Saturday, December 16, 2006

General Assembly adopts resolutions criticizing Israeli actions against Palestinians

15 December 2006 The General Assembly has adopted several resolutions criticizing Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territory, in particular by reiterating its call for a complete halt to all settlement activity and calling on the Government to ensure the safety of United Nations staff providing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians.

These resolutions were among two dozen adopted yesterday, along with two draft decisions, covering a wide range of issues, including decolonization, UN information policy, the peaceful use of outer space and others, which were recommended for action by the Assembly’s Special Political and Decolonization (Fourth) Committee.

The Assembly adopted four texts on the operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), by which it called upon Israel to “ensure the safety of its personnel and facilities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” Those resolutions were adopted by traditionally wide margins, with well over 100 countries in favour and those opposed or abstaining generally in the single digits.

The Assembly also adopted a text on Israeli settlements by 162 votes in favour to 8 against and with 10 abstentions reaffirming that “settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan, were illegal and an obstacle to peace and economic and social development.” It also reiterated its demand for the complete cessation of all such activity.

Taking action on 10 decolonization texts –– 6 of them by recorded votes –– the Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution on the question of the tiny South Pacific atolls of Tokelau, and also adopted a decision on the question of Gibraltar, again without a vote. Contrary to last year, however, no consensus could be reached on a text concerning Western Sahara.

Turning to outer space, the Assembly adopted by consensus, a text on a UN Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response, setting up a programme to provide universal access to all countries and relevant organizations to “space-based information and services to support the full disaster-management cycle.”

Bush makes a “Clean Break” with the Baker Plan

Dec 16, 2006

By Mike Whitney

“Pressure from the Lobby was not the only factor behind the decision to attack Iraq in 2003, but it was critical. Some Americans believe that this was a war for oil, but there is hardly any direct evidence to support this claim. Instead, the war was motivated in good part by a desire to make Israel more secure.” (“The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt)

Poor Ehud Olmert.

A couple of weeks ago every thing was hunky-dory. The Palestinian death-toll had just topped 400, 1,000 or so homes had been demolished by Israeli bulldozers, the main power station in Gaza had been knocked-out, the blockade of food and medicine was still going strong, and the IDF was gearing up for another rampage through the occupied territories.

In Lebanon, Pierre Gemeyal had just been assassinated; making it easier for the US and Israel to continue hectoring Syria at the UN. And, in Iraq, the American army was busy transforming the once-vibrant Iraqi society into an ungovernable slaughterhouse headed for decades of anarchy.

All in all, things were looking pretty rosy for Olmert.

The neocon master-plan, “A Clean Break: a New Strategy for Securing the Realm”, appeared to be lurching forward according to plan and it was beginning to look like the whole Middle East would be converted into a balkanized hodge-podge of warring factions, armed militias and Islamic extremists killing each other well into the next millennia.

Only one country would prevail in this tempestuous stew of battling factions and broken states; Israel, the soon-to-be dominant power in the entire region, a 21st century Middle East Kingdom. (presumably that is what is meant by securing the “Realm”)

But Olmert’s plans appear to have hit a few well placed speed-bumps; sending the neocon bandwagon rumbling towards the cliff. The first setback was the Baker-Hamilton report which grabbed headlines across the country and restarted the national debate about the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. Baker aptly summarized the Iraqi fiasco as a “grave and deteriorating” crisis in which military victory is no longer possible. The report galvanized the public and sent Bush’s approval ratings through the floor. According to a new CBS News Survey only 4% of the American public now thinks that “the US should keep fighting as it is now” while 75% “disapprove” of Bush’s handling of the war. A mere 21% of the public still supports Bush’s handling of the war.

As for Olmert, the prospect of an American troop withdrawal signals the end of his regional ambitions. There’s no way the Israeli PM can “secure the realm” without the aid of his “proxy army” continuing the fight in the West. That may explain why the neocons have launched a major “media blitz” in the US to discredit the report and disparage its author, Baker, as an anti-Semite.

Baker, an anti Semite?

Perhaps he can join that other great “human rights abuser”, Jimmie Carter?!?

The armchair warriors at the Weekly Standard, The National Review, The New York Post and the Wall Street Journal are leading the charge; each taking shots at Baker while promoting the same worn “stay the course” strategy.

An article in the Washington Post 12-10-06 “Hawks Bolster Skeptical President” provides a list of pro-Israel hawks who have lined up against Baker. Among the more familiar names are William Kristol, Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, and Michael Rubin; the same lineup that will forever be identified with the catastrophe in Iraq. It’s revealing that the Washington Post still provides an open forum for neocon views even though, as we said, less than 4% of the American people still support a “stay the course” strategy. Apparently, that doesn’t affect the editorial policy at the Washington Post where the war-mongering incitement of neoconservative fantasists still gets unlimited coverage.

This tells a great deal about the state of media in America today and whose interests are really served.

It is also interesting to see that a signatory of the Project for the New American Century was a member of the 5-man panel advising Bush on the deteriorating situation in Iraq. After 4 years of unmitigated failure, Bush is still getting counsel from the same coterie of right-wing radicals who pushed for war in the first place. It’s extraordinary. As Middle East expert Juan Cole said, to have a member of PNAC on the advisory-panel “contradicts the basic principle that when someone gets you into a mess, you stop following their advice.”

Not Bush. Bush seems to believe that the chimera of “global empire” is still within his reach.

The media blitz has had no effect on public opinion. In fact, the public is more fed up with the war than ever. All it’s done is draw attention to the handful of extremists whose views are at odds with 96% of the American people.

The Baker report has torpedoed Olmert’s plans to reinvade Gaza and forced him to reconsider talks with the Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas. It’s all for show, of course, but it does illustrate how quickly things can change.

Two weeks ago, Dick Cheney rushed over to Saudi Arabia to try to calm-down King Abdullah who was fuming over the mass-slaughter of Sunnis in Iraq. Abdullah naturally wanted to know why “Iranian-backed, US-trained” Shiite militias were purging Baghdad of its Sunni population. (Wouldn’t you love to know how Cheney wriggled out of that one?) Cheney’s response is unknown, but we do know that he contacted Olmert and asked him to stop the killing in Gaza and extend the olive branch to Mahmoud Abbas. Astonishingly, Abbas complied with this charade and allowed himself to be photographed “hand-in-hand and smiling” with Olmert just two weeks after 18 members of the same Palestinian family were butchered by Israeli tank-rounds in Beit Hanoun. Abbas’ craven behavior speaks for itself. As for Olmert, the escalating violence in Iraq has put a temporary halt to his plans to reinvade Gaza.

Score one for James Baker.

Olmert’s plans for Lebanon have apparently hit a block-wall, too. The largest demonstrations in the country’s history took place last Sunday after 7 days of nonstop protest in the city center. Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah mobilized an estimated 2 million Lebanese who took to the streets to call for American-stooge, Prime Minister Siniora, to step down. Siniora lost all credibility during the Israeli onslaught when he refused to defend his country by taking any action to repel the Israeli invasion or to deploy the 80,000 troops in the Lebanese army to the south where they were needed. His negligence caused the deaths of 1,300 civilians who were killed while trying to escape Israeli bombardment.

A recent poll showed that 51% of the people believe that the Siniora government “lacks legitimacy” and “73% support the forming of a unity government”. These numbers confirm that Siniora no longer has any base of popular support and that the US-Israeli war has made Hezbollah the most powerful player in Lebanon’s political system.

Hezbollah poses no threat to Israel. What Olmert fears is an independent Arab regime to its north which may develop a credible deterrent to Israeli belligerence. (Israel has invaded Lebanon 4 times) Nasrallah is a fierce nationalist and not a puppet of Iran as Olmert claims. He has no plans for establishing an Islamic Theocracy in Lebanon although it’s an effective device for demonizing him as a fanatic and a terrorist. What he really wants is sufficient military power to convince Israel that future incursions will come at great cost to the IDF. No country in the region needs to improve its national defense and “power of deterrents” more than Lebanon. Siniora has no intention of providing that type of leadership. He should be removed.

Olmert’s plans for Lebanon were articulated in “A Clean Break”. He wants to divert “Syria’s attention by using Lebanese opposition elements to destabilize control of Lebanon”, thus, creating a de facto “Israeli protectorate” to their North. The 34-day war sabotaged this plan and further strengthened Israel’s main rival, Hezbollah. The Shiite star continues to rise in Lebanon just as it is in Iraq.

This is not the result that Olmert (or Bush) had in mind.

Baker: “Negotiations with Iran and Syria and a New Madrid”?

The Iraq Study Group made two key recommendations which are pivotal to regional peace. Both have sent tremors through the Olmert regime. First, Baker wants Bush to convene a regional conference with Iraq’s neighbors, including Syria and Iran, to address the deteriorating security situation and the steady escalation of violence. Bush is resisting this effort believing he can cobble together a miraculous “victory” at the eleventh hour. This, of course, will not happen and Bush will soon be compelled to make concessions whether he wants to or not.

The last thing Olmert wants is to see Bush negotiating with Iran which might forestall a preemptive attack on its nuclear and military facilities. If the US enters discussions with Iran, then Iran will naturally demand security guarantees that will lead to a "non-aggression" pact. This would prevent Bush from initiating hostilities “at the time of his own choosing”. This explains why the neocons are so adamantly opposed to dialogue with Syria and Iran. They don't want Bush to be bound by treaty obligations.

Second, the Baker report states unequivocally:

“The United States will not achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the US deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict.” (We must make a) “renewed and sustained commitment to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts.”

Fortunately, Baker recognizes the centrality of the issue and is pushing to create a suitable framework for negotiations. That doesn’t mean he will succeed. Olmert stated plainly before the US Congress that (he believes) that Israel has a right “to all the land”, which is the traditional Zionist position. His belief is grounded in a rigid ideology that doesn’t accept the authority of the international community or the rights of the people who have clear title to the land. On top of that, as Uri Avnery said:

“No president will quarrel with the government of Israel if he wants to be re-elected, or-- like Bush now—to end his term in office with dignity and pass the presidency to another member of his party. Any senator or congressman, who takes a stand that the Israeli embassy doesn’t like, is committing Harakiri, Washington-style.

The fate of the peace plans of successive Secretaries of State confirms, on the face of it, the thesis of the two professors, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, that caused a great stir earlier this year. According to them, whenever there is a clash in Washington between the national interests of the US and the national interests of Israel, it is Israel’s interests which win.” (Uri Avnery, “Baker’s Cake”)

But the power of the Jewish Lobby is about to be challenged. There is simply no other way forward. As the United States predicament in Iraq becomes more tenuous, Israel will come under increasing pressure to make concessions for peace. We can expect to hear agonized squeals from the usual suspects, but that will only further identify the dwindling number of neocons who cling to the suicidal policy which most Americans have already abandoned.

Presently, Bush still believes he can affect the war’s outcome, but he’s mistaken. Events on the ground will quickly overtake him and he’ll be forced to change directions. It’s simply out of his hands. In truth, the Baker-Hamilton report is just a pragmatic way of organizing defeat while creating a military-backup to safeguard the oil-fields. By discarding the cover of Baker’s recommendations, Bush is simply inviting a bigger and more embarrassing Vietnam-type exit.

In a matter of weeks the political landscape in the Middle East has changed completely. The US grip is conspicuously loosening in Iraq while the shadow of arch-rival Iran now extends across the entire region. Washington’s pro-Israel hawks will try to stem the tide by pushing for more troops and greater commitment, but they will only attract more attention to their Israeli-centric policies. They are now so isolated from the mainstream that they run the risk of a severe backlash to themselves and their cause.

Olmert’s regional ambitions are quickly unraveling, too. The cracks and fissures in the “Grand Plan” are visible everywhere. Israel’s outpost in the Kurdish north of Iraq will be insufficient to defend against the rising power of the Shiite-dominated regime; just as the US-Israel’s machinations in Lebanon will amount to nothing.

The whole scheme for a “New Middle East” controlled by overlords operating out of Washington and Tel Aviv is in a state of collapse.

As Americans begin to grasp the magnitude of the defeat in Iraq, the “special relationship” will come under increasing scrutiny putting greater strain on the US-Israel friendship. Many are likely to agree with Mearsheimer and Walt that, “pressure from the Lobby was not the only factor behind the decision to attack Iraq in 2003, but it was critical.”


An article in today’s New York Times proves this point quite persuasively. It says, “The Bush administration is working to form a coalition of Sunni Arab nations and a moderate Shiite government in Iraq, along with the US and Europe, to stand against ‘Iran, Syria and the terrorists,’ another senior administration official said Tuesday.” (Helene Cooper, NY Times)

“Stand against Iran, Syria and the terrorists”?

This isn’t the Baker plan, or the Congress’ plan, or the plan the American people demanded in the midterm elections. Those have all been brushed aside or tossed on the scrap-heap. This is the neocon plan; “A Clean Break”; articulated almost word for word from the original document.

Bush hasn’t changed a thing! He is still carrying out an agenda that runs contrary to the will of the American people as well as his father’s most trusted advisors. He’s following a strategy that was clearly intended to establish Israeli regional hegemony.

How can anyone argue otherwise?

The question of loyalty is bound to loom large in any future discussion of why the United States invaded Iraq. Were the neocons really acting in America’s best interests by pushing us towards war or were they secretly serving some other cause?

The finger-pointing has already begun and it’s bound to intensify as time goes by. There’s no telling who may end up being pegged as the scapegoat for the “greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history”, but the list of suspects is gradually narrowing.

McCain's Character

John LeBoutillier
Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ronald Kessler's excellent piece on Senator John McCain's erratic and explosive temper is 100% dead on target. As someone who has known McCain for 32 years, I can unequivocally state that he should be nowhere near the Oval Office.

His behavior through the years tells us all we need to know: he is a spoiled brat-turned adult who demeans people who dare to disagree with him; he has an explosive temper that can erupt on a nanosecond's notice; he might tell you something one day and then deny it the next; he is a political chameleon who is enabled by the so-called Main Stream Media; and his former POW status has allowed him to get away with things - i.e. the Keating Five Scandal - that others would have gone to jail for.

In sum, McCain is a disaster waiting to happen.

In 1990-1991 I had the great privilege to meet and ultimately befriend retired Air Force Colonel Ted Guy. Ted had been a POW in Vietnam for over six years - after being shot down and captured in Laos and driven on the Ho Chi Minh Trail to Hanoi.

Ted became famous as the war ended as he tried to bring changes against several of his fellow U.S. POWs who he thought had cooperated with the North Vietnamese while in captivity; after coming home in 1973 his superiors decided not to press charges. But Ted was forever branded a "real hard ass" because of this incident.

For a while Ted was the Senior Ranking Officer (SRO) in - I believe - The Plantation (a POW camp on the outskirts of Hanoi) in which John McCain was also being held.

The SRO kept the chain of military order among the POWs; they took orders from him and kept discipline that way.

When I got to know Ted Guy, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on POWs was being organized; McCain was named a member. Ted Guy's thoughts about McCain? "John was a good troop in camp."

Ted Guy - since repatriation in 1973 - had discounted any chance that living U.S. POWs were left behind in Vietnam after the January 27, 1973 Paris Peace Agreements.

In fact, by his own admission, Ted often became gruff with MIA family members who asked him if their loved one might have been left behind in captivity. "I told them there was no chance and they needed to get a life."

This was the same message many of the former POWs were delivering to relatives of the thousands of men who did not come home in Operation Homecoming: "Forget it ... we are the only living men ... give it up and move on with your lives." Of course, that was easy for them to say: they had come home!

The U.S. Government never officially briefed the returning POWs about the egregious violations of the Paris Peace Accords - by both Hanoi and Washington DC.

Washington refused to pay the $4.25 billion President Nixon secretly promised in a February 1, 1973 letter to Premier Pham Van Dong - and kept hidden from the Congress for three years; Hanoi failed to release the other group of 600 U.S. POWs they were holding as an insurance policy against these funds.

If the truth had been told to our returning heros, they would probably have led the charge for the return of their comrades; but they were not told. Instead they were sent out to America's heartland as the war heros we so desperately needed - McCain and Ted Guy included.

Except that Ted Guy read all the new revelations that began surfacing in the 1980's; by 1991 he had seen enough. "I was lied to," he told me. "I am now certain we knowingly left men behind in captivity."

Ted also got a fellow former POW, Terry Uyeyama, to join our little ‘group' as we went around DC trying to get the U.S. Government to reverse policy and negotiate for the living men still being held in Vietnam and Laos.

Then McCain entered the picture.

As the Senate Committee heated up - and more and more new information surfaced showing that indeed we did leave men behind held against their will in Vietnam and Laos - McCain began a long and vicious campaign to discredit and shoot down any new information or anyone advocating that the truth about our POWs be made public. Thus emerged for many to see the mean and ugly side of John McCain.

Ted Guy, his old Senior Ranking Officer and friend and admirer, soon changed his mind about McCain and questioned the truthfulness and emotional stability of his former POW veteran.

Sadly, Ted Guy died of leukemia 7 years ago. A healthy Ted Guy today could have and would have stood up and told the truth about John McCain - and had the former-POW status to take McCain on.

McCain these days goes unchecked. Ron Kessler has opened the topic of McCain's dangerous temper to further public scrutiny.

In sum, John McCain is not the man for the presidency. Yes, he would beat Hillary one on one. And we can't have her either.

But before everyone rushes to sign up for McCain's campaign, let's take a break and learn more about McCain the man and his character.

Once you get to know this man, you will agree: he must be defeated by a real Reagan conservative for the GOP nomination.

US policy in ME: arrogantly inconsistent

US policy in Lebanon and in Palestine: A comparison. The US is opposed to unarmed demonstrations in Lebanon but supports armed demonstrations by Dahlan gangs in Palestine; the US does not deal with the president in Lebanon, and only deals with the president in Palestine; the US says that the Sanyurah government is democratically elected and should be supported, but opposes the democratically elected government in Palestine and calls for its punishment; the US calls for disarming of militias in Lebanon, but arms and finances militias in Palestine; the US is opposed to early elections in Lebanon, but supports early elections in Palestine; the US is opposed to a national unity government in Lebanon and also opposes one in Palestine--the idea of national unity bothers the US it seems; the US calls for Syria to not intervene in Lebanon but wants Syria to intervene in Palestine to support US/Israeli puppets; the US wants to punish assassins in Lebanon, but the US supports Israeli and Dahlan assassinations in Palestine, and the assassins there receive US financial and military support.

Steinitz estimates: US will attack Iran

buLikud MK states he is 'convinced United States will attack and save the world.' As for situation in Palestinian Authority, he clarifies that 'no elections will change nature of PA as a terrorist entity'
Anat Bereshkovsky

Knesset Member Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said Saturday that he believes the United States will not settle for sanctions and diplomatic moves, and will eventually attack Iran .


EU charges Iran with destabilizing Middle East / Reuters

Resolution slams Iran over nuclear program, threats towards Israel; condemns denial of Holocaust by Tehran
Full story

Speaking in a rally in the southern city of Be'er Sheva, Steinitz also referred to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' decision to move up the elections in the Palestinian Authority, saying that "no elections will be able to change the nature of the Palestinian Authority."

Steinitz, who serves as head of a joint committee of the Knesset and the US Congress, expressed his great hope that the US will attack Iran, saying he believes that "the US will attack Iran and hit it in order to thwart its nuclear ability, as the diplomatic activity has failed."

'Bush and Blair have a historical role'

Steinitz claims that the US is technically capable of bombing the nuclear reactor in Iran. He stressed that his estimation is based on his deep acquaintance with senior US Congress members and senators.

"I believe that the US will use a military operation to save the world," Steinitz added. "Bush and Blair have a historical role in dealing with the Iranian threat."

Referring to the Palestinian issue, MK Steinitz, who served in the past as chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, called on the government to launch a wide-scale military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

He also addressed Abbas' speech , and warned of developing high expectations.

"No elections will change the nature of the Palestinian Authority as a terrorist entity and a systematic agreement violator. Israel must disband the PA, at least in Judea and Samaria, as a preliminary move ahead of the future need to deal with the Iranian threat."

Gaza: a prison again

chAfter the worst years in memory, charities try to offer hope where there is deep despair

By Donald Mcintyre
The IndependentGAZA STRIP (Dec 16, 2006)

Maybe they are just conveniently forgetting other periods in Gaza's turbulent and blood-stained history, but most Gazans will tell you that 2006 is the worst year they can remember.

In Gaza City's deserted gold souk, people are not even coming to sell their jewellery any more.

"We just sit and drink tea," said Yasser Moteer, 35, who runs a jewellery stall. "It's worse than any time in the 20 years I've been here. It's crazy."

The gold-selling started soon after the international and Israeli boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority started to plunge Gaza's economy into collapse last March. But having long ceased to buy here, the poor have nothing left to sell.

Certainly, the 1.3 million people of this ancient coastal strip of territory, a mere 360 square kilometres, can never have experienced as intense a swing of hope to despair as they have in little more than 12 months.

Ariel Sharon's decision to withdraw Israel's settlers and troops in August 2005, for all the criticism that it was unilateral and circumscribed in both its genesis and its implementation, made many Palestinians here, almost despite themselves, hope for a better future.

It was not just the sudden freedom to travel from north to south without the endless delays at the hated Abu Houli checkpoint, or that children in the southern town of Khan Younis could run west through what were now the ruins of the Jewish settlement of Neve Dekalim and plunge into a Mediterranean they had only ever dreamt about, or that families could again cross the southern border at Rafah and reunite with their relatives in Egypt.

It was the sense that for the first time in five dark, stifling and dangerous years, Gaza could breathe -- psychologically and, just maybe, economically.

As 2006 nears its close, it is easy to see how cruelly those hopes have been mocked by what has happened this year.

Since Hamas and other Gaza militants seized the Israeli corporal, Gilad Shalit, and killed two of his comrades in late June, shells, drones and machine-gun fire from Israeli forces have killed some 400 Palestinians, including civilians -- women and children among them -- in a conflict overshadowed to a large extent by the war in Lebanon.

For five long months, electricity was cut to eight hours a day, damaging water supplies, after a surgically accurate bombing condemned by Israelis as well as foreign human rights groups as collective punishment in breach of humanitarian law.

Reaching a peak in July, the use of sonic booms, often deliberately timed as children were going to school, created misery and fear. As if that was not enough, a far lower but significant number of civilians, also including children, have been killed or wounded in the sporadic fighting between Fatah and Hamas, the two dominant factions in Palestinian politics, or in battles between extended families.

For the immediate survivors of the Israeli shells that killed 17 members of the Athamneh family as they tried to flee their home in Beit Hanoun as it was attacked, the bereavement is, if anything, harder to bear now that just over a month has elapsed since it happened.

In late afternoon sunshine recently, in the eerily peaceful alley where the carnage was perpetrated, Hayat Athamneh, 56, a strong woman who lost three adult sons, all fathers themselves, sat with their still devastated and injured brother Amjad, 31, and his wife, who lost their own son Mahmoud, 10.

"Now I feel it," said Hayat, covering her eyes as they fill with tears.

"It wasn't so bad at the beginning. There were a lot of people around. Now there is nobody."

As she reeled off the list of Palestinian and foreign dignitaries who had visited the site, her daughter-in-law Tahani, 35, said: "They all came. But nothing happened." Tahani talks about the three surviving Athamneh family members, two of them children, who lost limbs in the attack.

"We have to worry about the one who lost arms and legs now and will see the others who haven't. We have to look after them and then worry about where we are going to live."

Her brother-in-law Majdi Athamneh, who lost his 12-year-old son Saad, says that the extended-family members are afraid to go back to their shelled house because of the structural damage, but what's more, they no longer think they should live together as they had for so many years.

"When so many members of one family were killed, it is better to make sure it doesn't happen again and live apart," he said to nods from his relatives.

Eight kilometres away in Gaza City, Adeeb Zarhouk, 44, is a man used to hard work. He used to support his wife Majda and their seven children during the 20 years he was employed in Israel as a freelance metalworker and electrician, and the five years he has worked for an Israeli company in the now flattened Erez industrial zone on the northern edge of Gaza.

But this morning he apologizes for being asleep when we call.

Each day, he hopes for a request to install a satellite TV dish or do another odd job. "But the phone hasn't rung for weeks," he says. "Nobody has any money to do these things."

Zarhouk is part of the 64 per cent increase in "deep poverty" among Palestinian refugees in the last year He is naturally cheerful but, as his wife prepares a three-shekel (80-cent) family breakfast of beans, falafel and a few tomatoes, he says: "When I'm at home by myself, I start crying. When your son asks you for half a shekel and you don't have it ... ."

Zarhouk gets up to wash the tears from his eyes. Then he says that although as a refugee he earned almost $240 a month on a three-month United Nations Relief and Works Agency job program, he now owes $540 in rent and that the family eats meat only when his 20-year-old son gets an irregular $350 handout in lieu of his salary as a Palestinian Authority policeman.

Who does Zarhouk, who voted Fatah in the last election, blame? "I blame democracy," he says with a flash of sarcasm. "The whole world wanted us to have democracy and said how fair our election had been. The problem is they didn't like our results."

The world's boycott of the PA since those elections ended salaries for the PA employees on whose spending Gaza's economy disproportionately depends. The highly professional but desperately under-equipped health service is suffering.

In her bed at Shifa hospital, Intisar al Saqqa is waiting for the drug Taxoter which doctors say she needs to treat breast cancer that has spread to her lungs and her liver.

"Every week, they say it will come on Monday," says her mother, Hadra, 62. "But it doesn't. Inshallah, it will come soon." Her daughter says, "I don't blame anybody."

The agreement Condoleezza Rice persuaded Israel to sign a year ago to the free the passage of goods and people into and out of Gaza has not been implemented, as a UN report pointed out. The UN's Office of Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Gaza's access to the outside world is "extremely limited" and that commercial trade is "negligible."

That is diplomatese for saying Gaza is a prison again. Israel refuses to take the blame, saying the boycott and closures result directly from security anxieties and from the refusal of Hamas to modify its stances on recognition and violence, and refusing -- so far -- to release the Israeli corporal.

Now, with talks between Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas past collapse, there is little hope, and plenty to do for the non-governmental organizations and charities trying to keep Gaza alive.

Jewish groups oppose Palestinian act

Jewish groups oppose Palestinian act
More than a dozen local Jewish groups signed a petition urging President Bush not to sign legislation that would isolate the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

Boston’s Jewish Women for Justice in Israel/Palestine and Oakland’s Jewish Voice for Peace were among at least 16 local Jewish groups to sign a petition organized by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Separately, Americans for Peace Now and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom also have opposed the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, passed in Congress’ final days, saying it’s too constraining at a time when relative moderates among the Palestinians need U.S. support.

The bill’s backers, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, say the bill is flexible enough to allow funds to reach destitute Palestinians and moderates.

Neocons Want a Mulligan on Iraq

And, it appears, President Bush may give it to them. The LA Times reports:

military officials are taking a close look at a proposal advanced by Frederick W. Kagan, a former West Point Military Academy historian, to combine a surge with a quick buildup of the Marines and the Army. That could allow new units to take the place of the brigades sent to Iraq to augment the current force.

“It is essential for the president to couple any recommendation of a significant surge in Iraq with the announcement that he will increase permanently the size of the Army and the Marines,” Kagan said.

Kagan, who plans to release a preliminary report on his proposal Thursday, said he had discussed his ideas with people in the government. Although the military has had trouble meeting recruiting goals, Kagan said Army officials believed they could recruit at least an extra 20,000 soldiers a year. The Army missed its recruiting targets in 2005 but met this year’s goal.

This strategy faces a few obstacles, though. First:

Only 12% of Americans support a troop increase, whereas 52% prefer a fixed timetable for withdrawal, a Los Angeles Times/ Bloomberg poll has found.

Indeed. This echoes this recent USA Today/Gallup poll which revealed that 57% of Americans want U.S. troops out of Iraq within one year. Also, there are deeper problems with the “more troops” strategy:

Kalev Sepp, an instructor at the Naval Postgraduate School, said that the U.S. had demonstrated that many commanders simply did not understand how to mount effective, long-term counterinsurgency strategies.

Increasing the size of the force, Sepp said, will mean that U.S. forces continue to focus on killing insurgents, not training Iraqis. “That kind of approach is still tied to the idea that attrition, of just killing enough of our opponents, is going to get us to success,” Sepp said.

It’s disheartening in the extreme, almost to the point of being maddening, that President Bush continues to look to the folks who brought you the war in the first place for the way forward. There are a few problems with the Kagan approach.

This surge of roughly 25,000 additional troops, at this stage in the conflict, is unlikely to even suppress the violence significantly in Baghdad. Kaganites like to point to U.S. operations in Tal Afar as an analog. In that instance, a population of (a guesstimated) 150,000 Iraqis was pacified by 3,800 U.S. soldiers, with Iraqi forces in tow. Kagan protests, in response to those who say the forces don’t exist to replicate this strategy in the rest of Iraq or even Baghdad, that their opposition “rests on vague extrapolations of force ratios in Tal Afar to the entire population of Iraq or of Baghdad.”

But our extrapolations aren’t vague at all–they’re based on all the counterinsurgency literature out there. Kagan’s plan doesn’t use the normal metrics for stability ops–he changes them completely. He uses studies that are based on total population, but then decides, without much explanation, that only using the Sunni population for calculation is appropriate in this instance, since “it would be unnecessary and unwise to send coalition forces into Kurdistan or most of the Shiite lands.”

But force requirements in the literature aren’t based on hostile population or some sub-segment of the population, they’re based on total population. Rarely can counterinsurgencies adequately quantify the number of hostile population. So we use overall population for a metric.

Take this quintessential Parameters article by James Quinlivan of RAND. Quinlivan points out that “From the start, practitioners of counterinsurgency have been clear in stating that the number of soldiers required to counter guerrillas has had very little to do with the number of guerrillas.” You can’t slice the population the way Kagan does and then use the counterinsurgency literature for benchmarks. It’s goalpost shifting. Apples and oranges.

Discussing the more useful historical ratio, Quinlivan concludes that “Force ratios larger than ten members of the security forces for every thousand of population are not uncommon in current operations. . . . Sustaining a stabilizing force at such a force ratio for a city as large as one million . . . could require a deployment of about a quarter of all regular infantry battalions in the U.S. Army.” The very study Kagan cites (.pdf) echoes this finding:

International troop levels should be at least 1,000 soldiers per 100,000 inhabitants and international police levels should be at least 150 police officers per 100,000 inhabitants, especially when there is the potential for severe instability.

And just to amplify that, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board released a study (.pdf) in 2004 concluding that “The United States will sometimes have ambitious goals for transforming a society in a conflicted environment. Those goals may well demand 20 troops per 1,000 inhabitants . . . working for five to eight years.”

Sure enough, if you look at the U.S. troop to Iraqi population in Kagan’s example of Tal Afar, you come up with more than 20 U.S. troops per 1,000 inhabitants. To get a 20 U.S. troops per 1,000 inhabitants ratio in Baghdad alone (population 6,000,000), you come up with 120,000 troops. And as Kagan admits in his article, the approach to Tal Afar, which involved building a large sand berm around the city to isolate it, “may not be appropriate for a large city like Baghdad.” Probably right.

Kagan also skirts the issue of force protection, the primary focus on which has kept U.S. casualties “low” at 3,000. Kagan admits, without openly pointing to the resulting skyrocket in dead Americans, that “close interaction with the population and even with the enemy is essential.”

This all leaves on the table the problem of whether or not a lot of the troublemakers in Baghdad wouldn’t head for the hinterland when they saw such a force coming. Senator John McCain, for all his faults, has this right when he worries about playing “Whack-a-Mole” across Iraq.

So then, what about cranking it up to 20/1,000 for all of Iraq? You’d need 500,000 troops.

In short, Kagan’s plan appears in any light to be a recipe for compounding the disaster of the neocons’ policies in Iraq thus far. But despite the history of the last four years, neoconservatives still have a tremendous amount of sway with the White House. Sharing the same a priori commitment to an illusory “victory” in Iraq seems to be a precondition of getting the president’s ear. It would be good if someone, at some point, would attempt to disabuse him of this idea, and confront him with the cold facts on the ground. It’s been almost four years.

The upshot, it seems, is that the neocons are going to get a “do over” in Iraq. And, unfortunately, it looks like the U.S. military is going to pay the price for their Mulligan.

Twilight Zone / Death sentence

By Gideon Levy

What is now going through the mind of the soldier who fired a loaded weapon at a boy on the Sunday before last - and killed him? What was he thinking when he aimed at the boy's head? Is he still thinking about his victim? Why does live ammunition have to be used against children, even if they are throwing stones at a armored vehicles? Don't the soldiers have other means of punishment? And what about the security cabinet's decision to promote calm in the West Bank, too?

On December 3, after all, the security cabinet decided that arrests in the West Bank would henceforth be made only with the authorization of the GOC Central Command - but apparently, in order to fire at the head of a boy and kill him, no authorization is required. It's enough to get out of the jeep, aim and fire. The Israel Defense Forces, we know, opposes a cease-fire in the West Bank, too.

Jamil Jabaji, 14, the "boy of the horses" from the Askar refugee camp in Nablus, had been throwing stones at an IDF Hummer making its way toward the camp, and a soldier killed him in cold blood. The vehicle was moving slowly, according to the children's testimony, stopping every once in a while, in what the youngsters thought was a type of provocation, as though trying to lure them closer, until it stopped and two soldiers stepped out, aiming their weapons at them. No teargas, not even rubber-coated bullets. Live fire. A death sentence for stone-throwing.

Jamil liked horses, acted in the drama group of the local community center, took karate lessons, was the goalie of the children's soccer team in the camp, and a member of the Boy Scouts. He was the tallest of the youngsters who stood on the cliff and threw stones at the jeep on the road below; maybe his height decreed his death. Maybe that's why the soldier aimed specifically at his head. The one bullet that entered the forehead and exited at the back of the neck, spelled instant death.

The next day the children erected a memorial for Jamil - a small pile of stones and a floral wreath, with his photograph in the center - at the edge of the olive grove, not far from the horse ranch where his beloved steed, Musahar, is stabled. Precisely at the spot where he fell. Jamil is the third boy to be killed here in the past few years, between Askar and the settlement of Elon Moreh, which dominates the area from the ridge of a hill across the way.

The narrow alleys in the new Askar camp are now decorated with pictures of the slain boy. It's cold in the Jabaji home and Grandma Askiya, swaddled in blankets, lies on her iron bed and spends all day staring at the photograph of her grandson, hanging on the opposite wall, wreathed in flowers. She is 78 and was born in Lod. Jamil was her youngest grandchild, the pampered baby of the family.

The father, Abed al-Karim, is not around. For most of his life he had worked in Eli's sausage factory in Bnei Brak; now, when Israel has killed his son, he is out of the country and cannot afford to return to mourn for him. A few days before the tragedy he went to Jordan with his son Hamis, 19, who has a rare terminal disease. Hamis is due to have surgery in Jordan, and his father doesn't have the money to return for the mourning period.

Wafiya, the bereaved mother, is wailing. She pulls Jamil's schoolbag out from under her bed and hurls it furiously onto the floor. "Did they say he was 'wanted'? He was afraid even to go to the outhouse in the yard by himself at night ... I always had to go with him."

A boy, Mohammed Masimi, enters the house, and the signs of shock are apparent in him as well. His face is frozen, he chews on his fingernails and stares vacantly. He was Jamil's best friend. "I still don't believe he is gone," he mumbles softly.

The two grew up together from infancy in the camp's alleys; together they went to the camp's school a week ago Sunday, together they were in Grade 9, together they returned home at midday. Jamil told Mohammed that in the afternoon he would go to his drama group in the community center. Afterward Jamil asked his mother for a shekel, to buy a sandwich until lunch would be ready. He left and never returned. He probably bought the sandwich and then went to the horse ranch at the end of the alley, at the edge of the camp, to see Musahar. He went to see the horse every day, fed it sugar and brushed it. That Sunday he also went off to the ranch, until he and his friends noticed the army jeep coming down from Elon Moreh. About 10 children, most of them Jamil's age, hurried to the nearby olive grove, under which passes the road that descends from the settlement toward the northern part of Nablus.

We now leave the house, too, following in Jamil's last steps. In Mahmoud Adawi's ranch the grayish horse is munching on hay. Five horses are locked in the skeleton of an empty truck; they are being trained for races. A few days before Jamil was killed, his Musahar won a competition in Jericho. Jamil never rode the animal - he was too heavy for a racehorse.

At the ranch we meet M. - a short, sweet boy with a chirpy voice, wearing a T-shirt that says Street Team - and A., a muscular kid of 15 whose hair is slicked down with gel, like most of the boys in the camp. M. and A. were among the boys who threw stones on that fatal Sunday. A.'s leg is scarred: In 2002 the IDF fired a shell at his home in the camp, killing four people, including his father and a boy of eight, and wounding him.

From the ranch we head for the olive grove. M. leads us, speaking in his childish voice. An autumn sun is shining. The grove is well tended, its soil tilled and strewn with rocks. The homes of Elon Moreh overhang the hill, the black road winds down from it. The road passes by the foot of the grove, but because of its steepness, it is visible only if one stands on the very edge of the nearby cliff, which is about 10 meters high. From here the road continues to the Wadi Bazan checkpoint, which separates Nablus and the Jenin area.

The children relate that they began to run along the cliff and threw stones at the Hummer; the road is still littered with them. The vehicle, they said, traveled slowly, stopping every few meters. They are convinced that this was done to make them throw more and more stones, and to come ever closer to the edge. The children fell into the trap. They spread out on the cliff, Jamil in the middle, busy throwing. And then the vehicle came to a full stop and two soldiers got out. They aimed their rifles and fired four bullets at the children.

Jamil was hit in the head and crumpled. The others ran for their lives in panic. Only M. and A. stayed behind, trying to drag their friend's body. But Jamil was a heavy boy and with their small arms they were unable to move him, until Ali Abu Sanafa, who lives in the last house before the olive grove, arrived on the scene, and helped them evacuate the boy. Jamil was taken in a taxi to Nablus' Rafidia Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The children say that his brains had spilled onto his clothes.

Why did you throw stones, I ask the children from Askar. Little M. offers his shy smile and says nothing. A. says, "It's a game." Since the tragedy they have not dared come back here. It was here, too, that another boy, Oday Tantawi, 14, also fell; over there Bashar Zabara, who was 13, died. Both of them were killed in the olive grove, just meters from the makeshift memorial for Jamil. The owner of the ranch says that Jamil sometimes came by at six in the morning, before going to school, to feed his horse.

Jamil did not have a room of his own. He shared a double bed. There is no table in the house. On the wall hangs a certificate attesting that Jamil has achieved a yellow belt in Shotokan karate. His mother also shows his Boy Scouts certificate, with the image of a boy in a blue tie, light-blue shirt and blue beret.

In the camp's community center a young volunteer from Sweden explains to a refugee girl where Africa is on the colored map on the wall. Jamil's photograph has already been pasted on the glass door. The center's director, Yusuf Abu Saraya, says that Jamil participated in most of the center's activities, but liked the drama group especially. Here is his photograph, showing him standing on the stone stage in the well-kept playground, a gift from Europe, his face painted with war colors.

"We hope the army will not come to Askar anymore," Abu Saraya says. "It is hard to prevent the children from throwing stones. There is no army base here, only a refugee camp. The olive grove is the only place where the children can leave the crowded camp and breathe fresh air. Jamil is not the first boy to be killed there."

Abu Saraya adds: "The Israelis do not say they killed a boy. They say they killed someone who was endangering the soldiers' lives. But what child can endanger the lives of soldiers? Sometimes they say the boy was armed - but what child can carry a rifle? What excuse do they have to come here at all? If you want to defend your country, do not come to Askar. From here you do not defend Tel Aviv. Askar does not endanger Tel Aviv."

The IDF Spokesperson's response: "At the behest of the military advocate general, an investigation has been launched by the military police into the circumstances surrounding this incident. At the culmination of this inquiry, the findings will be submitted to the advocate general's office."

UN demands an immediate halt to Israeli settlements

Middle East News
Dec 16, 2006, 17:52 GMT

New York - The United Nations has demanded that Israel immediately halt its controversial settlement policy, it was reported Saturday.

'Settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights (are) illegal and an obstacle to peace as well as economic and social development,' a resolution passed by the UN General Assembly with 162 votes in favour late Friday in New York said.

Eight countries, including Israel and the United States, voted against the resolution, while 10 abstained.

The UN also called on Israel to guarantee the security of aid organizations working in the Palestinian Territories.

The 15-member Security Council renewed the mandate of the UN observer force in the Golan Heights for another cycle. The UN force that has observed the truce between Israel and Syria since 1974 is now due to remain in the area until the middle of 2007 at least.

There are 1,000 soldiers in the Golan Heights force from countries like Austria, Canada and India.

© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Stop the Funding of the War!


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The Warmonger’s Christmas Carols

by Laurence M. Vance

It begins soon after the Thanksgiving holiday. You hear them in stores. You listen to them on the radio. You sing them in church. You probably have some of them on a CD. I am referring, of course, to Christmas carols, like say: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, O Christmas Tree, O Come All Ye Faithful, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, Angels from the Realms of Glory, O Little Town of Bethlehem, The First Noel.

Although Christmas is the time when people celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), if some people were honest they would have to acknowledge that they also honor Mars, the Roman god of war. And if this wasn’t bad enough, they honor him every day of the year, not just on December 25. They honor Mars every time they claim to support the troops.

Americans are in love with the U.S. military. As the fiasco that is the war in Iraq has shown, it doesn’t matter how senseless the war, it doesn’t matter how many lies the war is based on, it doesn’t matter how much the Bush administration manipulated intelligence, it doesn’t matter how much the war costs, it doesn’t matter how long the war lasts, it doesn’t matter how many thousands of American soldiers are killed or injured, and it certainly doesn’t matter how many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are killed or injured – too many Americans can be found who still mindlessly repeat the refrain of "support the troops." Some American Christians chime in with their "obey the powers that be" mantra. Coupled with the melody of "we can’t just cut and run" and the chorus of "it is better to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here," we have a four-part warmonger harmony.

Because it is the Christmas season, and the sound of Christmas carols is everywhere, I have taken the liberty to rewrite the traditional carols that I have mentioned above.

If Americans who are so enamored with the military were honest, this is what they should really be singing during this time of the year:

God rest ye merry soldiers
Let nothing you dismay,
Remember, the U.S. military
Still fights on Christmas day;
To kill those darn Iraqis
Because they have gone astray.
O tidings of destruction and death,
Destruction and death.
O tidings of destruction and death.

O Uniform! O Uniform!
I can kill when I wear thee.
O Uniform! O Uniform!
I can kill when I wear thee.
Not only when the summer's here,
But also when 'tis cold and drear.
O Uniform! O Uniform!
I can kill when I wear thee.

O come all ye soldiers
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Baghdad.
Come and behold them,
Muslim worshippers of Allah.
O come, let us bomb them,
O come, let us maim them,
O come, let us kill them,
Ragheads galore.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That horrible sound of old,
Of soldiers flying near the earth,
With bombs to drop from their hold.
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From America's mighty military!"
Iraq in solemn horror lay
To hear the bombs zing.

Soldiers from the U.S. military,
Fire your weapons o'er all Baghdad.
Ye who seek to kill for glory,
Now have a chance to make your heart glad:
Fire your weapon,
Fire your weapon,
Fire your weapon for Bush the king!

O little town of Baghdad
How still we see thee lie;
Above all thy destruction
The U.S. air force flies.
And in thy dark streets shineth
America's military might.
The bombs and bullets of all us here
Will be unleashed on thee tonight.

The first bullet, George Bush did say
Was for certain poor Iraqis in deserts as they lay,
In sand where they lay all night in a heap
On a March '03 night that was so deep.
Oh well, Oh well, Oh well, Oh well;
Now is the time for us to blow you to hell!

How irreverent, says the supporter of the U.S. military. Sacrilegious, says the defender of the war in Iraq. Blasphemous, says the Christian warmonger. Is that so? Why is it not considered irreverent when people ask God to bless the troops? Why is it not considered sacrilegious when people pray that God would protect the troops? Why is it not considered blasphemous when Christians campaign for Bush and defend his war?

For those who refuse to listen to anything I say about the military because I never "served" – and would in fact prefer that I shred all the copies of my book, Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State – I highly recommend the work of West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran Andrew Bacevich. His recent book is called The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (Oxford, 2005). I have previously written about his book in the context of the conservative Christian love affair with the U.S. military. There is still time to get the book in time for Christmas. If there is one book to give to current and former members of the military, as well as their enthusiasts, this is the book.

War brings out the worst in young men. What we tolerate from them, and what they tolerate from themselves, would normally be repugnant to any civilized person. It is tolerated because it is sanitized (in the minds of many) because a soldier wears a uniform, is surrounded by a great company of other soldiers, and kills by government decree.

The folly of this idea can be seen in the story of the reply given to Alexander the Great (356–323 B.C.) by a captured pirate that was recounted by Augustine (354–430) sixteen hundred years ago in his famous work, The City of God:

Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, "What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor" (book IV, chapter 4).

Writing on the causes, consequences, and lawfulness of war, along with comments on the probable practical effects of adhering to the moral law in respect to war, Jonathan Dymond (1796–1828), one young in years but old in wisdom, stated:

Another cause of our complacency with war, and therefore another cause of war itself, consists in that callousness to human misery which the custom induces. They who are shocked at a single murder on the highway, hear with indifference of the slaughter of a thousand on the field. They whom the idea of a single corpse would thrill with terror, contemplate that of heaps of human carcasses mangled by human hands, with frigid indifference. If a murder is committed, the narrative is given in the public newspaper, with many adjectives of horror – with many expressions of commiseration, and many hopes that the perpetrator will be detected. In the next paragraph, the editor, perhaps, tells us that he has hurried in a second edition to the press, in order that he may be the first to glad the public with the intelligence, that in an engagement which has just taken place, eight hundred and fifty of the enemy were killed. Now, is not this latter intelligence eight hundred and fifty times as deplorable as the first? Yet the first is the subject of our sorrow, and this – of our joy! The inconsistency and disproportionateness which has been occasioned in our sentiments of benevolence, offers a curious moral phenomenon.

He also wrote about why wars are often so popular:

But perhaps the most operative cause of the popularity of war, and of the facility with which we engage in it, consists in this; that an idea of glory is attached to military exploits, and of honor to the military profession. The glories of battle, and of those who perish in it, or who return in triumph to their country, are favorite topics of declamation with the historian, the biographers, and the poet. They have told us a thousands times of dying heroes, who "resign their lives amidst the joys of conquest, and, filled with their country’s glory, smile in death;" and thus every excitement that eloquence and genius can command, is employed to arouse that ambition of fame which can be gratified only at the expense of blood.

It is indeed "a curious moral phenomenon" that many Americans, the vast majority of whom claim to be a Christian of one sort or another, can sing traditional Christmas carols one minute and – by defending Bush and his war, glorifying the military, and repeating their mindless mantras – sing warmonger Christmas carols the next.

December 14, 2006

Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] is a freelance writer and an adjunct instructor in accounting at Pensacola Junior College in Pensacola, FL. He is also the director of the Francis Wayland Institute. He is the author of Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State. His latest book is King James, His Bible, and Its Translators. Visit his website.

Copyright © 2006

Laurence M. Vance Archives

Starbucks Against Ethiopia

Go to Original

By Eric Leser
Le Monde

Thursday 14 December 2006

Coffee is by far Ethiopia's main resource. It represents between 40 and 60 percent of the country's exports and assures the survival of about 15 million people, essentially the families of poor farmers. In an attempt to increase its income and protect itself from the catastrophic collapse of prices, like the one that took place between 2000 and 2003, Addis Ababa is trying to register the brand names for the regions where its most well-known coffees - Sidamo, Yirgacheffe, and Harar - are produced, much the way cognac or Roquefort are registered.

But Ethiopia runs up against Starbucks. The multinational makes liberal use of Ethiopian names to sell its beverages and does not want to hear about paying for trademarks. Oxfam, the English organization that preaches fair trade, has accused the American group for months of depriving Ethiopian farmers of at least $90 million of additional income per year. "Harar and Sidamo coffees are sold for as much as $24 to $26 a pound by Starbucks. The farmers who grow them receive between 60 cents and $1.10 per pound," explains Oxfam's Seth Petchers.

Ethiopia's first attempt to protect the Sidamo brand goes back to March 2005. The file submitted to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) was ultimately rejected. Starbucks had previously tried to register a brand including the word Sidamo. The campaign led by Oxfam has nonetheless forced Starbucks to change strategy and hide behind the National Coffee Association (NCA). In order to reject the Ethiopian request, the USPTO cited the NCA, asserting that regional names are "generic."

Addis Ababa has until the end of the month to make an appeal and will undoubtedly do so. But the country vitally needs to sell its coffee. The Ethiopian government has offered Starbucks a free license in exchange for a registered brand. Eleven American coff?e distributors have already agreed to the proposition. Two weeks ago, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi met with Starbucks boss Jim Donald. But the latter remains unyielding.

The American group proposes a geographic certification of Ethiopian coffees similar to the appellations controles of French wines, Florida orange juice or Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. While Ethiopian farmers often obtain less than 5 percent of their product's final sale price, those of Jamaica get as much as 45 percent. The American authorities are suggesting that certification brings transparency to the system and that the additional revenue really will end up in the farmers' pockets.

Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.

Action Alert: Ask Veolia advisors to take a stand for Justice in Palestine!

December 16th, 2006 |

from the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign

Connex / Veolia and Alstom are the international investors in the Citypass consortium that will build and run a light rail project in Jerusalem that incorporates a number of Jewish settlements around East Jerusalem, built on stolen Palestinian land. It ensures the contiguity of these colonies with the central areas of the city and plays a key role in sustaining the settlements and ensuring they become a permanent fixture upon Palestinian land.

Veolia’s involvement in the tramline makes the company complicit in Israel’s violations of international law reaping significant profits over a 30 year period, money stained with the blood and misery of Palestinians under Occupation and currently being expelled from Jerusalem.

Veolia has rejected to heed the calls from Palestine and international organizations.

Thus international pressure is mounting on the corporation to stop their involvement in the Judaization of Jerusalem.

* Connex shuttles have been blockaded in Geneva.

* Following protests by trade unions and IPSC in August 2006, Veolia Transport Ireland had called off plans to train Israeli personnel to operate the tramline in Jerusalem.

* In November the Dutch ASN Bank decided to divest from Veolia until the company respects the relevant UN resolutions.

Support us in putting further pressure on Veolia!

Address the advisors of the Institut Veolia Environnement, the group’s prestige institute aiming to “propose a forum for dialogue and interchange with academia, institutions and the different actors in society.”

Ask the intellectuals associated with the institute to re-consider their support of Veolia as long as Veolia supports violations of Palestinian rights!

Foresight committee Institut Veolia Environnement:
Amartya Sen: (cc )
Philippe Kourilsky:
Pierre Marc Johnson:
Harvey Fineberg:
Mamphela Ramphele:
Helene Ahrweiler: (no email available)

cc: Georges Valentis:
(Managing Director of Institut Veolia Environnement)

>From :

Date: ____________

Open letter to the Foresight Committee members of the Institut Veolia Environnement

Dear Foresight Committee members,

We are addressing you in your capacity as experts supporting the efforts of Institut Veolia Environnement.

We know that all of you have dedicated a great part of your life and expertise to the promotion of human rights and social, economic, cultural and political rights of people all over the world. We appreciate your commitment and are writing you now to urge you to continue your support for human rights for all.

We would like to inform you about the implications of your association with the Institut Veolia in terms of its’ violations of international law, UN resolutions, and Palestinian human rights and cultural heritage.

As you may know, Veolia, together with Alstom, are the international investors in the Citypass consortium that won a 2002 tender put out by Israeli authorities for a light rail transportation project in Jerusalem amounting to around 500 million euros. Citypass will be responsible for operation and maintenance of the system for the next thirty years.*

The path of the light rail incorporates a number of Jewish settlements around East Jerusalem, built on stolen Palestinian land. It ensures the contiguity of these colonies with the central areas of the city and provides them with a vital transport link. The project boasts that the “Ammunition Hill” station of the network will operate as the feeder station for settler traffic from Ma’aleh Adumim, a large Israeli settlement in the West Bank, and from settlements in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley. The light rail project plays a key role in sustaining the settlements and ensuring they become a permanent fixture upon Palestinian land.

In August 2005, the project got the go ahead from War Criminal Ariel Sharon who stated at a signing ceremony: “I believe that this should be done, and in any event, anything that can be done to strengthen Jerusalem, construct it, expand it and sustain it for eternity as the capital of the Jewish people and the united capital of the State of Israel, should be done.” The Occupation’s Mayor Uri Lupolianski described the light rail to be “the fulfillment of Psalm 122.” The tramline is clearly part of a larger plan to substitute Jerusalem’s historical and unique social fabric and its cultural heritage with a new brand of a “Judaized” version of Jerusalem.

According to international law, an occupying power is not allowed to annex or drastically change the infrastructure in the territories it occupies. The advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in July 2004 confirmed that Israel is an occupying power and that building the Wall and Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories is illegal. However, the tramline project runs through the occupied Palestinian territories. Veolia’s involvement in the tramline will make the company complicit in Israel’s violations of international law.

The project, a private-public partnership (PPP) between the Israeli Occupation government and the consortium, is hinged upon the willingness of international business groupings to provide a huge injection of capital. In turn Veolia and Alstom will reap significant profits and dividends over a thirty-year period, money stained with the blood and misery of Palestinians under Occupation and currently being expelled from Jerusalem.

Veolia has received a lot of criticism since it first announced its intentions to become involved in the illegal project. Stop the Wall and other Palestinian civil society organizations have launched appeals against its participation in the tramway. President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas and French President Jacques Chirac already discussed Veolia’s partnership in the tramline project in the summer of 2005. Amnesty International France highlighted the unlawfulness of the construction of the tramline in East Jerusalem in a public statement on 1 March 2006.

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) revealed in August 2006 that Veolia Transport Ireland had called off plans to train Israeli personnel to operate a similar tramline in East Jerusalem, following trade union protests inspired by the IPSC.

Then in November the Dutch ASN Bank ended its relationship with Veolia and wrote to Veolia:

“….We believe that Veolia’s involvement in the light rail project is not in line with the UN’s demand to stop all support for Israel’s settlement activities, and is therefore not in line with ASN Banks’ social criteria. Due to the direct nature of Veolia’s involvement (through a 5% stake in the consortium and as future operator), we are of the opinion that Veolia’s activities in Jerusalem are in conflict with UN Resolutions. Therefore, on this current information Veolia will be removed from our investment universe.”

In the light of the above, we urge you to take a stand for justice and international law and to join the international efforts to convince the Veolia group to consider the role human rights should play in investments.

We ask you to re-consider your support of Veolia as long as Veolia supports violations of our rights and international legality.

As Veolia has not heeded the calls from Palestine and various international organizations, ending your relationship with Veolia—just as the ASN Bank did—will allow you to truly “participate in defining the overall direction and contribute to the discussions led by the Institut Veolia Environnement.”



Posted in Jerusalem Region, Action Alert

Catholic Church cancels Christmas Crib

The Sacred Heart Catholic church in St Ives has cancelled its annual ‘Live Crib’ event in protest against the Israeli wall being built around the holy city of Bethlehem. In place of crib, there will be erected a life-size replica portion of the Israeli concrete blockade that is causing untold suffering to the ordinary citizens of the city. The wall will stand as a symbol of the plight of these ‘abandoned’ people.

In addition, large protest banners and stark photographs will stand alongside the ‘wall’ to show passers-by how desperate and ugly the situation is in the Holy Land.

Father Paul, who is a friend of Bethlehem University and a frequent visitor, is confident that the people of St Ives will want to express their support for the people of the Holy Land at Christmas. “The lives of the ordinary citizens of Bethlehem have been devastated by the building of the wall. It affects every aspect of their lives; friends and family are separated, earning a living becomes more and more difficult, access to health care is severely restricted all in the town of Bethlehem that we sing about at this time of the year. If we can provide them with a few extra basic provisions and give them a little financial support, we can help make their lives more bearable.”

This is not the first time the Church of the Sacred Heart in St Ives expresses its commitment to the Palestinian people. In 2003 the Church of the Sacred Heart twinned with the Catholic parish in Aboud Village on the West Bank. Father Maddison, along with groups from St Ives and other places in East Anglia, has made regular visits to take donations and lend support to the Aboud villagers, who are Christians and Muslims. He has seen first-hand the suffering and increasingly worsening plight of the families who live there.

This year, the Church of the Sacred Heart will allocate all the donations and offerings it receives from its friends and supporters, to the different organisations and institutions in the city of Bethlehem.


Anger Mismanagement: The Imperative Option

By James T. Moore on Dec 16, 06

In response to the public’s current penchant for anger, even at the slightest social or personal provocation, the psychological community is having a field day with group therapies, stress counseling, and exercise regimens.

In short, Anger Management has taken the mental health industry by storm, and is in its glory days. It is ideal therapy for the reason-deprived citizens who have temper tantrums, bash skulls at football games, occasionally hit their spouses, and are major contributors to road rage.

On the other hand, when you look beyond the local scene into the murky depths of world politics, international crises, erroneous foreign policy, and domestic secrecy and cover-ups Anger Management doesn’t work at all, because otherwise well-meaning Americans—God help them--- don’t see or hear anything to get angry about.

Millions of peaceful, non-confrontational citizens mind their own business, seldom think past their daily news, never get into trouble, and on hearing shocking political news on TV, sadly shake their heads and say, “Isn’t that just awful.” No anger, no indignation, no disgust, nothing. In such cases, Anger Management isn’t needed, but Anger Mismanagement has a big patient list waiting.

Anger Mismanagement means not trying to halt or manage your anger but to have the courage and conviction to hold nothing back, to let it all out, when and where it does the most good, and is most needed.

Anger Mismanagement finds its purpose in today’s American politics, with its hegemonic world conflicts and dominion, stupid foreign policy decisions, and domestic
corruption promulgated by greedy, agenda-driven human beings working in secret political back-alleys that honest, ethical people find abhorrent, decidedly un-American, dangerously unconstitutional, and often on the cusp of treason.

Anger Mismanagement is badly needed here:

How did you feel when you heard that illegal aliens are stampeding into America and the Bush administration turns its back on the problem?

If you started to get angry but “managed” it, you copped out on your country.

You should have been spitting mad, and said so. When your ancestors came over here they had to take the oath of allegiance, learn some English, and have their beards inspected for lice. And none of them got a free anything. That should make your blood boil.And when you heard that Bush has signed a document that will make America, Mexico, and Canada one nation called the North American Union, what was your reaction? Did you think: “I don’t like it, but now at least I won’t need “papers” to go back and forth,” Instead, of venting your anger you “managed” it, and in so doing, you lost your cedibility as a concerned citizen. You may also lose your country.

If this law passes, America will lose its sovereignty, cheap labor will cross borders, our standard of living will suffer, and the American dream will become a nightmare. All because you and others didn’t bother to get blistering mad about it.

And when you heard that the Bush administration is intent on making America part of the New World Order, was your first thought: “What’s the big deal? We all live in the same world, don’t we?”

Yes, we do. But knowing that most of the world doesn’t have our high standard of living. and that our founders suffered and died to give us the freedom and independence we enjoy, you still didn’t get your back up. You are determined not to get angry. How noble. But when America is gradually reduced to “third world” status and you’re scuffling just to sustain your family with the necessities of life, you’ll kick yourself for not getting fighting mad soon enough. And well you should.

And when you discovered that a cabal of neo-con “new worlders” are actually running our government, NOT the true Republican party, you might have said to yourself: “Why get upset ? Doesn’t ‘neo-con’ mean “new Conservative? What’s wrong with that?” Plenty. Neo-cons are an elite cabal of well-educated, well-healed “one worlders” who “stole” the mantle of Conservatism and are now implementing the systematic dissolution of the United States in a treacherous power play that will usher in tyranny, with the destroyers of our Constitution calling the shots. But you didn’t bother to voice any anger and demand a halt to this dangerous development. You sat back and did nothing. What happened to the courage and patriotism you bragged so much about?

And when, after four years, 2,900 American soldiers and marines are dead, 30,000-plus are wounded, thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens (including children) have been killed, top generals concede the war is being lost, the cost of the Iraqi war ($380 billion so far) is draining our economy, you hear President Bush, in denial of reality, say: “We will not cut and run, we will stay the course.” you were disgusted and your anger boiled to the top, But you put a clamp on it and never let it out.

Why, for God’s sake? Have Americans lost their grit and guts? Have we become a nation of silent observers as “Rome burns.” Are we willing to accept the worst thing that can happen to America and to us, without a murmur, a complaint, a dissent? Without a fire in the belly, clenched fists, and a healthy outburst of justified anger?

In the movie, “Network”, activist Howard Beale stands before the TV cameras and angrily takes the big corporations and the collusive Government to task. He rails at the culture of corruption, mishandling of public funds, gross irresponsibility, rampant nepotism, and disenfranchisement of the middle class. Then in a booming voice he challenges the TV audience to open their windows and shout to the world: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore! I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!” And the streets, one by one, rang out with anger.

Are there no more Howard Beales left in America?

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By James T. Moore on Dec 16, 06 | Email | Profile Permalink