Lawmakers Express Support for Netanyahu, Israel

Several members of the United States Congress showed their support for the State of Israel on Tuesday.

In meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, political leaders on both sides of the aisle said they stand with the Jewish state in the Iranian crisis.

“The United States Congress will always stand by Israel, and the United States Congress will never allow Israel to stand alone,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

“The looming threat of a nuclear Iran cannot be ignored. Ambiguity could lead to serious miscalculations, which is what we collectively hope to avoid,” he said.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is important for Israel, the U.S., and the world.

“So this is about Israel, our relationship with them, our support for their security, preserving and strengthening the qualitative military edge,” Pelosi said.

Netanyahu also met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.

Lawmakers want to step up the economic pressure on all Iranian banks to further squeeze the Islamic Republic’s economy to convince the regime to abandon its nuclear program.

During his remarks Monday evening at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference, Netanyahu praised Congress, noting that more than half the members of Congress were in the audience.

“Democrats and Republicans alike, I salute your unwavering support for the Jewish people,” the prime minister said, before asking delegates “to stand up and applaud the representatives of the United States.”

( / 07.03.2012)

Verbod hoofddoek in alle winkels?

Mogen vrouwen met hoofddoek klanten bedienen in een winkel? En hoe moeten winkeliers omgaan met discriminerende klanten? Zelfstandigenorganisatie Unizo pleit voor een wettelijk kader. Dat schrijven Gazet van Antwerpen en Het Belang van Limburg.

De discussie over het hoofddoekendebat in openbare besturen is geluwd. Maar die over of het toegelaten is om met een hoofddoek in een winkel te staan, woedt sinds gisteren heviger dan ooit.

Aanleiding hiervoor is dat het Centrum voor Gelijkheid van Kansen en voor Racismebestrijding (CGKR) winkelketen Hema dagvaardt omdat die een werkneemster in de Genkse vestiging ontsloeg na klachten van klanten over haar hoofddoek.

De ‘hoofddoekenkwestie’ bij Hema is volgens CGKR-directeur Jozef De Witte geen alleenstaand geval. “Steeds vaker gebruiken commerciële bedrijven het argument ‘neutraliteit’ om een hoofddoek te verbieden.

Bedankt voor uw stem!


Zelfstandigenorganisatie Unizo vindt dat er dringend meer duidelijkheid moet komen.

“Het is aan de werkgever en de werknemer om binnen een wettelijk kader uit te maken of religieuze symbolen toegelaten zijn op de werkvloer”, zegt Bjorn Cuyt van Unizo. “De vrijheid van godsdienst moet het uitgangspunt blijven, maar dat mag in geen geval het werk hinderen.”

( / 07.03.2012)

US Drone War Reaches Philippines

Some Filipino representatives have objected to encroaching US military domination

The U.S. launched a drone strike in the southern Philippines early this month that reportedly killed 15 members of the Islamic terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah, raising concerns about the legality of U.S. drones in the country.

One of those killed was reportedly Zulkifli bin Hir (aka Marwan) had a $5 million bounty on his head from the U.S. State Department. Not all of the identities of those killed were released.

The airstrike prompted angry reactions from some in the Philippines weary of U.S. breach of their sovereignty. One Philippine representative, Luz Ilagan, called for repealing the U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement and an end to U.S. military intervention in national affairs.

Ilagan also called for a probe into what she referred to as the “extensive and intensive intrusion of the U.S. military in Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operations”. She added, “If these reports are true, then U.S. troops are participating in and conducting operations beyond what is allowed in the Visiting Forces Agreement and directly transgressing our sovereignty. More importantly, their participation in these operations is a potential magnet for the Philippines’ participation in a brewing U.S.-instigated regional conflict.”

The U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement forced the closure of major U.S. military bases in the 1990′s and prohibits the U.S., the country’s former colonial ruler, from establishing a military presence. But the U.S. has not gone away since then. A 1999 agreement allowed hundreds of American troops to return in 2002 to train and arm Filipino soldiers fighting domestic militants allegedly linked to al-Qaeda.

Ilagan is right to be concerned, but in recent years U.S. support and military involvement to the Philippines has been misused by the Filipino government against its own citizens.. Numerous embassy cables released by WikiLeaks acknowledge extrajudicial killings, abductions, and false arrests perpetrated by the U.S.-trained and funded security forces.

The Obama administration has initiated an effort with the Filipino government with the aim of increasing access for U.S. warships and air force and possible for joint war drills, although reports say full U.S. bases will not be reopened. This is part of a broader imperial plan to counter China’s regional influence and an expanded military presence in the region with bases, troops, and navy warships in Australia and Singapore.

( / 07.03.2012)

What role does AIPAC play in US elections?

Republican candidates have been making their pitch to the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in the US.
The American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in the US, is holding its biggest annual conference yet with around 13,000 delegates in Washington.

For all those bidding to become the next US president, it has become an essential campaign stop. The group has strong ties to the religious right and evangelical voters. And it is a very influential force in Washington politics.

Demonstrators from the occupy movement held a small protest outside the event urging no war on Iran and no US tax dollars for Israel.

On Sunday, Barack Obama, the US president, took to the stage and told the audience that Israel had never had a better friend in the White House. But he did not support Israeli military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities – at least not yet.

If Obama treated Israel like Reagan did, he’d be impeached. Former President Ronald Reagan’s confrontations with Israel were harsh and personal, yet Republican conservatives revere him and the Jews remember him as a great friend.

– Chemi Shalev, an Israeli journalist and political analyst

Three of the four Republican candidates bidding to unseat the US president addressed the conference on the biggest day of the nomination battle so far – ‘Super Tuesday’.

Rick Santorum flew in especially for the event before heading back to Ohio, while Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich appeared via satellite link.

A number of Republicans have sought to attack the US president over his administration’s relationship with Israel. And the Republican presidential candidates have all tried to paint Obama as an undependable partner for Israel who is weak on Iran.

Mitt Romney said: “We’ve heard a lot of words from the administration. Its clear message has been to warn Israel to consider the costs of military action against Iran. I don’t believe we should be issuing public warnings.”

And Newt Gingrich said: “If an Israeli prime minister decides that he has to avoid the threat of a second holocaust through pre-emptive measures that I would require no advance notice to understand why I would support the right of Israel to survive in a dangerous world.”

So what role do pro-Israel lobby groups, and AIPAC in particular, play in the US election and why are they courted by those competing to be the next US president? How do Barack Obama’s dealings with Israel compare with those of his predecessors, including Republicans?

To discuss these issues presenter Anand Naidoo is joined by: John Mearsheimer, the co-author of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy; Larry Greenfield from the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs; and Hillary Mann Leverett, a former White House and US state department official.

“It’s critically important for any US contender for the presidency to go to AIPAC, to interact with the Israel lobby in a favourable way, because it enables that candidate to show that that candidate is strong, that the candidate believes in US exceptionalism, US preeminence in the world, that the US is still very much the indispensable nation in the world; the US has decisive influence in the Middle East and the US is not going to let that influence go as manifesting any kind of threat – real or perceived – against Israel. It allows a candidate to really demonstrate that and that’s in addition to all of the tactical things here in the US in terms of getting votes, financing ….”

Hillary Mann Leverett, former White House official


  • AIPAC is described as one of the most powerful US interest groups
  • AIPAC lobbied the US government last year on 23 congressional bills regarding issues such as sanctions on Iran
  • Former AIPAC employees say the group influences pro-Israel campaign cash
  • The pro-Israel lobby helps ensure candidates get some financial backing from members
  • In 2008, pro-Israel political action committees gave $3mn to congressional and presidential candidates
  • Pro-Israel groups donated more to Democrats than to Republicans in 2008
  • Republican candidate Newt Gingrich has benefitted from a very large donation from billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson who has pledged up to $100mn – and support for Israel is the single biggest issue for Adelson
  • Obama spoke at the 2012 AIPAC conference and urged AIPAC members to support an agenda of peace
  • Obama said the US commitment to Israel’s security is “iron clad”
  • Many Republicans have criticised Obama’s relationship with Israel

( / 07.03.2012)

Israeli bulldozers destroy Palestinian wheat crops in Negev

NEGEV, (PIC)– Bulldozers of the “Land of Israel” department destroyed wheat crops of Palestinian farmers in the Negev, occupied since 1948.

Radio Israel said that the bulldozing was made without prior notice, adding that the farmers have been cultivating their lands for many years.

The Israeli authorities have been systematically launching harassment campaigns against the Negev Bedouins in a bid to force them out of their ancestral land.

( / 07.03.2012)

Sarkozy: Er zijn te veel buitenlanders in ons land

Sarkozy vlak voor de uitzending op France 2.

‘Wij hebben te veel buitenlanders op ons grondgebied.’ Dit heeft de president van Frankrijk, Nicolas Sarkozy, vanavond gezegd tijdens een debat op de tv-zender France 2.

‘Ons integratiesysteem dreigt verstopt te raken. We moeten het aantal mensen dat we opnemen halveren om ze onder goede voorwaarden te kunnen opnemen.’

Sarkozy zei vandaag dat buitenlanders pas voor bijstand in aanmerking moeten komen als zij 10 jaar in Frankrijk hebben gewoond en 5 jaar hebben gewerkt.

Front National
Sarkozy hoopt aanstaand voorjaar herkozen te worden. Hij dreigt bij de gang naar de stembus stemmen te verliezen aan Marine Le Pen van de anti-immigratiepartij Front National. Hij ging de vraag van de presentator uit de weg of hij naar rechts richting Le Pen opschuift.

De problemen ‘moeten niet worden teruggebracht naar de tegenstelling links/rechts’, aldus Sarkozy. Het Front National weet al sinds 1984 miljoenen kiezers te trekken met zijn tegen immigratie gericht programma.

( / 06.03.2012)

Medics: Blast kills 2 children near Hebron

HEBRON (Ma’an) — Two children were killed Tuesday as a mortar left by Israeli forces exploded near Hebron, medics and police said.

Hamza Zayed Jaradat, 12, and Zayed Juma Jaradat, 12, were killed in the blast in Wadi Reem, east of Hebron in the southern West Bank, medics told Ma’an.

Hebron police chief Ramadan Awad said the boys were killed when an old Israeli mortar exploded.

Natheer Juma Jaradat, 16, and, Yasser Muhammad Jaradat, 19 and Hisham Zayed Jaradat were injured in the explosion and taken to Hebron Governmental Hospital.

The group had been playing in a field filled with scrap metal in the nearby village of Sier, Awad said.

An Israeli military spokesman said an initial investigation indicated that the blast was caused by “unexploded ordnance that was ignited” but had no further details.

( / 06.03.2012)

Maradona shows his support for Palestinians

Diego Maradona

DUBAI: Embattled Argentine superstar coach Diego Maradona showed his support on Saturday for the Palestinian people and promised the national team to visit their country.

“I am the number one fan of the Palestinian people. I respect them and sympathize with them as they all need that we stand by them,” Maradona told dpa in Dubai, where he coaches the al-Wasl football team.

“I promised the Palestinian football team to visit Palestine. I support this nation’s cause as I grew up on struggle and standing against injustice,” he said.

In August, the Argentine star accepted the Palestinian black-and-white scarf from a fan. He hugged the fan and thanked him, before flashing a victory sign and telling the camera “Viva Palestina.”

Maradona also expressed his happiness after his team won 4-3 against their rivals Al Jazira team, reaching the semi-finals in the Pro League in the United Arab Emirates.

“The players followed my instructions and won this match after several failures,” he said.

Maradona has been coaching Al Wasl since May under a two-year contract.

He will travel with his team to Oman on Monday for their first match in the Gulf Champions League.

He has faced a bit of controversy in recent months, with speculation he could take over the UAE national team in the near future.

( / 06.03.2012)

Indonesian Police Arrest 67 Palestinian Asylum Seekers

Indonesian authorities detained 67 allegedly illegal asylum seekers from Palestine as they headed to Australia’s Christmas Island on Tuesday morning.

Police arrested the immigrants, 35 men, 17 women, nine children and six infants, in Cisancang village in Garut, West Java.

They arrived on a bus at the village’s Pamengpeuk beach, not far off which a suspicious cargo ship was anchored.

“Garut Water Police and Garut District Police made the arrest,” National Police spokesman Saud Usman Nasution said in Jakarta on Tuesday.

He added police were investigating Indonesians’ likely involvement in the alleged smuggling of the asylum seekers.

Saud explained that police were tipped off after a report from villagers saying they saw a suspicious cargo ship anchored in the waters off the beach, which faces the Indian Ocean.

Huge waves prevented police from checking the ship, but then the bus carrying the 67 Palestinian passengers arrived.

“There was someone yesterday asking around if he could rent a boat to carry some passengers to the cargo ship. Our officers investigated the report and this morning the group of Palestinians arrived,” Saud said.

He added it was not yet clear where the Palestinians came from, but said they were now in the detention center at the Garut Police station.

Police have contacted the immigration office and the International Organization for Migration to address the problem.

( / 06.03.2012)

Revenge of the settlers


Palestinians are under increasing attacks from Israeli settlers, especially in the last few years, reports have found.
Palestinian villages in the northern West Bank have witnessed an increase in arson attacks on their fields 

Fadi Quran is little different from any other Palestinian living in the West Bank, where violence from Israeli settlers is part of daily life. Hailing from the town of Al-Bireh, less than one kilometre from the settlement of Psagot, the 23-year-old Master’s degree student has been forced to deal with attacks and harassment for years.

“Settler violence is a daily occurrence,” he told Al Jazeera. On one occasion, he was playing football with friends when they came under fire from settlers with machine guns. In another altercation, settlers threw stones at him while he was driving. Their guns discouraged him from stopping. “I’m telling you my story, but there are literally hundreds of thousands of other cases that are much worse.”

Last week, Quran was arrested after attending a non-violent protest in Hebron which demanded the re-opening of a street in the centre of the city. The Israeli army had made it a settler-only road 11 years previously, despite the presence of Palestinian families still living there.

Following a verbal dispute, Israeli soldiers pepper-sprayed him, beat him, arrested him, blindfolded him and took him to an interrogation centre at a nearby settlement. Once there, he discovered the arresting soldiers were actually from one of the area’s settlements.

“I asked where they were from and they told me: ‘Kiryat Arba’,” he said. “One of them then asked me if I knewBaruch Goldstein [an Israeli settler who, in 1994, opened fire inside a mosque in the West Bank, killing 29 and wounding over 125 others]. They said he was a hero and they would do the same thing.”

Quran was charged with attacking ten soldiers. In court a few days later, the judge stated there was no proof that Quran did not attack them. The hearing was postponed until the following day, by which point a video capturing the events leading up to Quran’s arrest had gone viral. After the video was presented to the judge (which clearly showed Quran had not attacked troops), he was released on bail.

OCHA Statistics

– Settler attacks have increased by 32 per cent in 2011

– 10,000 Palestinian-owned trees were damaged or destroyed in 2011

– 139 Palestinians were displaced due to settler attacks in 2011

– Over 90 per cent of complaints filed by Palestinians have been closed without indictment

Settler violence has been forcing people to significantly change their lives, Quran said: “There are communities who don’t use main roads because they are afraid they will be murdered. Many farmers can’t farm anymore because their lands are being burned or vandalised, so they have to find another job.”

report published in January by the Washington-based Palestine Center revealed a 39 per cent increase in the number of settler attacks – from stone-throwing to arson and shootings – between 2010 and 2011.

Furthermore, in the five-year period between 2007 and 2011, the occupied West Bank has witnessed a 315 per cent increase in settler attacks – while, over the same period, there has been a 95 per cent decrease in Palestinian violence against Israeli settlements and settlers.

The report found “over 90 per cent of all the Palestinian villages which have experienced multiple instances of Israeli settler violence are in areas which fall under Israeli security jurisdiction”.

The report revealed a geographical shift in violent acts; previously settler violence was concentrated in the southern West Bank city of Hebron and its environs. Over the past few years, the Nablus governorate, in the northern West Bank, has also been on the receiving end of a large proportion of the documented settler violence.

This shift to the north, “where rural villages are predominantly targets, suggested that settlers are exploiting unfettered access to isolated Palestinian villages to perpetrate violence more than ever before”.

‘Open hunting season’

“What we have here is a complete failure to enforce the law and uphold the obligations to protect Palestinians,” Yousef Munayyer, director of the Palestine Center, told Al Jazeera.

“The Israelis really need to uphold their own obligations, otherwise we will continue to see violence and it will be open hunting season for settlers to attack Palestinians.”

International law states that occupying powers have a duty to protect local populations, while maintaining security and ensuring public order.

Issa Amro, a Palestinian from Hebron who heads the Youth Against Settlements activist movement, was forced with his family to leave his home – now designated a “closed military area” – after years of attacks from settlers.

“Every time settlers attack a Palestinian house, they are escorted by the army who protect them,” he explained. “I have filed dozens of cases and complaints, and not one time has anyone gone to court.”

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 90 per cent of monitored complaints filed by Palestinians have been closed without indictment.

“I have death threats against me, and I’ve been attacked many times by settlers,” said Amro. “[The settlers] say to me ‘I hope God erases your name’, and they say this to me in front of the army and the police, who stand by and do nothing.”

‘They are there to protect the settlers’

Ezra Nawi, an Israeli activist who has been working with Palestinians against settler violence for the past decade, said the Israeli military in the West Bank was complicit through inaction.

“Settlers attack Palestinians, but the army has orders preventing them from arresting or stopping them,” he said. “They are simply there to protect the settlers.”

Nawi is no stranger to settler violence, with his work frequently making him a target. He said the attacks “serve the state’s interests”.

“The violence scares the Palestinians into not moving around or using their land for farming and agriculture,” he said.

The UN group also found that “80 communities with a combined population of nearly 250,000 Palestinians are vulnerable to settler violence, including 76,000 who are at high-risk”.Further OCHA statistics also state approximately 10,000 Palestinian-owned trees were damaged or destroyed by settlers in 2011, while 139 Palestinians were displaced due to settler attacks.

“Every day there are attacks by settlers,” said Amro. “What is new is that they have started burning mosques.”

Sarit Michaeli, spokesperson for B’Tselem, an Israeli group which documents violence in the West Bank, told Al Jazeera that increasing violence was a result of a lack of law enforcement.

“The Israeli authorities have an obligation under international law to protect both settlers and Palestinians,” she said. “While they fulfill their obligation to protect the settlers, with the Palestinians, we see a systematic failure to protect them from attacks.”

“It is worth noting that Palestinians who are arrested by the Israeli army are prosecuted and charged through the military court system, which is very low in terms of protection of their rights, while settlers, if they get arrested, are held and tried in the civilian court system, which offers greater protection of their rights,” she added.

‘It’s actually calmer now’

Yet not everyone agrees with the assertions made. David Ha’ivri, spokesperson for the settlement council covering the northern West Bank region, told Al Jazeera he felt the area “is over-exposed in the media in comparison to other areas in the world”.

“I’ve lived here for many years and we have experienced violence, but that is not the situation currently,” he said. “It is strange that someone is saying that there is an increase, while we’ve experienced a decrease in the violence. It’s actually calmer now than in the past.”

Dani Dayan, chairman of the Yesha Council, reiterated Ha’ivri’s assertion, saying the levels of violence had decreased in the past two years, and that media had a tendency to “inflate and exaggerate things like the price-tag attacks“.

“Life in Judea and Samaria [the Biblical term for the West Bank] is normal,” he told Al Jazeera. “I don’t think violence during the last year has been a crucial problem, not for Jews and not for Arabs.

“Let’s not forget that the numbers provided are actually the other way around,” he added. “There have been at least 12 settlers who were murdered by Arabs in the last 24 months.”

According to B’Tselem statistics 13 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians in the West Bank over the past two years, while four Palestinians were killed by Israeli civilians, and a further 22 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army. In Gaza, 173 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military during the past two years.

Both Ha’ivri and Dayan state the Israeli authorities were doing what was required of them in terms of protecting civilians and arresting perpetrators.

“If the Arabs feel there is less accountability then they are not aware of the facts.

– David Ha’ivri, settler spokesperson 

“I don’t think there is less accountability, the state and the police are very serious about enforcing the law on both sides,” said Ha’ivri. “For example, there are individuals in some communities in Samaria who have been arrested, or banished from living in this area.”

“If the Arabs feel there is less accountability then they are not aware of the facts.”

While Dayan agreed the authorities were performing their duties, he acknowledged flaws in the judicial system.

“There are very few indictments, if at all, presented to the courts,” he said. “I do not have an explanation as to why there are so few indictments, and it is not my place to provide an explanation, but it does create problems, leading some to believe one side has a sense of immunity and can get off without punishment.”

“I do know the government and police have a high interest in the public opinion, so I don’t think they lack the motivation,” said Dayan. “It’s not a question of leniency, but maybe one of capability.”

‘They want Palestine’

The analysis of the Palestine Center’s Munayyer focused on causes of settler violence and whether it was responsorial (a reaction to either Palestinian violence and/or Israeli government actions), or structural (a product of demographics and security arrangements).

“What we found actually is that instances of Palestinian violence trigger a decrease in settler violence,” said Munayyer. “Palestinian violence tends to receive an official response from the Israeli army, so in these instances the settlers don’t intervene.

“We also found that some of it is motivated by Israeli government actions, but … it doesn’t necessarily have to be provoked by anything. As settlers can get away with it at any given time, they will continue.

“The message the settlers are receiving is that ‘this is okay, and the state is not going to stop them’.”

B’Tselem’s Michaeli, however, was keen to emphasise that violence was not something the majority of the settler community participated in. “The mainstream leaders in settler politics have denounced these attacks,” she said, adding that settler violence and clashes with local Palestinians dated back to the 1970s.

“Having said that, the settlement community as a whole in an occupied area is violent,” she said, referring to the illegal nature of the expanding settlements in the West Bank, frequently condemned by the international community.

“All acts of violence that have occurred are isolated on both sides,” he said. “I don’t think either side is going out and actively looking for targets.

– David Ha’ivri, settler spokesperson

Ha’ivri said that in most cases, when there is violence, it happens as a response to attacks on settlers. “I don’t think it happens on a daily basis. All acts of violence that have occurred are isolated on both sides,” he said. “I don’t think either side is going out and actively looking for targets.”

For Israeli activist Nawi, the motivations of settlers are much more straightforward.

“Most of the settlers are motivated by religious ideas; that the Arabs are unwelcome people and they need to leave,” he said. “It is not an argument you can reason with.”

“They want Palestine.”

( / 06.03.2012)