Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Long history of non-violent resistance by Palestinians

Were Gandhi alive today he would be in Palestine. I know because I had the privilege and honor of meeting him and talking with him. I had gone to scoff but ultimately stayed on to admire. I attended his prayer meetings and public addresses, studied his views on many subjects, read his writings, listened to his radio talks and ultimately became his disciple. About Palestine he was very clear. Gandhi's position was that Palestine was Arab territory and if Jews settled there they should not expect the protection of a colonial power. He was completely against the creation of an Israeli state in Palestine .Supporters of Israel tried very hard to make him change his view, but he remained firm.

Gandhi is now dead. He cannot be in Palestine physically. However, he is there in spirit. And there are literally hundreds of “Gandhis” in the Occupied Territories, carrying on non-violent resistance in the finest tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Yet, people bemoan the lack of a Gandhi in Palestine! Even those who should know better plead for a Palestinian Gandhi. And responsible leaders, including President Obama, claim that if only Palestinians renounced violence, peace would come. This ignores the non-violent résistance that goes on daily in the Occupied Territories.

While in Australia I attended a forum, organized by Students for Palestine, on the history of nonviolent struggle in Palestine. One of the speakers at the forum was Samha Sabawi, a Palestinian writer and poet. Her presentation was later published in the form of an article under the title” Truth, Non-violence and the Palestinian Hills”. It gives valuable insights and brings out the fact that the problem is not that there are no “Gandhis” in Palestine but that the media has made them invisible. It is reproduced here by special permission from the author

Gulamhusein Abba.


Truth, Non-Violence and the Palestinian Hills
Samah Sabawi

Based on a presentation given at Melbourne University Australia on April 30, 2010. The event was sponsored by Students for Palestine.

Where is the Palestinian Gandhi? I get this question at the end of almost every presentation I’ve given on Palestine. This fascination with finding a Palestinian Gandhi has been reflected time and again in newspapers commentary, and political discourse. Obama has promised in his Cairo speech[1] that should Palestinians renounce violence peace will find its way. Singer Bono wished with all his heart for Palestinians to find their Gandhi or their King[2]. A slew of bleeding hearts said it, wrote it, preached it and insisted on it.

The search for the Palestinian Gandhi even manifested itself in well-intentioned projects that end up being incredibly patronizing and condescending to the Palestinians.Take the Gandhi Project[3] for example; an initiative by the Skoll foundation that aims to teach Palestinians non-violence by translating the movie Gandhi and projecting it in cities camps and villages throughout the West Bank.This project - as well meaning as it appears to be - reflects an almost insulting level of ignorance of the existing Palestinian culture of non-violence and the challenges Palestinians face when protesting non-violently against the brutal apartheid State.

For generations, Palestinians have adopted in their daily lives a culture of non-violent “Sumud”, an Arabic word that means to be "steadfast" and to "persevere”. Through Sumud, Palestinians have been able to protect their identity and to refuse not to exist. After all, since its inception, the Zionist project denied Palestinians their existence. Who can forget the false claim that Palestine was “a land without a people”?

Although Sumud was always part of the Palestinian story, it came to a full bloom as a distinct feature of Palestinian life during and in the aftermath of the six-day war in 1967. Having learned from their 1948 experience, more Palestinians were urged to show Sumud and chose to be steadfast remaining on their land regardless of Israel’s war and occupation. Many believe that Palestinian steadfastness and Sumud and their refusal to leave in huge numbers during and after the 1967 war contributed to the reason why Israel wasn’t able to annex the West Bank and the Gaza strip as they had a very high Arab Palestinian population[4] which could have undermined the purity of the Jewish state.

Palestinians exhibit Sumud in their daily lives as they perform what would amount to normal everyday tasks in other places. Palestinian children resist succumbing to the will of their Occupiers non-violently as they make their daily journey to school despite the long waits at the checkpoints and the harassment by Israeli illegal settlers[5].

Palestinian men and women non-violently challenge their occupiers when they continue to go to work even if it means riding a donkey using back mud roads because they are denied access to the main streets in their villages as well as denied access to the Jewish only roads[6] which Israel has built illegally to connect the settlements. It is worth mentioning here that to build these Jewish only roads Israel has confiscated and carved up pieces of Palestinian land fragmenting and isolating hundreds of communities.

Palestinian families non-violently resist the imposed isolation by the occupiers when they insist on doing their family visits, even though what should be a 10 minute walk at times can take an entire afternoon of waiting for permits, submitting to body searches, waving IDs and waiting and waiting and waiting…. [7]

Even when Palestinians get married and have babies under occupation they are challenging their oppressors in a place where birth registration, family reunification, marriage certificates and building permits are controlled by a state that has one thing in mind – reducing the number of Arabs and paving the way for Jews to colonize their land.

But Palestinians still persevere not only as individuals, or families but also as organized communities! Palestinian NGOs today play a big role in helping the people deal with these issues. Through the method known as Reverse Strike – a non-violent method of resistance that focuses on community building - Palestinian civil society has created alternatives for the people to help lessen their dependency on their oppressors. Palestinian civil society has also successfully built an infrastructure of resistance. Inside the Occupied Territories, non-violent resistance shines through as villages and various Communities take on direct action to protests Israel’s continued assault on their rights, their freedom and their dignity. The protests of the communities of Jayyous, Budrus, Bil’in, Ni’lin and Umm Salamonah have now become known as the white intifada. The organization of these protests reflects a healthy and determined Palestinian Civil Society.

Palestinian Civil Society initiated the calls for the BDS campaign and is also working closely with international organizations and individuals to support the Free Gaza campaign. Both campaigns aim at engaging international solidarity groups giving them an important role to play in the liberation struggle. This month, the latest BDS victory was Elvis Costello’s refusal to play in Israel. This happened while the Freedom Flotilla’s three cargo ships and five passenger ships set sail to Gaza. The ships are carrying 5,000 tons of construction materials, medical equipment, and school supplies, as well as around 600 people from 40 countries. They will once more challenge Israel’s illegal hold over Gaza’s borders, air and sea. We are seeing a fantastic rise in a people to people movement that is inspiring hope for a better future.

In Diaspora as well as inside the OT, Palestinian academia, artists and human rights activists do their part in Palestinian Sumud as they document Israel’s atrocities, write about the injustices, paint pictures, publish articles, sing traditional songs, write books and recite poetry that keeps the Palestinian narrative alive. People like Sari Nussiebeh, Ramzy Baroud, Ismael Shamout, Rima Bana, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Sam Bahour, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Dr. Sari Makdisi, Ali Abunimah and thousands of others who are hard at work non-violently protecting the Palestinian narrative. They have built the pillars of resistance that have kept the Palestinian identity and culture alive.

As I have shown so far, Palestinian culture of Sumud and non-violent resistance has encompassed direct action, reverse strike and civil disobedience over decades of oppression. There is so much evidence to show that the Palestinian non-violent resistance is and has always been central to the Palestinian struggle. But if that was the case, then where is that Palestinian Gandhi? The answer to that is simple: You are asking the wrong question.

There is no shortage of Palestinian Gandhis in Israel’s jails, at checkpoints, and in refugee camps. There are even Gandhis as young as five years old walking to school, holding on to their backpacks, to their pride and to their dignity while they get stoned and showered with settler garbage. There are scores of Gandhis in Palestine, young, old, men and women. The problem is how to make these Gandhis visible to a world blinded by ignorance and by prejudice. The correct questions to ask are how do we make the work of the Palestinian Gandhis effective and visible? Can non-violent Sumud ever fulfill its goals of liberation and justice? What are the challenges facing the Palestinian non-violent movement and how can we help overcome these challenges?

There are two major challenges to Palestinian non-violence; the first is Israel’s reaction to peaceful protest. Israel is a country that views itself as being above international universal laws rights and jurisdictions. It often reacts violently to non-violent protests, spraying protesters with chemicals, rubber bullets and tear gas, at times claiming their lives. Israel crushes political dissent by arresting political activists, even those who hold Israeli citizenship. Israel holds activists on administrative detention without a fair trial for indefinite periods of time. In short, Israel doesn’t respond and is not phased by non-violent protests simply because it views all Palestinians, peaceful or not, as a threat. The minute a Palestinian baby is born, it is automatically a dangerous threat to the nature of a state that defines itself by its Jewishness. All Palestinians are seen as demographic bombs, they are enemies of the state and therefore no matter what methods Palestinians use - violent or non-violent - Israel will not change its course. It will still view them as enemies that must be fought, crushed and ethnically cleansed.

The other challenge to the Palestinian non-violent movement is that it remains invisible to the international community. Palestinian daily hardships in going to school or work or visiting relatives are all daily acts of non-violent resistance that go by completely unnoticed by Israelis and by the International community. The media is hungry for blood…a peaceful protest that occurs on a weekly basis with civilians sprayed with sewerage water or injured or even killed doesn’t make the news. A child’s journey to school, head held high as Jewish settlers' children throw garbage and stones at him, never makes the headlines.

This pattern of Palestinian invisibility feeds into Israel’s impunity. Soldiers and settlers are not held accountable for their actions and rarely, if ever, has any soldier been punished for degrading, humiliating, or taking the life of an innocent Palestinian. Even when Israel’s impunity reaches extreme levels, as it did when they attacked Gaza, committing a long list of war crimes and human rights violations, there was not enough international outcry to hold it accountable and to change the course of its actions.

So, where do we go from here? It is clear that the Gandhis of Palestine cannot succeed in their liberation struggle without the help of the international community. Palestinian civil society has called on people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel. This idea was inspired by the South African struggle against apartheid. BDS has been endorsed by over 170 Palestinian parties, organizations, trade unions and movements representing the Palestinian people in the 1967 and 1948 territories and in the Diaspora. I urge you to visit the Global BDS website for ideas on how any one of you can help.

Finally, I’d like to say that it is a fallacy to assume that non-violent resistance is not a natural human reaction to oppression, especially when you’re dealing with unarmed civilians, families and communities. Non-violence is not a doctrine that has to be taught, preached, projected on large screens and stuffed down the throats of an indigenous people trying to survive and to have normal lives. Gandhi himself has refused to be seen as an inventor of the methods of non-violence, saying [8]. “I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and Non-violence are as old as the hills.” If Gandhi was to visit the West Bank and Gaza Strip today, I am sure he would agree that truth and non-violence in Palestine are indeed as old as the Palestinian hills.

Thank you.

NOTE: Samah Sabawi is a Human Rights and Social Justice advocate. She was born in Gaza and shortly after her birth her family was displaced as a result of Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip in 1967. She has lived and worked in many countries around the world and is currently residing in Melbourne, Australia. In addition to numerous articles and poems (published in as many publications and web-sites), she has also co-authored with her father, Abdel-Karim Sabawi, a play “Cries from the Land” which was sponsored and produced by Friends of Sabeel and She has also produced the play “Three Wishes” based on her adaptation of Deborah Ellis's book "Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israelis Speak Out". Samah Sabawi is also former Executive Director and Media Spokesperson for the National Council on Canada Arab Relations.



[2] Ten for the Next Ten by Bono Guest Oped

[3] “As part of its vision to empower people to create a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world, the Skoll Foundation has partnered with the Global Catalyst Foundation to sponsor the Gandhi Project in the Palestinian Territories.”

[4] Waleed Mustafa, Former Dean of Arts Talking About the Concept of Sumud to Palestine-Family Bethlehem University

[5] AT-TUWANI: Settler youth harass Palestinians and international human rights workers CPTnet 23 April 2010

[6] B’tselem The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights: Restrictions on Movement

[7] Palestine Monitor: Exposing Life Under Occupation.

[8] Brief outline of Ghandhi’s Philosophy - by Stephen Murphy

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Homeless, Thanks to Israel

Are people still angry? Are you still outraged? Yeah, here I come to ruin your Sunday World Cup Final party. As you go out into your kitchen, and pull open the fridge door for a nice cold drink, remember this:

But lets have a dose of reality by remembering that 24,145 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel. How many Israeli homes have Palestinians demolished? Answer=Zero!

Now let's look at this in the context of other Israeli aggression, shall we? Like the endless bombings in Gaza, more homes destroyed, along with Hospitals, schools and places of worship. Not to mention all those dead civilians and children. How about all the businesses that have had to close, thanks to the evil rogue state? How about all the people who have died needlessly because they can't get out for medical treatment that could easily save their lives? What about the children being born sick due to the chemicals Israel showered down upon the entire population? What about the disfigured and burnt people, or those now confined to life in a wheelchair because their legs are missing, thanks to Israel.

This is one big massive ethnic cleansing project, be it removal of homes, death or disfigurement. It's all meant to take land off of Palestinians and reduce their population. Ethnic cleansing by removal or murder. Remember these statistics below, never forget, never stop caring, never stop fighting for justice, never stop working for a free free Palestine!!

link 0 Israeli homes have been demolished by Palestinians and 24,145 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel since 1967.

In addition to the homes demolished by Israel, thousands of Palestinian homes have been destroyed or significantly damaged by Israeli bombing and shelling. On the flip side, while Palestinians have not demolished any Israeli homes, there is one known case of a Palestinian destroying an Israeli home in an explosion.

"Any humanitarian looking at the sheer number of innocent civilians who have lost their homes can only condemn Israel’s house demolition policy as a hugely disproportionate military response by an occupation army... It is a policy that creates only hardship and bitterness, and in the end can only undermine hope for future reconciliation and peace."

– Peter Hansen, Commissioner General of UNRWA

Statistics Source: The Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions estimates that 24,145 houses have been demolished in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza since 1967 (as of July 4, 2009). (Read ICAHD's latest analysis of demolished homes (pdf format).

Summary of Israel’s Home Demolition Policy
Excerpts from "Through No Fault of Their Own,"
Nov 15, 2004.
(Read the Synopsis and Full Report.)

Watch B’Tselem Video on Home Demolitions

"During the course of the al-Aqsa intifada, which began in September 2000, Israel has implemented a policy of mass demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories. In that period, Israel has destroyed some 4,170 Palestinian homes.

"The IDF carries out three types of house demolitions. Most are carried out in the framework of what Israel calls 'clearing operations,’ which are intended to meet what Israel defines as 'military needs.’ These operations take place primarily in the Gaza Strip: along the Egyptian border, which passes through Rafah and its refugee camps; around settlements and army posts; alongside roads used by settlers and IDF forces; and in the northern part of the Gaza Strip [...]

"The second type of demolition are administrative demolitions of houses built without a permit. These demolitions take place in Area C in the West Bank, where Israel retains authority over planning and building even after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, and in East Jerusalem. [...]

"The third kind of house demolitions are those intended to punish the relatives and neighbors of Palestinians who carried out or are suspected of involvement in attacks against Israeli civilians or soldiers. These punitive demolitions are intended for the homes in which these suspects lived. However, in many cases, adjacent homes are also destroyed."


India's "Hearts of Darkness"

by Stephen Lendman

An earlier article about the National Labor Committee's (NLC) work explained what's repeated below, relevant to this article.

NLC puts "a human face on the global economy," saying in its mission statement that:

"Transnational corporations (TNCs) now roam the world to find the cheapest and most vulnerable workers." They're mostly young women in poor countries like China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Haiti, and many others working up to 14 or more hours a day for sub-poverty wages under horrific conditions.

Because TNCs are unaccountable, a dehumanized global workforce is ruthlessly exploited, denied their civil liberties, a living wage, and the right to work in dignity in healthy safe environments. NLC conducts "popular campaigns based on (its) original research to promote worker rights and pressure companies to end human and labor abuses. (It) views worker rights in the global economy as indivisible and inalienable human rights and (believes) now is the time to secure them for all on the planet."

Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

"(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests."

Article 24 states:

"Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay."

Definition of a Sweatshop

This writer's earlier article defined them, a term that's been around since the 19th century. Definitions vary but essentially refer to workplaces where employees work for poor pay, few or no benefits, in unsafe, unfavorable, harsh, and/or hazardous environments, are treated inhumanely by employers, and are prevented from organizing for redress.

The term itself refers to the technique of "sweating" the maximum profit from each worker, a practice that thrived in the late 19th century.

Webster calls them "A shop or factory in which workers are employed for long hours at low wages under unhealthy conditions."

According to the group Sweatshop Watch:

"A sweatshop is a workplace that violates the law and where workers are subject to:

-- extreme exploitation, including the absence of a living wage or long hours;

-- poor working conditions, such as health and safety hazards;

-- arbitrary discipline, such as verbal or physical abuse, or

-- fear and intimidation when they speak out, organize, or attempt to form a union."

According to the US Department of Labor, a sweatshop is a place of employment that violates two or more federal or state labor laws governing wage and overtime, child labor, industrial homework, occupational safety and health, workers' compensation or industry regulation.

It's mainly a women's rights issue as 90% of the workforce is female, aged 15 - 25, but men and children are also affected, besides the enormous environmental toll through air pollution, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, ocean and fresh water contamination, and an overtaxed ecosystem producing unhealthy, unsafe living conditions globally.

Horrific Working Conditions in India

In February, NLC published a report titled, "Hearts of Darkness," saying "Workers in India, including children, will die young grinding gemstones for Valentine's Day," explaining that:

-- since record-keeping began in 1988, over 2,000 men, women and children died from silicosis (by breathing silica dust), from polishing gemstones for export to the West; yet operations began in the early 1960s when rural villages first got electricity, making motor driven grinding possible, so in all likelihood, the death count is multiples higher; earlier, silicosis victims were diagnosed to have TB, not thought connected to agate grinding; even today, radiology equipment needed to diagnose and monitor workers with silicosis is lacking;

-- all workers inhale it on the job and experience other occupational hazards, including toxic chemicals exposure, ergonomic dangers, and high noise levels;

-- items made include semi-precious gemstone hearts, beads, pendants, earrings, bracelets, ornaments, rosary beads, and the Star of David;

-- workers are paid 17.5 - 33.5 cents an hour "to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the world," exposing themselves to deadly silica dust;

-- they begin as young as 12 or 13 (some younger), paid from 11 to 13.5 cents an hour;

-- 30 - 38% of them die from silicosis;

-- up to 13% of non-working family members and neighbors, living near grinding units, also die from exposure to airborne silica dust;

-- "scores of others are reduced to skin and bones, unable to walk and struggling to breathe;"

-- workers become "bonded labor" by borrowing money from "traders" who supply raw stones, and arrange for manufacture and export; wives are asked to continue their husbands' work if they die; then their children if they're incapacitated;

-- with proper safeguards (including wet grinding and exhaust ventilation), silicosis is up to "100 percent preventable;" without it, grinding gemstones is a death or disability sentence; and

-- the Indian government has done nothing to enforce its labor laws, in deference to its monied interests.

Making Gemstones

Six processes are involved:

(1) Heating, by drying stones in the sun for several days, then "firing" (heating) them in pits in the ground.

(2) Size reduction, by workers called "chippers" (without safety goggles or other protections), using small ox horn hammers to break stones in small pieces.

They're then "tumbled" for 48 - 72 hours in wooden drums, a noisy, dust producing process, escaping into surrounding neighborhoods.

(3) Workers grind and polish stones by pressing them against revolving emery wheels, by far the most dangerous operation, during which workers and others in nearby communities inhale deadly dust.

Aluminum oxide, other chemicals, emery gravel, and water in rotating metal drums give stones luster.

Traders control everything, profiting on death by defining agate grinding as a cottage (not an organized) industry, stripping workers of legal protections under Indian law.

No labor laws in India protect them - no minimum wage, compensation for injuries, healthcare, pensions or retirement benefits, nothing. India's Factories Act excludes them, the principal law covering health, safety, welfare, minimum wage, and other worker rights, if enforced.

Indian Agate - "An Industry of Death"

The Vadodara People's Training and Research Centre (specializing in occupational health and safety standards) estimates well over 2,000 grinder deaths since 1988, processing gemstones in India's two centers - Khambhat in Gujarat state and Jaipur in Rajastan state, the latter by far the biggest.

NLC researched Khambhat, employing an estimated 15,000 - 20,000 workers in hundreds of small grinding units. Jaipur has many more.

"Valentine's Day Massacre"

In the report's preface, NLC's executive director, Charles Kernaghan, headlined it, asking:

"How could something as beautiful as a gemstone cause so much suffering and death," without a word or explanation in America where most of them go? Yet gemstone grinding in India involves exploitation, misery, deprivation, disability or a painful death for thousands of the country's poor, Naran Dhula Bhil one of many victims.

In February 2009, he was hospitalized at Dharmaj, in Gujarat state, coughing, very weak, struggling to walk, and unable to lift anything heavier than five pounds. Since mid-2008, he lost almost half his body weight, dropping from 132 to 70 pounds of skin and bones. On April 14, he died of silicosis, the result of greed, indifference, and consumer ignorance about buying "gemstones of death."

Bhil was 11 when he began working as a grinder, shaper, and polisher, making gemstones into hearts, pendants, rings, beads, and various type ornaments.

For a day's work, he produced 100 - 150 for 15.5 cents an hour, $1.08 daily, or less than a penny for each stone produced, each giving off silica dust that killed him. By age 20, he knew it, stayed on the job, borrowed money to buy gemstones, and became "bonded," meaning he couldn't quit until out of debt, what few grinders ever do.

Bihl said his shop employed 35. Only four or five are left, the others sick or dead. "So many have died," he said, and when he expired "he did not have a single penny to his name," as true for most others.

Haresh Mafatbhai Parmar was another grinder turned to skin and bones by February 2009. He couldn't walk and struggled to breathe even lying down motionless. He began at age 13 or 14, less than 20 years later he was sick and dying, told he had tuberculosis. His mother and father both died seven years earlier, victims of gemstone grinding.

On June 11, Parmar died, not of TB, of silicosis after silica dust destroyed his lungs.

Rama Lallubhai Vaghela began at age 12 or 13, earning $1.19 a day, for 20 years until he died. At the end, he was ill, eyes bloodshot, too weak to work, always short of breath, could barely walk, and was thin as a rail. By the time symptoms emerged, it was too late. Silicosis is incurable.

"Everyone knows about the dangers," he said, "but we're helpless. There are no other jobs." He was an artist, creating beautiful gems and images for his parents' home. He was also one of the first to rally for worker rights, including exhaust systems to control the dust. Before he died, he said his trader never once stopped by to see how he was doing. He only wanted his output.

In another village, children as young as 10 grind gemstones, one 10-year old looking more like 8, meaning he started years earlier and already showed the effects.

Watching him and others grind, dust flew everywhere, and fell on his hair, eyebrows, ears, nose, hands, arms and clothing. He earned 13.5 cents an hour for four hours daily, or 54 cents.

Another very young boy and girl had swollen, cracked hands and calloused finger tips. The grinding wheel wobbles as it spins. To shape items, workers use their fingers to press them against the wheel, creating friction, heat, sparks, and constant vibration, taking its toll on hands, fingers, and lungs.

Their father worked 15 feet away, knowing the risks. "But what can I do," he said. "We are landless peasants with no money." He was trapped in poverty and misery with no way out - either work or starve, even if it kills him and his children.

Throughout the shops visited, researchers heard stories of illness, disability or death, about themselves, their families and others they knew, an epidemic of poverty-induced misery.

An old man said his son died in 2006 after being sick for four or five years. Another man said 15 in his village succumbed after years of grinding, leaving widows and children behind, and others are declining fast. One man worried what would happen to his wife and children "when I die." Their turn comes next.

In 2009, in Khambhat, 29 gemstone grinders died, the report listing them by name, age, date and cause of death. Most were in their 40s, victimized for a dollar or so a day, less than a penny per item produced.

Shakapur village has about 200 grinders, yet up to two-thirds of its 7,000 population is exposed to silica dust. As many as 900 will die from exposure, besides the high percent of workers.

Merchants of Death

Throughout the West, gemstones are widely distributed, in over 600 US bead stores alone, much supplied from India, consumers unaware of the human toll for their trinkets.

Also, more than a dozen US and Canadian bead societies hold monthly meetings, and 27 websites sell or supply product information.

Novica, in association with National Geographic, sells "Treasures of the world, living treasures" in the form of gemstone earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings and pendants, made from Indian agate, onyx, amethyst and lapis - retailing at $57.95 for heart-shaped earrings, certified by The Global Compact and Green America "Approved for people and planet," featuring the artistry of Wayan Rendah, saying "It gives me great pleasure when one of my statues inspires somebody," mindless that gemstones kill.

For Valentine's Day, the Phoenix Orion Gift Emporium sells Indian heart-shaped stones, its Chevron Amethyst one for $39.95, "beautifully hand cut and polished....foster(ing) integration of the emotions, enhancing creativity....reinforc(ing) decisiveness and enhanc(ing) leadership qualities (and also a) well-known healing stone," by killing its maker.

Star of David pendants come from Indian agate as do Anglican and Catholic rosaries, the former selling for $34.95, its maker earning pennies.

The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art sells deco marcasite and black agate drop earrings for $150, capped onyx necklaces for $175, and amethyst stone necklaces for $110 - no country of origin listed.

The Rainforest Site ( sells Indian agate necklaces for $29.95.

Indian-made agate and other semi-precious gemstones are everywhere, readers likely having some in their homes, unaware how much misery and death produced them.

India's Bureau of Mines reported 686 tons of agate exported from 1998 - 2002, the latest figures available. Most went to America, then Germany, Italy, Thailand, and Britain.

A "Dusty Death"

As little as seven microns of silica dust can cause silicosis, by inducing fibrosis, scarring lungs with non-functional fibrous tissue, eventually becoming pulmonary massive fibrosis (PMF, characterized by large conglomerate masses of dense fibrosis) after enough exposure.

At this stage, grinders become weak, can't walk, suffer extreme weight loss, struggle to breathe, experience chest pain, followed by a slow, painful death.

People's Training and Research Centre (PTRC) and Agate Worker Demands

PTRC's director, Jagdish Patel, lists them:

-- cover agate and gemstone industry workers under India's Factories Act;

-- make traders legally accountable for their workers;

-- let them organize and be able to form large cooperatives to negotiate wages, benefits, and working conditions, including health and safety protections;

-- mandate India's National Institute of Occupational Health develop safe grinding methods;

-- provide medical care, compensation and family stipends for silicosis victims; and

-- make traders pay for their decades of profiting from death.

Add another - inform consumers about the real gemstones cost, the thousands who died painfully producing them, for a dollar or so a day.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


Israel's PIETA

by Dom Martin

Michaelangelo's PIETA

Israel's PIETA

If a single picture is worth a thousand words, the picture above is worth incalculably more!

In this scene, a Palestinian woman -- ongoing victim of Israel’s oppressive occupation -- comes to the humane aid of a Jew, Emily Henochowicz, who lost an eye after being hit in the face by a tear gas canister fired by a fellow Jew.

Emily was standing peacefully during a demonstration in West Bank at the Qalandiya checkpoint on that black Monday, May 31, 2010 -- to protest the Gaza Flotilla massacre -- when Israeli Border Police fired a large number of tear gas canisters directly at the heads of Emily and another International Solidarity Movement activist.

In addition to losing her left eye, the bones surrounding her eye socket, cheekbone and jawbone are all fractured. Three metal plates have been inserted into her head/face, and her jaw is wired shut.
— Dom Martin

Source: (


An eye
For an eye
No one knew
It’s a thousand eyes
For an eye
By a million lies!

It’s Truth
Impounded with brute!

It’s democracy
Founded on the theocracy
Of hypocrisy!

When the Palestinian was slain
No disdain
From the Global community
Just a handshake
Another veto
And sacrosanct immunity!

In humanity’s landscape
Life is life
Fair is fair:
Where’s Blair?

A thousand eyes
For an eye:
It’s a tie
Between evil
And the devil!

Around yesterday
Change was promised
Today, it’s Emily
Another selfless member
Of the human family:

The present is tarnished
The future orphaned:
Shame on fame!

A thousand eyes
A million lies
A Flotilla of Hope
Ambushed by the dope
Of elected zealots
Bigots and despots !

Hell or Heil
Whither Israel?

— Dom Martin

Saturday, July 3, 2010


by Gulamhusein A. Abba

Palestinian Children Confront IDF soldiers in Nabi Salih (July 2, 2010)

The bloody and dastardly attack, by Israeli forces, in international waters, under cover of darkness, on a peaceful and unarmed flotilla, carrying nothing but humanitarian aid to a besieged people experiencing a humanitarian crisis, was strongly denounced by people and governments from all over the world. Deservedly so.

Israel, instead of apologizing, or at least being contrite, immediately launched a brazen and aggressive campaign to justify its actions and paint the aid-bearers as the villains of the piece!

It spewed out the standard propaganda. It tried to demonize the aid-bearers by alleging, in the face of evidence to the contrary, that some of them had ties to terrorists; “accidentally” released a video mocking those attacked; widely circulated heavily edited and doctored photos and videos showing those on the flotilla “attacking” the Israeli commandos (but did not make public video images of the commandos just prior to or during the attack); claimed that those under attack had snatched two guns from the heavily armed and well trained commandos and fired the “snatched” guns at the commandos, who then fired back in self defense (!); and made several other ridiculous claims and allegations. It even alleged that there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza!

Anticipating that there would be criticism of not only the disproportionate force used and the killing of nine passengers but of the blockade itself, Israel resorted to its old and tried “justification” – “What else can Israel do? It is surrounded by hostile Arab nations. Gaza is under the control of Hamas which has the elimination of Israel written in its charter and which has fired thousands of mortars into Israel. If Israel does not impose a blockade, arms will flow into Gaza and will be used to try and destroy Israel”.

All these claims are baseless and can be refuted through incontrovertible facts. But doing so here would be playing into an Israeli trap. Such controversies, arguments and debates are exactly what Israel wants. They serve to distract the readers and divert attention from the real issues.

When the criticism and denunciations kept growing, Israel damage control experts at last played their trump card to defuse the international backlash. Israel announced that it would be “easing” Gaza’s blockade. Details were skimpy and the “easing” applied only to the land blockade. The high seas remained off limits. Nevertheless, Israel’s announcement had the desired effect. There was immediate applause and Israel was praised for “taking a step in the right direction”.

Israel has perfected this technique. It thrusts a nine inch blade into the body of its victim. There is an international hue and cry. Israel defends its action. There is a debate in the international community and in the media. While the controversy and debate continues, the blade remains firmly embedded in the body for months, its victim bleeding the whole time. Then Israel withdraws three inches of the blade. The world applauds its action, ignoring the six inches of the blade that still remains buried deep in the body of Israel’s victim..

When the dust and the din has settled, Israel delivers another nine inch stab, only to repeat the whole process.

That is exactly what is happening here. The occupied territories are pockmarked with Israel’s stab wounds!

Though the belated awakening to Israel’s perfidious acts, as evidenced by the initial worldwide denunciation, is welcome, it ignored the real issues and continues to do so.

The crippling blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza – which is more for political than security reasons and which constitutes collective punishment on all – is unwarranted, unjustifiable and illegal and must be brought to an end.

Even more important is the fact that Israel, in spite of various UN resolutions, refuses to vacate its illegal and brutal 43-years-old occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Not to mention the fact that it has been for more than 60 years now dispossessing Palestinians of their homes and lands and turning them into refugees barred forever from returning to their homes!

Not only is Israel continuing this occupation but it is also making life a hell for the Palestinians living in the occupied territories. It has been setting up dozens of checkpoints; bulldozing homes; stealing land; uprooting olive and fruit orchards; throttling villages and towns by encircling them with a hideous wall; preventing relatives from visiting each other, students from going to schools, the sick from going to hospitals and clinics, farmers from attending to their farms, businessmen from going to their businesses; imposing curfews and closures; arresting (read “kidnapping”) people indiscriminately; shooting down innocent people; brutally repressing non-violent protests; crisscrossing the land with “for Israelis only” highways; assassinating at will through missile attacks and other means; bombing whole towns and refugee camps; holding thousands of Palestinians in Israeli jails and torturing them.

It acts with impunity, not only in the occupied territories but worldwide; stealing and forging passports issued by friendly countries and using them to clandestinely send its operatives to other friendly, sovereign countries to carry out secret assassinations; knocking out reactors in foreign countries it suspects to be attempting to produce nuclear arsenal; provoking other countries to attack it and then invading and occupying territories it has no right to, bombing the ship of a friendly country anchored in waters off its coast, and on and on. Israel is an out-of-control loose cannon ball and it is time for the world community to muzzle it, hold it accountable, and compel it to behave like a law abiding civilized member of the international community. If Israel refuses to do so, the international community must treat it as the pariah nation that it has become and sever all connections with it and impose sanctions on it.

Perhaps this is expecting too much from the UN, divided and riddled with politics as it is. If the UN cannot or will not act, all nations that believe in justice, in the rule of law, in the inalienable right of a people to have their own government – all such nations must unilaterally impose sanctions on Israel, divest form it and boycott it totally.

But it is not only governments that can act. Each one of us, whether an individual or a corporation or a business, can and must do our part. Boycott Israel, its goods and its services; divest funds invested in Israeli stocks, bonds and ventures.

Israelis themselves must join in efforts to leash power drunk Israeli leaders at the helm of affairs in Israel. They are driving Israel to ruin, economically, politically and morally. Israelis need to save Israel from the currant Israeli government and those who constitute it.

The first step: The world community, which took prompt and decisive action to vacate Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait, must now focus, not on promoting unending proximity talks or peace negotiations, but on making Israel vacate its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ah Sinful Nation!

Israeli Prof Nurit Peled-Elhanan reacts to May 31 slaughter on the high seas
- May 28, 2010

Ah, sinful nation!
People laden with iniquity!
Brood of evildoers!

Depraved children
Why do you seek further beatings
That you continue to offend? (Isiash)

The chieftains of Sodom, representing the folk of Gomorrah, the disciples of corrupt ravagers, have ravaged again. This time they attacked boats of good doers who devoted their time and their resources, who risked their life in order to come to the rescue of the ravaged, of the oppressed, of the starved. People who came to defend orphans and widows, were brutally attacked by the ruthless soldiers of Israel. And the soldiers of Israel, who are always frightened to death by sticks and stones, reacted the only way they know how – by killing.

Because this is what they have learned from their highest commander, to kill and kill and kill even more. The master-mind behind the siege of all sieges, the maestro of barriers and checkpoints, of tortures and deprivation has shown us once more what he is capable of. And we, the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, have nothing but impotent words to protest once more against the horror inflicted on the world by Israel, to deplore Jerusalem that has failed and Judea that has fallen and ourselves who are all falling with it.

Source and Courtesy: Australians for Peace

Barbarism on the High Seas

June 1, 2010
America's Complicity in Evil

As I write at 5pm on Monday, May 31, all day has passed since the early morning reports of the Israeli commando attack on the unarmed ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, and there has been no response from President Obama except to say that he needed to learn “all the facts about this morning’s tragic events” and that Israeli prime minister Netanyahu had canceled his plans to meet with him at the White House. Thus has Obama made America complicit once again in Israel’s barbaric war crimes. Just as the US Congress voted to deep-six Judge Goldstone’s report on Israel’s war crimes committed in Israel’s January 2009 invasion of Gaza, Obama has deep-sixed Israel’s latest act of barbarism by pretending that he doesn’t know what has happened.

No one in the world will believe that Israel attacked ships in international waters carrying Israeli citizens, a Nobel Laureate, elected politicians, and noted humanitarians bringing medicines and building materials to Palestinians in Gaza, who have been living in the rubble of their homes without repairs or medicines since January 2009, without first clearing the crime with its American protector. Without America’s protection, Israel, a totally artificial state, could not exist. No one in the world will believe that America’s spy apparatus did not detect the movement of the Israeli attack force toward the aid ships in international waters in an act of piracy, killing 20, wounding 50, and kidnapping the rest. Obama’s pretense at ignorance confirms his complicity.

Once again the US government has permitted the Israeli state to murder good people known for their moral conscience. The Israeli state has declared that anyone with a moral conscience is an enemy of Israel, and every American president except Eisenhower and Carter has agreed.Obama’s 12-hour silence in the face of extreme barbarity is his signal to the controlled corporate media to remain on the sidelines until Israeli propaganda sets the story.

The Israeli story, preposterous as always, is that the humanitarians on one of the ships took two pistols from Israeli commandos, highly trained troops armed with automatic weapons, and fired on the attack force. The Israeli government claims that the commandos’ response (70 casualties at last reporting) was justified self-defense. Israel was innocent. Israel did not do anything except drop commandos aboard from helicopters in order to intercept an arms shipment to Gazans being brought in by ships manned by terrorists.

Many Christian evangelicals, brainwashed by their pastors that it is God’s will for Americans to protect Israel, will believe the Israeli story, especially when it is unlikely they will ever hear any other. Conservative Americans, especially on Memorial Day when they are celebrating feats of American arms, will admire Israel for its toughness. Here in north Georgia where I am at the moment, I have heard several say, admiringly, “Them, Israelis, they don’t put up with nuthin.”
Conservative Americans want the US to be like Israel. They do not understand why the US doesn’t stop pissing around after nine years and just go ahead and defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. They don’t understand why the US didn’t defeat whoever was opposing American forces in Iraq. Conservatives are incensed that America had to “win” the war by buying off the Iraqis and putting them on the US payroll. Israel murders people and then blames its victims. This appeals to American conservatives, who want the US to do the same.

It is likely that Americans will accept Israeli propagandist Mark Regev’s story that Israelis were met by deadly fire when they tried to intercept an arms shipment to Palestinian terrorists from IHH, a radical Turkish Islamist organization hiding under the cover of humanitarian aid.

Americans will never hear from the US media that Turkey’s prime minister Erdogan declared that the aid ships were carefully inspected before departure from Turkey and that there were no terrorists or arms aboard: "I want to say to the world, to the heads of state and the governments, that these boats that left from Turkey and other countries were checked in a strict way under the framework of the rules of international navigation and were only loaded with humanitarian aid."

Turkey is a US ally, a member of NATO. Turkey’s cooperation is important to American’s plan for world hegemony. Erdogan must wonder about the morality of Israel’s American protector. According to a report in, the Turkish government declared that “future aid ships will be dispatched with a military escort so as to prevent future Israeli attacks.” Will the CIA assassinate Erdogan or pay the Turkish military to overthrow him? Murat Mercan, head of Turkey’s foreign relations committee, said that Israel’s claim that there were terrorists aboard the aid ships was Israel’s way of covering up its crime.

Mercan declared: "Any allegation that the members of this ship is attached to al-Qaeda is a big lie because there are Israeli civilians, Israeli authorities, Israeli parliamentarians on board the ship."

The criminal Israeli state does not deny its act of piracy. Israeli military spokeswoman, Avital Leibovich, confirmed that the attack took place in international waters: “This happened in waters outside of Israeli territory, but we have the right to defend ourselves.” Americans, and their Western European puppet states and the puppet state in Canada, will be persuaded by the servile media to buy the story fabricated by Israeli propaganda that the humanitarian aid ships were manned by terrorists bringing weapons to the Palestinians in Gaza, and that the terrorists posing as humanitarians attacked the force of Israeli commandos with two pistols, clubs, and knives. Many Americans will swallow this story without a hiccup.

Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at:>

Source and courtesy:

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Biggest Threat to Peace in Middle East

by Dr. Elias Akleh

A build up of heightened tension in the Middle East is escalating in the last few weeks. American and Israeli postures towards Lebanon, Syria, and Iran have become more threatening. Listening to speeches of political leaders one hears talks only about war not peace. Iranians and Israelis are continuously training hard for a possible showdown. Both sides are conducting extensive war games every month. This led Syrians to claim that Israel is preparing for a soon-to-come another war. The Jordanians also are warning that current stalemate of the peace process is an indication of a war breaking this summer. The Russian President and his army chief hinted, few months ago, that the US and Israel were planning for an attack on Iran.

Indeed Iran is, as it has been for last few years, the target of most of the threats and accusation of supporting terrorism. Escalating incitement against Iran the American Defense Department sent Last month (April) to Congress a report on Iran's military claiming Iran could develop intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the US by 2015.Ignoring the fact that N. Korea, India, Pakistan, and Israel are proven to have nuclear weapons while Iran does not, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose in her speech, to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference at the UN, to focus on Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions putting the whole world at risk as she put it. According to Clinton Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons, rather than Israel's more than 200 nuclear bombs, is destabilizing the Middle East. She called on world's nations to rally around US efforts to hold Iran, not other nuclear countries, to account.

Accusation that Usama Bin Laden is living comfortably in Iran had received a boost after the broadcast of a documentary called "Feathered Cocaine". This echoed the June 2003 claims of the Italian newspaper Corre de la Sierra that Bin Laden was in Iran according to some intelligence report, and according to Richard Miniter's book "Shadow War". This accusation was countered by Ahmadinejad in ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos stating that, since Bin Laden was a previous partner of Mr. Bush, he is living comfortably in Washington DC not in Tehran. It was also widely reported that one of Bin Laden's wives was living in Tehran with six of his children and eleven grandchildren.

A recent Associated Press exclusive, May 13th, written by Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, reported that according to CIA monitoring program RIGOR Saad, the son of Usama Bin laden and many Al-Qaeda leaders and operative had taken refuge into Iran after 911. This exclusive disqualifies itself stating that "But generally, the U.S. has only limited information about them.", and "Details are murky".

The American military capitalized on such rumors when the commander of US forces in the Middle East, general Petraeus, told Congress that Tehran is working with Al-Qaeda facilitating links between its senior leaders and affiliate groups.

Syria, in turn, was not spared from American and Israeli warnings and threats. Syria was accused of violating 2006 UN Resolution 1701 prohibiting the transfer of weapons to Lebanese Hezbollah. Just before the US Congress approves sending Robert Stephen Ford as American ambassador to Syria as a sign of improving relationships, the Israeli President, Shimon Peres, accused Syria of smuggling Scud missiles to Hezbollah. Peres' accusation prompted the Congress to suspend sending Ford to Damascus.

Major General Alberto Asarta Cuevas of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon was quoted by Lebanese daily An-Nahar as saying: "We have no evidence of any Scud missiles in UNIFIL's area of operations." The US, also, could not confirm any Scud missiles shipped to Lebanon. Scud missiles are large and are difficult to hide.

Although not mentioning Scud missiles in specific Israeli officials such as the head of the Israeli military intelligence research department, Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, claimed that: "Weapons are transferred to Hezbollah on a regular basis and this transfer is organized by the Syrian and Iranian regimes." Syria was accused of transferring sophisticated weapons, such as M600 rockets, to Hezbollah. Israel's Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, accused Syria of importing weapons of mass destruction from North Korea to ship them to Hezbollah and Hamas.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak directly warned both Syria and Lebanon: "We make it clear once again that we see the government of Lebanon, and behind it the government of Syria, responsible for what happens now in Lebanon, And the government of Lebanon will be the one to be held accountable if it deteriorates."

The Americans parroted the Israeli claims. Hillary Clinton warned Syria of grave consequences of delivering weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas warning that such an act "could mean war or peace for the region … Hezbollah's acquisition of new weapons, especially long-range missiles, would threaten Israel's security and destabilize the region."

Robert Gates, the American Defense Secretary, had also accused both Iran and Syria of arming Hezbollah with sophisticated weaponry. Finally, citing what the White House alleged Syria's "extraordinary threat" to US security and foreign policy, Barack Obama decided to renew economic sanctions against Syria for another year. Obama said that Syria's "continuing support of terrorist organizations and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the US".

Israel's fear was heightened by the visit of Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, to Syria, the first visit to Damascus by Russian ruler since 1917, to sign an arm trade agreement by which Russia would supply Syria with Mig-29 fighters, truck-mounted Pantzir short range surface to air missiles, and anti-aircraft artillery system. Building a Syrian nuclear power plant with Russian help was also discussed by the two leaders.

Turkey's improved relationships with Iran, Syria, and Lebanon, and its sympathy towards Palestinians worry the US and Israel the most. Since Davos incident in January 2009 between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Israel's president Shimon Peres, Turkey seems to adopt the Palestinian cause. Turkey had sent humanitarian aid to besieged Gaza within "Viva Palestina" and "Break the Siege" campaigns, and is also sending three humanitarian ships to Gaza within the "Freedom Flotilla" campaign.

Turkey and Syria had dramatically improved their political, economic, socio-cultural, and military relationships. The two countries conducted, last April 2009, a three-day military exercise along their borders and signed a technical military cooperation agreement to strengthen collaboration between their defense industries.

Turkey had improved relationship with Iran, where trade between the two countries is expected to increase to $30 billion. Turkey had opposed economical sanctions against Iran, had repeatedly played down the alleged threat of Iran's nuclear program, and defended Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy. This month, May 2010, Turkey and Brazil convinced Iran to accept nuclear fuel swap on Turkish soil.

Turkey seems determined to protect its good relationships with Syria and Iran to a point of deploying anti-aircraft batteries along the Syrian border in the Iskenderun district to repel any US or Israeli aerial attack against Iran or Syria, according to Turkish daily Hurriyet. In a phone call with Al-Manar TV, Mustafa Ozcan, a Turkish political analyst, confirmed this fact.

A Middle Eastern geopolitical alliance between Turkey, Iran, and Syria and Lebanon seems to take shape. This alliance seems to provide a counterbalance for Israel's military superiority in the region, and a deterrent to any further Israeli terrorist attack against Gaza, Lebanon, or Syria. Israelis are afraid that they may not be able to win a war as convincingly and with impunity as they used to do, especially after their failures in 2006 Lebanese war and 2008 Gaza onslaught.

Israel's whining about Iran's and Syria's weapons is meant to portray the Israelis as the poor victims, and to justify any Israeli aggression against its neighbors. It is meant also to draw in the US for its rescue, as usual. Israel wants a joint American/Israel attack against Iran/Syria/Hezbollah axis before their alliance become any stronger. American involvement is the wild card, as it always has been, that will maintain Israel's superiority in the region.

While supplying Israel with weapons allegedly for self defense the US denies this right to Palestinians, Lebanese, and Syrians. Coming to Israel's rescue, again, the US described Iran as the greatest threat to America, to its allies, to the Middle East, and to world peace by claiming that Iran is the region's greatest proliferator of weapons and supporter to terrorist groups.

Obama cited the possibility of nuclear Iran supplying nuclear material to some terrorist groups to be used against the US and its allies. The documented facts proved that the US is the only nuclear country that had secretly supplied nuclear material to terrorist Israel to build its nuclear bombs.

In his article "America's Loose Nukes in Israel", Grant Smith, director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, explains how large quantities of America's highly enriched uranium and plutonium was smuggles to Israel via the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC), part of Apollo Steel Company plant in Pennsylvania. A 1965 audit by Atomic Energy Commission discovered the shortage of 220 pounds of enriched uranium, and in September 1968 587 more pounds of enriched uranium went missing immediately after the visit of 4 Israelis, including Mossad agent Rafi Eitan. Also refer to the 1978 declassified report "Nuclear Diversion in the U.S.? 13 Years of Contradiction and Confusion" regarding the investigation between 1957 and 1967 of the loss of highly enriched uranium in NUMEC.

Whistleblower former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds testified that Richard Perle, Doughlas Feith, and Marc Grossman, high ranking officials in G.W. Bush administration, were passing sensitive data and nuclear technology to Israel's military industrial complex.

Based on 30 declassified government documents from the National Security Archive in April 2006 Avner Cohen and William Burr published the article "Israel Crosses the Threshold" in the May-June 2006 issue of the "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists" indicating that the Nixon's administration decided to accept and to live with Israel's ambiguity of its nuclear weapons program, knowing very well that Israel had already built nuclear bombs.

At the Global Summit on Nuclear Security, last April, the US tried to rally nations against Iran's nuclear program, and supported the call for Middle East nuclear-free zone. Yet the US supported Israel's claim that it would consider signing the NPT and supporting such a nuclear-free zone only if there is a comprehensive Middle East peace.

The US, with 5,113 self-declared nuclear bombs and free of any IAEA monitoring process, is trying to use the NPT to monopolize nuclear technology and deny it to other countries. After signing the START Treaty on April 8th President Obama called for $80 billion in nuclear funding to modernize the US nuclear weapons complex to meet the need to "rebuild and sustain America's aging nuclear stockpile". This means making the bombs smarter, smaller in size, and more powerful. This $80 billion came on top of more than the additional $100 billion for nuclear deliver systems like submarines. The US has no intention of reducing its nukes, but to improve them.

War clouds are looming over the Middle Easter. Israeli military officials keep threatening to attack Iran claiming they can use military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Israel is primed to attack Iran boosted Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon. Iran is taking these threats seriously and is preparing for war through war games; two of them this month. Iran's strongest warning to Israel came Wednesday May 19 from Iranian Chief of Staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, stating that if Israel attacked Iran it would be destroyed within a week. Sunday May 23 Israel is conducting its most intensive and comprehensive war games called "Turning Point-4" lasting five days and including 68 cities and towns. Could this be preparation for another war this summer?

During its short 62 years history Israel had fought 8 wars against its Arab neighbors. It had developed nuclear weapons and did not sign the NPT. It had used chemical and nuclear (DU) weapons against civilians. It violated many UN resolutions. It committed war crimes and many massacres against civilians. It had refused all Arab peaceful gestures and keeps threatening to attack its neighbors. It occupation and destruction of religious sites, especially Islamic, might provoke religious war in the region. Israel is the biggest threat to peace in the Middle East.

DR. ELIAS AKLEH: Dr. Elias Akleh is an Arab writer from a Palestinian descent born in the town of Beit Jala. His family was first evicted from Haifa after the "Nakba" of 1948, then from Beit Jala after the "Nakseh" of 1967. He lives now in the US, and publishes his articles on the web in both English and Arabic.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Defying the Universe

by Samah Sabavi

Are your loved ones trapped behind the wall
Do they need the army’s permission
For their prayers to reach the sky
For their love to cross the ocean
And touch your thirsty heart
Are your loved ones trapped

Do you yearn to be in your family home
And when you call them
Do they always say
“we are well, alhamdollelah”
Does it surprise you
That they are whole
But you… you are broken

Must they always worry about you
Urge you to have faith in your exile
Must they pity you
For not breathing the air
Of your ancestors’ land

Must they always comfort you
Even when the bombs are falling
Do you ever wonder who is walled in
Is it you, or is it them
And when it finally dawns upon you
That their dignity sets them free
Do you feel ashamed of your liberty

Are your loved ones trapped behind the wall
Do they tell you stories
Of how they survive
The trees they’ve replanted
The homes they’ve rebuilt

Do they assure you life goes on
Old men still fiddle with their prayer beads
Mothers still bake mamoul on eid
Families still gather under the canopies
With loaded bunches of grapes
Dangling above their heads
They nibble on watermelon seeds
They drink meramiah tea

Women perfect the art of match-making
Men talk of freedom and democracy
Children climb on a sycamore tree
Lovers woe in secrecy
And no matter how the conditions are adverse
Do your loved ones defy this universe

Your loved ones defy this universe
NOTE: Samah Sabawi is a Human Rights and Social Justice advocate. She was born in Gaza and shortly after her birth her family was displaced as a result of Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip in 1967. She has lived and worked in many countries around the world and is currently residing in Melbourne, Australia. In addition to numerous articles and poems (published in as many publications and web-sites), she has also co-authored with her father, Abdel-Karim Sabawi, a play “Cries from the Land” which was sponsored and produced by Friends of Sabeel and She has also produced the play “Three Wishes” based on her adaptation of Deborah Ellis's book "Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israelis Speak Out". Samah Sabawi is also former Executive Director and Media Spokesperson for the National Council on Canada Arab Relations.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


By Noam Chomsky

Tuesday 27 April 2010

The fact that the Israel-Palestine conflict grinds on without resolution might appear to be rather strange. For many of the world's conflicts, it is difficult even to conjure up a feasible settlement. In this case, it is not only possible, but there is near universal agreement on its basic contours: a two-state settlement along the internationally recognized (pre-June 1967) borders -- with "minor and mutual modifications," to adopt official U.S. terminology before Washington departed from the international community in the mid-1970s.

The basic principles have been accepted by virtually the entire world, including the Arab states (who go on to call for full normalization of relations), the Organization of Islamic States (including Iran), and relevant non-state actors (including Hamas). A settlement along these lines was first proposed at the U.N. Security Council in January 1976 by the major Arab states. Israel refused to attend the session. The U.S. vetoed the resolution, and did so again in 1980. The record at the General Assembly since is similar.

There was one important and revealing break in U.S.-Israeli rejectionism. After the failed Camp David agreements in 2000, President Clinton recognized that the terms he and Israel had proposed were unacceptable to any Palestinians. That December, he proposed his "parameters": imprecise, but more forthcoming. He then stated that both sides had accepted the parameters, while expressing reservations.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Taba, Egypt, in January 2001 to resolve the differences and were making considerable progress. In their final press conference, they reported that, with a little more time, they could probably have reached full agreement. Israel called off the negotiations prematurely, however, and official progress then terminated, though informal discussions at a high level continued leading to the Geneva Accord, rejected by Israel and ignored by the U.S.

A good deal has happened since, but a settlement along those lines is still not out of reach -- if, of course, Washington is once again willing to accept it. Unfortunately, there is little sign of that.
Substantial mythology has been created about the entire record, but the basic facts are clear enough and quite well documented.

The U.S. and Israel have been acting in tandem to extend and deepen the occupation. In 2005, recognizing that it was pointless to subsidize a few thousand Israeli settlers in Gaza, who were appropriating substantial resources and protected by a large part of the Israeli army, the government of Ariel Sharon decided to move them to the much more valuable West Bank and Golan Heights.

Instead of carrying out the operation straightforwardly, as would have been easy enough, the government decided to stage a "national trauma," which virtually duplicated the farce accompanying the withdrawal from the Sinai desert after the Camp David agreements of 1978-79. In each case, the withdrawal permitted the cry of "Never Again," which meant in practice: we cannot abandon an inch of the Palestinian territories that we want to take in violation of international law. This farce played very well in the West, though it was ridiculed by more astute Israeli commentators, among them that country's prominent sociologist the late Baruch Kimmerling.

After its formal withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Israel never actually relinquished its total control over the territory, often described realistically as "the world's largest prison." In January 2006, a few months after the withdrawal, Palestine had an election that was recognized as free and fair by international observers. Palestinians, however, voted "the wrong way," electing Hamas. Instantly, the U.S. and Israel intensified their assault against Gazans as punishment for this misdeed. The facts and the reasoning were not concealed; rather, they were openly published alongside reverential commentary on Washington's sincere dedication to democracy. The U.S.-backed Israeli assault against the Gazans has only been intensified since, thanks to violence and economic strangulation, increasingly savage.

Meanwhile in the West Bank, always with firm U.S. backing, Israel has been carrying forward longstanding programs to take the valuable land and resources of the Palestinians and leave them in unviable cantons, mostly out of sight. Israeli commentators frankly refer to these goals as "neocolonial." Ariel Sharon, the main architect of the settlement programs, called these cantons "Bantustans," though the term is misleading: South Africa needed the majority black work force, while Israel would be happy if the Palestinians disappeared, and its policies are directed to that end.

Blockading Gaza by Land and Sea

One step towards cantonization and the undermining of hopes for Palestinian national survival is the separation of Gaza from the West Bank. These hopes have been almost entirely consigned to oblivion, an atrocity to which we should not contribute by tacit consent. Israeli journalist Amira Hass, one of the leading specialists on Gaza, writes that "the restrictions on Palestinian movement that Israel introduced in January 1991 reversed a process that had been initiated in June 1967. Back then, and for the first time since 1948, a large portion of the Palestinian people again lived in the open territory of a single country -- to be sure, one that was occupied, but was nevertheless whole.… The total separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank is one of the greatest achievements of Israeli politics, whose overarching objective is to prevent a solution based on international decisions and understandings and instead dictate an arrangement based on Israel's military superiority.…

"Since January 1991, Israel has bureaucratically and logistically merely perfected the split and the separation: not only between Palestinians in the occupied territories and their brothers in Israel, but also between the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and those in the rest of the territories and between Gazans and West Bankers/Jerusalemites. Jews live in this same piece of land within a superior and separate system of privileges, laws, services, physical infrastructure and freedom of movement."

The leading academic specialist on Gaza, Harvard scholar Sara Roy, adds:
"Gaza is an example of a society that has been deliberately reduced to a state of abject destitution, its once productive population transformed into one of aid-dependent paupers.… Gaza's subjection began long before Israel's recent war against it [December 2008]. The Israeli occupation — now largely forgotten or denied by the international community — has devastated Gaza's economy and people, especially since 2006…. After Israel's December [2008] assault, Gaza's already compromised conditions have become virtually unlivable. Livelihoods, homes, and public infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed on a scale that even the Israel Defense Forces admitted was indefensible.

"In Gaza today, there is no private sector to speak of and no industry. 80 percent of Gaza's agricultural crops were destroyed and Israel continues to snipe at farmers attempting to plant and tend fields near the well-fenced and patrolled border. Most productive activity has been extinguished.… Today, 96 percent of Gaza's population of 1.4 million is dependent on humanitarian aid for basic needs. According to the World Food Programme, the Gaza Strip requires a minimum of 400 trucks of food every day just to meet the basic nutritional needs of the population. Yet, despite a March [22, 2009] decision by the Israeli cabinet to lift all restrictions on foodstuffs entering Gaza, only 653 trucks of food and other supplies were allowed entry during the week of May 10, at best meeting 23 percent of required need. Israel now allows only 30 to 40 commercial items to enter Gaza compared to 4,000 approved products prior to June 2006."

It cannot be too often stressed that Israel had no credible pretext for its 2008–9 attack on Gaza, with full U.S. support and illegally using U.S. weapons. Near-universal opinion asserts the contrary, claiming that Israel was acting in self-defense. That is utterly unsustainable, in light of Israel's flat rejection of peaceful means that were readily available, as Israel and its U.S. partner in crime knew very well. That aside, Israel's siege of Gaza is itself an act of war, as Israel of all countries certainly recognizes, having repeatedly justified launching major wars on grounds of partial restrictions on its access to the outside world, though nothing remotely like what it has long imposed on Gaza.

One crucial element of Israel's criminal siege, little reported, is the naval blockade. Peter Beaumont reports from Gaza that, "on its coastal littoral, Gaza's limitations are marked by a different fence where the bars are Israeli gunboats with their huge wakes, scurrying beyond the Palestinian fishing boats and preventing them from going outside a zone imposed by the warships." According to reports from the scene, the naval siege has been tightened steadily since 2000. Fishing boats have been driven steadily out of Gaza's territorial waters and toward the shore by Israeli gunboats, often violently without warning and with many casualties. As a result of these naval actions, Gaza's fishing industry has virtually collapsed; fishing is impossible near shore because of the contamination caused by Israel's regular attacks, including the destruction of power plants and sewage facilities.

These Israeli naval attacks began shortly after the discovery by the BG (British Gas) Group of what appear to be quite sizeable natural gas fields in Gaza's territorial waters. Industry journals report that Israel is already appropriating these Gazan resources for its own use, part of its commitment to shift its economy to natural gas. The standard industry source reports:
"Israel's finance ministry has given the Israel Electric Corp. (IEC) approval to purchase larger quantities of natural gas from BG than originally agreed upon, according to Israeli government sources [which] said the state-owned utility would be able to negotiate for as much as 1.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas from the Marine field located off the Mediterranean coast of the Palestinian controlled Gaza Strip.

"Last year the Israeli government approved the purchase of 800 million cubic meters of gas from the field by the IEC…. Recently the Israeli government changed its policy and decided the state-owned utility could buy the entire quantity of gas from the Gaza Marine field. Previously the government had said the IEC could buy half the total amount and the remainder would be bought by private power producers."

The pillage of what could become a major source of income for Gaza is surely known to U.S. authorities. It is only reasonable to suppose that the intention to appropriate these limited resources, either by Israel alone or together with the collaborationist Palestinian Authority, is the motive for preventing Gazan fishing boats from entering Gaza's territorial waters.
There are some instructive precedents. In 1989, Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans signed a treaty with his Indonesian counterpart Ali Alatas granting Australia rights to the substantial oil reserves in "the Indonesian Province of East Timor." The Indonesia-Australia Timor Gap Treaty, which offered not a crumb to the people whose oil was being stolen, "is the only legal agreement anywhere in the world that effectively recognises Indonesia's right to rule East Timor," the Australian press reported.

Asked about his willingness to recognize the Indonesian conquest and to rob the sole resource of the conquered territory, which had been subjected to near-genocidal slaughter by the Indonesian invader with the strong support of Australia (along with the U.S., the U.K., and some others), Evans explained that "there is no binding legal obligation not to recognise the acquisition of territory that was acquired by force," adding that "the world is a pretty unfair place, littered with examples of acquisition by force."

It should, then, be unproblematic for Israel to follow suit in Gaza.
A few years later, Evans became the leading figure in the campaign to introduce the concept "responsibility to protect" -- known as R2P -- into international law. R2P is intended to establish an international obligation to protect populations from grave crimes. Evans is the author of a major book on the subject and was co-chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which issued what is considered the basic document on R2P.
In an article devoted to this "idealistic effort to establish a new humanitarian principle," the London Economist featured Evans and his "bold but passionate claim on behalf of a three-word expression which (in quite large part thanks to his efforts) now belongs to the language of diplomacy: the 'responsibility to protect.'" The article is accompanied by a picture of Evans with the caption "Evans: a lifelong passion to protect." His hand is pressed to his forehead in despair over the difficulties faced by his idealistic effort. The journal chose not to run a different photo that circulates in Australia, depicting Evans and Alatas exuberantly clasping their hands together as they toast the Timor Gap Treaty that they had just signed.

Though a "protected population" under international law, Gazans do not fall under the jurisdiction of the "responsibility to protect," joining other unfortunates, in accord with the maxim of Thucydides -- that the strong do as they wish, and the weak suffer as they must -- which holds with its customary precision.

Obama and the Settlements

The kinds of restrictions on movement used to destroy Gaza have long been in force in the West Bank as well, less cruelly but with grim effects on life and the economy. The World Bank reports that Israel has established "a complex closure regime that restricts Palestinian access to large areas of the West Bank… The Palestinian economy has remained stagnant, largely because of the sharp downturn in Gaza and Israel's continued restrictions on Palestinian trade and movement in the West Bank."

The World Bank "cited Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints hindering trade and travel, as well as restrictions on Palestinian building in the West Bank, where the Western-backed government of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas holds sway." Israel does permit -- indeed encourage -- a privileged existence for elites in Ramallah and sometimes elsewhere, largely relying on European funding, a traditional feature of colonial and neocolonial practice.

All of this constitutes what Israeli activist Jeff Halper calls a "matrix of control" to subdue the colonized population. These systematic programs over more than 40 years aim to establish Defense Minister Moshe Dayan's recommendation to his colleagues shortly after Israel's 1967 conquests that we must tell the Palestinians in the territories: "We have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads."

Turning to the second bone of contention, settlements, there is indeed a confrontation, but it is rather less dramatic than portrayed. Washington's position was presented most strongly in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's much-quoted statement rejecting "natural growth exceptions" to the policy opposing new settlements. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with President Shimon Peres and, in fact, virtually the whole Israeli political spectrum, insists on permitting "natural growth" within the areas that Israel intends to annex, complaining that the United States is backing down on George W. Bush's authorization of such expansion within his "vision" of a Palestinian state.

Senior Netanyahu cabinet members have gone further. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz announced that "the current Israeli government will not accept in any way the freezing of legal settlement activity in Judea and Samaria." The term "legal" in U.S.-Israeli parlance means "illegal, but authorized by the government of Israel with a wink from Washington." In this usage, unauthorized outposts are termed "illegal," though apart from the dictates of the powerful, they are no more illegal than the settlements granted to Israel under Bush's "vision" and Obama's scrupulous omission.

The Obama-Clinton "hardball" formulation is not new. It repeats the wording of the Bush administration draft of the 2003 Road Map, which stipulates that in Phase I, "Israel freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements)." All sides formally accept the Road Map (modified to drop the phrase "natural growth") -- consistently overlooking the fact that Israel, with U.S. support, at once added 14 "reservations" that render it inoperable.
If Obama were at all serious about opposing settlement expansion, he could easily proceed with concrete measures by, for example, reducing U.S. aid by the amount devoted to this purpose. That would hardly be a radical or courageous move. The Bush I administration did so (reducing loan guarantees), but after the Oslo accord in 1993, President Clinton left calculations to the government of Israel. Unsurprisingly, there was "no change in the expenditures flowing to the settlements," the Israeli press reported. "[Prime Minister] Rabin will continue not to dry out the settlements," the report concludes. "And the Americans? They will understand."

Obama administration officials informed the press that the Bush I measures are "not under discussion," and that pressures will be "largely symbolic." In short, Obama understands, just as Clinton and Bush II did.

American Visionaries

At best, settlement expansion is a side issue, rather like the issue of "illegal outposts" -- namely those that the government of Israel has not authorized. Concentration on these issues diverts attention from the fact that there are no "legal outposts" and that it is the existing settlements that are the primary problem to be faced.

The U.S. press reports that "a partial freeze has been in place for several years, but settlers have found ways around the strictures… [C]onstruction in the settlements has slowed but never stopped, continuing at an annual rate of about 1,500 to 2,000 units over the past three years. If building continues at the 2008 rate, the 46,500 units already approved will be completed in about 20 years.… If Israel built all the housing units already approved in the nation's overall master plan for settlements, it would almost double the number of settler homes in the West Bank." Peace Now, which monitors settlement activities, estimates further that the two largest settlements would double in size: Ariel and Ma'aleh Adumim, built mainly during the Oslo years in the salients that subdivide the West Bank into cantons.

"Natural population growth" is largely a myth, Israel's leading diplomatic correspondent, Akiva Eldar, points out, citing demographic studies by Colonel (res.) Shaul Arieli, deputy military secretary to former prime minister and incumbent defense minister Ehud Barak. Settlement growth consists largely of Israeli immigrants in violation of the Geneva Conventions, assisted with generous subsidies. Much of it is in direct violation of formal government decisions, but carried out with the authorization of the government, specifically Barak, considered a dove in the Israeli spectrum.

Correspondent Jackson Diehl derides the "long-dormant Palestinian fantasy," revived by President Abbas, "that the United States will simply force Israel to make critical concessions, whether or not its democratic government agrees." He does not explain why refusal to participate in Israel's illegal expansion -- which, if serious, would "force Israel to make critical concessions" -- would be improper interference in Israel's democracy.

Returning to reality, all of these discussions about settlement expansion evade the most crucial issue about settlements: what the United States and Israel have already established in the West Bank. The evasion tacitly concedes that the illegal settlement programs already in place are somehow acceptable (putting aside the Golan Heights, annexed in violation of Security Council orders) -- though the Bush "vision," apparently accepted by Obama, moves from tacit to explicit support for these violations of law. What is in place already suffices to ensure that there can be no viable Palestinian self-determination. Hence, there is every indication that even on the unlikely assumption that "natural growth" will be ended, U.S.-Israeli rejectionism will persist, blocking the international consensus as before.

Subsequently, Prime Minister Netanyahu declared a 10-month suspension of new construction, with many exemptions, and entirely excluding Greater Jerusalem, where expropriation in Arab areas and construction for Jewish settlers continues at a rapid pace. Hillary Clinton praised these "unprecedented" concessions on (illegal) construction, eliciting anger and ridicule in much of the world.

It might be different if a legitimate "land swap" were under consideration, a solution approached at Taba and spelled out more fully in the Geneva Accord reached in informal high-level Israel-Palestine negotiations. The accord was presented in Geneva in October 2003, welcomed by much of the world, rejected by Israel, and ignored by the United States.
Washington's "Evenhandedness"

Barack Obama's June 4, 2009, Cairo address to the Muslim world kept pretty much to his well-honed "blank slate" style -- with little of substance, but presented in a personable manner that allows listeners to write on the slate what they want to hear. CNN captured its spirit in headlining a report "Obama Looks to Reach the Soul of the Muslim World." Obama had announced the goals of his address in an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. "'We have a joke around the White House,' the president said. 'We're just going to keep on telling the truth until it stops working and nowhere is truth-telling more important than the Middle East.'" The White House commitment is most welcome, but it is useful to see how it translates into practice.

Obama admonished his audience that it is easy to "point fingers… but if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security."

Turning from Obama-Friedman Truth to truth, there is a third side, with a decisive role throughout: the United States. But that participant in the conflict Obama omitted. The omission is understood to be normal and appropriate, hence unmentioned: Friedman's column is headlined "Obama Speech Aimed at Both Arabs and Israelis." The front-page Wall Street Journal report on Obama's speech appears under the heading "Obama Chides Israel, Arabs in His Overture to Muslims." Other reports are the same.
The convention is understandable on the doctrinal principle that though the U.S. government sometimes makes mistakes, its intentions are by definition benign, even noble. In the world of attractive imagery, Washington has always sought desperately to be an honest broker, yearning to advance peace and justice. The doctrine trumps truth, of which there is little hint in the speech or the mainstream coverage of it.

Obama once again echoed Bush's "vision" of two states, without saying what he meant by the phrase "Palestinian state." His intentions were clarified not only by the crucial omissions already discussed, but also by his one explicit criticism of Israel: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop." That is, Israel should live up to Phase I of the 2003 Road Map, rejected at once by Israel with tacit U.S. support, as noted -- though the truth is that Obama has ruled out even steps of the Bush I variety to withdraw from participation in these crimes.

The operative words are "legitimacy" and "continued." By omission, Obama indicates that he accepts Bush's vision: the vast existing settlement and infrastructure projects are "legitimate," thus ensuring that the phrase "Palestinian state" means "fried chicken."
Always even-handed, Obama also had an admonition for the Arab states: they "must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities." Plainly, however, it cannot be a meaningful "beginning" if Obama continues to reject its core principles: implementation of the international consensus. To do so, however, is evidently not Washington's "responsibility" in Obama's vision; no explanation given, no notice taken.

On democracy, Obama said that "we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election" -- as in January 2006, when Washington picked the outcome with a vengeance, turning at once to severe punishment of the Palestinians because it did not like the outcome of a peaceful election, all with Obama's apparent approval judging by his words before, and actions since, taking office.

Obama politely refrained from comment about his host, President Mubarak, one of the most brutal dictators in the region, though he has had some illuminating words about him. As he was about to board a plane to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the two "moderate" Arab states, "Mr. Obama signaled that while he would mention American concerns about human rights in Egypt, he would not challenge Mr. Mubarak too sharply, because he is a 'force for stability and good' in the Middle East… Mr. Obama said he did not regard Mr. Mubarak as an authoritarian leader. 'No, I tend not to use labels for folks,' Mr. Obama said. The president noted that there had been criticism 'of the manner in which politics operates in Egypt,' but he also said that Mr. Mubarak had been 'a stalwart ally, in many respects, to the United States.'"

When a politician uses the word "folks," we should brace ourselves for the deceit, or worse, that is coming. Outside of this context, there are "people," or often "villains," and using labels for them is highly meritorious. Obama is right, however, not to have used the word "authoritarian," which is far too mild a label for his friend.

Just as in the past, support for democracy, and for human rights as well, keeps to the pattern that scholarship has repeatedly discovered, correlating closely with strategic and economic objectives. There should be little difficulty in understanding why those whose eyes are not closed tight shut by rigid doctrine dismiss Obama's yearning for human rights and democracy as a joke in bad taste.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of numerous books, including the New York Times bestsellers Hegemony or Survival and Failed States. His newest book, Hopes and Prospects, is out this week from Haymarket Books.

[Note: All material in this piece is sourced and footnoted in Noam Chomsky's new book Hopes and Prospects.]
Copyright 2010 Noam Chomsky
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