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Maired Maguire in Beirut

with Maired in Beirut

My friend Mairead Maguire is currently on route to Gaza, joining an international delegation of 100 women who will be delivering solar lamps to the women of Gaza. The people of Gaza have been suffering severe electricity shortages due to the Israeli blockade.

Mairead has joined countless others around the world in putting her support squarely behind the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ campaign (BDS) against the government of Israel. 

she writes:

‘The Palestinian narrative is a story of a prolonged occupation by Israel based on policies of Apartheid and racism, ongoing building on Palestinian land of Israeli settlements, house demolitions, and the continued denial by Israel of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.  Gaza, the largest open air prison in the world, of which Israel is its jailer as it holds the keys and totally controls all aspects of life of the people of Gaza.  One and a half million people in Gaza, mostly under 2l years of age, continue in the words of Israeli Professor and Academic, Jeff Halper, to be ‘warehoused’ by Israel with all rights being violated by Israel. The Gaza port has been closed for over 40 years, their airport destroyed and crossing into West Bank blocked.  The people of Gaza do not have the basic right to travel into the West Bank to visit relatives without passes from Israel, and students in Gaza are forbidden to travel to study outside Gaza.  These conditions mean that Gaza is still under occupation. The Israel policies of divide and rule, keeping Gaza and West Bank cut off from each other, ensures that neither human contact or real peace negotiations can take place, (as is evidenced by the fact that at the current Peace Talks presided over by US Secretary of State, John Kerry, Gaza palestinians (in which 40% of Palestinians live) are not represented at the negotiating table.)

South African visitors to Palestine have described the situation of blockade, occupation, as far worse than anything they experienced under the South African Apartheid era.

Why has this desperate injustice perpetrated upon the Palestinians by Israeli Government Policies been allowed to go on for over 60 years, in spite of United Nations over 60 resolutions, calling on Israel to uphold International law, but continuing to be ignored by Israel?

When anyone in International community is brave enough to articulate the facts of Israel’s repression of the Palestinian people they are bullied, threatened and accused of anti-Semitism.  This insidious practice by Israeli Government and its policy supporters has been very effective in silencing critique or debate on Israeli/US military and financial supported foreign policy, but also causes self-censorship by many concerned for their political and professional careers, or trading profits.  However, the Palestinian people take hope from those who are brave enough to take a stand, such as the Irish Trade Union Movement, Stephen Hawkins, Russell Tribunal on Palestine, and a growing international movement of support.

We all know the Jewish Narrative, particularly the story of the holocaust, but our sadness for this one of humanities greatest acts of inhumanity, should not stop us from speaking out on Israel’s current policy of a ‘silent genocide’ of the Palestinian people, and currently today of the people in Gaza.

The denial by Israel of Palestinian basic freedoms is not a natural humanitarian tragedy, it is an Israeli Government policy, in which many Governments, Media, Corporations, and Companies (such as Hewlett Packard and G4S who profit from the illegal occupation) are all complicit if not by supporting Israeli Government through funding, trading,etc., then by their  silence.

But, there is much we can all do.  The greatest hope we can give Palestinian people is to tell the Palestinian narrative, even at the risk of being called anti-Semitic.  This will give legitimacy to the Palestinian people and in time will force Israel to choose peace not land, as it has done for so long.   The Palestinian people have asked the International community to support their nonviolent BDS campaign (boycott, divestment and sanctions) and I applaud the recent actions of the Irish Academics in responding to this Appeal, and calling for a Boycott of Israel Universities, as indeed they are part of the system which upholds Apartheid and occupation by Israel.

Professor Falk, the UN special rapporteur for Palestine, who in his 6 years has often been refused entry into Palestinian territory, by Israel authorities, has recommended that UN member states should impose a ban on imports of products from Israeli settlements.  I hope many will follow his advice.

As a well supported International BDS campaign helped end Apartheid in South Africa, the Palestinian people believe, as do growing sections of the International Civil Community, that a similar International campaign will help end Israel’s denial of Palestinians human rights, freedom and peace.

Get more wisdom from Mairead on the ‘Peace People’ website: www.peacepeople.com…

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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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Sir Gerald Kaufman is the world’s greatest weapon against Anti-Semitism!

As people worldwide are driven to despair over the unrelenting cruelty of the Palestinian Occupation it is easy to start blaming all Jews for the suffering of the Palestinian people. After all, the Israeli government claims that it speaks and acts of behalf of all Jews. It would be understandable (though regrettable) if any number of otherwise compassionate and intelligent people bought into this rhetoric, except that people like Sir Gerald expose the lie for what it is!

Sir Gerald Kaufman is unmistakably Jewish and proud of it! At the same time he is a passionate advocate for the Palestinian cause and a card-carrying member of the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign’ (BDS) against the Israeli government. 

It was Kaufman who famously attacked Israeli apologists who drew on memories of the Holocaust to justify the 2008/2009 assault on Gaza by saying “My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed. My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.”

Below is Kaufman’s latest offering, delivered to the British Parliament on February 5th in the context of a debate over human situation in Gaza. May God strengthen Sir Gerald to make many more such stirring speeches, and may God grant Sir Gerald’s colleagues ears to hear them!

Father Dave

Sir Gerald Kaufman

Sir Gerald Kaufman

source: english.alarabiya.net…

“I once led a delegation of 60 parliamentarians from 13 European Parliaments to Gaza. I could no longer do that today because Gaza is practically inaccessible. The Israelis try to lay the responsibility on the Egyptians, but although the Egyptians’ closing of the tunnels has caused great hardship, it is the Israelis who have imposed the blockade and are the occupying power. The culpability of the Israelis was demonstrated in the report to the U.N. by Richard Goldstone following Operation Cast Lead. After his report, he was harassed by Jewish organizations. At the end of a meeting I had with him in New York, his wife said to me, “It is good to meet another self-hating Jew.”

Again and again, Israel seeks to justify the vile injustices that it imposes on the people of Gaza and the west bank on the grounds of the holocaust. Last week, we commemorated the holocaust; 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are being penalized with that as the justification. That is unacceptable.

The statistics are appalling. There is fresh water for a few hours every five days. Fishing boats are not allowed to go out—in any case, what is the point, because the waters are so filthy that no fish they catch can be eaten? The Israelis are victimizing children above all. Half the population of this country is under the voting age. What is being done to those children—the lack of nutrition—is damaging not only their bodies and brains; it will go on for generation after generation.

It is totally unacceptable that the Israelis should behave in such a way, but they do not care. Go to Tel Aviv, as I did not long ago, and watch them sitting complacently outside their pavement cafés. They do not give a damn about their fellow human beings perhaps half an hour away. The right hon. Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) quoted the prime minister as saying that Gaza is a prison camp. It is all very well for him to say that, as he did, in Turkey—he was visiting a Muslim country—but what is he doing about it? Nothing, nothing, nothing!

The time when we could condemn and think that that was enough has long passed. The Israelis do not care about condemnation. They are self-righteous and complacent. We must now take action against them. We must impose sanctions. If the spineless Obama will not do it, we must do it—even unilaterally. We must press the European community for it to be done. These people cannot be persuaded. We cannot appeal to their better nature when they do not have one. It is all very well saying, “Wicked, wicked Hamas.” Hamas is dreadful. I have met people from Hamas, but nothing it has done justifies punishing children, women and the sick as the Israelis are doing now. They must be stopped.

As has been pointed out, there is a time limit for what we are talking about. The idea that things can go on, while we wait for a two-state solution, is gone. Sooner or later, the Palestinians will say, “We are dying anyhow, so let us die for something.” Let us stop that: I do not want a war. I do not want violent action, but the action that the international community takes must be imposed, otherwise hell will break loose. ”

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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.