Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mehdi Hasan's aritcle: Top Israelis Have Warned of Apartheid, so Why the Outrage at a UN Report?

IN HIS MEMOIR, the Israeli journalist Hirsh Goodman described how he returned home from the Six Day War in June 1967 to hear the country’s founding father and first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, speak on the radio. “Israel, he said, better rid itself of the territories and their Arab population as soon as possible,” recalled Goodman. “If it did not Israel would soon become an apartheid state.”
Goodman was born and raised in apartheid-era South Africa. “That phrase, ‘Israel will become an apartheid state,’ resonated with me,” Goodman wrote. “In a flash I understood what he was saying.”
In a flash. Yet fifty years later, despite an entrenched and ongoing occupation, Israel’s defenders angrily reject any invocation of the A-word. Leading U.S. politicians who have dared utter it in relation to Israel, such as John Kerry and Jimmy Carter, have been forced to apologize and backtrack. Last week, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA) became the first U.N. agency to publish an official report documenting how “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole,” and this provoked — as my colleague Glenn Greenwald has noted — a huge furor which led to the U.N. secretariat removing the report from its website and the Jordanian head of the UNESCWA, Rima Khalef, quitting in protest.
Good riddance, say supporters of the Jewish state. To mention the grotesque crime of apartheid in the same sentence as the democratic state of Israel, they claim, is  “slander”, a “smear”, a “despicable” and “blatant lie”, a shameful act of “Israel-bashing” and a “new form of anti-Semitism.”
So what, I wonder, does that make Ben Gurion? Dishonest or despicable? How about Yitzhak Rabin, who told a TV journalist in 1976 during the first of his two terms as Israel’s prime minister, “I don’t think it’s possible to contain over the long term, if we don’t want to get to apartheid, a million and a half [more] Arabs inside a Jewish state”? Was he also engaged in a smear campaign against the nation he led?
In recent years, two more former Israeli premiers, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, have echoed their illustrious predecessors’ warnings. Olmert has predicted that “if the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then the State of Israel is finished” while Barak has declared that “if this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”
Are they Israel bashers, too?
Meanwhile, several high-profile Israelis have suggested that apartheid is not a future risk but a present reality, including former education minister Shulamit Aloni (“Israel practises its own, quite violent, form of apartheid with the native Palestinian population”), former environment minister Yossi Sarid (“what acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck — it is apartheid”) and former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair (“we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories”).
Others have gone even further, recognizing that Israel is in complete control between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and extending the apartheid analogy from the occupied West Bank and Gaza to inside the Green Line, to what’s considered Israel proper. Former Foreign Ministry chief Alon Liel, who also served as ambassador to South Africa, has said that “until a Palestinian state is created, we are actually one state. This joint state…is an apartheid state.”
Are we expected to dismiss all of these former Israeli officials as Israel-haters?
An apartheid notice on a beach near Capetown, denoting the area for whites only.   (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
An apartheid notice on a beach near Capetown, South Africa, denoting the area for whites only.
Photo: Keystone/Getty Images
And what shall we do with the testimonies of prominent South Africans who defeated apartheid at home — only to be horrified by what they then witnessed in the occupied territories? “I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land,” wrote the Nobel Peace Price-winning bishop Desmond Tutu in 2002. “It reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa.” A range of senior officials from the African National Congress have backed Tutu’s comparison, including former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe (“the current situation… is worse than conditions were for blacks under the apartheid regime”), current speaker of the South African parliament Baleka Mbete (“far worse than apartheid”) and former South African intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils (“the Israeli measures, the brutality, make apartheid look like a picnic”).
Are we expected to believe that all of these veterans of the South African anti-apartheid struggle have lost their minds? Are we supposed to denounce them as anti-Semites?
Then there is international law. What is often left unsaid in much of the debate over Israel and the A-word is that one can legitimately debate whether, or to what extent, modern Israel resembles apartheid-era South Africa. In the occupied West Bank, with its “separate and unequal” road networks, water systems and housing policies, and where Israeli settlers are bound by Israeli civil law while Palestinians are judged according to Israeli military law, it seems an open and shut case. Inside the Green Line, where Palestinian citizens of Israel have the right to vote and stand for parliament and where Arabic is an official language it is, admittedly, less clear-cut. However, human rights groups like Adalah point to more than 50 different laws or bills in Israel that privilege Jews over Arabs or discriminate in favor of Jews in areas such as housing, education and family reunification.
A car drives on a new segment of a highway separating Palestinian and Israeli traffic near the West Bank city of Ramallah, 12 August 2007. Once finished, the highway will connect north of the West Bank to its south, bypassing Jerusalem. The highway will be used by both Palestinians and Israelis, but on two different lanes separated by a wall of concrete. AFP PHOTO/ABBAS MOMANI (Photo credit should read ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
A concrete wall separates Palestinian and Israeli traffic on a highway near the West Bank city of Ramalla, in 2007.
Photo: Abbas Monmani/AFP/Getty Images
Yet under international law, apartheid is a specific crime with specific definitions, independent of the South African experience. The 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid widened the definition of apartheid to “similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in southern Africa” and applied it to “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group,” including the denial of free movement and the expropriation of land.
Four years after the collapse of the Afrikaner regime in South Africa, the 1998 Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC), defined apartheid as “inhumane acts…committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”
From a strictly legal perspective, therefore, whether or not Israel is identical to, or even resembles, apartheid-era South Africa is, frankly, irrelevant. The only issue that matters is whether Israel is in violation of international law. In 2009, a team of academics and lawyers commissioned by South Africa’s statutory research agency concluded that Israel maintains “a system of domination by Jews over Palestinians” and “this system constitutes a breach of the prohibition of apartheid.” In 2013, another study co-authored by international law professor and former UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Territories, John Dugard, found “Israeli practices in the occupied territory are… in breach of the legal prohibition of apartheid.”
Back in 1967, Goodman understood in a flash what Ben Gurion was trying to say. Today, defenders of the Jewish state refuse to understand the warnings of former Israeli prime ministers, the condemnations of South African anti-apartheid activists, and the clear strictures of international law. For Palestinians, however, this is far from an academic issue or a mere debating point. For fifty years they have been the victims of discrimination, segregation and oppression. How much more do they have to endure?

Israeli Police Arrest Suspect in Bomb Threats Made Against American Jewish Centers

The news below is from the NBC News:
Israeli police arrested a 19-year-old man Thursday in connection with the wave of bomb threats and hoaxes against Jewish community centers in America, authorities in Israel said.
The unnamed man — a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen — is Jewish himself, officials said. While a motive remains unclear, his attorney told a Magistrate Court that the suspect was diagnosed with a brain tumor that effects his cognitive functions.
He was arrested on suspicion of making security-related threats and publishing false reports causing panic in Jewish communities in countries around the world, said Israel police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
A federal official with direct knowledge of the investigation into the telephone bomb threats told NBC News exclusively that authorities first believed they had their man on Monday of this week.
"This kid was very sophisticated" the official says. "What he did in avoiding law enforcement, he did a great job. We just did better than him."

The official says dogged cyber work and IP tracing led to what he described as the "eureka moment" that was the result of a 6 month intensive effort with Israeli authorities.
In the U.S., Jewish centers and synagogues in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Florida and elsewhere have reported menacing calls and emails warning of violence in the past six months. Facilities were routinely locked down and police made sweeps with bomb-sniffing dogs. In other cases, Jewish cemeteries and synagogues reported vandalism to their properties.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the arrest in Israel is "the culmination of a large-scale investigation spanning multiple continents ... and we will not tolerate the targeting of any community in this country on the basis of their religious beliefs."
Rosenfeld said the investigation had begun in several countries where dozens of ominous calls were received at public places, events, synagogues and community buildings. In one instance, he added, a Delta Airlines flight from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport had to make an emergency landing in 2015 after a false threat about explosives on board.
The FBI and other law enforcement cooperated with the investigation in Israel, using technology to track down the origin of the threats, which were received in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.
Israeli police officials said the suspect used his neighbor's Wi-Fi as one of the means to disguise himself. A U.S. law enforcement source said the suspect made the calls from his bedroom.

Rosenfeld said the suspect used "advanced camouflage technologies" when contacting other countries and making those threats. The FBI said he made the calls from his bedroom.
"He didn't use regular phone lines. He used different computer systems so he couldn't be backtracked," said Rosenfeld, according to The Associated Press.
Investigators were removing items from the suspect's home in southern Israel, where they reportedly found antennas and satellite equipment.
The official with direct knowledge of the investigation told NBC News that the Israel Police, with FBI agents near the suspect's location, moved on the teen early Thursday morning local time and arrested him. Israeli officials said he tried unsuccessfully to grab an officer's gun.
Meanwhile, the suspect appeared Thursday at a court in Rishon Letzion, northwest of Jerusalem.
A public defender said he does not have a criminal record, but has suffered from a brain tumor since he was 14 that appears to effect his cognitive functions. He has been home schooled since the diagnosis and cannot work or serve in the Israel Defense Forces, his attorneys added.
The court granted a request by the suspect's attorneys to have him undergo a medical evaluation.
Officials also said he called the Israel Police's emergency number two months ago to falsely claim that bombs were planted in schools across Israel.
U.S. authorities are not expected to seek extradition.
That effort to catch the caller, the U.S. official said, was first led by the Israeli Police.
"A very capable Israeli police force that came through and took the case to the 5 yard line," the official said, using an American football metaphor.
The FBI then dispatched 14 agents to Israel and worked together with Israeli Police "to cross the goal line."
That "goal line" moment came when Israeli officials and the FBI realized they had found their man on Monday of this week.
The official credited the "deep dive collaboration" that began in September of last year and involved the expertise of both agencies in making the arrest.
In the first two months of 2017 alone, the Anti-Defamation League has counted at least 150 threats in 37 states made against JCCs as well as Jewish day schools, other Jewish institutions and the ADL's own offices.
The ADL tweeted Thursday that it was "relieved and thankful" a suspect was caught, and that despite there not being an obvious motive, the "impact of this individual's actions is crystal clear: These were acts of anti-Semitism."

"Even though it appears that the main culprit behind the majority of these attacks has allegedly been identified, anti-Semitism in the U.S. remains a very serious concern," ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.
"No arrests have been made in three cemetery desecrations or a series of other anti-Semitic incidents involving swastika graffiti and hate fliers. JCCs and other institutions should not relax security measures or become less vigilant."
The FBI earlier this month had made one arrest in the case: a 31-year-old former journalist named Juan Thompson.
Authorities say he made a handful of bomb threats against Jewish groups while posing as his ex-girlfriend as retribution against her. But those threats were described by authorities as a "copycat" case.
Gilad Erdan, Israel's minister of public security, said he hopes the latest arrest "will help shed light on some of the recent threats against Jewish institutions, which have caused great concern both among Jewish communities and the Israeli government."

US Airstrikes Killed 230 Civilians in Mosul Overnight

This report below is from Jason Ditz:
As the US airstrikes in the Iraqi city of Mosul are increasingly concentrated around densely populated neighborhoods in the city’s west, the death toll from those airstrikes in spiraling rapidly out of control, with the most recent figures out of the area suggesting around 230 civilians were killed overnight in US and coalition strikes in just a single neighborhood.
That’s an enormous toll, of course, but is reported from several sources telling largely the same story, including that a single US airstrike against a large building full of civilians in Mosul killed over 130 people, while the other 100 or so were killed in the surrounding area.
Central Command said that they were “aware of the loss of life” and were carrying out “further investigation,” while insisting that all of their strikes against Mosul overnight “comply with the Law of Armed Conflict.” Centcom’s official report for the overnight strikes claimed they’d hit “11 fighting positions” and didn’t mention killing hundreds of civilians.
Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported that the civilian death toll was mostly women and children, saying that the bulk of the bodies were pulled from just three adjoining residences in the Jadida neighborhood. They speculated the civilians were “human shields” for ISIS snipers in the area.
That would be an awful lot of human shields, of course, and there wouldn’t be much point of stashing them inside buildings where the US forces clearly either didn’t know where they were or didn’t feel it amounted to a deterrent to bombing those buildings anyhow.
If the toll is ultimately confirmed by Centcom, which is a huge “if” given how often well documented incidents never end up on their official reports, it would roughly double the number of civilians the US has admitted to killing in Iraq and Syria over the ISIS war. NGOs have suggested the US strikes have killed well over 2,000 civilians already, and that’s not including last night’s massive toll.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Profiling Islamophobes

Here is the link to the article by Prof. L. A. Khan.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Dr Ali al-Ghamdi's piece on the Rohingyas of Myanmar

Dr Ali al-Ghamdi has written an excellent article that I appreciate very much for airing his grave concern about the genocidal activities of the Myanmar government and the racist Rakhine Buddhists there, esp. in the restive Rakhine state (formerly Arakan). It can be seen by clicking here.

The Buddhist regimes since independence from Britain in 1948 has been trying to wipe out Islamic identity in every possible way, even in places like Arakan which traditionally had a very large Muslim population (almost 45%) per works of Dr. Shwe Lu Maung (Shah Nawaz Khan) and other independent researchers. Even with a civilian face, the on-going violence and ethnic cleansing drives against the Rohingya and other Muslim minorities have not ebbed an iota.
Dr Kofi Annan has been a disappointment since his tenure in the UN. So, I was not surprised that he did not utter a single word about the most persecuted Rohingya people in his report as if they did not exist. Annan was put by the sly lady - Suu Kyi - to act as her puppet; it was a distraction tactic to save the criminal face of Myanmar government and its bigotry-ridden Buddhist fascists for western consumption.
We surely need an independent probe into the latest government sponsored crimes against the Rohingya people. It is there that rich and powerful countries like Saudi Arabia and Gulf states can make a difference. I pray and hope that Dr. Ghamdi may be able to influence to make that happen. Here below are some links to my work on the Rohingya people.

'Winston Churchill is no better than Adolf Hitler,' says Indian politician Dr Shashi Tharoor

I must admit that I have been a fan of Dr. Tharoor since his days as the under-secretary general of the UN.
Here below is the latest on his book tour which I share from the Independent.
Thiruvananthpuram MP and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has been in the news for some time after he wrote the book ‘Inglorious Empire’ highlighting the atrocities of British colonial rule in India. This time, the subject of news is one of the excerpts from the book where Tharoor has compared Winston Churchill with Adolf Hitler stating that the latter has as much blood on his hands as the former.
“This is the man who the British insist on hailing as some apostle of freedom and democracy," the author said of Churchill at a launch of his book. "When to my mind he is really one of the more evil rulers of the 20th century only fit to stand in company of the likes of Hitler, Mao and Stalin".
“Churchill has as much blood on his hands as Hitler does,” the Indian MP said. “Particularly the decisions that he personally signed off during The Bengal Famine when 4.3 million people died because of the decisions he took or endorsed."
"Not only did the British pursue its own policy of not helping the victims of this famine which was created by their policies. Churchill persisted in exporting grain to Europe, not to feed actual ‘Sturdy Tommies’, to use his phrase, but add to the buffer stocks that were being piled up in the event of a future invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia”.
“Ships laden with wheat were coming in from Australia docking in Calcutta and were instructed by Churchill not to disembark their cargo but sail on to Europe,” he added. “And when conscience-stricken British officials wrote to the Prime Minister in London pointing out that his policies were causing needless loss of life all he could do was write peevishly in the margin of the report, ‘Why hasn’t Gandhi died yet?'"
Talking about the Bengal famine in 1943, the Prime Minister who led Britain to victory in World War Two, said: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”
Dr Tharoor, a former Indian government minister, rose to prominence after his impassioned speech at the Oxford Union in July of 2015 went viral. In the address, he discussed the economic toll British rule took on India.
He said: "India's share of the world economy when Britain arrived on it shores was 23 per cent. By the time the British left it was down to below four per cent. Why? Simply because India had been governed for the benefit of Britain. Britain's rise for 200 years was financed by its depredations in India."
"In fact, Britain's industrial revolution was actually premised upon the de-industrialisation of India."
Dr Tharoor recently gained headlines for suggesting Britons suffer "historical amnesia” over the atrocities and plunder committed by the empire.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Pentagon Denies Bombing Syrian Mosque, But Its Own Photo May Prove That It Did

The Pentagon spokesperson insisted that the U.S. airstrike in the rebel-held village of Al-Jina in northern Syria on Thursday night did not hit a mosque. “The area was extensively surveilled prior to the strike in order to minimize civilian casualties,” Navy Captain Jeff Davis wrote in an email. “We deliberately did not target the mosque.”
New evidence is emerging on yesterday‘s bombing of a mosque in the Northwest Syrian village of al-Jineh, in the Aleppo Province, with reports of rising death tolls and recovered pieces of the bomb showing that it was, in fact, a US airstrike.
The recovery of US bomb fragments from the mosque, however, changed this narrative, with CENTCOM now promising an investigation into the attack on the mosque. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 42, mostly civilians, yesterday, but the mosque had over 300 people inside at the time of the attack, and some are reporting the toll has risen to around 75 civilians.
On the border between Aleppo and Idlib Provinces, al-Jineh is in rebel-held territory, and the Pentagon’s claims regarding the strike suggest they believe the village is held by al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, or at least used by them as a meeting place.
It wouldn’t be particularly unusual for Nusra to use a mosque as a meeting place, though in this case it appears they did not do so, and simply happened to be nearby. Given the small size of al-Jineh, most of the buildings of any size are likely at least relatively close to the mosque.
To see the report, click here.