State of Human Rights in Israel

Stephen Lendman

Annually, the State Department publishes human rights reports for over 190 countries. Its latest April 8, 2011 Israel assessment noted serious human rights abuses, including:

(1) numerous NGO complaints about torture and other abuses in Gaza and the West Bank.
(2) Israel's High Court of Justice (HCJ) ruling against painful shackling. At issue is tightening restraints to inflict pain.

In Public Committee Against Torture in Israel v. Prime Minister, former HCJ President Aaron Barak said:

"A reasonable interrogation is an interrogation without torture, without cruel or inhuman treatment of the interrogee, and without a humiliating attitude thereto."

"It is forbidden to use brutal and inhuman measures during the course of the interrogation."

"Painful cuffing is a prohibited action. Moreover: other means exist to prevent escape from lawful custody or to protect the interrogators which do not involve pain and suffering to the interrogee."

(3) the UN fact finding commission finding that Israeli security forces "arbitrarily" killed nine Mavi Marmara humanitarian activists.
(4) targeted assassinations.
(5) whitewashed investigations, unaccountability, and few prosecutions of Israelis involved in killings and other human rights abuses.
(6) "unnatural deaths" in prisons.
(7) prison "deficiencies," including sub-standard isolation cells.
(8) detentions without charge up to six months, "renewable indefinitely."
(9) arrests for "security reasons," "even when the accused posed no clear danger."
(10) "denial of fair public trial(s)."
(11) "arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence."
(12) free expression and press restrictions, including prohibiting journalists from entering Gaza; requiring media organizations "submit to military censors any material relating to specific military issues" or strategic ones; impeding free assembly, association, and movement; as well as other civil liberty violations.
(13) discrimination against citizens and residents of Arab origin.
(14) human rights violations against refugees and asylum seekers with regard to status, social rights, safety, and "hot return" policy.

Ron Paul's Anti-Progressive Agenda

Stephen Lendman

Compared to a rogue's gallery of Republican aspirants, supporters claim Paul looks good by comparison. Look again and think carefully about America in his hands.

True enough, he wants the Federal Reserve abolished. He calls it "dishonest, immoral, unconstitutional," and America's "great(est) threat and prosperity."

"Out-of-control (and) secretive, (it) pumps money into the economy whenever it chooses and makes secret deals with Wall Street executives, foreign central banks, and other politically-connected insiders without any significant oversight from Congress."

Several times in Congress he introduced the Federal Reserve Abolition Act. Without co-sponsors, no further action followed.

Yet, restoring sound money and producing growth requires Fed abolition. Money power in private hands is scandalous. Returning it to public hands where it belongs is essential; namely, the US Treasury as the Constitution's Article I, Section 8 mandates.

Wanting America's wealth used for productive growth, Paul opposes squandering it on imperial wars. At the same time, his hard-right world view stops short of criticizing US imperialism and endorsing peace, despite saying:

"We can no longer afford to police the world, in terms of both dollars and American lives. We will destroy ourselves if we do not stop, build a strong national defense at home, and focus on commerce with the world instead of empire."

Nonetheless, he backed attacking Afghanistan, no matter its illegality. However, he strongly opposed war on Libya, saying:

"The current situation may be a short-term victory for empire, but it is a loss for our American Republic."

He also called Washington's involvement "unconstitutional," but stopped short of including all US post-WW II wars. Only Congress, not presidents, can declare war under UN Charter provisions. None were since December 8, 1941.

US menaces Iran over Strait of Hormuz

Peter Symonds

In this photo, Iranian Navy personnel take part in their naval maneuvers dubbed Velayat 90 on the Sea of Oman, Iran, on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011. An Iranian surveillance plane has recorded video and photographed a U.S. aircraft carrier during Iran's ongoing navy drill near a strategic waterway in the Persian Gulf, the official IRNA news agency reported on Thursday. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Ali Mohammadi)

The Obama administration has issued what amounts to a threat of war against Iran following comments by senior Iranian officials that Tehran would close the Strait of Hormuz in response to an embargo on its oil exports. To reinforce the point, the US navy sent two of its warships—the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and the guided-missile destroyer USS Mobile Bay—on a “routine transit” through the strategic waterway where the Iranian navy is currently holding exercises.

The growing tensions in the Persian Gulf are the result of provocative steps by the US and its European allies towards blocking Iranian oil exports. President Obama is about to sign a measure into law that would freeze the US assets of foreign financial institutions doing business with Iran’s central bank—moves that would seriously impede Iranian oil exports. At the same time, Britain and France are pressing the European Union to adopt an embargo on the import of Iranian oil.

Any restriction on Iran’s energy exports would seriously damage the country’s economy, which is already under pressure from previous sanctions imposed both unilaterally by the US and its allies and by the UN Security Council.

Israel v. Palestine in 2012

Stephen Lendman

Photo: Twice now, unarmed Palestinians demonstrators and their supporters from the refugee camps around Israel, adopting the tactics of the Arab Spring, have challenged the Israeli occupation and their own historic dispossession by marching on Israel's occupation borders. And on both occasions, Israel has adopted the vicious tactics of the most ruthless Arab regimes by responding to these unarmed demonstrators with lethal force.

Palestinians have endured decades of ruthless occupation. World leaders decline support. They're left largely on their own despite growing millions globally supporting them.

Life in occupied Palestine is harsh and repressive. On December 26, Jerusalem's mayor, Nir Barakat, delivered another blow. The Municipality will classify 70,000 Israeli Arab citizens non-residents and involuntarily transfer them to West Bank locations.

At issue is entirely Judaizing Jerusalem through forced ethnic cleansing to facilitate escalated settlement construction. It's also part of creating a greater Jerusalem and preventing a two-state solution.

The Agony of Iraq, the Country of My Birth

Adnan Al-Daini

A local farmer from the Fedaliyah area of New Baghdad
herds his jammous into the Diyala River to cool off.

As a seventeen year old, in 1962, I was one of a group of about 10 Iraqi students doing A levels in a college in the UK.  The group included three Christians, one Kurd and the rest were Muslims.  Please do not ask me how many of the Muslims were Shia and how many were Sunni.  I had no idea and neither had anyone else.  I only knew of the religion and ethnicity of others through casual conversations. That is not how we defined ourselves. The only label that mattered was that we were all Iraqis.

Not long ago I was sent a list of Iraqi politicians and members of the Iraqi parliament, and against each name was written the label Shia, Sunni, Kurdish, Christian and other designations defining ethnicity or sect.  I wrote back decrying the fact that if  intellectuals and opinion-formers were engaging in defining people with these labels, how could we blame the rest of Iraqi society for doing the same?

The illegal Iraq war has melted the glue that bound Iraqi society together. Paul Bremer, the American viceroy in charge of Iraq after the war, headed the Coalition Provisional Authority whose members were based on quotas representing the mosaic of Iraqi society.  It thus deliberately employed the maxim of divide and rule.  But why should the Iraqis expect otherwise?  The American aim, supported by Britain, was to occupy Iraq and control its oil, and this is the tried and tested way of all occupiers and colonizers.

Escalating Anti-Iranian Tensions

Stephen Lendman

The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Arabian Sea in
2010 (Photo:

Whether or not anti-Iranian rhetoric, saber rattling, sanctions, other policy measures, and recent events signal war isn't known. Growing dangers though mount. America targets all independent regimes. At issue is replacing them with client ones.

In October, Washington falsely charged Iran with plotting to kill Saudi Arabia's US ambassador. In November, outdated, forged, long ago discredited, and perhaps nonexistent documents were used to claim Iran's developing nuclear weapons.

According to America's latest March 2011 intelligence estimate, no credible evidence proves it. Nor was Iran involved in 9/11.

Nonetheless, on December 15, Manhattan Federal Judge George Daniels said he'll sign an order accusing Iran, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda of 9/11 responsibility.

In response to a lawsuit brought by family members of 9/11 victims, he claimed Iran provided material support to Al Qaeda. He based it on fake evidence and spurious testimonies from three Iranian defectors. Their affidavits remained sealed during court proceedings.

In late December, Daniels assessed Iran $100 billion in damages. According to attorney Dennis Pantazis:

"We have worked over eight years, consulted hundreds of intelligence experts, reviewed thousands of documents and reports and traveled to three continents and multiple countries to interview eyewitnesses. The ruling stands for the proposition that no matter how big or powerful evil is, it will always be revealed."

His rant omitted clear evidence of CIA and Mossad involvement, not Iran, Hezbollah or Al Qaeda.

World War III Has Begun – It`s the First Asymmetric War Long Awaited by Pentagon Think Tanks

Wayne Madsen

The Pentagon has already declared World War III and President Barack Obama and the Congress never even carried out their constitutional duties to approve the use of American military power for war.

One might reasonably conclude that the United States has outsourced war. Presently, World War III is being conducted on two continents – Asia and Africa – with two others – Europe and South America – looming on the horizon. Today, wars are crafted by the upper one percent of wealthy elitists who, using non-governmental organizations, television networks, non — profit “think tanks,” and public relations firms, can declare war on nations without a whimper from elected public officials.

Symmetric warfare is no longer an option for the global elites. World Wars I and II severely affected the investments of many of the global elite families as a result of the destruction of cities, factories, railways, seaports, and other infrastructures. The Korean, Vietnam, the Arab-Israeli, and Iraq wars were messy affairs that also adversely affected markets and destroyed valuable infrastructures. The Cold War never developed into a hot nuclear war because of the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), which ensured that a nuclear first strike by either the West or the East would result in total annihilation of both sides, along with the rest of the world. Even a western military attack on China would have had disastrous results for the attackers, especially since China could retaliate with a nuclear counter-attack and wipe out the U.S. Seventh Fleet and its East Asian naval bases, including Okinawa and Guam. A new type of warfare was required by the elites: asymmetric warfare – the use of unconventional warfare tactics, including information warfare, by proxies, non-state actors, agents provocateur, and fifth columns.

Largely financed by hedge fund mega-tycoon George Soros and his Central Intelligence Agency interlocutors, our present asymmetric World War III was field tested just like any new product. The “themed” revolutions were market-tested first in Serbia, and then in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan, to oust problematic governments that did not want to get on board with the dictates of the unelected and unaccountable real controllers of the financial and political destiny of the world.

The Split: Differences over Israel tear apart a Jewish marriage

William T. Hathaway

The Israeli government has launched an aggressive adver-
tising campaign in the U.S. to discourage its expats from
marrying American Jews, who some see as not really Jews
at all.
(The Daily Beast)

From the book
RADICAL PEACE: People Refusing War
by William T. Hathaway

Stan and Hannah Cooper are friends of mine from college days. Both are Jewish, but they have diametrically opposed views about Israel, and their differences have become so bitter that they've decided to divorce. As the three of us talked about this, it became clear that their dispute is a microcosm of the conflict that is tearing the Jewish community apart and also destroying lives in an increasingly large part of the world.

William: Your differences must have become quite serious if you've decided to end your marriage after all these years.

Stan: Well, these are very serious issues. If you take the Holocaust seriously, you have to support Israel. And Hannah doesn't. If she has her way, if the people she supports come to power in Israel and the USA, they'll stop resisting the terrorists and become holier than thou pacifists while the Arabs push the Jews into the sea and blow up half the USA. Then the pacifists will cry about what a tragedy it all is.

Well, I'm not going through another tragedy. I'm not going to see America and Israel destroyed because we didn't have the courage to stand up to fanatics. I'm not going to have our generation go through something like our grandparent's went through. Once is enough, once was way too many, and now we finally have to defend ourselves.

Hannah: No way am I in favor of pushing the Jews into the sea. Whenever we talk about this, you exaggerate my position. You get very thin skinned and go into your attack mode.

Settlers run rampage in West Bank

Khalid Amayreh in occupied Jerusalem

A man waves the Palestinian flag as he waits at the
Beituniya checkpoint for released Palestinian pri-
soners to cross into the West Bank city of Ramallah
in the second and final phase of a swap with Hamas.

Nazi-like Jewish settlers have continued to attack mosques and churches in the West Bank as part of a seemingly concerted effort to force Palestinians to leave their homes.

The government-backed settlers often describe their frequent attacks on Palestinians and their properties as "price tag" reprisals against the Israeli army for daring to dismantle some isolated Jewish settler outposts.

As to why the settler terrorists choose to target innocent Palestinians, not the army, settler spokespersons argue that attacking Palestinian mosques -- and to a lesser extent churches -- creates headlines, and effectively highlights the settlers' "grievances" in addition to embarrassing the occupation army.

Another reason for the wanton terror has to do with the simple fact that the settlers can do it virtually with impunity. Indeed, despite the fact that as many as 20 mosques and six churches have been targeted of late, not a single settler has been apprehended for the attacks.

This colossal failure, say Jewish commentators, may be attributed to two main reasons. First, lack of political will on the Israeli government's part to harm or collide with the settlers since a confrontation with the settlers would probably bring down the government, or at least make a sizable segment of Israelis lose confidence in it.

The current coalition government includes key fundamentalist Talmudic parties that are largely considered "settler parties". These include the so-called National Union, which advocates ethnic cleansing of non-Jews, Shas, the Haredi ultra-orthodox party representing Middle Eastern Jews, as well as the Likud, which is no less demagogic and racist vis-³-vis the Palestinians.

Second, Israeli settlers and their supporters have infiltrated both the Israeli army itself as well as the justice system, hence the "kid gloves" treatment settlers receive from the political and military establishment as well as the courts.

Ten Good Things About a (Not So) Bad Year

Medea Benjamin

Medea Benjamin with demonstrators in Cairo.

I had the privilege of starting out the year witnessing, firsthand, the unfolding of the Egyptian revolution in Tahrir Square. I saw people who had been muzzled their entire lives, especially women, suddenly discovering their collective voice. Singing, chanting, demanding, creating. And that became the hallmark of entire year–people the world over becoming empowered and emboldened simply by watching each other. Courage, we learned in 2011, is contagious!

1. The Arab Spring protests were so astounding that even Time magazine recognized “The Protester” as Person of the Year. Sparked by Tunisian vendor Mohamed Bouazizi‘s self-immolation to cry out against police corruption in December 2010, the protests swept across the Middle East and North Africa—including Egypt,Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Algeria, Iraq, and Jordan. So far, uprisings have toppled Tunesian President Ben Ali, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi–with more shake-ups sure to come. And women have been on the front lines of these protests, highlighted recently by the incredibly brave, unprecedented demo of 10,000 Egyptian women protesting military abuse.

2. Wisconsin caught the Spring Fever, with Madison becoming home to some 100,000 protesters opposing Governor Walker’s threat to destroy collective bargaining and blame the state’s economic woes on public workers. Irate Wisconsinites took over the Capitol, turning it into a festival of democracy, while protests spread throughout the state. The workers managed to loosen the Republican stranglehold on Wisconsin state government and send a message to right-wing extremists across the country. This includes Ohio, where voters overwhelmingly rejected Governor Kasich’s SB 5, a measure designed to restrict collective bargaining rights for more than 360,000 public employees. A humbled Kasich held a press conference shortly after the vote, saying: “The people have spoken clearly. You don’t ignore the public.”

Gaza: Remembering Cast Lead

Stephen Lendman

More Cast Lead photos here.

December 27 marks the third anniversary of Israel's lawless war on Gaza. Without provocation, three weeks of terror bombing and invasion devastated the Strip.

Missiles, bombs, shells, and illegal weapons were used against defenseless people. Mass slaughter and destruction followed.

Brazen crimes of war and against humanity were committed. Responsible officials remain unaccountable. Security Council no-fly zone protection wasn't ordered. International leaders shared culpability through silence. They still do. Washington was complicit by supplying Israel with weapons, munitions, and encouragement.

Cast Lead’s one of history's great crimes. Before his fall from grace, Richard Goldstone said:

"(T)here is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity."

Over 1,400 Gazans were killed, 80% or more civilians. Thousands more were injured, many seriously, and extensive civilian infrastructure and private property were destroyed or damaged, including homes, schools, hospitals, mosques, and businesses.

No political system can function without a free press: Mark Kingwell

Kourosh Ziabari

Prof. Mark Kingwell is a world renowned Canadian author and philosopher. He is the associate chair at University of Toronto's Department of Philosophy. Kingwell is a fellow of Trinity College. He specializes in theories of politics and culture. Kingwell has published twelve books, most notably, A Civil Tongue: Justice, Dialogue, and the Politics of Pluralism, which was awarded the Spitz Prize for political theory in 1997. Spitz Prize is annually awarded by a panel based in the Department of Political Science of Columbia University to the author of the best book in liberal and/or democratic theory.

Kingwell is the contributing editor to Harper's Magazine. His articles on philosophy, culture, journalism, art and architecture have appeared on the New York Times, Utne Reader, Adbusters, Harvard Design Magazine, Toronto Life, the Globe and Mail and the National Post.

His main areas of interest are political philosophy, cultural criticism, philosophy of art and continental philosophy.

Mark has been the editor of "The Varsity," the second oldest student newspaper of Canada from 1983 to 1984 and the "University of Toronto Review" from 1984 to 1985.

Prof. Kingwell's works have been translated into ten languages and among his notable books are "Dreams of Millennium: Report from a Culture on the Brink," "Practical Judgments: Essays in Culture, Politics, and Interpretation" and "Nearest Thing to Heaven: The Empire State Building and American Dreams."

Prof. Kingwell kindly joined me in an exclusive interview and answered my questions about philosophy, popular culture, the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street Movement and ethics in journalism.

Is There a Limit to Black Tolerance of Obama's Police State, Assassinations and Wars?

Glen Ford

What if the First Black President eviscerated the rule of law, legalizing assassination and detention of U.S. citizens without trial? Would he still be considered a “credit to his race?” His supporters may convince themselves they are safe in Obama’s hands, but he has also “given President Gingrich or President Romney or President Palin those powers – the same powers Egyptian generals have used to imprison thousands of protesters in military jails.”

With preventive detention the law of the land and political assassination official U.S. policy, Obama is poised to enter the realm of the unthinkable.

In my political circles, we used to go through the rhetorical exercise of asking each other, What does President Obama have to do to irretrievably alienate his core of supporters? What horrific atrocity would Obama have to commit, that would cause him to lose his solid Black base?

The problem with this little game of What If, was that Obama kept upping the ante, with one outrage after another, each more nightmarish than the last. What if he put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block? Obama promptly did that, two weeks before taking the oath of office. So we had to pick another hypothetical Obama act that might constitute a deal-breaker with Black America. How about: What if the First Black President launched an all out military attack on Africa? Seven months ago he did just that, in Libya, following up with a huge intensification of the cruelest war in the world, against Somalia, and the assignment of U.S. Special Forces to central Africa.

It was becoming evident that there was no line of civilized behavior that Obama would not cross in service of corporate empire at home and abroad. And yet, his core supporters had still not reached their limits of tolerance for the man in whom they had invested so much hope in 2008.

Obama Year Three: Continuing His Rogue Agenda

Stephen Lendman

Obama Year One: Betrayal and Failure (Part I)
Obama Year One: Betrayal and Failure (Part II)
Obama Year Two: Continued Betrayal and Failure (Part I)
Obama Year Two: Continued Betrayal and Failure (Part II)

In 2011, Obama continued the destructive pattern he followed in years one and two. Throughout his tenure, he's done what supporters thought impossible.

Across the board on domestic and foreign issues, he governed to the right of George Bush. He's waged multiple imperial wars, plans others, looted the nation's wealth, wrecked the economy, consigned growing millions to impoverishment without jobs, and institutionalized tyranny to target dissenters challenging political corruption, corporate crooks, or abuse of power lawlessness.

He also promotes regime change in Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Lebanon, and other independent states. In addition, he targets Russia's military strength and China's growing economic might. At the same time, he supports ruthless, corrupt tyrants.

Moreover, he authorized indefinitely detaining anyone called a national security threat without charge (including US citizens). He continues Bush's rendition and torture policies, authorized killing US citizens abroad, (like Anwar Al-Awaki for opposing America's belligerency), and deployed Special Forces death squads covertly to 120 or more countries.

Notably, he destroyed hard won labor rights, wants education commodified and made another business profit center, and wages war on whistleblowers, dissenters, Muslims, Latino immigrants, and environmental and animal rights activists called terrorists.

Throughout his tenure, he's governed lawlessly for the monied interests that own him. He hasn't disappointed at the expense of core constituents and others deserving better.

Year three: Obama's destructive agenda continued.

American Spring: Revolution 2.0

Andrew Bosworth

It is easy to imagine an “American Spring” in 2012, and a non-violent revolution that restores the Constitution and gives Americans a chance at peace and prosperity.

People would converge to create a critical mass: the original Tea Partiers (1.0) and Occupy Wall Street protesters, among others, in a united front.

This is not a remote possibility. This article is not speculative but is rather reporting stirrings visible today…

This convergence would advance core goals, but it would also encourage debate in order to transcend the “liberal-conservative” spectrum.

Only a convergence, after all, can create a nation in which free markets and social cooperation are mutually reinforcing – taking Americans to the next level of individual liberty and .

Fortunately, the US Constitution already provides a working template for decentralization and bottom-up change. There is no need to re-invent the wheel.

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