Monday, January 30, 2012

Stealing Success Tel Aviv Style

By Philip Giraldi,, January 28, 2010

A curious op-ed "The Tel Aviv Cluster" by the reliably neo-connish David Brooks appeared in the New York Times on January 12th. Brooks enthused over the prowess of Israel’s high tech businesses, attributing their success in large part to Jewish exceptionalism and genius, which must have provided the ultimate feel good moment for Brooks, who is himself Jewish. That Israel has a booming technology sector is undeniably true, but Brooks failed to mention other contributing factors such as the $101 billion dollars in US economic and military aid over the course of more than four decades, which does not include the additional $30 billion recently approved by President Barack Obama. American assistance has financed and fueled Israel’s business growth while the open access and even "preferential treatment" afforded to Israeli exporters through the Israel Free Trade Implementation Act of 1985 has provided Israelis with the enormous US market to sell their products and services. By act of Congress, Israeli businesses can even bid on most American Federal and State government contracts just as if they were US companies.

Brooks was characteristically undisturbed by the fact that American taxpayer subsidized development of Israeli enterprises combined with the free access to the US economy and government contracts eliminates jobs and damages competing companies on this side of the Atlantic. And there is another aspect of Israel’s growing high tech sector that he understandably chose to ignore because it is extremely sleazy. That is the significant advantage that Israel has gained by systematically stealing American technology with both military and civilian applications. The US developed technology is then reverse engineered and used by the Israelis to support their own exports with considerably reduced research and development costs, giving them a huge advantage against American companies. Sometimes, when the technology is military in nature and winds up in the hands of a US adversary, the consequences can be serious. Israel has sold advanced weapons systems to China that are believed to incorporate technology developed by American companies, including the Python-3 air-to-air missile and the Delilah cruise missile. There is evidence that Israel has also stolen Patriot missile avionics to incorporate into its own Arrow system and that it used US technology obtained in its Lavi fighter development program, which was funded by the US taxpayer to the tune of $1.5 billion, to help the Chinese develop their own J-10 fighter.

The reality of Israeli spying is indisputable. Israel always features prominently in the annual FBI report called "Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage." The 2005 report states, "Israel has an active program to gather proprietary information within the United States. These collection activities are primarily directed at obtaining information on military systems and advanced computing applications that can be used in Israel’s sizable armaments industry." It adds that Israel recruits spies, uses electronic methods, and carries out computer intrusion to gain the information. The 2005 report concluded that the thefts eroded US military advantage, enabling foreign powers to obtain expensive technologies that had taken years to develop.

A 1996 Defense Investigative Service report noted that Israel has great success stealing technology by exploiting the numerous co-production projects that it has with the Pentagon. "Placing Israeli nationals in key industries …is a technique utilized with great success." A General Accounting Office (GAO) examination of espionage directed against American defense and security industries described how Israeli citizens residing in the US had stolen sensitive technology to manufacture artillery gun tubes, obtained classified plans for a reconnaissance system, and passed sensitive aerospace designs to unauthorized users. An Israeli company was caught monitoring a Department of Defense telecommunications system to obtain classified information, while other Israeli entities targeted avionics, missile telemetry, aircraft communications, software systems, and advanced materials and coatings used in missile re-entry. The GAO concluded that Israel "conducts the most aggressive espionage operation against the United States of any US ally." In June 2006, a Pentagon administrative judge overruled an appeal by an Israeli who had been denied a security clearance, stating, "The Israeli government is actively engaged in military and industrial espionage in the United States. An Israeli citizen working in the US who has access to proprietary information is likely to be a target of such espionage." More recently, FBI counter intelligence officer John Cole has reported how many cases of Israeli espionage are dropped under orders from the Justice Department. He provides a "conservative estimate" of 125 worthwhile investigations into Israeli espionage involving both American citizens and Israelis that were stopped due to political pressure from above.

Two recent stories that have been reported in the Israeli media but are strangely absent from the news on this side of the Atlantic demonstrate exactly what is going on and what is at stake. The first story confirms that Israeli efforts to obtain US technology are ongoing. Stewart David Nozette, a US government scientist who was arrested on October 19, 2009 in an FBI sting operation after offering to spy for Israel has been waiting in jail to go to trial on espionage charges. New documents in the case were presented in the Federal court in Washington last week. The documents confirm that Nozette was a paid consultant for Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and it is believed that he passed to them classified material in return for an estimated $225,000 in consulting fees. Examination of his computer by the FBI revealed that he was planning a "penetration of NASA" the US space agency and that he was also trying to crack into other scientists’ computers to obtain additional classified material. Other documents demonstrate that he was cooperating with two Israeli scientists who were administrators with IAI, Yossi Weiss and Yossi Fishman. Nozette made several trips to Israel without reporting them, which he was required to do because of his high security clearance. The FBI reportedly also has incriminating letters and other documents that were obtained from the computer.

The second story relates to the pending sale of twenty-five F-35 fighter planes to Israel. The F-35 is one of the most advanced fighter planes in the world. The $130 million planes would be purchased with US military assistance money, which means they would effectively be a gift from the US taxpayer. But Israel is balking at the sale reportedly because it wants to install some of its own local content in the aircraft. The Pentagon has already made some concessions but is disinclined to grant approval for all the changes because to do so would require giving the Israelis full access to the plane’s advanced avionics and computer systems. Israel also wants to independently maintain the aircraft, which would also require access to all systems. It would be nice to think that the Pentagon wants to keep the maintenance in American hands to preserve jobs, but the Defense Department has never cared about US workers before when the issue is Israel, and the real reason for the standoff is that Lockheed-Martin and the Pentagon both know that Israel will steal whatever it can if it gains access. It would then use the technology to market its own products at a price below that of US defense contractors. The result would be a triple whammy for Uncle Sam: the expensive planes are given to Israel free, the technology is then stolen, and future sales vanish as our Israeli friends market their knock down versions of weapons systems reliant on the stolen technology.

So to David Brooks I would say that there is most definitely an economic surge taking place in high tech Israel, but it is less a miracle than the fruit of a long series of thefts and manipulations fueled by American tax money and the connivance of a Congress that is always willing to do favors for the country that it appears to love beyond all others. I’m sure most Americans would wish the Israelis well and would applaud the prosperity that derives from their own industry and inventiveness but it is also time to put the brakes on business as usual and to take the Israeli hand out of our pocket. I’m sure Brooks’ job is pretty secure and well paid, but many Americans are out of work and suffering, so let’s take some steps to protect our economy from the information thieves from Tel Aviv and keep our money and jobs over here.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Will Israel Attack Iran?

By RONEN BERGMAN, January 25, 2012, The NY Times

As the Sabbath evening approached on Jan. 13, Ehud Barak paced the wide living-room floor of his home high above a street in north Tel Aviv, its walls lined with thousands of books on subjects ranging from philosophy and poetry to military strategy. Barak, the Israeli defense minister, is the most decorated soldier in the country’s history and one of its most experienced and controversial politicians. He has served as chief of the general staff for the Israel Defense Forces, interior minister, foreign minister and prime minister. He now faces, along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and 12 other members of Israel’s inner security cabinet, the most important decision of his life — whether to launch a pre-emptive attack against Iran. We met in the late afternoon, and our conversation — the first of several over the next week — lasted for two and a half hours, long past nightfall. “This is not about some abstract concept,” Barak said as he gazed out at the lights of Tel Aviv, “but a genuine concern. The Iranians are, after all, a nation whose leaders have set themselves a strategic goal of wiping Israel off the map.”

When I mentioned to Barak the opinion voiced by the former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and the former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi — that the Iranian threat was not as imminent as he and Netanyahu have suggested and that a military strike would be catastrophic (and that they, Barak and Netanyahu, were cynically looking to score populist points at the expense of national security), Barak reacted with uncharacteristic anger. He and Netanyahu, he said, are responsible “in a very direct and concrete way for the existence of the State of Israel — indeed, for the future of the Jewish people.” As for the top-ranking military personnel with whom I’ve spoken who argued that an attack on Iran was either unnecessary or would be ineffective at this stage, Barak said: “It’s good to have diversity in thinking and for people to voice their opinions. But at the end of the day, when the military command looks up, it sees us — the minister of defense and the prime minister. When we look up, we see nothing but the sky above us.”


Israel's silence on Iran is deafening

by: John Lyons, Middle East Correspondent, The Australian

January 28, 2012 12:00AM

JUST before 10 am on Tuesday, something highly unusual happened. Seventeen foreign journalists were escorted into one of the most secure facilities in Israel - the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv. When Israel is at war, this sprawling compound serves as the command centre. We were taken into a secured room inside the main tower. Right on 10 o'clock, in walked one of the the most important figures in Israel's defence and security establishment.We cannot name him, that was the condition of this rare briefing, but we can quote him as a "senior security source" or such like.

Some may see these briefings as further attempts to manipulate journalists. Indeed, many of those in the room, from outlets including The New York Times, Reuters and the BBC, were in some sense cynical. The material presented was obviously authorised, not leaked documents that the IDF did not want published.Inevitably, there was an element of spin to it all.But there were also valuable insights into how Israel sees the changing Middle East and what it may be planning.
Perhaps the most important insight was the official's refusal to discuss Iran.

Iran's nuclear program is clearly the most urgent and serious challenge that Israel faces. The official presented us with a series of slides, one of which described Iran as "an existential threat" to Israel.One journalist became irritated when the official would not take questions on Iran.The journalist argued that if the official was going to say Iran was an existential threat then surely questions should be taken about it.But one of the several military officers sitting in the room quickly announced that no questions would be taken on Iran - it was clearly too sensitive an issue.

The official who gave the briefing is likely to be engaged in a momentous decision in coming months about whether Israel launches military strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities.The boasts by Iran's leadership that it will "wipe Israel off the map" give Israel a legitimate reason to fear Iran becoming a nuclear power.As The New York Times noted recently, while the debate about sanctions continues "the centrifuges keep spinning".One slide showed weapons movements around the Middle East. The map was based on Israeli intelligence assessments, and, like all intelligence assessments, they need to be taken with caution. But much of what they highlighted rings true.The map showed a significant movement of weapons into Gaza. This is consistent with the view of one European country, as expressed recently to The Weekend Australian, that many weapons leaving Libya have been finding their way into Gaza through the Sinai in Egypt.

The Israeli official then discussed the region, country by country, and how Israel saw it. Egypt: "Still under a military regime, but slowly moving towards democracy." Despite the Muslim Brotherhood emerging as the big winners in the parliamentary elections, the Israeli military continues to deal directly with the Egyptian military.The Sinai is increasingly falling under the control of Bedouin gangs, and is among Israel's biggest concerns.

Syria: President Bashar al-Assad is "bleeding to death".Israel does not know what will replace the embattled President's regime and estimates more than 6000 civilians and up to 2000 security forces have been killed since the Syrian uprising began last March.Israel is preparing for refugees on its border with Syria, which it will try to manage with UN officials in the demilitarised zone.

Lebanon: Hezbollah, which has "a significant military capacity", continues to consolidate power.

Iran: it is leading "the radical camp" and the source of many of the weapons finding their way into Gaza, particularly through Sudan.

Gaza: After two years of "relative quiet" Hamas, and even more so the Islamic Jihad, are increasing the number of rockets fired into Israel.The official made clear Israel would have no hesitation in engaging in another Gaza war if "dragged in" by Hamas's continuation of rocket fire.

Israel's current assessment held there was currently "a low likelihood" of an "initiated" military campaign against Israel.
That is particularly significant: it means Israel understands that, despite Hezbollah having some 40,000 missiles in Lebanon near the border, it does not expect them to be used in the near future.That may change should Israel strike Iran and Tehran urge Hezbollah, its Shia ally, to retaliate.

One of the most interesting features of the briefing was how low the Palestinian issue rates for Israel.
The official noted that the Palestinian Authority was doing "a good job" in security in the West Bank but, clearly, given the divisions between Hamas and Fatah, which rules the West Bank, Israel does not expect to be sitting opposite a united Palestinian negotiating team any time soon.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Letter to the Woodstock Times

To the editor:

We recently attended the Modern Language Association conference in Seattle, where we took part in a number of discussions inspired by the Arab Spring. Throughout the conference there was a high level of excitement and of admiration for all the struggling, freedom-loving people of the Middle East and North Africa. This movement, carried out for over a year by the ordinary people of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and a number of other countries, including Syria and Palestine, has fired the imagnations of the world and helped spark a popular uprising against economic and social injustice in the USA. With these connections in mind, we returned to Woodstock with a renewed sense of purpose and solidarity.

Imagine our dismay, then, on opening the Woodstock Times to the diatribe by Susan Puretz against MECR, an organization of which we are proud members, and against anyone who dares criticize Israel while "neglecting" to speak out against the Assad regime in Syria. Ms. Puretz' attack is both inaccurate and misleading!

Her letter is inaccurate in claiming that MECR members do not care about the struggle against Assad. MECR members have protested and continue to protest the murderous brutality of the Syrian regime, just as we protest against all brutality and repression everywhere, whether in Syria, in Egypt, in Tunisia, or in Palestine or in the USA. The fact that we focus on the brutal and violent repression and killing of Palestinians, who are simply trying to live their lives in peace with justice, by the IDF and the Jewish settlers in the Occupied Territories of Palestine, is logically and morally tied to the worldwide struggle for human rights.

Ms.Puretz is also misleading in that she relies on a specious line of argument, popular among unthinking "knee-jerk" supporters of the Netanyahu/Barak regime, which poses outrageous and false alternatives. The line that asks "Why don't you protest against ----- instead of criticizing Israel?' is a classic red herring. This is the logical fallacy that proposes we redirect our attention to something new away from the subject at hand. It also uses the related fallacy of the "excluded middle": either we support the Syrian people or we support the Palestinians. The middle position -- that we support both and equally criticize the Syrian and Israeli regimes -- becomes a non-possibility. The writer wants to force us up against the wall and into categories of her own making -- or rather of the making of Israeli propagandists over the course of the last generation. Ms. Puretz is consciously or unconsciously attempting to provoke us, while continuing to believe she is right!

This reminds us of a story of a husband who comes home early from work to find his wife in bed with another man. The suprised wife blurts out,"Why did you come home so early?" The husband furiously snaps, "Why do you have another man in our bed?" The wife calmly replies, "I asked you first...Don't change the subject!" In a sense, Israel and its supporters, like Ms. Puretz, ask the Palestinians, "Why are you so angry with us?"....While the Palestinians ask Israel, "Why are you illegally occupying our land, building walls and checkpoints,demolishing our homes, building new settlements ,confiscating our olive trees, and killing our people?" And Israel replies, "Don't change the subject, I asked you FIRST!"

To Ms. Puretz' arguments we say NO! They conceal the truth. The same UN to which Puretz refers has not only condemned the Syrian government. It has for over 40 years continued to call upon Israel to end its violent and illegal occupation of Palestinian land and to stop building settlements there in contravention of the Geneva Treaties. There is only one law for the weak and the strong, the oppressor and the oppressed. Moral indignation does not stop at the borders of Israel -- or at those of the United States, which has maintained a hands-off policy with regard to both the protestors in Syria and the Palestinian masses, while continuing to pour billions in money and weapons into Israel. Most of the world, including the best and brightest of our own country, recognizes these simple truths.

Perhaps Ms. Puretz should find out why. To us, it's a no-brainer!

Barry Fruchter Amber Rose members of Middle East Crisis Response (MECR)
Woodstock NY

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Book 'Palestinians In Israel' Explores The Contradiction Of The ‘Jewish And Democratic’ State

by Ben White on January 21, 2012 24;

More and more, the discrimination and repression faced by Israel’s Palestinian citizens is surfacing in the mainstream, through media reports and alarmed NGO briefings. The stories just keep on coming: this week, Arab Knesset Members like Haneen Zoabi were accused of treachery, and threatened with expulsion from the Knesset and criminal proceedings (the ‘crime’ was to meet with the Palestinian Legislative Council speaker in the West Bank, a Hamas politician).

Then there was the High Court’s rejection of an appeal against the Citizenship Law which separates Palestinian families where one spouse has Israeli citizenship and the other is from the Occupied Territories. Praise for the ruling came from hard-liners and ‘liberals’ alike, and was explicitly framed as a victory in the battle to maintain a ‘Jewish majority’.

The various laws and proposed laws that have emerged in recent years – like the targeting of Nakba commemoration or the official legalisation of ‘selection committees’ in hundreds of communities – are laying bare a systematic pattern of discrimination that has been present since 1948. From the years of military rule over Palestinian citizens (which did not technically end until 1966), to the demolition of homes in an-Naqab (the Negev) in 2012, the aim has been the same: to ensure Jewish privilege and control over the indigenous Palestinians.

The mainstreaming of a critique of the occupation – and in particular, the settlements, or the actions in ‘Operation Cast Lead’ – has been undoubtedly beneficial, but has often been accompanied by an affirmation that Israel is, for all its ‘mistakes’, a beacon of democracy. This routine endorsement of Israel’s “democracy” goes hand in hand with a taboo on questioning Israel as a ‘Jewish state’, a juxtaposition that points towards the tension in Western liberal support for a state of affairs many would consider appalling in other circumstances.

Israel only has a ‘Jewish majority’ because of the expulsion and legislated dispossession of Palestinians. Israeli policies with regards to land, housing, immigration, and budgets, explicitly and implicitly favour Jewish citizens (and even Jewish non-citizens) at the expense of Palestinian citizens (and those Palestinians still excluded from their homeland).

This is the reality I have attempted to highlight in my new book, Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy (which I’m thrilled to say comes with a foreword by MK Haneen Zoabi). This is what Israel advocacy groups don’t want to talk about: the truth behind the myth of a ‘Jewish and democratic’ state, and how that contradiction is at the heart of the conflict.

Newspaper Editor: Israel Should Consider Assassinating Obama

Andrew Adler, the owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, a weekly newspaper serving Atlanta's Jewish community, devoted his January 13, 2012 column to the thorny problem of the U.S. and Israel's diverging views on the threat posed by Iran. Basically Israel has three options, he wrote: Strike Hezbollah and Hamas, strike Iran, or "order a hit" on Barack Obama. Either way, problem solved!

Here's how Adler laid out "option three" in his list of scenarios facing Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu (the column, which was forwarded to us by a tipster, isn't online, but you can read a copy here):

Three, give the go-ahead for U.S.-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place, and forcefully dictate that the United States' policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies.
Yes, you read "three" correctly. Order a hit on a president in order to preserve Israel's existence. Think about it. If I have thought of this Tom Clancy-type scenario, don't you think that this almost unfathomable idea has been discussed in Israel's most inner circles?
Another way of putting "three" in perspective goes something like this: How far would you go to save a nation comprised of seven million lives...Jews, Christians and Arabs alike?
You have got to believe, like I do, that all options are on the table.

It's hard to tell whether or not Adler is just some crank. But the Atlanta Jewish Times, which he purchased in 2009, appears to be a real community newspaper. It was founded in 1925 and, according to Wikipedia, claims a circulation of 3,500 and staff of five. To judge from its web site, it's a going concern.

A nervous Adler told me over the phone that he wasn't advocating Obama's assassination by Mossad agents. "Of course not," he said.
But do you think Israel should consider it an option? "No."
But do you believe that Israel is in fact considering the option in its most inner circles? "No. Actually, no. I was hoping to make clear that it's unspeakable—god forbid this would ever happen. I take it you're quoting me?"
Yes. "Oh, boy."
When I asked Adler why, if he didn't advocate assassination and didn't believe Israel was actually considering it, he wrote a column saying he believed that the option was "on the table," he asked for a minute to compose himself and call me back. He did a few moments later, and said, "I wrote it to see what kind of reaction I was going to get from readers."
And what was the reaction? "We've gotten a lot of calls and emails."
Nothing from the Secret Service, though. Yet.

UPDATE: Adler has told JTA that he "regrets" the column and plans to publish an apology. Oh, and the Secret Service says it will "make all appropriate, investigative follow-up in regard to this matter," according to ABC News.
Source: Gawker, 1/20/2012,

Gaza Youth Hear About Israel Lobby’s Role

by Yousef M. Aljamal on January 19, 2012, 
Ali Abu Nima addresses CPDS via Skype Jan. 15, 2012
For the second week in a row, the Center for Political Development Studies holds a video link on the role of the Zionist lobby in US elections. Ali Abunimah, the founder of The Electronic Intifada, joined Gaza activists via Skype and emphasized the reasons for this "unshakable" relation between Israel and the US, which is known to Palestinians more than any other nation in the world.

"The reason of this would be briefly put up into two theories. Some people say Israel plays an important role in U.S imperialism, in allowing it to control the Middle East and its resources. Meanwhile, there are other people (theory) that say there are powerful organizations and networks that consider support for Israel very important and they influence the politics of the United States through elections and contributions to political campaigns to make candidates adopt to Israel's position," he emphasized.

Still, America is a country of institutions and it has its own political interests, so that no one can say Israel controls all walks of life there, or it gets its way to everything it wants.
"We have seen a historical battle in the United States over the role of Israel and the Israeli lobby and it's focus on Iran more than Palestine, where there is a lot of pressure from pro-Israel groups to take a very hard line towards Iran and even to launch a war against it. Some of these battles are taking place behind the scenes. There is a growing feeling in the United States that Israel is turning into a burden and a problem for the United States. That’s why America is favoring a diplomatic solution to this issue. The is an emerging idea that Israel and US interests are not identical and conflict with each other," he added.

General David Petraeus was quoted, saying the activities of Israel are making the position of the US harder. There is a conflict about the value of Israel to the United States, and the Israel lobby is worried about this and they are fighting to maintain the idea that Israel and the United States have the same interests.

"Palestinians are few in number, though they take an important place in the primary elections, which asserts the role of the Zionist lobby. A candidate called Palestinians invented [people] while another went further by saying they never existed at all," Abunimah clarified.

This happens while millions of people in the US are jobless and the country is going through crisis. Some analysts shed light on the unusual rise of the Republican nominee Ron Paul, who believes in pulling US forces out of military bases all around the world.

"The very unique and public thing about him is that he said he wants to cut aid to Israel to zero. What I think is that he is not going to be the Republican candidate and he has his own reasons to believe in this. The message is that many voters voted for him, though he says he wants to cut aid to Israel. They don't care enough about Israel and this does not mean they are pro-Palestine," he continued. "An indication that politics is changing in the U.S."

There has been an increasing political marriage between supporters of Israel and extreme Islamophobia in the U.S., particularly after September 11th. They did their best to make use of the attacks to spread the Israeli propaganda.

"On September 12th, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in opposition in Israel at the time, said to TNT newspaper 'I think the attack was very good,' but he corrected himself later by saying 'It's good for Americans to understand the terrorism we face,'" Abunimah noted.

"Islamophobia was very beneficial to Israel in the short run, but in the long run, it will backfire on Israel. The reason is that there is a change in the character of support for Israel in the last 30 years. In the past, all parties, leftist or rightist, used to support Israel. Nowadays, things are changing," he disclosed.

"In the short run, this is not in our interest, for the world is turning to the right, but in the long run, things will be in our favor, especially among young people in Europe who are pushing towards universal and open politics. They are interested in equality and understanding. More and more young people are attracted to the kind of politics that oppose this kind of domination and racism. We see that a lot of pro-Israel groups in the US are worried about this. They teach young people about Israel and organize trips to Israel to show how wonderful Israel is. The next election will bring the most Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian people. But later, things will change to the favor of Palestinians," Abunimah added.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Abdel Aziz Duaik, Palestinian Parliament Speaker For Hamas, Reportedly Arrested By Israeli Soldiers

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Hamas officials say the speaker of the Palestinian parliament has been arrested by Israeli soldiers.

A Hamas official said Abdel Aziz Duaik was arrested Thursday near Ramallah. He was speaking on condition of anonymity citing security reasons.

The Israeli military had no comment.

The Palestinian parliament has not functioned since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 from the rival Palestinian Fatah Party.

Since then the Western backed Fatah governs the West Bank while Hamas rules Gaza.

Israel, the U.S., EU and others list Hamas as a terror group due to its suicide bombings and other attacks aimed at Israeli civilians that killed hundreds.

Duaik was arrested along with other Hamas officials in 2006 after militants abducted an Israeli soldier. He was released in 2009.

Huffington Post 1/18/2012

U.S. Cancels Joint Missile War Games With Israel

Israeli media is full of a major news story: that a major war games exercise planned for April which involved thousands of U.S. troops joining the IDF for missile exercises simulating an Iranian attack on Israel have been cancelled. This would’ve been among the most elaborate exercise the two countries had ever implemented. It would’ve involved 3,000 U.S. troops, Patriot missile batteries and naval warships and brought a U.S. admiral to Israel to witness them. The Jerusalem Post reports:

The drill was supposed to include the simulation of various missile defense scenarios with the objective of creating a high level of interoperability so that, if needed, US missile defense systems would be able to deploy in Israel and work with local defense systems during a future conflict.

The official version is that the exercise has been postponed till this coming summer. But it seems clear that they were cancelled. Now the question is why.

Did the U.S. cancel them to show displeasure to Israel? And if so, why? Does Obama know something about Israeli intentions we don’t know? Are plans underway to strike Iran? Is Obama seeking to show his displeasure? Or is he trying to soothe Iran by not going through with a highly provocative military exercise which would’ve placed thousands of U.S. troops in the heart of Israel as a show of solidarity with Israel in its crusade against Iran? Another related option being suggested in the Israeli media is that the U.S. is signalling its displeasure over the latest Iranian assassination by the Mossad. If this is the case, then the U.S. is saying that such black ops programs are a sideshow that achieve little and could serve as the catalyst to send the entire region into cataclysm.

Maariv adds that the reason involved:

“broad IDF operational considerations, including military preparations for achieving complex objectives.”

I don’t know if this means that Israel wanted them cancelled because it was preparing to attack Iran. Or because the IDF wants Iran to believe this.

Further, Naval Today reports that the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln is steaming from Thailand to join the two carrier groups already patrolling off the Iranian coast. Again, the question is–is this designed to pressure Iran and show it we mean business, up to and including an attack on its nuclear facilities? Some observers expecting a U.S. attack presume that in preparation we would require force redundancy in case Iran succeeded in disabling or sinking a U.S. carrier. Or is it designed to tell Israel that we will prevent an Israeli attack?

In addition, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey is due in Israel Thursday to continue pressure on Israel to tell us what its plans are concerning Iran. Or if Israel has already decided to attack, presumably he would be consulting with them about what would be involved and letting them know what the U.S. would or would not allow to happen.


Omertà, Mainstream Media-Style: The Oath of Silence When It Comes to Unfavorable News About Israel

On Jan. 11, the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Economist Intelligence Unit released the results of a study of the security precautions taken by the 32 countries that possess nuclear materials able to fuel atomic bombs.

Later that morning, the New York Times Web site featured—briefly—a story on the study’s findings. The story appeared on page A6 of the next day’s print edition.

Noted reporter William J. Broad: “The study is full of surprises and potential embarrassments: for instance, Australia takes first place in nuclear security and Japan comes in at No. 23, behind nations like Kazakhstan and South Africa.

“The United States? It ties for 13th place with Belgium. Last place goes to North Korea,” Broad continued. Britain, with a security score of 79 out of a possible 100, came in top among “the nine countries known to possess nuclear arms.” The U.S. scored 78, Japan 68, Iran 46, Pakistan 41, and North Korea 37. (The lower the security score, the fewer precautions each country has in place.)

A New York Times reader wanting to know where Israel ranks, however, was out of luck. Not a word about the only nuclear-armed country in the volatile Middle East. For that one must go to the report itself—which, of course, we proceeded to do:

Turns out Israel earned a security score of 56, and ranked No. 25—like Japan, “behind nations like Kazakhstan and South Africa.” Moreover, it scored 0 (of 100) in the categories of “control and accounting procedures” and “nuclear security and materials transparency.”

So much for “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

The Washington Report deems it fit to print the ranking and scores of all 32 countries surveyed:

2 Hungary 89
3 Czech Republic 87
4 Switzerland 86
5 Austria 85
6 Netherlands 84
7 Sweden 83
8 Poland 82
9 Norway 81
=10 Canada 79
=10 Germany 79
=10 United Kingdom 79
=13 Belgium 78
=13 United States 78
15 Ukraine 76
=16 Argentina 74
=16 Belarus 74
=16 Italy 74
=19 France 73
=19 Mexico 73
=19 South Africa 73
22 Kazakhstan 71
23 Japan 68
24 Russia 65
25 Israel 56
26 Uzbekistan 55
27 China 52
28 India 49
29 Vietnam 48
30 Iran 46
31 Pakistan 41
32 North Korea 37
“=” denotes a tie among countries. 

"Price Tag" or Pogrom? West Bank Settlers Now Running Amok in Israel as Well

By Jonathan Cook

The interior of the mosque in the Bedouin village of Tuba Zangariya in northern Israel was left charred and blackened in early October, its stacks of Qur'ans burned beyond recognition. On the outside walls, scrawled in charcoal, were the words "Revenge" and "Price tag." The extremist wing of the settler movement had left its calling card.

As part of their "price tag" policy—a euphemism for a campaign of terror—the settlers have for the past two years been intermittently setting fire to mosques in the West Bank. For much of the past decade, they have been mounting regular pogrom-style attacks against isolated Palestinian villages, beating the inhabitants, setting fire to fields, uprooting olive trees, killing livestock and poisoning wells. At this time of year, during the olive season, armed gangs of settlers roam the West Bank assaulting Palestinians trying to harvest their crops.

But this was the first time the settlers had torched a mosque in Israel. A few days later, two cemeteries—one Muslim, one Christian—were vandalized in Jaffa, a mixed Jewish-Arab town next to Tel Aviv. The phrases "Price tag" and "Death to the Arabs" were sprayed on the headstones.

The "price tag" policy originally was devised as a way both to punish Palestinians for attacks on the settlements and to deter Israel from enforcing the rule of law on the settlers. On the rare occasions when the Israeli authorities have done so—by, for instance, removing a caravan from one of the more than 100 unauthorized settlement outposts dotted across the West Bank, or by arresting a lawbreaker—Palestinian villages have suffered the consequences.

More recently, however, the settlers' attacks have been intended to penalize Palestinians for the smallest political developments in peace talks. The hard-liners, in particular, are so blinkered by their religious-nationalist fundamentalism that they have failed to grasp the reality that Israel's leaders, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, voided the peace process long ago.

It was almost certainly not a coincidence that the two attacks inside Israel came a short time after Mahmoud Abbas submitted an application for statehood to the United Nations, in defiance of both Israel and the U.S. The Palestinian Authority president raised the stakes on Palestinian statehood—and so did the settlers.

The attacks marked a dramatic escalation of a recent campaign by Jewish extremists to expand their low-intensity war against West Bank Palestinians to include Israel's 1.5 million-strong Palestinian minority. These latter Palestinians, descendants of those who remained on their land during the 1948 war, have Israeli citizenship—even if of a very inferior kind—and comprise a fifth of Israel's population (a higher percentage than that of African Americans in the U.S.).

The settlers' goal, according to analysts, is to generate a civil war, creating the momentum toward an apocalyptic confrontation that unites the Jewish population behind the settlers' vision of a Greater Israel by pitting Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line against the "Chosen people."

According to Jafar Farah, director of Mossawa, an Arab advocacy organization inside Israel, "They [the settlers] want us to react. Then they can claim that the Arabs are trying to drive the Jews into the sea, and that no political solution is possible."

Since Israel's disengagement from Gaza in 2005, disillusionment has grown among the extremist settlers, many of whom are convinced that they must intensify their struggle to stop further concessions in the peace process. The settlements, armed by the Israeli army for decades, are in a position to wreak havoc.

In recent years the most militant elements among the settlers have been increasingly focusing their energies on Palestinian Arab communities in Israel, with the intention of stoking tensions and provoking conflict. They have used a two-fold approach.

In Israel's half a dozen so-called mixed cities, where Jews and Arabs live in close proximity, even if usually in separate neighborhoods, religious extremists have been taking over areas within traditional Arab enclaves. Typically, they have begun by setting up a hesder yeshiva, a seminary where young Jewish men combine religious studies with military service. Effectively, the yeshivas are armed encampments within Arab neighborhoods. The settlers then seek to intimidate and drive out Arab residents so they can take over nearby buildings and gradually spread out, in a variation of the established Zionist tactic of the tower-and-stockade used by the first European Jewish immigrants to take over land in Palestine during the British Mandate.

But the settlers also have targeted some of the largest and most independent Arab towns in Israel. In recent years Baruch Marzel, one of the leaders of an ultra-nationalist group of settlers based in and around the West Bank Palestinian city of Hebron, has been leading provocative settler marches—with Israeli police protection—into Arab communities such as Sakhnin and Umm al-Fahm.

Sakhnin has a reputation as one of the most nationalist Arab communities in Israel, famous for its role in resisting a large state-organized land grab in the Galilee in 1976. In clashes the army killed six protesters, an event commemorated every year by Palestinians as Land Day.

Umm al-Fahm, meanwhile, is notorious among Israeli Jews as the hometown of Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the increasingly influential Islamic Movement. For similar reasons, the city is the primary target of a plan put forward by Israel's far-right foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, to swap Arab areas of Israel for the settlements in the West Bank under a future peace deal.

In this regard, the Jewish extremists chose the locations of their latest attacks carefully. They selected two Palestinian-Arab communities in Israel that have the opportunity and possible incentive to respond to the settlers' provocation with violence. Both communities are also distinctive for being surrounded by Jewish populations that have recently become rabidly anti-Arab.

Militant settlers hoped they were throwing a lit match on to a bonfire.

By contrast, Tuba Zangariya is one of a few fervently "loyal" Arab communities in Israel. While many Bedouin were expelled during the 1948 war that created Israel, the tribes of Tuba and Zangariya were given an area next to Jewish communities as a reward for fighting alongside Israel's armed forces.

Deprived of jobs and facing the same discrimination suffered by the rest of the country's Arab minority, many young men there still serve, like their grandfathers and fathers, in the Israeli army. After the mosque attack, a community leader boasted to an Israeli reporter: "We were among the founders of the state of Israel."

But as news of the mosque's desecration spread, enraged youths burned government buildings, fired their army-issue rifles into the air and clashed with police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades. The police claimed their tough approach was needed to stop the youths of Tuba from marching on to Rosh Pina and Safed, two Jewish towns only a few kilometers away.

Anti-Arab sentiments in Safed, in particular, have reached a boiling point under the town's chief rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, a municipal employee who has been leading a campaign to expel Safed's small Arab population, mostly students attending the local college. He has accused young Arab men of seeking to "corrupt" the town's Jewish women, and along with dozens of other rabbis signed a letter last year threatening reprisals against Jews who rented properties to non-Jews. There have been sporadic assaults on Arabs in Safed ever since.

The despoiling of the graves in Jaffa could have triggered a spiral of violence as well. A day after the attack, Molotov cocktails were thrown at a synagogue in the town.

Jaffa, once the commercial hub of Palestine, is now little more than a seaside suburb of Tel Aviv containing one of the most deprived Arab communities in the country. Most of the residents are descendants either of Palestinians forced out of their Jaffa homes at gunpoint in 1948 and corralled into a small neighborhood named Ajami, or of poor Palestinian laborers brought from the rest of the country to help build Tel Aviv.

Jaffa's Arab population, still penned up in Ajami and living precariously as tenants in neglected properties confiscated by the state decades ago, were brought to global attention in 2009 in an Oscar-nominated film called simply "Ajami." It portrayed the neighborhood as a breeding ground for crime and violence.

However, it did not show two further indignities currently being suffered by Ajami's Arab residents: a gentrification program that is demolishing areas of the neighborhood to attract wealthy Jews who prefer a beachfront residence to overcrowded Tel Aviv (see July 2008 Washington Report, p. 24); and the gradual infiltration of Jewish religious extremists, who have switched location from the settlements to Jaffa and other mixed cities.

In this pressure-cooker atmosphere, the graves' vandals presumably hoped they could fuel the mounting antagonisms on both sides of Jaffa's ethnic divide.
Fueling Antagonisms

Significantly, the attacks inside Israel suggested that militant factions among the settlers are now committed to a strategy that blurs the Green Line—the pre-1967 border between Israel and the occupied territories—in a way designed to make the citizenship status of Palestinians inside Israel irrelevant. More terror attacks on the minority can be expected.

An editorial in Israel's Haaretz newspaper noted that the settlers were exploiting the prevailing anti-Arab mood that has been generated both by two years of overtly discriminatory legislation from the Israeli parliament and by growing numbers of rabbis espousing trenchantly racist views. Reports of the arson attack on the mosque in Tuba Zangariya spawned anti-Arab graffiti across Israel.

The editorial also pointed out that such incitement and violence posed a severe challenge to Israel's professed democratic credentials and its image internationally. That is why Israel's political leaders, including Netanyahu, and its chief rabbis condemned the attacks with a haste and vehemence entirely missing from their reactions to Jewish terror aimed at Palestinians in the occupied territories.

The gauntlet thrown down by the settlers is directed mainly toward the security services, especially the Shin Bet internal intelligence agency. The police and Shin Bet have a woeful track record of solving crimes against Palestinians committed by the settlers, despite the increasing use of video cameras by Palestinians to record the attacks. The price tag campaign of recent years has come at almost no cost to the settlers.

The burning of the mosque in Tuba Zangariya neatly illustrated the double standards. A Jewish youth from a West Bank settlement was arrested a few hours after the attack, but released days later for lack of evidence. Meanwhile, the police arrested more than 20 youths from Tuba for firing their weapons into the air, and vowed they would be making many further arrests.

In September the Shin Bet claimed it was struggling to track down those responsible for the price tag attacks because they were religious zealots who had organized into a network of discrete terror cells to avoid infiltration and surveillance.

Yossi Melman, Haaretz's security correspondent, was dismissive of the reasoning: "The Islamic Hezbollah [in Lebanon] and Hamas organizations are also religious zealots. They, too, study their enemy, but nonetheless the Shin Bet and the intelligence agencies manage to infiltrate them and obtain accurate intelligence information about them."

The few Jewish extremists who had been arrested for attacks, Melman added, benefited from "the lenience of judges" and from "incompetence that appears to have been deliberate on the part of the police and the army."

A more probable explanation for the Shin Bet's failure is that its much-neglected "Jewish section," which investigates the settlers' security crimes and is overshadowed by a larger and better-funded "Arab section," draws many of its officers from among the ranks of the settlers.

The impunity granted the settlers is having serious consequences inside Israel, as even the Shin Bet has begun to notice. It has emboldened the extremists to widen their operations of late to include not only the Palestinian minority but also Israeli Jewish peace activists and, on a few occasions, Israeli soldiers.

A few days before the attack on Tuba Zangariya's mosque, a large group of West Bank settlers from Anatot, close to Jerusalem, assaulted and terrorized a group of left-wing Jews who had come to support a Palestinian couple trying to work their land. Many of Anatot's settlers work in the security services, and video shows police officers who were called to the scene standing by as the peace activists are beaten and some of the women sexually abused.

Despite its failure to trace the culprits of such crimes, the Shin Bet has warned that the most fanatical elements in the settler movement need restraining if there is not to be a rapid escalation of violence on both sides of the Green Line. In August it ordered 12 youths from Yitzhar, a notorious settlement close to Nablus, barred from the West Bank. A month later the government ignored the Shin Bet's advice to the Education Ministry to cut funding to Yitzhar's yeshiva, whose rabbis recently published a book advocating the murder of non-Jews, including children.

Because Israel's politicians so far have shown great reluctance to act against the militant settlers, their campaign of violence against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line is sure to intensify.


Jonathan Cook is a journalist based in Nazareth and a winner of this year's Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His most recent book is Disappearing Palestine.


Haaretz Publishes Fraudulent Ad Supporting Settler Price Tag Attacks with Forged Peace Activist Names

There is a brewing media scandal in Israel that has received scant attention.  Let’s try to change that.  Earlier this week, a fictitious settler group published an ad in Haaretz supporting price tag attacks.  One point they made in their support was the claim that price tag attacks are civil disobedience in the same sense that Ilana Hammerman’s group, We Do Not Obey, is.  She is the activist who began a protest movement by driving Palestinian mothers and children from the West Bank into Israel in order to take them to the beach, amusement parks, zoos, etc.  For her efforts, she’s been rewarded by three police summonses for questioning including a warning of criminal prosecution.  It is illegal both for Palestinians to enter Israel without proper permits and it is illegal for Israeli citizens to bring such individuals into Israel.

We Do Not Obey acts in ways that are totally non-violent and designed to promote tolerance and peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians while price tag is a violent, abusive and illegal form, not of civil disobedience, but of hooliganism and even terror.  The very comparison of the two is an act of outrageous chutzpah.

What is even more shocking about the ad than the bogus logic of the argument offered in it, is the fact that the ad purported to be signed by settler women who support the price tag acts of vandalism and defacement of Palestinian mosques, cemeteries, etc.  It also listed the purported settlements in which each endorser lived.  In reality, every woman’s name included in the ad is a member of Ilana Hammerman’s group of peace activists.  In other words, the individual who created the ad engaged in an act of fraud and Haaretz abetted the fraud by accepting the ad and asking no questions to verify the authenticity of those names.  Nor did it verify the authenticity of the fake group which purported to sponsor the ad.

Further, after Haaretz discovered it had been duped, it notified Hammerman that it would no longer accept any op-ed pieces by her about her work with We Do Not Obey (as it had in the past).  It appears that Haaretz, instead of blaming the person who perpetrated the fraud, is washing its hands of Hammerman and her entire movement.  A clear case if there ever was one of blaming the victim.  Instead of showing respect for fairness and freedom of speech, and apologizing for their error in helping defame these women, Haaretz takes a typically liberal approach and absconds from the entire controversy.

We now know who is the author of the fraud.  He is Benny Katzover, a notorious settler activist.  Here is the audio transcript of the interview in which he took credit for the ad.  Among his recent claims to fame (or better yet, infamy) is an interview he published in a Chabad journal, claiming the Israeli democracy had outlived its usefulness and should give way to a state governed by Jewish law (“We didn’t come here to establish a democratic state”).  Does anyone besides me find it ironic (or possibly sociopathic) that a radical settler who rejects Israeli democracy defends price tag attacks as legitimate forms of civil disobedience?

We don’t know who paid for the $1,000-1,500 cost of the ad.  Haaretz knows, but I doubt they’re going to tell.  A source I’ve consulted who is knowledgeable about the story believes that the funding came from either a settlement or a settler agency, which may mean that the State itself paid for the ad (either directly or indirectly).  In fact, a statement on the group’s Facebook page declares the ad was likely paid for through public funds.  This would mean that this act of fraud was actually endorsed and paid for by a government entity and the taxpayers of Israel.  Further, it would mean that public funds were used to endorse the acts of hooliganism and lawlessness represented by the price tag movement.  In the event that this claim is true, it would mean that while Israel’s leaders are publicly decrying price tag pogromism, other parts of the Israeli government or its public agencies are actually endorsing it.  Does this surprise anyone?

It also shouldn’t surprise anyone the government would smear Hammerman since her activism is considered a prime example of delegitimization, the right-wing concept du jour.  Yuli Edelstein’s Hasbara ministry is charged with combatting delegitimization and Edelstein himself is a prominent settler leader.  It wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility that his agency could’ve played some role in the attack, though I’m still exploring this angle of the story.

The women of We Do Not Obey have been consulting an attorney to decide how to proceed.  It’s ironic that the draconian proposed defamation law that may shortly pass the Knesset and become law would greatly aid these women in their pursuit of justice.  It would allow them to personally win substantial financial compensation of up to $75,000 each (for 40 women) from Katzover without having to prove any financial damage to them.  The Israeli far-right devised this cockamamie law to use against the Israeli NGO and peace activist community.  It never occurred to them that it could be used against them as well by the Israeli left.  That’s how smart these dullards are.


Friday, January 13, 2012

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

1. Settlements are illegal under international law as they violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of the occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territory. This illegality has been confirmed by the International Court of Justice, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the United Nations Security Council.

2. Seizure of land for settlement building and future expansion has resulted in the shrinking of space available for Palestinians to sustain their livelihoods and develop adequate housing, basic infrastructure and services. Settlement expansion plans have led to extensive demolitions of Palestinian homes and the forcible displacement of people.

3. The failure to respect international law, along with the lack of adequate law enforcement vis-à-vis settler violence and takeover of land has led to a state of impunity, which encourages further violence and undermines the physical security and livelihoods of Palestinians. Those protesting settlement expansion or access restrictions imposed for the benefit of settlements (including the Barrier) are regularly exposed to injury and arrest by Israeli forces.

4. Israeli civil law is de facto applied to all settlers and settlements across the occupied West Bank, while Israeli military law is applied to Palestinians, except in East Jerusalem, which was officially annexed to Israel. As a result, two separate legal systems and sets of rights are applied by the same authority in the same area, depending on the national origin of the persons, discriminating against Palestinians.

5. Continuing settlement construction, expansion and encroachment on Palestinian land is an integral part of the ongoing fragmentation of the West Bank, including the isolation of East Jerusalem. This fragmentation undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, which is to be realized with the creation of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state alongside Israel.