Friday, December 26, 2008

Russia bids for control over the Middle East

Russian FM Lavrov announced the upcoming financial support for Palestinians during Abbas’ visit to Moscow. As his presidential term expires on January 9, this seems Abbas’ last official visit - significantly, to Chechnya.

Russian support to Palestinians will come largely in military sphere. In Lavrov’s diplomatic speak, Russia supports Abbas’ “security measures.” The only Fatah’s security measures we see in Israel are related to terrorist attacks: scores of Fatah policemen are vacationing in Israeli jails for terror activity. Not a single Palestinian terrorist was intercepted by Fatah policemen. The few terrorists comfortably jailed in Palestine were arrested by IDF and released to Fatah.

Russian pledge to Palestine has nothing to do with humanitarian concerns. Russians never delivered food or other humanitarian supplies to Palestinian refugee camps, but look for “security cooperation” with Palestinians. In plain English, Russians seek a military foothold at Israeli borders. To that end, they pledged ten MIG-29 jets to Lebanon’s Hezbollah government free, and build a mammoth navy base in Syrian port of Tartus. The navy base will host S-300 and later S-400 anti-aircraft defense which would protect most of Syria against Israeli reprisals. Under the Russian ABM umbrella, Syria can develop its nuclear weapons without fearing Israeli preemption.

Russia’s Middle East policy also includes TOR-1M and S-300 deliveries to Iran and joint nuclear program with Egypt.

Russian expansion comes despite that country’s economic troubles. Russian economy relies on oil, gas, and other natural resources almost as much as Saudi Arabia. Oil and gas revenues account for about 60% of Russian budget (both directly and through taxes on businesses which thrive on high oil prices). During the years of windfall oil profits, Russian government built currency reserves, but they dwindle quickly as oil prices fell.

Instead of minding its own business and building a modern economy, Putin-Medvedev’s government grew increasingly hostile. Domestically, the regime amended the high treason law: the new formulation easily includes all dissidents. The tax administration hunts down crisis-stricken businesses: the reduced tax revenues are blamed on evasion rather than economic downturn. In the “near abroad”, Russia continues military incursions in Georgia and introduced gas blockade of Ukraine. Russian Gazprom monopoly refused transporting Asian gas to Ukraine, and slapped it with gas prices substantially higher than those offered to West European customers.

Russia cannot gain rich or advanced countries on its side. They are either not interested in Russian overtures, or prefer relations with the West, if only for economic reasons. Russians have nothing to offer Saudi Arabia or Emirates, but court the world’s outlaws such as Iran or Venezuela.

The Old Europe also falls victim to Russian bullying: France and Germany, the EU cheerleaders, depend on Russia for gas supplies, as are most other European countries. Staunchly anti-American EU embraces Russia if not for any other reason than to slap the United States. In its latest meeting at FM level, NATO discussed Georgia: not the way of defending it from Russia, but how to get over it and re-establish ties with Russia.

US-Russian nuclear cooperation, arms reduction, and anti-missile treaties are practically abandoned. Russia threatened to stop dismantling its nuclear warheads and selling the uranium to America, though the deal went on smoothly for fifteen years. Putin resumed militarily useless but highly provocative flights of Russian nuclear-armed strategic bombers around Europe.

Russia’s increasingly strong relations with Hezbollah, Hamas, and PLO are best viewed on the background of its worldwide strategy. Lacking funds to buy clients with aid, having too little economic clout to obtain friends with trade advantages, Russia resorted to the old Soviet tactics of stirring trouble. That policy amounts to racketeering: if Russian role is not acknowledged, regional troubles ensue. Propping the miscreants like Iran or PLO is way cheaper than staging conflicts and immensely cheaper than any civilized way of spreading one’s influence.

Unless Russia breaks again into the post-democratic anarchy, it is out to create major troubles for the world.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Clashes erupt in Israeli-run prison

Clashes erupt in Israeli-run prison

Israeli police entered Ofer prison outside Ramallah to quell the riot which erupted on Saturday [Reuters]

At least seven Palestinian detainees and three Israeli guards have been injured in a prison riot, according to Yaron Zamir, a prison service spokesman.

The clashes in the Ofer detention centre near the West Bank town of Ramallah erupted on Saturday when dozens of Palestinian inmates started throwing objects at guards who had entered to search a prison ward, Zamir said.

"Following the violence a larger force was sent into the ward and order was restored shortly afterwards," he told the AFP news agency.

Seven prisoners injured after inhaling tear gas were treated at the jail. Three guards were lightly injured by objects thrown at them, Zamir said.

More than 11,000 Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons, many of them detained for long periods without trial.

Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera's correspodent reporting from Ramallah, said: "Palestinian detainees inside the miltary camp tried to prevent Israeli prison authorities from raiding their sections and undertaking a search of the wards.

"We have heard repeatedly from these detainees about the humiliation they undergo on a daily basis during these searches.

"And it was at this point they [inmates] wanted to protest against the measures undertaken by the Israeli prison authorities."

She said that calm appears to have been restored and situation brought under control. But it is unclear whether the Israeli authorities will respond to the Palestinian prisoners' frustrations and grievances after the latest incident.

Gaza fatality

In the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, a Palestinian man has been killed in an Israeli missile attack - the first death since the end of a six-month-old ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Palestinian territory.

Ali Hijazi, 22, and two other men who were wounded in Saturday's incident were members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, witnesses said.


Palestinian fighters ready to fight
Israeli forces on high alert at border
Truce no protection for Sderot
Gaza residents suffer under truce

The air raid targeted a group of fighters firing rockets towards Israel, an Israeli military official said.

The attack in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip came a day after the end of the ceasefire.

Sherine Tadros, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza, said: "The [Israeli] military told us that six projectiles have been launched from the Gaza Strip towards southern Israel.

"This is coming as very sad news for the people here who once again find themselves in the position they were in before the ceasefire, in terms of this almost daily aggression by Israel and very uncertain times in terms of what will happen next.

"From the Israeli side they have said that ... as long as there is peace from the Palestinian side they will respond with peace. But if there is aggression by Palestinian factions, they will fight back with force."

A ceasefire agreed in June officially ended at daybreak on Friday, after Hamas said it would not renew it.

Hamas blamed Israelis for the failure of the ceasefire, saying that they had not lived up to their obligations under the deal by continuing a blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Monday, November 3, 2008

McCain's Shameful Slur

Slate Magazine
fighting words

McCain's Shameful Slur

The Republicans' appalling attack on Rashid Khalidi.

By Christopher Hitchens

On the clouded synapses of Sen. John McCain, it became clear as his campaign limped and lurched to its close, the termites had been dining long and dining well. However much one might have admired the low comedy of his closing routine on Saturday Night Live, it had to be admitted that even in that context, he looked a trifle glassy and elderly, not to say lost. No doubt there was some safe refuge to be taken, by himself and his absurd choice of running mate, in self-deprecation. The true ghastliness, however, was revealed in the crudeness of the McCain-Palin attempt to deprecate others.

A few feeble cracks on a comedy show are not enough to erase the memory of a vulgar and vicious attack, mounted on a rival candidate McCain has publicly called "honorable," only a few days earlier. It had been said that Sen. Barack Obama had once attended a dinner for professor Rashid Khalidi, a distinguished Palestinian academic. It was further said that the Los Angeles Times, which had first reported the five-years-ago dinner in Chicago, was deliberately withholding a videotape of the evening that would show Obama in the audience while tough criticism of Israel was being voiced. Here is how the Republican nominee for the presidency of the United States described the situation in a radio interview in Miami:

I'm not in the business of talking about media bias, but what if there was a tape with John McCain with a neo-Nazi outfit being held by some media outlet? I think the treatment of the issue would be slightly different.

I presume that in this fantastic piece of semicoherent Florida pandering McCain meant to imply the wearing of a neo-Nazi outfit rather than the membership of one, but it was hardly necessary for him to be so arch as to disclaim an interest in "talking about media bias." After all, his campaign maintains and accouters a running mate who will do all that for him and will furthermore read anything that is put in front of her (or, if it is a hoax call, will believe anything that is told to her) and who opined, on the same subject:

What we don't know is how Barack Obama responded to these slurs on a country that he professes to support, and the reason we don't know is the newspaper that has this tape, the Los Angeles Times, refuses to release it. It must be nice for a candidate to have major news organizations looking out for their best interests like that.

And it must be easy for a woman who couldn't, when first asked, name a single newspaper or magazine that she had ever read, to become such an instant expert on the press. It was last April when the paper disclosed the original event. Now it's being accused of covering up the event!

My main point, though, is not to call attention to the bullying and demagogy of McCain's attack. It is to observe how completely it undermines any claim on his part to foreign-policy experience. Khalidi has been known to me for some time and can easily be read and consulted by anyone with the remotest curiosity about the Israeli-Arab dispute. He is highly renowned, well beyond the borders of his own discipline, for his measure and care and scruple in weighing the issue. If he is seriously to be compared to a "neo-Nazi," then the Republican nominee has put the United States in the unbelievable position of slandering the most courageously "moderate" of the Palestinian Arabs as a brownshirt and a fascist. What then has been the point of every negotiation on a two-state solution since President George H.W. Bush convened the peace conference in Madrid in 1991? Nazis, after all, are to be crushed, not accommodated. One would have to think hard before coming up with a more crazy and irresponsible statement on any subject. Once again, it seems that McCain utterly lost his bearings.

I put the word moderate in quotation marks above because I dislike employing it in its usual form. Rashid Khalidi's family is a famous one in Jerusalem, long respected by Arab and Christian and Jew and Druze and Armenian, and holding a celebrated house and position in the city since approximately the time of the Crusades. I have had the honor of being invited to this very house. If Rashid chooses to state that he doesn't care to be evicted from his ancestral home in order to make way for some settler from Brooklyn who claims to have God on his side, I think he has a perfect right to say so. I would go further and say that if Barack Obama was looking for a Palestinian friend, he could not have chosen any better. But perhaps John McCain has decided that he doesn't need any Palestinian friends and neither do we. Perhaps he thinks it's all right to refer to refugees and victims of occupation, who have been promised self-determination and statehood at the podium of the United Nations and the U.S. Congress by George Bush and Condoleezza Rice, as if they were Hitlerites. How shameful. How disgusting. How ignorant.

One could go a step further and say that many Israelis have used the words apartheid and terrorist to describe at least some of their government's policies. In just the same way, one could note that Khalidi has clearly denounced violence when used by his "own" side, and also—this I remember very well from meeting him in Beirut in the 1970s and '80s—when employed by regimes like the Syrian. But somehow this evidence and this reflection has become beside the point. McCain saw a chance to deal a cheap and low blow, and he had the ideally ignorant deputy to reinforce him. The slander, after all, might get them through another news cycle and perhaps adhere some defamatory mud to their opponent. Who cares that it made the United States of America look thuggish and ignorant and petty in the eyes of any thinking person in the Middle East? Anyone who does care should be getting ready to vote against this humiliating ticket, a team that so farcically and horribly unites the senescent and the puerile.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair.

Article URL:

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Allison Weir Public Event

Allison Weir Public Event

Alison Weir is a reporter and executive director of If Americans Knew (, a website devoted to misreported or unreported events regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Event Info
Time and Place
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
7:30pm - 9:30pm
Ann Arbor, MI
Contact Info


Alison Weir is a reporter and executive director of If Americans Knew (, a website devoted to misreported or unreported events regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Weir will be in town for two days. The first day, she will hold an informal workshop with members of SAFE and interested members of co-sponsoring organizations, offering information and support about effectively reporting and addressing media bias. The second day, she will hold a lecture on campus speaking about American media bias concerning the ongoing conflict, as well as sharing some of her experiences in Israel and the Occupied Territories. The overall purpose is to encourage the audience to question and further engage media representations of conflict, and to develop a greater sense of intellectual curiosity and in response to American media outlets. The event will impact campus by enriching the always-lively Israeli-Palestinian campus debate.

If Americans Knew is a non-profit organization that focuses on the Arab-Israeli conflict and United States foreign policy regarding the Middle East, offering analysis of American media coverage of these issues. Its mission, according to the group's website, is to provide "what every American needs to know about Israel/Palestine."[1] The site is generally critical of U.S. financial and military support of Israel. The group blames the pro-Israeli lobby in the US, AIPAC, for advancing support for Israel.

In addition to the freelance journalist and founder Alison Weir [2], board members [3] and staff include critics of Israel, such as Francis Boyle, a law professor, Eugene Bird, the president of the Council for the National Interest, Paul Findley, a former United States Representative, Andrew I. Killgore, a former ambassador of the United States to Qatar [4], and Pete McCloskey, a Democratic politician from California.

Presenting: DAM & Jackie Salloum

Presenting: DAM & Jackie Salloum

Slingshot Hip-Hop
Event Info
Time and Place
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
8:00pm - 10:30pm
Michigan League Ballroom
Ann Arbor, MI
Contact Info


SAFE is planning to bring renowned up-and-coming Palestinian American filmmaker Jackie Salloum to present an exclusive screening of her newest film “Slingshot Hip Hop”. The film, featured at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, is a feature-length documentary chronicling the lives of Palestinian rappers in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel. The event will raise awareness about the film, drawing attention to oppression and how art can be used to express social justice. After the screening, Jackie will lead a discussion about the film. Our goal for the event is to spark meaningful dialogue around Palestinian issues while raising cultural awareness about this facet of Palestinian life.
Palestinian rap group DAM, heavily featured in the documentary, will also give a performance after the film. The audience will have the opportunity to experience DAM’s story full circle as they can enjoy their performance at the Michigan Theater right after watching raw and emotional footage of their struggles in Palestine.


The young Palestinian-American artist, whose work was featured at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, was born in Dearborn, Mich. She grew up in a traditional home, surrounded by Middle Eastern food and music. Arabic was her first language.

In 2001, Salloum moved to New York City to pursue her interest in art as a graduate student. Her early work depicted conflict in Latin America. However, when the Israeli military raided Jenin in April 2002, Salloum was galvanized into a new focus on her Palestinian roots.

After the "Meen Erhabe" video, Salloum went on to make a movie montage for her senior thesis. She named it "Planet of the Arabs", and illuminated Hollywood�s widespread depictions of Arabs as villains and terrorists. Then Salloum experienced "a big shock." "Planet of the Arabs" went on to become an official selection at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

Her early successes inspired Salloum to create the world's first full-length feature film about Palestinian Hip-Hop. "SlingShot Hip Hop" will premiere at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Da Arabian MC's Suhell Nafar, Tamer Nafar, Mahmoud Jreri DAM is the first and leading Palestinian Rap Group. It is composed of Tamer Nafar, 27, his younger brother Suhell, 23, and Mahmoud Jreri, 24. The group has been performing together since the late 90s. Tamer, who had been performing Rap since 1998 with his brother, was first contacted by Mahmoud Jreri. Mahmoud was writing his own lyrics so they quickly decided to join forces and the group was born in 1999. All three members of the group were born and grew up in the slums of Lod, a mixed town of Arabs and Jews, 20 km from Jerusalem.

DAM's music is a unique fusion of East and West, combining Arabic percussion rhythms, Middle Eastern melodies and urban Hip Hop/Rap

The lyrics of DAM are influenced by the continuing Israeli - Palestinian conflict as well as by the Palestinian struggle for freedom and equality. DAM also draw their influence from such controversial issues as terrorism, drugs and womens rights.

Musically they take their inspiration from both Hip Hop artists (Nas, 2Pac, Mos Def, IAM, NTM, Saian Supa Crew, MBS etc.) and Arabic music (Marcel Khalifa,Kazem Saher,George Wassouf, Majda al Romi etc.)

The songs, lyrics and music, are written and arranged by all members of the group and musically produced by them and other known producers.

DAM's debut album "Stop Selling Drugs" was released locally in 1998, followed by the second album called "Min Irhabi" (who's the terrorist?) which was released in 2001. The controversial title track of this album was released on the net and more than 1 million people downloaded it within one month from the website ArabRap.Net. The song was also distributed free with Rolling Stone magazine in France and became a "street" anthem. It was also featured in a compilation in France with Manu Chao, Zebda, Noir Desir and many other top artists.

Furthermore, the lyrics of the song were taught in some Universities around the world because of their deep meaning, and were also used in pro-Palestinian demonstrations around the world.

DAM are now gaining increased international popularity around the world through their unique message and ground-breaking live shows.

The growing international profile and interest in this unique band have led to participation in various films, events and collaborations including:

- "Local Angel", a 2002 documentary by Israeli director and political activist Udi Aloni. - Appearance in Forgiveness, Udi Alonis latest film selected at the Berlin Festival 2006. - Key appearance in the documentary Slingshot Hip Hop about todays Palestinian rap scene, by apalestnine amrican director Jackie Salloum. - Key appearance in the documentary film "Channel of rage", by Anat Halahmi, that showed the Israeli-Palestine struggle from the Israeli and Palestinian Rappers point of view - Appearance in the soundtrack of the film Ford Transit by Palestinian director Hany Abu Assad, who won a golden Globe for his film Paradise now. - Participation in the photoshoot by Magnum/National Geographic photographer David Alan Harvey about rap artists around the world. - Many live shows in Europe (France, England, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland etc.) and in the USA.

The band perform at the important TRANSMUSICALES DE RENNES festival in France in December 2006.

Dedication is DAMs long-awaited first international album which will be released autumn 2006.

Fiction meets fact in Hebron film

It is an ordinary story, in an extraordinary setting.

Hebron is the site for what its Israeli makers claim is the first fictional feature film ever to be shot in the city.

The city has become a byword for some of the sharpest tensions on the West Bank. It is the only West Bank city where Jewish settlers live in the midst of Palestinians.

The plot of Graduation is slender: it tells the story of a young Palestinian woman called Ayat, who is played by 23-year-old actress Yousra Barakat.

Ayat is attempting to reach her college graduation on the night of the Jewish festival of Purim. The Palestinians in the centre of the city are under curfew, so that the Jewish settlers can hold their Purim parade - a wild whirligig of coloured lights, loud music, fancy dress and feverish dancing.

I wanted to make the smallest story I could possibly tell, so that people could identify with it, but also say to themselves, 'This is really crazy, how can people live like this?' But yet this is the routine
Yaelle Kayam

Ayat decides, along with her younger brother, to break the curfew. Theirs is an attempted journey past roadblocks, sealed entrances and checkpoints, and past soldiers and settlers.

The film's director is Yaelle Kayam, a 28-year-old from Tel Aviv and graduate of the Sam Spiegel Film School in Jerusalem.

"I wanted to make the smallest story I could possibly tell," she says, "so that people could identify with it, but also say to themselves, 'This is really crazy, how can people live like this?' But yet this is the routine."

Ms Kayam believes that the majority of people in Israel are "not aware at all" about what life is like for Palestinians in Hebron, or how the settlers behave.

She says that when she showed friends in Tel Aviv some of the earlier material she had shot, from the Purim parade, they thought that it had all been staged.

'Not allowed'

We watched rehearsals under a baking September sun, during Ramadan.

From the rooftop, where the actors were peering at the imaginary parade beneath, there was a clear view of the streams of men pouring towards the Ibrahim Mosque.
Director Yaelle Kayam
Kayam wants her film to increase awareness of restrictions in Hebron

Hebron is the West Bank's largest city, home to 160,000 Palestinians. Dotted through the centre of the city are the few hundred Jewish settlers, guarded by several hundred Israeli soldiers.

It is the presence of these settlers that has turned Hebron into a patchwork of internal checkpoints and closures.

From the material already shot by Yaelle Kayam and her Israeli crew, one of the most arresting, almost other-worldly scenes, shows Yusra watching, from the caged first-floor balcony of a Palestinian house, the Purim parade below.

In real life, the house belongs to Zlika Muhtaseb, a 46-year-old teacher, and life-long resident of Hebron.

As with all the houses along this street, Zlika's balcony is enclosed in a stout metal mesh to guard against the stone-throwing from young settlers. She says that, in any case, she is rarely allowed out on to the street which her home overlooks.

"It was the main street in Hebron, connecting the north with the south," she said. "But the settlers said that Palestinians shouldn't use it, because of security."

She last used the door onto Shuhada Street more than a month ago. At the roundabout 200m from her house, she was stopped by a soldier.

"He was surprised to see me. 'Where did you come from?' he said. I showed him my house. He said: 'You're not allowed to use this street. Go back.'

"I showed him my permit. He said: 'It's not valid. It does not apply here.' I asked him where I should use it. He said: 'I don't know, it doesn't apply here.'"

Welded shut

Zlika does have another doorway she can use, but it takes her on a much longer detour, through several more checkpoints, to get to where she wants to go.
Tim Franks, on the roof of the house
The Qafisha family must cross to a neighbour's roof to go outside

At least she does have another entrance. That is an improvement over the Qafisha family, who live a short walk away, and whose house has also been the site for some of the filming.

Five years ago, their only door to the street was welded shut by the Israeli army. Since then, the 10 members of the family - from grandparents to grandchildren - have a rather more complicated route to the outside.

They have to ascend uneven, switchback stone steps, stooping to avoid the ceiling, in order to reach their roof. There they cross through a ragged hole in an outside wall on to their neighbours' roof.

They then make their way down a series of steep stairways to the neighbouring doorway.

The older women of the family say that they have been left depressed and sometimes injured by the ordeal of just coming and going from their home.

Graduation is due to premiere next April. It is a work of fiction. But only just.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Israeli security forces black performer to dance

MSN Tracking Image
Israeli security forces black performer to dance
Alvin Ailey troupe member allegedly singled out because of Muslim name
The Associated Press
updated 11:38 a.m. PT, Tues., Sept. 9, 2008

JERUSALEM - A performer with the famed Alvin Ailey dance troupe on Tuesday said he was twice forced to perform steps for Israeli airport security officers to prove his identity before he was permitted to enter the country.

Abdur-Rahim Jackson, an eight-year veteran of the dance ensemble, said he was singled out by Israel’s renowned airport security because he has a Muslim name. He called the experience embarrassing and said at one point, one of the officers even suggested he change his name.

“To be greeted like this because of my name, it took me back a little bit,” said Jackson, who is black.

Israel is the first stop on a six-nation tour celebrating the New York-based dance company’s 50th anniversary. Earlier this year, Congress passed a resolution calling the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater a “vital American cultural ambassador to the world.”

Jackson said he was pulled aside from other members of the troupe when they arrived at Israel’s international airport on Sunday night. He said he was taken to a holding room, where he was asked about the origins of his name. When he explained he was part of the dance group, he was asked to perform.

“I stood up. I asked what type of dance?” he explained. “He said, “Just do anything.’ I just moved around.”

Minutes later, he said a female officer put him through a similar interrogation and asked him to dance again.

“The only time I’m really expected to dance is when I’m performing,” he said.

Jackson said he received his name because his father was a convert to Islam. Jackson said he was not raised a Muslim, does not consider himself religious and is engaged to a Jewish woman in the troupe who has relatives in Israel.

Jackson said he did not plan to press the matter further, saying the numerous apologies he has received from American dignitaries and his Israeli hosts is “enough for me.” The Israel Ports Authority said it had no comment because it did not receive a formal complaint.

The incident was reported in Israel’s largest newspaper and on an Israeli television news and interview program. “The security guards should be sent home or (the airport) will become a mental asylum,” said Motti Kirshenbaum, a veteran commentator and host of the Channel 10 TV program.

Israel is constantly on the alert for attack because of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and extremist Islamic rejection of the Jewish state’s existence. Security is strict at all entry points and inside the country.

Israel is famous for the effectiveness of its airport security. But a key element in its security checks is ethnic profiling. The practice has been criticized by Israeli human rights campaigners as racist because it singles out Arabs for tougher treatment.

Such profiling is illegal in the United States, but Jackson said that the only place he has had the similarly humiliating experience of being forced to dance in the past was at a U.S. airport when he returned from a vacation in the Dominican Republic. He did not say when or where that took place.

Jackson said that since the Israeli airport incident, the reception in Israel has been “amazing.”

“We’re only here to bring positive light to our lives and the people here,” he said, calling the group’s multicultural appeal “an amazing bind you can’t touch, you can only experience.”

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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© 2008

Jeremy Scalhill

Visit of Journalist Jeremy Scahill, October 30, 2008

This event will bring independent scholar and journalist Jeremy Scahill to speak to a
wide university audience on October 30, from 5-7. He is also scheduled to meet with two
grad/undergraduate seminars in Communications that day. Depending on how much money we
raise for this event, there will also be an opportunity to meet with one or two other
small groups of faculty and students.

Scahill is a nationally known and highly regarded journalist whose recent contributions
to understanding the political, social, international, legal, military, gender, and
business/economic implications of the war in Iraq have been receiving a great deal of
prominent attention both at home and around the world, Several of us have read his
prize-winning book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World?s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,
which is not narrowly about the meteoric rise of one particular private security firm,
but about the links of a vast number of conservative politicians in Congress and other
sectors of the Federal Government, including the Executive Branch, the CIA and the FBI,
to a variety of free-market mercenary corporate enterprises, of which Blackwater is
simply the best known exemplar. Those enterprises include the expansion of American
corporations?such as oil producers?abroad, as well as the concurrent expansion of the
business of providing private security to these corporations, not least because they
operate in areas of the globe where nation-state armies (including that of the US) cannot
easily be deployed, whether for practical or geopolitical reasons. This research has
been breathtakingly revelatory with respect to the hidden processes by which American
democracy can be undermined. There remains little public awareness of the threat such
privatized militaries pose to civil liberties at home and international law, since they
are removed from the kind of accountability and prosecution which the US military has to
observe. Furthermore, as Scahill demonstrates, when privatized firms make millions of
dollars from the capacity to fight wars, the incentives for taking peace seriously
diminish. Profits trump international law, while American taxpayers pick up the tab of
rising national deficits and shaky financial markets.

Professor Morantz-Sanchez recently had the pleasure of meeting Scahill and hearing him
give a talk: he is a dynamic and inspiring speaker and an entirely accessible and
engaging individual--generous, down to earth, but also charismatic. He has received
numerous awards for his reporting, including the prestigious George Polk Award, which he
won twice. In the past, he has written extensively from Yugoslavia (recently debating
Harvard Professor Samantha Powers on the issue of Serbia and Kosovo) and Nigeria. During
both the Clinton and Bush Administrations, his acute and perceptive reports from Iraq,
while a correspondent for Democracy Now! , have earned
him widespread praise. He is currently a Puffin Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute.
Blackwater: The Rise of the World?s Most Powerful Mercenary Army (2007), his first book,
has been widely reviewed, creating somewhat of a sensation among politicians, critics,
and general readers alike.

Sample reviews of Blackwater:

?A crackling exposé of the secretive military contractor Blackwater.?
New York Times

?[Scahill] is a one-man truth squad.?
Bill Moyers
?Scahill provided me with information which I have not been able to get from the U.S.
military?.I?ve read more from Mr. Scahill than I got from our own government.?
Representative Marcy Kaptur, Defense Appropriations Committee

?Fascinating and magnificently documented?.Jeremy Scahill?s new book is a brilliant
exposé and belongs on the reading list of any conscientious citizen.?
Scott Horton, International and Military Law Expert, Columbia University Law School

?Blackwater being rarely out of the news lately, this is a very useful survey of modern
mercenaries, or, as they prefer to be called, ?private security contractors? in the
?peace and stability industry?.Scahill is a sharp investigative writer?.?
The Guardian

?Scahill?s page-turning collection of intrigue and insight into the underworld of
privatized warfare is well researched, thoroughly documented, and as a result extremely
The Globe and Mail

?[T]his is no uninformed partisan screed?.Meticulously documented and encyclopedic in
scope? a comprehensive and authoritative guide?.this book serves as a provocative
primer for advancing the debate.?
Bill Sizemore, Pulitzer-prize nominated journalist, Virginian-Pilot 2007

Monday, March 31, 2008

Daily - Group efforts of SAFE

Recognizing the importance of the group behind a leader

To the Daily:

While I am thoroughly honored to have been recognized by the Daily in its "Students of the year" (03/26/2008) for my participation in Students Allied for Freedom and Equality - a diverse group of student activists organized to promote justice, human rights, liberation and self-determination for the Palestinian people - I would like to note that our success as an organization cannot be attributed to just one person. Nothing could have been achieved this year had it not been for the hard work and dedication of all SAFE's members, especially my co-chair Hena Ashraf, Bre Arder, Faria Jabbar, Ryah Aqel and Kamal Abuarquob.

This year, SAFE was steadfast in its effort to provide the campus community with a holistic and analytical outlook at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It did this in spite of being harassed by Internet and campus watchdogs who attempted to intimidate SAFE into silence through libelous blog postings and offensive fliers, which sometimes compared the SAFE members to the Ku Klux Klan. By ignoring and properly reporting these cowardly acts of hate and discrimination, SAFE demonstrated that it is possible to engage in a civil and analytical debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As members of an institution of higher learning, we have a fundamental obligation to uphold the principles of freedom and equality. SAFE calls on people from all backgrounds and political persuasions to support peace and justice in the Middle East.

Andrew Dalack

LSA sophomore

The letter writer is the co-chair of SAFE

Friday, March 28, 2008

Palestinians Fear Two-Tier Road System

Published: March 28, 2008
Khaled Abu Aker contributed reporting from A Tira, West Bank.

BEIT SIRA, West Bank — Ali Abu Safia, mayor of this Palestinian village, steers his car up one potholed road, then another, finding each exit blocked by huge concrete chunks placed there by the Israeli Army. On a sleek highway 100 yards away, Israeli cars whiz by.

“They took our land to build this road, and now we can’t even use it,” Mr. Abu Safia says bitterly, pointing to the highway with one hand as he drives with the other. “Israel says it is because of security. But it’s politics.”

The object of Mr. Abu Safia’s contempt — Highway 443, a major access road to Jerusalem — has taken on special significance in the grinding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For the first time, the Supreme Court, albeit in an interim decision, has accepted the idea of separate roads for Palestinians in the occupied areas.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel told the Supreme Court that what was happening on the highway could be the onset of legal apartheid in the West Bank — a charge that makes many Israelis recoil.

Built largely on private Palestinian land, the road was first challenged in the Supreme Court in the early 1980s when the justices, in a landmark ruling, permitted it to be built because the army said its primary function was to serve the local Palestinians, not Israeli commuters. In recent years, in the wake of stone-throwing and several drive-by shootings, Israel has blocked Palestinians’ access to the road.

This month, as some 40,000 Israeli cars — and almost no Palestinians — use it daily, the court handed down its decision, one that has engendered much legal and political hand-wringing.

The one-paragraph decision calls on the army to give a progress report in six months on its efforts to build separate roads and take other steps for the Palestinians to compensate them for being barred from Highway 443. It is the acceptance of the idea of separate road systems that has engendered commentary, although legal experts say there is a slight chance that the court could reconsider its approach when it next examines the issue.

“There is already a separate legal system in the territories for Israelis and Palestinians,” said Limor Yehuda, who argued the recent case for the civil rights association on behalf of six Palestinian villages. “With the approval of separate roads, if it becomes a widespread policy, then the word for it will be ‘apartheid.’ ”

Many Israelis and their supporters reject the term, with its implication of racist animus.

“The basis of separation is not ethnic since Israeli Arabs and Jerusalem residents with Israeli ID cards can use the road,” argues Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a conservative research organization. “The basis of the separation is to keep out of secure areas people living in chaotic areas. If the Palestinian Authority, which has thousands of men under arms, had fought terror, this wouldn’t have been necessary.”

The court’s latest decision is significant because it accepted the idea in principle put forth by the army — that while it had no choice but to ban Palestinian traffic from the road because of anti-Israel attacks on it, some of which it says originated from the surrounding villages, it would build separate roads for the Palestinians.

The court has never ruled on the legality of separate roads, despite a growing network of them around the West Bank. If this interim decision reflects its view that such a system is legally acceptable, that represents a big new step. A court spokeswoman said the justices would not comment.

David Kretzmer, an emeritus professor of international law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, wrote in an op-ed article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz of what he called the “judicial hypocrisy” of Israel’s reign over the territories manifest in this case.

He said that while the changed security circumstances of recent years may have forced a change in the road’s mixed use, “the unavoidable conclusion is that, as unfortunate as this may be, Israelis should not be allowed to travel on the road that was built, let’s not forget, for the benefit of the local population.

“But the military government has, of course, decided otherwise: Israelis will be allowed to travel on the road, while Palestinians — for whom, the court’s ruling says, the road was paved — cannot use it, and access to the road from local Palestinian villages will be blocked.”

For many Israelis, however, the dozens of attacks that have taken place on the road in recent years are reason enough to ban Palestinian traffic there and to limit Palestinians to other routes. In 2001, for example, five Israelis were killed by gunfire on Highway 443 and since then a number of others have been injured from stone-throwing.

Still, the legal case seems more complicated. In The Jerusalem Post, Dan Izenberg wrote that international law and Israeli court decisions were unambiguous on the fact that the road should primarily serve Palestinians rather than Israelis, but that the court was in a delicate position just now because of growing public discontent with it over other issues.

“The High Court in this case cannot stray too far from the interests of the Israeli public, especially at a time when it has more than its share of enemies,” he wrote. “The court knows that Israelis who rely on Highway 443 would not easily accept a ruling that causes them such inconvenience.”

Gershom Gorenberg, an Israeli who wrote a book critical of Israeli settlements, runs a blog called South Jerusalem ( on which he has posted documents from the 1960s and 70s showing that the governments planned to expand the Jerusalem corridor with settlements and a bigger road after conquering East Jerusalem in the 1967 war. In that sense, he says, the government and army were never honest in what they told the Supreme Court about the purpose of Highway 443.

“Think of the road itself as a settlement,” he said, “part of the conscious effort to change the character of the area, giving it an Israeli stamp. The point was to make it impossible for Israel ever to return certain parts of the land. It is true that Palestinians had free movement on 443 in the 1980s and 1990s before the restrictions were imposed. But to claim that it was built for them does not line up with the paper trail. The cover story of this road has been blown.”

For the 30,000 Palestinians who live in the surrounding villages, lack of access to Highway 443 has been a constant source of difficulty. In one village, A Tira, 14 taxis have permits to travel the road during daylight but locals say that has not eased the burden much.

Each morning, a crowd gathers at the blocked entrance to A Tira, waiting for the Israeli soldiers to open a gate so they can take one of the taxis to Ramallah, the capital of the West Bank.

“Ten days ago, my brother had a heart attack and we had trouble transferring him to a Ramallah hospital,” lamented Said Salameh, 51, a taxi driver who has a permit for the road, as he stood by the entrance one recent morning. “When the gate closes at night, we can’t move outside the village.”

Sabri Mahmoud, a 36-year-old employee of the Palestinian Authority, agreed. “I am always late to work because of this,” he said. “Our life is controlled by the opening hours of the gate. You feel like you live in a cage.”

For many legal commentators in Israel, the most distressing part is that by giving Highway 443 to Israelis and barring Palestinians, Israel is protecting its citizens not from terrorism but from traffic — granting them an alternative to the crowded main Jerusalem road.

Ms. Yehuda, the civil rights lawyer, said that the Supreme Court’s 1982 ruling specifically stated that if the point of the road was primarily to serve Israelis, then it may not be built. Yet now, she added, “The state is essentially aiming to safeguard the convenience of the service road for Israelis who commute from Tel Aviv and the central plains to Jerusalem and vice versa.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Daily - Students of the Year

The civil debater

Andrew Dalack

When Fadi Kiblawi created Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, a pro-Palestinian student group, in 2001, the group's initial attempts to discuss the contentious Israeli-Palestinian conflict with other campus groups often ended in bickering.

"Back then, around the beginning of the Second Intifada, it was a very emotional issue that often became very personal and ugly - and that affected the discourse," Kiblawi said. "There wasn't that level of civility."

Seven years later, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains as contentious as ever. But campus discourse on the conflict, Kiblawi said, is far more constructive and civil than it was during his days as a leader of SAFE.

Kiblawi attributes much of that change in the dialogue on Middle East issues to LSA sophomore Andrew Dalack, one of SAFE's current co-chairs.

"Andrew has done a great job this year opening up the debate, creating civil discussion on campus," Kiblawi said.

Increased civility in Israeli-Palestinian discourse was unexpected this year, considering the controversy in September over the University Press's distribution of a book called "Overcoming Zionism" that advocates a single-state solution. But under Dalack's leadership, the group organized events that garnered greater attention than SAFE has typically received on campus, like speeches by Joel Kovel, the author of "Overcoming Zionism," and Profs. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, whose lecture drew a capacity crowd at the Natural Science Building earlier this month.

SAFE also hosted Palestinian Awareness Week in February, featuring a week of events focusing on Middle Eastern issues that included a lecture by an Israeli professor who spoke on the occupation of Palestinian territories from Israel's perspective.

By bringing academics, journalists and scholars of varying viewpoints to campus, Dalack said he was trying to "raise the bar" of the debate surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a more academic level.

"We wanted to make sure that anybody who wanted the tit-for-tat, back and forth arguing would be marginalized, and that people who really wanted to engage in a more intellectual discussion could do so," Dalack said.

-Andy Kroll

Friday, March 21, 2008

UM 'Israel Lobby' event draws hundreds

By Will Youmans - The Arab American News
Friday, 03.21.2008

ANN ARBOR — Two years ago, two prominent American scholars broke the silence on a taboo often referred to as the "third-rail of politics," the disproportionate power of the Israel lobby. A fairly obscure intellectual journal, "The London Review of Books," published their essay, "The Israel Lobby."

In it, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt of Harvard, claimed that American policy in the Middle East is not guided by national interests. Instead "U.S. policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the "Israel Lobby.'"

This article sparked a thunderous debate, bringing about backlash from pro-Israel scholars, activists and politicians. Organizations like the Anti-Defamation League criticized the essay and its authors, claiming it resembled the "Jewish conspiracy" tales peddled by anti-Jewish racists.

Despite the anger directed towards these leading scholars of politics, hundreds of thousands of people downloaded the article and a longer version from a Harvard website. The authors released a book in which they refined their arguments and bolstered them with research. It became a New York Times bestseller.

It is no surprise then that four hundred and fifty people crammed into an auditorium at the University of Michigan on Friday, March 14, 2008 to hear them present their case.

The event was arranged by the Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, a student group at the university founded in 2001.

Campus officials were concerned the event would invite hostility from Israel's supporters on campus. The student newspaper reported that Sue Eklund, the outgoing associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, wanted to create a "notion of campus climate" by welcoming controversial speakers.

The event went smoothly, however. Pro-Israeli activists passed out literature before the event and were not disruptive.

Professor Ron Stockton, who teaches political science at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, introduced the professors by explaining the impact of their writings and suggesting that communication technologies enhance the flow of such ideas. He said such advances can transform societies, citing the rise of Barack Obama as an example.

Professor Walt opened with a detailed and thorough argument proving the lobby, a "loose network" exists. He clarified that such a lobby is "as American as apple pie." However, he said he was concerned because of its disproportionate weight in foreign policymaking. Professor Meirsheimer centered on the more difficult part of their work, that the lobby's policy positions and influence are bad for the United States and Israel.

Not everyone was pleased with everything they said. Sairah Husain, a junior at the university, said "although I disagreed with their support for the existence of the state of Israel, to even say what they did was big." Many questioned them on this point during the question and answer session.

They cited centuries of Jewish suffering as one reason Israel has a right to exist.

However, Mearsheimer and Walt argued that Jimmy Carter was correct. In the absence of a viable two-state solution, the situation there will resemble apartheid.

After the event, I asked Professor Mearsheimer what is the difference between that point and now. He said when the demographic balance swings in the Palestinians' favor, their largely rightsless existence will mirror apartheid. This, he pointed out earlier, is an analysis shared by Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert.

The professors wrote about this topic in the hope of opening up the debate on America's relationship with Israel. They felt this discussion was muffled by those who are quick to silent critics and unwilling to engage in open debate. At the University of Michigan last Friday, they found a large group of people more than happy to listen and consider their views.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Israelis, Palestinians fight on Facebook

By LAURIE COPANS, Associated Press Writer
Tue Mar 18
JERUSALEM - Israelis and Palestinians have taken their conflict to Facebook.

Jewish settlers living in the West Bank were incensed to discover they had to choose Palestine, not Israel, when filling out the address section of their profile pages on the popular social networking site.

Palestinians hope the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem will make up a Palestinian state as the result of peace negotiations now under way. But Jewish settlers want the land to remain under Israeli control, rejecting their own government's policy favoring creation of a Palestinian state.

Following an Israeli campaign, Facebook decided to allow residents of some Jewish settlements the option of listing Israel or Palestine as their country, settlers said.

Facebook Inc. did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment.

Channah Lerman, a Jewish settler who organized a protest of the issue, said Tuesday that Facebook was letting some settlers list their state as Israel.

"Slowly they have added a few bigger settlements to the list," Lerman wrote. "But the bottom line is that the majority of settlements are not (yet) listed."

Some Jewish settlers were upset that Palestine is even among the options.

"I am still not happy about Palestine being listed as a country of residence on Facebook (or any other site for that matter)," wrote Facebook member Ahuvah Berger. "But at least Facebook understood and respected their users enough to give them options."

Palestinians have fought their own battle with Facebook. Initially, they could only choose the West Bank or Gaza Strip as a country option. Facebook has since agreed to list Palestine as well. But more than 200,000 Palestinians living in east Jerusalem are unable to opt for Palestine as their country.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem shortly after capturing it in the 1967 Middle East war, but Palestinians claim it as their capital.

"This is a very sensitive, complicated, and emotional issue for millions of Palestinians around the world," wrote a group calling itself All Palestinians on Facebook. "For you to interfere in such a political issue and (side) with one party in the conflict is simply outrageous."

In addition, some Arab citizens of Israel want their towns designated on Facebook as part of Palestine — which the area was called before Israel was established in 1948. Israeli Arabs comprise about 20 percent of Israel's population.

Israeli and Palestinian groups on Facebook also compete to gain the most members, displaying their enrollment as the numbers grow into the thousands.

One Facebook member fed up with Israelis and Palestinians fighting on the Web has formed a group called "Arguing on Facebook is the Only Way to Solve the Israel/Palestine Problem."

"If you truly love whichever side you claim to love, you will step up to the challenge, make it your personal struggle, to (anger) people and look like the (idiot)," the group wrote.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Birthright Palestine - Summer 2008

New for 2008 - Introducing Birthright Palestine!

Birthright Palestine is a unique program by native Palestinians for Diaspora Palestinians, so as to assimilate them back into their homeland via cultural immersion. It is meant to gather first-generation, western-born Palestinians (over the age of 18-years old) in their ancestral homeland, so that they can reunite and witness firsthand how their brethren are living under illegal Israeli military occupation, while assimilating them into Palestinian society.

The program is made-up of four major components, education, tourism, hospitality, and volunteering, and was created to maintain Palestinian unity on an international level and to make foreign-born Palestinians feel at home in their homeland.

The First Annual Birthright Palestine program is to launch this summer, marking the 60th Anniversary of Al-Nakba, and is meant to counter the effects of Birthright Israel, which over the years has brought thousands of Jewish people from around the world to 'Israel' in order to encourage their adoption of Zionist ideals and learn about their 'promised land' - many of participants end up becoming Israeli citizens and illegal settlers.

Moreover, Birthright Palestine will allow for the international Palestinian community, largely living in exodus, to become more closely knit, because this program will nurture relationships between participants of Palestinian ethnic origin whom were born in different countries around the world, as well as relationships between Diaspora-born and native-born Palestinians. Also, an exchange of ideas will take place, as local Palestinians will begin to better understand the situation of Diaspora Palestinians and vice versa - possibly leading to a cohesive consensus on core issues of importance to the Palestinian Nation.

Who are we?

The concept was created by the Palestine Center for National Strategic Studies (PCNSS) is a new, non-profit, non-violent, non-factional, non-governmental organizational think tank based out of the Dheisheh Refugee Camp that facilitates student-based research guided by PhD mentors, so as to force Palestinian college students to be more critical of national political and socio-economic policies. Thus, we are primarily fueled by youth, specifically students. We also host and accommodate foreign researchers in conducting their studies in Palestine, and conduct social experiments of our own in the form of projects.

What you can do to help:

Forward this e-mail to as many Diaspora Palestinians as possible, circulate our flyer at your local events and spread the word!

For more information:

Log onto:


Call: +972-2-274-6955

Monday, March 17, 2008

Daily covers Israel Lobby event

Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, authors of the book Israel Lobby, talk before their lecture in the Natural Science Auditorium on Friday.

Controversial authors discuss book, U.S. relationship with Israel

Mearsheimer and Walt draw capacity crowd to Natural Science Building
By Andy Kroll, Daily News Editor on 3/17/08

Political scientists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, co-authors of the hotly-contested book "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," described to a capacity crowd Friday at the Natural Science Building who comprised the Israel lobby in the United States and why the influence was so detrimental to foreign policy decisions made by the U.S. government.

Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, a pro-Palestinian group, invited Mearsheimer and Walt, who said the U.S. shares a "special relationship" with Israel in which the American government provides Israel with "unconditional support" and an unending amount of aid - both of which result from influence of the immensely powerful Israel lobby interest group.

For the first half of the speech, Walt, a political science professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, described the Israel lobby as a "loose coalition" of individuals and organizations that "works openly to influence U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction and encourage that special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel.

This coalition, he said, includes pro-Israel organizations like The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, Christians United for Israel and Zionist Organization of America; think-tanks like the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and publications like The Weekly Standard and The New Republic.

Walt emphasized early on in his speech that he and Mearsheimer didn't believe the Israel lobby to be a conspiracy group or cabal, but rather an interest group like those that lobby on behalf of pharmaceutical companies or the National Rifle Association.

The actions of the Israel lobby, Walt said, "are as American as apple pie."

In working to ensure that the U.S. continues its special relationship with Israel, the Israel lobby functions in two main ways, Walt said.

First, he said, the lobby operates inside the Washington, D.C., beltway and within American politics by getting Israel sympathizers elected to key positions in government. He said the lobby then gives politicians clear incentives to act in the interest of the lobby and, in effect, Israel.

Walt added that pro-Israel political action committees have given $55 million over the past 15 years to congressional candidates and presidential candidates, which he compared with the $800,000 Arab-American political action committees gave to the political figures sympathetic to Arab-American interests over the same period.

In citing these statistics, Walt stressed to members of the audience the Israel lobby's political clout.

"The lobby doesn't win every election, doesn't win every time, but every congressman and presidential candidate knows you're playing with fire if you question the special relationship," he said.

The Israel lobby also works to shape public perceptions and public discourse in the U.S. so Americans view Israel favorably, Walt said.

He argued that editorial commentary, op-ed columnists and political pundits in the U.S. tend to favor Israel, and that voices critical of Israel were entirely absent from mainstream media in the U.S.

Walt also said that the lobby, in its defense of Israel, seeks to suppress and discredit anyone who does criticize the country and its actions.

He cited the criticisms of his and Mearsheimer's book by publications such as The Washington Post, The New York Sun and The Wall Street Journal, which called the claims anti-Semitic, as an examples of the media's attacks on anyone who might appear to criticize the U.S.' unconditional support for Israel.

The reason they use charges of anti-Semitism, he said, is because the case for unconditional support of Israel is so weak.

"Because that case is so weak, they have to smear, silence and discredit anyone who casts doubt on it," he said.

In the final half of the speech, Mearsheimer, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, said the lobby's influence has been largely negative and has pushed U.S. Middle East policy in ways that are neither in the American national interest nor in the interest of Israel.

Mearsheimer said no president in the last 40 years has put meaningful pressure on Israel to stop colonizing the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which directly stems from the influence of the lobby.

More importantly, Mearsheimer said the U.S.'s unconditional support of Israel and its efforts to colonize the West Bank and Gaza Strip has angered large numbers of people in the Arab and Islamic world and helped fuel terrorism against the U.S.

"American support isn't the only cause, but it is a major cause," Mearsheimer said. "Specifically, it motivates some individuals to attack the and U.S., it serves as a powerful recruitment for terrorist organizations and it generates sympathy and support for terrorists among huge numbers of people in the Arab world."

In his concluding remarks, Mearsheimer said the U.S. should end its special relationship with Israel, and instead treat Israel as it treats other democracies such as Britain, Italy and India.

"This means when Israel is acting in ways that are consistent with American interests, Washington should back the Jewish state," he said. "But when Israel is acting in ways that harm U.S. interests, Washington should distance itself from Israel and use its considerable leverage to get Israel to change its behavior, just as it would do with any other country that was acting in ways that might hurt the U.S."

Although critics of Mearsheimer and Walt have called "The Israel Lobby" an anti-Semitic work and an attack on Israel, both peppered their speeches with disclaimers expressing their support of Israel's right to exist.

Ross School of Business sophomore Sasha Gribov, chair of the American Movement for Israel, said the presence of a lobby working on behalf of Israel wasn't surprising at all to him, considering the vast amount of lobbying groups in Washington, D.C.

However, Gribov felt Mearsheimer and Walt's comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were one-sided, in that the pair placed a majority of the blame on the Israel lobby, the American Jewish community and Israel for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

"We definitely respect the right of them to express their opinion and to talk about this conflict, but they dismiss the U.S.-Israel relationship as something that is negative to American foreign policy," he said. "And we strongly believe that the U.S.-Israel relationship is of such great importance to both America and Israel."

Andrew Dalack, co-chair of SAFE, said the group hosted Walt and Mearsheimer on campus in an effort to debunk the idea that the arguments presented in their book were radical.

Prior to the talk, students distributed pamphlets outside of the Natural Science Building published by Stand With Us, a pro-Israel group, saying the claims made in "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" were based on "shoddy scholarship," amounted to a "conspiracy theory" and contained "anti-semitic undertones."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Thank you for coming to "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy"

SAFE's event "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" was an amazing success, with an overcrowded auditorium of 480 people showing up to hear the professors talk. SAFE thanks Professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt for their enlightening talk and discussion, and thank you to all of those who attended, and for your support.

Monday, March 10, 2008

India’s progressive parties unite: stop military ties with Israel

Worldwide Activism, Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, March 5th, 2008

On Wednesday, March 5 2008, progressive parties blasted the Indian government in a press conference, accusing it of “aiding and abetting” Israel in its attacks on Palestine and calling for an end to military and security ties.

Convened by the All India Peace and Solidarity Organisation and the Committee for Independent Foreign Policy, the conference launched a mass campaign as well as a signature campaign in parliament to enroll support for cutting Indo-Israeli military ties.

The conference comes only days after the major Palestinian civil society networks and the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces had released a joint appeal to the Indian people and government to cease all military trade and relations.

Key figures of five political parties addressed the media. The CPI(M), whose external backing of government is vital to the ruling alliance, were joined by the NCP, part of the government coalition, and the Samajwadi Party, the house’s fourth largest party, as well as CPI and RJD. Main national news outlets are already covering the press statements extensively.

CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat said India is "betraying" Palestine and has called for a campaign to force the Indian Government to change its stance. He was particularly critical of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's statement in Parliament on the situation in West Asia. The External Affairs Minister, while pledging to help the Palestinians in the midst of their hardship and misery, failed to mention or condemn the actions of the Israeli state.

"If somebody from outside this planet reads this paragraph (in Mukherjee's statement) they would think that there has been an earthquake in Palestine or a plague. The suffering, the misery. Israel is not mentioned," he said sarcastically.

Karat added that the government’s refusal to acknowledge Israeli actions must be reversed if talk about helping Palestinians is to be taken seriously.

"On the contrary the Indian government is aiding and abetting Israel through military and security collaboration," he said.

Addressing the press conference, NCP leader D K Tripathi said that the people of India are committed to the Palestinian cause, and thus there should not be any relationship with any country at the cost of the rights of Palestinians.

Asserting that the Left has already spoken out against the Government's silence on the West Asia conflict, Karat said, "my party and the other parties will get together to launch a popular campaign to mobilise people to get the Government to change this stand."

This call comes after India, which has historically been one of Palestine’s strongest allies, has recently been openly developing its military ties with Israel. Over the past 15 years, India has become Israel’s largest buyer of arms and spends more on Israeli military equipment than the Israeli military itself. In January India launched a spy satellite for Israel that gathers intelligence on Iran. India also carries out joint research projects with Israel on missiles and drones and has started intelligence sharing.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Mearsheimer and Walt Coming to UM

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

with Professor John J. Mearsheimer
Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago

and Professor Stephen Walt
former Academic Dean, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

When: Friday, March 14th @ 7:30pm

Where: Natural Science Auditorium, Rm. 2140
830 N. University, Ann Arbor, MI

Professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt will discuss the impact of The Israel Lobby on US Foreign Policy. Their presentation will focus on their widely-renowned book "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy", a New York Times bestseller. There will be a question and answer session and a book-signing immediately following the event.

This event is hosted by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE).

Article in London Review of Books

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion

Click on the title to view the link to full report put out by 8 human rights groups in Gaza, in which it says that conditions in Gaza have reached a 40-year low.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Gaza "man-made" crisis: rights orgs

Report, The Electronic Intifada, 6 March 2008

Palestinians stand inside their home in the Jabaliya refugee camp, damaged recently during an Israeli incursion and air strikes which left about 115 Palestinians dead in Gaza over five days.

JERUSALEM, 6 March (IRIN) - The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is "man-made" and worse than it has ever been since the Israeli occupation in 1967, a coalition of British organizations said in a new report released on 6 March, urging better regional cooperation and saying Hamas can no longer be ignored.

Entitled "A Humanitarian Implosion," the 16-page report details the various effects the Israeli-imposed blockade has had in the last nine months since the Hamas takeover of the enclave, and concluded that all aspects of life have been negatively affected, including healthcare, employment and education.

The agencies, such as CARE, Amnesty, Christian Aid, and Oxfam, quoted UN statistics showing that aid dependency has risen significantly.

While in 2006 some 60 percent of Gazans needed food aid, in 2008 that number rose to 80 percent, and is expected to increase.

In 1999, before the second intifada (Palestinian uprising against Israel's occupation), UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, provided food to some 16,000 families in the enclave, while now it and the World Food Programme distribute aid to over 1.1 million people.

The report said Gaza's economy has collapsed as a "majority of private businesses have shut down and 95 percent of Gaza's industrial operations are suspended." The restrictions on imports and exports were also the cause of failings in the agricultural sector.

"As a result of the blockade and collapse of the economy, there is little money to buy food and limited food to buy. Food prices are rising and wheat flour, baby milk and cooking oil are increasingly scarce," the report said.

The Gaza Strip suffers from power outages due to the Israeli air strike on the power plant in 2006 and the restrictions on fuel imports, affecting the plant's productivity and vital institutions like hospitals, which lack 60-70 percent of their diesel needs for generators. Power outages are also affecting the water supply to about 30 percent of Gaza's residents. About 40-50 million liters of sewage are pumped into the sea daily for the same reason.

The agencies also noted a drop in the percentage of patients allowed out of the Strip for medical treatment, adding that over 20 people have died since June 2007 as a result.

Israeli response

In a response issued to IRIN, the Israeli Ministry of Defense said some 90 percent of patients are able to leave for treatment, and Israel allows in all medication and other humanitarian supplies needed in spite of Palestinian rocket fire targeting crossing points. It insisted the amount of fuel it lets in is enough for humanitarian purposes, blamed Hamas for internal distribution problems and noted that it continues to supply electricity to Gaza.

"Israel has the right and duty to defend itself and its people," Neil Durkin of Amnesty International in London told IRIN, condemning rocket fire at Israeli towns. However, security concerns could not explain bans on basic imports or patient movement, he said.

Report's conclusions

The report concluded that the violence on all sides should cease, and Israel should end its power and fuel cuts to Gaza and open the borders. In the meantime Israel's definition of humanitarian aid should be extended to include items like cement and spare parts.

"We ask that the UK government and EU [European Union] put pressure on the government of Israel to ensure that emergency assistance essential to fulfilling fundamental human rights is never used as a bargaining tool to further political goals," the report said.

Finally, the groups called for an inclusive policy that would mean dialogue with Hamas, which rules Gaza but is shunned by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Israel and the US-led international Quartet.

Gaza conditions 'at 40-year low'

Gaza's humanitarian situation is at its worst since Israel occupied the territory in 1967, say UK-based human rights and development groups.
They include Amnesty International, Save the Children, Cafod, Care International and Christian Aid.

They criticise Israel's blockade on Gaza as illegal collective punishment which fails to deliver security.

Israel says its military action and other measures are lawful and needed to stop rocket attacks from Gaza.

Israel pulled its troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, but retains control over Gaza's airspace and coastline, and over its own border with the territory.

It tightened its blockade in January amid a surge in rocket attacks by Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Israel's Defence Ministry rejected the criticism in the report, blaming the Hamas militant group which controls Gaza.

"The main responsibility for events in Gaza is the Hamas organisation, to which all complaints should be addressed," a statement read.


The groups' report, Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion, says the blockade has dramatically worsened levels of poverty and unemployment, and has led to deterioration in education and health services.

More than 1.1 million Gazans are dependent on food aid and of 110,000 workers previously employed in the private sector, 75,000 have now lost their jobs, the report says.

"Unless the blockade ends now, it will be impossible to pull Gaza back from the brink of this disaster and any hopes for peace in the region will be dashed," said Geoffrey Dennis, of Care International UK.

Last week Israeli forces launched a bloody and destructive raid in northern Gaza, in which more than 120 Palestinians - including many civilians - were killed.

Israel says the measures are designed to stamp out frequent rocket fire by Palestinian militants.

Recent rocket attacks have hit deeper into southern Israel, reaching Ashkelon, the closest large Israeli city to the Gaza Strip.

Occupying power

The UK-based groups agree that Israel has the right and obligation to protect its citizens, urging both sides to cease unlawful attacks on civilians.

But they call upon Israel to comply with its obligations, as the occupying power in Gaza, to ensure its inhabitants have access to food, clean water, electricity and medical care, which have been in short supply in the strip.

"Punishing the entire Gazan population by denying them these basic human rights is utterly indefensible," said Amnesty UK Director Kate Allen.

"The current situation is man-made and must be reversed."

Other recommendations from the groups include international engagement with the Hamas movement, which rejects Israel's legitimacy and has been shunned by Israel's allies, and the Fatah party of Palestinian West Bank leader Mahmoud Abbas.

"Gaza cannot become a partner for peace unless Israel, Fatah and the Quartet [the US and UN, Europe and Russia] engage with Hamas and give the people of Gaza a future," said Daleep Mukarji of Christian Aid.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Attention - Vigil for Gaza, Thursday 1pm, Union

The destroyed Palestinian General Fedration of Trade Unions building in Gaza City, 29 February 2008

Please read and forward:
At least 66 Palestinian civilians have been killed in the Gaza Strip over the weekend, at the hands of the Israeli military. These are atrocious crimes, and we as UM students, urge other students to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and to mourn for the victims. We request students to join us in the following actions:

On Thursday we will have 200 tshirts for people to wear, on the steps of the Union, at 12pm, for up to an hour. The tshirts will say 'Free Palestine' and each tshirt will have a different name of a Palestinian that was killed in Gaza over the last few days. The point is to have a
visible vigil that will raise awareness about the crisis in Gaza. We are also aiming to have informational flyers available to hand out.

Please join us in these efforts. If you have any questions, please email either Hena Ashraf (, Andrew Dalack (, Ryah Aqel (, Nicola Kaba (, or Kamelya Youssef(

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Revealed: the US plan to start a Palestinian civil war

Report, The Electronic Intifada, 4 March 2008

Muhammad Dahlan speaks during a Fatah rally in the West Bank town of Ramallah, 15 January 2006.

United States officials including President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice participated in a conspiracy to arm and train Contra-style Palestinian militias nominally loyal to the Fatah party to overthrow the democratically-elected Hamas government in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, an investigative article in the April 2008 issue of Vanity Fair has revealed. [1]

The allegations of such a conspiracy, long reported by The Electronic Intifada, are corroborated in Vanity Fair with confidential US government documents, interviews with former US officials, Israeli officials and with Muhammad Dahlan, the Gaza strongman personally chosen by Bush.

The article, by David Rose, recounts gruesome torture documented on videotape of Hamas members by the US-armed and funded militias under Dahlan's control. Hamas had repeatedly alleged such torture as part of its justification for its move to overthrow the Dahlan militias and take full control of the interior of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

Vanity Fair reported that it has "obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the US and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams to provoke a Palestinian civil war." The magazine adds that the plan "was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America's behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically-elected Hamas-led government from power."

Abrams was one of the key Reagan administration figures involved in the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s, whereby the US illegally armed militias in Nicaragua to overthrow the ruling Sandinista government. Abrams was convicted and later pardoned for lying to Congress.

While it has been known that the US engaged in covert activity to subvert Palestinian democracy and provoke Palestinians to shed each other's blood, the extent of the personal involvement of top US officials in attempting to dictate the course of events in Palestine -- while publicly preaching democracy -- has only now been brought to light.

Bush met and personally anointed Dahlan as "our guy" in 2003. In July 2007, The Electronic Intifada reported on a leaked letter written by Dahlan and sent to the Israeli defense minister in which he confirmed his role in a conspiracy to overthrow then Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat for whose replacement Bush had publicly called. Dahlan wrote: "Be certain that Yasser Arafat's final days are numbered, but allow us to finish him off our way, not yours. And be sure as well that ... the promises I made in front of President Bush, I will give my life to keep."

The US planning to overthrow the government elected by Palestinians under occupation began immediately after the Hamas movement won a clear victory in the January 2006 election for the Palestinian Legislative Council. Hamas, however, proved "surprising resilient."

At a meeting at Abbas' Ramallah headquarters in October 2006, Rice personally ordered Abbas to dissolve the government headed by Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh "within two weeks" and replace it with an unelected "emergency government."

When Abbas failed to act promptly on Rice's order, the US stepped up its efforts to arm Dahlan in preparation for the attempted coup. Hamas foiled the coup plot by moving preemptively against Dahlan's gangs, many of whom refused to fight despite being furnished with tens of millions of dollars in weapons and training. The US-conceived "emergency government" headed by a former World Bank official, Salam Fayyad, was eventually appointed by Abbas, but its authority is limited to parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

While the United States and Israel were the driving forces behind the civil war and coup plot, others had a hand including several Arab states and their intelligence services. "The scheme," Rose writes, "bore some resemblance to the Iran-contra scandal" in that "some of the money for the [Nicaraguan] contras, like that for Fatah, was furnished by Arab allies as a result of US lobbying."