israel and palestine articles

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I still remember when Morde Vanunu disappeared in 1986. He had been a part of our church community. He had gone to London to share his story about the secret Israeli nukes with the world. He was a man on a mission, convinced that God had called him to blow the whistle on his country. I spent many sleepless nights over the following 18 years thinking about how we could have done things differently so that he would have been better protected.

In 2004, after serving his complete 18-year sentence, Morde was ‘released’ but with ‘release conditions’:

  1. He wasn’t allowed to leave the country
  2. He wasn’t allowed to go near a foreign embassy
  3. He wasn’t allowed to speak to foreign members of the press.

Evidently the Israeli government wasn’t ready to let go of him, and the third condition suggests that there was information that Morde had that the government didn’t want to circulate worldwide. But what could Morde have known that could still embarrass Israel? The purported reason – that he still had sensitive information about Israel’s nukes – was ridiculous. 

Dyer addresses these issues though he himself doesn’t seem to be convinced by the answer he gives. Is Vanunu’s ongoing punishment really only to preserve the USA from embarrassment? And how embarrassed is the US likely to be, even if it can be shown that the President knew about Israel’s nukes but didn’t say anything?

My guess is that the US may have been a lot more involved in the development of Israel’s nuclear arsenal than Dyer believes. At the same time though I don’t think Morde Vanunu really knows as much about Israeli-US nuclear complicity as they think he does.

Father Dave

Morde Vanunu and me after his 'release' in 2004

with Morde Vanunu after his 2004 ‘release’

source: www.thespec.com…

Dyer: Israel’s nuclear hypocrisy

Time to own up to the truth about not-so-secret arms cache

By  Gwynne Dyer

When Mordechai Vanunu, a humble Israeli technician who worked for years at Israel’s secret nuclear site at Dimona, spilled the beans about Israel’s nuclear weapons in 1986, very bad things happened to him. He was lured from safety in England for an Italian holiday by a woman who was an Israeli secret agent, drugged and kidnapped from Italy by other Israeli agents, and imprisoned for 18 years (11 of them in solitary confinement).

When Avraham Burg, the former speaker of the Israeli parliament, said last month that Israel has both nuclear and chemical weapons (you know, like the nuclear weapons that Iran must not have and the chemical weapons that Syria must give up), nothing bad happened to him at all. He is protected by the Important Persons Act, the unwritten law that gets powerful and well-connected people off the hook in every country.

They didn’t even go after Burg when he said that Israel’s long-standing policy of “nondisclosure (never confirm or deny that it has nukes) was “outdated and childish.” But even 10 years after Vanunu finished serving his long jail sentence, he is not allowed to leave Israel, go near any foreign embassy, airport or border crossing, or speak to any journalist or foreigner.

Vanunu defies the Israeli authorities and speaks to whomever he pleases, of course. But he really can’t get out of the country, though he desperately wants to leave, and his decision to live like a free man gives his watchers the pretext to yank his chain by arresting him whenever they feel like it.

The Israeli government’s excuse for all this is that he may still know secrets he might reveal, but that is nonsense. Vanunu hasn’t seen Dimona or talked to anybody in the Israeli nuclear weapons business for 30 years. What drives his tormentors is sheer vindictiveness, and he may well go on being punished for his defiance until he dies — while Avraham Burg lives out his life undisturbed and offers occasional pearls of wisdom to the public.

So here are the “secrets” that Vanunu and Burg revealed, in rather more detail than Burg chose to give and in a more up-to-date form than Vanunu could give from personal knowledge.

Israel has a minimum of 80 and a maximum of 400 nuclear weapons, those limits being based on calculations of the amount of fissile material that it has enriched to weapons grade. The best guess is that the total is around 200 warheads, most of them two-stage thermonuclear devices (hydrogen bombs).

At least some dozens are “tactical” weapons designed to be fired by 175 mm and 203 mm artillery pieces at ranges of 40 to 70 kilometres. The remainder are meant to be delivered by missiles or aircraft, and Israel maintains a full “triad” of delivery systems: land-based missiles, sea-launched missiles and aircraft.

The missiles are mostly Jericho II medium-range ballistic missiles, which can reach all of Europe and most of western Asia. Since 2008 Jericho III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) have also been entering service, with a range that would allow Israel to strike any inhabited point on the planet except some Pacific islands. Both can carry a one-megaton warhead.

Why such remarkably long ranges, when Israel’s avowed enemies are all relatively close to hand? One speculation is that this is meant to encourage caution in other nuclear states (Pakistan? North Korea?) that might at some future time be tempted to supply nuclear weapons to Israel’s near enemies.

The maritime leg of the triad is highly accurate cruise missiles that are launched from underwater by Israel’s German-built Dolphin-class submarines. These missiles constitute Israel’s “secure second-strike” capability, since it is extremely unlikely that even the most successful enemy surprise attack could locate and destroy the submarines. And finally, there are American-made F-15 and F-16 strike aircraft that can also carry nuclear bombs.

Israel probably tested its bomb in the southern Indian Ocean in 1979 in co-operation with apartheid South Africa, which was also developing nuclear weapons (subsequently dismantled) at that time. The test was carried out under cover of a storm to escape satellite surveillance, but a rift in the cloud cover revealed the characteristic double flash of a nuclear explosion to an American satellite, Vela 6911.

This was a violation of the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty, which forbids open-air nuclear tests, but the United States did not pursue the matter, presumably in order not to embarrass Israel.

The United States did not help Israel to develop nuclear weapons in the first place (France did that), and even now Washington does not really approve of Israel’s nukes, although it tolerates them in the interest of the broader alliance. But why, after all these years, does Israel still refuse to acknowledge that it has them?

The only plausible answer is: to avoid embarrassing the United States in ways that would make it restrict its arms exports to Israel. But realistically, how likely is that to happen? The U.S. Congress will ensure that Israel goes on getting all the money and arms it wants no matter what it says about its nukes, and it is high time to end this ridiculous dance around the truth.

Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

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Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, has attempted to salvage some respectability for the Australian government’s position on Palestine by saying that she was “deeply concerned” about reports that Israeli Defense Force (IDF) troops raid the homes of residents of the West Bank in the middle of the night to arrest children.

Her comments came in response to an ABC documentary aired on Monday night that detailed the appalling mistreatment and torture meted out to Palestinian children by IDF personnel – all in the name of ‘security’.

But Bishop’s display of concern hardly masks the recent shift in Australian foreign policy towards unquestioning support for the Israeli government. This is the same woman who, only a few days earlier, questioned whether the illegal Israeli ‘settlements‘, built on Palestinian land, were really illegal!

Moreover, the recent actions of the Australian government speak far louder than words. The votes on resolutions regarding Palestine in the United Nations tell the story.

The graphic below (click to enlarge) is extracted from “The United Nations and the Question of Palestine – 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly” (prepared by the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations). It shows voting records of each Member State on all resolutions concerning Palestine and the Palestinian people adopted during the 68th session of the UNGA, during the period from September to December 2013.

Australia votes against Palestine at the UN

Australia votes against Palestine at the UN

The report shows a marked shift in Australia’s voting in support of the Israeli government. On 17 resolutions, Australia supported 7, opposed 5 and abstained on 5 while countries like New Zealand, United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and France supported 14 and abstained on 3. In all these resolutions Australia opposed it stood alone with Israel, the USA, Canada and their minor lackies (such as Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau and Panama). The anti-Palestinian group was never larger than 8 out of the 193 countries represented!

In truth, even Bishop’s expression of ‘concern‘ over children abused by the IDF seems entirely hollow. She expressed zero intention of taking up the issue with her Israeli counterpart. Her concern seems to be of a purely personal nature and is not likely to lead to any further material support for the suffering people of Palestine.

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The campaign for ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) against the Israeli government gains ground every day while defenders of the Palestinian Occupation seem to be able to do no more that trot out the same tired charges of anti-Semitism against its proponents!

As George Bisharat points out in the article below, the charge of anti-Semitism is completely without substance. Indeed there has been a tragic history of persecution of Jewish people for which all of us Europeans rightly feel a sense of shame. Even so, for Zionist politicians to manipulate this shame to justify the persecution of Palestinian people is reprehensible, and it’s a tactic that is becoming increasingly transparent to the Western public.

Perhaps the most significant thing about Bisharat’s article is that it appeared in the Chicago Tribune. Indeed the BDS is going mainstream!

Father Dave

George Bisharat

George Bisharat

source: articles.chicagotribune.com…

Applause for the academic boycott of Israel

By George Bisharat

Israel’s reflexive defenders have reverted to their customary blunt cudgel: the charge that critics of Israeli policies are anti-Semitic. Their recent target was the 5,000-member American Studies Association, which voted in December to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

The ASA vote mirrors an international movement promoting comprehensive boycotts, sanctions and divestment against Israel to compel its respect for Palestinian equal rights. The nonviolent movement was initiated in 2005 by more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations one year after the International Court of Justice’s judgment that Israel’s separation barrier violates international law and should be dismantled. The movement is rapidly gaining momentum — last week, actress Scarlett Johansson scrambled to defend her relationship with SodaStream International Ltd, based in the illegal Israeli Maale Adumim settlement outside Jerusalem, and thus a target of boycotters.

The Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer inveighed against the ASA: “To apply to the state of the Jews a double standard that you apply to none other, to judge one people in a way you judge no other, to single out that one people for condemnation and isolation — is to engage in a gross act of discrimination. And discrimination against Jews has a name. It’s called anti-Semitism.”

This is flat out nonsense.

There has never been a “worst first” rule for boycotts. Activists urging divestment from apartheid South Africa were not racist because they failed to simultaneously condemn the demonstrably worse Cambodian dictator Pol Pot. Nor were U.S. civil rights protesters required to inventory the world and only protest if our nation exceeded the abuses of others. Boycotts are justified whenever they are necessary and promise results.

There are sound reasons that U.S. citizens should respond to the Palestinians’ appeal for support: Our country is Israel’s principal — and often sole — defender in the international arena. Our diplomats have vetoed more than 40 U.N. Security Council resolutions critical of Israeli practices, including illegal settlement of the West Bank. Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, upon leaving office, described shielding Israel as a “huge part” of her work.

Is there a double standard here? Perhaps. Consider Iran, sanctioned up, down, and sideways, by the U.N., and virtually every level of government in the U.S., down to Beverly Hills, Calif., for possibly aspiring to have the nuclear arms that Israel already has by the score. Or Iraq, which occupied Kuwait in 1990, and upon its refusal to withdraw, was forcibly ejected by a broad international coalition of forces within seven months.

Allegations of Israel’s human rights violations, including torture, home demolitions, extrajudicial killings, detentions without trial, excessive force, use of human shields, and deliberate attacks on civilian persons and facilities, have been amply documented by respected human rights groups and our own State Department. More than 50 Israeli laws either privilege Jews or discriminate against Palestinians, according to Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

U.S. enabling of Israel, particularly in its colonial expansion into the West Bank, has voided the two-state option and fostered a single functioning state there in which only Jews enjoy relative security, prosperity, and full political rights, while Palestinians suffer gradations of oppression. It is both appropriate and necessary that U.S. citizens vocally oppose discriminatory Israeli practices and our government’s complicity in them.

Discriminatory systems are inherently unstable, as the oppressed will continue struggling for equal rights, even against daunting odds. ASA members, who study, among other topics, American slavery and its demise, are acutely aware of such dynamics. Their entry to this vital discussion is therefore to be applauded — and emulated by others.

George Bisharat, a professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, writes frequently on the Middle East.

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It is extraordinary, as an Australian, to watch the speed at which our new government is undermining whatever respectability this country had left in the Arab world through expressions of unconditional love for the State of Israel. More extraordinary still is the fact that Mr Abbott has a competitor, determined to outdo him in his Zionism – namely, his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper.

Harper’s recent pledge to the Knesset – that his government’s support for Israel was of Biblical proportions – “through fire and water” – did not go unnoticed by the Canadian public, as seen in the telling piece of Satire published in the Canadian blog, The Beaverton, last week, entitled “Israeli Prime Minister Stephen Harper returns after long visit in Canada”.

Abbott’s Zionism seems to have attracted less attention in Oz. This may simply be because most Australians are still too transfixed by the new PM’s brutal treatment of refugees to notice any other acts of inhumanity.

Father Dave

[ws_table id=”1″]

source: www.haaretz.com…

The Israel-lovers club of Canada and Australia: White, Conservative and Christian

By Chemi Shalev

After hearing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s promise the Knesset this week that his government would support Israel “though fire and water,” one could excuse Israeli lawmakers for thinking that they had died and gone to hasbara heaven.

And after seeing Benjamin Netanyahu enthusiastically nodding at Harper’s assertion that singling out Israel for criticism was the same as anti-Semitism, one might easily imagine the prime minister imploring God to seriously consider “castling” the current residents of the White House in Washington and Langevin Block in Ottawa, at least for the remainder of President Barack Obama’s second term.

And coming straight on the heels of Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s even more extraordinary proclamation in Jerusalem last week on the legality of Jewish settlements in the territories, Harper’s visit to Israel took on the airs of what the Hassidim call “mashiachzeit”: this is the way the world will look after the Messiah arrives.

But even for Israelis less religiously inclined, these back-to-back expressions of uninhibited political support were welcome rays of sunshine amidst the gathering clouds and proliferating forecasts of impending torrents of condemnation, isolation and boycott. Things can’t be that bad, many Israelis told themselves, if fine, upstanding countries such as Canada and Australia were willing to unabashedly stand up against the otherwise shrill winds of Western public opinion.

Indeed, under their respective conservative governments, both Canada and Australia have gone above and beyond the traditional parameters of support for Israel, much to the dismay of its detractors among commentators and public opinion in both countries and in the Arab world at large. Harper has dramatically broken with the mildly supportive but largely detached Israeli policies of his predecessors, while Australia’s Tony Abbott has rapidly reinstated John Howard’s effusive pro-Israel policies after three years of realignment efforts carried out by the recently ousted Australian Labor Party.

Although the prim and proper Harper and the bold and brash Abbott have been described as polar opposites on a personal level, their shared love for Israel stems from nearly identical ideological roots. Both are deeply-religious social conservatives and proud nationalists who view themselves as serving on the front lines of a Western, Judeo-Christian civilization that is under threat: their support for Israel is not just a matter of political expediency, if that, but of firmly held convictions and belief.

read the rest of this article here

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Thank you to Julian Borger for having the courage to raise the question that nobody dares to ask – why is there one standard for Iran to adhere to when it comes to nuclear weapons and a totally different one for Israel?

The Israeli nuclear stockpile is the elephant in the room in every discussion about the Iranian nuclear program. Since 1986 we’ve had conclusive proof that Israel has an enormous stockpile of nukes, thanks to the self-sacrificial actions of my dear friend, Mordechai Vanunu. Vanunu took pictures of the bombs under construction and his photos revealed an arsenal larger and more advanced than anybody had guessed, and it must only have grown since then!

Even after completing 18 years in prison, Morde Vanunu is still in virtual captivity – unable to leave Israel and live a normal life, free from the constant harassment of the security services. Borger’s article also gives us a clue as to why Israel insists on this continued confinement. The state is probably afraid that Morde will report on the complicity of the US, France, Germany, Britain and Norway in the development of Israel’s nukes.

In the context of the self-righteous Western rhetoric about Iran, Israel’s nukes are the ultimate tragic irony.

Father Dave

Mordechai Vanunu and me in 2004

with Morde Vanunu – the man who proved that Israel had the bomb – after his release in 2004

source: www.theguardian.com…

The truth about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal

by Julian Borger

Israel has been stealing nuclear secrets and covertly making bombs since the 1950s. And western governments, including Britain and the US, turn a blind eye. But how can we expect Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions if the Israelis won’t come clean?

Deep beneath desert sands, an embattled Middle Eastern state has built a covert nuclear bomb, using technology and materials provided by friendly powers or stolen by a clandestine network of agents. It is the stuff of pulp thrillers and the sort of narrative often used to characterise the worst fears about the Iranian nuclear programme. In reality, though, neither US nor British intelligence believe Tehran has decided to build a bomb, and Iran‘s atomic projects are under constant international monitoring.

The exotic tale of the bomb hidden in the desert is a true story, though. It’s just one that applies to another country. In an extraordinary feat of subterfuge, Israel managed to assemble an entire underground nuclear arsenal – now estimated at 80 warheads, on a par with India and Pakistan – and even tested a bomb nearly half a century ago, with a minimum of international outcry or even much public awareness of what it was doing.

Despite the fact that the Israel’s nuclear programme has been an open secret since a disgruntled technician, Mordechai Vanunu, blew the whistle on it in 1986, the official Israeli position is still never to confirm or deny its existence.

When the former speaker of the Knesset, Avraham Burg, broke the taboo last month, declaring Israeli possession of both nuclear and chemical weapons and describing the official non-disclosure policy as “outdated and childish” a rightwing group formally called for a police investigation for treason.

Meanwhile, western governments have played along with the policy of “opacity” by avoiding all mention of the issue. In 2009, when a veteran Washington reporter, Helen Thomas, asked Barack Obama in the first month of his presidency if he knew of any country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, he dodged the trapdoor by saying only that he did not wish to “speculate”.

UK governments have generally followed suit. Asked in the House of Lords in November about Israeli nuclear weapons, Baroness Warsi answered tangentially. “Israel has not declared a nuclear weapons programme. We have regular discussions with the government of Israel on a range of nuclear-related issues,” the minister said. “The government of Israel is in no doubt as to our views. We encourage Israel to become a state party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT].”

But through the cracks in this stone wall, more and more details continue to emerge of how Israel built its nuclear weapons from smuggled parts and pilfered technology.

The tale serves as a historical counterpoint to today’s drawn-out struggle over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The parallels are not exact – Israel, unlike Iran, never signed up to the 1968 NPT so could not violate it. But it almost certainly broke a treaty banning nuclear tests, as well as countless national and international laws restricting the traffic in nuclear materials and technology.

The list of nations that secretly sold Israel the material and expertise to make nuclear warheads, or who turned a blind eye to its theft, include today’s staunchest campaigners against proliferation: the US, France, Germany, Britain and even Norway.

read the rest of this article here.