The Israeli Knesset (parliament) has approved the first reading of the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev. More commonly known as the Prawer-Begin Plan, the bill allows for mass forced expulsions of the Palestinian Bedouin community from the Naqab (the Arabic name for the Negev desert).
According to the Israeli human rights group Adalah, if the plan is fully implemented it “will result in the forced displacement of up to 70,000 [Palestinian] Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel and the destruction of 35 ‘unrecognised’ villages”.
Approximately half of the Palestinian Bedouin population – around 90,000 people – live in 46 towns and villages located on just 5 percent of the land in the Naqab region. Israel currently recognises only 11 of these villages, despite the fact that they have existed since prior to the establishment of Israel in 1948.
Palestinian Bedouin living in these villages are treated as “trespassers on State land” and are denied access to infrastructure including water, electricity, sewage, education, health care and roads. These services are deliberately withheld by the Zionist state as part of a war of attrition that seeks to “encourage” Palestinian Bedouin to leave their land. As a result, the Palestinian Bedouin community is one of the most socially and economically disadvantaged within Israel. According to Adalah, 67 percent of Palestinian Bedouin were classified as “poor” in 2009.
The original Plan was conceived by Ehud Prawer, the former Deputy Chair of Israel’s National Security Council, in 2011 – without any consultation with the Palestinian Bedouin community. In January, amendments to the bill were made by Benny Begin, the son of former Israeli PM Menachem Begin who had been a leader of the Zionist terror militia known as the Etzel (Irgun).
Begin’s amendments resulted in the removal of some of the more offensive language from the bill, which deemed Bedouins “squatters” on their own land, as well as legitimising the use of “reasonable force” to evict them. Both the original plan and the amended bill have been rejected by the Palestinian Bedouin community.
In 1948, Zionist terror militias carried out attacks on the Palestinian Bedouin living in the Naqab. Then the newly created Israeli military launched a full scale ethnic cleansing operation to expel Palestinian Bedouin from the region for “military reasons”.
Over the next two years between 70,000 and 90,000 Palestinian Bedouin were expelled from the region. This systematic ethnic cleansing would continue throughout the 1950s.
While the vast majority were pushed outside the boundaries of the Zionist state, approximately 10 percent would remain. They were evicted to the Siyag (meaning “fence” in Arabic) in the northern Naqab, where they were forced to live under military rule until 1966.
However, since the 1950s the Palestinian Bedouin have continually sought to return to their traditional lands. Israel has prevented their return both militarily and also by planting trees via the Jewish National Fund. While the JNF claims that it is rehabilitating the land, the main purpose of the tree planting is to ensure control of the land.
Haneen Zoabi, one of the 12 Palestinian Arab members of the Knesset, told the Jerusalem Post on 28 May that “This is not how a normal state or even a dictatorship treats its citizens because it is very obvious that the aim of this plan is to expel the Palestinian citizens from their land and develop the land for the Jewish population.”
“We didn’t immigrate to Israel, it was Israel that immigrated to us,” she added.
Since the Prawer Plan was first announced, Israel has demolished more than 1,000 Palestinian Bedouin homes in the Naqab, while at the same time announcing plans to plant forests, build military centres and establish new Jewish settlements in the place of Palestinian Bedouin villages that will be ethnically cleansed
Were it not for the razor wire, giant concrete blocks, steel gates, watchtower and standard-issue surly teenage soldier, it would be impossible to tell at what point the barren uplands of Israel’s eastern Negev give way to the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank.
The military checkpoint of Shani vaguely marks the formal demarcation between Israel and occupied Palestinian territory, but in practical terms the distinction is meaningless. On either side of the Green Line, Israel is in charge.
In recent weeks it has been intensifying a campaign to evict Palestinian farming communities summarily from their ancestral lands to replace them with Jewish newcomers.
Israeli human rights lawyers, tired of the international community’s formulaic criticisms, say it is time to be more forthright. They call these “ethnic cleansing” zones — intended to drive off Palestinians irrespective of the provisions of international law and whether or not the Palestinians in question hold Israeli citizenship.
In the occupied South Hebron Hills, a dozen traditional communities — long ago denied by Israel the right to enjoy modern amenities such as electricity and running water — are struggling to remain in the cave-homes that sheltered them for centuries.
Israel has reclassified much of their land as a military firing range and demands that they leave for their own safety. An appeal to the Israeli courts, the latest instalment in a 14-year saga to avoid eviction, is due in the next few days.
Israel’s concern for the villagers’ welfare might sound more convincing were it not encouraging Jews to live close by in illegal settlements.
Palestinians in other parts of the occupied territories coveted by Israel — such as villages next to Jerusalem and those in the fertile Jordan Valley, the territorial backbone of any future Palestinian state — are being squeezed too. Firing ranges, closed military zones and national parks are the pretexts for Israel to appropriate the farmland these rural communities need to survive.
As a result, Palestinian life is withering in the nearly two-thirds of the West Bank Israel was temporarily entrusted with — the so-called Area C — under the Oslo Accords. Endlessly harassed Palestinians have sought sanctuary in West Bank cities under Palestinian Authority control. Today the remnants in Area C, a population of about 100,000, are outnumbered three to one by Jewish settlers.
A discomfited European Union, normally mealy-mouthed on Israel’s occupation, has started to describe this as “forced transfer.” The term may sound ominous and reproving, but human rights groups say that, from a legal perspective, the terminology obscures rather than illuminates what is taking place.
“Forced transfer,” observes Suhad Bishara, a lawyer with Adalah, a legal centre for Israel’s minority of 1.5 million Palestinian citizens, usually describes uncoordinated and unofficial incidents of population displacement, often as an outcome of war.
Bishara and others argue that Israel is carrying out a systematic and intentional policy to drive Palestinians off their land to replace them with Jewish communities. This, they say, should be identified as “ethnic cleansing,” a term first given legal and moral weight in the Balkans conflict in the early 1990s.
As evidence, the lawyers point to recent developments inside Israel. The treatment of tens of thousands of Bedouin in the Negev, all of them Israeli citizens, is virtually identical to that of Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills.
The Bedouin too have faced a prolonged campaign to push them off their ancestral lands and into a series of “townships,” forcibly urbanizing them in the country’s most deprived communities. In the disconcerting language of Israeli bureaucracy, the Bedouin need to be “concentrated.”
Israel has increased the pressure — as in the West Bank — by denying these Bedouin all public services, and demolishing any concrete homes they build. As with Palestinians under occupation, the Bedouin have found their communities reclassified as firing ranges, military zones or national forests.
The village of al-Araqib, near Beersheva, for example, has been demolished more than 50 times in recent years as Israel plants on its land — with a suitably sinister irony — the Ambassadors’ Forest, commemorating the help provided to Israel by the international community’s diplomatic corps.
Waiting in the wings are developers ready to build on the Bedouin’s land 10 new towns for Jews only. The rest of the territory is being eaten up by Jewish ranches, given swathes of land to create vineyards, offer camel rides and, in one case, provide a pet cemetery.
But, as in the West Bank, the Bedouin are refusing to budge, and pressing their historic land claims in the Israeli courts. Rather than wait for a verdict it may not like, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu is rewriting the Bedouin’s citizenship rights.
The Prawer plan, which passed its first reading in parliament last month, will force 40,000 Bedouin off their land — the largest expulsions inside Israel for decades. Unlike Jewish citizens, they will have no say over where they live; they will be forcibly assigned to a township.
For the first time, Israeli citizens — the Bedouin — are to be deprived of any recourse to the courts as they are harried from their homes. Instead Israel will resort to administrative procedures more familiar from the occupied territories.
The policy is clear: Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line are to be treated like sheep, fenced into ever-smaller areas, while Jews will have unrestrained access to a Greater Israel envisioned by Mr Netanyahu.
The international community has long criticized Israel for the “discrimination” its Palestinian citizens face and for the “oppression” of Palestinians under occupation. This terminology needs overhauling too, say the human rights lawyers.
A system that treats one ethnic group as less human than another already has a legal name: it is called apartheid.
In her extraordinarily bold and direct speech addressed to the Irish Parliament, Clare Daly (TD, Dublin North) called Obama a “war criminal”and “hypocrite of the century”.
In describing the fawned reception of Obama in Ireland akin to pimping and prostituting of that nation, Ms. Daly hit the nail on the head. Sadly, America dwarfs Ireland and elsewhere in the undignified category of prostitution – the 29 standing ovations from Congress in May 2011 for war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu attests to this tragic fact.
While Daly was quite right in censuring Obama for his criminal policies, including aiding terrorists in Syria, it is worthwhile noting that Obama is merely a willing instrument; the faces and factors behind his handlers and the policies merit greater scrutiny and exposure.
Backing and arming the so-called Syrian opposition distracts from the threat posed by Israel and its expansionist agenda by internalizing the enemy in order to weak the State. As former Israeli Intelligence Chief, Amos Yaldin told the audience at the Israel Policy Forum in February 2013:
“And this military [Syrian], which is a huge threat to Israel , is now also weakening and, in a way, disintegrating. We still have risk from Syria– a risk of being an AlQaeda country, a Somalia-type country — but from military point of view, each one of these are less dangerous than the Syrian regular army.”
Perpetuating adversaries to kill each other is a time-tested tactic – one which was used during the bloody eight year Iran-Iraq war; a war which according to Leon Wieseltier[i]was a “distraction” when Israeli boots were on the ground in Southern Lebanon. In that war, the United States was providing arms and intelligence to both sides. When asked what the logic was in aiding both sides in the bloody war, a former official replied: “You had to have been there”[ii]. But why Syria ?
The Need for Water
The primary goal of the early Zionist leadership was to control and secure the region’s waters. At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Chaim Weizmann declared that ‘it was of vital importance not only to secure all water resources feeding the country, but to control them at the sources – and the development of these waters became the primary aim of the Yishuv as a whole[iii]. This policy remained in place. As Israel ’s third Prime Minister Levi Eshkol put it, water was “the blood flowing through the arteries of the nation”.
As previously stated (Here and Here), the chaos we witness in Syria today has been in the making for years with the aid and backing of Israel-firsters in order to accommodate Israel’s agenda – expansion and control of regional water supplies while weakening its adversary/ies.
Israel faced one of its worst droughts in 1990-91. A second more serious drought in 1998, forced it to turn to water rich Turkey . Turkey and Israel engaged in serious negotiations starting in May 2000 to import 50 billion cubic meters of fresh water from Turkey using tanker ships, but using tankers was not cost effective for the transport of water. Alternate plans were suggested.
In September 2000, the same year that young Bashar-al Assad succeeded his father as President of Syria, a strategy paper entitled “The Geopolitics of Water” by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS) opined that “Since extensive water planning proposals will necessitate the establishment of pipelines and energy grids stretching across borders, a political and military structure that can ensure the safety and security of the carriers will be the prerequisite to effective water sharing” ….. “But an effective regional system would require political-military cooperation against Syria ”.
How to achieve this?
Israeli-Firsters to the rescue
Media mogul Haim Saban became involved in politics in the mid 1990’s with a view to support Israel . Saban professes that his greatest concern is the“protection” of Israel . At a conference in Israel , Saban described his method of influencing American politics : ‘Make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets’. (Saban penned an opinion piece in The New York Times in support of President Obama in his 2012 re-election bid).
It was no surprised therefore that in 2002, Saban pledged $13 million to start a research organization at the Brookings Institution called the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. Saban Center would play an important role in propping up Syrian opposition (as it did in fermenting unrest post-2009 Iran elections with their June 2009 publication titled: “Which Path to Persia ? Options for a New American Strategy Towards Iran “). In 2006, Time Magazine revealed that that the US had been agitating, funding, and supporting “opposition” in Syria . According to the Time, the U.S. was “supporting regular meetings of internal and diaspora Syrian activists” in Europe . The document bluntly expresses the hope that “these meetings will facilitate a more coherent strategy and plan of actions for all anti-Assad activists.”
It is worthwhile mentioning here that America ’s support of the so-called “opposition” which includes criminals, terrorists, and foreign fighters to effect regime change underscores America ’s stark hypocrisy. According to 18 USC § 2385 -Advocating overthrow of Government (Cornell Law), advocating the overthrow of the government, ‘organizing or help or attempt to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of the government of the United States or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence’bears serious consequences including fines and prison sentence of up to 20 years.
What is most revealing about the abovementioned Time Magazine piece of 2006 is that America ’s efforts to aid the opposition and undermine Assad were run through a foundation operated by Amar Abdulhamid, a Washington-based member of a Syrian umbrella opposition group known as the National Salvation Front (NSF). Abdulhamid was a visiting Fellow at the Saban Center (2004-2006) before moving on to the Neocon-run National Defense of Democracies.
When in 2008, Israel-firster Dennis Ross met with the “opposition” to discuss “Syria in Transition”, Saban’s fellow – Amar Abdullhamid was present. In February 2009, Dennis Ross joined the Obama Administration team. In April 2009, the US funded, London-based Baraada TV started its anti-Assad propaganda into Syria (The epicenter of the uprisings’ was Baraada over water distribution). Baraada TV’s chief editor, Malik al-Abdeh, is a cofounder of the Syrian exile group Movement for Justice and Development headed by Anas al-Abdah who was in attendance at the 2008 meeting with Dennis Ross.
It came as no surprise that John McCain who was a member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI) formed to rid Iraq of Saddam Hossein, and a cheerleader for the Libya intervention, the Egyptian opposition to Mubarak, for bombing Iran, and so on…..visited Syrian “opposition” (via Turkey) in order to encourage more bloodshed. And expectedly, he was de-briefed — not at the White House, but at the Saban Center!
Soon after McCain’s presentation at the Saban Center , the White House disputed UN’s account and claimed that that Syria had crossed the ‘red line’ and used chemical weapons.
It is not the intention of this article to exclude the plethora of other individuals, think tanks, forums, and media pundits who have institutionalized Israel’s policies and promoted them as ‘America’s interests’; these are too numerous to mention here. However, a notable other Israel supporter must be named.
The Evangelical Factor
While various groups in Washington perpetuate and support Israel ’s aggressive and expansionist policies — at a cost to America , non have the zeal and the zest of the Evangelicals who support Israel to death. According to the dispensational model, a time of turmoil lies ahead, but believers will be “raptured” away before it begins. This period of tribulation will culminate in the final battle at Armageddon, a valley northwest of Jerusalem .
The close association between American evangelicals and Israel has been a clear goal of Israeli politicians, especially those in the Likud party. According to Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum of AJC, “the evangelical community is the largest and fastest-growing bloc of pro-Jewish sentiment in this country”[iv]. Israel and Jewish organizations continue to rely on the support of Evangelicals to justify Israel ’s occupation of Arab land even as Christian Zionists zest for evangelizing Jews remains a point of tension.
For example, within days of the June 1982 invasion of Lebanon (with a green light from Reagan), full-page ads appeared in leading papers requesting Evangelical support for the invasion[v]. In 1998, when Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington , he met with Jerry Falwell and numerous fundamentalist Christians before meeting with President Clinton. Similarly, as recently as April 2013, Pat Robertson warned that brokering peace between Israel and Palestine would bring punishment on America.
It has been alleged that funds raised in America by right wing Christians is funneled to West Bank settlements. The mayor of Ariel on the West Bank had estimated that two thirds of all Jewish settlements were funded by Christian Zionists.[vi]
Building for Armageddon?
While Evangelicals (not all) are rupture-ready and encourage Israel ’s expansionist agenda, Israeli politicians are not yet Armageddon-ready; at least, not yet.
In March 2013, Business Insider revealed that the United States is spending hundreds of millions of dollars building bunkers in Israel due to be completed 900 days from February 13, 2013. The project called Site 911 “will have five levels buried underground and six additional outbuildings on the above grounds, within the perimeter. At about 127,000 square feet, the first three floors will house classrooms, an auditorium, and a laboratory — all wedged behind shock resistant doors — with radiation protection and massive security. Only one gate will allow workers entrance and exit during the project and that will be guarded by only Israelis”.
Each door of the facility will have a detailed description of the mezuzahs written in“in-erasable ink”.
This should be heartwarming news to Americans whose taxes are spent on such projects while the bridges at home are crumbling.
The political establishment and the media has pimped out the nation. The list of conflicts awaiting us is long and bloody.
Syria will not be the last conflict. This has been a brief and incomplete overview of what drives our nation, and where we are headed, the handlers and the willing instruments (in the words of Clare Daly, pimps and prostitutes).
We continue to sink our head in sand and hope for a hero – for ‘something to happen’. There is only one hope for the future, and the only one power that can alter this destructive path: “We, The People”.
Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich is an independent researcher and writer with a focus on U.S. foreign policy and the role of lobby groups in influencing US foreign policy.
[i] Wieseltier , Leon ,“ Israel meets Iran in Lebanon ; The Wrong War”, The New Republic, Apr 8, 1985
Chapter 6 reads: “The United States could play multiple roles in facilitating a revolution. By funding and helping organize domestic rivals of the regime, the United States could create an alternative leadership to seize power. As Raymond Tanter of the Iran Policy Committee argues, students and other groups “need covert backing for their demonstrations. They need fax machines. They need Internet access, funds to duplicate materials, and funds to keep vigilantes from beating them up.” Beyond this, US-backed media outlets could highlight regime shortcomings and make otherwise obscure critics more prominent. The United States already supports Persian language satellite television (Voice of America Persian) and radio (Radio Farda) that bring unfiltered news to Iranians (in recent years, these have taken the lion’s share of overt US funding for promoting democracy in Iran). US economic pressure (and perhaps military pressure as well) can discredit the regime, making the population hungry for a rival leadership……”
[ii]Stephen R. Shalom, The United States and Iran-Iraq War, citing Stephen Engelberg, “Iran and Iraq Got ‘Doctored Data, U.S. Officials Say,” New York Times, 12 Jan. 1987, pp. A1, A6.
[iii]Jan Selby, “Water, Power & Politics in the Middle East ; The Other Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003
[iv]Donald Wagner, “Evangelicals and Israel : Theological roots of a political alliance”, The Christian Century, Nov. 4, 1998).
[v]Donald Wagner, “Evangelicals and Israel : Theological roots of a political alliance”, ibid
[vi]Colin Shindler, “Likud and the Christian Dispensationalists: A Symbiotic Relationship”, Israeli Studies, March 31, 2000
The thinking behind this decision is there are simply more Jews in the U.S. than in Israel. The dramatic announcement is believed intended to force direct face-to-face talks, whose end game is the creation of a Palestinian state (in this universe).
Unnamed Palestinian sources (though JeWikiLeaks released the names of their spouses) confirmed that a Palestinian state would fully welcome the Jewish State, providing it remained within the continental United States.
The proposal comes with additional preconditions, however. The Palestinian Authority demand an immediate freeze on all Jewish settlements in Lakewood NJ, South East Florida and all of Hollywood. Mel Gibson will raise a glass or 2 (hundred) on this last one.
”It’s all about compromise” Erakt said with a straight face. “That’s what Arabs do”, although he couldn’t come up with a single historical example. “We also insist on racially profiling anyone who’s remotely funny and Jewish (i.e. infidels). And we ask that everyone kindly turn a blind eye to honor killings.”
Israel responded by offering to build entire villages on Arab land anywhere outside of Israel, including London.
Proposal’s Pros: The numbers make sense.
There are more Jews who live in the U.S. than Israel (6.5 vs. 5.77 million). If the majority of Jews live in the Diaspora, then that is where you put their country.
To bend a phrase, if the Jews won’t go to Israel, then Israel will go to the Jews. Or as Mike Brady said in The Brady Bunch Movie: “Wherever you go, there you are.”
If achieved, the demographic implications resulting from this land-transfer would be staggering and could come back to bite the United Arab Emirates in their barrels.
Iranian President and Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stands the most to lose. Ahmadinejad would wake up to a new existential threat facing his country when seemingly over-night, the “Little Satan” had blossomed into a full “Uber Satan”, transforming “The Zionist Enemy” into the world’s #1 military super power.
Proposal’s Cons: The numbers don’t make sense.
While 45% of the world’s Jews live in America, the US Jewish population as a percent of the entire US is negligible. What’s the point of having a Zionist country where the Zionists make up less than 2% of the population? The odds are better to stay in Israel where support seldom drops bellow double digits.
Should we buy into this pledge?
By all means, yes we should. And why not? This is as ridiculous as every other Palestinian proposal sold as a “willingness to promote peace”. Let Israel take its’ usual wait-and-see approach i.e. wait and see how long it takes for the Palestinians to abrogate their commitments.
Previous guarantees to include maps of Israeli cities with their corresponding Hebrew names in school textbooks or removing Palestinian children’s programming that glorify martyrdom come to mind. These promises were dedicated with as much sincerity as this current, vacuous proposal.
It seems that our corrupt, lying leaders in Washington are at it again. Just moments ago, the Administration said that Syria “Has crossed the Red Line” by using chemical weapons against the opposition. That isn’t what is driving this train.
According to international sources, the opposition is swiftly folding against the Army of Bashir al-Assad and this is unacceptable to the U.S. and its proxy Israel. You can read about the rebel fallback here on OEN.
This is also obfuscating the current news about the unwarranted NSA spying on all American citizens. Obama seems to be losing his credibility with his Progressive base over what they feel are their loss of privacy and 1st Amendment as well as 4th Amendment rights.
Americans are being railroaded into another lose/lose situation in the Middle-east to stop the political hemorrhaging here in America. This is unacceptable and Americans should see this as just what it is. War in order to keep dissent to a minimum is an old trick. People need to look at this for what it really is, something thrown into the mix to keep our eyes off the ball.
Senator John McCain was on CNN recently and was very satisfied that America was now going to send heavy weapons into Syria. We should not feel as pleased. Tensions will be getting even higher in the region and it could erupt into another World War. That would take the American peoples mind off of how badly their government has failed them.
Former Chairman of the Liberal Party of America, Tim is a retired Army Sergeant. He currently lives in South Carolina. A regular contributor to OpEdNews, he is the author of Kimchee Days or Stoned Cold Warriors. Tim’s political book, “From (
Israel‘s recent attacks against Syria are the latest, dramatic development in a conflict that is already spiraling out of control. In the past few days, Israeli aircraft reportedly targeted Iranian surface-to-surface missiles headed for Hezbollah, as well as Syrian missiles in a military base in the outskirts of Damascus. Israel’s strikes show, once again, its intelligence services’ ability to penetrate the Iran‘s arms shipment route to Lebanon and its military’s skill in striking adversaries with seeming impunity. But Israel is also risking retaliation and further destabilization of its own neighborhood — in ways that may come back to haunt it.
With much of Syria outside the control of Bashar al-Assad‘s forces, Israel is particularly wary of chemical weapons or advanced conventional weaponry falling into the wrong hands, whether it’s extremist Sunni opposition groups like Jabhat al-Nusra or, more immediately, Assad’s and Iran’s Lebanese ally, Hezbollah. The missiles Israel sought to hit in the first attack on Friday have a significantly larger payload, greater accuracy, and longer range than the bulk of the Lebanese Shiite group’s current arsenal. Contrary to the allegations of the Assad regime that claims Israel’s strikes prove it is backing the opposition, Israel is not throwing its weight against Assad. Indeed, Israel’s latest strikes represent the latest in a long-standing policy of denying the transfer of arms that could alter the balance of power between Israel and Hezbollah — weapons systems such as advanced Russian surface-to-air missiles; the Iranian-made Fateh 110 surface-to-surface missiles (reportedly targeted this weekend) that would significantly increase Hezbollah’s threat to northern Israeli cities; or additional surface-to-sea weaponry, such as the kind successfully used against an Israeli ship in July 2006.
More broadly, the Israeli strike is meant to disrupt the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah nexus. Iran has long provided Hezbollah with hundreds of millions of dollars (the exact amount is unknown and probably fluctuates considerably) and a wide range of weaponry, including anti-tank missiles and long-range rockets. Since Hezbollah’s birth in the early 1980s, Syria has served as intermediary, allowing Iranian forces to deploy within Lebanon and serving as a transit point for Iranian weapons — something Hezbollah’s Lebanese opponents have complained about, as well as Israel.
The strikes are a gamble, however, for three main reasons. The first bet is that Syria will not respond. Israel has long been a whipping boy for Arab regimes short on domestic credibility: it’s not hard in this part of the world to paint any opponents as Zionist stooges. Bashar, like his father Hafez before him, backed Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups in the name of the “resistance,” hoping to win points at home and throughout the Arab world — while distracting attention from his tyranny and economic failures. Indeed, early in the Syrian uprising, the Assad regime tried to create a crisis by pushing Palestinian refugees living in Syria to return to Israel to divert attention from the crackdown. This failed, but the Israeli strike offers a chance to try again.
Israeli leaders, however, believe that this playbook is dated. When Israel hit the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, Assad and his cronies remained mum and did not retaliate. Today, Israeli strategists are gambling that Assad is too embattled to risk escalation. His military forces are weak and overstretched already, facing fierce domestic opposition with no effective airpower. Further losses to Israel and its air force would deprive the regime of desperately needed elite forces. Indeed, Israel seems rather sure of itself: as the smoke was still clearing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu projected business as usual, departing on a state visit to China.
Perhaps even more important, if Assad tries to use Israel as a foil he risks further losses, which would be politically humiliating and potentially extremely damaging for a regime that is already on a knife’s edge. The Israeli strikes show that it can violate Syrian sovereignty with impunity, and the Syrian opposition is now charging that Assad has repeatedly failed to protect Syrian soil from Israel. The Syrian Opposition Council, a leading opposition political grouping, is trying to play the Israel card itself, noting that it “holds the Assad regime fully responsible for weakening the Syrian army by exhausting its forces in a losing battle against the Syrian people.” Meanwhile, the remaining nationalists in the Syrian military resent this embarrassment, risking Assad further defections and desertions.
JERUSALEM—As an uneasy truce between Israel and Hezbollah continues, millions of average men and women in the Holy Land are turning to the one simple comfort that has always seen them through the darkest days of their troubled history: the steadfast guidance of their religious faith.
Arabs and Israelis alike are embracing their faith as a way to make sense of the violence from which there seems to be no escape.
“I take solace in knowing that my faith is a sanctuary, an escape from the bloodshed and turmoil,” said Haifa resident Yigal Taheri, who last week lost his wife and newborn daughter when a Fajr-3 long-range rocket launched by Lebanese militants struck the synagogue where his family was attending services. “YHWH, Elohim, whatever you wish to not call Him—His love comforts all those who are willing to open their hearts to Him. Praise be to G–d.”
“Religion is the one thing that has never let us down,” Taheri added over the low rumble of AK-47 fire emanating from the nearby home of a radical Israeli rabbi.
Taheri is not alone. In a time of seemingly unending conflict between Israelis and Arabs, a growing number of Middle Easterners are fervently embracing the unshakeable wisdom of Judaism and Islam.
“The Israelis have fired missile upon missile on my neighborhood, but it has only made my trust in Allah that much stronger,” Abdel-Malik said. “I cringe to think where the people of the Middle East would be right now if it weren’t for our steadfast belief in one true, merciful, and loving Supreme Being.”
Palestinian widow and mother of three Dareen Idriss agreed, citing the healing power of prayer as a way to cope with the relentless slaughter she and her family witness every day. “When the children cannot stop crying because of the bombs, we all gather our families in the rubble of the mosque to pray for justice,” Idriss said. “During this calm meditation, we also pray for the annihilation of the Hebrew race.”
An unidentified Palestinian man seeks a renewed resolve through prayer.
West Bank settler Ari Chayat, whose neighborhood has also been ravaged by violence, echoed this profound reliance on faith. “The world is so brutal and unfair,” Chayat said. “Many days, my uncompromising belief in a vengeful creator is all that gets me out of bed in the morning.”
“If it wasn’t for my faith that the God of Abraham has given these lands to Jews and Jews alone by divine decree, I probably wouldn’t even be here today,” Chayat added.
Lebanese militant Jawad Hamid, who recently lost his best friend to an Israeli helicopter attack while the two men were on their way to pick up a Katyusha rocket, said his faith in Allah was the only way he could cope with the tragedy.
“Every time I want to give up hope, I just open the Quran to my favorite passage, Surah 2:194: ‘Whoever acts aggressively against you, inflict injury on him,'” Hamid said. “Whenever I read those words, I am immediately filled with inspiration and a renewed sense of purpose.”
Even political leaders have tapped into the public’s reliance on religion and used it as a way to encourage them to never give up.
“In this time of strife, the only way to endure the unending suffering is through an unwavering, uncompromising faith in one’s religious beliefs,” Israeli hard-liner Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah went so far as to quote from the Quran in a speech delivered to followers the same afternoon.
“It’s always frightening to be reminded of your own mortality, as we all were this past Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday,” Hezbollah commander Mahdi al-Zaidi said. “But rather than react irrationally, I looked deep within my faith, consulted the Quran, and by the mercy of Allah, I gained the resolve to oversee a massive airstrike against the enemy.”
“We will get through this, so long as we have God on our side,” he added.
Palestine: Profiting from Occupation
Israel’s occupation of Palestine is propped up with the help of international corporations and financial institutions. This project profiles international and UK-based companies complicit in the occupation and analyses the role of international trade projects in institutionalising the Israeli apartheid regime.
1. Israeli companies: Since the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights in 1967, Israeli companies, hand in hand with the Israeli state, have exploited the Palestinian economy and workforce. Agricultural companies have set up farms on land expropriated from Palestinian communities and have crippled Palestinian agriculture, already decimated by the military occupation and closures, by flooding Palestinian markets with cheap Israeli goods. These companies have taken advantage of the EU-Israel Trade Agreement to export large quantities of their produce to the European market.
2. International Corporations: Many international companies have taken the opportunity to profit from the suffering of the people of Palestine. Arms companies sell weapons to Israel in full knowledge of Israel’s ongoing war crimes; construction companies accept contracts for the building of illegal settlements; and multinationals open branches on illegal settlements. Some settlement produce is also marketed as ‘organic’ on European supermarket shelves.
3. States: Several foreign governments plan to set up new industrial areas inside the West Bank on territories under Israeli military occupation. In the occupied Jordan Valley, the Japanese government plans to facilitate the setting up of an industrial area where Israeli and international companies will take advantage of the desperate Palestinian workforce. The construction of this industrial area will entail further entrenchment of the Israeli apartheid system through the development of settler roads linking the zone to 1948 Israel. The German, British and French governments have expressed interest in setting up similar industrial areas elsewhere in the West Bank. These zones will exploit Palestinian workers, whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the Israeli military occupation and who often have no choice but to work for settler companies for low wages and with no protection or right to unionise.
There is an established and growing movement in solidarity with Palestine. Since 2004, the focus of this movement has been a Palestinian call for ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions‘ (BDS). The call was made by hundreds of Palestinian civil society organisations and all major Palestinian trade unions. Campaigners around the world have engaged in diverse forms of solidarity action in line with this call. Corporate Watch’s research intends to strengthen and provide a resource for the growing BDS movement and the wider international solidarity movement.
Obama clearly defined lines appear to offer little hope to Palestine
President Obama more closely aligned himself with the Israeli government’s terms for resuming peace talks with the Palestinians Thursday as he continued his visit to the region. Speaking in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Obama urged Palestinians to drop their longstanding demand for Israel to halt settlement construction on Palestinian land as a precondition for talks.
President Obama: “What I shared with President Abbas, and I will share with the Palestinian people, is that if the expectation is, is that we can only have direct negotiations when everything is settled ahead of time, then there’s no point for negotiations. So I think it’s important for us to work through this process, even if there are irritants on both sides.”
Obama had previously backed the Palestinian demand for a settlement freeze at the start of his first term. On Thursday, Obama said the Israeli settlements are not “constructive” or “appropriate,” but he stopped short of calling them illegal, a point stressed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
President Mahmoud Abbas: “Regarding the issue of settlements, it is not only our perception that settlements are illegal, but it is a global perspective. Everybody considers settlements not only a hurdle, but even more than a hurdle, towards the two-state solution.”
My Neighbourhood (directed by Julia Bacha and Rebekah Wingert-Jabi) tells the story of Mohammed El Kurd, a Palestinian teenager growing up in the heart of East Jerusalem. When Mohammed’s family is forced to give up a part of their home to Israeli settlers, local residents begin peaceful protests, and in a surprising turn, are quickly joined by scores of Israeli supporters. Mohammed comes of age in the face of unrelenting tension with his neighbours and unexpected co-operation with Israeli allies in his backyard. My Neighbourhood is latest short film by Just Vision, an organisation that uses film and media to increase the power and legitimacy of Palestinians and Israelis working to end the occupation and resolve the conflict nonviolently.
For video please click on the link below
Obama to receive Israel’s Presidential Medal of Distinction or should it be the War Criminal of the Year Award
Imagining honoring crimes of war, against humanity and genocide. Imagine calling war on humanity honorable.
Imagine granting a nation’s highest civilian award for waging it. It shouldn’t surprise. Obama will receive Israel’s Presidential Medal of Distinction. More on him below.
On February 18, Shimon Peres announced the award. It’ll be given during Obama’s March visit. It’s his first as president. He’ll get it at Peres’ Jerusalem residence. An Israeli press release said:
Peres’ spokesperson added:
“During his time as president, he has made a unique contribution to the security of the State of Israel, both through further strengthening of the strategic cooperation between the two countries and through the joint development of technology to defend Israel against rockets and terrorism.”
In 2012, Peres established the award. Henry Kissinger among others received it. Israelis and non-citizens are eligible.
It’s given to those “who have made an outstanding contribution to the State of Israel or to humanity, through their talents, services, or in any other form.”
At the 2012 award ceremony, Peres said:
“I’m old enough to know that people are no less important than ideas.”
“The world has learned to say ‘thank you,’ and it’s time that we also thank people of stature, people who set an example for the younger generation, so as to send a message that any person can be as great as his greatest action or thought.”
In announcing Obama’s award, he said:
“As president of the United States of America, (Obama) stood with Israel in times of crisis.”
“During his time as president, he has made a unique contribution to the security of the State of Israel, both through further strengthening the strategic cooperation between the countries and through the joint development of technology to defend against rockets and terrorism.”
He’s a “symbol of democratic values.” He “exemplifies the spirit of equality of opportunity in American society.”
Saying so turns truth on its head. Neither leader would recognize it if it bit them on their rumps.
The award replicates France’s Legion of Honor, the Order of Canada, and America’s Medal of Freedom.
In July 1945, Harry Truman authorized awarding it “to any person….who, or on after December 7, 1941, has performed a meritorious act or service which has aided the United States in the prosecution of a war against an enemy or enemies and for which an award of another United States medal or decoration is considered inappropriate.”
In February 1963, Jack Kennedy ordered it replaced by the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
It’s awarded “for especially meritorious contributions to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
It mocks what it claims to represent. It replicates Nobel hypocrisy. War criminals are honored with disturbing regularity.
In June 2012, one war criminal honored another. Obama awarded Shimon Peres America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“The United States is fortunate to have many allies and partners around the world. Of course, one of our strongest allies, and one of our closest friends, is the State of Israel,” he said.
“And no individual has done so much over so many years to build our alliance and bring our two nations closer as the leader we honor tonight – our friend, Shimon Peres.”
“In him we see the essence of Israel itself – an indomitable spirit that will not be denied.”
Twelve other recipients were honored at the same time. Madeleine Albright was one. As UN envoy and Secretary of State, she prioritized war and genocide. She believed NATO should intervene militarily regardless of international law restrictions.
She was criminally involved in America’s Balkan wars. She was complicit in genocide against Iraqi civilians. She was unapologetic. She called murdering over half a million Iraqi children a small price to pay.
Obama honored her and Peres for mass murder. He’s responsible for decades of crimes of war and against humanity.
He did so as Knesset member, Deputy Defense Minister, Defense Minister, Foreign Minister, other ministerial positions, Vice Premier, Prime Minister, and Israeli President.
He’s responsible for colonialism, apartheid, militarized occupation, and regional wars of aggression. His rap sheet includes no-holds-barred state terror. He helped institutionalize Israeli belligerence.
He ordered innocent victims slaughtered on his watch. He’s a serial killer multiple times over. He bears direct responsibility for crimes too grave to be ignored. He never once said he’s sorry. He’s a shameless example of rogue leadership.
In four years in office, Obama exceeded his worst crimes. In 2009, Nobel Committee members rewarded him for doing so. Their Peace Prize went to a war criminal. It wasn’t the first time.
Obama did what supporters thought impossible. He surpassed the worst of George Bush. He spurns inviolable international, constitutional, and US statute laws. He does so with impunity. He’s unapologetic.
His rap sheet includes betrayal and failure, governing for the monied interests that own him, and waging war on humanity. He’s heading America for full-blown tyranny and ruin. He mocks democratic values.
He’s waging daily terror war on Afghanistan. He’s doing the same thing in parts of Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Mali, and elsewhere. In 2011, he ravaged Libya. He’s destroying Syria today.
He’s got other targets in mind. He wants pro-Western puppets replacing all independent leaders. He wants Iran’s government ousted. He’s willing to wage war to do it.
He’s complicit in Israel’s worst crimes. He prioritizes war over peace. He enforces permanent war as policy. He wants unchallenged global dominance. He’s willing to destroy humanity to achieve it.
He’s a war criminal multiple times over. He’s guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. He appointed himself judge, jury and executioner. He wants anyone he wishes killed on his watch. He institutionalized lawless domestic spying. He’s waging global cyberwar.
He wants diktat authority replacing constitutional rights. He tramples on personal freedoms. He spurns fundamental civil and human rights.
He’s contemptuous of essential needs. He wrecked America’s economy. He presided over the greatest wealth transfer in world history. He impoverished millions. He let unemployment, hunger and homelessness increase on his watch.
He prioritizes destroying America’s social contract, ending hard won labor rights, exploiting ordinary people for profit, commodifying education as another business profit center, rationing healthcare, putting predatory providers in charge, and persecuting whistleblowers, dissenters, Muslims, and Latino immigrants.
He calls environmental and animal rights activists terrorists. He considers freedom a threat to national security.
He represents the worst of rogue leadership. Humanity may not survive on his watch. Israel’s award signifies rewarding him for what demands condemnation, prosecution and imprisonment. Who said crime doesn’t pay?
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.