Friday, June 26, 2009

Are Obama and Israel on a "collision course"?

By Kim Bullimore
Issue 12: June, 2009

Since Barack Obama’s swearing in as US president, both the Israeli and US media have peddled the idea his administration would take a strong stand with the newly-elected Israeli hard-right government of PM Benjamin Netanyahu and foreign minister Avigador Lieberman. On May 5, for example, United Press International claimed that Obama and “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu are on a collision course” over how to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On May 7, Newsweek columnist Michael Hirsch claimed that Israel and the US were facing “a moment of truth” . Hirsch added: “for the last eight years Washington acted mainly as an unswerving supporter of Israel’s actions — some critics would say cheerleader — despite a few serious differences, such as the timing of the 2006 Palestinian elections. But the potential now exists for the most serious rupture of relations at least since 1989, when Secretary of State James Baker stunned AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] by calling on Israel to abandon its ‘unrealistic vision of a Greater Israel’ that included Gaza and the West Bank.”

Obama and Netanyahu

Despite such proclamations, there is very little chance of a serious rupture between Obama and the Netanyahu-Lieberman government. While the Obama administration has called on Israel to state publicly that it supports a two-state “solution”, it has not threatened to cut funding should Israel fail to do so. Like previous US presidents, Obama has no intention of pushing Israel to end its human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The primary reason for Obama’s demand for an Israeli commitment to a two-state “solution” is that it serves US imperialist goals in the region, seeking to gain diplomatic support from US-aligned Arab capitalist regimes such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia for Washington’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to isolate anti-imperialist Arab nationalist forces in the region, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine’s Hamas.
‘Interests don’t change’

The corporate media have spun the line that the May 18 meeting between Obama and Netanyahu was fraught with disagreements. But Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, who was Israel’s ambassador to the US during Bush junior’s administration, told the Jerusalem Post on May 20 that the Obama administration’s policy differed little from that of its predecessor. “The basic interests and objectives of the US in our region do not change with different administrations”, Ayalon said, adding: “Approaches and nuances change but the interests remain the same.”

The only difference between the two administrations, according to Ayalon, is that Obama is “adding a regional element to the diplomatic process”. By this, Ayalon means that Obama will go along with Israel’s demand that Arab countries must normalise their relations with Israel before Israel makes any concessions on its military rule over the OPT. Obama has sought to give the impression that he supports the Arab League peace initiative, which would normalise relations once Israel withdraws to its pre-June 1967 war borders and develops a “just” policy in relation to the Palestinian refugees driven out of their national homeland in 1947-48. In reality, Obama supports an inversion of the initiative. As Noam Chomsky noted in a January 26 article on the Znet website, Obama has engaged in “carefully framed deceit” by calling on Arab states “to act [immediately] on the initiative’s promise by supporting the Palestinian government under President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, taking steps towards normalizing relations with Israel, and by standing up to extremism”, while ignoring the fact that the initiative proposes “normalisation” only after a two-state settlement has been achieved.

Obama speaking at American Israel Public Affairs Committee forum

The corporate media have also been full of rumours that Obama would support the strategic outline of a “bipartisan” report submitted to him by the US/Middle East Project. The report, entitled A Last Chance for a Two State Israel-Palestine Agreement, is authored by 10 former senior US government officials, including James Wolfensohn, the former president of the World Bank and US special envoy on the Middle East, and Brent Scrowcroft, national security adviser to George Bush senior. The report calls for the US to broker a peace agreement based on two states, swapping land on a 1:1 basis in order to leave Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank intact.

While the report calls for addressing “the Palestinian refugees’ sense of injustice” and providing them with “meaningful financial compensations”, the report rejects the right of return and instead calls for refugees to be given “resettlement assistance”. It advocates that any Palestinian state be “a non-militarised” one for a minimum of 15 years. That is, it would have no military of its own and would be forbidden to enter military agreements with other countries, in order to ensure Israel’s security. There would be a US-led multinational “peacekeeping” force including Jordanian, Egyptian and Israeli troops. Jason Ditz noted in a May 20 article on the website that over the last two years, while withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, Israel has continued to attack it regularly, so a demilitarised Palestinian state would most likely remain Israeli-occupied territory in everything but name.

Whether or not these “leaks” and rumours are true, Aluf Benn notes in a May 27 Tel Aviv Haaretz article, “Welcome to Realistan”, that Obama is a “realist” in the mould of Henry Kissinger. While Obama pays lip service to human rights, his foreign policy “is directed at a single goal: strong America as the leader of a stable world order”. In relation to Israel, Benn notes that in the meeting with Netanyahu, Obama’s focus was on “common interests” rather than anyone’s human rights. “Obama’s demand of Netanyahu to freeze the Jewish settlements in the West Bank does not derive from concern for the Palestinians whose lands are being stolen, or from opposition to violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention”, but is based on seeking to ensure that Washington’s Arab collaborators in the region, such as Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas, are not ousted by popular discontent.
Netanyahu’s aims

Netanyahu, like his predecessors, will seek to deflect attention from Israel’s intransigence and refusal to enter into any real “peace process”. Since 1993, when the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation were signed, successive Israeli governments have repeatedly told US presidents that they would cease building and expanding settlements in the OPT, in line with the various US-backed agreements. But successive Israeli governments have allowed settlement building and expansion to go unchecked in order to establish “facts on the ground”. The most recent case in point was Netanyahu’s immediate predecessor, Ehud Olmert, who, while proclaiming that Israel must end its occupation, continued the expansion of illegal settlements. According to Israel’s Peace Now group, during Olmert’s prime ministership, between January 2006 and January 2009, more than 5100 illegal housing units were built in the West Bank and more than 1500 tenders were issued for housing units.

Settler racism

The primary aim of creating such “facts on the ground” is to ensure that no viable Palestinian state can be established, so that any state that is established will be politically and economically weak and militarily dominated by Israel. In 1973, Israeli general and later prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who is recognised as the “father of the settlement movement”, boasted to Winston Churchill’s grandson that the aim was to “make a pastrami sandwich” of the Palestinian territories by ”insert[ing] a strip of Jewish settlements in between the Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlements right across the West Bank, so that in 25 years’ time, neither the United Nations nor the United States, nobody, will be able to tear it apart”. Avika Elder noted on May 18 in Haaretz: “The 15 years of ‘peace process’ have served as an alibi to build more than 100 new settlements and outposts, and to enlarge the settler population from 110,000 to nearly 300,000, excluding East Jerusalem”.

Netanyahu has said while he will not stop settlement expansion, he will remove 22 illegal outposts. The offer is hollow, because the few hundred settlers from these outposts would be resettled in the bigger illegal settlements. Netanyahu’s policy is reflected in the words of his most trusted senior political adviser, Uzi Arad, the head of Israel’s National Security Council and former senior official in Mossad, Israel’s spy agency. In an interview in March with Israel National News TV, a settler television station based in the occupied West Bank, Arad stated that Israel “want[s] to relieve ourselves of the burden of the Palestinian populations — not territories. It is territory we want to preserve, but populations we want to rid ourselves of.”

Uzi Arad, former Mossad Official, now advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu

If Obama were serious about pressuring Israel to move forward in the “peace process”, he would be threatening to cut military funding to the Netanyahu-Lieberman government. However, Obama has already flagged increased funding to Israel in its 2010 budget. The Alternative Information Centre (AIC), a joint Palestinian-Israeli organisation, noted on its website on May 12 that Washington is set to increase military aid to Israel, while imposing harsher conditions on aid to the Palestinian Authority. AIC noted that Obama’s budget proposals for 2010 will increase aid to Israel by 10%, to US$2.775 billion. In addition, the budget also includes “an increase in the assistance to the production of weapons systems”. AIC also noted that the budget “calls for the administration to respect Israel’s claims on Jerusalem”, which “contradicts international law, which does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied territories of East Jerusalem”, as well as “the Oslo Agreement, which defines all of Jerusalem as a territory to be discussed during the final stages of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations”.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Israeli soldiers admit widespread abuse of Palestinian detainees, including children

Dear friends,
Please find below an article by Ben Lynfield from the UK newspaper, The Independent, about Israel soldiers abuse of Palestinian prisoners. The article confirms, once again, the wide spread and illegal use of abusive force against unarmed Palestinian prisoners, including children (some as young as 14) by the Israeli occupation forces.

In particular, the article focuses on the Israeli occupation forces invasion of Hares village in the Salfit governate of the Occupied West Bank.

Hares is the village that the International Women’s Peace Service , (the team that I work with in Palestine) is based in. We have been located in the village since 2002, when the village issued an invitation for an international team to be based in the village as it was under constant attack in the first years of the Al Aqsa intifada.

Hares is located, along with several other villages, in the centre of the massive illegal bloc of settlements known as the “Ariel settlement bloc”. Ariel settlement is the largest settlement in the West Bank proper, with around 50,000 illegal settlers. From our balcony, you can see Ariel which is less than 2 km away; while from the window of our kitchen you are assaulted visually by the illegal colonies of Barkan and Revava. Barkan is an “industrial” settlement and produces furniture and wine, to name a few things. The settlement bloc includes approximately another 12 illegal colonies, all within a few kilometres of Hares.

At the time of the invasion mentioned in Lynfield’s article, my colleagues in Hares reported that the raid was part of an increased militarisation in the northern part of the Occupied West Bank that included the Israeli occupation forces erecting new roadblocks at the entrance of villages in the form of earth mounds – with this happening in Hares, as well as Azzun in the Qalqilya district (Azzun is approximately 30 -40 minutes from Hares).

Earlier in the month, the Israeli occupation forces invaded Hares and invaded our apartment/office in village. This was the first time in a number of years since this had happened. According to my team mates there was some speculation that the IOF has in the past few months been embolden by their “success” in Gaza and the election of the new ultra right government headed by Netanyahu

I have included below, as well, the link to the IWPS report on the invasion mentioned in Lynfield’s report. The original report, available on the IWPS website, includes a series of photographs taken during the invasion.

In solidarity,



Bound, blindfolded and beaten – by Israeli troops

Children among Palestinian detainees abused during West Bank operation, according to soldiers' confessions

By Ben Lynfield in Hares, West Bank

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Two Israeli officers have testified that troops in the West Bank beat, bound and blindfolded Palestinian civilians as young as 14. The damaging disclosures by two sergeants of the Kfir Brigade include descriptions of abuses they say they witnessed during a search-and-detain operation involving hundreds of troops in Hares village on 26 March. The testimonies have been seen by The Independent and are expected to add fuel to the controversy over recent remarks by Colonel Itai Virob, commander of Kfir Brigade, in which he said violence against detained Palestinians was justified in order to accomplish missions.

Both the soldiers, from the Harub battalion, highlighted the tight tying of the plastic hand restraints placed on detainees. "There are people who think you need to tighten the restraints all the way, until no drop of blood will pass from here to there," one soldier said. "It doesn't take much time until the hands turn blue. There were a lot of people that you know weren't feeling anything."

He said about 150 Palestinians, some as young as 14, were bound, blindfolded and detained at the village school during the operation, which lasted from 3am to 3pm. He was told it was aimed at preventing village youths throwing stones against nearby settler roads. It was clear many of the people detained had done nothing wrong, but they were held to gather intelligence, he said.

Photos by IWPS

Photos by IWPS

The worst beatings were in the bathrooms, he said. "The soldiers who took [detainees] to the toilet just exploded [over] them with beatings; cursed them with no reason. When they took one Arab to the toilet so that he could urinate, one of them gave him a slap that brought him to the ground. He had been handcuffed from behind with a nylon restraint and blindfolded. He wasn't insolent, he didn't do anything to get on anyone's nerves ... [it was] just because he's an Arab. He was something like 15 years old." The soldier said he saw a lot of soldiers "just knee [Palestinians] because it's boring, because you stand there 10 hours, you're not doing anything, so they beat people up."

A second soldier described a "fanatical atmosphere" during the search operations. "We would go into a house and turn the whole thing upside down," he recalled, but no weapons were found. "They confiscated kitchen knives."

The first soldier said involvement was widespread."There were a lot of reservists that participated, and they totally had a celebration on the Palestinians: curses, humiliation, pulling hair and ears, kicks, slaps. These things were the norm." He said the incidents in the toilet were the "extreme" and added that the beatings did not draw blood. They were "dry beatings, but it's still a beating".

The second soldier said some troops stole from houses they searched, even though the people were so poor it was hard for them to find anything to take.

Last month, Colonel Virob testified in a military court that hitting detained Palestinians could be justified. "Standing them against walls, pushing them, a blow that doesn't cause injury. Certainly, these are things that are commonly used in an attempt to accomplish the mission," he said. Despite a reprimand of Colonel Virob by the head of central command, General Shamni, and a disavowal by army chief of staff Lt General Gabi Ashkenazi, the remarks are seen by Breaking the Silence, an organisation that collects testimonies of soldiers, as proof that the alleged abuses in Hares cannot be dismissed as an isolated occurrence or low-level improvisations.

In Hares, Ihab Shamlawi, a university student, recalled watching as a high school pupil asked soldiers permission to go to the bathroom. "They put him on the floor, they kicked his legs and beat him," he said. Ten or 15 other soldiers were watching, Mr Shamlawi recalled. "They all laughed," he said.

The army spokesman's office yesterday said an investigation had been opened and added that, following Colonel Virob's previous remarks, General Shamni had distributed pamphlets to troops underscoring that "when someone is detained, stopped or held ... Israel Defence Force soldiers ... are absolutely and clearly forbidden to use any force or violence against them".


Photos by IWPS

IWPS report on Hares Invasion

27 March 2009

Army incursion in Haris, over 150 minors and youths arrested

Written by Rada Edited by Maria

A major military operation took place today in Haris between 2am and 5pm. Around 15 jeeps, 2 border police jeeps and vans belonging to Israeli Intelligence Shabak entered Haris and arrested around 150 people including large number of minors.

A number of people reported injury by the soldiers including several cases of beatings of small children and women. Soldiers also destroyed furniture, appliances, walls and various food products in at least 4 houses.

At 4:30pm most of the people who were arrested were released. At present IWPS is aware of 4 youths all aged 16 who have not been released and whose whereabouts is currently unknown. There are strong indications that more people were taken away and we are hoping to have more accurate figures soon.

At 2 am soldiers and jeeps entered Haris in a major military operation which lasted 15 hours. The soldiers raided most houses in Haris, arresting youths and interrogating them about their friends, family members and the layout of the houses. The IWPS has heard from many parents and adults that soldiers gave them a piece of paper with a number and photographed them holding this paper.

All those arrested were blindfolded, handcuffed and taken to the primary school in Haris. Here they were seated in the classrooms and in the playground and interrogated one by one by Shabak and the military. Those released were given a paper so that other soldiers would not re-arrest them as the arrests continued throughout the day.

The IWPS members witnessed several of the arrests and we have managed to secure photographic evidence and statements form a number of victims and their relatives.

Photos by IWPS

Photos by IWPS

IWPS also received a report of a man who suffered a back injury due to excessive use of force by the soldiers. The IWPS called for an ambulance which arrived shortly after but was denied entry into Haris by the soldiers, in spite of being urged by the IWPS and the villagers living near by. The reason given was that if a person was injured it would be army's responsibility to take care of them and provide the ambulance. However, the Israeli ambulance parked nearby was not called by the soldiers to treat the injured man.

Two photojournalists who managed to enter Haris close to the primary school where shortly after escorted by the border police out of the village. In addition, a TV van and two other journalists were denied entry into Haris.

The army incursion finished around 4.30 and the villages fear that it might continue in the near future.

When questioned about the purpose of the incursion, IWPS members were told by the army that they were updating its database of information of Haris residents. Last Saturday 21st March there was another army incursion into Haris where army jeeps and Shabak vans parked in front of the primary school and took photos of the school.

IWPS is concerned about the current wave of arrests of residents of Haris and especially minors and youths. IWPS is also very concerned about the violent behavior of soldiers during the arrests and the use of primary school for detention and interrogation purposes. In addition the media access has repeatedly been denied and there is limited flow information including about the very serious human right abuses mentioned above

Monday, June 8, 2009

Israeli occupation forces murder 5th Palestinian in Ni'lin village

Dear friends,
the terrible news has come through that the Israeli Occupation Forces have once again killed another unarmed demonstrator in Ni'lin village. Akil Srour, aged 36, was shot in the chest by an Israeli sniper using live ammunition. Akil is the 5th Palestinian to be killed in Nil'in by the IOF. For the past 18 months, Ni'lin village has been waging a tireless and courageous non-violent struggle against the confiscation of their land and the building of the apartheid wall. Since the demonstrations began, Israel has shot 35 people with live ammunition and injured dozen others.

Please find below the media release issued by the ISM at the time of the shooting and also the report on Akil's funeral.

Also below is footage of the demonstration in which Akil was shot. Please note the footage is graphic and may cause distress.

in solidarity and sadness,


Israeli forces kill Palestinian demonstrator in Ni’lin
June 5, 2009
For Immediate Release: International Solidarity Movement

Friday, 5 June 2009 at 2:50pm: Israeli forces have killed a demonstrator in the West Bank village of Ni’lin.

Yousef Akil Srour, murdered 5 June by Israeli Occupation Force sniper

The Israeli army shot Yousef Akil Srour, aged 36 years in the chest with 0.22 caliber live ammunition. He was dead upon arrival to Ramallash Hospital.

Yousef Akil Srour is the 5th Palestinian to be killed by the Israeli army in Ni’lin during a demonstration against the theft of his land for the construction of the Annexation Wall.

Israeli forces shot Mohammad Mouslah Mousa, aged 15 years, in the lower chest shortly after shooting Srour. He was taken to Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Ramallah.

Additionally, the army shot another 3 demonstrators today with 0.22 caliber live ammunition; one in the leg, one in the side and one in the shoulder.

As of Friday, 5 June 2009, Israeli forces have shot 35 people with live ammunition during demonstrations in the village of Ni’lin.

Israeli occupation forces have murdered five Ni’lin residents during demonstrations against the confiscation of their land and critically injured one international solidarity activist.

Ahmed Mousa (10) was shot in the forehead with live ammunition on 29 July 2008. The following day, Yousef Amira (17) was shot twice with rubber-coated steel bullets, leaving him brain dead. He died a week later on 4 August 2008. Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22), was the third Ni’lin resident to be killed by Israeli forces. He was shot in the back with live ammunition on 28 December 2008. That same day, Mohammed Khawaje (20), was shot in the head with live ammunition, leaving him brain dead. He died three days in a Ramallah hospital. Tristan Anderson (37), an American citizen, was shot with a high velocity tear gas projectile on 13 March 2009 and is currently in Tel Hashomer hospital. Yousef Akil Srour (36), was shot with 0.22 caliber live ammunition in the chest on 5 June 2009 and pronounced dead upon arrival at Ramallah hospital.

In total, 35 people have been shot by Israeli forces with live ammunition.

Since May 2008, residents of Ni’lin village have been demonstrating against construction of the Apartheid Wall. Despite being deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004, the occupation continues to build a Wall, further annexing Palestinian land.

Ni’lin will lose approximately 2500 dunums of agricultural land when the construction of the Wall is completed. Ni’lin consisted of 57,000 dunums in 1948, reduced to 33,000 dunums in 1967, currently is 10,000 dunums and will be 7,500 dunums after construction of the Wall.

Video by Israel Putermam - Shooting of Yousef Akil Srour in Ni'lin village
Please note the footage is graphic and may cause distress.

Funeral for Yousef ‘Akil’ Srour held in Ni’lin
6 June 2009
Report by the International Solidarity Movement

The funeral for Yousef Tzadik ‘Akil’ Srour was held in Ni’lin on Saturday, 6 June 2009. Srour was murdered by Israeli forces on Friday, 5 June 2009, during a demonstration against the construction of the Apartheid Wall on Ni’lin’s land. Akil frequently participated in the unarmed demonstrations against the construction of the Apartheid Wall. He was known as a leader amongst the demonstrators, always ready to help another.

According to an eyewitness from the village, “The soldier was to our right and Akal was running to the left to help an injured man… when he was shot in the heart.”

Residents of Ni’lin, amongst others, drove behind the vehicle bringing Srour’s body back to Ni’lin. The procession reached Ni’lin from Ramallah around 12:30pm. People marched through the village, carrying Srour’s body to his home, the mosque and finally to the place of burial. Sour’s brother and other Ni’lin residents spoke of Akil’s kindness and dedication to his village after his burial.

To date, Israeli occupation forces have murdered five Palestinian residents and critically injured 1 international solidarity activist during unarmed demonstrations in Ni’lin.

29 July 2008: Ahmed Mousa (10) was shot in the forehead with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital.

30 July 2008: Yousef Amira (17) was shot in the head with two rubber coated steel bullets. He died in a Ramallah hospital 5 days later on 4 August 2008.

28 December 2008: Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22) was shot in the back with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital.

28 December 2008: Mohammed Khawaje (20) was shot in the head with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition. He died in a Ramallah hospital 3 days later on 31 December 2008.

13 March 2009: Tristan Anderson (37), an American citizen, was shot in the head with a high velocity tear gas projectile. He is currently at Tel Hashomer hospital

5 June 2009: Yousef Akil Srour (36) was shot in the chest with 0.22 caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital.

In total, 35 people have been shot by Israeli forces with live ammunition: 7 were shot with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and 28 were shot with 0.22 caliber live ammunition.
Since May 2008, residents of Ni’lin have been organizing and participating in unarmed demonstrations against construction of the Apartheid Wall. Despite being deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004, the Occupation continues to build the Wall, further annexing Palestinian land.

Ni’lin will lose approximately 2,500 dunums of agricultural land when construction of the Wall is completed. Ni’lin consisted of 57,000 dunums in 1948, was reduced to 33,000 dunums in 1967, is currently 10,000 dunums and will be 7,500 dunums after completion of the Wall.

Additionally, a tunnel for Palestinians is being built underneath road 446. This tunnel will allow for the closure of the road to Palestinian vehicles, turning road 446 into an Israeli-only road. Ni’lin will be effectively split into 2 parts (upper Ni’lin and lower Ni’lin), as road 446 runs between the village. The tunnel is designed to give Israeli occupation forces control of movement over Ni’lin residents, as it can be blocked with a single military vehicle.