Israel Detaining Jewish Activists for Supporting Palestinian Rights

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Ilana Novick.

Facing backlash against its controversial “nation-state bill” last month, Israel has detained Jewish writers and activists who oppose the law’s definition of Israel as an entirely Jewish state, with no mention of the value of democracy or equal rights for Palestinians.

On Sunday, writer, professor and political commentator Peter Beinart was on vacation, traveling from Greece to attend a family bat mitzvah in Israel when he was detained by the Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, at Ben Gurion Airport in Jerusalem, he reported Monday in an article for The Forward.

Beinart’s was one of three such detentions at airports and border crossings in recent weeks.

Israel-born poet Moriel Rothman-Zecher arrived at Ben Gurion with his wife and infant daughter on July 29. Agents allowed his family through customs, but detained him for approximately three hours, claiming his involvement in nonviolent protests was a “slippery slope” to violence against the state, and asking him for the names of pro-Palestinian and peace organizations and of fellow activists and friends.

Rothman-Zechner called the experience “jarring and unpleasant,” but acknowledged how common and more abusive the situation is for countless Palestinians, and anyone else without his Israeli citizenship and white privilege.

He wondered how he would explain the incident to his daughter when she is older. “It’s painful to think about telling her one day, ‘Hey kid, on our first visit to Israel, your aba [father] was detained at the border because he thinks Palestinians are human beings deserving of equality,’ ” he said.

A week after Rothman-Zecher’s detention, Beinart’s former colleague, Simone Zimmerman, a founder of IfNotNow, an organization of young American Jews fighting Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, was detained with a friend, Abigail Kirschenbaum, at the Taba Border Crossing between Israel and Egypt.

According to New York magazine, the two “were held for roughly three and a half hours, had their phones inspected, and were asked a litany of queries about their opinions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, their involvement with human-rights groups, and their interactions with Palestinians, among other topics.”

The incident involving Beinart occurred a week after that of Zimmerman and Kirschenbaum. While long an advocate for a two-state solution and Palestinian rights, in the past Beinart has been more cautious about separating his advocacy for the Palestinian people from his Zionism and defense of a Jewish state. Those nuances, however, may be lost on Israeli security forces.

“I was detained and interrogated about my political activities,” Beinart writes, describing how agents first detained him with his family, asking innocuous questions about where they were from and why they were in Israel before escorting Beinart separately to another room, where the questions turned accusatory and aggressive:

<blockquote>Was I involved in any organization that could provoke violence in Israel? I said no. Was I involved in any organization that threatens Israel democracy? I said no—that I support Israeli organizations that employ non-violence to defend Israeli democracy.</blockquote>

The agent then confronted Beinart about his participation in a protest on his last trip to Israel, one that Beinart explained was due to “the fact that Palestinians in Hebron and across the West Bank lack basic rights.” He described his involvement in The Center for Jewish Nonviolence.

The conversation took a strange turn after that, with the interrogator comparing the center with North Korea. As Beinart recalls:

<blockquote>He asked if the Center had incited violence, and I replied that, as its name suggests, it practices non-violence. My interrogator then replied that names could be misleading. The government of North Korea, he observed, calls itself a democracy but is not. I told him I didn’t think the Center for Jewish Nonviolence and the North Korean government have much in common.</blockquote>

Beinart recognizes that he had immense privilege due to being white and Jewish and armed with the number of a lawyer he called, who helped set him free. He also was the only one of the three recent detainees to receive an apology from Shin Bet and a rare admission of wrongdoing from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We are sorry for the distress caused to Mr. Beinart,” a Shin Bet spokesperson said in a statement, The Times of Israel reports. Netanyahu called the incident “an administrative mistake” and “immediately spoke with Israel’s security forces to inquire how this happened.”

For Beinart, Netanyahu’s statement didn’t go far enough. On Monday he tweeted, “Benjamin Netanyahu has half-apologized for my detention yesterday at Ben Gurion airport. I’ll accept when he apologizes to all the Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans who every day endure far worse.”

 

 

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Report Details Israel’s Use of Armed Drone That Killed Gazan Children

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jessica Corbett / Common Dreams.

A secret report by the Israeli military police—obtained by The Intercept‘s Robert Mackeyreveals that a week into Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in 2014, “air force, naval, and intelligence officers” mistook four 10- and 11-year-old boys who were playing on a beach in Gaza for Hamas militants and killed them by firing missiles from an armed drone.

While “hacked Israeli surveillance images provided to The Intercept by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden showed an Israeli drone armed with missiles in 2010,” Mackey notes that “the Israeli government maintains an official stance of secrecy around its use of drones to carry out airstrikes”—meaning this report provides perhaps “the most direct evidence to date that Israel has used armed drones to launch attacks in Gaza.”

The 2014 attack on the four boys, which occurred in the middle of the afternoon, provoked outrage the world over after it was documented by several international journalists staying in the area, who captured photographs of the dead children on the beach. It was initially suspected that Israel had launched the missiles from naval boats.

The four boys—Ismail Bakr, 10; Ahed Bakr, 10; Zakaria Bakr, 10; and Mohammed Bakr, 11—were cousins, the sons of Gazan fisherman. Their families, with support from the Israel-based Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, or Adalah, are still fighting in court to hold accountable the members of the military directly involved with the airstrikes that killed the children.

Armed drones “alter the process of human decision-making,” and “[expand] the circle of people responsible for the actual killing of the Bakr children,” Suhad Bishara, one of the attorneys representing the families, told The Intercept. Israel’s use of the technology to kill Palestinians, Bishara added, raises “many questions concerning human judgment, ethics, and compliance with international humanitarian law.”

As Mackey outlines:

After images of the attack prompted widespread outrage, Israel’s army conducted a review of the mission and recommended that a military police investigation into possible criminal negligence be conducted. The testimonies collected by the military police from the strike team were included in a report presented to Israel’s military advocate general, Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni, 11 months after the boys were killed.

Efroni did not release the testimonies, but did make a summary of the report’s findings public on June 11, 2015, when he closed the investigationwithout filing any charges. Israel’s chief military prosecutor decided that no further criminal or disciplinary measures would be taken, since the investigators had concluded that “it would not have been possible for the operational entities involved to have identified these figures, via aerial surveillance, as children.”

Efroni did not explain why that was impossible. Two days before the strike in question, Israel’s military PR unit had released another video clip in which drone operators could be heard deciding to halt strikes because they had identified figures in their live feeds as children.

Hagai El-Ad, director of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, told The Interceptthat the Israeli government’s use of armed drones is an “open secret,” and emphasized the responsibility of the military figures who order such attacks. In 2016, his group released a report titled “Whitewash Protocol: The So-Called Investigation of Operation Protective Edge,” which criticizes the Israel for inadequately reviewing the killings of Gazan civilians.

“The various specific delays, gaps, failures in the so-called investigation are all part of that broad systematic way to eventually close the files, while producing all this paper trail which may look from the outside as a sincere effort,” El-Ad told The Intercept. “It’s all totally routine.”

The Intercept‘s reporting, published Saturday, came after Israel conducted a bombing campaign in Gaza on Thursday, killing a pregnant woman and her 18-month-old daughter. As Common Dreams reported, Israel’s attack “was characterized as the largest escalation since 2014.”

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How Media Launders Gaza Massacres by Labeling Them as ‘Clashes’

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Adam Johnson / FAIR.

As FAIR has noted before (e.g., Extra!1/17FAIR.org4/2/18), the term “clash” is almost always used to launder power asymmetry and give the reader the impression of two equal warring sides. It obscures power dynamics and the nature of the conflict itself, e.g., who instigated it and what weapons if any were used. “Clash” is a reporter’s best friend when they want to describe violence without offending anyone in power—in the words of George Orwell, “to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”

It’s predictable, then, that in coverage of Israel’s recent mass shootings in Gaza—which have killed over 30 Palestinians and injured more than 1,100—the word “clashes” is used to euphemize snipers in fortified positions firing on unarmed protesters 100 meters away:

  • Journalist Among 9 Dead in Latest Gaza Clashes, Palestinian Health Officials Say (CNN4/7/18)
  • Burning Tires, Tear Gas and Live Fire: Gaza Clashes Turn Deadly (Washington Post4/6/18)
  • Demonstrators Wounded as Gaza Clashes Resume (Reuters, 4/7/18)
  • After Gaza Clash, Israel and Palestinians Fight With Videos and Words (New York Times, 4/1/18)

When one side is dying by the dozens and the other is sitting behind a heavily secured wall, firing at will on unarmed people from hundreds of feet away (some of whom are wearing vests marked “PRESS”), this is not a “clash.” It’s more accurately described as a “massacre,” or at the very least, “firing on protesters.” (No Israelis have been injured, which would be a surprising thing if two sides were actually “clashing.”)

New York Times3/25/11

The fig leaf of “clashes” is not needed in reporting on US enemies. In 2011, Western headlines routinely described Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad as having “fired on protesters” (Guardian2/20/11New York Times3/25/11). Simple plain English works when reporting on those in bad standing with the US national security establishment, but for allies of the United States, the push for false parity requires increasingly absurd euphemisms to mask what’s really going on—in this case, the long-distance slaughter of unarmed human beings.

Israel has a state-of-the-art military: F35s, Sa’ar corvettes, Merkava tanks and Hellfire missiles, not to mention the most intrusive surveillance apparatus in the world; total control over the air, sea and land. In the Great March of Return protests, the Palestinians have employed rocks, tires and, according to the IDF, the occasional Molotov cocktail, though no independent evidence has emerged of the latter being used. The power asymmetry is one of the largest of any conflict in the world, yet Western media still cling on an institutional level to a “cycle of violence” frame, with “both sides” depicted as equal parties. The term “clashes” permits them to do this in perpetuity, no matter how one-sided the violence becomes.

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How Media Launders Gaza Massacres by Labeling Them as ‘Clashes’

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Adam Johnson / FAIR.

As FAIR has noted before (e.g., Extra!1/17FAIR.org4/2/18), the term “clash” is almost always used to launder power asymmetry and give the reader the impression of two equal warring sides. It obscures power dynamics and the nature of the conflict itself, e.g., who instigated it and what weapons if any were used. “Clash” is a reporter’s best friend when they want to describe violence without offending anyone in power—in the words of George Orwell, “to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”

It’s predictable, then, that in coverage of Israel’s recent mass shootings in Gaza—which have killed over 30 Palestinians and injured more than 1,100—the word “clashes” is used to euphemize snipers in fortified positions firing on unarmed protesters 100 meters away:

  • Journalist Among 9 Dead in Latest Gaza Clashes, Palestinian Health Officials Say (CNN4/7/18)
  • Burning Tires, Tear Gas and Live Fire: Gaza Clashes Turn Deadly (Washington Post4/6/18)
  • Demonstrators Wounded as Gaza Clashes Resume (Reuters, 4/7/18)
  • After Gaza Clash, Israel and Palestinians Fight With Videos and Words (New York Times, 4/1/18)

When one side is dying by the dozens and the other is sitting behind a heavily secured wall, firing at will on unarmed people from hundreds of feet away (some of whom are wearing vests marked “PRESS”), this is not a “clash.” It’s more accurately described as a “massacre,” or at the very least, “firing on protesters.” (No Israelis have been injured, which would be a surprising thing if two sides were actually “clashing.”)

New York Times3/25/11

The fig leaf of “clashes” is not needed in reporting on US enemies. In 2011, Western headlines routinely described Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad as having “fired on protesters” (Guardian2/20/11New York Times3/25/11). Simple plain English works when reporting on those in bad standing with the US national security establishment, but for allies of the United States, the push for false parity requires increasingly absurd euphemisms to mask what’s really going on—in this case, the long-distance slaughter of unarmed human beings.

Israel has a state-of-the-art military: F35s, Sa’ar corvettes, Merkava tanks and Hellfire missiles, not to mention the most intrusive surveillance apparatus in the world; total control over the air, sea and land. In the Great March of Return protests, the Palestinians have employed rocks, tires and, according to the IDF, the occasional Molotov cocktail, though no independent evidence has emerged of the latter being used. The power asymmetry is one of the largest of any conflict in the world, yet Western media still cling on an institutional level to a “cycle of violence” frame, with “both sides” depicted as equal parties. The term “clashes” permits them to do this in perpetuity, no matter how one-sided the violence becomes.

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Israel Launches Scores of Airstrikes as Gaza Fire Persists

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by ILAN BEN ZION / The Associated Press.

JERUSALEM — Israeli warplanes struck dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip and three people were reported killed there, while Palestinian militants from the territory fired scores of rockets into Israel in a fierce burst of violence overnight and into Thursday morning.

The flare-up comes as Egypt is trying to broker a long-term cease-fire between the two sides. At least three Palestinians died — a pregnant woman, her 1-year-old daughter and a Hamas militant, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

On the Israeli side, at least seven people were wounded.

Israeli and Hamas officials both threatened a further intensification of hostilities. The U.N.’s Mideast envoy appealed for calm.

It was not clear if the escalation, the latest in a series of intense exchanges of fire in recent months, would derail the indirect negotiations between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas militant rulers.

Air raid sirens signaling incoming rocket fire continued in southern Israel on Thursday morning, raising the likelihood of further Israeli reprisals.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza in 2007. Despite the animosity, the bitter enemies appear to be working through Egyptian mediators to avoid another war.

Hamas is demanding the lifting of an Israeli-Egyptian border blockade that has devastated Gaza’s economy, while Israel wants an end to rocket fire, as well as recent border protests and launches of incendiary balloons, and the return of the remains of two dead soldiers and two live Israelis believed to be held by Hamas.

But the continued outbursts of fire have jeopardized those cease-fire efforts. On Tuesday, the Israeli military struck a Hamas military post in Gaza after it said militants fired on Israeli troops on the border. Hamas said two of its fighters were killed after taking part in a gunfire parade inside a militant camp.

The incident occurred while a group of senior Hamas leaders from abroad were visiting Gaza to discuss the ceases-fire efforts with local leaders.

A top Hamas official told The Associated Press that the group waited for the delegation to leave Gaza before responding with rocket fire late Wednesday.

The Israeli military said over 150 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel, and Israel carried out over 140 airstrikes targeting Hamas militant positions.

Gaza’s Health Ministry identified those killed in the airstrikes from Wednesday to Thursday as Hamas fighter Ali Ghandour, 23-year-old Enas Khamash and her daughter Bayan. The ministry said the militant and the civilians were killed in separate incidents.

Kamal Khamash, brother-in-law of the killed woman, said the family was asleep when the projectile hit the house.

The mother and daughter died immediately and the father is in critical condition, Kamal said.

“This is a blatant crime and Israel is responsible for it,” he said.

Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus insisted Israel only targeted Hamas military targets in Gaza.

In southern Israel, two Thai laborers were among the seven wounded by rocket fire, and rockets damaged buildings in the cities of Sderot and Ashkelon. The military said it intercepted some 25 rockets, while most of the others landed in open areas. Israel said it launched airstrikes targeting rocket launchers, weapons stockpiles, tunnels and other Hamas infrastructure.

Israeli Cabinet minister for construction and housing, Yoav Galant, said that “whatever is needed to be done to defend our civilians and soldiers, will be done, no matter what would be the price in Gaza.”

Conricus wouldn’t comment on Israeli media reports of troops preparing for a possible ground operation, but said Israel “had ground troops that are ready to deploy. We are reinforcing the southern command and Gaza division.”

Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special envoy who is involved in Egyptian efforts to broker a truce, said in a statement on Thursday that he’s “deeply alarmed” by “multiple rockets fired toward communities in southern Israel” the day before.

Mladenov warned that “if the current escalation however is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people.”

On Wednesday, the Israeli military shelled the Palestinian territory after civilians working on the Gaza border fence came under fire. Hamas militants responded with a cross-border fusillade that sent Israelis scrambling for air raid shelters.

The Hamas official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing classified negotiations, said that cease-fire talks were in their final stage but that disagreements remained. He said Hamas is demanding the complete lifting of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade, while Israel has offered only to ease the restrictions.

Tension along the Israel-Gaza border has escalated since late March, when Hamas launched what would become regular mass protests along Israel’s perimeter fence with Gaza. The protests have been aimed in part at trying to break the blockade.

Over the past four months, 163 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including at least 120 protesters, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and a local rights group. An Israeli soldier was killed by a Gaza sniper during this period.

Israel says it has been defending its sovereign border against infiltration attempts by Hamas. But it has come under heavy international criticism for its frequent use of force against unarmed protesters.

___

Associated Press writers Mohammad Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, and Fares Akram contributed to this report.

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Jared Kushner Tries to Strip Refugee Status, Aid from Millions of Displaced Palestinians

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Juan Cole / Informed Comment.

According to Jared Kushner and other hard line Zionists, the Palestinian people don’t exist. Ever since they ethnically cleansed the majority of Palestinians, the Israelis have been hoping that they will just go away. They look out on Galilee, the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, and Lebanon, and ask, “why are you still here?” as though the Palestinians were a houseboy in their mansion that they had fired last week.

According to Foreign Policy, Kushner has bought into a theory that Palestinian identity, and Palestinian desire to return home to what is now Israel, have been artificially kept alive because millions of Palestinians are recognized by the UN as refugees. And the UN Relief and Works Agency provides schooling, vocational training, and sometimes makeshift housing to these families that the Israelis forced into tents in the wilderness.

So if you wanted to wipe Palestine off the map, you’d want to decertify the Palestinians as refugees and destroy UNRWA.

Without that infrastructure, the spoiled rich bigot Kushner thinks, why the Palestinians will fade away and stop asking to go home.

The far, far right Likud Party that rules Israel has finally found a White House that despises the poor and oppressed as much as it does, and which is happy to try to dissolve the body of the displaced Palestinians in the acid bath of malign neglect, for all the world like “cleaners” in a mob movie.

This theory is incorrect, of course. Palestinian identity is passed on by families, cultural practices, songs, books, and memories, not by UNRWA. One anthropologist who worked in the camps in Lebanon to which the Israelis expelled the Palestinians found that the Palestinians had arranged themselves within the camp according to their original village. They made the camp a microcosm of Palestine. UNRWA workers did not tell them to do that.

However, it is true that UNRWA keeps the wolf from the door for many Palestinians, and that infant mortality will certainly go up if it is dismantled.

Yes, I am saying that Jared Kushner and Nikki Haley are trying to kill Palestinian babies.

They are even worse than Jeff Sessions, who just wants to steal the babies.

I once visited the Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon. An old man told me that in 1948 he and his mother were in their apartment in Haifa when a Zionist gang barged in and took it from them, expelling them over the border to Lebanon. He stayed there a year. Then the UN put him on a train up to northern Lebanon to a camp, far from home, where he had been ever since.

Lebanon is a balancing act between Christians and Muslims, and the Christians refused to offer the Palestinians, mostly Muslim, citizenship. They also did not let them own property or work in most professions. They could not travel because they have no citizenship and nobody trusts them enough to let them in.

“We are in jail,” he told me. He took me next door where two old women were lying on mattresses, taking oxygen, having fallen ill. The only medical care was arranged by UNRWA.

He took my forearm. “Is this any way to live?”

Most of the Palestinians in Nahr al-Bared were just living their lives and trying to get buy. But camps are lawless, and disturbances in 2008 had angered the Lebanese army, which destroyed the camp to get at a small criminal gang of 50, that were characterized as terrorists. The man’s apartment building was destroyed, along with most of the camp. Most of them had nothing to do with the gang.

 Nahr al-Bared, 2010. (Juan Cole)

UNRWA had given them prefab units to live in until Nahr al-Bared could be rebuilt.

 Nahr al-Bared, 2010. (Juan Cole)

Getting rid of UNRWA will increase the misery of Palestinians. But that man’s children know they are Palestinians, they know they will never be allowed to fit in in Lebanon, nor do they want to. They want to go home to Haifa.

When the British conquered Palestine away from the Ottoman Empire during WW I, it had about 680,000 Palestinians. The British established the Mandate of Palestine over their heads without asking their permission, denied them the sort of nationhood achieved by Iraq and other League of Nations-designated Class A Mandates, and then tried to flood the country with European Jews so as to create a local population favorable to long-term colonial occupation. By 1946, this Palestinian population had grown to 1.3 million.

In 1947-48 the British declared they were going home and that the Palestinians would just have to deal with the half-million European Jews that the British had brought into the colony over Palestinian objections. The Jewish community was highly organized and had wealthy backers, and they launched into action to ethnically cleanse hundreds of thousands of hapless Palestinian villagers. When they declared Israel in 1948, only 165,000 Palestinians remained within it. Most Israelis now think it was a mistake to let that many stay, since they have grown into about 20% of the current Israeli population.

Some 720,000 Palestinians were made into refugees. That is, they were forced out of their homes by concerted Zionist campaigns that in some cases involved massacres of innocents. They were penniless. The immigrants, whom they viewed as illegal, stole their houses, apartments and farms. Some 70% of Gaza’s population is refugee families from 1948.

BBC

 

Other hundreds of thousands were forced to the West Bank (grabbed by the Jordanian army), to Jordan proper, to Lebanon. A few ended up in Syria and Egypt.

Over time, the population increased. There are now nearly 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel has occupied since 1967. Many still live in refugee camps. Of the 9.5 million Jordanians, probably some 6 million are of Palestinian heritage, having been chased from their homes in 1948 and 1967 by the Israelis. Although the UN says there are 450k Palestinians in Lebanon, probably it is half that, with many having slipped away to Europe. But over 200,000 people in refugee camps is still too many.

Al-Awda writes,

    “There are about 7.2 million Palestinian refugees worldwide. More than 4.3 million Palestinian refugees and their descendents displaced in 1948 are registered for humanitarian assistance with the United Nations. Another 1.7 million Palestinian refugees and their descendents, also displaced in 1948, are not registered with the UN. About 355,000 Palestinians and their descendents are internally displaced i.e. inside present-day “Israel”. When the West Bank and Gaza Strip were occupied in 1967, the UN reported that approximately 200,000 Palestinians fled their homes. These 1967 refugees and their descendants today number about 834,000 persons. As a result of house demolition, revocation of residency rights and construction of illegal settlements on confiscated Palestinian owned-land, at least 57,000 Palestinians have become internally displaced in the occupied West Bank. This number includes 15,000 people so far displaced by the construction of Israel’s Annexation Wall. Such dispossession of the Palestinian population continues today.”

 

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Trump Threatens Iran to Distract From Russia Criticism and Appease Israel

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Marjorie Cohn.

<i>Editor’s note: This article first appeared on Truthout.</i>

Donald Trump’s all-caps tweet threatening Iran with “CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE” sounds much like his warning last fall that North Korea would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Will Trump deliver on his threats against Iran, but not against North Korea? There is a striking disconnect between his policies toward the two countries.

“Trump has rejected a detailed pact that kept Iran out of the nuclear weapons business for a decade, while embracing a vague communiqué that allows North Korea to keep its nuclear weapons for years, and possibly forever,” said Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, offering his assessment of Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal last May.

Under the nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration, Iran and five other countries, Iran had gotten rid of all of its highly enriched uranium, eliminated 99 percent of its low-enriched uranium and shut down a main nuclear reactor. Iran had fully complied with all of the requests of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, which had affirmed eight times that Iran was in compliance with the nuclear deal.

Trump is now desperate to deflect criticism away from his much-criticized summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Trump knows that a war—conducted with the right spin—could help the GOP in the midterm elections. And Israel, the United States’ closest ally, has been gunning for regime change in Iran, which Israel considers to be an existential threat.

“Other people who know Mr. Trump said his decision to respond [to Iran] in such fiery terms was driven almost entirely by his search for a distraction from questions about Russia,” according to New York Times reporter Mark Landler.

Moreover, Trump is playing to his base. Christopher R. Hill, who worked as a diplomat in both Republican and Democratic administrations, said Trump’s rhetoric against Iran is “raw meat” for his base, as well as “an effort to shift the subject” away from his summit with Putin. Landler identifies three reasons Trump will not likely follow the same strategy with North Korea and Iran: 1) Iran’s leadership is not as monolithic as North Korea’s, with Kim Jong Un as a one-man state; 2) the strong Israel lobby opposes diplomacy with Iran; and 3) Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal provides Iran with little incentive to negotiate, particularly because the other parties to the deal — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — continue to abide by the pact.

Trump Responds to Israeli Pressure on Iran

Although Israel has enjoyed the unwavering support of successive U.S. administrations, Trump has taken that support to a new and disturbing level.

Israel strongly opposed the Iran nuclear deal and pushed for the United States to bomb Iran. Trump pulled out of the deal, leaving Iran free to build its nuclear program.

Trump then capitulated to Israeli pressure, declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, in spite of Security Council resolutions mandating that the status of Jerusalem be agreed upon by the parties through negotiation. Trump’s declaration led to predictable outrage around the world.

A Full-Court Press Against Iran

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton have also been rattling the sabers against Iran.

In a speech to the Heritage Foundation, Pompeo listed 12 demands Iran must meet, including cessation of uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes, which is allowed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

“The demands would constitute a complete transformation by Iran’s government, and they hardened the perception that what Trump’s administration really seeks is a change in the Iranian regime,” according to the Associated Press.

Bolton, who has long advocated overthrowing Iran’s government, promises regime change in Iran by the end of 2018.

The United States has also mounted a disinformation campaign intended to undermine Iran’s government. “The Trump administration has launched an offensive of speeches and online communications meant to foment unrest and help pressure Iran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups, US officials familiar with the matter said,” according to the Jerusalem Post. “The current and former officials said the campaign paints Iranian leaders in a harsh light, at times using information that is exaggerated or contradicts other official pronouncements, including comments by previous administrations.”

Trump Plans Air War Against Iran; House Says Not Without Our Consent

The Trump administration is moving toward war with Iran. Eric Margolis, a veteran war correspondent in the Middle East, reports that the Pentagon has drawn up plans for an air attack on Iran:

The Pentagon has planned a high-intensity air war against Iran that Israel and the Saudis might very well join. The plan calls for over 2,300 air strikes against Iranian strategic targets: airfields and naval bases, arms and petroleum, oil and lubricant depots, telecommunication nodes, radar, factories, military headquarters, ports, water works, airports, missile bases and units of the Revolutionary Guards.

Likewise, senior officials in the Australian government told ABC they think the United States plans to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, maybe as soon as next month.

But the House of Representatives just passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019, which includes an amendment stating that “nothing in this Act may be construed to authorize the use of forces against Iran” and an attached statement indicating “the conferees are not aware of any information that would justify the use of military force against Iran under any other statutory authority.”

Even if the Senate approves that amendment, Trump won’t necessarily follow Congress’s mandate. He might say he’s going after suspected Iranian “terrorists” inside Iran or anywhere on his global battlefield. We will then see if there is any congressional pushback.

Meanwhile, Russia is allied with Iran and would oppose U.S. military intervention. On July 12, Putin met with Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign policy adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, outside Moscow.At the same time, however, Trump is talking about making a deal with Iran. “We’re ready to make a real deal,” he declared. Trump said he is willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with “no preconditions.” But the Iran deal Trump renounced took years of painstaking negotiations.

Feigning Concern for the Iranian People

Trump claims to care about the people in Iran, but the economic sanctions he reinstituted while pulling out of the Iran deal will hurt the Iranian people. As CODEPINK co-director Medea Benjamin wrote:

Many Iranians we talk to desperately want to change their government, but not with U.S. intervention. They look around the region in horror, seeing how U.S. militarism has contributed to massive chaos, misery, and death in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine. They believe their best option is internal reform.

There is another glaring difference between the situations in Iran and North Korea. While Iran does not have nuclear weapons, North Korea does. That is North Korea’s insurance policy against U.S. military aggression.

Trump Is Desperate to Change the Subject Away From Russia

Trump is likely threatening Iran to distract from the widespread outrage at his adoption of Putin’s denial that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. In siding with Putin, Trump rejected the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia tampered with the election.

Copyright Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

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Israel’s Druze Minority Furious Over Apartheid Law, Given Their Military Service

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Juan Cole / Informed Comment.

Israel may never have been paradise for the some 20% of its citizens who are non-Jewish and Arabic-speaking. They did face de facto and sometimes even legal discrimination. But at least in the eyes of the law, they were full citizens.

After the passage last week of the “nationality” law, Israel is no longer multicultural. It is a country where national sovereignty solely lies in the hands of its Jewish citizens.

Among the Palestinian-Israelis with Israeli citizenship, only about 130,000 are Druze. This religious community was a medieval offshoot of the Ismaili branch of Shiite Islam, but Druze nowadays are viewed as doing their own thing. They do not have Friday prayer services, for instance.

Alone among the Palestinian-Israelis, the Druze serve in the military.

And therein lies the rub. Two Druze officers have resigned over the nationality law.

It is one thing to labor under a discriminatory government, as most Palestinian-Israelis do. But to serve in its armed forces and to risk one’s life, and that of one’s sons, is a different matter. And to take that risk for the sake of an unequal state that discriminates against you?

Hence, some of the more poignant protests have come from parents who lost family members in wars. They say they were fighting for their ‘nationality’ but that now it isn’t theirs anymore.

They don’t belong to the sovereign nationality.

They say they will do whatever they can to ensure that their grandchildren don’t serve in the Israeli army.

Druze elders are petrified of this sentiment, and this movement, which threatens to turn their community into ordinary Palestinians, and they have commanded the Druze rank and file to stay out of politics and do their military service.

Israel benefited from being a multicultural country with a strong Jewish majority. There was always a tension between democracy and a tyranny of the majority, but it wasn’t unique and there was at least a little wriggle room for dissent in politics, the parliament, and the courts. It is now not even clear that Palestinian-Israelis have access to the Supreme Court for certain purposes that affect national sovereignty.

Israel is no longer a multi-cultural country, since sovereignty is explicitly vested solely in its Jewish citizens. And with that change, to what amounts to an apartheid state, Israel is losing the loyalty of the more conservative communities among the Palestinian-Israelis. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has turned them into Palestinians, without the hyphen. They are not stateless the way the latter are, but they aren’t full citizens either. The statelessness of the refugees and the Occupied has finally rubbed off on them.

 

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Top 5 Things Palestinian Activist Ahed Tamimi Learned in Colonial Israeli Prison

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Juan Cole / Informed Comment.

Ahed Tamimi and her mother were given petty and mean-spirited sentences of 8 months by an colonial Israeli military judge presiding over stateless, occupied people who are intensively patrolled by the Israeli jackboot while their land, water, and well-being are gradually stolen from them by the judge’s cousins. Tamimi as a 17-year-old girl slapped a couple of Israel Occupation personnel attempting to barge into her home. She and others had participated in a demonstration against Israelis squatting nearby on Palestinian land and encroaching on her home town, during which there was some stone throwing at the Israeli troops who came to stop people from protesting. Those troops shot her cousin in the head with a rubber bullet. That was when Ahen went out and slapped them.

Amazingly, Tamimi used the experience of being jailed, as many colonial subjects in imperial detention cells have–including Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi–to her advantage. Kuwait’s KUNA news service reported:

1. Tamimi finished high school in jail! She organized a study group of other young women, and she succeeded in completing the high school examination while imprisoned. She turned her dreary sentence, intended to deprive her of nearly a year of her youth, into an educational opportunity. Lesson One: Any time you have free time on your hands, use it for self-improvement rather than stewing over your predicament.

2. That achievement, of completing high school in jail, did not come without struggle (nothing in her short life has). She said, “I was afraid I would miss the school year, so I managed with a group of prisoners to study. We challenged the occupation, which tried to ban us from study.” She is indicating that colonial, illegitimate Israeli prison officials actively tried to stop her from studying, and that she organized some sort of effective protest such that someone overruled the anti-intellectuals. (I say “colonial” and “Illegitimate” because they are not from the Palestinian West Bank, which they illegally occupy, since they have held it for 50 years and have altered its people’s lifeways dramatically). Lesson Two: If someone treats you unreasonably and unjustly, organize and protest.

3. Tamimi said she intends to go to law school and that she hopes to specialize in human rights law so that she can defend Palestinian activists and prisoners on the international stage. Lesson Three: When you encounter injustice, acquire the social and legal tools to combat it!

4. She said that prison taught her to love life, since she was nostalgic for her own room, her friends and her books. Lesson Four: Stop and take a moment to appreciate the good things in life, since they could go away at any moment. We’re often so stuck in our grievances about the past or so anxious about the future that we don’t bother to Be Here Now.

5. On her arrival in her home town of Nabi Saleh, she said, “I am a witness that the Resistance will continue until the end of the Occupation.” Lesson 5: Never give up hope in the victory of a just cause. The British occupied Bengal for 200 years, but in the end were forced to leave by the Indian Freedom Movement. The French took Saigon in 1859 but were forced to leave in 1954. The Palestinians will not be stateless and helpless forever.

It is not easy to send money to Palestinian causes, since the big American financial corporations are partisans for keeping the Palestinians down, buying into Israeli discourse about these people the Israelis have warred on, displaced, and occupied being irrational and dangerous. One of the purposes for which the Israelis keep Palestinian stateless is precisely that stateless people don’t have the right to have rights– and certainly not the right to securely hold property or receive money transfers.

But if there were a way to set up a donation account to establish a fund to send Ahed to law school, I’d give, and it would be a great good thing.

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Palestinian Protest Icon Tamimi Released From Israeli Prison

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH / The Associated Press.

NABI SALEH, West Bank — Palestinian protest icon Ahed Tamimi returned home to a hero’s welcome in her West Bank village on Sunday after Israel released the 17-year-old from prison at the end of her eight-month sentence for slapping and kicking Israeli soldiers.

Ahed and her mother, Nariman Tamimi, were greeted with banners, cheers and Palestinian flags as they entered their home village of Nabi Saleh.

Ahed was arrested in December after she slapped two Israeli soldiers outside her family home. Her mother filmed the incident and posted it on Facebook, where it went viral and, for many, instantly turned Ahed into a symbol of resistance to Israel’s half-century-old military rule over the Palestinians.

With her unruly mop of curly light-colored hair, the Palestinian teen quickly became a local hero and an internationally recognizable figure.

Her supporters see a brave girl who struck two armed soldiers in frustration after having just learned that Israeli troops seriously wounded a 15-year-old cousin, shooting him in the head from close range with a rubber bullet during nearby stone-throwing clashes.

In Israel, however, she is seen by many either as a provocateur, an irritation or a threat to the military’s deterrence policy — even as a “terrorist.” Israel has treated her actions as a criminal offense, indicting her on charges of assault and incitement. Her eight-month sentence was the result of a plea deal.

In Nabi Saleh, supporters welcomed Tamimi home Sunday with Palestinian flags planted on the roof of her home. Hundreds of chairs were set up for well-wishers in the courtyard.

“The resistance continues until the occupation is removed,” Ahed said upon her return. “All the female prisoners are steadfast. I salute everyone who supported me and my case.”

From her home, Ahed headed to a visit to the grave of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. She laid a wreath and recited a prayer from the Quran, the Muslim holy book, and was then taken with her family to a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his headquarters in Ramallah.

“I will continue this path and I hope everyone will,” she said. “The prisoners are fine and we hope the struggle for their release continues.”

Her father, Bassem Tamimi, said he expects her to take a lead in the struggle against Israeli occupation but she is also weighing college options. He said she completed her high school exams in prison with the help of other prisoners who taught the required material. He said she initially hoped to attend a West Bank university but has also received scholarship offers from abroad.

Since 2009, residents of Nabi Salah have staged regular anti-occupation protests that often ended with stone-throwing clashes. Ahed has participated in such marches from a young age, and has had several highly publicized run-ins with soldiers. One photo shows the then 12-year-old raising a clenched fist toward a soldier towering over her.

In a sign of her popularity, a pair of Italian artists painted a large mural of her on Israel’s West Bank separation barrier ahead of her release. Israeli police say they were caught in the act along with another Palestinian and arrested for vandalism.

Abbas, after meeting Ahed on Sunday, called her “a symbol for the Palestinian struggle for freedom and independence.”

“The popular and peaceful style of struggle that Ahed Tamimi and her village and nearby villages have been practicing, proves to the world that our people will remain steadfast in this land, defending it no matter how much needs to be sacrificed,” he said.

Tamimi’s scuffle with the two soldiers took place Dec. 15 in Nabi Saleh, which is home to about 600 members of her extended clan.

At the time, protests had erupted in several parts of the West Bank over President Donald Trump’s recognition 10 days earlier of the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. She was arrested at her home four days later, in the middle of the night.

Ahed was 16 when she was arrested and turned 17 while in custody. Her case has trained a spotlight on the detention of Palestinian minors by Israel, a practice that has been criticized by international rights groups. Some 300 minors are currently being held, according to Palestinian figures.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. Palestinians are increasingly disillusioned about efforts to establish a state in those territories, after more than two decades of failed negotiations with Israel.

Israeli Cabinet minister Uri Ariel said the Tamimi case highlighted what could happen if Israel lets its guard down.

“I think Israel acts too mercifully with these types of terrorists. Israel should treat harshly those who hit its soldiers,” he told The Associated Press. “We can’t have a situation where there is no deterrence. Lack of deterrence leads to the reality we see now … we must change that.”

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