American Methodists Must Be Fearless about Divestment

By Stuart Littlewood

Why is the United Methodist Church apparently making such heavy weather of voting for divestment from corporates – specifically Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard – that profiteer from the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine?

Americans can surely learn from their British brethren who blazed a trail through this minefield at their annual conference nearly two years ago. They voted to boycott products from Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine, regarded as illegal under international law, and to encourage Methodists across the country to do the same.

Been There, Done That

Their action answered a call from Palestinian Christians, a growing number of Jewish organisations both inside Israel and worldwide, and the World Council of Churches.

Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relationships, explained: “The goal of the boycott is to put an end to the existing injustice. It reflects the challenge that settlements present to a lasting peace in the region.”

Yes, they got some flak. Right on cue, the Board of Deputies of British Jews blew a fuse. In a joint statement with the Jewish Leadership Council they said the Methodists should “hang their heads in shame”. The Chief Rabbi led the charge warning that the implications would “reverberate across the hitherto harmonious relationship between the faith communities in the UK”.

Ah, those precious inter-faith relationships… The truth is, Israeli Jews simply don’t do “harmonious relationship” out there in the Occupied Territories. Terror, oppression and dispossession are more their style.

What upset the Chief Rabbi most was the report ‘Justice for Palestine and Israel’ submitted to the Methodist Conference. Its recommendations included the following…

“In listening to Church Leaders and our fellow-Christians in Israel Palestine as well as leaders of Palestinian civil society we hear an increasing consensus calling for the imposition of boycott, divestment and sanctions as a major strategy of non-violent resistance to the Occupation. The Conference notes the call of the WCC [World Council of Churches] in 2009 for an ‘international boycott of settlement produce and services’ and calls on the Methodist people to support and engage with this boycott of Israeli goods emanating from illegal settlements (some Methodists would advocate a total boycott of Israeli goods until the Occupation ends).”

It also said that the Methodist Church had consistently expressed its concern over the illegal Occupation of Palestinian lands by the State of Israel, and that its continuation not only compounded Israel’s illegal and immoral action but also made any accommodation with the Palestinian people and future peace in the region less likely.

The Chief Rabbi declared the report “unbalanced, factually and historically flawed” without saying in what way it was inaccurate. The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council said the authors of the report had “abused the goodwill of the Jewish community”. Here is their full text:

“This is a very sad day, both for Jewish-Methodist relations and for everyone who wants to see positive engagement with the complex issues of Israeli-Palestinian relations. The Methodist Conference has swallowed hook, line and sinker a report full of basic historical inaccuracies, deliberate misrepresentations and distortions of Jewish theology and Israeli policy. The deeply flawed report is symptomatic of a biased process: The working group which wrote the report had already formed its conclusions at the outset. External readers were brought in to give the process a veneer of impartiality, but their criticisms were rejected. The report’s authors have abused the trust of ordinary members of the Methodist Church, who assumed that they were reading and voting on an impartial and comprehensive paper, and they have abused the goodwill of the Jewish community, which tried to engage with this issue, only to find that our efforts were treated as an unwelcome distraction.

“This outcome is extremely serious and damaging, as we and others have explained repeatedly over recent weeks. Israel is at the root of the identity of Jews and of Judaism, and as an expression of Jewish spiritual, national and emotional aspirations, Zionism cannot simply be ruled as illegitimate in the way that the Methodist Conference has purported to do. This smacks of breathtaking insensitivity, as crass as it is misinformed. That this position should now form the basis of Methodist Church policy should cause the Conference to hang its head in shame, just as surely as it will cause the enemies of peace and reconciliation to cheer from the sidelines.”

If Israel is at the root of their identity you’d think they’d demand from the regime the sort of conduct that projected a better image. For 46 years the “goodwill” of the Jewish community has counted for nothing in securing justice for the Palestinians and bringing to an end their misery at the hands of the State if Israel. Who are they to talk of “breathtaking insensitivity”?

If arrogance is the only response to serious concerns about Israel’s barbarity towards Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land, perhaps it’s time that implications did indeed “reverberate” across the faith communities, not only in the UK but around the world including (and especially) the US.

Infiltrators Avidly Support “Unrighteous Nation” of Israel

It’s no surprise to hear that the United Methodists, and even their legislative body, have been infiltrated by Zionists. They should expect it and be ready to throw them out.

Over here the grit in the Methodists’ vaseline call themselves Methodist Friends of Israel. “We are Christians who are members or adherents of the Methodist Church, who love Israel and want to bless her and who fully accept God’s everlasting covenant with His chosen people,” they say. “While recognising that the nation of Israel is, like all nations of the world, an unrighteous nation that does not always get things right, we firmly stand with her at all times and continue to support her in an increasingly hostile world. We will not turn our backs as so many did in the 1930s.

“We see that anti Semitism is on the rise throughout the world with synagogues and graveyards vandalised and Jews being attacked both verbally and physically and that there appears to be a direct relationship between the increased attacks on Jews and the blanket condemnation of Israel by the media, many charitable organizations and world bodies such as the UN. We are concerned that the whole, true picture of what life is like in Israel is given to the world rather than the biased half truths, distortions and lies that are presently reported.

“We are concerned that many churches are going down the politically correct line of condemning Israel’s policies and are thus contributing to the strong anti Semitic views of the world.”

Note that they are concerned only with “what life is like in Israel”, not the hell Israel has created in the Occupied Territories for Christian and Muslim Palestinians. They blame others for rising anti-Semitic sentiment and fail to see that the lawless thuggery of the Israeli regime is the problem.

What else do these deviant Methodists believe in?

  • They believe the Scripture prophesy restoring the Jews to the land of Israel. What we see today is a fulfilment of the prophecy and it is a privilege to witness this fulfillment.
  • They believe Israel is central in the enactment of God’s purposes as we move in these “last days”.
  • They believe in blessing Israel however possible including buying goods and produce from Israel and resisting all calls for boycotts.
  • They believe in supporting Israel’s defence of its people and their right to live without the threat of missile attacks, homicide bombings etc.
  • They believe in standing against libelous attacks against Israel.
  • They believe in fully supporting Israel’s right to the land given them by God.

Needless to say, the Methodist Friends of Israel website reads like pages from some Zionist propaganda rag. At this very moment they are running a tour of Israel. Of Israel, mark you, not Palestine. What sort of view of the Holy Land will that give their pilgrims?

Enough of This Inter-faith lah-di-dah?

Having taken their bold decision at the conference and bravely flown through the flak, UK Methodists let themselves down somewhat by turning wimpish. They began trying to mend fences with the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Why bother, one is tempted to ask. Why demean themselves? Have the Board of Deputies ever condemned or punished the Israeli regime’s crimes against humanity?
Until they do, let them stew.

Nevertheless the President of the Methodist Conference wrote to the Board of Deputies and the President of the Board of Deputies, we’re told, welcomed the opportunity for a constructive conversation. They explored in particular, said a statement, the need to clarify the use of specific words and phrases such as Zionism and Christian Zionism. And they expressed their gratitude for the support given by the Council of Christians and Jews.

So they’re friends again and all’s well that ends well. Which must be gratifying for Palestinians as they continue to starve under the jackboot and fry or be parted from their limbs under almost daily air-strikes.

It’s not good enough. True Christians everywhere – not just the Methodists – need to stiffen the sinew and toughen up. Why continue this inter-faith lah-di-dah with religious delinquents? Decent and sensible people from all faiths get along just fine without help from religious busybodies and loudmouths.
But if the irredeemable hardcore are determined to stir up “reverberations” they are of course free to do so, within the limits of the law.

– Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine can now be read on the internet by visiting www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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What’s Next for Libya?

posted by Steve Lendman @ 12:23 AM

My PhotoNATO’s “responsibility to protect” (R2P) was subterfuge to wage war. Months of terror bombing left Libya a charnel house.

Africa’s most developed country was ravaged, not liberated. Protracted struggle continues. Expect it to persist for years.

When is war not war? It’s when mass killing and destruction are called the right thing. It’s also when terrorizing and traumatizing an entire population continues unaddressed.

Libya breaking into separate countries after NATO intervention
Libya was developed and peaceful until NATO intervened. It arrived on cruise missiles, bombs, shells, other munitions, depleted and enriched uranium, other terror weapons, fifth column infiltrators, and media scoundrel complicity, as well as coverup and denial.

No nation or alliance may interfere in the internal affairs of another except in self-defense if attacked. NATO R2P authority was Trojan Horse deception. Crimes of war and against humanity followed. They continue out-of-control.

NATO’s still involved. Thousands of US forces guard key oil facilities, ports, and perhaps other strategic sites. Occasional air attacks occur. NATO warships occupy Libya’s ports. US, Italian, French, and perhaps other forces are involved. January reports from Misrata said Apache helicopters slaughtered rebels trying to scale Brega oil platforms.

Insurgents battle each other and Green Resistance for control. Frequent clashes leave rivals and civilians dead or injured. Militias control local areas and neighborhoods. Thousands of Gaddafi loyalists and Black African guest workers were murdered or held captive and tortured. Dark-skinned Libyans and guest workers are especially threatened.
 
On October 23, Obama duplicitously “congratulated the people of Libya on today’s declaration of liberation. After four decades of brutal dictatorship and eight months of deadly conflict, the Libyan people can now celebrate their freedom and the beginning of a new era of promise.”

He’s a frontman for power. He’s an inveterate liar and war criminal multiple times over. He added another imperial trophy to colonize, plunder and exploit. Keeping it’s another matter. Libya’s one of history’s great crime. Green Resistance struggles to restore Jamahiriya rule.

Obama matched the worst of Bush and exceeded him. Libyans, Afghans, Iraqis, and Syrians revile him. So do millions of others for good reason. Hopefully one day they’ll have the last word.



Qaddhafi could have got on a flight to Cuba;
but he died fighting in defence of Libya



Liberation never comes easily or quickly. For sure, it’s worth protracted struggle to achieve, no matter the cost.
 
Gaddafi was no coward or quitter. Neither are Libyans and others throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.



Their liberating struggle won’t end until America’s imperial scourge ends, and NATO’s consigned to the dustbin of history. Humanity depends on it.

NATO’s sole new millennium accomplishment consists of endless unwinnable wars. Coalition partners eventually tire and pull out.

America may end up isolated. It excels in making enemies and losing friends.



The battle for Iraq continues. Afghanistan’s war was lost years ago. Libya’s also though political Washington, coalition partners, media scoundrels, and NATO won’t admit it.

The alliance wages lawless imperial aggression against nonbelligerent countries. Yugoslavia was first, then Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Daily terror bombings massacred tens of thousands of Libyans. Insurgent gangs continue committing shocking atrocities. Libya’s revolutionary struggle won’t end until Green Resistance purges them eliminates NATO’s control.

Gaddafi’s murder investigation was whitewashed. Killers don’t judge themselves guilty.

In mid-February, a UN News Centre release “welcomed….Libya’s new electoral authorities.” It urged “free elections” be held as soon as possible.

On February 12, members of Libya’s so-called Higher National Electoral Commission (HNEC) were sworn in days after National Transitional Council (NTC) officials adopted electoral laws to choose National Congress members. A 200-member constituent assembly is planned.

The Jamahiriya News Agency (JANA) quoted HNEC’s Othman al-Kajiji saying last week in June “elections will be held on schedule as set by the constitutional declaration.”

So-called elections install powerless puppets subservient to Washington, Britain, France, and other rogue NATO partners. Free Libya won’t exist until loyalists regain it.

Last September, Security Council Resolution 2009 established a UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Its mandate belies its mission.

Allegedly it’s tasked to “restor(e) public security and the rule of law, promot(e) inclusive political dialogue and national reconciliation, and (help) the (NTC) embark on the drafting of a new constitution and on laying the foundation for new elections.”

In fact, it’s part of NATO’s imperial occupation. UN Special Representative for Libya’s Ian Martin heads it. He’s Ban Ki-moon’s Post-Conflict for Libya Special Advisor. He serves Washington and other NATO allies, not Libyans.

They face enormous challenges to overcome. They include imperial occupation, destabilization, divisiveness, and violence ravaging the country. Media scoundrels report nothing. Libyans fear what’s next.



A view of the deserted town of Tawergha, Libya,
on September 4, 2011.



Insurgents battle for local control. Death squads eliminate rivals and other targeted victims. Tawergha residents were terrorized last year. Their nightmare continues.

Thousands were killed or exiled to refugee camps. Raids continue. Arrests, torture and deaths result. Human rights atrocities are horrific. Other areas are targeted. Libya’s a raging cauldron. No central control exists.

NATO intends the same fate for Syria and elsewhere. Installing Western puppets is planned. In Libya, they got more than they bargained for. The same holds for Afghanistan and Iraq. Nonetheless, conflicts and violence continue. With more planned, the entire region’s threatened.

Libya was ravaged and destroyed. Tens of thousands were killed, many more injured and displaced. Violence, fear and poverty replaced Gaddafi’s social state. No wonder most Libyans supported him. No wonder they revile NATO.

The alliance hailed a successful mission accomplished. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the war an “inspiring revolution.” He added that Washington helped “creat(e) a unique alliance against tyranny and for freedom.”

Libyans know otherwise. Daily terror replaced peace and calm. None of it shows signs of ending. No one knows who’s next to die. Everyone suffers. Kafkaesque reality plagues the country. Few doubt who’s responsible.

In February 2011, the UN Human Rights Council established the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya. In March 2012, it reported crimes of war and against humanity committed by both sides.

It said insurgents “committed serious violations, including war crimes and breaches of international human rights law, the latter continuing at the time of the present report. The Commission found these violations to include unlawful killing, arbitrary arrest, torture, enforced disappearance, indiscriminate attacks, and pillage.”

It didn’t address horrific NATO war crimes. Instead it said participating nations “conducted a highly precise campaign with a demonstrable determination to avoid civilian casualties.” It added that further investigations are recommended to evaluate its effectiveness.

Thousands of bombing missions reigned death and destruction for months. Civilians were willfully targeted. Western and Qatari Special Forces aided insurgent violence. Coverup and denial whitewash NATO crimes. Washington orchestrated and directed them. Gaddafi’s Libya no longer exists.

On January 21, Press TV cited the London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq Alawsat saying Washington sent 12,000 soldiers to Libya. They landed in Brega. They came to control key oil fields, facilities and ports.

A Final Comment

Wherever NATO intervenes, death, destruction, and human misery follow. Libya’s disintegrating in chaos and violence. Tribes and rebel gangs battle for dominance. NTC control’s impossible. A new semi-autonomous Cyrenaica region was declared. It extends from Sirte to Egypt’s border. It holds about two-thirds of Libya’s oil.

Oil rich Fezzan region also seeks independence. Tripolitania remains. Its own oil fields lie close to Tripoli. Syrian insurgents are being trained there.

Last year, some observers predicted balkanization. In early March, factional Eastern leaders discussed recognizing Tripoli as Libya’s political capital and Benghazi its financial one – sort of like a Washington/New York division.

Given ongoing violence, instability and lawlessness, perhaps June elections won’t happen as planned. Establishing legitimate rule’s impossible. Restoring peace and calm won’t happen soon. It may take many years to accomplish.

Dozens of insurgent factions remain heavily armed. Operating independently, they won’t integrate into a national army. Clashes continue across mostly Northern areas. Thousands of Gaddafi supporters languish in prisons.

Green Resistance fighters struggle for freedom. So do major tribes against puppet governance. Libya’s so violent, dysfunctional, and unstable, neighboring countries are threatened.

Mali’s late March military coup appears fallout from Libya. It may be replicated elsewhere in North Africa and perhaps beyond. Niger’s also endangered. There’s more involved than meets the eye, including controlling regional resources. Besides oil, Libya, Mali, and Niger have valuable uranium deposits. Washington seeks control.

America and the IMF are involved in Nigerian violence. Western oil giants largely control its oil. However, China made inroads with exploration and infrastructure deals. It wants more. That puts Beijing at odds with Washington and other Western interests.

Currency wars are also at issue. Nigeria’s foreign reserves are 80% in dollars. The rest are in euros and Sterling. Russia, China, India, Iran, and other countries increasingly want less dollar dependence. Moving away enough threatens it as the dominant world reserve currency. Washington’s determined to prevent it. Succeeding’s another matter.

The more China becomes a major Nigeria player, the less dominant dollars in the country become. Destabilizing violence may be involved to prevent it. It’s too early to know for sure but bears watching.

At issue is controlling North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Washington seeks global dominance, especially over resource rich areas. Independence and freedom depend on preventing it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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RT News: Al Jazeera Reporter resigns and speaks the truth about Syria

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Empty Stomach Warriors (III): Omar Abu Shalal Sets His Mind

A Palestinian youth sits in side a mock cage with his hands tied in chains during a protest after Friday prayer to call for the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails in Gaza City on 27 April 2012. (Photo: AFP – Mohammed Abed)
Published Monday, April 30, 2012
On 15 August 2011, Omar Abu Shalal was attempting to cross the Allenby Bridge – one of the crossings between the West Bank and Jordan – with his sister Samira, when Israeli authorities promptly arrested him.
Omar was immediately sent to Ofer prison just west of Ramallah. A few hours later he was handed a six-month administrative detention order, without knowing why he was imprisoned or what the charges against him were.
He was travelling to Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage when he was arrested. It was in the middle of the month of Ramadan. While his sister continued on the journey, Omar found himself transferred to Megiddo prison near Haifa.
Omar has lived under an occupation regime where adhering to a certain political rhetoric is ample excuse to be arrested for years, or even imprisoned for life.
What makes his story unique is that he was wanted by and imprisoned by the Israeli army and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Politically affiliated with Hamas, Omar was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to 36 months in prison. During that period Omar’s mother passed away without seeing her incarcerated son, which as Samira recounted, devastated him.

Following infighting between members of Hamas and Fatah in 2007, Omar fled to Jenin to keep a low profile as he was wanted by the PA for one year. Following June 2007, the month which saw the highest number of casualties in the fighting, 4000 followers of Hamas were arrested as part of the PA’s systematic clampdown on Hamas supporters. Three months later, the PA arrested Omar and he was sentenced to one year and a half in the Jneid prison in Nablus, a facility that was known for human rights abuses and for torturing Hamas affiliates. According to an AP report, these measures have desisted since the year 2010.

 
Fifty-four-year-old Omar is divorced with no children, and lives in one of Nablus’ three refugee camps, al-Ain. He has a two-year diploma in electrical maintenance and works as a porter in the city center, off-loading trucks, and transporting goods on foot. According to Samira, he had no plans to remarry.
On 15 February 2012, Omar’s detention was further extended by six months. Inspired by the hunger strikes of Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi, and by the solidarity strikes of Bilal Thiab and Thaer Halahleh, Omar began his open-ended hunger strike on March 7.
In the solidarity tent set up in the middle of Nablus’ bustling city center, several posters of Omar Abu Shalal have been put up with small papers taped on top marking the number of days he’s been on hunger strike. On Monday April 30, Omar entered his fifty-sixth day without food.
“When I first heard of his strike, I welcomed it,” Samira confessed. “At the same time, I was scared for him, since I know that when my brother sets his mind to something he won’t back down until he’s achieved whatever it is he wanted. He always had strong faith in undertaking big decisions like this.”
The lawyer representing Omar, Mohammad al-Abed, reported that when he saw Omar on April 22, he was complaining of severe pain in his stomach and head. His blood pressure was low, and his diabetes symptoms were severe. Despite this, Abed insisted Omar’s morale was very high, and that he was unwavering in continuing his strike.

“I’ve requested an appeal for Omar’s case in the Israeli High court,” Abed said. “I’m waiting to hear whether the appeal will be accepted or rejected. Given the dangerous level his health is at, every day that passes without receiving an answer from the court is extremely risky.”

 
An appeal for an administrative detainee revolves around the misuse of administrative detention, thus challenging the prisoner’s imprisonment on that basis. Abed plans to use Omar’s sharply deteriorating health as a pretext for challenging his detention, but the lawyer admits that it’s a long shot that it will be even taken into consideration by the Israeli prosecutor and judge.
Samira is critical of the PA’s silence over the prisoners in Ramleh prison hospital who have refused food for two months, and over the mass hunger strike that began on April 17 with an estimated 2000 prisoners participating.

“I demand that Abu Mazen take a stance on this issue, which is one of the pillars of our cause. He’s been negotiating with Israel for years now and our situation has just gotten worse. He should be negotiating to release prisoners, something that is worthy. I suppose the PA is scared that the current hunger strike movement might hurt its relations with Israel, so that is why they have kept quiet. What does that say about our ‘leadership?’”

Her eyes momentarily glisten over when asked about facing her brother’s impending death. “We hope Omar will come back home to us alive and well. Whatever is written by God will happen. Our faith in Him is enormous.”

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Egypt’s Gama’a Islamiya denounces protests against Saudi

Manar Ammar | 30 April 2012 |
Egyptians demonstrating at the Saudi embassy in Cairo have forced the mission to close.

Egypt’s Islamic Group, or Gama’a Islamiya, said that the Saudi Arabian-Egyptian relations are “historic” and denounced the protests that led to the closing of the Saudi Embassy in Cairo.

The group issued a statement Sunday night saying that the bilateral relations cannot be “reduced to a number of protests.”

Hundreds of Egyptians continued to protest the detention of Egyptian human rights lawyer Ahmed al-Gizawi, who the Saudi authorities arrested on April 17 on his arrival to the kingdom and accused him of smuggling drugs.

Egyptians refused the Saudi allegations, as Gizawi was a known fighter for the rights of Egyptians detained in Saudi and saw the arrest as retaliation for his activism.

The political Islamic group, who denounced violence in the early 2000s, was responsible for many bloody massacres including the assassination of president Anwar al-Sadat.

They have returned to practicing politics after the fall of the previous regime in early 2011. Their statement added that the crisis should be dealt with through diplomacy and urged the Egyptian side to practice transparency and reveal any information they might have on the case.

The Egyptian embassy in Saudi have said that they have followed the Gizawi case and that they believe the Saudi allegations of drug smuggling, saying that they saw his signature on a confession of the crime.
The embassy is being accused by Egyptians who live in Saudi with corruption and loyalty to the Saudi royal palace over the interests of Egyptian citizens, and many have called for the dissolving of the diplomatic mission there as they are remnants of the old regime.

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Aoun Lashes Out at Feltman, Says Ship Carrying Weapons Danger on Lebanon, Syria

Local Editor

Head of the Free Patriotic Movement Gen. Michel Aoun assured that an impending visit to Lebanon by the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman aims at supporting corruption.

“Feltman is coming [only] to support the corruption which he had upheld throughout his presence in Lebanon,” the Head of the Change and Reform bloc said Monday, following a bloc’s meeting in Rabieh.

Jeffrey Feltman, who served as the US Ambassador to Lebanon from 2004 till 2008, is expected to arrive to Lebanon on Wednesday on a two-day visit.

Following the Rabieh meeting, Aoun said that the simmering issue of extra-budgetary spending is an item that is at the core of sharp differences among the components of the Lebanese political corps.

He highlighted the necessity for the Lebanese President to sign the related decree, which he termed as “morally binding” for him.

LA Detects Weapons Ship Heading to Syria .



Besides, Aoun rebuked a fresh incident off the northern coast, whereby a Sierra Leonean-flagged commercial ship carrying weapons to Syria was intercepted by the Lebanese Army in Salaata.
Three containers with a large quantity of assorted arms as well as heavy, medium, and light ammunition were confiscated, a communique by the Army indicated on Saturday.



“This is an attack on Lebanon, and a moral attack through using the Lebanese territories to dispatch weapons to a brother country,” he said, adding it is also an attack on neighboring Syria.
On a different note, Aoun renewed calls to adopt proportionality with one single district as a basis for the looming 2013 legislative polls, namely amid spiraling strain amongst feudal parties over what each sees as best electoral law.

A proportionality-based law that would ensure a more effective representation of Lebanese voters than is provided by the current winner-takes-all 1960 system in which an electoral list that receives at least 51% of the votes wins all the seats in a district.

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Empty Stomach Warriors (II): Bilal Thiab Chooses the Life He Wants to Live

Palestinian stone-throwers take cover behind a garbage bin during clashes with Israeli troops following a protest in support of Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike in Israeli prisons outside Ofer prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah 26 April 2012. (Photo: REUTERS – Mohamad Torokman)
Published Friday, April 27, 2012
Long and Hard Struggle: Bilal Thiab on 60 Days of Hunger Strike
Even as a young boy, Bilal Thiab despised authoritative oppression. He refused to listen to adults telling him off for innocent mistakes and later that personality trait solidified into one that openly challenged the men in uniform trampling on people’s freedom.
Thiab was just 18 years old and a high school senior when he was first arrested by the Israeli occupying army in October 2003 from his village of Kufr Rai. He was sentenced to prison for seven and a half years for what Israel called his “political activism in the Islamic Jihad group.”
When he was arrested, he defied the Israeli soldiers’ commands to look at the ground instead of at their faces, and when he refused they threatened to shoot him. Thiab was unshaken, and replied scathingly that either way, death is inevitable. These comments caused a significant amount of distress for his mother who was listening in on the exchange from the other room, confined there by the soldiers.
After his release in February 2010, life was never the same for Thiab. He was arrested for short periods of time and was repeatedly summoned by the Israeli intelligence for interrogations, which usually lasted for days. One interrogation in May lasted for seven days. Thiab was also arrested by the Palestinian Authority for 28 days, a subject his mother, 65-year-old Umm Hisham is not keen to discuss.

“There is no point in talking about this now,” she murmured, turning away with one hand on her face. “We need all the support we can get, from President Mahmoud Abbas and [Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad.” She looked up with a worn out smile. “He went on hunger strike for 14 days after the PA arrested him.”

 
Adjusting to “freedom” after prison was a hardship in itself, especially since Thiab found himself being constantly called for interrogations by Israel and intermittently, by the PA.

“He wanted to live his life the way he imagined, but couldn’t because the occupation stole any meaning of life from him,” Umm Hisham said. “He has such a strong respectable character, but he was denied leading a life any young man of his age should be able to, such as starting a family, going to wedding parties outside the village, and visiting other towns and cities.”

Thiab’s restricted freedom of movement was illustrated emphatically in January 2011, after he tried to go to Jenin to visit his sister-in-law after she had given birth to twin boys. A flying checkpoint was waiting for him just outside Kufr Rai, and he was subsequently strip-searched and detained for several hours before being sent home again. “He left prison for a bigger prison,” Umm Hisham underlined.
After apprenticing as a barber, Thiab opened a barbershop in his village. Barely 12 days later, he was taken away by Israeli forces yet again for interrogation, during which they goaded him and made fun of his profession. When he returned home, he never went back to his barbershop again.

On 17 August 2011, Thiab was hanging out with four of his neighbors on his brother’s roof. It was in the middle of the month of Ramadan, and the villagers have a habit of staying up late during the holy month. At 1am, sound bombs suddenly went off around the house, and the courtyard was rapidly swarming with a special unit of Israeli soldiers, all dressed in civilian clothes. Another group of soldiers, this time easily distinguishable from their uniforms, made their way up to the roof and detained all of the five young men. The soldiers then rounded up all the women and children into one room. Isam, one of Thiab’s brothers, was handcuffed in a different room, and the soldiers kept stomping on his body. The soldiers released the four men who were with Thiab, but handcuffed and blindfolded him and proceeded to drag Thiab on his knees to where the army jeep was standing, about 200m away.

Thiab went on 14 days of hunger strike in solidarity with Khader Adnan, and later for another 12 days in solidarity with Hana Shalabi. When the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) renewed his detention for another six months at the end of February 2012, Thiab immediately began his hunger strike with his friend and fellow inmate Thaer Halahleh. They were separated and placed in different cells, and when it became clear they were not going to end their hunger strike the IPS moved them both to solitary confinement. On March 28, Thiab and Halahleh were hospitalized, and are currently in the Ramle prison hospital.

Jamil Khatib, the lawyer for Thiab and Halahleh and other hunger strikers who have also been hospitalized, last visited them on Wednesday, April 25.

“On the 59th day of his hunger strike, Bilal’s health is at a very dangerous level,” Khatib stressed. “He has lost 25kg, has difficulty speaking, a low blood sugar level, and constant pain in his stomach. His hair is falling out, and suffers from frequent dizziness in addition to falling unconscious at times. He is very weak, and can’t move on his own.”

On Monday, April 23, the Israeli military court rejected Khatib’s appeal to release both Thiab and Halahleh. The next day, Khatib appealed to the High Israeli court in Jerusalem and demanded two things: to process the appeal as soon as possible, and to transfer Thiab and Halahleh to court in ambulances, not military jeeps.

Thiab and Halahleh have made it clear that they refuse to be exiled anywhere outside their own villages.

Khatib says that a deal to exile both prisoners in return for an end to their hunger strike wasn’t officially presented to him by the Israeli intelligence, since he has made it clear to them that he will not negotiate on this condition. Furthermore, Thiab and Halahleh have made it clear that they refuse to be exiled anywhere outside their own villages.

 
“I expect them to continue with their hunger strike, on the path that Khader Adnan spearheaded,” Khatib said. “They are determined to hunger strike until freedom or martyrdom. This is their latest message to us. They also ask for more positive support and for a clear strategy from media and organizations in covering their case.”
Azzam, another of Thiab’s brothers, is on his 30th day of hunger strike in solidarity with his brother, regardless of the fact that he is carrying out a life sentence since 2001.
“Bilal is the youngest of my 13 children,” Umm Hisham said. “His father died when he was 8 months old, so he was always spoiled by his brothers and sisters. I ask everyone, anyone whose human rights means something to them, to help us, to release Bilal, to free Bilal.”

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Drone Warfare in Yemen

by Stephen Lendman


My PhotoPredator drones sanitize killing on the cheap compared to manned aircraft and ground troops. Teams of remote warriors work far from, and at times, closer to battlefields.

Drone pilots operate computer keyboards and multiple monitors. Sensor staff work with them. They handle TV and infrared cameras, as well as other high-tech drone sensors. Faceless enemies nearby or half a world away are attacked. Virtual war kills like sport.

At day’s end, home-based operators head there for dinner, relaxation, family time, then a good night sleep before another day guiding weapons with joysticks and monitors like computer games.

Dozens of drone command centers operate worldwide. Dozens more are planned. Pentagon and CIA personnel run them. Some are bare bones. Climate-controlled trailers work fine. They operate effectively anywhere. They maintain constant radio contact with command centers.

Others are sophisticated command and control centers. Two operate at CIA’s Langley, VA headquarters. Nevada’s Creech and Nellis Air Force Bases near Las Vegas have others. Plans last year called for Nellis operations to be moved to Florida’s Hurlburt Field Special Operations Command.

Domestic bases also operate from command and control centers in California, Arizona, New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Missouri, Ohio, New York, and perhaps elsewhere. Eventually they could be anywhere.

Washington plans escalated surveillance and predator drone operations at dozens of global sites. Expanding them to hundreds is likely. The Pentagon and CIA are tightlipped.

Currently, around one in three US warplanes are drones. One day perhaps they’ll all be unmanned. Sanitized killing is cheap and efficient. Rule of law principles and other disturbing issues aren’t considered. Secrecy and accountability go unaddressed.

Last September, the Washington Post headlined, “US assembling secret drone bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula, officials say.”

Pentagon and CIA officials plan aggressive campaigns against “al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, U.S. officials said.”

Ethiopia is home to one installation. Al-Shabab fighters are targeted. Another is based in the Seychelles. Since September 2009, Air Force and Navy MQ-9 Reaper drones operated there.

Called “hunter-killers,” they’re equipped with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs. Operational secrecy suppresses details of planned missions.

Besides elsewhere, drones are used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen. Among other locations, they operate from Djibouti.

The CIA is building “a secret airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula so it can deploy armed drones over Yemen.”

More on Yemen below.

On July 1, 2011, Aviation Week headlined “Drone War,” saying:

“There is an unofficial but lethal drone war taking place over Pakistan, Yemen and Libya that has expanded the area of operation for U.S. forces beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, with no real acknowledgement from the government that anything extraordinary is happening.”

“The undeclared conflict on these three fronts might be the first Drone War, and warfare has never seen anything like it.”

The article asked if unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) increase the threshold for war in more places because logistics are simpler and US lives aren’t at stake.

Using them also provides intelligence. Aircraft can stay airborne 24 hours. Multiple crews operate them. Offsite calm away from battle zones aids concentration, decision-making, and overall efficiency.

The Air Force Academy’s class of 2011 was its first with graduates planning to specialize in drone operations. Army enlisted personnel do it along with trained pilots handling takeoffs and landings.

Unmanned platform killing is expanding. Targets include countries where technically America isn’t at war. Victims and families know otherwise.

Target Yemen

On June 14, 2011, the Los Angeles Times headlined, “CIA plans drone strike campaign in Yemen,” saying:

Obama authorized escalated counterterrorism strikes against alleged Al Qaeda threats to America. A secret CIA regional base will target them. An unnamed US official was quoted, saying:

“There’s no question that we’re trying to look at a lot of different ways to make something happen in Yemen.”

In March 2012, after returning from Yemen, Nation magazine contributor Jeremy Scahill headlined “Washington’s War in Yemen Backfires,” saying:

Washington is “doubling down on its use of air power and drones, which are swiftly becoming the primary focus of Washington’s counterterrorism operations.”

“For years, the elite Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA had teams deployed inside Yemen that supported Yemeni forces and conducted unilateral operations, consisting mostly of cruise missile and drone attacks.”

Lots of civilians are killed. At anti-regime rallies, “prominent conservative imams deliver stinging sermons denouncing the United States and Israel.”

US policy enrages tribal leaders. Resistance grows stronger against it. Washington’s belligerence “backfire(d) by killing civilians” and for violating Yemeni sovereignty. Angry people strike back. In a heavily armed country, America’s alleged threat is stronger.

Yemen’s a gun culture. On average, people own three, including automatic weapons like AK-47s and heavier arms. Moreover, they’re prone to direct action. Threaten them and they strike back. They’re mostly ordinary Yemenis against imperial America’s intervention. In self-defense, they react belligerently.

Perhaps Obama officials want it that way in more combat theaters than Yemen to justify waging permanent wars. America needs enemies. Peace and calm defeats its imperial agenda. Killing civilians may work as planned.

On April 25, 2012, the Washington Post headlined “White House approves broader Yemen drone campaign,” saying:

Al Qaeda suspects are targeted. Obama’s authorization lets Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and CIA personnel “fire even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known, US officials said.”

In June 2011, counterinsurgency advisor David Kilcullen told Congress that drone strikes kill militants 2% of the time. Others are noncombatant civilians. He explained that these operations “lose the population (and) the war.” He also raised issues of legality.

UAVs were first used in Vietnam as reconnaissance platforms. In the 1980s, Harpy air defense suppression system radar killer drones were employed. In the Gulf War, unmanned combat air systems (UCAS) and X-45 air vehicles were used.

Others were deployed in Bosnia in 1995 and against Serbia in 1999. America’s new weapon of choice is now commonplace in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, elsewhere abroad, and domestically for law enforcement and surveillance. Escalated domestic and foreign use is planned.

Along with satellites and other technologies, Big Brother plans a global presence to spy and kill. International law isn’t considered. Neither are constitutional and US statute laws. Rogue states do what they please. They answer to no one and don’t say they’re sorry.

CIA Director General David Petraeus urged easing the rules of engagement. Anything goes is policy. It always was, but now it’s more official. Princeton University Yemen specialist Gregory Johnsen worries about “a dangerous drift.” He said policymakers “don’t appear to realize they are heading into rough waters without a map.”

The greater the number of drone kills, he explained, the more recruits Al Qaeda gains. What does Washington plan in response, he asked? Is another war coming, he wonders?

On April 20, Yale Law Professor Bruce Ackerman headlined his Washington Post op-ed “President Obama: Don’t go there.”

Before Obama’s authorization, he said permitting expanded UAV strikes “break(s) the legal barrier that Congress erected to prevent the White House from waging an endless war on terrorism.”

Ackerman, of course, knows legal barriers haven’t deterred presidents from waging lawless wars since Korea in 1950. WW II was the last legal one.

Since 2009, Obama waged drone war on Yemen and other countries besides officially designated war theaters. He also authorized special forces death squads in dozens of countries worldwide.

Post-9/11, Congress gave Bush a blank check to wage war. It approved the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) for “the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.”

It was used to wage war on Iraq. It’s still in force today. Obama’s 2010 National Security Strategy “reserve(s) the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend our nation and our interests.”

In other words, to wage preemptive or proxy war, including with nuclear weapons. Making the world safe for capital may destroy it. Mutually assured destruction (MAD) was reinvented in new form. Who knows what’s next.

A constitutional lawyer, Obama knows right from wrong. Nonetheless, he’s waging lawless permanent wars, plans more, and not just against Yemen.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.
 
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

 

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Former CIA Officer Defends Torture Techniques, Waterboarding

Local Editor

Former CIA interrogation chief Jose Rodriquez has defended the agency’s controversial torture techniques, including waterboarding.

“This program was about instilling a sense of hopelessness and despair in the terrorist, in the detainee, so that he would conclude that he was better off cooperating with us,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriquez further said that techniques like waterboarding, dietary manipulation, and sleep deprivation are justified.

In his capacity as CIA interrogation chief, he ordered the destruction of certain videos that had filmed interrogations during which waterboarding was applied.

The videos were filmed in a secret CIA prison in Thailand and showed the waterboarding of suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri. The destruction of the tapes was revealed in 2007.
Former US Vice President Dick Cheney has also defended the different torture methods used by the agency, claiming they ‘saved American lives.’

Yet, an investigation by Senate Democrats has found that there is no proof the techniques produced any counter-terrorism breakthroughs.

Source: News Agencies

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Jewish Man Exposes Israel’s Lies – The General’s Son

By Miko Peled | Miko Peled Weblog | Jan 14, 2012

As I write these words I am in Jerusalem and it is a cold, windy and rainy day. Yesterday at the protest in Nabi Saleh, facing the IDF terror squads and in full view of the villas of the settler terrorists, we were drenched in rain and then frozen by the cold wind. Some of the protesters, a group of young women who were gutsier than most, did not run like most of us but stood firm as the IDF terror squad operated its “Skunk” and sprayed them with a foul smelling substance that remains on the skin for days. Now, in this horrid weather, tweeting from the Mukata’a, young Palestinians are protesting against the useless, demeaning process of the PA negotiations with Israel.

The injustices all over Palestine are more obvious than ever. Israeli children in West Jerusalem get more of everything that Palestinian children in East Jerusalem, particularly if they live in Sho’afat refugee camp for example. Settlers in the West Bank can take the land of the people of Yanun in the West Bank at any time, and are not held back by any law while the people of Yanun have no law and no authority that protects their rights. People in Gaza are bombed and left to die as the world watches and here too there is no one to whom they can turn. Equal rights in a single democracy is the one demand that covers all the demands and deals with all the injustices.

The levels of injustice and despair here are only matched by the great possibilities that a single democratic state with equal rights offers to all people who live here. Equal rights means equal rights to land, water, immigration, education, work, and above all life. When the apartheid state of Israel is transformed into a single political entity with equal rights for all of its people, residents of Jenin and Deheishe will vote in the same elections as those in Tel Aviv. The results will then reflect the will of all people who live in Palestine/Israel, our shared homeland, not only the ruling class which happen to be Zionist Israeli Jews.

People often claim that it is an unrealistic, utopian dream and hope for a compromise, for a “moderate” Zionist government that will curb the settlers and reign back the army. However, it was a “moderate” Zionist government that allowed the settlers to terrorize Palestinians and take their land, it was a “moderate” Zionist government that attacked in and murdered innocents in Gaza, and “moderate” Zionists did nothing when less “moderate” Zionists continued to massacre in Gaza. The settler terrorists are the foot soldiers, they are the trail blazers of Zionism, they were created by “moderate” Zionist governments and are now being rewarded with villas on choice Palestinian land in the West Bank.

There are those who hope that if elected to a second term, President Obama will turn his attentions to Israel/Palestine but this is quite naive. Had he or any other president been serious about this issue they would have to come down on Israeli human rights abuses, denial of civil rights, incarceration of political prisoners and massive assaults on civilians resulting in thousands of innocent deaths. It is naive to assume that the political climate in the US allows any of these issues to be brought up. So anyone out there that is banking on a solution coming from the US, will surely be disappointed.

The quest for equal rights is not a easy one and will not be easily won. Indeed, any fight against the brutal militant Zionist behemoth is not easy and calls for great sacrifice. But the people in Palestine and abroad who are engaged in the struggle are dedicated and determined and if they put their minds and efforts towards a single demand of complete equal rights within a single democracy, they are sure to succeed.

Source and more at the weblog of Miko Peled.
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by the Editor
Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Daring to Criticize Israel


My PhotoAddressing this issue responsibly risks rebuke, ostracism, or job loss. For some, it’s a career ender. Scoundrel media writers and broadcasters are vulnerable. So are university professors.

Joel Kovel lost his Bard College position for writing books like “Overcoming Zionism” and calling Israel “a machine for the manufacture of human rights abuses.”

DePaul University denied Norman Finkelstein tenure. It then fired him for speaking out and writing books like “The Holocaust Industry.”

Political activism and honesty about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict also cost tenured professor Denis Rancourt his University of Ottawa job.

UCLA Professor David Delgado Shorter‘s now targeted. His academic freedom’s at stake. On April 4, department chair Professor Angelia Leung rebuked him. She said his web site was being reviewed for posting inappropriate material pertaining to the academic and cultural boycott of Israel. More on that below.

California Scholars for Academic Freedom (CSAF) include 134 academics at 20 state universities. “The group formed as a response to various violations of academic freedom that were arising from both the post-9/11/2001 climate of civil rights violations and the increasing attacks on progressive educators by neo-conservatives.”

Arab, Muslim or Middle East scholars are especially vulnerable. So is anyone criticizing Israel. CSAF’s “goal of protecting California scholars” broadened in scope. Its members “recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere” threaten it “everywhere.”

On April 18, CSAF wrote UCLA Academic Senate chair Professor Andrew Leuchter. It addressed Shorter’s rebuke and the broader academic freedom issue.

It expressed concern that Leuchter “overstepp(ed his) authority (by) honoring of complaints by a clearly partisan political group over collegiality and protocol regarding treatment of tenured faculty at UCLA….”

The AMCHA Initiative made the complaint. AMCHA is Hebrew for “your people.” The organization “strives to bring together Jewish people from all over California so that they might speak in one voice in order to express their concern for the safety and well-being of Jewish college and university students.”

It also one-sidedly supports Israel and Zionist ideology. Its record includes harassing faculty members critical of Israeli policy. It airs views openly in the press. Targeting academic freedom shows how far it’s willing to go. Its history includes accusing UC campuses of ignoring anti-Semitism and allowing anti-Israeli protests. On issues regarding the Jewish state, it tolerates no criticism.

Shorter felt its wrath. At issue was also judging him ” ‘in the court of public opinion’ by releasing information to the press without his knowledge.”

In the 2012 winter quarter, he taught W33: Tribal Worldviews. He used a university provided web site for course material. It covered “indigenous uses of media around the globe to assert their claims of sovereignty.”

His site contains source materials and URLs related to struggles throughout the world. UN documentation on Palestine is included. They’re called indigenous people. In March, the course ended. So did access to the site. Only students could view it.

In response to Professor Leung’s concern, Shorter emailed her his syllabus and a URL about groups targeting US professors for their Palestinian course materials.

On April 11, Leung gave him a choice. Either teach about a petition or be a signatory, not both. In response, Shorter said he’d consider the implications of Leung’s demand.

He requested deferring comment until next academic year. Clearly, Leung was academically and constitutionally out of line. Academic and speech freedoms are inviolable.

UCLA and other US higher education institutions have other rules. So do Canadian and perhaps European ones as well. On April 12, Leuchter emailed his complaint. He copied signatories endorsing it. They included “US Senators and University Administrators.” He said:

“posting of such materials is not appropriate. Professor Shorter’s chair assures me that he understands his serious error in judgment and has said he will not make this mistake again.”

In response, AMCHA issued a press release. It claimed victory over an anti-Israeli professor. It quoted Leuchter verbatim. It made it appear that UCLA found “his actions were inappropriate.”

On April 13, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, and the Los Angeles Times contacted Shorter to comment about university disciplinary action. No one told him his private conversation was communicated broadly to outsiders.

On April 16, the LA Times headlined, “UCLA professor told not to link class material to anti-Israeli campaign,” saying:

Academic freedom’s at issue. So aren’t First Amendment rights. None are more important. All are risked without this one.

“Leuchter said (Shorter) agreed not to repeat” linking his web site to one “call(ing) for a boycott of Israel.” Shorter said “he made no such promise.” He awaits a more detailed campus policy explanation regarding issues this important. He added that linking “to the Israeli boycott was just a number of suggested links for the class to explore in his” course.

He didn’t provide them as required reading. In class, he also discussed other views. Since he changes courses annually, he didn’t know if he’d use the same links. Constitutionally he can use any he wishes freely.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin heads AMCHA. She’s UC Santa Cruz Center for Jewish Studies lecturer. She said by email:

“Although I believe it was appropriate for Professor Shorter to be cautioned about his misuse of his class website, our primary purpose in raising the case of Professor Shorter was not to demand that action be taken against him, but rather to force UC administrators and faculty to grapple with the question of whether the UC academic freedom rules protect a professor who uses his classroom and university resources to engage in political activities, including the boycott of Israel.”

Leuchter concurred, saying faculty may freely express views in classrooms or course material short of “advanc(ing) a political agenda.” Apparently he includes facts critical of Israel.

He said Shorter faces no disciplinary action. He described what he did as a judgment error. Perhaps repeating it will be cause for dismissal. It wouldn’t be the first time on US or other Western campuses.

CSAF asked why Leuchter never met or spoke to Shorter while defamatory information about him was being circulated. What kind of investigation was conducted, it asked? Clearly, “your actions….constitute a violation of the normal protocols of due process at the University of California or most other universities.”

CSAF wants definitive answers regarding UCLA policies and Academic Senate authority to investigate a faculty member without his knowledge, then requesting his chair rebuke and warn him. Doing so amounts to unwarranted “censure.”

CSAF also wants Leuchter to explain how he justified distributing information about Shorter behind his back to a partisan organization like AMCHA, and why he challenged his academic freedom.

Silencing anyone critical of Israel “makes a mockery of (UCLA’s) faculty protocol….” CSAF deserves answers regarding these vital issues.

A Final Comment

Perhaps Leung, Leuchter, and other like-minded academics need brushing up on what life in occupied Palestine is like. It’s not pretty, nor has it been for decades. Visiting to see things firsthand might help.

Spending time in Gaza during Israeli air and ground assaults might prove enlightening. So would learning about the effects of siege, watching Israeli soldiers use Palestinian children for target practice, and fishermen criminally assaulted at sea.

Maybe watching homes bulldozed, farmland razed, and trees uprooted repressively would be hard to forget. Seeing soldiers attack peaceful protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, and live fire would enlighten more.

Conversations with Palestinians might be best of all. Firsthand accounts from wives would explain life without husbands. Parents could talk about lost children. Sisters and brothers could say what its like without lost siblings. Discussions about thousands of political prisoners would reveal much about a repressive state.

Life in deep poverty without jobs would be described. So would daily fear of Israeli incursions, attacks, arrests, detentions, torture, and other unspeakable abuses for praying to the wrong God.

Enough time in occupied Palestine might soften views now held. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. So is seeing things firsthand to know what’s really going on.

Israel is criticized for a reason. Persecution, racism, occupation, and apartheid are unjustifiable. So are crimes of war and against humanity.

Compromising academic and speech freedoms puts all other rights at risk. Without them, classrooms are more indoctrination than education. Professors understanding that deserve praise, not rebukes or ostracism.

Freedom in America and other Western societies hang by a thread. Protecting it in classrooms may be step one to having a chance to save it.

Professors on the front lines of right over wrong are heros, not villains. Students lucky enough to have them know best of all.

Imagine if all academics taught the right way. Imagine a better world at peace. Instead of a dream, it could be reality. Imagine how different things could be.

If enough people cared enough and worked for it, it would be. It won’t happen any other way.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.
 

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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Norway Muslims question focus on Breivik’s sanity

 By JULIA GRONNEVET | Associated Press – Sat, Apr 28, 2012

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Muslim leaders in Norway say they are concerned that the anti-Islamic ideology of Anders Behring Breivik, the far-right fanatic now on trial for killing 77 people, is being overshadowed by questions about his mental state.

The self-described anti-Muslim militant shocked Norway on July 22 with a bombing and shooting rampage targeting the government headquarters and the Labor Party’s annual youth camp. Since he has admitted to the attacks, the key issue for the trial is to determine whether Breivik is sane enough to be held criminally responsible.

“I’m not a psychiatrist, but what is important is what he has done. That should be the focus, not how crazy he is,” said Mehtab Afsar, head of the Islamic Council in Norway, an umbrella organization of Muslim groups in the country.

“He wants to get rid of Muslims and Islam from Europe. That is his main message. So I don’t see the point of using so much energy on is he normal, is he insane?” Afsar told The Associated Press.

Breivik has told the court his victims had betrayed Norway by opening the country to immigration. He called for a “patriotic” revolution aimed at deporting Muslims from Europe.

In a 1,500-page manifesto he posted online before the attacks, Breivik frequently cited anti-Islamic bloggers who say Muslims are gradually colonizing Europe. But so far, much of the trial has focused on his mental health, rather than his ideology.

Some Muslims question the validity of pathologizing Breivik, saying the Norwegian is easily comparable to Islamic terrorists.

“Nobody questioned Osama bin Laden’s sanity,” said Usman Rana, a doctor and newspaper columnist, following Friday prayers at one of Oslo’s largest mosques, the Sufi-inspired World Islamic Mission.
The mosque, richly decorated inside and out with blue and white tiles and Arabic calligraphy, is open to passers-by, and a reporter was allowed free access as long as shoes were removed.

A few hundred men and boys of all ages attended prayers, many arriving in a rush to make it in time for the call to prayer. Switching easily between greeting friends in Urdu and in Oslo-dialect Norwegian, Rana questioned the excessive focus on Breivik’s mental state.

“I believe he is sane, definitely. Those who think he is insane don’t know anything about terrorism,” Rana said.

The first of two psychiatric reports concluded that Breivik is psychotic and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, the second report deemed him sane enough to go to prison for his crimes, which he has admitted.

The 33-year-old Norwegian has admitted all his actions and freely explained to prosecutors the planning and execution of his terror attack, only refusing to explain anything concerning other members of Knights Templar, his alleged anti-Islamic militant network. Prosecutors believe the network does not exist.

Breivik’s emotionless appearance in court as witnesses give gruesome testimony and bereaved families sob audibly has left many baffled at his state of mind, wondering if he is exercising superhuman self-control or simply feels no emotions.

“The reason we are focusing on him as a crazy person is because we have difficulties accepting that ‘one of us’ could do such a thing. In many ways a natural reaction, but still wrong,” said Shoaib Sultan, an adviser on extremism at the Norwegian Center against Racism.
read more…
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by the Editor
Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Egypt just annulled Mubarak’s natural gas giveaway- Will Sadat’s Camp David and the Zionist Embassy be next?

Franklin Lamb


Egypt just annulledMubarak’s natural gas giveaway
the gas line to Israel was severed 14 times in 12 months
Will Sadat’s Camp David and the Zionist Embassy be next?
Milestone 1
Milestone 2
Milestone 3
During Mubarak’s presidency, billions were lost due to corruption,
Milestone 4



The Egyptian people are demanding the return of their sovereignty. According to recent opinion surveys they believe it was partially ceded to Israel by the two post-Nasser dictators, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, at the behest of American administrations, from Nixon to Obama.

The removal of three humiliating shackles for Egyptians, the gas give-away scheme, the 1979 Camp David Accords and the US forced recognition of Israel, constitute a strategic national security objective for most of Egypt’s 82 million citizens. 

Egyptian hold pictures of Hassan Nasrallah
and Egyptian flags with Arabic writing
“No for gas deterioration, stop exporting Egyptian gas”
during a protest in Cairo on Feb. 2, 2009.
(AP file photo)



According to the results of an opinion poll, conducted for Press TV and published on October 3, 2011, 73 percent of the Egyptian respondents opposed the terms of the agreement. Today the figure is estimated at 90%.
For the past eight years, the 2004 gas deal has been widely unpopular, and one of the charges in the current indictment against Mubarak is that the deposed President sold Egypt’s gas as part of a sweetheart deal involving kickbacks to family members, associates and Israeli officials.

In the recent parliamentary elections and now during the presidential campaign, Egyptians have been debating relations with Israel publicly for the first time. Previously Mubarak was Israel’s protector and like some other Arab leaders still clinging to power, ignored his people’s demands for actively supporting for the liberation of Palestine.

In late January 2012, an Alexandria University student briefed this observer and a small group of Americans and Europeans sitting on benches opposite the wonderful ancient city’s majestic Great Library.  
A free Palestine
Free from the River to the Sea

 He explained, recalling the demands of the Tahrir Square protests on January 25, 2011,

“Our slogans at Tahrir Square were bread, freedom, dignity, and social justice. That was almost exactly one year ago. God willing, we will soon achieve the demands of our historic revolution which includecanceling Camp David and withdrawing recognition of the Zionist regime still occupying Palestine. Egypt must again lead the Arab Nation’s sacred obligation to liberate Jerusalem and all of Palestine from the river to the sea.”

A stunning hijabed female student continued the dialogue, giving us her opinion:

“The USA bought some of our leaders with billions in generous cash from your people but without any real benefit to ours. Camp David was essentially a private agreement by Sadat and then Mubarak. Our people had no say and were never asked whether we agreed. If we protested, we were jailed or worse. Now, the Egyptian people are gaining power despite a likely military coup by the SCAF military junta before the scheduled June elections.”
Israeli officials, in tandem with the US Zionist lobby are claiming that the abrogation of the gas agreement constitutes an “existential threat”. According to a researcher at the US Congressional Research Service in the Madison Building on Capitol Hill whose job includes keeping track of Israeli claims, it’s the 29th“existential threat” the Zionist colony has identified in its 64 year history.

These perceived existential threats range from the internationally recognized Right of Return for Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homes during and since the 1948 Nakba, to various Palestinian groups, more than two dozen UN Resolutions including, 194 and 242, Hezbollah naturally, international solidarity movement projects, a Jewish academic or two, Iran for sure, the rise of internet blogs, and potentially virtually every Christian, Arab and Muslim on the planet, not to mention the claimed rise of global anti-Zionism which the US Zionist lobby has recently decreed was always just another form of virulent anti-Semitism.


Despite all these perceived “existential threats”including recently the so-called “Road Map”, Israeli leaders continue to eschew any substantive negotiations which could mean Arabs and Jews sharing Palestine as part of one democratic, secular state on the basis of one person one vote, minus any ‘chosen people’ lunacy.

Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s finance minister warned that Egypt’s questioning its relations with Israel was “a dangerous precedent that threatens the peace agreements between Israel and Egypt.”

Ampal, the Israeli company which buys the gas, said that it considers the termination of the contract “unlawful and in bad faith”, and demanded its full restoration. Ampal, is planning to use international arbitration to attempt redress and is sending a corporate delegation to Washington to meet with AIPAC and administration officials to ask them to get the Egyptian action nullified and to force Egypt to keep selling its natural gas at below market prices. One congressional staffer joked in an email that Israeli companies get way better constituent services out of Congress than American companies, or even the voters who elect its members.
Israeli political analyst Israel Hayom wrote last weekend:

” The painful conclusion from the collapse of the gas agreement with Egypt is that we are regressing to the days before the peace agreement with Egypt and the horizon does not look rosy at all. Camp David is in mortal danger. The painful conclusion is, once again, that we have no genuine friends in the region. Certainly not for the long term.”
The ADL’s Abe Foxman lamented,

“Israel gave Egypt a great deal in exchange for the Camp David peace agreement, much more than we should have. Among other things, a free trade zone, in which we veritably pushed for the establishment of sewing workshops and an Egyptian textile industry so that they would be able to easily export cheap cotton and other goods to the United States as well as to Israel. We made the Egyptians a respectable people in the eyes of the American public. And this is how we are repaid what they owe us?”

Never idle for long, AIPAC began circulating a draft resolution this week to its key Congressional operatives aimed at having the US Congress condemn the cancellation of the gas giveaway and demanding its immediate renewal under threat of the US terminating aid to Egypt. The lobby has also begun to squeeze the Obama administration, threating a cut off of Jewish donors if nothing is done to convince Egypt “to get real” in the words of ultra Zionist Howard Berman, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The political reality is that American diplomats, AIPAC, and Israeli officials, sometimes difficult to distinguish from one another, have been bracing for a breach in Egyptian-Israeli relations since last spring’s demonstration in Tahrir Square. They rightly fear that Camp David and the Israeli embassy in Cairo will be next on the chopping block as the Egyptian people stand up.

Regarding the expected closing of the Israeli embassy, according to the daily Yedioth Ahronoth:

“What we have at the moment is a swift deterioration in relations: Israelis can no longer set foot in Egypt, and the Egyptian consulate in Tel Aviv does not have a mandate to issue entry visas. Anyone who insists on going to Egypt from Israel even with a foreign passport can expect to get into trouble. His name could join the list of spiesandMossad agentsThey dont want us. It’s that simple and it is very dangerous now for Israelis to be in Egypt.”

According to Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev,

There is also no one who will rent a building to the Israeli embassy in Cairo, for the small embassy staff headed by Ambassador Yaakov Amitai. Due to security considerations, we have cut drastically their work week. The staff lands every Monday afternoon and leaves early Thursday. Every time an address is found for the embassy (at an exorbitant price), the local security officials shoot down the deal. As far as the Egyptians are concerned, the Israeli diplomats can stay in Jerusalem until their next president is elected and then we will see what happens.”

Franklin LambFranklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon. He is reachable c\o fplamb@gmail.com

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Thomas L. Are: The Spear Head of Justice

DateSunday, April 29, 2012 at 9:51AM AuthorGilad Atzmon

The Spear Head of Justice

Gilad Atzmon writes:

The lack of capacity to reflect upon oneself from the futuristic perspective, explains the Israeli collective complicity in some of their horrendous war crimes. This should be enough to explain why the Israelis sliced up the Holy Land with separation walls and barbed wires. It explains why Israelis drop White Phosphorous on their next door neighbors as they seek shelter in a UN shelter. It also explains why Israeli Navy Seal commandos ended up executing peace activist on the Mavi Marmara on the high seas. It also explains why newly-born Israel was quick to expel the vast majority of the Palestinian indigenous population just three years after the liberation of Auschwitz… People who defy history never look in the mirror.[1]

I heard Gilad Aztmon speak in Atlanta just last week. (3/10/12) He shared with us how his grandfather had been a prominent commander of the Irgun, the terrorist gang involved in the massacre of Deir Yassin. Grandfather was also, according to Gilad, “pretty cross with the Palestinians for dwelling on the land he was sure belonged to him and his people, given to them by God.” Gilad grew up believing “it was only Jews who were associated with anything good.”[2] The greatest thing that he could do with his life was to become a martyr for Israel. Then in 1982, at 18 years old, he joined the army and was sent to Lebanon where he first encountered Palestinians. His illusions crumbled, “I knew that our leaders were lying, in fact, every Israeli soldier understood that this was a war of Israeli aggression.”

Atzmon is not very different from many other Jewish celebrities, (he is a world renowned saxophonist.) but the passion with which he spoke of justice for the Palestinians amazed me. He said something like, ‘The point of the spear for international justice is focused on how Israel treats the Palestinians.’

I sat there thinking, how right he is. If we can’t see the daily injustice inflicted on the Palestinians then what chance is there for justice anywhere? We might as well give up to a dog eat dog world, every man (and nation) for himself and to hell with the needs and pains of anyone else. The injustice in Palestine is so obvious:

Palestinian children face many obstacles:

*** 10 percent of children in the West Bank and Gaza Strip suffer from chronic malnutrition.
*** 19 percent of children under 5 are anemic
*** 23 percent of Palestinian families with children are in poverty ($2 a day or less.)
*** 25 percent of Palestinian children do not attend primary school.[3]

That’s not the worst of it.

In the last two days, Israeli forces have killed at least 15 residents of the Gaza Strip and wounded over 30. Among the dead are two young boys.[4]

If Gilad Atzmon has the moral courage to speak out against his own heritage, family and nation, can we not at least learn about the issue, speak out in our churches, inform our friends and write our politicians?

Thomas Are
March 16, 2012.

The wandering who- Gilad AtzmonThe Wandering Who? A Study Of Jewish Identity Politics
The book can be ordered on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
[1] Gilad Atzmon, The Wandering Who, (Zero Books) p. 181-182.
[2] Ibid., p.2
[3] Sources UN, PCBS, cited in Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 2012. p.2
[4] Max Blumenthal, Israel’s Bogus Case for Bombing Gaza Obscures Political Motives, Mondowweiss, March 11, 2012.

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Criticism from “Israel’s” Best Friends: A Real Cause for Concern

Ali Rizk

American officials have made statements against “Israel’s” behavior, saying that this behavior was actually against “Israeli” interests themselves.
These statements came from US War Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, also Hillary Clinton, who indirectly criticized “Israeli” behavior in a speech to the pro-“Israeli” AIPAC lobby; which was described as genuine concern from “Israel’s” friends.
But what fits the description of “genuine concern from “Israel’s” friends” even more accurately is a new trend which has been developing amongst American Jewish intellectuals who are not anti but pro-“Israeli”, something which makes their comments all the more relevant.
Peter Beinehart, a liberal Jew supportive of the existence of an “Israeli” state recently published a book entitled “The Crisis of Zionism”, which has generated more and more momentum for criticism against the “Israeli” political establishment by prominent American Jewish intellectuals; who are rightly concerned about “Israel’s” future.
Paul Krugman, a well-known New York Times columnist, who is one of those American Jews, accused the “Israeli” government of pursuing “narrow minded policies that are basically a gradual, long run form of national suicide”. Thomas Friedman and Roger Cohen are two other well known “PRO-Israeli” New York times columnists have also took aim at the “Israeli” politicians.
Friedman wrote an article back in 2010 that “Israel is behaving like a spoilt child” and has continued to criticize the “Israeli” political establishment, even saying “that never before has he been more concerned about “Israel’s” future”.
Roger Cohen wrote an op-ed earlier this year entitled: “Hey “Israel”, stay out of Iran”. Perhaps these warnings have begun to have some effect on the “Israelis” or at least on the military, with the “Israeli” joint chief of staff Benny Gantz saying that he doesn’t believe Iran would build a nuclear bomb and that the Iranian leadership was composed of rational people.(in other words expressing his opposition for the military option against Iran).
Nevertheless the comments of these friends of “Israel” do show that “Israel” indeed is in deep trouble. It has to be mentioned here that these expressions of concern for “Israel” have been accompanied by divisions amongst American Jews with the emergence of groups like J-street who are opposed to the Likud party.

Eugene Dabbous, professor of Political Science at Notre Dame University in Lebanon and who has just returned from a visit to the US, says that this division amongst Jews and the opposition against “Israeli” politicians are testimonial to the fact that “Israel” is in a crisis.
There is no longer any strong , wise “Israeli” political leadership

Dabbous says that the reservations of pro-“Israeli” Jewish voices against “Israeli” policies reflect a genuine fear that “Israel” is behaving in “a stupid, unwise way”. He adds that” “constructive Zionists” have been marginalized” and the “Israeli socialists and liberals have been pushed aside”. In other words proving what Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has said time and again :that there is no longer any strong , wise “Israeli” political leadership.

Dabbous also says this new development has actually broken the fear which used to exist when it comes to criticizing “Israel”. He argues that as these friends of “Israel” step up their criticism, it ironically opens the door for the “non-friends of “Israel” to do the same. He says his hope that this will stir up a “larger academic debate within the US about support for “Israel” and its policies”.(a debate where the non-friends of “Israel” will also take part).

He also says that AIPAC, which prevented any discussion on the issue of “Israel” has lost this ability and that the media in the US is becoming bolder in shedding criticism of “Israel”.

So, for anyone who has doubts about “Israel” being in real trouble, they must only look to what its “Jewish friends in the US” are saying and how their words could really generate developments that do not serve “Israel”. These words also show that in addition to the growing strength of the resistance bloc, the political stupidity of the “Israeli’s” is a major factor which will bring the downfall of “Israel” closer.

Source: moqawama.org

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Palestinian Christians Respond to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren

DateSunday, April 29, 2012 at 9:56AM AuthorGilad Atzmon

The wandering who- Gilad Atzmon

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‘US Fabricated Raid on Bin Laden Compound in Pakistan’

Washington has fabricated the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan to relieve political pressure on US President Barack Obama, Press TV reports.

James Fetzer, American Philosopher and former Marine Corps officer, says Washington fabricated the bin Laden raid to divert public attention from “Obama not having closed Guantanamo, having stationed troops in Pakistan and having his birth certificate being subjected to minute scrutiny.”
“All of that was taken off the front page by the staged fabricated attack on the compound where no one had ever seen Osama bin Laden. Indeed, how can you kill a man who died in 2001 – another time?“ Fetzer said in an interview with Press TV.

Fetzer added that the idea that bin Laden was buried at sea in accordance with Muslim tradition was “preposterous.”

US marines

“That’s disrespectful to bodies which can be eaten by fish, sharks and other crustaceans,” he added.

Obama claimed that Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces on May 1 in a hiding compound in Pakistan.

A US official later announced that bin Laden’s body was abruptly buried at sea, falsely boasting that his hasty burial was in accordance with the Islamic law, requiring burial within 24 hours of death.

However, burial at sea is not an Islamic practice and Islam does not have a timeframe for burial.

“It’s a shame that the United States has been reduced to one lie after another. We seem to be spending more time trying to defend lies than we are solving real problems in the world and this is, yet, one more example,” he concluded.

Source: Press TV
29-04-2012 – 11:20 Last updated 29-04-2012 – 11:20

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Biggest Hunger Strike Ongoing, One Pal. Transferred to Hospital

Local Editor

A Palestinian prisoner has been transferred on Saturday night to Ramleh prison medical center after twelve days of hunger strike.

Thaer HalahlaMohammad Halas is the latest prisoner to be transferred to the prison medical facility after his health began to deteriorate from the extended hunger strike in which he joined seven other long-term hunger strikers, including two that have had no food for sixty days.

1200 Palestinian prisoners began an open-ended hunger strike on April 17th, Palestinian Prisoners Day, joining eight prisoners who began hunger strikes in March. In the days since, they have been joined by hundreds more prisoners.

The West Bank-based Palestinian Prisoner’s Club said that 75 prisoners in one detention facility joined the strike on Saturday, in addition to another unspecified number of detainees in Ofer prison.

The open-ended hunger strikes are meant to challenge Israel’s policy of administrative detention.

Two prisoners, Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab, marked their 60th day of hunger striking on Saturday. Both men are facing organ failure and death in a matter of days, but have both pledged to continue their hunger strikes until death or until their release.

Palestinian Prisoners organization, Addameer, criticized the Zionist entity’s decision to transfer many of the prisoners on hunger strike to solitary confinement, where they have been held in violation of international law.

Source: Websites
29-04-2012 – 14:26 Last updated 29-04-2012 – 14:28

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Paul Eisen speaks with Gilad Atzmon

 

AtzmonEisen

Gilad Atzmon & Paul Eisen

An insightful conversation between Gilad Atzmon and Paul Eisen. It takes a deep look into their minds and the troublesome relationship they hold with ‘Jewish identity politics’, ‘Jewish ideology’,’Jewish power’ and Jewish history alongside their prolonged intellectual and political activism.


by Tali Atzmon
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by the Editor
Sunday, April 29th, 2012

United Methodist Church Considers Divestment from Israel


Every four years the United Methodist Church convenes what is referred to as its General Conference—essentially the Church’s top legislative and policy-making body. The last time the General Conference met was four years ago. This year’s conference began Tuesday in Tampa, Florida, and is scheduled to run for a total of 11 days.

One of the major issues being addressed is a proposal that the church formally divest from Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard because of their involvement in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank (and in HP’s case the blockade of Gaza as well).

“For many years, United Methodist resolutions have urged an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and a sharing of the city of Jerusalem, which is holy to three faiths,” said a statement released by United Methodist Kairos Response, the group submitting the divestment resolution to the General Conference.

“Yet United Methodist boards and agencies hold stock in companies which sustain that occupation. It is time for the church to align its actions with its words. We need to stop investing in companies whose goods and services enable the occupation to continue,” the statement continues.

The United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR) is exactly what its name implies—a response by Methodists around the world to the Kairos Palestine document, which was published by Palestinian Christians in December of 2009. That publication came roughly one year after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead nightmare inflicted upon Gaza, a 22-day aerial bombardment and ground invasion which left some 1,400 Gazans dead, including approximately 300 children. The Kairos Palestine document refers to the Israeli occupation as “a sin against God and humanity.”

While the Methodist resolution is drawing the usual howls of anguish from Israel supporters, curiously the mainstream media have given it little attention. Coverage for the most part has come from the local media in Tampa (see here and here ). Yet it’s worth noting that the conference opening came just two days after the airing of a CBS “60 Minutes” report on Palestinian Christians. And it’s also important to note that other Christians are watching what’s going on in Tampa right now. The National Catholic Reporter has published an article on it, while the Presbyterian Church is expected to take up a similar resolution at a conference beginning in late June.

Like the Methodist proposal, the Presbyterian resolution also targets Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard.

“We have run out of hope that these companies are willing to change their corporate practices (in Israel-Palestine),” said the Rev. Brian Ellison, a Kansas City pastor and chair of the Presbyterian Church’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee. “We have made diligent effort to engage in conversation. We’d like to do more, to make progress, but substantial change does not seem possible.”

The fact that two major Christian denominations are considering divestments at this point may be what prompted the Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, to became so obviously incensed at the 60 Minutes report, or to almost literally “freak out” as one Palestinian writer observed:

The Israel Lobby’s alliance with American Christians, particularly evangelicals, is an integral part of its successful efforts to influence American policy makers. How Israeli policies effect Palestinian Christians might change this and there were stirrings of concern in the Jewish community about a change in this relationship prior to Simon’s 60 minutes segment. Thus, the preemptive strike against CBS was entirely predictable.

Oren seemed to be at a loss for words at some points and when Simon, a veteran journalist, told him he had never in his years of reporting received complaints on a story before it aired Oren replied “Well, there is a first time for everything, Bob.”

Oren’s right, there is a first time for everything. This is the first time that an Israeli Ambassador’s intimidation tactics were so bravely turned against him by a journalist who just wasn’t going to take it any more. Hopefully it is a harbinger of things to come.


Perhaps Oren was secretly reflecting the concerns expressed by some 1,200 rabbis who sent out a letter opposing the divestment resolutions. As reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on April 18:

“We understand and respect your calling to invest in a morally responsible manner,” said the letter, which was launched two weeks ago. “A policy of divestment to pressure Israel runs counter to these goals. Such a one-sided approach damages the relationship between Jews and Christians that has been nurtured for decades. It promotes a lopsided assessment of the causes of and solutions to the conflict, disregarding the complex history and geopolitics. Furthermore, it shamefully paints Israel as a pariah nation, solely responsible for frustrating peace.”

More on the rabbinical letter can be found here . One of the rabbis opposing divestment is Noam E. Marans, who in a JTA op-ed opines that divestment proponents are trying to “turn the clock back on Christian-Jewish relations,” while further averring that the resolution is “an attempt to demonize Israel and is understood by many Jews as crossing a line.”

Marans also accuses the more “extreme” divestment supporters of using “discredited anti-Jewish tropes to characterize the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.” I invite you to judge for yourself whether you find anything of that nature. The resolution in full reads as follows. Have a gander and see if you can spot any “tropes” here:


RATIONALE:

For more than 40 years, every United Methodist Church General Conference has endorsed calls for just and lasting peace for all Israelis and Palestinians, including an end to all military sales to the whole region.   Tragically, ongoing military occupation and expanding Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands have deepened a system of violence and discrimination that dehumanizes Palestinians and Israelis.  The biblical mandate to be peacemakers demands that we express our love of our Palestinian and Israeli neighbors both in word and through nonviolent actions.  (Matthew 5: 9, 1 John 3:17-18)

The Council of Bishops reminds us in God’s Renewed Creation:   Call to Hope and Action:  “We love God and neighbor by challenging those who do harm.  We must not only respond to the suffering already created, but also challenge people, companies, and governments that continue to exploit the weak, destroy the earth, perpetuate violence, and generate more weapons.  We follow Jesus’ example of confronting authorities nonviolently using the force of love.”

Palestinian Christians have implored Christians everywhere to put actions behind their words to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, which is destroying their lives (Kairos Palestine Document).[i] Although The United Methodist Church has long opposed the occupation, The United Methodist Church boards and agencies still hold stock in companies that sustain it.[ii]

In 1996, The United Methodist Church General Conference declared that “continuing efforts by the State of Israel to build settlements in the occupied territories violate both international law and the spirit of the Declaration of Principles [the Oslo peace process].”[iii] The 2004 General Conference approved a resolution opposing “confiscation of Palestinian land … the continued building of illegal Jewish settlements, and any vision of a   ‘Greater Israel’  that includes the occupied territories and the whole of Jerusalem and its surroundings.”[iv]

The United Methodist Church Book of Discipline discourages investment in companies “that directly or indirectly support the violation of human rights” (¶716).[v] Palestinian human rights are violated by companies that sustain illegal settlements, segregated roads, checkpoints, the separation wall, home demolitions and other realities of the occupation.

Researchers with the General Boards of Global Ministries, Pensions and Health Benefits, and Church and Society, several annual conferences, and ecumenical partners have identified a limited number of US and international companies that sustain Israel’s occupation.[vi] United Methodists have engaged Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett Packard on this issue for years and have asked them to end their involvement with the occupation.

The Book of Discipline requires consideration of divestment when companies do not respond to corporate engagement with changed practices (¶716).[vii] At the October 2010 Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) Summit, the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits stated that SRI measures it has employed in the past, including screening and divestment, have not violated the board’s fiduciary responsibility to beneficiaries.

Divestment is not aimed at Israel itself, but at the occupation of land beyond its internationally recognized borders. As a non-violent moral action, divestment seeks to strengthen the Church’s support for the peoples of Israel and Palestine, whose future can only be secured through a just peace. Even if such an action resulted in a lesser financial return, we believe our moral mandate overrides financial gain.

Many faith groups and organizations around the world have already divested or publicly support divestment.[viii] The Church should lead with prophetic action by publicly and promptly aligning its investments with longstanding church policies opposing the Israeli occupation. Such action is supported by mission personnel who have served in the Holy Land since the 1990s.

ACTION:

In light of our theological discernment of moral and biblical justice, the General Conference calls on The United Methodist Church to end its financial involvement in Israel’s occupation by divesting from companies that sustain the occupation.

The General Conference

  instructs all United Methodist general boards and agencies to divest promptly from Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett Packard, which have been engaged repeatedly by United Methodist agencies and annual conferences on this issue, until these companies end their involvement in the Israeli occupation.

  calls on all United Methodist general boards and agencies to immediately engage with other companies in their portfolios that have been identified by researchers in United Methodist agencies and annual conferences as being involved in the occupation.[ix] If these companies do not change their involvement within two years, they should be removed from United Methodist portfolios.

  requires all United Methodist general boards and agencies to provide updates on their websites regarding the process of corporate engagement with and/or divestment from companies that support the Israeli occupation.

– directs all United Methodist general boards and agencies to provide a report to the 2016 General Conference regarding their progress toward complying with this resolution.

– calls on The United Methodist Church boards and agencies, annual conferences, local churches and individuals to prayerfully consider corporate involvement in Israel’s occupation when making investment decisions.

   encourages United Methodists to partner with Jews, Christians, Muslims and other people of conscience working for corporate accountability, human rights and an end to the occupation.



[i] Kairos Palestine. “A Moment of Truth: A Word of Faith, Hope, and Love From the Heart of Palestinian Suffering” http://www.kairospalestine.ps/sites/default/Documents/English.pdf Web. 1 May 2010.

[ii] Holy Land Task Force. “Companies of Concern” http://www.umhltf.org/Companies_of_Concern.html Web. November 2010.

[iii] General Board of Global Ministries. “Two Resolutions of The United Methodist Church on the Middle East: The Building of Settlements in Occupied Territories.” http://www.gbgm-umc.org/middle_east/Jerusalem.html Web. 1996. As cited in The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church 2000. “214. Israel-Palestine Conflict – The Building of Settlements in the Occupied Territories.” (Abingdon Press), 732.

[iv] United Methodist Church. “Opposition to Israeli Settlements on Palestinian Land” http://archives.umc.org/interior_print.asp?ptid=4&mid=6855 Web 2004. As cited in The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church 2004. “312. Opposition to Israeli Settlements in Palestinian Land.” (Abingdon Press), 789.

[v] The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2008. “Socially Responsible Investments”  (Abingdon Press), 492.

[vi] “Companies of Concern.”

[vii] “Socially Responsible Investments,” 492.

[viii] Interfaith Peace Initiative. “Global Actions to End the Israeli Occupation”  http://www.interfaithpeaceinitiative.com/globalactions.pdf  Web July 2010.

[ix] “Companies of Concern.”



Anyone wishing to endorse the resolution may do so here. (Endorsers are not limited to Methodists.) The resolution has already been endorsed by a lengthy list of Palestinians who have published their own letter to the Conference delegates. The resolution has also been endorsed by a host of organizations , as well as individuals, including Desmond Tutu.

Also perhaps worth considering in all this is the word “kairos.” It is a Greek word meaning “time.” Another Greek word, “chronos,” also means time, but in ancient Greek there was a distinction in usage between the two words. While chronos refers to chronological time, kairos, on the other hand, designates a special, or opportune time. In ancient manuscripts of the Gospel of John that have been recovered, the word kairos appears twice in one passage—namely chapter 7 verse 6—in which Jesus speaks the words, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here.” The word was also used by a group of South African theologians, who in 1985 issued a document calling for an end to Apartheid. The South African Kairos Document consisted of five chapters, the first of which was entitled “Moment of Truth”:

The time has come. The moment of truth has arrived. South Africa has been plunged into a crisis that is shaking the foundations and there is every indication that the crisis has only just begun and that it will deepen and become even more threatening in the months to come. It is the KAIROS or moment of truth not only for apartheid but also for the Church.

Apparently the Moment of Truth had indeed arrived. Less than a decade later the South African system of apartheid became history.

Another quite interesting endorsement of the Methodist resolution is that from Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, who recently made a trip to Palestine as part of an ecumenical delegation of women bishops, and who is pictured in the photo below standing on the front row, second from left:
 
In her statement on the matter, Bishop Swenson writes:

We visited Bethlehem, where I saw Christ’s birthplace surrounded by an imposing concrete wall, with access granted to its residents through a dehumanizing checkpoint. We visited Hebron, a Palestinian town with a couple of hundred Israel settlers planted in its midst, being guarded by well over 1,000 Israeli soldiers. There are streets in Hebron that the residents are not allowed to use, not even to reach their own homes. I watched as a child climbed a ladder to a second story window to get into her home, and I was appalled to see a mother, carrying her baby in her arms, having to do the same.

We learned how the occupation has created segregated communities, where freedom of movement and access to the basic necessities of life—such as water and medical care—are determined by ethnic identity. I found myself moved to tears on a daily basis by what I heard and saw.


Swenson’s full statement of endorsement can be found here. Again, I don’t think you’ll find any “discredited anti-Jewish tropes” in any of her words, but you make that determination for yourself.

The following is a talk show discussion on the question of divestment from Israel by US churches. The guests include two Jews and a Presbyterian. It’s hard for me to fathom why Aljazeera would air such a show without including a Palestinian, but I don’t make those decisions. In any event, the program underscores one extremely important point: that the Methodist resolution is very limited and selective in nature. It does not target Israel as a whole or call for a boycott of the entire country, but only for a divestment from the three corporations which have been intimately linked to the occupation of the West Bank. Which makes you wonder why the 1,200 rabbis are in such a tizzy.
While the resolution targets only the three corporations previously mentioned, UMKR has additionally identified eight other corporations profiting from the occupation. The plan as of now is for Methodists to engage these eight other companies in a dialogue, but should this fail to yield any positive results, it could conceivably lead to another divestment resolution at a future General Conference. The UMKR has published profiles on all 11 companies.

A live stream of the Methodist Conference can be viewed here. The streaming schedule is here

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