizmodo, in his free time, Dratwa enjoys snowboarding, swimming, vodka, macchiatos, and hanging out with friends.

The IDF did not respond to a request for comment.

Israel’s Gaza Rampage: It’s Not Just War

by DENNIS BERNSTEIN

Dennis Bernstein:  Noted Documentary Filmmaker, John Pilger,  is somebody who knows a great deal about  the Gaza Strip, and about the extreme conditions Palestinians there have been forced to endure under a Brutal Israeli Occupation. Pilger has actually made two films about it with the same name, twenty-five years apart: “Palestine is Still the Issue.”  Pilger, a London based Australian journalist, is a widely respected, Emmy award winning documentarian. His articles regularly appear world-wide in newspapers such as the Guardian of London, the Independent, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times.

JP:  Thank you Dennis.

DB:  You know a great deal about the situation.  You’ve made not one film, Palestine is the Issue, but two.  Let me get your initial response to we’re continuing to hear reports of massive bombing and injury, and death to civilian life, to children.  

JP:  Well, the first thing is the….we should be disgusted.  That is a normal, human response, to this.  And the second is that we ought not to be surprised, but we should understand this has nothing to do with Hamas, or rockets.  It is an ongoing assault on the Palestinian people.  And especially the people of Gaza, which began a very long time ago and the plan is to effectively get rid of them as an entity.   And I’m not exaggerating, it’s often difficult to reach back to the history in times like this, but it’s very important that we contextualize it.

The infamous Plan D that was executed in the late 1940s  just before Israel came into being was to expel the population of Palestine; to get rid of them.  And 369 villages were attacked, the people thrown out, the record is there.  Historical record is very clear, Israeli historians, Benny Morris through, have documented this, the Hebrew archives have thrown it up.

The sum of it is that we see a form of genocide under way in Palestine.   And this is the later stage.  And what your listeners should be in no doubt about is that although Israelis  are doing the bombing, it’s really the United States that is really pushing the buttons.  Because it’s only Israelis who are flying, the American planes.  Those are American planes supplied for this very exercise, and if you look at the response of President Obama you understand that this is, in effect, an American/Israeli assault on a people who live in effectively in an open prison.

The United Nations special reporter, Richard Falk has likened their situation to the Warsaw Ghetto.  When in Warsaw and Poland the Jewish Ghetto there rose up against the Nazis, who were crushed.  These days fascism is not a word easily used, nor should it be.  But we have as close to a fascist state in Israel, and those historic parallels that Faulk draws, actually to be correct.  So we’re seeing an historical process at work here, and it is up to the rest of the world to recognize that, and do something about it.

DB: John, you’ve, as I mentioned in the introduction made not one film but two films with almost the same name, about twenty-five years apart.  And that’s Palestine is the Issue…why did you…

JP:  Palestine is Still the Issue…

DB:  And tell us about what that means, and why you did two films and what it means that they could almost have the same name twenty-five years apart.

JP:  Well, the first film was in the late seventies and the second film was in about 2003.  When I came, I’d been reporting the middle east and Palestine for quite a considerable time and when I came to make the second documentary what struck me, looking at the first documentary years before that nothing had changed that the title still applied, Palestine is Still the Issue.

It is the single issue in the middle east, because it is an issue of the most fundamental justice.  It is, as I just explained, it is an issue of people fighting for their lives, literally, against an enemy that is an anachronism.  Israel is….as the world was decolonizing, that is, the old empires were shedding their colonies.  That’s not to say a new empire wasn’t arising, the U.S. empire.  But the old colonies were being given at least a normal independence.

Against this historical tide, a new colony rose, and that’s Israel.  It’s an utter anachronism.  It is not in any way, in any sense, at peace with its region.  It’s at war with its region.  In fact, its raison d’etre is war with its region.  If it were to come to peace with its region then almost its reason for existing would stop. And this centers on the oppression and expulsion of Palestinians.   The theft of their land, the theft of their resources, these are all facts.  They’re not opinions, they’re facts.  And they have been on the historical record for a long time.  To almost everybody in the middle east, even in some of the more odious regimes, governed by some of the more odious regimes such as in the gulf, ordinary people regard Palestine as still the issue.

This center of turmoil and war, and a flashpoint, a permanent flashpoint in the world, would lose that volatile and very dangerous status when the Palestinians were given the fundamental justice to which they have a right.  And it’s Israel and the United States backed by Europe, but basically Israel and the United States that stands in that way.  And that’s why to ordinary people in the streets from Tehran to Cairo, and Damascus to Beirut, Palestine is still the issue.  And it should be the issue in Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and London and wherever.

DB:  One gets the feeling, John Pilger, the Israelis now, in conjunction with the United 
States, are using the Gaza strip as a testing ground for the latest kind of weaponry, technology, jamming equipment.  The drones are covering the Gaza strip now, they are flying low.  One has the sense that they are testing weapons here and equipment for larger wars.

JP:  Yes, well, that has always been the case, of course.  These kind of aggressive wars, going right back, have always been laboratories.  The infamous example is Vietnam, or even before that Korea when napalm was tested.  And phosphorous bombs were tested later on.  And now we have these high tech weapons exemplified by the drones.    What better to test them on a people you wish to extinguish?  And you are quite right to describe it that way.  It is as much experimental as anything else.  It certainly has no, absolutely nothing to do with a few tin pop rockets fired out of the prison, the open air prison, into Israel.

So, yes, it is an experiment, but it is an American experiment.  It is an American/Israeli experiment.  And those who voted in President Obama, recently, might reflect on that.  No president has been more enthusiastic in his support for this project than Obama.  From the time after he was voted in, in 2008, before he was inaugurated, when he gave his approval for what was known as Operation Cast Lead, which killed 1,400 people in Gaza, to the present day.

So there lies the political problem.  This is not happening, as far as the United States is concerned, as a consequence of some dictator-looking figure in the White House.  If anything, we’ve had to put up with the very benign images of Obama and his family and entourage for quite a long time.  It is happening under a so-called liberal president. Netanyahu is a fascist, there is no question about that, but he is America’s fascist.  And I cannot emphasize that enough.

All this would be resolved if there was an honest broker in the form of a great power, that helped to broker a regional peace or at least gave it support to regional peace, or at the very least did nothing.  Certainly did not give,….supply the weaponry, and the logistics, and all the rest of it for one side to do what it is doing.  All this would be resolved if that honest broker in the form of the United States existed.  But that is a fantasy.

DB:  Now you used a word “genocide”….some have used ethnic cleansing, apartheid.  The Israelis, many in the U.S. call that hyperbole.  But when you say that, the things that I think about is that this is perhaps the most environmentally devastated piece of land in the world.  Ninety percent of the drinking water has been poisoned.  There is structural damage that make it impossible for children to grow up healthy.  Are those the things, I assume it’s not hyperbole for you, are those the things that you think about when you think about genocide and ethnic cleansing?  It’s not just war.

JP:  It’s not.  I’ve reported genocide.  I’ve reported genocide in Cambodia and I’ve reported it in East Timor.  It is a fact.  And I think all those Americans, Jewish Americans in whose name Israel claims to act must consider this. There is a responsibility there.  They must consider this.  I think it’s gone so far beyond the situation where any of us can stand back anymore.  We’ve had a great deal of energy expended over what’s to be done about Syria.  Well, that’s a very nasty regime in Syria and it’s a very nasty civil war in Syria.  But really the issue here is what to be done about a state that is propped up and I mean propped up, because its economy is in shambles, by the United States.  That is an extension of the United States.  That’s something I would have thought that 
American citizens ought to reflect on, especially those in whose name Israel claims to speak.

DB:  Now, we’ve both talked a lot about the nature of western and U.S. journalism.  I’ve been watching it non-stopped for the last couple of days, and I’ve seen them be biased before, in this context, but I have never seen it so bad.  Where they cannot….you, it seems like western journalists, U.S. journalists know better than to mention the name of a children, or of a child or a family, that was wiped out by the Israeli military.  We hear tears on the Israeli side from the fear of being hurt, but the slaughter and the suffering of Palestinians and the children….half the people in the Gaza strip, if not more, are under 18, are children.  We don’t hear about it.

JP:  Yeah.  These are very barbaric times, Dennis.  And the media accurately reflects that.  It’s because it is part of the barbarism.  In a way we should probably stop the historical parallels there, because these are almost uniquely barbaric times.  We have facades of democracies, circuses claiming to be elections.  We have people who are very nice to their children, and who are journalists and who write and broadcast this propaganda.  These are barbaric times and the media is, and has always been, an extension of established power.

Established power in the United States and Europe is siding with the most lawless state on earth.  I mean, that’s again, a fact.  You total up the number of international, security council resolutions, general assembly resolutions that this state has willfully ignored; it is an utterly lawless state. It is a colonial anachronism. And it is causing great suffering to the people of a particular part of the middle east, the Palestinians.  Now, if we contort our intellect and moral sensibility enough, I suppose you could come around to seeing it in a sort of a strange way.  But the truth of it is this is a barbaric situation.  The media that as you describe, ignores the suffering of Palestinians, Palestinian children is itself barbaric.

DB:  You know, you mentioned Richard Falk, Princeton emeritus professor, the investigator for the United Nations on human rights violations in the occupied territories as it is put, in terms of his mandate; when I interviewed him four years about the bloody slaughter then, he began to refer to this kind of attack, on what many people called the largest open air prison in the world, it becomes a new kind of war crime.  Because people who have already been refugees, one, two, three and four times over don’t even have the right to flee, or not the right but the possibility.  So it is sort of a hammer and an anvil operation.

JP:  Yes. Yes. Having been in Gaza I can assure you that it is a very small place, it’s a long sliver of land, it’s so congested, so densely populated, that there is no where to go.  There is the sea, but you’re not allowed to go beyond a certain limit.  The Israelis will attack you if you do that. The other way, you can’t go the other way.  You can’t go and join your compatriots in the rest of Palestine, that’s not allowed.

I’m astonished that Palestinians have retained their humanity, in the way they have.  They’re…I won’t say resilience because I don’t know how you can keep on being resilient, frankly.   But they certainly, …they care for each other.  And their anger is what is being done to the children.  And most of the children in Palestine now are traumatized, most of them.  As you rightly mentioned half of them are under seventeen or eighteen, or something.  I think it’s lower than that actually, half the population.

I’ve been in clinics run by some very fine Palestinian organizations that try to treat these traumatized children and looked at all these kids draw pictures of war and horror, and people being killed, and bodies being dismembered.  When the Israelis are not bombing them, blowing them up with their American weaponry they are forever flying over them making aerial sounds that drive people crazy, that prevent people from sleeping, that cause children to bed wet night after night.  A kind of imposed traumas that none of us living elsewhere would regard as anything, if it happened to our own families, as barbaric.  And that’s why Richard Faulk’s likening of the situation in Gaza, and that’s not exact of course, with the Warsaw ghetto, it’s appropriate.

DB:  And, of course, the Warsaw ghetto fighters all fought hard, most died.  But they died with some dignity.  And one has the sense, that these bottle rockets that are being sent over to Israel are an expression of that dignity and that unwillingness to, after all these years, take it.  Give up. They won’t give up.

JP:  Well, yeah.  If you are going to defend yourself…I mean the fighters in the Warsaw ghetto were amazing in what they achieved.  Simply amazing.  I wouldn’t want to draw exact parallels there because apart from these shoddy rockets, all the Palestinians have  is small arms and they know they can’t win militarily.  And they know that any attempt to try and force a confrontation, a direct confrontation with Israel would lead to huge blood shed amongst their own people.

You know, this is a time when the propaganda of the media tells us “Something must be done about Syria,”…..”Something must be done about Iran.”  All the west’s demons must be dealt with.  We have the absurd situation of an invasion or a war approaching against Iran over nuclear weapons it does not possess.  Which the combined agencies of, intelligence agencies of the United States, confirm it does not possess.  And yet the one nuclear power in the middle east which has something like 500 thermo nuclear warheads, which is Israel, is simply off the agenda. Are we in a sort of intellectual and moral madhouse?  It would appear so.

DB:  And the impression, of course, conveyed by the main stream press both with Palestine and with Iran is that the Israelis are bending over backwards to show restraint.  

JP:  Well, you know, recognizing the sources of propaganda is the first thing.  I mean it’s the converse of information being power.  Real information is power for people.  The other side of that is recognizing the source of lies. And I think large numbers of people in western countries recognize that the so-called main stream media is a source of, is the sort of ventriloquist of power.  A power that is causing great grief in the world.  I do believe, I’ve always felt as a journalist the public has been way ahead of the media.

Sometimes that’s difficult because television is still a very powerful medium. And as you’ve described the sheer bias of television in the United States means that not even the names of people, of whole families annihilated or most of the families annihilated can be mentioned.  You know, what is being stolen here is not just simply Palestine, yet again, but our own consciousness. If we allow this, then there is something of us that goes.  That’s really at stake here.

DB:  That’s a poignant point to leave it on.

Dennis Bernstein is the host of Flashpoints Radio on Pacifica Radio.

John Pilger is a film-maker and investigative journalist. He is the author of Freedom Next Time.

Half of Israelis think government should have continued Gaza operation, poll shows

(Times of Israel) – A poll released Friday shows that about half of Israelis think the government should have continued its military offensive against Palestinian terrorists in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The independent Maagar Mohot poll shows 49 percent of respondents feel Israel should have kept going after squads who fire rockets into Israel. Thirty-one percent supported the government’s decision to stop. Twenty percent had no opinion.

Twenty-nine percent thought Israel should have sent ground troops to invade Gaza.

Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire two days ago.

The poll of 503 respondents had an error margin of 4.5 percentage points.

The same survey showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party and electoral partner Yisrael Beytenu losing some support, but his hard-line bloc still able to form the next government. Elections are scheduled for Jan. 22.

Several snap polls have shown Israeli disappointment at the outcome of Operation Pillar of Defense, and a slight drop in support for Netanyahu and his government.

Netanyahu’s chief rival in the last elections, former Kadima party chief Tzipi Livni, is expected to announce her bid for the Knesset as the head of a new party early next week, after former prime minister Ehud Olmert officially bows out of the race.

Russia sends warships to Gaza

Russia fears an escalation of the conflict between Israel and radical Palestinians. To save compatriots from Gaza can warships were sent to the area.

(Welt.de)Russia fears an escalation of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and has sent potential rescue of fellow warships to the eastern Mediterranean. The missile cruiser “Moskva” and several patrol boats and landing should hold themselves in readiness off the coast of the Gaza Strip, a spokesman of the Navy with the agency Ria Novosti According.

“In an escalation of the conflict, the Russians living there be brought to safety,” said Navy spokesman. Russia calls for a political solution in the Middle East. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently holding about 100 Russian tourists and entrepreneurs on the Gaza Strip.

Between Israel and Hamas, although currently there is officially a ceasefire. According to information from Gaza City Israeli soldiers at the border fence in the Gaza Strip, however, shot a man. Another 24 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire on Friday, said the spokesman for the Ministry of Health of the Mediterranean enclave, Ashraf al-Kedra with.

Army reports of unrest and border violation

 

The IDF confirmed that warning shots had been fired at protesters on the border fence. The Gaza ruling radical Islamic Hamas accused Israel of a violation of applicable since Wednesday evening (20 clock CET) ceasefire. They will ask Egypt as guarantors of the truce, to intervene with Israel.

The first incident since the truce both sides stated differently represents witnesses in Gaza said that the morning had an initial five farmers east of Khan Younis in their fields near the border fence was shot by Israeli soldiers. Then there was a spontaneous demonstration by residents of two villages nearby. One of the protesters had been running up with a Palestinian flag in hand on the fence and then shot.An additional 19 participants in the protest march were injured by Israeli bullets.

The Israeli military announced on request, have been since the day before there had been riots near the heavily guarded fence.Palestinians are the 300 meter wide zone spear penetrated west of the fence as far as the barrier itself. At least one had come over and climbed quickly to Israeli territory. Some holes were cut into the barrier.The army had no information on whether there had been deaths or injuries in the riots on the Gaza side of the fence.

Bombing perpetrated by Hamas member

 

It was the first incident since the ceasefire. Up to five rockets in the first hour of the ceasefire that Israel was not subsequently attacked from the Gaza Strip, a military spokesman confirmed.

Hamas members stuck to Israeli sources also behind the bombing of a bus in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. Security forces took claims to determine the perpetrators and several accomplices who belonged to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, told army spokeswoman Avital Leibovich.

The alleged perpetrator is according to these data, an Israeli Palestinians from the city Taibe in Israel. He had confessed to the crime, it said. The attack was on Wednesday shortly before the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, 17 people were injured.

The current clock since Wednesday 20 ceasefire had completed eight active bitter fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. In the fighting 164 Palestinians and 6 Israelis were killed.On the Palestinian side to these figures in 1225 were injured, more than 100 in Israel Overall, more than 1,500 rockets were fired at Israel, Israel Air Force attacked about 1,500 targets in the Gaza Strip, destroying weapons and important institutions of Hamas.

IDF soldiers kill 1 Palestinian, wound 19 others at Gaza-Israel border 2 days after ceasefire

(RT) One adult has been killed and 19 others injured after Israeli soldiers opened fire at the Gaza-Israel border. The incident happened east of the village of Khuzaa in southern Gaza.

The deceased was identified as 21-year-old Abdelhadi Qdeih, Palestinian emergency services told AFP.

The clash erupted after a group of Palestinian farmers wandered into the disputed 300-meter buffer zone along the border.

The farmers reportedly may have entered the buffer zone to check on their crops after hearing a news report claiming that travel restrictions had been lifted for the area.

In a separate, contradictory account, the group approached the border fence to salvage scrap from an Israeli army jeep damaged during the conflict, AP quoted a Gaza health official as saying.

“Under the ceasefire, most Gazans [thought] that the no-go military buffer zone which Israel had imposed on the Palestinian side of the border had been raised and that the farmers in that area…would now be able to farm there. So Palestinians went to what they thought was now again Palestinian territory to look at an Israeli Jeep…and one Palestinian was killed,” Gaza-based journalist Harry Fear told RT.

Israel claimed that a group of about 300 people approached the fence and that some attempted to break through.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) initially said only that it had fired “warning shots” after seeing a group walking towards the fence, but later stated that soldiers shot at the group’s legs after the warnings were ignored.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group would discuss the incident with Egypt, which brokered the recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

This is the first incident since Israeli troops and Hamas fighters laid down arms two days ago, following eight days of heated conflict.

“Looking at the situation politically on both sides of the border, I don’t think the ceasefire will break, even though this man has been killed. It’s not in the interest in the state of Israel. It’s not in the interest of Hamas. And I think this is going to be one of the gravest tragedies of these last couple of weeks,” Fear said.

The IDF bombardment of Gaza and the retaliatory shelling of Israel by Hamas mortar and rockets both ended on Wednesday night. Hostilities in the region broke out when the IDF assassinated Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari on November 14. A reported 163 Palestinians and six Israelis died in the conflict.

 

A wounded Palestinian is treated at a hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip November 23, 2012.(Reuters / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
A wounded Palestinian is treated at a hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip November 23, 2012.(Reuters / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

 

An Israeli army vehicle rides along a security fence standing on the Gaza border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, during a demonstration by Palestinian youths on November 23, 2012.(AFP Photo / Said Khatib)
An Israeli army vehicle rides along a security fence standing on the Gaza border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, during a demonstration by Palestinian youths on November 23, 2012.(AFP Photo / Said Khatib)

 

Palestinian youths gesture during a demonstration next to the security fence standing on the Gaza border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 23, 2012.(AFP Photo / Said Khatib)
Palestinian youths gesture during a demonstration next to the security fence standing on the Gaza border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 23, 2012.(AFP Photo / Said Khatib)

 

Palestinian youths gesture during a demonstration next to the security fence standing on the Gaza border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 23, 2012.(AFP Photo / Said Khatib)
Palestinian youths gesture during a demonstration next to the security fence standing on the Gaza border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 23, 2012.(AFP Photo / Said Khatib)

US building drone subs to track, chase away enemy vessels: Report

(Press TV) -The United States Department of Defense is in the initial stages of developing “unmanned drone submarines” that will navigate oceans across the globe, “tracking and following enemy subs for months at a time,” RIA Novosti reported Wednesday.

Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), tasked with developing new military technologies, began the project since “the growing number of adversaries able to build and operate quiet diesel electric submarines is a national security threat that affects US and friendly naval operations around the world,” the report adds, citing a statement posted on DARPA’s website.

The drone subs would potentially be capable of patrolling US coastlines for up to 80 days at a time covering thousands of kilometers using non-conventional sensor technologies that “achieve robust continuous track of the quietest submarine targets over their entire operating envelope,” adds the DARPA’s statement.

The main task of the oceanic drone will be to “patrol the waters for enemy submarines and then chase them away if located,” the report adds, citing Discovery News. “The sub will also gather information deemed necessary by the US government, which will then be sent to US naval commanders up above on land.”

DARPA awarded a $58 million contract in August to Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) for design and construction of a prototype of the vessel.

In Gaza, It’s the Occupation, Stupid

(TruthDig) -“The Palestinian people want to be free of the occupation,” award-winning Israeli journalist Gideon Levy summed up this week. It is that simple. This latest Israeli military assault on the people of Gaza is not an isolated event, but part of a 45-year occupation of the sliver of land wedged between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, where 1.6 million people live under a brutal Israeli blockade that denies them most of the basic necessities of life. Without the unwavering bipartisan support of the United States for the Israeli military, the occupation of Palestine could not exist.

At the time of this writing, the overall Palestinian death toll of the seven-day assault, dubbed Operation Pillar of Cloud by the Israel Defense Forces, is more than 116, more than half of them civilians, including 27 children and 11 women. Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets from Gaza into Israel, which, to date, have killed three Israeli civilians.

President Barack Obama said on Sunday, “There is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So, we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians.”

“No one questions that right,” responds Richard Falk, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and the author of more than 50 books on war, human rights and international law.

“The question is: When and how is it appropriate? Here, as before in 2008, when Israel launched a similar devastating attack on the population and people of Gaza, there were alternatives, and this kind of approach to security ends up with a new cycle of violence at higher levels of intensity. It’s time for the international community to take some responsibility for protecting the people of Gaza.”

Since 2000, according to an article from the British medical journal The Lancet, the Israeli military has killed more than 6,000 Palestinians. They are harassed at checkpoints, imprisoned arbitrarily, denied clean water and sanitation, and suffer from systemic malnutrition, all part of the illegal siege and blockade. World-renowned linguist and author Noam Chomsky recently visited Gaza, describing it as the world’s largest open-air prison.

Amidst reports of an imminent ceasefire, I spoke with Dr. Mona El-Farra in Gaza. She is the health chair of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society of the Gaza Strip, which, as part of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, is protected under the Geneva Conventions. “Airplanes are still in the sky, drones are in the sky, and we can h ear intermittent shelling. People are tense, hoping for a cease-fire, but people don’t want a cease-fire at any cost. We want guarantees from Israel that this will not happen again.”

I asked her what it is like to endure an air raid: “Every other minute, directly in my area, the airplanes are there, and they hit within 100 meters of my building. You can overhear from the other areas, because it is very noisy, F-16s bombing with large explosions. The whole building shakes, and some of my windows have been shattered.” Dr. El-Farra and her 20-year-old daughter hide under their table. She gets only a few minutes sleep at a time. “With every air raid, you can see the fire from my window, the fire and the smoke.”

She also braves the open streets to attend to her responsibilities with the Red Crescent Society. They have set up phone banks to provide psychological counseling to Gazans who are dealing with death and injury, who are living under the stress of continuous air bombardment and the threat of imminent ground invasion. “We have terrified children in Gaza, children who do not have enough water, do not have enough food, no medicine … with all that, children have no safe place. There is no place safe in Gaza. I don’t know what will happen next if this madness continues. In the last week, it has been like hell for us. It is ugly, it is horrible.”

Jody Williams, winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative told me, “It is very hard to think about Israel calling what it is doing defending itself when it is occupying Palestinian territory. It’s collective punishment. We cannot support punishing an entire population because of the policies and attacks of Hamas. It’s illegal.”

The answer is simple, and increases the chances of security on all sides: End the occupation.

Palestinian Ministry of Health: Death toll stands at 137, with 1200 injured; 42% of dead are women, children, and elderly

(Mondoweiss) – The Palestinian National Authority Ministry of Health sent out the following press release this morning:

Palestinian National Authority Ministry of Health

Hospitals General Administration — Shifa Hospital

Press Statement

21 November 2012

The Palestinian Ministry of Health condemns in the strongest terms the continued Israeli outrages against the citizenry of Gaza.

The death toll since 14 November stands at 137, with 1200 injured. 42% of the dead are women, children, and elderly, who also make up 59% of the injured.

The victims of these attacks have been struck down sleeping in their own homes, children have been killed while playing in their garden, adults while driving their cars or motorcycles, shopping at the market, worshipping at the mosque, and going about their lawful work.

Some families have been almost entirely annihilated, such as the Al Dallo family. 19 families have suffered in excess of two deaths, including the Al Dallo family (8 dead, 3 injured), the Abo Zoor family (2, plus 20 injured), the Hejazi family (3, plus one critically injured) while others such as the Salah family suffered large numbers of injuries (8, plus 22 injuries in surrounding families.)

Family homes, schools, clinics, police stations, supermarkets, restaurants, banks, government offices, sports stadiums, parks have all been hit – no facet of Gaza life has been left unscathed by the deliberate targeting of civilian sites and services by the inhuman Israeli aggressors.

Mosques have been attacked, killing and injuring worshippers. Families have been attacked in their own homes. Vegetable sellers plying their trade in the street, farmers working their fields, journalists reporting on Israel’s daily atrocities have all been targeted, killed and injured. These are not military targets, these are not legitimate targets – they are civilian targets, and the resulting deaths and injuries constitute crimes against humanity, they are clear breaches of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law.

We thank all of those countries and individuals who have risen up around the world to demand an end to the current carnage in Gaza being perpetrated by the Zionist regime. We thank our Arab brothers and sisters, especially the Egyptian government and people, who are providing much-needed assistance in the health sphere particularly.

We call on all people of conscience to bring pressure to bear on their governments to take concrete and decisive steps without delay, to end this slaughter and to introduce stringent mechanisms to ensure it can never again be repeated.

We demand that the international community, in particular the United Nations, immediately ensure the following:

  1. the immediate end to the disproportionate military assault on Gaza and the killing of its citizens,
  2. the immediate lifting of the siege of Gaza,
  3. the immediate provision of essential medical and humanitarian supplies, and
  4. to hold Israel accountable for these crimes before the International Criminal Court in the Hague.