THE HANDSTAND

 DECEMBER2010

update Noam Chomsky on Peace Talk Charade

The Charade of Israeli-Palestinian Talks

By Noam Chomsky

December 07, 2010 --- Washington’s pathetic capitulation to Israel while pleading for a meaningless three-month freeze on settlement expansion—excluding Arab East Jerusalem—should go down as one of the most humiliating moments in U.S. diplomatic history.

In September the last settlement freeze ended, leading the Palestinians to cease direct talks with Israel. Now the Obama administration, desperate to lure Israel into a new freeze and thus revive the talks, is grasping at invisible straws—and lavishing gifts on a far-right Israeli government.

The gifts include $3 billion for fighter jets. The largesse also happens to be another taxpayer grant to the U.S. arms industry, which gains doubly from programs to expand the militarization of the Middle East.

U.S. arms manufacturers are subsidized not only to develop and produce advanced equipment for a state that is virtually part of the U.S. military-intelligence establishment but also to provide second-rate military equipment to the Gulf states—currently a precedent-breaking $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, which is a transaction that also recycles petrodollars to an ailing U.S. economy.

Israeli and U.S. high-tech civilian industries are closely integrated. It is small wonder that the most fervent support for Israeli actions comes from the business press and the Republican Party, the more extreme of the two business-oriented political parties. The pretext for the huge arms sales to Saudi Arabia is defense against the “Iranian threat.”

However, the Iranian threat is not military, as the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence have emphasized. Were Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capacity, the purpose would be deterrent—presumably to ward off a U.S.-Israeli attack.

The real threat, in Washington’s view, is that Iran is seeking to expand its influence in neighboring countries “stabilized” by U.S. invasion and occupation.

The official line is that the Arab states are pleading for U.S. military aid to defend themselves against Iran. True or false, the claim provides interesting insight into the reigning concept of democracy. Whatever the ruling dictatorships may prefer, Arabs in a recent Brookings poll rank the major threats to the region as Israel (88 percent), the United States (77 percent) and Iran (10 percent).

It is interesting that U.S. officials, as revealed in the just-released WikiLeaks cables, totally ignored Arab public opinion, keeping to the views of the reigning dictators.

The U.S. gifts to Israel also include diplomatic support, according to current reports. Washington pledges to veto any U.N. Security Council actions that might annoy Israel’s leaders and to drop any call for further extension of a settlement freeze.

Hence, by agreeing to the three-month pause, Israel will no longer be disturbed by the paymaster as it expands its criminal actions in the occupied territories.

That these actions are criminal has not been in doubt since late 1967, when Israel’s leading legal authority, international jurist Theodor Meron, advised the government that its plans to initiate settlements in the occupied territories violated the Fourth Geneva Convention, a core principle of international humanitarian law, established in 1949 to criminalize the horrors of the Nazi regime.

Meron’s conclusion was endorsed by Justice Minister Ya’akov Shimson Shapira, and shortly after by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, writes historian Gershom Gorenberg in The Accidental Empire.

Dayan informed his fellow ministers, “We must consolidate our hold so that over time we will succeed in `digesting’ Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and merging them with `little’ Israel,” meanwhile “dismember(ing) the territorial contiguity” of the West Bank, all under the usual pretense “that the step is necessary for military purposes.”

Dayan had no doubts, or qualms, about what he was recommending: “Settling Israelis in occupied territory contravenes, as is known, international conventions,” he observed. “But there is nothing essentially new in that.”

Dayan’s correct assumption was that the boss in Washington might object formally, but with a wink, and would continue to provide the decisive military, economic and diplomatic support for the criminal endeavors.

The criminality has been underscored by repeated Security Council resolutions, more recently by the International Court of Justice, with the basic agreement of U.S. Justice Thomas Buergenthal in a separate declaration. Israel’s actions also violate U.N. Security Council resolutions concerning Jerusalem. But everything is fine as long as Washington winks.

Back in Washington, the Republican super-hawks are even more fervent in their support for Israeli crimes. Eric Cantor, the new majority leader in the House of Representatives, “has floated a novel solution to protect aid for Israel from the current foreign aid backlash,” Glenn Kessler reports in The Washington Post: “giving the Jewish state its own funding account, thus removing it from funds for the rest of the world.”

The issue of settlement expansion is simply a diversion. The real issue is the existence of the settlements and related infrastructure developments. These have been carefully designed so that Israel has already taken over more than 40 percent of the occupied West Bank, including suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv; the arable land; and the primary water sources of the region, all on the Israeli side of the Separation Wall—in reality an annexation wall.

Since 1967, Israel has vastly expanded the borders of Jerusalem in violation of Security Council orders and despite universal international objection (including the U.S., at least formally).

The focus on settlement expansion, and Washington’s groveling, are not the only farcical elements of the current negotiations. The very structure is a charade. The U.S. is portrayed as an “honest broker” seeking to mediate between two recalcitrant adversaries. But serious negotiations would be conducted by some neutral party, with the U.S. and Israel on one side, and the world on the other.

It is hardly a secret that for 35 years the U.S. and Israel have stood virtually alone in opposition to a consensus on a political settlement that is close to universal, including the Arab states, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (including Iran), and all other relevant parties.

With brief and rare departures, the two rejectionist states have preferred illegal expansion to security. Unless Washington’s stand changes, political settlement is effectively barred. And expansion, with its reverberations throughout the region and the world, continues.
The New York Times Syndicate

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the burning bush

Gilad Atzmon:

DateThursday, December 2, 2010 at 11:00PM AuthorGilad Atzmon

Disaster in the North of Israel, at least 40 dead as fire rages across the Carmel Mountains. A mass evacuation has begun.

As I am writing these lines, Israeli Fire fighting crews are battling with the flames. They also express no hope of controlling the fire soon. "We lost all control of the fire," said the Haifa Fire fighting services spokesman. "There aren't enough fire fighting resources in Israel in order to put out the fire."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hurried to the scene of the fire on Thursday. He requested the help of the U.S, Greece, Italy, Russia, and Cyprus to send additional forces to aid the Israeli firemen. A normal country would probably ask for the help of its neighbours, but the Jewish state doesn’t have neighbours. It made all its neighbours into enemies.

But the story here goes far deeper.  The fire in northern Israel is far from being a coincidence. Israel’s rural landscape is saturated with pine trees. These trees are totally new to the region. They were not there until the 1930’s. The pine trees were introduced to  the Palestinians landscape in the early 1930s  by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in an attempt to  ‘reclaim the land’ . By 1935, JNF had planted 1.7 million trees over a total area of 1,750 acres. Over fifty years, the JNF planted over 260 million trees largely on confiscated Palestinian land. It did it all in a desperate attempt to hide the ruins of the ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages and their history.

Along the years the JNF performed a crude attempt to eliminate Palestinian civilisation and their past but it also tried to make Palestine look like Europe. The Palestinian natural forest was eradicated. Similarly the olive trees were uprooted. The pine trees took their place. On the southern part of mount Carmel the Israelis named an area as ‘Little Switzerland’. I have learned tonight that Little Switzerland is burned. 

However, the facts on the ground were pretty devastating for the JNF. The pine tree didn’t adapt to the Israeli climate as much as the Israelis failed to adapt to the  Middle East. According to JNF statistics, six out of every 10 saplings planted did not survive. Those few trees that did survive formed nothing but a firetrap. By the end of each Israeli summer each of the Israeli pine forests become a potential deadly zone.

In spite of its nuclear power, its criminal army, the occupation, the Mossad and its lobbies all over the world, Israel seems to be very vulnerable. It is devastatingly alienated  from the land it claims to own. Like the pine tree, Israel and the Israeli are foreign to the region. 


Court remands brothers suspected of starting Carmel wildfire

Police suspect two brothers from the Druze village of Isfiya of lighting a fire near their home, which allegedly spread and set the entire Carmel ablaze.

By Fadi Eyadat in Haaretz
05.12.2010

Haifa Magistrate's Court on Sunday remanded two Druze teenagers who allegedly ignited the most devastating wildfire in Israel's history.

Police arrested Saturday the brothers, residents of the Druze village of Isfiya, ages 14 and 15. The court remanded them for three days.

The brothers' father said that the two were not responsible for starting the fire, and were not present at the scene of the fire when it started.

"My sons are innocent," the father said. "The policemen came and took them away from home as if they were terrorists."

According to the father, the fire broke out several kilometers away from the family's house. He claimed that he and his children were unrelated to the fire and even helped firefighting efforts.

"They are not connected to this, they do not smoke and they did not start a campfire. They are good and innocent kids and we will not let them be maliciously framed."

Police Commissioner David Cohen said on Saturday that the fire was caused by negligence, and not arson, during a situation assessment at the Israel Police northern headquarters.

The fire in the Carmel has been raging since Thursday, with Israeli and foreign fire-fighters still struggling to contain the flames, which have claimed the lives of 42 people and devastated thousands of acres of land.
Thousands of people have also been evacuated from their homes.

The assumption of negligence is in line with the assessment of the police investigators from the Central Region, who said Friday that the fire had not been set deliberately. Initial investigations Thursday, shortly after the blaze started, also led to the conclusion that the fire was the result of carelessness and not malicious action.