Rachel Corrie Verdict Highlights Impunity for Israeli Military

Amnesty International Calls Verdict ‘Denial of Justice’

Reposted from AmnestyUSA.org
Contact: Carolyn Lang, clang@aiusa.org, 202-675-8759

(Washington, D.C.) — Amnesty International condemns an Israeli court’s verdict that the government of Israel bears no responsibility in the death of Rachel Corrie, saying the verdict continues the pattern of impunity for Israeli military violations against civilians and human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The verdict shields Israeli military personnel from accountability and ignores deep flaws in the Israeli military’s internal investigation of Corrie’s death.

“Rachel Corrie was a peaceful American protestor who was killed while attempting to protect a Palestinian home from the crushing force of an Israeli military bulldozer,” said Sanjeev Bery, Middle East and North Africa advocacy director for Amnesty International USA.

“More than nine years after Corrie’s death, the Israeli authorities still have not delivered on promises to conduct a ‘thorough, credible and transparent’ investigation. Instead, an Israeli court has upheld the flawed military investigation and issued a verdict that once again shields the Israeli military from any accountability,” Bery said.

The verdict, issued by Judge Oded Gershon in the Haifa District Court, maintains that the Israeli military is not responsible for ‘damages caused’ because the D9 Caterpillar bulldozer was engaged in a combat operation in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 16, 2003.

International humanitarian law prohibits the destruction of property unless required by imperative military necessity, and requires that in any military operation, constant care is taken to protect civilians.

“Rachel Corrie was clearly identifiable as a civilian, as she was wearing a fluorescent orange vest when she was killed,” said Bery. “She and other non-violent activists had been peacefully demonstrating against the demolitions for hours when the Israeli military bulldozer ran over her.”

By upholding the flawed Israeli military investigation, completed within one month of Rachel Corrie’s death in 2003, the verdict seems to have ignored substantial evidence presented to the court, including by eyewitnesses. The full military investigation has never been made public, but US government officials have stated that they do not believe the investigation was ‘thorough, credible and transparent.’

Amnesty International has made similar criticisms of Israel’s system of military investigations for many years. For example, the organization has monitored the investigations carried out by IDF commanders and the Israeli military police into violations during Operation ‘Cast Lead’, launched by Israeli forces on December 27, 2008, in which hundreds of unarmed civilians in the Gaza Strip were killed.

Israel’s military investigations have lacked independence, impartiality, transparency, appropriate expertise and sufficient investigatory powers. The failure of both Israel and the Hamas de facto administration to conduct credible investigations into violations committed during the conflict led Amnesty International to call for the Gaza situation to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

Palestinian civilians from the OPT are killed or injured by the Israeli military all too frequently, but they face significant barriers in accessing Israeli civil courts, which means that Israeli civil courts rarely examine the killings of civilians in the OPT, particularly those in Gaza. Steep court fees required of claimants before the case can begin are beyond the means of most Palestinians. As part of Israel’s continuing closure of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli authorities deny Palestinian victims or witnesses from Gaza permission to enter Israel to testify in court, lawyers from Gaza cannot represent clients before Israeli courts, and Israeli lawyers cannot enter Gaza to meet with clients.

Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned Israel’s policy of demolishing homes and other structures in the OPT, but demolitions are still routine in the occupied West Bank. Over 600 structures were demolished in 2011, resulting in the forcible eviction of almost 1,100 people. In the first seven months of 2012, the Israeli military demolished 327 structures in the West Bank, displacing 575 people, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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The Julian Assange Show: Noam Chomsky & Tariq Ali

 

 

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Intervention is now Driving Syria’s Descent into Darkness

By Seumas Milne

August 08, 2012
Reposted from “The Guardian

The destruction of Syria is now in full flow. What began as a popular uprising 17 months ago is now an all-out civil war fuelled by regional and global powers that threatens to engulf the entire Middle East. As the battle for the ancient city of Aleppo grinds on and atrocities on both sides multiply, the danger of the conflict spilling over Syria’s borders is growing.

The defection by Syria’s prime minister is the most high-profile coup yet in a well-funded programme, though unlikely to signal any imminent regime collapse. Butthe capture of 48 Iranian pilgrims – or undercover Revolutionary Guards, depending who you believe – along with the increasing risk of a Turkish attack on Kurdish areas in Syria and an influx of jihadist fighters gives a taste of what is now at stake. 

Driving the escalation of the conflict has been western and regional intervention. This isn’t Iraq, of course, with hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground, or Libya, with a devastating bombardment from the air. But the sharp increase in arms supplies, funding and technical support from the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and others in recent months has dramatically boosted the rebels’ fortunes, as well as the death toll. 

Barack Obama has so far resisted the demands of liberal hawks and neoconservatives for a direct military assault. Instead he’s authorised more traditional forms of CIA covert military backing, Nicaragua-style, for the Syrian rebels.

The US, which backed its first Syrian coup in 1949, has long funded opposition groups. But earlier this year Obama gave a secret order authorising covert (as well as overt financial and diplomatic) support to the armed opposition. That includesCIA paramilitaries on the ground, “command and control” and communications assistance, and the funnelling of Gulf arms supplies to favoured Syrian groups across the Turkish border. After Russia and China blocked its last attempt to win UN backing for forced regime change last month, the US administration let it be known it would now step up support for the rebels and co-ordinate “transition” plans for Syria with Israel and Turkey.

“You’ll notice in the last couple of months, the opposition has been strengthened,” a senior US official told the New York Times last Friday. “Now we’re ready to accelerate that.” Not to be outdone, William Hague boasted that Britain was also increasing “non-lethal” support for the rebels. Autocratic Saudi Arabia and Qatar are providing the cash and weapons, as the western-backed Syrian National Council acknowledged this week, while Nato member Turkey has set up a logistics and training base for the Free Syrian Army in or near the Incirlik US air base.

For Syrians who want dignity and democracy in a free country, the rapidly mushrooming dependence of their uprising on foreign support is a disaster – even more than was the case in Libya. After all, it is now officials of the dictatorial and sectarian Saudi regime who choose which armed groups get funding, not Syrians. And it is intelligence officials from the US, which sponsors the Israeli occupation of Syrian territory and dictatorships across the region, who decide which rebel units get weapons.

Opposition activists insist they will maintain their autonomy, based on deep-rooted popular support. But the dynamic of external backing clearly risks turning groups dependent on it into instruments of their sponsors, rather than the people they seek to represent. Gulf funding has already sharpened religious sectarianism in the rebel camp, while reports of public alienation from rebel fighters in Aleppo this week testifies to the dangers of armed groups relying on outsiders instead of their own communities. 

The Syrian regime is of course backed by Iran and Russia, as it has been for decades. But a better analogy for western and Gulf involvement in the Syrian insurrection would be Iranian and Russian sponsorship of an armed revolt in, say, Saudi Arabia. For the western media, which has largely reported the Syrian uprising as a one-dimensional fight for freedom, the now unavoidable evidence of rebel torture and prisoner executions – along with kidnappings by al-Qaida-style groups, who once again find themselves in alliance with the US – seems to have come as a bit of a shock.

In reality, the Syrian crisis always had multiple dimensions that crossed the region’s most sensitive fault lines. It was from the start a genuine uprising against an authoritarian regime. But it has also increasingly morphed into a sectarian conflict, in which the Alawite-dominated Assad government has been able to portray itself as the protector of minorities – Alawite, Christian and Kurdish – against a Sunni-dominated opposition tide.

The intervention of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf autocracies, which have tried to protect themselves from the wider Arab upheaval by playing the anti-Shia card, is transparently aimed at a sectarian, not a democratic, outcome. But it is the third dimension – Syria’s alliance with Tehran and Lebanon’s Shia resistance movement, Hezbollah – that has turned the Syrian struggle into a proxy war against Iran and a global conflict.

Many in the Syrian opposition would counter that they had no choice but to accept foreign support if they were to defend themselves against the regime’s brutality. But as the independent opposition leader Haytham Manna argues, the militarisation of the uprising weakened its popular and democratic base – while also dramatically increasing the death toll.

There is every chance the war could now spread outside Syria. Turkey, with a large Alawite population of its own as well as a long repressed Kurdish minority, claimed the right to intervene against Kurdish rebels in Syria after Damascus pulled its troops out of Kurdish towns. Clashes triggered by the Syrian war have intensified in Lebanon. If Syria were to fragment, the entire system of post-Ottoman Middle East states and borders could be thrown into question with it. 

That could now happen regardless of how long Assad and his regime survive. But intervention in Syria is prolonging the conflict, rather than delivering a knockout blow. Only pressure for a negotiated settlement, which the west and its friends have so strenuously blocked, can now give Syrians the chance to determine their own future – and halt the country’s descent into darkness.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/07/intervention-syria-descent-into-darkness

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Deadlock over Syria

By Alain Gresh

Published in Le Monde Diplomatique

The Syrian people, like the Egyptians and others across the Arab world, are reviving the desires and ambitions that they abandoned after the Arab defeat in the 1967 war. The outcome, and who will influence it, can’t be predicted

Patrick Seale’s 1965 classic, The Struggle for Syria, describes the battle for control of that country after the second world war (1). It was played out against the background of the cold war, but also within the context of the struggle for hegemony over the Arab world, which pitted Nasser’s Egypt against Saudi Arabia, and extended as far as the Yemeni mountains where Egyptian troops supported the young republic against royalist forces armed and financed by Saudi Arabia. From the 1950s to the 1967 war (2), Syria was the point of balance (or imbalance) in a region marked by coups and military juntas.

 

Syria was also one of the centres of the social and political ferment of the 1950s and 1960s, when Arab nationalists, socialists and Marxists strove for independence, economic development and a more just and egalitarian society.

But after the Arab defeat in the 1967 war, the Middle East entered a period of stagnation which lasted four decades. Its regimes — whether republics or monarchies — gave up any attempt at reform. They were characterised by authoritarianism, the concentration of wealth in a clique close to the leadership, and endemic corruption. While there were sporadic and spontaneous outbursts of popular discontent, the desire for social change was ignored and governments focused on geopolitical issues, clashing with each other over their policies towards the US and Israel.

Alliances fluctuated. At the time of the first Gulf war in 1990-91, Hafez al-Assad’s Syria was allied to Washington, while Jordan under King Hussein supported Saddam Hussein. Before the 2011 uprisings, the region was divided between the pro-US camp, principally Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and the “axis of resistance”: Iran, Syria, Hamas in Palestine and Hizbullah in Lebanon.

The Iranian card

Syria has a privileged position thanks to its relationship with Iran which has endured for 30 years despite their differing views on peace with Israel: Tehran rejects Israel in principle, while Damascus would accept it on condition the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967, were restored to Syria.

After the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri on 14 February 2005, and the hasty withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, Syria’s Ba’athist regime went through a period of isolation that Bashar al-Assad finally managed to end. By withstanding pressure from the US administration (which wanted to remove him), supporting Hizbullah during Israel’s war against Lebanon in 2006, and supporting Hamas in the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2008-09, he bolstered his regime’s image as a centre of resistance. Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, impressed by his firm stance, even suspended their opposition, temporarily.

The Ba’athist regime believed Syria’s position within the axis of resistance meant it was safe from the revolutionary movement that engulfed the region in 2011. But that was to reduce the conflict over Syria to its geopolitical dimension, as a confrontation between the imperialist and anti-imperialist camps, and to underestimate the changes brought about by the Arab revolutions and the aspirations of the Syrians. The regime miscalculated, because Syria has the same flaws as others in the region: an authoritarian and arbitrary government, a greedy elite, neoliberal policies that impoverish its people and an inability to respond to the aspirations of the young, who are more numerous and better educated than their elders. The government’s refusal to listen to their demands and the extraordinary brutality of the repression has caused the violence to escalate, and encouraged some protestors to take up arms, even though the majority support non-violence (silmiyya), as in Egypt. The risk of the uprising taking a sectarian turn has increased — something the regime has exploited to frighten the Christians and Alawites (3).

A changing opposition

Syria’s opposition — or parts of it — are incapable of offering any serious guarantees for the future. Some of their earlier supporters have even turned away from the opposition. The Kurds, who were among the first to protest (to get national identity cards, which they had been denied), are now keeping their distance, shocked by the refusal of the Syrian National Council (SNC) to recognise their rights (4). The government has re-launched the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), which it had already used in its military confrontations with Turkey in the 1990s and which remains popular among Syria’s Kurds.

There is a new split at the heart of the SNC, led by people such as Haytham al-Maleh and Kamal al-Labwani, former political prisoners who reject the SNC’s foreign alignment. Ammar Qurabi, the former head of Syria’s National Organisation for Human Rights and leader of the National Current for Change, has accused the SNC of marginalising Alawite and Turkmen activists (5). Syrian Christians, who have watched many Christians flee Iraq, are worried by the rise of the jihadists and the anti-Christian and anti-Alawite slogans chanted by protestors.

The SNC has many opponents, including the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, which rejects foreign military intervention. It has gone through a series of internal splits, and is now dominated by the Islamists, though it is fronted by a few liberal figures. Its dependence on western countries and Gulf monarchies has gone down badly.

The result is total deadlock. The opposition cannot bring down the government, and the government cannot put down an uprising that has a surprising determination and courage. It would be impossible to return to the status quo ante: the government could never maintain the control it used to have over a nation that has been politicised over the last few months. The government’s reforms (a new constitution, successive amnesties) are meaningless since the secret services and the army have a free hand to bomb, torture and kill opponents.

There is a real risk of civil war, which could spill into Lebanon and Iraq. Foreign military intervention would intensify sectarian fighting and make the gun the only arbiter of religious divisions. It could destroy hopes of democracy in the region.

Assessing the options

Should we do nothing? There are other options than military intervention. Economic pressure on Syria has already made some middle-class government supporters reconsider, and this could be increased, as long as it targeted the leaders and not the population. The first Arab League observer missions had difficulties but managed to limit the violence. (Saudi Arabia had them withdrawn and buried their report because it did not correspond to the simplistic media coverage.) It would be a positive development if the observers were to return, and extend their mission. We should involve Russia and China in negotiations with a transitional government. Some commentators question the idea of negotiation with such a murderous regime, but in Latin America transition to democracy was achieved by granting soldiers amnesty, even if it is a matter of regret that they exploited this for 30 years.

 

This is not the path favoured by most foreign players, who reduce the situation to a clash between dictatorship and democracy. Does Saudi Arabia want democracy in Syria, when it has no elected assembly itself? Its interior minister has described Shia protests in the east of Saudi Arabia as “a new form of terrorism” (6). At the beginning of March its forces violently crushed a demonstration by female students in Abha (capital of Asir province and majority Sunni) protesting against the poor level of teaching at the university. The protests spread, ignored by the media.

Concerned at the US’s diminishing influence in the region and the growing power of the Shia in Iraq, Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront of the Arab counter-revolution. It has tried to crush the rebellion in Bahrain, and has armed Syrian rebels, raising the spectre of Shia domination, in order to get the Sunni majority on its side, banking on a double hostility towards the Shia and Iran.

Saudi Arabia’s attempt to revive “Sunni solidarity” hopes to make use of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, and perhaps soon in Libya, even though relations between the Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia have been poor over the last decade. But the Brotherhood is divided on what choices it should make, as demonstrated by the Tunisian government’s opposition to foreign intervention in Syria or the struggle within Hamas, which has abandoned its headquarters in Damascus. A member of its political wing, Salah al-Bardawil, said that Hamas would not intervene in the event of a war between Iran and Israel, though that was refuted by another leading member, Mahmoud al-Zahar (7). The concept of a grand Sunni alliance against Iran and Syria founders, once again, on the Palestinian problem, for who could replace them in resisting Israel’s policies?

The US hopes to knock down one of the pillars of the “axis of evil”, as well as Iran, which Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu would love to bomb. Having made an inglorious exit from Iraq, and soon to be driven out of Afghanistan where they are hated by the Taliban and a population exasperated by blunders, the Americans are reluctant to embark on a new military adventure in Syria, even though Assad’s fall would give them the chance to regain ground in the region. No one knows if they will support military intervention in the name of protecting civilians as they did in Libya. Would they risk destabilising a country to which jihadists and al-Qaida fighters are already flocking?

The former head of Mossad and ex-national security adviser Efraim Halevy has said that overthrowing the regime in Damascus would weaken Tehran, ending the need to bomb Iran (8). Could he have been expressing the position of the Israeli government? As Israel knows, making such a position public would only backfire on the Syrian opposition. Some commentators in Israel fear that a civil war in Syria could end the peace that has existed on their common border.

Russia and China are wary of the rising power of the Islamists, and of European and US unilateralism. That is why they have so far vetoed UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, saying they prefer a negotiated solution.

Instability leads to uprisings

All this is happening in a region already deeply destabilised by wars led by the US (in Iraq and Afghanistan) and by Israel (in Lebanon and Palestine). These have led to weakened governments, to an increase in militias (in Iraq, Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine and now Syria), often armed with powerful conventional weapons such as missiles, and to sectarian tensions that threaten minorities.

It was in the context of this instability that the Arab uprisings broke out, with demands for freedom, dignity (karama), democracy and social justice. Even though these overthrew the presidents of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, there is a sense of disappointment among western commentators and the media. As Peter Harling, the International Crisis Group’s project director for Egypt, Syria and Lebanon says: “It is not surprising that the initial spark of revolution in Tunisia and Egypt should give way to confusion. Throughout the Arab world, the social contract is being renegotiated, in an ambitious and violent way. Each case has its own complexities but there are strong connections between them, and the Tunisian model is being discussed in the remote Syrian countryside” (9).

Are we heading for an Islamist winter, sectarian clashes, or the crushing of the protest movements in Syria and Egypt? We cannot discount any of these hypotheses, but they all underestimate the power of the protests, the commitment to holding democratic elections and the extraordinary resilience of the people in Syria, as in Bahrain. They are reviving social and democratic struggles largely dormant since 1967, while maintaining their support for the Palestinian cause, which has never gone away. In this context, further foreign intervention would risk stirring up divisions, as it did in Iraq and Libya, and risk transforming a democratic struggle into a sectarian one, primarily between Shia and Sunnis.

Translated by Stephanie Irvine

Alain Gresh is vice president of Le Monde diplomatique.

(1) Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria, Oxford University Press, 1965; reprinted by IB Tauris, London, 1986.

(2) The 1967 war ended in defeat for Egypt, Syria and Jordan, and Israeli occupation of the Sinai Peninsula (given back in 1979), the Golan Heights, the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

(3) A Muslim minority, linked to Shia Islam, to which the Assad family and other Syrian leaders belong.

(4) Dogu Ergil, “Syrian Kurds”, Today’s Zaman, Istanbul, 21 February 2012.

(5) Ipek Yezdani, “Syrian dissidents establish new bloc”, Hurriyet Daily News, Istanbul, 21 February 2012.

(6) “State has full right to check rioting, Interior Ministry says”, Arab News, 11 March 2012.

(7) The first quote is from The Guardian, London, 6 March 2012; the second from The Jerusalem Post, 8 January 2012.

(8) “Iran’s Achilles Heel”, International Herald Tribune, Paris, 7 February 2012.

(9) “Le monde arabe est-il vraiment en “hiver” ?”, 1 February 2012; LeMonde.fr/.

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Congress Pushes for War With Iran

By Stephen Zunes
Reposted from “The Huffington Post” Link

In another resolution apparently designed to prepare for war against Iran, the U.S. House of Representatives, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan 401-11 vote, has passed a resolution (HR 568) urging the president to oppose any policy toward Iran “that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.”

With its earlier decision to pass a bill that effectively sought to ban any negotiations between the United States and Iran, a huge bipartisan majority of Congress has essentially told the president that nothing short of war or the threat of war is an acceptable policy. Indeed, the rush to pass this bill appears to have been designed to undermine the ongoing international negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. According to Iranian-American analyst Jamal Abdi, a prominent critic of both the Iranian regime and U.S. policy, the motivation for the resolution may be to “poison those talks by signaling to Iran that the President is weak, domestically isolated, and unable to deliver at the negotiating table because a hawkish Congress will overrule him.”

President Obama’s “red line” on Iran — the point at which his administration would consider taking military action against the country — has been the reactionary regime’s actual procurement of nuclear weapons. The language of this resolution, however, significantly lowers the bar by declaring it unacceptable for Iran simply to have “nuclear weapons capability” — not necessarily any actual weapons or an active nuclear weapons program. Some members of Congress have argued that since Iranians have the expertise and technological capacity to develop nuclear weapons, they already have “nuclear weapons capability.” The hawkish Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has argued that “everybody will determine for themselves what [capability] means.”

In case there was any doubt about the intent of Congress in using this language, when Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) offered a clarifying amendment to a similar clause in a recent Senate resolution — declaring that “nothing in the Act shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization of the use of force against Iran” — both its Republican and Democratic sponsors summarily rejected the amendment.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson
, former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, noted how “this resolution reads like the same sheet of music that got us into the Iraq war, and could be the precursor for a war with Iran. It’s effectively a thinly-disguised effort to bless war.”

As the liberal Zionist group Americans for Peace Now observed, the legislation suggests that “unless sanctions imminently result in Iran voluntarily shutting down its entire nuclear program (and somehow deleting the nuclear know-how from the brains of its scientists), military force will be the only option available to the Obama Administration and will be inevitable in the near term.”

Though it is not legally binding, the resolution does limit the president’s options politically. As pundit and former Capitol Hill staffer M.J. Rosenberg has noted, the bill was “designed to tie the president’s hands on Iran policy.” And, as with the case of Iraq, the language of such non-binding resolutions can easily be incorporated into binding legislation, citing the precedent of what had been passed previously.

The End of Containment

There is enormous significance to the resolution’s insistence that containment, which has been the basis of U.S. defense policy for decades, should no longer be U.S. policy in dealing with potential threats. Although deterrence may have been an acceptable policy in response to the thousands of powerful Soviet nuclear weapons mounted on intercontinental ballistic missile systems aimed at the United States, the view today is that deterrence is somehow inadequate for dealing with a developing country capable of developing small and crude nuclear devices but lacking long-range delivery systems.

Indeed, this broad bipartisan consensus against deterrence marks the triumph of the neoconservative first-strike policy, once considered on the extreme fringes when first articulated in the 1980s.

This dangerous embrace of neoconservative military policy is now so widely accepted by both parties in Congress that the vote on the resolution was taken under a procedure known as “suspension of the rules,” which is designed for non-controversial bills passed quickly with little debate. Indeed, given the serious implications of this legislation, it is striking that there was not a single congressional hearing prior to the vote.

The resolution also demonstrates that the vast majority of Democrats, like Republicans, have embraced the concept of “full-spectrum dominance,” the Bush-era doctrine that not only should the United States prevent the emergence of another rival global superpower such as China, but it should also resist the emergence of even a regional power, such as Iran, that could potentially deter unilateral U.S. military actions or other projections of American domination.

Limiting the President

It is unprecedented for Congress to so vigorously seek to limit a president’s non-military options in foreign policy. For example, in 1962, even the most right-wing Republicans in Congress did not push for legislation insisting that President Kennedy rule out options other than attacking Cuba or the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis. What might be motivating Congress is the fact that, in electing Barack Obama in 2008, the American people brought into the White House an outspoken opponent of the U.S. invasion of Iraq who not only withdrew U.S. combat forces from that country but promised to “change the mindset” — the idea that the United States could unilaterally make war against oil-rich Middle Eastern countries that did not accept U.S. domination — that made the Iraq war possible. Both Democratic and Republican hawks, therefore, appear determined to force this moderate president to accept their neoconservative agenda.

Deterrence, when dealing with a nuclear-armed party, is indeed a risky strategy. The international community does have an interest in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, as well as in forcing India, Pakistan, and Israel to disarm their already-existing arsenals. All reasonable diplomatic means should be pursued to create and maintain a nuclear-free zone in that volatile region.

However, the idea that deterrence against Iran would not work because the country’s clerical leadership, which controls the armed forces, would decide to launch an unprovoked nuclear attack against Israel or the United States — and therefore invite massive nuclear retaliation that would cause the physical destruction of their entire country — is utterly ridiculous. The far more realistic risk to worry about is the enormous devastation that would result from a U.S. war on Iran.

The real “threat” from Iran is if that country achieves nuclear capability, it would then have a deterrent to a U.S. attack that was unavailable to its immediate neighbors to the east (Afghanistan) and west (Iraq), both of which were invaded by U.S.-led forces. Both Democrats and Republicans appear to be united in their belief that no country should stand in the way of the unilateral projection of military force by the United States or its allies.

Indeed, this resolution is not about the national security of the United States, nor is it about the security of Israel. It is about continuing U.S. hegemony over the world’s most oil-rich region.

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Video: Ceasefire Reached After Israeli Air Strikes Killed 26 Palestinians in Gaza

Watch here

From Democracy Now: As Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip reportedly agree to a ceasefire after four days of cross-border violence, we speak with Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the online publication, “The Electronic Intifada.” Earlier today, an Egyptian official said both sides have pledged to end current attacks and implement “a comprehensive and mutual calm.” Israel’s latest strikes on Gaza killed at least 25 Palestinians. At least 80 Palestinians were also wounded, most of them civilians. At least four Israelis in border towns were wounded in rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza. The rocket attacks began after an Israeli air strike killed Zuhair al-Qaisi, the head of the Popular Resistance Committees, on Friday. Most of the Palestinian victims were killed on Saturday, making it the deadliest 24-hour period Gaza has seen since the Israeli attack in December 2008 and January 2009 when some 1,400 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians. “Israel presents this as they’re attacking terrorists who are en route to commit some kind of attack, and that’s the claim they always make,” Abunimah says. “But in fact, in almost every case, they’re attacking people in their homes, riding in cars, just walking in the street.”

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Dr. Mads Gilbert: U.S. Lecture Tour Schedule April 11-18th, 2012

Dr. Mads Gilbert, professor of medicine at the University of North Norway, specializes in anesthesiology and emergency medicine. He provided medical support in Gaza during Israel’s three-week assault in December 2008 and January 2009. Dr. Gilbert describes his experiences in his book, Eyes in Gaza, co-authored with colleague Dr. Erik Fosse. Mads Gilbert recently returned from trips to Beirut, Lebanon (March 2012) and the Gaza Strip (January 2012). Gilbert’s US lecture tour will focus on his experiences in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead and in his recent follow-up visit, while providing an up-to-date analysis of the Palestinian crisis in light of current US-Israeli foreign policy in the Middle East.

Scheduled Lectures. Additional events in these cities are TB

Wednesday, 11th April 2012: Washington D.C.  8:00-11:00a.m.: Press Conference;  National Press Club;  Lecture & Reception at Georgetown University, 3:00pm – 6:00pm. Contact: Jennifer at  amadea311@earthlink.net; or Marina at mrk72@georgetown.edu

Thursday, 12th April 2012: Madison, Wisconsin.  12:00-1:00pm, WORT 89.9fm Radio: A Public Affair – Interview. Lecture and book sales at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 180 Science Hall 7:00pm. Contact: Max Love at mlove@wisc.edu; or Barb Olson at barbieolson@yahoo.com

Friday, 13 April 2012; Minneapolis, MN; Lecture @ 7:00p.m. Holy Trinity Lutheran Church; 2730 E. 31st Street;  Contact: Margaret at Hope4Peace22000@yahoo.com or WAMM (Women Against Military Madness) at (612) 827-5364.

Saturday, 14 April 2012: Minneapolis, MN; coffee 9:30a.m. & lecture @ 10:00a.m.; Hennepin United Methodist Church; 511 Groveland Ave. Contact: Dixie of MEPN (Middle East Peace Now) at dixiev@earthlink.net Tel: (952) 941-1341

Saturday, 14 April 2012; Northfield, MN. Lecture @ 7:00p.m. St. Olaf’s College; Contact: Jonathan Hill hillj@stolaf.edu; or Jennie at jdhartley1@aol.com

Monday, 16 April 2012; New Brunswick, New Jersey; lecture at 7:00p.m. at Rutgers University. Busch Campus Center Room 120AB;  604 Bartholomew Road Piscataway, New Jersey 08854  Contact: Hajar Hasani at hajarhasani@gmail.com or Maryam at maryam.zohny@gmail.com

Tuesday, 17 April 2012; New York, NY: lecture at 7:00p.m. at Hunter College (need venue/address); Contact: Maryam at maryam.zohny@gmail.com; or Sharita at sssharmin6789@yahoo.com

Wednesday, 18 April 2010; Cambridge, MA; lecture @6:00p.m. at Harvard Law School, Austin West. Contact: Nancy at numurray@comcast.net or Ellen at ecantarow@comcast.net

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Trapped by Denial of Rights, Illusion of Statehood: The Case of the Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

March 1, 2012

The bid to attain UN membership is a reflection of the impasse the Palestinian leadership reached in the negotiations with the Israelis and their American sponsor. It is the PLO/PA attempt to break out of the deadlock despite the risks involved to the PLO’s claim to be the sole representative of the Palestinian people in their quest to secure their right of return and self-determination.

Palestinians in Lebanon took different positions towards the bid. Some cheered enthusiastically (Fatah and PLO factions) while others expressed reservations and/or rejected it (Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement). Many were concerned that the bid could affect the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and in particular their rights of return and self-determination.  Civil society organizations, especially the committees and bodies involved in a movement for the right of return explicitly rejected the bid and even accused the PA of betrayal and squandering national rights in the “game of nations”.

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