Olmert says Israel facing unprecedented isolation

JERUSALEM (Reuters) — Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said on Saturday that the government of Benjamin Netanyahu was taking Israel into unprecedented isolation with its policy on Jewish settlements.

He singled out Israel’s recent announcement that it would build new settlement homes in the E1 corridor near Jerusalem. The plan has sparked international protest.

Olmert said such plans had been around for years. But making the announcement days after the United States sided with Israel against the Palestinians’ successful bid for de facto statehood recognition by the UN General Assembly was a slap in the face to Israel’s main ally.

“Bibi Netanyahu,” he said, using the prime minister’s nickname, “is isolating Israel from the entire world in an unprecedented way, and we will pay a high price in every facet of our lives, and the Israeli public should know it.”

The settlement plans have provoked worldwide condemnation, with the United Nations, the United States and the European Union all voicing criticism of the project which they see as complicating any attempts at peace with Palestinians.

In Berlin this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Netanyahu to avoid “one-sided moves”.

Olmert, speaking on Israel’s “Meet the Press”, said he did not embark on a widely expected bid to run in Israel’s upcoming January election due to a lack of unity in the center-left bloc, as well as lingering legal troubles.

A former head of the centrist Kadima party, Olmert was in July largely cleared of corruption charges that had forced him from office in 2008.

(www.maannews.net / 08.12.2012)

Hamas leaders praise resistance, unity at Gaza rally

Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal gestures to the crowd during a rally marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas, in Gaza CityDecember 8, 2012.

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Hamas’ top officials on Saturday addressed teaming crowds gathered in Gaza City to celebrate the party’s founding, insisting on the right to resist Israel while emphasizing the importance of reconciliation with their Fatah rivals.

Party chief Khaled Mashaal, on his first visit to Gaza, told the crowds: “Resistance is the means not the end … for 64 years we have tried all other options but to no avail … there is no victory without resistance.”

The event marked the founding of the Islamist movement, and was also billed as a victory parade after Gaza militants were seen locally to have fended off an Israeli invasion during an eight-day bombardment last month.

Mashaal’s entry to the Gaza Strip on Friday after decades in exile, during which time he survived an Israeli assassination attempt, raised the celebratory atmosphere at the event.

The Hamas chief applauded his party’s military strategy, and thanked armed groups that fought alongside them during the Israeli assault, echoing praise by Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh during his festival speech.

“Jihad is the way to liberation, along with all types of national and diplomatic struggle … there is no value for all those types without resistance,” Mashaal said.

Mashaal reiterated support for President Mahmoud Abbas’ UN bid — which he called “a small but important step” — which sought recognition of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.

But he also stressed Hamas’ commitment to resisting Israel beyond the 1967 lines.

“Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land,” he told a sea of supporters at an open-air rally, the highlight of his three-day stay in Gaza.

“We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take.”

“We’ve tried negotiations and politics for more than 20 years … let’s review the political program,” Mashaal said.

“We do not fight Jews because they are Jews, but we fight Zionists because they are occupiers and abusers.”

Mashaal promised to Palestinians imprisoned in Israel that “it will not take us long before we free you from behind your bars.”

“The way we freed some of the prisoners in the past is the way we will use to free the remaining prisoners,” he said, evoking the prisoner exchange Hamas secured from Israel last year after it released an Israeli soldier its brigades had captured.

The leader had a conciliatory message for political rivals. Mashaal was behind last year’s reconciliation deal with Abbas, which stumbled after Hamas’ Gaza ranks rejected its condition of making Abbas head of a unity government.

A small Fatah delegation attended Saturday’s anniversary events for the first time since the 2007 fighting between both parties.

Mashaal told the rally: “Reconciliation means the unity of the political program … one prime minister and one parliament and one representative, which is the PLO.”

He said he supported holding national elections but Hamas should be a political partner whatever the outcome of the vote.

Hamas premier Haniyeh, introducing Mashaal, said the arrival of Palestinian leaders from abroad was the culmination of a political victory breaking the siege imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip. Hamas politburo members Mousa Abu Marzouq, Izzat al-Rishq, and Saleh al-Arouri accompanied him.

During the recent Israeli assault, sympathetic governments in the region rallied in support of Gaza, and Haniyeh referred to the change in its strategic role since the Arab Spring.

“In 2008 war was declared on Gaza from Cairo, but in 2012 Gaza’s victory was declared from Cairo,” he said, referring back to Israel’s Operation Cast Lead war on Gaza, before a less-sympathetic President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in Egypt and Islamist President Muhammad Mursi elected.

Mashaal described his emotion at returning to his homeland in his festival address. “My feelings as I came close to the land and sky of Gaza made me feel I was in another world. I shed tears and flew in the sky,” he said.

“Gaza gave me back my soul,” he told the rally.

(www.maannews.net / 08.12.2012)

Saudi official: Gulf cannot ‘tolerate’ unrest

Saudi Arabia’s deputy foreign minister says the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council cannot tolerate instability that could lead to challenges to the Western-allied leaders from Kuwait to Oman

Bahrain

Angry protesters in the Bahraini capital Manama
A senior Saudi official says Gulf Arab states must quash any Arab Spring-inspired unrest or risk threats to their leadership across the oil-rich region.The comments by Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, the Saudi deputy foreign minister, echo calls by Gulf authorities to widen crackdowns on perceived opposition such as rights activists and Islamist factions.

His remarks also seek to justify the intervention last year in Bahrain by a Saudi-led Gulf military force after an uprising by the kingdom’s Shiite-led majority. Bahrain remains the Gulf’s main flashpoint.

Prince Abdulaziz says Gulf states “cannot tolerate instability” that could lead to challenges to the Western-allied leaders from Kuwait to Oman.

He spoke Saturday at an international security summit hosted by Bahrain.

(english.ahram.org.eg / 08.12.2012)

Hamas kicks off massive celebration

Hundreds of thousands crowded Al-Katiba square in Gaza city where a big platform was set up to host Hamas movement’s celebration of its 25th inception anniversary.

A masked commander of the Qassam Brigades delivered the first speech pledging to cut off the hands of the invaders.

He said that resistance factions did not employ all its power in the last Israeli aggression on Gaza, warning that if the Israeli returned to aggression the Qassam fighters would retaliate.

The Qassam commander said that the supremacy of Israel in the region was diminishing, urging the Israelis to return from where they came from.

Hamas kicks off massive celebration

Hundreds of thousands crowded Al-Katiba square in Gaza city where a big platform was set up to host Hamas movement’s celebration of its 25th inception anniversary.

A masked commander of the Qassam Brigades delivered the first speech pledging to cut off the hands of the invaders.

He said that resistance factions did not employ all its power in the last Israeli aggression on Gaza, warning that if the Israeli returned to aggression the Qassam fighters would retaliate.

The Qassam commander said that the supremacy of Israel in the region was diminishing, urging the Israelis to return from where they came from.
(Facebook / 08.12.2012)

FBI documents show Israeli pm worked in nuclear smuggling ring

Traffic can be seen passing next to a sign showing the direction into Israel's Sorek nuclear reactor center near the central Israeli town of Yavne Monday July 5, 2004. (AP Photo/str)

Traffic can be seen passing next to a sign showing the direction into ’s Sorek nuclear reactor center near the central Israeli town of Yavne Monday July 5, 2004. (AP Photo/str)


(MintPress) – A set of partially declassified FBI documents show that current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu smuggled nuclear triggers out of the U.S. The seven pages detailed a number of front companies associated with the Israeli Ministry of Defense. While it is well known that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, little is known about the number and type of weapons the small Mediterranean country has in its arsenal.

 

Smuggling network

The report builds upon a previous cache of documents released, including material that provided the backbone of the tell-all book entitled, “Confidential: the Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon.” Arnon Milchan, Hollywood producer and author of the book, claims he was recruited as a member of Israel’s economic  division (LAKAM).

As an agent for LAKAM, Milchan learned how to set up front operations, fraudulent bank accounts and phony businesses. The operations took place as early as 1972 and continued through the most of the 1980s, mostly in Israel and in Los Angeles, Calif. The operations include a somewhat convoluted web of American and Israeli contacts set up to help expand the Israeli .

The documents show that Milchan worked extensively with Richard Kelly Smyth, a  engineer with the capability and knowledge to acquire components necessary for building nuclear weapons.

Additionally, the documents reveal that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked for the Heli Trading Company, an Israeli firm now revealed to be a front for obtaining nuclear technology.

The exchange between clandestine American and Israeli contacts may seem like the stuff of Hollywood, but much of the details came to light after Smyth was captured in Spain in 2001. Smyth had fled the U.S. after being indicted for violating the Arms Export Control Act in the 1980s.

Once detained, he was interrogated and convicted of exporting 800 nuclear triggers, called “krytrons,” to Israeli sources. The information provided by Smyth has given U.S. intelligence crucial information regarding the intimate relationship between Israeli and American  partners in the illicit arms trade.

The release of this information is salient given the increased hostilities between Israel and  at a time of fierce debate over Tehran’s supposed nuclear aspirations.

 

Nuclear proliferation in the 

Israel remains the lone nuclear power in the Middle East, possessing an undisclosed number of nuclear warheads. Estimates range from 75 to as many as 400 nuclear weapons.

David Ben Gurion, one of the founders of the Jewish state, placed great importance on obtaining nuclear weapons during his time as the first Prime Minister of Israel in the 1950s. Ben Gurion, like many of the founders of Israel, had palpable memories of the Nazi Holocaust in  just a few years earlier. As a result, Ben Gurion and his cohort believed that creating a well-armed state would prevent another Holocaust from occurring.

While Israeli development of a nuclear weapons program is known to the international community, little is known about the number and type of weapons because Israel has not allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect its nuclear program. This demand is one that Israel and the United States, among others, have put forth as a non-negotiable demand of Iran, a country that is suspected of enriching uranium for weapons use.

Israel has been engaged in a protracted  of words with Iran for over a year, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatening to strike Iran should the country develop the capability to develop a nuclear weapon. Iranian officials have insisted on numerous occasions that their nuclear program is only for peaceful, non-threatening civilian projects.

While the topic of nuclear disarmament may seem like an impossible one to broach, a full 64 percent of Jewish-Israelis would support making the Middle East a nuclear free zone, even if that meant giving up their own weapons, according to a New York Times poll.

(09.07.2012 / www.mintpress.net / 08.12.2012)

New York panel on Islamophobia talks U.S. empire, Zionism and how to fight back

Panel

Members of a panel on Islamophobia. From left to right are: Fahd Ahmed, Kazi Fouzia, Madiha Tahir and Elly Bulkin.

Islamophobia has deep roots in this country. And it’s a political problem with political solutions.

That was the message, in so many words, heard last night as about 70 people gathered in the basement of Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village to hear about anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. Organized by the groupJews Against Islamophobia Coalition, the packed panel event included activists and academics including Abdeen Jabara, who moderated the event and is a former president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; Deepa Kumar,author of the book Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire; Fahd Ahmed and Kazi Fouzia of the South Asian-led Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM); Elly Bulkin ofJews Say No!; and Madiha Tahir, an independent journalist covering Pakistan.

The event was titled: “Islamophobia, Empire and US Politics: What Are Its Roots? How Do We Respond?”

The focus of the various panelists zipped and zoomed from New York City to Pakistan to Egypt to Palestine and beyond, as a holistic and historical approach to the problem of Islamophobia was offered.

While the September 11, 2001 attacks were of particular focus to the panelists, the historical nature of anti-Muslim sentiment was emphasized time and time again. Abdeen Jabara kicked off the night by reminding the audience of Operation Boulder, an FBI program that spied on Arab-Americans, including Jabara, following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Jabara himself was targeted by the FBI, and eventually won a lawsuit that forced the FBI to destroy the records they collected on him.

Kumar, an author and a professor of Middle East and Media Studies at Rutgers University, continued on the historical theme. “On the left, we still have a rather shallow understanding of what Islamophobia is,” she said, explaining that it’s not just hate crimes or the most blatant and atrocious examples of anti-Muslim sentiment that activists should be focused on. Kumar emphasized that Islamophobia is deeply connected to the project of U.S. empire, which her book focuses on. “Islamophobia is deep and systematic,” said Kumar, and the “idea of the Muslim enemy is used to justify US empire.”

But it’s not just US empire that has promoted Islamophobia; the roots of the phenomenon can be seen in the Crusades, for example. Kumar argued that the Crusades were a project of European elites to consolidate a European identity that was formulated as the opposite of the Muslim “other.” And today, there is a new way that anti-Muslim sentiment has been promoted. Kumar said that there is a “half-terrorist, half-victim” binary that is Islamophobic at its core. Muslim men are demonized as terrorists, while Muslim women, portrayed as lacking agency, are the victims of these Muslim men. The rhetoric around the Afghanistan War perfectly illustrates this. The bombing, invasion and occupation of the country was in part justified both by citing the menace of Islamic terrorists as well as the need to “save” Afghan Muslim women from their oppressors.

Tahir, who has done extensive traveling and reporting in Pakistan and is the author of a forthcoming book on the subject, picked up where Kumar left off, as she explained how Islamophobia functioned to legitimize drone warfare in Pakistan. “Pakistanis in the tribal areas [where most drone strikes are conducted] are dehumanized,” said Tahir. She also criticized the logic of a New York Times article making “the moral case for drones,” and noted that 176 children have been killed in Pakistan by drones.

Bulkin took the discussion to Israel. She summarized her and Donna Nevel’sinvestigative report in AlterNet that documented how “the people bankrolling illegal Israeli expansionism in the occupied West Bank are the same people fomenting anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S.” She pulled no punches, eloquently calling out the right-wing Zionist funders behind both West Bank settlements and anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. For example, Bulkin noted that Frank Gaffney, a purveyor of the baseless notion that Muslims are trying to institute sharia law here and that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the U.S. government, is also a “‘contributing expert’ to the Ariel Center for Applied Research, an Israeli research institute that reflects the hardline Likud position on Israeli security,” as Bulkin and Nevel put it in their article. “There’s an Islamophobia-Israel nexus,” said Bulkin in her talk.

And finally, the members of DRUM honed in on state violence at home and the class dimensions of Islamophobia. Fouzia, speaking in Hindi with Ahmed translating, spoke of her personal experience as a Muslim immigrant to the U.S. She also noted that “it is working class Muslims who are targeted” by the state. As an example, Ahmed said that Jackson Heights, where his organization is based, is a neighborhood that has the third-highest rate of “stop and frisk” incidents initiated by the NYPD. Many South Asians, some of them Muslim, live in Jackson Heights.

At the end of the night, Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace, a member group of the Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition, encouraged audience members to get involved with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice’s (JFREJ) new campaign against discriminatory policing. JFREJ, another member group of the Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition, recently signed on to the Communities United for Police Reform coalition, which is pushing for a number of City Council bills to address NYPD abuses. Among those abuses are the widespread and warrantless surveillance of Muslim communities in the city and in the Northeast. “We plan to build on JFREJ’s existing relationships and history of solidarity work to mobilize Jewish communities to join in the movement against discriminatory policing,” a flyer announcing the JREJ campaign reads. “We will work in partnership with the CPR campaign, Muslim and Arab organizations, and organizations directly impacted by policing and incarceration.”

It was a fitting end to the night. As DRUM’s Ahmed said, the key to combatting anti-Muslim sentiment is to “organize, organize and organize.” It looks like the Jews Against Islamophobia coalition and JFREJ are taking up Ahmed’s advice.

(mondoweiss.net / 08.12.2012)

Israeli troops storm Bethlehem area, detain 5

Israeli forces routinely raid West Bank cities.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – Israeli forces ransacked several homes in the Bethlehem district in the southern West Bank early Saturday and detained five young Palestinians.

Locals and eyewitnesses told Ma’an that Israeli military vehicles stormed al-Saff and Hindaza neighborhoods of Bethlehem breaking into several homes before daybreak.

The invading troops detained three young men identified by locals as 20-year-old Ayyad Jamal al-Hreimi, 21-year-old Murad Ali Asakra, and 18-year-old Abdullah Awwad Jawarish.

Witnesses highlighted that the soldiers forcibly opened the main door of an apartment belonging to former prisoner Nadir al-Hreimi and thoroughly inspected the apartment destroying its interior.

Separately, Israeli soldiers raided Beit Fajjar village south of Bethlehem before they detained 27-year-old Jawad Hashim Thawabta and 35-year-old Nabil Ahmad Taqatqa.

(www.maannews.net / 08.12.2012)

Hamas: Israel threatened to cancel ceasefire over Mashaal visit

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – Israel threatened to cancel the ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt if Hamas’ chief in exile and his delegation visited the Gaza Strip for the movement’s 25th anniversary, says senior Hamas leader Izzat al-Rishiq.

In an interview with the Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa TV Saturday, al-Rishiq said, “We received real threats that occupation could cancel the ceasefire agreement or do anything.”

Al-Rishiq highlighted that Mashaal decided to visit the Gaza Strip even at personal risk.

Describing the “historic” visit by Hamas’ leaders in exile to Gaza, he said, “This is a great view, and we are happy to set foot on the pure land of Gaza and met from the very beginning with our people.”

He added: “Our people should be more assured about resistance. Hamas is a resistance movement, and without resistance there will be no Hamas.”

On Thursday Islamic Jihad officials said Israel threatened to assassinate the leader of Islamic Jihad if he entered the Gaza Strip, causing the party to reconsider.

Egyptian authorities told Islamic Jihad that Israel rejected the visit and would target leader Ramadan Shalah and his deputy Ziad Nakhla if they went into Gaza, sources close to the discussions told Ma’an.

Islamic Jihad leaders were considering whether to cancel the visit Thursday.

Israel launched an 8-day assault on Gaza that ended Nov. 21 with a ceasefire agreement mediated by Egypt.

(www.maannews.net  / 08.12.2012)

Kuwaitis in peaceful mass march against new-rules parliament

(Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Kuwaitis marched in the capital on Saturday in peaceful protest against a parliament elected last week in the Gulf Arab state under voting rules deemed unfair by the opposition.

Rule changes passed by decree in October, which reduced the number of votes per citizen to one from four, have prompted a spate of demonstrations and led the opposition to boycott the December 1 election.

The government, in which members of the ruling family hold top posts, says the new rules bring Kuwait in line with democratic norms elsewhere. The opposition, which includes Islamist and populist politicians, says they were designed to skew elections in favour of pro-government candidates.

Crowds of men, women and children wearing orange, the colour of the protest movement, marched along a coast road on the edge of the capital, heading for Kuwait Towers, a major landmark by the Gulf.

Holding Kuwaiti and orange flags, they chanted: “The people want to bring down the decree!” They sang and clapped, giving the march a festive feel as a police helicopter circled above.

Years of political turmoil have held up investment and economic reforms in Kuwait, a U.S. ally and OPEC member state which has held four parliamentary elections since 2006.

The protesters say they want wider political reforms but not an Arab Spring-style revolution.

“We reject the last election because of the one vote system, because most of the people did not participate. We want the four-vote system back and new elections,” said 21-year-old student Saad al-Zobi.

Ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah has said his amendments will help preserve national security and stability.

“THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE CONSULTED”

Under the old system, politicians could urge supporters to cast additional ballots for like-minded candidates – a way to build informal alliances in a country where parties are banned.

“We – the people – should be consulted when there are any big changes,” Nadja Saleh, a 45-year-old bank worker said, gesturing at the crowd. Slogans carried on large orange banners included “Justice, liberty and equality” and “Dictatorship is destructive, democracy is constructive.”

Police had put up some barricades along the march route but their presence appeared light. Other recent marches, which authorities said were unlicensed, have been broken up using tear gas and smoke bombs.

The new parliament is expected to be more government-friendly than its predecessor, elected in February. The opposition held a majority in the last assembly and put pressure on the cabinet, forcing two ministers out of office.

Kuwait has the most open political system among the Gulf Arab states. Parliament has legislative powers and the right to question ministers. But the emir, head of the Al-Sabah family that has ruled Kuwait for 250 years, appoints the prime minister, who chooses the cabinet.

The government says opposition lawmakers have used parliament to settle scores rather than pass laws to develop the economy. Opposition politicians accuse the government of mismanagement and have called for an elected cabinet.

(uk.reuters.com / 08.12.2012)

Egypt army not seeking political role, says military source

CAIRO (Reuters) — A statement issued by Egypt’s armed forces calling for dialogue and pledging to protect state institutions and the people does not signal a return to politics, a military source said Saturday.

“It is obvious from the statement that the military is just explaining what happened, as at the end it thanked its forces for going out on the streets and protecting public institutions, and it does not indicate any future intervention in politics,” the source, who is close to top officers, told Reuters.

A military council had run Egypt during an interim period after former military officer, Hosni Mubarak, was ousted last year. The armed forces have not intervened in the latest crisis.

(www.maannews.net /08.12.2012)