The Israel-Palestine Conflict

Who Profits from the Israeli Occupation?

Now, more then ever, Israeli activists need a powerful global movement to help us build a just peace in Israel/ Palestine. Looking for effective tools for ending the occupation, we have launched a new website listing companies directly involved in the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. The grassroots initiative, of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace, includes a database and an information center, and reflects an on-going two-year effort, rigorous research, documentation and site visits.

This unprecedented on-line resource already lists about 200 companies, and hundreds more will be added during 2009, offering an extensive and intricate mapping of the corporate aspects and interests in the continued occupation. The website offers a new useful categorization of all corporate interests in the occupation, and exposes specific examples of direct involvement of many international and Israeli companies for the first time. In tracing ownership links it shows in detail how some of Israel’s largest corporations are tied in with the occupation.

The database allows for advanced searches, such as: Which U.S. corporations support the West Bank military checkpoints? Which of the companies are listed in the London stock-exchange? What settlements’ production is formally registered inside Israel? Note, however, that the on-line data is always partial, always growing, and please send us any relevant information, further requests for information or suggestions.

As Israeli activists, we feel obligated to try and educate ourselves and others about the economic incentives and corporate involvement in the occupation, but this is not enough. You can support our efforts by continuing this investigation in your own country, by informing others of our website, or by sending us a much needed donation.


Judeo-Nazis demand pound of flesh from Erdogan

By Soner Cagaptay

Turkey is a special Muslim country. Of the more than 50 majority-Muslim nations, it is the only one that is a NATO ally, is in accession talks with the European Union, is a liberal democracy and has normal relations with Israel. Under its current government by the Justice and Development Party (AKP), however, Turkey is losing these special qualities. Liberal political trends are disappearing, E.U. accession talks have stalled, ties with anti-Western states such as Iran are improving and relations with Israel are deteriorating. On Thursday, for example, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan walked out of a panel at Davos, Switzerland, after chiding Israeli President Shimon Peres for “killing people.” If Turkey fails in these areas or wavers in its commitment to transatlantic structures such as NATO, it cannot expect to be President Obama’s favorite Muslim country.

Consider the domestic situation in Turkey and its effect on relations with the European Union. Although Turkey started accession talks, that train has come to a halt. French objections to Turkish membership slowed the process, but the impact of the AKP’s slide from liberal values cannot be ignored. After six years of AKP rule, the people of Turkey are less free and less equal, as various news and other reports on media freedom and gender equality show. In April 2007, for instance, the AKP passed an Internet law that has led to a ban on YouTube, making Turkey the only European country to shut down access to the popular site. On the U.N. Development Program’s gender-empowerment index, Turkey has slipped to 90th from 63rd in 2002, the year the AKP came to power, putting it behind even Saudi Arabia. It is difficult to take seriously the AKP’s claim to be a liberal party when Saudi women are considered more politically, economically and socially empowered than Turkish women.

Then there is foreign policy. Take Turkey’s status as a NATO ally of the United States: Ankara’s rapprochement with Tehran has gone so far since 2002 that it is doubtful whether Turkey would side with the United States in dealing with the issue of a nuclear Iran. In December, Erdogan told a Washington crowd that “countries that oppose Iran’s nuclear weapons should themselves not have nuclear weapons.”

The AKP’s commitment to U.S. positions is even weaker on other issues, including Hamas. During the recent Israeli operations in Gaza, Erdogan questioned the validity of Israel’s U.N. seat while saying that he wants to represent Hamas on international platforms. Three days before moderate Arab allies of Washington, including Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, gathered on Jan. 19 in Kuwait to discuss an end to the Gaza conflict, Erdogan’s officials met with Iran, Syria and Sudan in Qatar, effectively upstaging the moderates. Amazingly, Turkey is now taking a harder line on the Arab-Israeli conflict than even Saudi Arabia.

For years, Turkey has had normal relations with Israel, including strong military, tourist, and cultural and commercial ties. The Turks did not emphasize religion or ideology in their relationship with the Jewish state, so Israelis felt comfortable visiting, doing business and vacationing in Turkey. But Erdogan’s recent anti-Israeli statements — he even suggested that God would punish Israel — have made normal relations a thing of the past. On Jan. 4, 200,000 Turks turned out in freezing rain in Istanbul to wish death to Israel; on Jan. 7, an Israeli girls’ volleyball team was attacked by a Turkish audience chanting, “Muslim policemen, bring us the Jews, so we can slaughter them.”

Emerging anti-Semitism also challenges Turkey’s special status. Anti-Semitism is not hard-wired into Turkish society — rather its seeds are being spread by the political leadership. Erdogan has pumped up such sentiments by suggesting Jewish culpability for the conflict in Gaza and alleging that Jewish-controlled media outlets were misrepresenting the facts. Moreover, on Jan. 6, while demanding remorse for Israel’s Gaza operations, Erdogan said to Turkish Jews, “Did we not accept you in the Ottoman Empire?” Turkey’s tiny, well-integrated Jewish community is being threatened: Jewish businesses are being boycotted, and instances of violence have been reported. These are shameful developments in a land that has provided a home for Jews since 1492, when the Ottomans opened their arms to Jewish people fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. The Ottoman sultans must be spinning in their graves.

The erosion of Turkey’s liberalism under the AKP is alienating Turkey from the West. If Turkish foreign policy is based on solidarity with Islamist regimes or causes, Ankara cannot hope to be considered a serious NATO ally. Likewise, if the AKP discriminates against women, forgoes normal relations with Israel, curbs media freedoms or loses interest in joining Europe, it will hardly endear itself to the United States. And if Erdogan’s AKP keeps serving a menu of illiberalism at home and religion in foreign policy, Turkey will no longer be special — and that would be unfortunate.

Soner Cagaptay, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is the author of “Islam Secularism and Nationalism in Modern Turkey: Who Is a Turk?”


Another take on Bullshit Broadcasting Corporation

By Will Self

If the protesting luvvies really wanted to make a point about Gaza, they’d attack Israel and the British government

Whether Mark Thompson’s decision not to air the Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal for Gaza on the BBC was the right one, the response of a whole phalanx of luvvies and legs (the term used by TV techies for those in front of the cameras) has been laughable.

Oh! How they’re appalled at the pusillanimous BBC in the face of this ‘humanitarian’ disaster – yet few of them spoke out loud and clear against the actions of Israel that caused it, nor, by extension, against the supine British government whose consistent failure to roundly condemn Israel is far more important than a charity advert.

Why don’t they do something that might cause a stir, like refusing to pay tax?

I wonder if the luvvies, the legs and the old Trots for whom Stop the War is a front, will make common cause with Charles Moore and his tweedy Telegraph clique who so object to the salary paid Jonathan Ross? All these disparate elements have committed themselves to a dreadful act of civil disobedience, namely, refusing to pay their licence fee.

Of course, none of them would have the balls to do anything that could really end them up in choky – like refusing to pay their taxes. Taxes which are used, among other things, to subsidise the British arms manufacturers, who made the night vision equipment that was sold to the Israeli air force so their pilots could bomb the Palestinians.

It strikes me that the Ross/Brand ballyhoo and the Gaza appeal brouhaha are both examples of a nauseating narcissism on the part of the British middle class. The senior citizen offended may have been Andrew Sachs, and the homeless, starving people may be Palestinians, yet it remains, resolutely, all about us.

That’s what the BBC has become, not simply a screen, but a mirror that these Volvo-driving Calibans stare at themselves in, then become enraged when all they see reflected there is their own moral weakness and self-centredness.

Victims of war and natural disasters are equally worthy of our beneficence

After all, if anyone really did want to contribute to the Disasters Emergency Committee, on principle (and not merely to assuage the guilt provoked by distressing TV images), he or she could pick up the phone, or log on to the internet and do so. Now that the ‘row’ has gone on for days, there can hardly be anyone left in the country who isn’t aware of the appeal, and what it’s for.

The truth is that the victims of war and the victims of natural disasters are equally worthy of our beneficence – nobody, who isn’t actually firing a gun at the time, deserves to be killed by shells with a payload of white phosphorus, any more than they deserve to be swept away by a tsunami.

The paradox is that those licence fee evaders who bleat on about ‘humanitarian’ crises are quite as bad as those who unashamedly believe that might is right – with an added dash of hypocrisy thrown in for good measure. ‘Humanitarian’ in the context of Gaza is nothing but a fig leaf held over the rampant obscenity of Israel’s aggression, and by focusing their attention on the BBC baddies, the protesters are ignoring those really at fault.


Society for the Revival of Satan-Worship Cancels Turkish Holiday

By Irit Rosenblum and Zohar Blumenkrantz, Haaretz Correspondent

Israeli tourism to Turkey took a nosedive after Thursday’s incident at the Davos World Economic Conference, where Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stormed off the stage after verbally sparring with President Shimon Peres over last month’s fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Tourism officials are reporting massive cancelations of Turkish vacations booked for the Pesach holiday period and for this summer.

Turkey is the single most popular foreign destination for Israeli tourists, representing 13% of all departures and generating an estimated $300 million in annual revenues. About 70% of these travelers head for the resorts of Antalya. Many of the tourism packages are booked through Israeli workplaces. Israel Airports Authority figures put Turkey as Israelis’ second-favorite destination for 2008 after the United States, with well over half a million taking the short hop to beaches and cheap shopping.

“We have suspended all the negotiations we had been conducting with hotels for the upcoming spring and summer in Turkey, until we feel that it is comfortable and safe there and that we are wanted in that country. Travelers are being diverted to Greece and Cyprus,” Arkia Israel Airlines CEO Gad Tepper said this weekend. “Workers’ committees at companies and large public institutions are canceling their activities in Turkey, and we have cut our flights to Antalya to a minimum,” Tepper added.

Eyal Kashdan, CEO of the Flying Carpet travel agency, said reservations are down by 50% on last January.

Ronen Karso of Issta Travel Lines said the workers’ committee of the Israel Electric Corporation informed the company that they will not be booking trips to Turkey this year, adding that other unions have done likewise.

Yossi Fattal, head of the Israel Tourist and Travel Agents Association, said that the travelers’ boycott is unprecedented in Israel. He believes, however, that the impact will not be as severe as it would now appear. “The Israeli memory isn’t very long – half a year is like an ice age and the memory will fade.”


Postcard to Kenneth Roth

By WiZaNe


Bringing democracy to the Arab world.

By KHALED ABU TOAMEH

It’s no secret that several Palestinian Authority and Fatah officials in the West Bank would have liked to see Operation Cast Lead end with the removal of Hamas from power in the Gaza Strip.

Of course, these officials are still not prepared to go on the record to express their displeasure over the failure of the IDF offensive to get rid of the Hamas regime. However, in private conversations over the past few days, many of them voiced “deep disappointment” over the fact that Israel ended the war without having totally crushed Hamas.

One of these officials, a close associate of Mahmoud Abbas’s, went as far as saying in a closed meeting that Israel made a “big mistake” by not finishing the job and keeping Hamas in power.

While Operation Cast Lead may have caused heavy damage to Hamas’s military capabilities, it has also left the PA leadership in the West Bank in a state of bewilderment and insecurity. Alarmed by the increased sympathy for Hamas in the aftermath of the war, Abbas and his prime minister, Salaam Fayad, have instructed their various security forces to step up their crackdown on the Islamic movement in the West Bank.

In the past three weeks, more than 135 Hamas supporters and members have been rounded up. Among the detainees are journalists, university professors and students and preachers. In some cases, Hamas supporters who were released by the IDF were arrested hours later by the PA security forces.

The crackdown has also included intimidation of reporters and critics. Several Palestinian reporters have been “advised” by Abbas’s top aides not to report on the massive anti-Hamas crackdown. Samir Khawireh, a journalist from Nablus, found himself in a prison cell earlier this week for reporting about the torching of a car belonging to Prof. Abdel Sattar Kassam, a long-time outspoken critic of financial corruption in the PA.

Kassam has blamed Fatah militiamen of being behind the torching of his car. A Fatah leaflet distributed in the city later took credit for the attack. Kassam was recently arrested by PA policemen in Nablus on charges of “incitement” against the PA leadership.

Another reporter, Khaled Amayreh of Hebron, was arrested for 55 hours by PA security agents shortly after he appeared on a TV talk show where he allegedly expressed sympathy with Hamas.

In the past two weeks, the PA leadership organized two pro-Abbas rallies, one in Ramallah and the second in Jenin, in what was seen by many Palestinians as a desperate attempt to show the world that the PA continues to enjoy the backing of the “street.”

But journalists were quick to point out that most of the demonstrators were, in fact, civil servants or members of the security forces dressed in civilian clothes. As one journalist explained, “These organized demonstrations remind us of the rallies that were held by [former Iraqi president] Saddam Hussein and other Arab dictators.”

ACCORDING TO a number of top Fatah operatives in the West Bank, the latest clampdown is the result of growing pressure from the United States and Israel on the PA leadership. Scenes of policemen beating demonstrators and journalists on the streets of Ramallah and Tulkarm are causing heavy damage to the PA leadership’s credibility, they argue.

“We are now being branded traitors in the Arab world,” a Fatah legislator complained this week. “The Americans and Israelis are pushing us to commit suicide.”

Indeed, many Arabs and Muslims appear to believe allegations by Hamas about the PA leadership’s purported involvement in the war. The Arab media is still full of reports suggesting that Israel launched the operation in coordination with Abbas’s men, who allegedly also chose targets that were attacked by the IDF.

ON THE streets of Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem and Jenin, it was not hard this week to find “ordinary” Palestinians who felt that the sole purpose of the war was to bring Abbas and Fatah back to the Gaza Strip. But the majority of these people is afraid to express its views in public, so as not to be targeted by the much-feared Preventative Security Service or the General Intelligence Apparatus.

Such is the degree of this fear that a veteran Fatah operative has stopped talking to the media, since being threatened that his salary would be cut off. The operative, who works as an “adviser” to Fayad’s government, said he received “warnings” from PA security commanders and government officials that he would lose his salary if he continued to publicly demand reforms and democracy.

“Abbas and Fayad are very nervous,” the Fatah official said. “There is no doubt that they are the biggest losers of this war, because they have been discredited among their own people.”

IN A bid to contain, or at least minimize, the damage, the PA leadership has gone on the offensive by launching a propaganda campaign aimed at undermining Hamas. In a series of press conferences, PA ministers and Abbas aides have accused Hamas of stealing aid convoys that were sent to Gaza. Moreover, they have accused Hamas of waging a bloody, kneecapping campaign against Fatah members in the Strip.

As part of the media offensive, Abbas this week appointed top PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo as the man in charge of the Fatah-run media outlets, including TV and radio stations in the West Bank. Abed Rabbo’s main mission is to ensure that the media in general, and the Fatah-controlled news organizations in particular, are completely mobilized in favor of Abbas and Fatah.

BUT THE media campaign and tough security measures are unlikely to boost Abbas’s standing among the Palestinians. On the contrary, the harder Abbas presses, the more points Hamas scores among the Palestinians, especially those living in the West Bank. The main problem is that many Palestinians don’t see Abbas and Fatah as a better alternative to Hamas, largely because of their failure to reform and their open alliance with Israel and the US.


Allan Nairn on Promoting Real Democracy

By Allan

In urban areas with street crime the idealized figure of the honest cop has long been deeply popular, especially among children.

Asked what he wants to be, a young boy in a poor household cries out, eagerly, “Polisi!,” and, on getting his ear twisted by an angry mother, amends, “Allright, I’ll be a doctor!”

Actually, his chances of rising to doctorhood are slim — no spare money, no free education — but they may be greater than those of his becoming an honest cop, since that’s a species that, in this community, only seems to exist on cartoon TV.

The police almost never enter the alley (which happens to be in Indonesia) except via proxy cop-protected drug hoodlums, but poor adults with real, off-screen, experience know that to see a police officer is to tense up and then brace for a shakedown (or beating), even if you’re feeling idealistic and furious enough to walk into a station to report a crime. (The practice of demanding a bribe from someone trying to report a crime sets up an infinity paradox, since the demand is itself a crime, and to report that one you’d have to pay again…)

At one of the main traffic roundabouts there’s an enormous full-color poster of three top uniformed commanders, in medals, posing sternly under the slogan “Honesty”! It commemorates World Anti-Corruption Day and is directly across the street from a huge new bright-blue brothel that’s advertised, in part, as a hotel, but if you walk in and ask about a hotel room, they laugh, and can’t stop laughing.

This facility is on the former turf of the legendary crime lord, Olo, who went down in a power struggle with the old district police chief, Sutanto, who later became the national police commander under the president, Gen. Susilo, who ran for and won office on a platform of anti-corruption.

The other big posters are for April elections, the largest of them being for two mass-murdering, US-protege generals (Prabowo and Wiranto, Adm. Dennis Blair’s old associate [See News and Comment postings of Jan. 6, 9, and 22, 2009, as well as Dec. 7, 2007]), and — perhaps with the male electorate in mind — for several parliamentary candidates who also happen to be beautiful women.

Elections would be one thing if you could vote consequentially against official murder, against withholding food from the starving, and against things like police-as-criminals. But elections become something else if you can’t cast such big choice votes. In such typical cases, elections become diversions of popular hope and energy that end up legitimating and reinforcing unjust orders rather than reforming them.

But even if you get a rare chance to vote on basics, or on sensitive power issues, watch out if you’re invadable, since if you vote wrong, there could be trouble.

Condoleeza Rice pushed for the ’06 Gaza / West Bank election that Hamas surprised her by winning, and which was acknowledged by President Bush as valid, before he OK’d punishment (see footnote).

On Bloomberg TV this week, from Davos, George Soros, when asked about plunging oil prices, said that the drop was unfortunate in that it’s, for example, hurting Dubai property, but on the other hand “however it’s not all bad news because the main oil producing countries have been the enemies of the prevailing world order” and the price drop is now hurting them, specifically Russia, Iran, and Venezuela, where, Soros said “It’s not so easy to finance a Bolivarian revolution with $40 oil.”

Soros, anticipating further good news regarding Hugo Chavez, said “probably his days are numbered” — and estimated that Chavez would last less than a year, which means that according to the world’s top “democracy-promotion” funder, Venezuela’s freely elected president (whose legal term is due to last 4 more years) should perhaps start looking out his window, looking not for voters, but tanks (“For the Record,” Bloomberg TV, aired Jan. 30, 2009).

More fundamentallly, one might wish to hope that a major US left-liberal like Soros might also want to consider himself to be an ” enem[y] of the prevailing world order,” a world order in which, as a text scroll from Davos noted: “More than 24,000 people die of hunger every day” (CNN International, January 30, ’09, during an interview with the Oxfam executive director). But that would be a poorly informed hope, at least regarding billionaires (who could each personally feed those 24,000 people, instead of choosing not to), and also regarding most anyone in the current top US leadership and funding strata.

But, given free will, it is indeed possible for them, and especially, less-rich people, to say ‘Enough!’

If something kills innocent people en masse, it deserves to have enemies.

If a rich-world figure says they’re pro-democracy, start off by asking them this: How would they feel about running the UN Security Council based on direct world popular vote, instead of nuclear weapons (vetoes are now held by the Permanent Five, the immediate-post-WWII nuclear powers), and the same with the world distribution of wealth and key questions of murder law enforcement?

That’s not to suggest democracy as cure-all. Rule by the people is largely myth. Except possibly in small (non-family) groups, strong people will tend to dominate — the questions are under what constraints; don’t pretend everyone’s in charge.

But the point here is merely that when today’s rich leaders talk democracy, or just talk elections, they usually don’t mean it if that raises the specter of a world with less-insanely-skewed wealth or power, or of a world where honest cops run around in life — and not just on cartoon TV, arresting any evildoer who has wrongly caused, or permitted, people’s deaths.

Footnote:

Bush said, for what it’s worth as testament to pre-punishment homage to democracy:

“[T]he Palestinians had an election yesterday, the results of which remind me about the power of democracy. You see, when you give people the vote, you give people a chance to express themselves at the polls, they — and if they’re unhappy with the status quo, they’ll let you know. That’s the great thing about democracy: It provides a look into society. And yesterday, the turnout was significant, as I understand it. And there was a peaceful process as people went to the polls. And that’s positive. What was also positive is that it’s a wakeup call to the leadership. Obviously, [Palestinian] people were not happy with the status quo. The people are demanding honest government. The people want services. They want to be able to raise their children in an environment in which they can get a decent education and they can find health care. And so the elections should open the eyes of the old guard there in the Palestinian territories. I like the competition of ideas. I like people that have to go out and say, ‘Vote for me and here’s what I’m going to do.’ There’s something healthy about a system that does that. And so the elections yesterday were very interesting” (“President Bush Holds a White House Press Conference,” transcript, The Washington Post, January 26, 2006).

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“Occupations are currently ongoing at London’s Queen Mary College and King’s College and have spread across the country to campuses in, Cambridge, Oxford, Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Coventry and Manchester.”

By KARIN LAUB

For the latest on UK campus occupations:

http://occupations.org.uk/

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Doctors from the United States who rushed to the Gaza Strip to help the war wounded quickly learned that their challenge went beyond treating shrapnel injuries.

The eight American specialists found themselves operating on patients who had fallen victim to the 20-month-border closure that had crippled Gaza’s health care system even before Israel’s offensive against Hamas.

On Tuesday, the team removed a kidney tumor the size of a honey melon from a 4-year-old boy, Abdullah Shawwa, in a five-hour emergency surgery at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital.

The tumor was advanced and without quick intervention Abdullah would likely have died, said Dr. Ismail Mehr, an anesthesiologist from Hornell, N.Y. Doctors in Gaza didn’t have the expertise to operate on him and Abdullah’s father had been unable to get him transferred quickly to Israel or Egypt.

Even after the surgery, Abdullah’s prognosis is uncertain. He’ll need followup treatment, including advanced chemotherapy or radiation, which are not available in Gaza. But it’s been difficult for Gaza patients to get out, ever since Israel and Egypt closed the borders in response to the violent Hamas takeover of the territory in June 2007.

The closure also dealt a further blow to Gaza’s underdeveloped health care system, which lacks sophisticated equipment and key specialists. Hospitals often operate on generators because of disrupted power supplies, and spare parts for some machines are unavailable.

On the eve of the war, Gaza’s hospitals had run out of 250 of the basic 1,000 health care items, and were short on 105 of 480 essential drugs, including some cancer medications and anesthetics, said Mahmoud Daher, a representative of the World Health Organization.

In this vulnerable condition, disaster struck. On Dec. 27, the first day of the war, Israeli warplanes bombed Hamas security compounds across Gaza, killing about 220 people, most of them Hamas police, and wounding some 300 people, according to Health Ministry officials.

Shifa, Gaza’s central hospital, was overwhelmed.

Its six operating theaters couldn’t cope with the waves of seriously wounded. Staff nurse Jihad Ashkar, a 22-year veteran at Shifa, said he had never before seen so many people with multiple injuries that required hours-long surgeries.

“The injured people waited for many hours to enter the theater, so we lost many injured people because we haven’t the equipment or operating rooms,” said Ashkar.

More than 1,280 Gazans were killed in the three-week offensive, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. More than 4,000 people were hurt, including about 500 critically. The 600 most difficult cases were allowed passage to Egypt.

But the war has also changed the lives of those with lighter injuries. Policeman Sabri Elawa, 25, said he was the only one in his 60-member unit to survive the initial bombing raid. Hit by shrapnel in the right leg, he limps and moves with a walker.

On Monday, he stood in an unruly line at Shifa for several hours, waiting to pick up a proof-of-injury document. With paper in hand, he went to two charities in a failed search for the office that would pay the 500 euros promised to each wounded person by the Hamas government.

Two of his relatives, Maisa and Sami Elawa, accompanied him, seeking emergency payment for their 3-year-old son, Zaher, who suffered a broken hip and burns on the face and chest in a shelling attack near their home.

The couple has no income, except for handouts from relatives. They said they can’t afford the medication for Zaher, who was lying on a sofa in the modest living room Monday, alternating between crying and smiling. “He cried for a whole week,” Maisa, 22, said of her son.

She said she’s not sure the relief money will ever materialize. “All of them have forgotten us. We are the victims and every government just looks for their” jobs, she said.

With many of the wounded either sent home or to hospitals abroad, Shifa has largely settled into its prewar routine.

Some of the exhausted Palestinian doctors have been given relief by foreign medical teams that have arrived in Gaza since a cease-fire took hold Jan. 18. Doctors Without Borders set up a white tent clinic on an empty lot in downtown Gaza City and Jordanian specialists are to stay for several months, operating a 44-bed field hospital.

The eight Americans, including a plastic surgeon and a radiologist, performed more than 15 procedures since arriving Sunday, including skin grafts and cancer surgery. The group, which also carried cartons of medical equipment, is to stay through Friday.

Dr. Saeed Akther, a Pakistan-based urologist originally from Lubbock, Texas, performed the surgery on Abdullah, the 4-year-old with the kidney tumor. Palestinian doctors crowded around to watch, one even bringing a portable step so he could peek over the heads of the others.

“The (local) surgeons could not have done it here,” said Mehr. “I am not knocking their ability. You could tell when we were doing it, they had lots of questions. They just would not have been able to handle a tumor this size.”

Abdullah’s father, Mussalam, a butcher in Gaza City’s outdoor market, said the boy was diagnosed only a month ago, after his belly kept swelling. He said his request for treatment outside Gaza was still hung up in bureaucracy when the foreign doctors arrived.

For followup treatment, Abdullah would have to go to Israel. Even during the 20-month closure, Israel has permitted several hundred patients a month — some 900 at its peak — to reach Israeli hospitals for treatment not available in Gaza.

Each trip across the heavily fortified Erez crossing into Israel requires a complicated series of permits from officials in Gaza, the West Bank and finally Israel’s Shin Bet security service.

In recent months, the number of rejections on security grounds has increased, said Miri Weingarten, of the Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, which helps Gaza patients.

She said about 1,000 referrals a month are needed, but that in the period before the war, only about half that number were reaching Israel.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Aviv Shiron said Gaza’s Hamas rulers are responsible for any hardship in Gaza but that Israel has gone out of its way to ensure ongoing medical care.

“Israel has answered every request made by the Red Cross, the U.N. and other humanitarian organizations, regarding health care in Gaza,” he said, adding that “any claims that Israeli policy is harming the health care system in Gaza are false, completely untrue.”

However, international aid groups say the pre-war trickle of aid shipments is not sufficient to deal with Gaza’s growing humanitarian crisis. Rebuilding homes, factories and several health care centers is estimated to cost about $2 billion. Many of the wounded will need rehabiliation.

The American doctors were careful to stay away from politics — the lifting of the closure is linked to complex negotiations between Israel, Hamas, Egypt and others.

But Dr. Ahmed Colwell, an emergency room physician from Sioux City, Iowa, said at least the sick should be given relief.

“It’s inhumane … to not allow them to even have basic medical care,” he said.


“Fighting Terror” v. The Rule of Law

JERUSALEM, Jan 30 (Reuters) – Israel said on Friday the Spanish government had said it would work to amend a law under which a Madrid court is to consider trying seven Israelis over the killing of Palestinians.

Spain’s High Court announced this week it would launch a war crimes investigation into a Israeli ex-defence minister and six other top security officials for their role in a 2002 attack that killed a Hamas commander and 14 civilians in Gaza.

Spanish law allows the prosecution of foreigners for such crimes as genocide, crimes against humanity and torture committed anywhere in the world.

“I was just told by the Spanish foreign minister that Spain decided to change the legislation,” Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told journalists after a telephone conversation with her Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos.

“In order to change the possibility of different organisations, political organisations, to abuse the legal system in Spain in order to put charges against Israelis and others that are fighting terror.”

Spain’s Foreign Ministry did not reply to repeated telephone requests for confirmation.

Spanish state television TVE quoted government sources as saying the possibility of a legal “adjustment or modification” may have been mentioned, but it would not be retroactive and would not affect the case before the courts.

The case, filed on behalf of the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, has sent shockwaves through Israel, which is trying to fend off foreign censure over the civilian casualty toll from its 22-day offensive in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Calls to investigate Israel over alleged war crimes in Gaza conflict prompted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to promise military personnel state protection from foreign prosecution.

Any government-initiated changes to Spanish law would have to be approved by congress. TVE said Spain would not renounce universal jursidiction, which has been on its statute books since 1870.

Livni, who gave no details on how Spain planned to amend the law or handle the case against Israel, said of her conversation with Moratinos:

“I think that this is very important news and I hope that other states in Europe will do the same, and will follow this.” (Writing by Dan Williams; additional reporting by Jason Webb and Martin Roberts in Madrid; editing by Andrew Roche)

Livni says Spain to drop universal legislation

01.30.2009 | etaiwannews.com

By ARON HELLER
Associated Press

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Friday that her Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos informed her that Spain would scale back the authority of its courts following a much-publicized investigation into alleged Israel war crimes.

“I just heard from the Spanish Foreign Minister, Moratinos, that Spain has decided to change its legislation in connection with universal jurisdiction and this can prevent the abuse of the Spanish legal system,” Livni told the Associated Press. “I think this is very important news and I hope that other states in Europe will do the same.”

A Spanish judge began an investigation Thursday into seven current or former Israeli officials over a 2002 bombing in Gaza that killed a top Hamas militant, Salah Shehadeh, and 14 other people, including nine children.

The judge acted under a doctrine that allows prosecution in Spain, and other European countries, to reach far beyond national borders in cases of torture or war crimes. The “universal jurisdiction” ruling sparked outrage in Israel and elsewhere.

One of the Israelis the court aimed to investigate on Friday called the charges “propaganda.” Former military chief of staff Moshe Yaalon told Israel’s Army Radio that he was “not worried” about standing trial. Yaalon, now a candidate for parliament for the Likud Party, said the goal of the Spanish court decision was to delegitimize Israel and “present us as war criminals.”

Cabinet Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, another Israeli official targeted, called the Spanish court decision “ludicrous.”

“Terror organizations use the courts of the free world and the mechanisms of democratic nations to file suit against a country that operates against terror,” Ben-Eliezer, the defense minister at the time of the 2002 bombing, said in a statement. “I do not regret my decision. Salah Shehadeh was a Hamas activist, an arch-murderer whose hands were stained with the blood of about 100 Israelis and who carried out the most heinous attacks against our citizens.”

Current Defense Minister Ehud Barak also issued a statement in which he said: “Whoever calls the killing of a terrorist a ‘crime against humanity’ is living in an upside down world.”

Israel’s Justice Ministry announced Friday that it had transferred material regarding the case to Spanish authorities. It criticized the opening of the case and expressed hope it would be closed soon.

“There is no doubt that this is a cynical political attempt by anti-Israel elements to abuse the Spanish court system and attack Israel,” the ministry said in a statement. “The State of Israel is determined to act against these types of lawsuits in Spain and in other countries with legal and diplomatic means.”

Spain denies Israeli claim that it is to limit Universal Juristiction

01.31.2009 | typicallyspanish.com

By h.b.

Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livno, had claimed that Spain was going to change the legislation under which the Spanish National Court hears cases from other countries.

Spain has denied a claim by the Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, who had claimed that her Spanish counterpart, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, had told her that Spain would be changing the legislation regarding the National Court hearing cases from other countries under the concept of Universal Jurisdiction.

There has been harsh criticism from Israel against the Spanish National Court decision from judge, Fernando Andreu, to accept the case from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and to indict six Israeli soldiers and a previous Minister of Defence for crimes against humanity for dropping a ton bomb on Gaza in 2002. The attack killed their target, a Hamas leader, but also 14 civilians.

The Israeli Ambassador to Spain, Raphael Schutz, has said that in judging his country Spain has lost direction and he claimed the case had the end wish to question the very existence of Israel.

The argument of Universal Justice is based on article 23 of the Organic Law for Judicial Power in Spain.

A statement from the Spanish Government has now denied the words of Livni and said that it has no wish to limit the principle of Universal Justice, but it would look at making procedural changes, but in any case these would not be retroactive or affect this case.

Meanwhile, Hayat, a Palestinian woman, has been celebrating the granting of Spanish nationality for her children who are being held by her husband in Gaza. The mother now wants to recover the children and bring them to Spain. The nationality decision was granted after the personal intervention of Queen Sofía.


“Then there is the diplomatically explosive prospect that a European court could bring charges against American CIA and military operatives accused of torture anywhere in the world, or even indict former Bush administration officials for war crimes…. If European courts sense a reluctance on the part of American officials to act, analysts say, they could use that to justify bringing charges themselves.”

By PAUL HAVEN

MADRID, Spain (AP) — A Spanish judge’s decision to investigate seven Israeli officials over a deadly 2002 attack against Hamas that had nothing to do with Spain has renewed a debate about the long arm of European justice.

Critics say Madrid should mind its own business, particularly since Spain is still struggling to address its own bloody past. Supporters argue that some crimes are so heinous that all of humanity is a victim and somebody has to prosecute them.

Spain is hardly alone. A number of European countries have enacted some form of “universal jurisdiction,” a doctrine that allows courts to reach beyond national borders in cases of torture or war crimes.

_ In 2001, a war crimes suit against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was filed in Belgium by Palestinian survivors of the 1982 Sabra and Chatilla refugee camp massacre in Lebanon. Belgium’s highest court then dismissed the war crimes proceedings against Sharon and others, ruling it had no legal basis to charge them.

_ French judges have opened investigations into Congolese security officials and convicted a Tunisian Interior Ministry official of torturing a fellow citizen on Tunisian soil.

_ And Spain has indicted the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and Osama bin Laden among others, including Argentine dirty war suspects.

“I think some of these judges are looking for publicity, taking on causes that have no business being tried in Spain,” said Florentino Portero, an analyst with the Strategic Studies Group, a conservative Spanish think tank. “They are practicing politics through judicial work.”

The most recent case involves a 2002 bombing in Gaza that killed Hamas militant Salah Shehadeh and 14 other people, including nine children. Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu agreed to take the case on the grounds the incident may have been a crime against humanity — prompting a furious response from Israel.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Spanish decision “makes a mockery out of international law,” and Moshe Yaalon, a former Israeli general named in the probe, termed the case “propaganda.”

Israel’s Justice Ministry said Friday it had transferred material on the case to Spanish authorities and hoped the investigation would be closed soon. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said her Spanish counterpart had assured her his government would promote legislation to limit the authority of Spanish courts.

But Deputy Spanish Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega appeared to contradict Livni’s statement Friday, saying the courts are independent of politics.

Philippe Sands, a professor of law at University College London and the author of “Torture Team,” which looks at U.S. interrogation practices during the administration of President George W. Bush, said most countries allow prosecutions in cases involving torture or war crimes, so long as they have some connection to the case.

He noted that a U.S. court recently convicted the American son of Liberian President Charles Taylor, despite the fact his crimes were committed overseas against non-American citizens. Still, Sands said the question of universal jurisdiction gets murkier when there is no connection to the country doing the prosecuting.

“I am less persuaded that you can exercise universal jurisdiction when there is no connection at all, or where there is no solid treaty basis for exercising such jurisdiction,” Sands said.

Belgium rolled back its universal jurisdiction law in 2003 after foreigners started filing a spate of genocide and war crimes complaints against foreign leaders, including Colin Powell and Dick Cheney, prompting Washington to threaten to move NATO headquarters out of Brussels. The case against Sharon did not result in conviction.

In Spain, the issue is particularly sensitive since the country has never brought charges against its own citizens for crimes committed in the name of Gen. Francisco Franco, the fascist dictator who ruled from the 1930s until his death in 1975. It was only two years ago that Spain passed a law even acknowledging victims of the 1936-1939 civil war.

Emilio Silva, who heads an organization that leads efforts to exhume the bodies of civilians killed by Franco’s forces, said he has no problem with Spanish courts looking outward.

“I think it is good that Spanish courts investigate who they have to investigate, but it is strange that they make an exception of their own country,” he said. “Spain is part of the universe too.”

Then there is the diplomatically explosive prospect that a European court could bring charges against American CIA and military operatives accused of torture anywhere in the world, or even indict former Bush administration officials for war crimes.

Former Bush administration official Susan Crawford was quoted in a Washington Post interview published this month as saying the United States tortured one inmate at Guantanamo Bay, Saudi Mohammed al-Qahtani, in 2002.

Eric Holder, President Barack Obama’s designee for attorney general, has said he considers interrogation methods like waterboarding to be torture, but has not indicated he plans to bring charges against any CIA or military operatives who might have used the technique.

If European courts sense a reluctance on the part of American officials to act, analysts say, they could use that to justify bringing charges themselves.

“Without a doubt the United States is the next step,” Portero said.

Associated Press reporter Jorge Sainz in Madrid contributed to this report.