Imam Khamenei: Trump’s Remarks ‘Silly, Superficial’

“I don’t trust these three European countries either”

May 9, 2018

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei

Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says President Donald Trump’s speech announcing US withdrawal from a nuclear deal with Iran was “silly and superficial.”

“Last night you heard that the US president made silly and superficial remarks. There were maybe more than 10 lies in his comments. He threatened both the establishment and the nation, saying he will do this and that,” Imam Khamenei said in a meeting with a number of teachers and university professors in the Iranian capital Tehran on Wednesday.

“Mr. Trump I tell you on behalf of the Iranian nation: You are making a damn mistake,” the Leader said.

The Leader made the remarks one day after Trump announced Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Imam Khamenei stressed that the US problem with Iran was not related to the country’s nuclear program.

“We accepted the JCPOA, but enmities with the Islamic Republic did not end. Now they raise the issue of our presence in the region and the issue of missiles. If we accept them too, they will bring up another issue,” he said.

“The reason for US opposition to the establishment is that the US used to completely dominate [Iran] but the [Islamic] Revolution cut off their hands [from the country],” he added.

On the other hand, the Leader said it was ‘illogical to stay in the deal with the Europeans without guarantees.”

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In the Occupied Territory, Two Kinds of Justice

Originally published in CounterPunch Magazine December 25, 2017

In the Occupied Territory, Two Kinds of Justice

Many take their liberty for granted even as they have endless time to rail on and on about how “they” are coming for us. Be it the “coup”, apparently now underway, or the spread of domestic McCarthyism that seeks to cower us into silence, or the baffling, sudden, corrupt reach of the Department of Justice, for most white men here we enjoy a privilege that says not us. Typically, it works.

A world away, liberty is less a race-based edge than it is the benefits you gain by the day of the week you celebrate your faith. For those who get directions from god on Saturdays, there appear to be no limits to the dispensation to which you are entitled; be it the execution of an unconscious prisoner, the mass arrest of a family with the temerity to fight for their land or a Prime Minister protected by legislative fiat empowered well beyond the reach of mere mortal law.

Israel has long preached justice and equality to the world. How often have we heard its mantra about democratic ideals and traditions as so much a unique historical tenet of its travel… a journey for the chosen that get to choose who the beneficiaries are… and are not.

For those of us in the US, either schooled in the classic process of the law or victimized by its aim, we’ve grown spoiled by its safeguards even though they remain but abstract and elusive for those many in the prisoner dock of  “wrong” color, with but coins in their pocket or militant politics in their gait.

Yet, despite the betrayal of equal hope for all, the march from investigation to arrest to trial and result knows no formal de jure distinction along the way. Of course, one would be so much a fool to argue that justice is blind, or little more than a commodity for purchase, or the skill of one’s advocate, or the luck of one’s judicial draw. Yet these damning imperfections leave hope along the way that justice may, on occasion, just slip and fall into ones lap despite a long and tarred drop.

That is not the case in Israel. Israel has two systems of justice… one for Jews and the other for Palestinians be they Muslim, Christian or atheist. Nowhere is that more apparent or destructive than it is in the Occupied Territory.

The Detention of Children

Several days ago, 16 year old Ahed Tamimi was arrested, by heavily armed Israeli soldiers, during a violent pre-dawn raid on her home. It followed a video, since gone viral, of her slapping a soldier on the face and arm and pushing another soldier, standing nearby, who she was ushering away from the family home… this, after her 14-year-old cousin, Mohammed,  had been shot by an Israeli rubber coated bullet that entered through his mouth and lodged in his brain.

For Ahed, it was not the first time that her challenge to the occupation received international attention and acclaim.  As an 11 year old, she was video recorded confronting soldiers with clenched fist. She did not back down.  At 13, she helped to wrestle her 11 year old brother, his arm in a cast, from the clutches of an Israeli soldier who was physically assaulting him during a standoff near her family home. For that, she was the recipient of the Handala Courage award in Turkey.

Not long after Ahed’s current arrest, Nariman Tamimi was seized when she went to the local police station to check on her daughter. After attending his daughter’s initial military court appearance, Bassem Tamimi, a prominent land defender and non-violent organizer in the village of Nabi Saleh, was also taken into custody. He has been arrested numerous times by Israeli forces. In 2012, he was termed a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International during one of his several detentions in an Israeli prison.

Later that night, soldiers seized a family cousin, Nour Tamimi, a 21 year old journalism student, from her own family home.

Mother, father, daughter, and cousin arrested after another cousin shot… all within a matter of a few days.  Welcome to Palestine. Welcome to the Occupation.

Liberty means more than the freedom to walk in and out of your home with the approval of those who occupy the streets that lead to it. 

Though the arrest of Ahed has captured the attention of many, it is as much the force of her charisma as it is the call of justice that has produced it. Since 2000, over 8,000 Palestinian children have been arrested and prosecuted in an Israeli military system devoid of any meaningful protection for the most vulnerable and traumatized among those that have known nothing but the bark of occupation their entire lives.  It is a military justice process notorious for the systematic ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children.

The majority of these children have been seized in middle of the night raids by heavily armed Israeli soldiers. By now, military kidnappings have become so much the expected norm that Palestinian teens sleep with their clothes on to maintain their modesty when the doors to their bedroom are kicked in with the shouts of “get up get up” by heavily armed soldiers.

Dragged out the door to the screams of their powerless parents, for most, it will be the last they will hear from them without the watch and eavesdrop of prison guards for the many months of detention to follow.

Several hours after their arrest, children arrive at an interrogation and detention center alone, tired, and frightened.

All Interrogations, by their very nature, are inherently coercive no matter the age or experience of its target.  None are more so than for an often bruised and scared child forced to go through the process without the benefit of counsel or the presence of parents who are never permitted to participate.

Israeli law provides that all military interrogations must be undertaken in a prisoner’s native language and that any statement made by them must be reduced to writing in that language. Despite this prohibition, detainees are typically coerced into signing statements, through verbal abuse, threats, and physical violence, that are written by police in Hebrew… which most cannot understand. These statements usually provide the main evidence against these children in Israeli military courts.

By virtue of the military court process, as of the end of this past summer there were 331 Palestinian minors held in Israeli prisons as security detainees and prisoners, including 2 administrative detainees.

The Military Court Process

The military courts, themselves, are held inside military bases and closed to the public… and usually family members of the accused.  Within these courts, military orders supersede clear Israeli and international law.  The court proceedings reduce the prospect of any justice to little more than a military dress parade where soldiers exhibit their uniform without any independence or skill attached to it whatsoever.

In military courts, all parties to the proceeding… the judge, prosecutor and translators… are members of the Israeli armed forces. The judges are military officers with minimal judicial training and, by-in- large, served as military prosecutors before assuming the bench

The prosecutors are Israeli soldiers appointed to the position by the Area Commander.  Some of them are not yet certified as attorneys under the Israeli Bar Association.

Under the rules of occupation, all defendants in military courts are Palestinian… with the jurisdiction of the Israeli military court never extended to some eight hundred thousand Jewish settlers living in the West Bank.  They are accorded the full benefit and safeguard of Israeli civil law.

Under Israeli military orders, a Palestinian can be held without charge, for the purpose of interrogation, for a total period of 90 days during which he or she is denied the benefit of counsel. These detention periods can be extended without limit and require but an ex parte request of military prosecutors.  By comparison, an Israeli citizen accused of a security offense, within the Occupied Territory, can be held without indictment within the civil process for a period of 64 days during which time counsel is available at all times.

Though Palestinian detainees are entitled to trials in military proceedings which must be completed within eighteen months, if the trials have not concluded within that time frame, a judge from the Military Court of Appeals can extend the detention of a Palestinian by multiple six-month increments… indefinitely. It is this process which has left thousands of Palestinian political detainees imprisoned for years on end without the benefit of counsel, formal charges, or trial. The comparable time limit for detainees before Israeli civilian courts is nine months.

While criminal liability begins at age 12 for Palestinians and Israelis alike, under the military system Palestinians can be tried as adults at age 16. For Israelis, the age of majority for trial as an adult in a civilian court is 18.  This two year difference, without physical distinction of consequence, can mean the difference of many years in sentence should a conviction ensue.  In some cases, it can literally mean a variance between a few years in prison versus decades upon conviction.

For those Palestinian detainees who have been accorded a military trial in the Occupied Territory, the conviction rate is but a bit short of 100%. All military trials are undertaken by a judge and not a jury.

Although the United Nations has repeatedly held that the military justice system in the Occupied Territory violates international law, it has done nothing to ensure equal protection to hundreds of thousands denied justice by virtue of being Palestinian and nothing else.

Detention as a Political Weapon

For fifty years, the justice system in the Occupied Territory has been the exclusive domain of the Israeli army… completely removed from any oversight by civilian laws, courts, and safeguards. It’s been estimated that, during this time, several hundred thousand Palestinians have been sentenced for a wide range of “security violations” as defined by arbitrary military fiat on a case by case basis. It has been reported that 20% of the Palestinian population have been swept up and detained by the military during this time.

While Israel has tried to portray its exercise of judicial authority in the Occupied Territory as one largely concerned with traditional criminal offenses or serious acts of “violence”, in point of fact, most of those seized have been detained for little more than non-violent political activity.

Designated as “Hostile Terrorist Activity,” these offenses often target speech, association, cultural expression, “unauthorized” assembly and movement, non-violent protest, and political activity carried out by elected representatives of local Palestinian government entities.

Others have been detained for “incitement” or membership in “illegal associations” as determined by the local Israeli military commander… or for “leaving the area without permission.”

Journalists have been arrested because of their critical coverage of the military at demonstrations or for reporting about the occupation in general. One was arrested for making a Facebook comment on another arrested Palestinian’s mugshot: “your smile will end the occupation.”

Troops have raided and shut down several broadcast outlets for six months on the grounds of incitement including the Manbar al-Hurriya radio station and eight local outlets operated by PalMedia, Ram Sat and Trans Media.

Documentation of almost two dozen Palestinians, in the West Bank, detained by the Israeli military for nothing more than Facebook posts or exchanges is claimed by 7amleh, the Arab Centre for Social Media Advancement. Additionally, Israel’s security system handed over a list of 400 other Palestinians, having posted to Facebook, to the security of the Palestinian Authority, who arrested them.

Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) have been arrested and detained for carrying out a population census in occupied East Jerusalem which the military deemed as “illegal work” with the Palestinian Authority.

Although International law prohibits interference with the free exercise of one’s political opinions, the Israeli military has sought to suppress the Palestinian political process, as a whole, for decades. Palestinian political leaders and activists are routinely arrested and detained.

In July of 2014, a high of 38 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council were detained for political activity. As of November 2017, the current number is 11 members.    Others have been prevented from travelling outside the Occupied Territories.  A number of Legislative Council members had their residencies in Jerusalem revoked and were forcibly deported to other parts of the Occupied West Bank.

70 lawmakers from the Palestinian Legislative Council have been arrested since 2002 for political activity and little else, including a number that have been detained on multiple occasions.

Among the current members of the PLC in Israeli detention is 55-year-old Khalida Jarrar, a female legislator and senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Head of the Prisoners’ Commission of the PLC and vice-chairperson of the board of directors of Palestinian Prisoners’ Rights Group, Jarrar, who was last released from Israeli detention a year ago, was accused of “promoting terror activities”.

For seventy years, Israel has held itself out as a nation under siege.  It has used this talisman to evade and avoid the clear mandate of international law. Nowhere is that more readily apparent and painful than in the Occupied Territory which, with the passage of time, has become illegally annexed and policed by military force of law.

Jails do not break the back of resistance. They firm it with the price expected for the cost of freedom. In Palestine, it is a price willingly embraced by both the young and those who have aged with the slam of the prison gate.

Perhaps one day, Israel will awaken to the truth that the siege it fights is the very one it promotes. Until then, neither the military nor its sham courts will quell the taste of freedom or the natural beckon for it.

Parallel Worlds: Gaza and Israel

Originally published December 29. 2017 in

Parallel Worlds: Gaza and Israel

History is inexplicable.  It has a way of seizing the chosen few to deliver a commanding message that transcends the tapered, often rote, confines of time, place and journey.

Like the mystery of magic, defining moments seem to find powerful launch through the flash of a sudden second and echo through the voice of those destined to become iconic well beyond the rhyme of powerful lyric alone.

To them, theirs is a journey of the ages. For those fortunate enough to witness such passage it is a transcendent reminder that greatness is measured not through acquired wealth or power but by the prompt of the principle, courage and sacrifice of the few.

Who can forget Faris Odeh, 15 years old when he stared down a tank with little more than a stone in his hand, murdered by Israel in Gaza?  Or 23 year old Rachel Corrie, on that mist covered morning, armed with a bullhorn as she faced off against a bulldozer to save a home, murdered by Israel in Gaza.

Ibrahim Abu Thuraya3

And now legend has taken 29 year old Ibrahim Abu Thuraya from us.  Disabled but not disarmed, he had the boldness to stand his ground clutching his weapon, the flag he loved… murdered by Israel in Gaza.

What is there about a tiny enclave known as Gaza that so offends, so alarms, so intimidates Israel? It would be far too easy to say nothing and simply reduce it to Tel Aviv’s voracious chase of its off-shore gas reserves or its potential as a Mediterranean tourist coastline …once cleansed of its native population and the destruction which bears the marked Star of David.

No. Gaza terrorizes Israel not by force of arms but through the endless resound of its resilience and the muscle of its inspiration.

To millions of Palestinians under siege in Palestine, or those forcibly exiled by a Diaspora now 70 years of age, and to its chorus of supporters worldwide, Gaza stands as a shining beacon of resistance and hope.  Yet, to romanticize Gaza is to lend excuse to Israel and no such apologia will be offered here.

50 miles from the destruction that is Gaza sits Tel Aviv… as so much a marker of grotesque Israeli indifference.

Indeed, not a day passes without a new tease from the “third hottest city” in the world and “party capitol of the middle east” whether it’s the pristine Mediterranean seashore, cosmopolitan restaurants, coffeehouses, and galleries or hip after hour dance and bar scene of the “City that Never Sleeps.”

Ranked as the 25th most important financial center in the world, Tel Aviv has the third-largest economy of any city in the Middle East and draws well over a million international visitors annually to its numerous upscale hotels. Home to Israel’s only stock exchange, it has some 70 skyscrapers as tall as an American football field and includes one with 80 floors topped by a spire 150 feet in height.

Described as a “miniature Los Angeles,” Tel Aviv has been called one of the 10 most technologically influential cities in the world. Serving as home to numerous venture-capital firms and scientific research institutes, it has hundreds of startup companies, textile plants and food manufacturers.

Israel’s second largest municipality, Tel Aviv never wants for “culture” and entertainment. Its population of almost half a million, with an unemployment rate of approximately 4% and income 20% above the national average, can choose from eighteen of Israel’s 35 major centers for the performing arts. The Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center is home of the Israeli Opera and the Cameri Theatre. The Heichal HaTarbut is Tel Aviv’s largest theatre and home to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

But an hour’s drive, yet worlds away, sits Gaza; home to two million Palestinians.

Once known, in polite social circles, as the earth’s largest open air prison, it long ago moved on from jail to Israeli administered death camp. Whether by embargo or bombs, it is simply impossible to watch the life and death of the coastal enclave without seeing Israel’s criminal plan unfold.

With the first blush of sunrise, the streets of Gaza City fill rapidly with those who’ve survived its ritual night of darkness illuminated solely by bursts of another Israeli bombing run.  For them, with each passing hour, the taste of daylight portends a constant race against what little time remains to shop at empty markets, rush for medicines long gone, or dangerously dated, search for missing bottled water, or attend to the needs of family too paralyzed or ill to join the chase.

While Tel Aviv remains a constant tease of new ventures, glorious dining and enrapt theater going, Gaza lives a repetition of bare survival… at least for the lucky.

For others, it’s an endless wail of mourn as infants are laid to rest with lungs once barely filled with the breath of life. Alongside them sleep the young who, traumatized by the unbearable pain of living, tragically surrendered to the calm of willing death. Next to them lie the “elderly” who grew old and ill far too soon while their generation is coming of age and power everywhere else.

By now, it seems some have grown inured, indeed, comfortable with the visible suffer that is uniquely Gaza. Unlike an explosive genocide that unfolds overnight, impossible for many to ignore, Gaza has long simmered out of sight…out of mind.

Entering its second decade of complete isolation and embargo, Gaza periodically, inevitably, explodes from mindless rage in which Israel seeks to “mow the lawn” for little more than the embattled enclave’s determined resilience.

In late 2008 through early 2009, Israel unleashed an all out military attack on the defenseless population of Gaza. When the toxic white phosphorous cleared, some 1,417, mostly civilians, lay dead along with 13 Israeli soldiers… 4 from friendly fire.

In 2014, Israel undertook a 50 day all-out assault on Gaza as it once again targeted the entire enclave with massive disproportionate force.

Although some debate continues over the exact results, according to most estimates up to 2,310 were killed of whom 1,492 were civilians, including 551 children and 299 women. Another 10,895 were wounded including 3,374 children of whom 1,000 were left permanently disabled. 

Among the infrastructure leveled were 220 factories, dairy farms with livestock and the orange groves of Beit Hanoun.  138 schools and 26 health facilities were damaged and thousands of homes totally destroyed or severely damaged. The lone power station in Gaza and its transmission lines was targeted and severely damaged.  Sewage pumps and a major sewage pipe serving 500,000 inhabitants were destroyed. 10 out of 26 hospitals were damaged or destroyed along with several TV stations. 203 mosques were damaged, with 73 destroyed … along with two of Gaza’s three Christian churches.

Israel lost 66 soldiers and 5 civilians, including one child. 469 Israeli soldiers and 261 civilians were injured.

Four years later, conditions have only worsened in Gaza. Where once the UN announced it would be uninhabitable by 2020, for all intents and purposes, that day has come and gone. Yet the determination of its people continues on.

Gaza Today

Today, years of Israeli attacks and siege, have left Gaza reeling from an absence of a basic infrastructure capable of meeting even the minimal needs of its two million people.

Whether its electricity, clean water, healthcare, or sewage treatment and waste management, Gaza is undergoing a very public humanitarian crisis now entering its second decade.

In Gaza, abject poverty is rampant. At 41.1 percent, the unemployment rate is the highest in the world. Its youth unemployment is 64 percent. Currently there are 50,000 young women and men with university and graduate degrees unable to find work in their chosen fields… or any other. That figure grows each year by some 17,000 to 18,000. While once the industrial and production sectors offered more than 120,000 job opportunities per year, now less than 7,000 such positions become available.

Although thousands of homes damaged or destroyed during Israel’s attack in 2014 are still in need of repair, the construction sector is practically idle and essentially out of business. It used to contribute to about 22 percent of local production and offered some 70,000 job opportunities.

Sixty per cent of Gaza lives under the poverty line. Over a fifth of it lives in “deep poverty.” According to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), “over 80 percent of the people in Gaza depend on humanitarian assistance.”

Another report by UNOCHA found that over 80 percent of its displaced families have borrowed money to get by in the past year, over 85 percent purchased most of their food on credit, and over 40 percent have decreased their consumption of food.

According to UNICEF a third of Gaza’s children suffer from chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies that can stunt development and affect overall health.

In other, less visible, ways, the residual impact of years of Israeli attacks and a decade long siege have produced a palpable and deleterious psychological impact on the people in Gaza.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack OCHA estimated that at least 373,000 children required psychosocial support. Today the UNRWA Community Mental Health Programme has found that Gazans are experiencing increasingly higher levels of stress and distress. The World Health Organization (WHO) has found Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to be widespread with studies indicating that upwards of 54% of Gaza’s children, teens and adults either symptomatic, or suffering from its full-on effects.

According to WHO between 10 and 20 percent of the population suffer from severe mental illness. Because of isolation, community pressure or lack of treatment opportunities the figure is likely much higher. Once unheard of, suicide has now becoming a familiar occurrence in Gaza clearly suggesting that the coping skills of Palestinians are being exhausted. Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor reported at least 95 people tried to commit suicide in the Gaza Strip in the first quarter of 2016, a nearly 40 percent increase from previous years.

Life in Darkness

For nearly a decade, Tel Aviv has held a yearly blackout in support of Earth Hour. Meanwhile, millions of nearby Palestinians struggle to eke out a life of bare existence with twenty-one hours of darkness each and every day.

Indeed, while Tel Aviv has converted an idle power station named “Gan HaHashmal” (Electricity Park) into a public park, recently OCHA published new data that shows electricity for Gaza has dropped to a total of just three hours daily and at times that vary from day to day. Lacking any advance notice as to when the electricity will go on, or off, the most rudimentary of life’s work is left largely to little more than blind wish leaving familial, educational, employment and health tasks either undone or incomplete.

According to the WHO, power cuts and fuel shortages have created constant crises for Gaza’s 14 public hospitals; threatening the closure of essential health services leaving thousands of people without access to life-saving medical care.

In Shifa hospital, tiny premature babies, some with multiple infections or congenital diseases, lie crammed in incubators fighting for life as lights sputter. With electricity virtually cut off, their life support is entirely powered by a generator with unpredictable current.

At any given time, power loss threatens the lives of hundreds of the new-born and adults in neonatal and intensive care units and some 658 patients requiring bi-weekly haemodialysis, including 23 children. Refrigeration systems for blood and vaccine storage are also at risk.

With adversity often the mother of invention, many in Gaza have struggled to keep pace with the needs of energy through use of poorly vented generator systems and candle light when available. According to Al Mezan, 29 people including 24 children have died since 2010 from fire or suffocation incidents related to attempts to overcome power outage. In one such tragedy, three siblings were killed after their home caught fire from the candles being used during the power outage.

Water Crises in Gaza

While Tel Aviv holds a yearly contest with an award of free parking to the family that has consumed the least amount of water, in Gaza it would be a competition without a challenge.

As a result of repeated attacks that have targeted Gaza’s water infrastructure… and a 10 year embargo on materials necessary for its repair, a crises in the making has now reached one of epic proportions unmatched anywhere else in the world.

For two million people, it is estimated that 3% of the water of Gaza remains fit for human consumption. In particular, it poses grave risks to its children.

As a result of untreated sewage dumped into the Mediterranean Sea, agricultural chemicals and unfiltered seawater, the rest of Gaza’s water is dangerous; 68% of it biologically contaminated during storage or transportation to Gaza’s households. Indeed, recent studies have shown Gaza’s water contains a large concentration of chloride… as well, nitrate rates two to eight times higher than the WHO recommends.

Recently the UN warned its underground water aquifer, upon which the territory is almost entirely dependent, will soon be completely contaminated; stripping Gaza of access to all its water.

With the shortage of clean water comes the well based fear of a deadly cholera epidemic… particularly in a community with an unusually young population.  This is all the more likely where signs of acute malnutrition and severe wasting are an increasing phenomenon among the young children in Gaza.

Healthcare Dying

Cancer rates are exploding in Gaza. A decade of Israeli wars has poisoned its soil and water, leaving depleted uranium in their wake. Daily spray of insecticides used by Israel to clear border areas, have exacerbated what is becoming a deadly environmental disaster to a community long under siege through every means possible.

According to the head of oncology at Shifa Hospital, today Gaza produces 90 cases of cancer per 100,000 people compared with 65 in 2010. These statistics are particularly ominous given the unusually young population of Gaza with 60% of its residents under 25. Due to a lack of early diagnosis and treatment options in Gaza, women with breast cancer are dying at rates two to three times those receiving first world care.

On top of its energy crises, Gaza suffers from a chronic shortage of hospital beds, medical equipment and specialist physicians.

Treatment for an estimated 6,000 cerebral palsy patients is particularly problematic with many families unable to cover the cost of its specialized care. Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for Gaza’s Health Ministry notes:

The poor financial conditions of families (means they) cannot take responsibility for their children who suffer from cerebral palsy or provide them with medical care such as physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy.

According to the World Bank, 56 % of all Palestinians have no access to “reasonable and customary” healthcare. For those few, in Gaza, with the financial ability to obtain necessary health care, a lack of embargoed “sensitive” medications has created a “very very dangerous” situation with dozens of drugs unavailable… including antibiotic skin ointment and medicines to treat infants born with hypoglycemia and to counteract venomous snake bites. The UN reports that 34% of essential life preserving drugs at the Central Drug Store in Gaza are completely out of stock.

According to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel  (PHRI), the public health system is not able to provide specialized treatments for complex medical problems in a variety of fields including neonatal care, cardiology, orthopedics and oncology. Moreover, nearly 50 percent of Gaza’s medical equipment is outdated and the average wait for spare parts is approximately six months. With few functioning mammography machines and the unavailability of radiation treatment, lumpectomies and plastic surgery, women with breast cancer routinely receive mastectomies as the only option.

The energy crisis has shed light on the huge rise in babies born with congenital, and other, disabilities who are waiting to leave Gaza for specialist treatment in Israel or elsewhere. For many, the wait for the much sought after exit permit can prove too long to survive.

Recently, three seriously ill babies died after permits to grant the children treatment in Israel were denied by the Palestinian Authority.  Earlier this year, a 5 year old girl with cerebral palsy died while waiting permission from Israel to leave for external treatment.  Not long thereafter, another 5 year old boy and 22 year old man died waiting permission to obtain treatment outside of Gaza.

Ka’enat Mustafa Ja’arour, 42, died of uterine cancer while awaiting a response to her permit request for treatment at a hospital in Jerusalem.  In May, 52-year-old Talat Mahmoud Sulaiman al-Shawi, a resident of Rafah, died after being denied entry to Israel to treat a kidney tumor. In August, Fatin Nader Ahmed, 26, died in hospital, while awaiting a travel permit for treatment for her brain cancer.

So far this year, 20 patients have died after their exit permits were either denied or not granted in time. Physicians report that another 10 who, in July, died of cancer but could have been saved if they had been transferred elsewhere for treatment.

A short distance from Gaza, Israeli patients receive the benefit of complex medical treatment from some of the finest and most specialized hospital and emergency care centers in the world.

The Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center has been selected as one of the world’s top 10 medical destinations specializes in adult and pediatric neurosurgery, orthopedic and surgical oncology, kidney-pancreas transplants, liver transplants, micro neurosurgery and trauma.

The Assuta Hospital, in Tel Aviv, is part of Israel’s largest private medical service and offers surgeries and diagnostic procedures in all fields of medicine; including cardiology, oncology, gynecology and urology.

The Wolfson Medical Center, on the southern border of Tel Aviv, addresses a wide range of health conditions from malaria to diabetes and heart conditions and specialty care in ENT, orthopedics, infectious diseases, pediatrics, OB/GYN, family medicine and psychiatry.

Meanwhile, back in Gaza, Yara Bakheet, age 4, and Aya Abu Mutalq, age 5, are laid to rest… denied access to basic medical treatment that would have saved their lives but for Israel’s delay in granting an exit visa for treatment.

Gaza Lives

In the light of this nightmare, some wonder what can drive hundreds, at times, thousands of young women and men to the edge of steel barricades and barbed wire that make their home a prison built of walls but not of silence.  Yet they struggle on as they toss stones at soldiers hundreds of yards away and ignite fires that pose no threat but speak loudly of freedom.

Ultimately, it’s the indefatigable spirit of these 140 square miles of self-determination that threatens the myth, indeed, puts the lie to the grand sale of an all powerful and democratic Israel.

What little mark Israel has built and, ultimately, will leave behind in the assembled home it seized has been erected not by the call of principled purpose but the drive to become but another mini-empire in a region long known for despots that have placed economic and political profit before people.

At day’s end, it’s a legacy that knows no home, or welcome, but that of brute force.

For empires large and small, real or sham, history is but a predictable march of gaudy pretense.  Gilded shacks built of shallow stilts and tattered shrines, theirs is homage to little more than empty tease. It’s who and what they are… it’s what they do… at least until they crash. And sooner or later they all crash.

Be assured, Israel will not be the exception.

Yes, empires come and go like so much a cheap, but deadly, chase for a call in eternity that welcomes no such guest.  For the learned, it’s a lesson of history acquired not by 140 characters but by keen informed observation. For far too many, empty sound bites have, today, become a defining vision without a view.

Yet, there are crossroads in history where an image, a single glance, depicts more powerfully than the finest of poetic verse, a statement of principle, determination and sacrifice which inspires the winds of time for evermore.

Somewhere, right now Faris Odeh, Rachel Corrie and Ibrahim Abu Thuraya smile down upon us as history’s hope and eternity’s message.

Ahed Tamimi… A Child Who Is Not

Since writing this, Ahed’s father has also been arrested.

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Ahed Tamimi… A Child Who Is Not

I understand the sense with which people opt to protest the arrest of Ahed Tamimi with claims she is just a child, however, Ahed is a warrior. Her childhood was stolen, along with that of her siblings, by thief in the night Israel. She was raised a warrior. Had to be.. like all the other youth of Palestine. The youth of Palestine are armed with words, marches, banners and flags… and, yes, stones, bottles, slingshots and fire. Fighting against an occupying, colonizing, heavily armed military is the life to which they are born. Living precariously on the soil of generations, not knowing on which day or what moment the soil will be stolen or family will be stolen, homes destroyed, brothers or sisters shot, maimed, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, cousins and friends beaten, arrested, imprisoned… or worse.

Ahed’s brother, Mo…

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Donald Trump: A president swallowed by history

Donald Trump: A president swallowed by history

US President Donald Trump is a great impersonator. Not a day goes by without his desperate effort to masquerade as human. Surrounded by faux gold and fawning fools from his earliest days, Trump has stumbled from scam to scam, bank to bank, grope to grope, as he reached the absolute pinnacle of moral failure. His is a world of cheap thrills, empty rhetoric and intimidating context.

Few of knowledge would stop to challenge Trump’s unprecedented scorecard of international failure. Indeed, ad hoc chaos has become very much the executive order of his day.

Whether it’s a Muslim ban that targets states from which not a single national has engaged in an act of terrorism that has cost the life of a US citizen, to his retweets of videos posted by a British far-right activist, to a pointless border wall styled on hateful votes and little else, to a proposal to seize Iraqi oil as “spoils of war”, his is a hustler’s hustle. It’s the penultimate Ponzi scheme, a boiler-room operation based in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The life of Donald Trump is a full-time campaign to disguise incompetence to the roar of the inept. While the spectre of nuclear holocaust on the Korean Peninsula, military threats to Iran, and attacks on the domestic political aspirations and independence of Venezuela and Cuba may empower those who draw vigour from the echo of empty words, they do little but confound a world built on fragile relations and nuanced exchange. To be sure, they present a clear and real danger to us all.

Those foolish enough to believe the arrival of the Romanovs of Fifth Avenue would herald a tempering of US imperial ambitions were soon disappointed.

Thus, in Yemen, having been empowered to act on its own, the Pentagon unleashed drone slaughters of mostly civilians at an unprecedented pace. From offshore, the US fired dozens of Tomahawk missiles into Syria as an offset to a suspected chemical weapons attack. In Afghanistan, we saw the detonation of the world’s largest non-nuclear bomb as very much a herald to more US troops and to permanent US warfare.

With reckless abandon, Trump has fled from international agreements designed to give hope to the prospect of life for us all long after the debacle of his imperial design comes to its well-deserved end.

The Paris Climate Agreement became the first victim, with the US departing as the only country in the world indifferent to a global call for adoption of clean energy and the phase-out of fossil fuels. With damning nationalist praise, Trump announced to the world he “was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris”.

Not long after his coronation, he withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, distancing the US from what were its Asian economic allies. Later, citing its alleged anti-Israel bias, he withdrew from UNESCO, which the US helped found in the shadow of World War II. Can it be long before the US abandons a nuclear arms-control agreement that has long been, verifiably, working?

US President Donald Trump gestures to show the extent of temperature change he thinks there is, as he announces his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

Unsurprisingly, Trump’s global “no confidence” rate soared to 74 percent

Cast in the light of a presidency certain to soon enter its second year of crude dysfunction, why is anyone, at all, surprised by Trump’s empty, lawless announcementthat the US will hereinafter recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?

Like the wall for which Mexico will pay, at day’s end, Trump’s apostolic blessing was little more than a “sham show in waiting”, to offer up to a powerful Zionist lobby and ignorant evangelical political base when needed.

Indeed, having shown no understanding of the history or complexity of today’s world, let alone core values of international law, Trump’s gratuitous toss of “legitimacy” to the illegitimate journey of Israel was as predictable as it was desperate.

Jerusalem is not Israeli, by law

Any discussion of Trump’s mindless recent croon about a world-defining moment of 70-plus years, reduced to presidential fiat, alone, must necessarily begin from the reality of international law. To bestow upon an occupation force lawful annexation of land not theirs for the taking is, ultimately, to do little more than insist that the world is flat.

In 1948, when the United Nations recognised Israel as a state, it called for a demilitarised Jerusalem as a separate entity under the protection of its exclusive aegis.

Not long thereafter, pursuant to Resolution 194 (III), the General Assembly declared Jerusalem to be an open city subject to the well-recognised legal principle of internationalisation.

Predictably, not long thereafter, Israel declared Jerusalem to be its capital as it established various government agencies in the western part of the city.

Meanwhile, Jordan continued to exercise formal control of Jerusalem’s eastern section, including, most importantly, the Old City, leaving open its ultimate status to a final settlement of the unresolved “question” of Palestinian statehood. 

All was to radically change as Israel seized and occupied the entire West Bank of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, during the war of 1967, thus rendering it subject to the various protections of the Geneva Convention.

In relevant part, the convention holds it unlawful for an occupying power to transfer its own population into the territory it occupies. In addition, it prohibits the establishment of settlements and the confiscation and annexation of occupied land.

Time and time again, the United Nations, as a toothless organisation, has ordered Israel to cease its expansion of illegal settlements and annexation of occupied Palestinian land.

Time and time again, Israel, as a rogue state, has scoffed at the notion that it owes any obligation whatsoever to well-settled international law. 

Indeed, between 1967 and 1989, the UN Security Council adopted 131 resolutionsdirectly addressing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Israel held itself out as beyond the reach of these resolutions. 

In 1980, and again in 1990, pursuant to Resolutions 478 and 672, the UN demanded that Israel abide by the Geneva Convention and end the construction of illegal settlements. In doing so, it emphasised the “independence” of the City of Jerusalem and the protection of its “unique spiritual and religious dimension”. Israel ignored this demand.

In February 1999, the Security Council again rebuked Israel’s effort as an occupying power “… to alter the character, legal status and demographic composition of Jerusalem”. Israel ignored this demand.

In point of fact, as of 2015, Israel had been condemned in, and had ignored, some 45 resolutions by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Anyone with even a modicum of historical context, let alone intellectual capacity or interest, would understand that a now seven-decade-old, deadly standoff between Palestine and Israel will not go away by wishful thinking or inane talismanic chant.

Yet that is precisely what Donald Trump did when, with typical denial, he preached on a faux resolution, took credit, and then, with alarming ease, said, “Problem solved … next”.

Ultimately, in a strange sort of way, and in more ways than one, Trump’s unearned arrogance and dramatic disconnect from the crossroads of history and reality may have produced results clearly unintended, yet, necessary.

Oslo is dead

For decades, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has toiled under the well-financed illusion that the Israelis who sat across the negotiation table, and their enablers in Washington, brought more than just the appearance of goodwill to the effort.

Time after time, outrage after outrage, the PA has always returned with hat in hand to the folly of talks which accomplished little, but provided an irrelevant political vent as more and more land was annexed, and lives stolen, to the hum of bombs or the slam of prison doors. 

Palestinian technocrats who started out in their prime with Oslo have now aged beyond hope, along with any illusion of relevance. So, too, the march of time leaves no doubt that Oslo has represented nothing but a palpable pretext for Israel to carry out systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, be it by force of arms or by law.

In the years since Yasser Arafat posed with Yitzhak Rabin and renounced armed strugglethree US presidents have come and gone. Each has sold a perverse balance that the US could, somehow, play objective arbiter in the midst of a one-sided slaughter supported, all the while, by US politics and money.

US President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands as they deliver remarks before a dinner at Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem [Ariel Schalit/Reuters]

However, do give Donald Trump credit where credit is due. With one, short, slurred speech, he peeled away, forever more, the veneer of any US integrity or independence when it comes to facilitating a just and equitable resolution, respecting the rights and aspirations of Palestinians. 

Oslo is a failed, futile fantasy that has filled the coffers of the few while the many have suffered from an economic strangle-hold dressed up in institutional benevolence that, in reality, has been used primarily by the PA to buy and control political winds and opposition.

Any reasonable read must lead to the conclusion that the long terminally-ill Oslo has died, along with its whimsical two-state solution, when Trump, essentially, told the PA to shut its doors and walk away.

Hopefully, 82-year-old Mahmoud Abbas got the message loud and clear.

The one state solution

It is well past reality’s reach that a two-state solution can, at this late date, provide a viable vehicle for meaningful Palestinian sovereignty or for overall peace.

The notion that a series of disconnected Bantustans – stripped of a traditional land base, natural resources, and the unique centre of religious and faith-based history – can suddenly become a feasible independent state for millions of stateless Palestinians is fool’s gold.

Ultimately, no matter what its form or shape, the essence of statehood is the ability to develop and maintain political and economic institutions and security and to control borders, including air rights and, where applicable, seaports.

To suggest that Israel would cede any degree of meaningful self-determination, in these all-defining cornerstones of sovereignty, to a Palestinian state is simply laughable, in light of its decades-long practices.

Indeed, at this late date, there is but one solution acceptable to the millions of Palestinian living as refugees abroad or suffering under apartheid, occupation and ethnic cleansing fueled by supremacist hate: one state for all from the river to the sea.

It matters not whether this state becomes a system of independent, but connected, cantons – as in Switzerland. What is important is that the single state embraces no official state religion, ensures equal protection and rights for all, guarantees “one person, one vote”, and opens all jobs, roads and communities. What is also important is that it is based not on race, religion or politics but on the willingness to struggle for a collective good that will at long last serve the united interest of one people.

While some will surely scoff at this notion and, perhaps, find little hope for its success, unification provides the sole means by which Palestinians and Jews, Muslims and Christians can begin to heal the wounds that have long divided people that, left to their own unimpeded devices, would find much more that unites them than divides.

Lest there be any claim of naivete, the road to a one-state resolution is, of course, littered with more than mere encumbrances of communities, schools and highways long segregated by barricades and barbed wire.

Seventy years of forced displacement, death and destruction have left, for many, the scars born of tears and hate. Only time and unification can begin to heal those wounds and end the nightmare. All else is just sheer destructive folly.

For Israelis, who see delay as their ally, it’s a false hope born of little more than convenient denial. “Out of sight, out of mind” does not solve a crisis but simply puts off its reckoning to another day – one which grows more difficult and demanding with the passage of time.

All occupations, large and small, ultimately awaken one day to find themselves captive to a “graveyard of empires”. Here, it will be no different.

The eternal capital of Palestine

Today, in Palestine and in Israel, there are more than 5 million Palestinians with the median age of 19 years. They will not go away or surrender to the silence of the night.

For years, the young women and men of Palestine have been in the vanguard of an unbroken national effort to reclaim their freedom and rebuild their state.

For them, the price has been dear. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Information, since 2000, alone, Israel has killed more than 3,000 Palestinian minors. During the same period, Israeli forces have injured another 13,000 youth and arrested more than 12,000 others. Today, Israel holds about 300 children in its prisons.

Despite an awful price exacted for their courage and resistance, for the young women and men of Palestine, the future holds no truth but one, built on a determined struggle to confront and end a criminal occupation and apartheid by any means necessary, including armed struggle. 

For Palestinians, history is, indeed, a guidepost of what is yet to come. For Palestinians, history is an unbroken saga, handed down from the elderly in refugee camps throughout the Middle East to their very young who find comfort in the cultural breath of dabke.

Mr Trump: Were you an informed observer of history, you would know well that this is not the first time the US has tried to designate a city as the capital of a state against the political and historical will of its people. 

In Vietnam, such an attempt did not end well, as Saigon eventually gave way to the legitimate, national aspirations and rights of millions who refused to be held captive by the imperial design of a foreign occupation force.

Yes, Mr President, history does, and will indeed, repeat itself.

Capitals are much more than cold, sculpted monuments to those that have come before, or warehouses of political ideals and rights beyond the reach of all but the chosen few. Nor can they inspire from behind barricaded buildings in which petty despots dole out rights and benefits based upon one’s mere name or faith. 

Capitals are homes to collective freedom and will, with open doors that know no artificial boundaries or lawful segregation. To be honest, to empower, they must represent the collective will and aspirations of all those who look to them for justice and opportunity.

For millions of Palestinians, that capital is Jerusalem. It weaves with the rock of the ages and hums to the tune of history. To walk down the ancient pathways of the Old City, to hear the call to prayer, to look out in all directions from Al-Aqsa plaza across the open and free expanse beyond its age-old walls is a journey that is Jerusalem.

Nothing that you, Donald Trump, can say or do will undo the magic and majesty that is Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Palestine.

Can A Congress Of Nations Grow A Spine In Time To Save The World

rebel.lio

Can A Congress Of Nations Grow A Spine In Time To Save The World

“The US no longer sees the world as a global community, but as a fighting arena where everyone has to seek their own advantage,” Mr Gabriel told the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum, according to German newspaper Deutsche Welle.

Germany can no longer simply react to US policy but must establish its own position… even after Trump leaves the White House, relations with the US will never be the same.”

Ignorance… The State of Ignoring

Prior to 1939, world leaders were witness to a gradual buildup of militarization within a nation previously brought to surrender in a world war prefaced by a gradual buildup also witnessed by world leaders. The outcome of such buildup was, of course, another world war and another surrender. A portrait of history ignored until the last moment… too late…

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Peter Kassig the Untold Story

caged but undaunted

Peter Kassig the Untold Story

{Previously published in Arabic in Newsweek Middle East & in English by The MideastWire Blog

*By Stanley Cohen

The life of a “radical” defense attorney in the United States is a seamless journey of never ending, tense, often complex battles with implications that extend well beyond a given case or the courthouse doors. At times, some of these struggles necessarily make for strange bedfellows.

The life and death of Peter Kassig is one such journey.

To activist attorneys, in particular, people’s liberty… on occasion their very lives… comes at us in waves of political uncertainty sculpted by events and decisions over which we have little control.

I had just finished almost two years of non-stop work on behalf of Suliman Abu Ghayth, Usama Bin Laden’s son-in law. Having been released from prison in Iran, Abu Ghayth was kidnapped by the US from Jordan after tasting…

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