The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

The idea seems to be a meeting for meeting’s sake. We have watched this procedure for many years. Successive American presidents have undertaken to bring the two sides together. It is an American belief, rooted in Anglo-Saxon tradition, that if two reasonable, decent people get together to thrash out their differences, everything will fall into place. It’s almost automatic: meet – talk – agree. … Unfortunately, it does not quite work this way with conflicts between nations, conflicts that may have deep historical roots. In meetings between leaders of such nations, they often just want to hurl old accusations at each other, with the aim of convincing the world that the other side is utterly depraved and despicable. Kerry and Chutzpah

… IN ALL this bickering, one basic fact is ignored.

It’s that elephant again. The elephant in the room, whose existence Netanyahu denies and which Kerry is trying to ignore.

The occupation.

The assumption is generally made that the negotiations are between equals. In cartoons, Netanyahu and Abbas appear to be of equal size. The American picture of two reasonable people talking it out between themselves presupposes two more or less equal partners.

But this whole picture is basically false. The proposed “negotiations” are between an almighty occupying power and an almost totally powerless occupied people. Between the wolf and the lamb.

Israel considering looser regulations for soldiers in West Bank | Al Akhbar English

Israeli military commanders and parliament members argued Wednesday in favor of changing regulations for soldiers operating in the West Bank in front of a Knesset committee, claiming that the rules governing their actions against Palestinians were too restrictive.

According to the Israeli daily Maariv, three reserve commanders – Amram Mitzna, Danny Yatom and Uzi Dayan – spoke during a Knesset security committee meeting, saying that Israel should address a situation deemed dangerous by Israeli soldiers and field commanders.

Knesset member Moshe Feiglin said Israeli forces felt “impotent” when facing Palestinian demonstrations because of regulations restricting their possible response, Maariv reported.

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon spoke of increasing incidents of soldier injuries, adding that the Israeli army needed to do everything it could to reverse the trend.

Nissim Zeev, a Knesset member and member of the ultra-Orthodox political party Shas, said that “there is nowhere else in the world where soldiers in a situation of confronting the enemy are powerless.”

Zeev described the situation in the West Bank as one of “asymmetrical warfare” in which he claimed the well-armed Israeli troops were disadvantaged when faced against Palestinian protesters.

Israeli occupation forces routinely use an arsenal of live bullets, rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas and skunk water against Palestinians, even during peaceful demonstrations. Palestinians protesters typically respond by throwing rocks and occasional molotov cocktails.

Wednesday’s session was attended by the chief of Israeli forces’ central command, along with heads of West Bank Jewish settlement councils and chief security officers.

According to Maariv, the security committee will hold a closed-door meeting to be attended by the Israeli minister of defense, Moshe Yaalon. The participants will address possible means to “restore Israeli forces’ deterrence and dignity in the West Bank” and give Israeli soldiers more leeway in their dealings with Palestinians.

Since January 2009, Israeli forces have killed 59 Palestinians – including 14 youths aged 18 and under – in the occupied West Bank, while Israeli settlers have killed five, according to Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem.

In January, 15-year-old Salih al-Amarin from the Azza refugee camp near Bethlehem, was shot in the head and killed during a protest, and a week earlier, Samir Ahmed Abdul-Rahim,17, was shot four times and killed by Israeli soldiers in Budrus, near Ramallah.

In April, Amer Nassar, 17, and Naji al-Balbisi,19, were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers during clashes in Tulkarem.

On Tuesday, Israeli soldiers shot 12-year old Atta Sharadeh in the chest while he was walking with school friends near Ramallah. Sharadeh was in sent to the hospital in critical condition.

Stephen Hawking's support for the boycott of Israel is a turning point | Ali Abunimah

fariyah:

A standard objection to the Palestinian campaign for the boycott of Israel is that it would cut off “dialogue” and hurt the chances of peace. We’ve heard this again in the wake of Professor Stephen Hawking’s laudable decision to withdraw from Israel’s Presidential Conference in response to requests from Palestinian academics – but it would be hard to think of a more unconvincing position as far as Palestinians are concerned.

One of the most deceptive aspects of the so-called peace process is the pretence that Palestinians and Israelis are two equal sides, equally at fault, equally responsible – thus erasing from view the brutal reality that Palestinians are an occupied, colonised people, dispossessed at the hands of one of the most powerful militaries on earth.

For more than two decades, under the cover of this fiction, Palestinians have engaged in internationally-sponsored “peace talks” and other forms of dialogue, only to watch as Israel has continued to occupy, steal and settle their land, and to kill and maim thousands of people with impunity.

While there are a handful of courageous dissenting Israeli voices, major Israeli institutions, especially the universities, have been complicit in this oppression by, for example, engaging in research and training partnerships with the Israeli army. Israel’s government has actively engaged academics, artists and other cultural figures in international “Brand Israel” campaigns to prettify the country’s image and distract attention from the oppression of Palestinians.

The vast majority of Palestinians, meanwhile, have been disenfranchised by the official peace process as their fate has been placed in the hands of venal and comprised envoys such as Tony Blair, and US and EU governments that only seem to find the courage to implement international law and protect human rights when it comes to the transgressions of African or Arab states.

When it comes to Israel’s abuses, governments around the world have offered nothing but lip service; while dozens of countries face US, EU or UN sanctions for far lesser transgressions, it has taken years for EU governments to even discuss timid steps such as labelling goods from illegal Israeli settlements, let alone actually banning them. Yet the peace process train trundles on – now with a new conductor in the form of John Kerry, the US secretary of state – but with no greater prospects of ever reaching its destination. So, enough talk already.

The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) aims to change this dynamic. It puts the initiative back in the hands of Palestinians. The goal is to build pressure on Israel to respect the rights of all Palestinians by ending its occupation and blockade of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; respecting the rights of Palestinian refugees who are currently excluded from returning to their homes just because they are not Jews; and abolishing all forms of discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

These demands are in line with universal human rights principles and would be unremarkable and uncontroversial in any other context, which is precisely why support for them is growing.

[…] When we look back in a few years, Hawking’s decision to respect BDS may be seen as a turning point – the moment when boycotting Israel as a stance for justice went mainstream.

What is clear today is that his action has forced Israelis – and the rest of the world – to understand that the status quo has a price. Israel cannot continue to pretend that it is a country of culture, technology and enlightenment while millions of Palestinians live invisibly under the brutal rule of bullets, bulldozers and armed settlers.’

And as if it were totally unexpected - Stephen Hawking: Furore deepens over Israel boycott

Israel approves construction of 300 settler homes in West Bank | Al Akhbar

Israel has given the go-ahead to build nearly 300 homes in the settlement of Beit El near Ramallah, a spokesman said, just two days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allegedly ordered a freeze on construction.

"The Civil Administration has given the green light for 296 housing units at Beit El, but this is only the first stage of a process before actual construction can begin," he said, speaking on behalf of a unit within the defense ministry which administers the West Bank.

He explained that the construction plans were part of a compensatory measure for settlers who were evicted last year from Ulpana, an outpost unauthorized by Israel on the outskirts of Beit El. Ulpana was evacuated in June 2012 following a High Court ruling.

Israel had previously given final approval for 90 new homes in Beit El in February.

The announcement came two days after a report said Netanyahu had quietly ordered a freeze on tenders for new settler homes in a bid to give a chance to US-led efforts to revive peace talks with the Palestinians.

Palestinian officials slammed the decision to approve settlement expansion.

"We condemn this new decision which is proof that the Israeli government wants to sabotage and ruin the US administration’s efforts to revive the peace process," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP.

"This is a message to the American administration and a blow to the peace process," he said, pointing to the "intense" shuttle diplomacy being conducted by US Secretary of State John Kerry to try to bring both sides back to negotiations.

"This aims to drag the region into violence instead of peace and stability," Erakat added.

Hagit Ofran of Israel’s Peace Now settlement watchdog also denounced the move.

"This initiative proves Netanyahu is deceiving the world," she told AFP.

"On the one hand, he lets us believe that he is putting the brakes on settlement and on the other, he gives the go-ahead for an enormous building project."

According to Peace Now data for 2012, at least 1,747 new settlement housing units were built in the past year, and plans were approved for the construction of 6,676 more homes.

The international community views all Israeli construction on occupied Palestinian land as a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention,

The Palestinians say they will not return to negotiations unless Israel freezes construction on land they want for a future state.

Clashes erupt as settlers storm al-Aqsa | Al Akhbar

Israeli settlers, guarded by soldiers, stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem Tuesday, injuring several people and arresting at least three, local media reported.

A group of over 40 settlers, accompanied by members of the far-right Likud party, broke into the mosque interrupting student study sessions as Israeli forces stood guard outside the entrance to bar Palestinians from entering.

Soldiers also fired tear gas at Palestinians protesting the takeover.

Settlers entered the mosque through the Moroccan Gate, denying all Muslims under 50 access to the mosque.

Female students were also denied access to the mosque, resulting in clashes between the women and Israeli forces.

Forces injured a woman attempting to enter. She was later taken to a nearby hospital in Jerusalem for treatment.

Palestinian woman injured by Israeli attack on worshipers in Al Aqsa Mosque few hours ago, evacuated by medics. twitter.com/AlqassamBrigad…

— Alqassam Brigades (@AlqassamBrigade) May 7, 2013

Settlers toured the mosque in commemoration of what Israelis call “Jerusalem Day” marking their military takeover of the Old City in 1967.

In a separate incident Sunday night over 1,000 settlers escorted by soldiers forced their way to the site of Joseph’s Tomb near Balata refugee camp east of Nablus.

Clashes broke out between the forces and Palestinians near the site resulting in three teenagers being treated for tear gas inhalation.

Al-Aqsa is a site of frequent violence between Palestinians and Israeli forces.

In other West Bank news:

Netanyahu quietly curbs settlement expansion: reports
and: Report: Netanyahu promised Kerry to put ‘hold’ on settlement construction

Israelis torch cars, uproot 1,300 trees in West Bank | Al Akhbar

Israeli soldiers and settlers launched a series of attacks across the West Bank Tuesday, destroying Palestinian vehicles, agricultural structures and olive trees, local media reported.

Settlers from the illegal Ofra outpost torched 10 Palestinian-owned vehicles and destroyed other property overnight in the village of Deir Jarir near Ramallah, residents told Ma’an.

Settlers in Ofra, which has been a flashpoint for clashes in recent months, have led a campaign to drive Palestinians from the area in a bid to take over more land to expand the settlement.

In the Hebron village of Susiya, in the southern West Bank, Ma’an reported that Israeli forces destroyed up to 1,300 olive trees Tuesday.

Demolition crews arrived at the village accompanied by soldiers and officials from Israel’s civil administration and proceeded to uproot hundreds of trees.

Soldiers also destroyed agricultural structures and tents Tuesday in the northern Jordan Valley, in the West Bank’s northeastern region, Wafa news agency reported.

Aref Daraghmeh, head of al-Maleh village council, told Wafa that soldiers demolished four structures and tents used to house livestock in the area.

Palestinian prisoner was cancer-stricken for 'years': autopsy report | Al Akhbar English

Deceased Palestinian prisoner Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh had been stricken with cancer for ‘years’ and was treated with improper medication, official doctors from the Palestinian Authority and Jordan have found.

Israeli doctors did not stop Abu Hamdiyeh’s cancer from spreading, although he had been complaining of bodily pains since 2003, Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqe said Thursday as he announced the results of an autopsy.

The 64 year old former Fatah member succumbed to oesophageal cancer on Tuesday. More than 6,000 Palestinians, reported to include all factions, poured into the streets of Hebron for his funeral.

Prison authorities disclosed his diagnosis in February, and said they tried to secure his release shortly after.

A statement from the Israeli Prison Service after his death said: “The prisoner was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in February and was under the medical supervision of experts at the hospital. About a week ago, after being diagnosed as terminal, the IPS appealed to the release committee to secure his early release, a process which had been started but not yet concluded.”

Lawyers and relatives report that prison doctors ran biopsy tests on him in 2012 but refused to inform him of his disease.

“Instead of providing him with the correct treatment, the doctors gave him flu shots that caused severe pain in his chest, which he could hardly sleep after,” said Abu Hamdiyeh’s lawyer al-Alami to Electronic Intifada

His sister Itidal told the online magazine she visited him in January, one month before his official diagnosis, and found that his voice was completely gone.

Angered by Abu Hamdiyeh’s death, the entire Palestinian prisoner population refused their morning meal Wednesday, according to a statement by the IPS, and the Palestinian Authority announced a three-day general strike across the West Bank.

Abu Hamdiyeh is the second Palestinian to die in Israeli custody this year. Arafat Jaradat, 30, died after an interrogation session in February. Palestinian officials said he had been tortured, an allegation Israel denied.

Israel hits Gaza with airstrikes | Salon.com

Israeli airstrikes struck a series of targets in Gaza Wednesday morning, ending an ever-tentative ceasefire that had been in place since last November’s heavy cross-border clashes.

Wednesday’s airstrikes were, according to the Israeli military, “accurate hits” on “terror sites.” The attacks came in response to rocket fire aimed toward Israel and amid heightened Palestinian rage. Palestinian officials have blamed Israel for the death of Palestinian prisoner and cancer sufferer Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, who was allegedly negligently treated. The 64-year-old’s death has sparked hunger strikes and riots among Palestinian prisoners in Israel and may have catalyzed an intensification of cross-border hostilities.

Juan Cole at Informed Comment adds:

The other big news from Palestine is hunger strikes among Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. It is a good symbol for the situation. The Israelis have kidnapped and jailed the Palestinian population. Palestinian politics and activism is one big prison riot.

What Israeli authorities seem unable to understand is that the Palestinians will never disappear and will never get used to their prison. The F-16 air strikes on a pitifully weak people (often directed at the gulag of Palestinian refugee camps) may make some Israeli officers feel macho. But they just fuel more violence, and aren’t a policy.

… The Israelis have 400 nuclear warheads, a fleet of F16s, and the best military in the region. Palestinians in Gaza have virtually nothing.

See also: 4600 Palestinian Prisoners Refuse Food | Al Akhbar

4,600 Palestinian prisoners refuse food | Al Akhbar English

Thousands of Palestinian prisoners refused breakfast Wednesday, according to Israeli Prisons Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman, in what is believed to be a renewed mass hunger strike.

At least four riots broke out in Israeli jails after news of a Palestinian prisoner’s death leaked Tuesday, Weizman told AFP. Nearly 4,600 Palestinians – the approximate number of the prisoner population – then turned down a meal, she added.

Israel’s Jerusalem Post said that guards at Ramon responded with tear gas, resulting in three prisoners and six guards being treated for tear gas inhalation.

As punishment for protests over the death of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, 64, IPS informed 86 Palestinian prisoners Wednesday that they would be moved to different prisons, a detainee center told Palestine’s Ma’an news agency.

Palestinian prisoners from all factions Tuesday announced a three day hunger strike, according to Ma’an. Thousands of prisoners refused food during mass hunger strikes last year, including three still on long-term hunger strikes. Palestinian Samer Issawi is said to be teetering on the brink of death after more than 250 days of hunger strike.

Abu Hamdiyeh died of cancer Tuesday after Israel had allegedly neglected his medical condition. Lawyers and relatives report that prison doctors informed him of his disease six months after running biopsy tests on him, and then failed to provide him with adequate treatment. He was told about his cancer in February, and died less than two months later.

General strike observed

The Palestinian Authority announced a three-day general strike across the West Bank to mourn Abu Hamdiyeh’s death, and denounce Israel’s mistreatment of the cancer patient, which it likened to a “slow death penalty.”

Schools, shops and offices Wednesday were closed in Hebron, Abu Hamdiyeh’s hometown, where protesters clashed with the army for the second day running, an AFP correspondent said.

A full strike was also being observed in the northern West Bank city of Nablus where thousands of demonstrators gathered in the city center for a mass rally, another correspondent said.

A strike was also observed in annexed east Jerusalem ahead of the arrival of Abu Hamdiyeh’s body at Abu Dis medical center where it was to undergo a Palestinian autopsy. His funeral will be held on Thursday.

In Ramallah and the Gaza Strip, the strike was being partially observed, other AFP correspondents said.

Meanwhile, 20 Palestinians were detained by Israeli forces across the West Bank early Wednesday, according to Ma’an.

According to an Israeli military statement, the 20 Palestinians detained were “taken for security questioning,” Ma’an reported.

Abu Hamdiyeh is the second Palestinian to die in Israeli custody this year. Arafat Jaradat, 30, died after an interrogation session in February. Palestinian officials said he had been tortured, an allegation Israel denied.

jayaprada:

"Abbas’ strategy of throttling the Palestinian resistance with the hope of receiving something in return from the Israelis and the Americans has clearly failed. Abbas’ regime has been so subservient to American and Israeli interests that it even refused to forward the Goldstone Report on war crimes during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza to the UN Human Rights Council for action.

"Abbas has brought the Palestinians to the edge of another great tragedy, second only to the Nakba of 1948, which will likely see Israeli colonization preclude the establishment of a Palestinian state and squeeze the indigenous population into ever smaller Bantustans. Events have entirely discredited Mahmoud Abbas and senior members of the Palestinian Authority. Their democratic mandate expired years ago and their shameful collaboration with Israel has profited the Palestinians nothing. They should resign immediately.

"The Palestinians need to recognize that cooperation with the American government is a dead end. Obama’s trip to the Holy Land shows, if additional evidence were needed, that the US is wholly in Israel’s camp and that Uncle Sam has absolutely no intention of providing the Palestinians with the kind of leverage which would enable them to negotiate a fair settlement with Israel. The US will continue to ignore international law as it pertains to colonization of the occupied Palestinian territories. It will also ignore the reprehensible and outrageous Israeli policies which have caused untold suffering to 1.5 million people in Gaza."

Mahmoud Abbas: Obama and Bibi’s Man in Palestine

Return of the Living Dead | Pepe Escobar

… The powers that be in Israel – neocon-infested US corporate media avalanche of denials notwithstanding – were absolutely essential in the whole Iraq War cheerleading operation; Ariel Sharon, at the time, boasted that the strategic coordination between Israel and the US had reached “unprecedented dimensions”.

Bibi was just a cog in the wheel then – as Jim Lobe details here– quoting Bibi’s pearls of wisdom dispensed to a misinformed-to-oblivion US Congress in 2002.

Every usual “Israeli official” suspect at the time was breathlessly spinning that Saddam was only months away from a nuclear weapon. The bulk of WMD “intelligence” presented to Congress and faithfully parroted by corporate media was filtered if not entirely fabricated by Israeli intelligence – something duly detailed, among others, by Shlomo Brom in his study An Intelligence Failure, published by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies of Tel Aviv University in November 2003.

Of course it didn’t matter that UN inspectors found no nuclear weapon program evidence on site. Of course it didn’t matter that Saddam’s son-in-law Hussein Kamel, who had defected to Jordan in 1995, had told UN inspectors in detail there had been no WMDs whatsoever since 1991.

Now it’s double tragedy, and double farce, all over again. Yet even Nepalis building glitzy towers in Dubai know that the ”Bomb Iran” hysteria is Tel Aviv’s tactic to change the subject from the relentless land confiscation/ethnic cleansing in slow motion in Palestine and consequently the de facto total impossibility of a two-state solution.

Here, Jonathan Cook succinctly details the frankly scary political configuration in Israel after the recent elections. The Israeli website Ynet has reported that Israeli settlers can’t stop hailing their brand new “wet dream” cabinet. Translation: the ultimate nail in the coffin of the already dead and buried “peace process”. [++]