Thursday, December 31, 2009

Israel's East Jerusalem Linked Settlement Expansion

Israel's East Jerusalem Linked Settlement Expansion - by Stephen Lendman

On February 1, 2009, the International Solidarity Movement reported that Israel continues its E 1 area homes and infrastructure work that includes linking its Ma'ale Adummim settlement with East Jerusalem and other settlements around it. It said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, while in office, promised to expand E 1 development - the land northeast of Jerusalem, west of Ma'ale Adummim comprising about 12 square kilometers, all of it illegally annexed.

On November 15, 2009, the International Middle East Media Center reported that construction began in Ras al-Amud, Pisgat Ze'ev and elsewhere in East Jerusalem as part of Israel's scheduled 3,000 unit project.

On November 18, Al Jazeera headlined, "Israel moves to expand settlement," saying approval was given to construct 900 housing units in East Jerusalem's Gilo settlement.

Overall, Israel's E 1 Plan involves building about 15,000 new homes, a large industrial zone, hotels, other recreational facilities, a police station, garbage dump and more to be shared by Occupied Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adummim settlers.

Israel's 121 West Bank/East Jerusalem official settlements, another 100 so-called "unauthorized outposts," and 12 Israeli (de facto settlement) neighborhoods annexed to Jerusalem's municipal area are illegal under international law, including Fourth Geneva's Article 49 stating:

"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupied Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of the motive."

In addition, UN Resolutions 446, 452, 465 and others condemned Israel's settlement building by declaring they have "no legal validity" to exist. Yet they do and keep expanding in defiance of the law.

B'Tselem is the Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Bimkom, Planners for Planning Rights, helps communities throughout Israel and the West Bank "in matters concerning home demolitions, infrastructure and public services, local and neighborhood development plans, as well as the separation barrier....to strengthen democracy and human rights in the field of planning."

In December 2009, they jointly produced a report titled, "The establishment and expansion plans of the Ma'ale Adummim settlement: Spatial and human rights implications."

With 34,000 residents occupying 10,000 housing units, Ma'ale Adummim is Israel's largest settlement in land area and third largest in population (after Modi'in Illit and Beitar Illit). Expanding it will separate East Jerusalem Palestinians from other West Bank cities and villages, reduce any chance for a viable Palestinian state, and further confine them to isolated cantons on the Territory's least valued land, giving Israel unlimited control of the rest.

In 1999, B'Tselem published "On the Way to Annexation" explaining how Ma'ale Adummim's earlier development violated international law by expropriating Palestinian land and expelling Jahalin tribe Bedouins. After the Separation Wall construction began, the planned route leaves Ma'ale Adummin and smaller adjacent settlements on the Israeli side, creating a partition between the southern and northern West Bank sections. Additional E 1 development since then seized more land illegally, demolished Palestinian homes, and expelled their residents to more constricted areas.

The present report has two main objectives:

-- "to describe the spatial changes that have taken place" since the first publication and how they affect Palestinian human rights; and

-- "to examine these changes in light of the history of Ma'ale Adummim and the intentions that lead to its establishment."

Recently revealed Israeli documents show that in 1974 the first Rabin government secretly decided to annex Ma'ale Adummim to Jerusalem with no official announcement. Doing so, of course, is illegal. In March 1975, 3,000 hectares of village lands were seized. Several years earlier, the IDF commander declared most of these lands a closed military zone. In 1977, another 194 hectares were taken for future use plus 200 expropriated for roads and infrastructure. In total, it comprises 73% of Ma'ale Adummim's jurisdiction area. The rest is Israeli state property. In 1991, the settlement attained city status, the first one to do so.

Its expropriation procedure was unique. Until 1979, settlements were established on land requisitioned by military order claiming these communities would serve an important security function. Three times, Israel's High Court concurred until it held (in 1979) that the Elon Moreh order was illegal because it failed to meet that definition.

Thereafter, declarations arbitrarily classified over 90,000 West Bank hectares as state land, most of it later included within the jurisdictional boundaries of local and regional settlement councils. The major Ma'ale Adummim expropriations occurred in 1975 and 1977 for military needs, before the Elon Moreh ruling.

"The difference between the two procedures relates to their validity over time." Land requisition is temporary, but may be repeatedly extended. It doesn't change ownership, just the temporary right to use it. Payment is also offered, so, in fact, the landowner is forced to "lease" the land to the state.

In contrast, expropriation is permanent, switching ownership from Palestinians to the state against the owner's will, even though payment is offered that may be refused and often is to make a political statement.

Israel expropriated land for Ma'ale Adummim to make it an integral part of Jerusalem. Shortly after the 1967 war, the government annexed West Bank land to expand the city's borders for demographic reasons, "a mere" 7,000 hectares to avoid an adverse international reaction. The order included large areas to the east and south to ensure Israeli control of a strategic location, controlling passage between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank to Jerusalem, Jordan and Jericho.

The development planned residential neighborhoods and an industrial zone with more land expropriated than needed for future use and to make Ma'ale Adummim a Jerusalem suburb.

In 1977, the Likud government recognized two former "work camps" as civilian communities, Ma'ale Adummim and Ofra. The latter set a precedent as an "unauthorized outpost." As the first northern West Bank settlement, it broke "the barrier that blocked settlement attempts in the heart of the Palestinian population" and established events on the ground for dozens more to follow - illegal settlements and outposts "in opposition to the stated official position of the government," only on paper to be ignored.

Prior to the Elon Moreh ruling, the Israeli High Court held that expropriating Occupied Territory private property for a security or civilian settlement was prohibited under international law (the Hague Convention), while temporary requisitioning was legal.

International law states that an occupying power must respect existing local legislation. Applicable Jordanian law allowed private property expropriation if compensation was paid, provided it was for a "public purpose," such as roads and public buildings. The statute remains in effect.

However, Israeli settlement development constitutes a non-public purpose land grab. In a May 1980 position to the Israeli Cabinet, attorney general and later Supreme Court Justice Yitzhak Zamir said:

"It is not permissible to act under Jordanian Law to expropriate land in Judea and Samaria."

Pli'a Albeck, head of the State Attorney's Office civilian division, held a similar position. Eyal Zamir, former Judea and Samaria deputy legal advisor, summarized Israel's official policy that:

"Expropriation of land for public purposes is not prohibited. Three pre-conditions (must) exist: first, the acquisition is made in accordance with the local law; second, the landlord is fully compensated; and third, the acquisition is for a public purpose....It should be emphasized that Israel is not expropriating land to establish settlements in the area."

Nonetheless, Ma'ale Adummim was created in violation of this policy, based on the 1974 inter-ministerial team's recommendations, headed by the then-attorney general and later Supreme Court president, Meir Shamgar, who said:

"Regarding expropriation in Judia and Samaria, it should be mentioned that international law generally denies the military government the authority to expropriate land in occupied territories; however, there is evidence supporting the position that it is permissible to expropriate land for the needs of the local population upon payment of compensation." Having previously done it for roads and public buildings, "it may also be permissible to (do so) for an industrial zone....whose construction is approved under the local planning and building laws."

The justification was that factories would benefit Palestinians as well as Jews. Yet, settlement development was intended that under international and local law as well as High Court decisions at the time are illegal.

Settlement planners claimed the expropriated land was uncultivated, so Palestinians weren't harmed. According to architect Tommy Leitersdorf, who prepared the first Ma'ale Adummim plan:

"The state inherited it from Jordan....These were state lands, state land proper. So, there was also a consensus (that) we didn't take it from anybody."

Israel's Civil Commission said:

"In those years (1975 - 77), there was no procedure for declaring state land, so, due to the doubt, land was expropriated even though the land concerned was unregistered and not cultivated."

Ignored was that local law stipulated that "uncultivated" land could be owned by individuals. In villages under Jordanian rule, many such areas were registered to Palestinians, not the state.

After their land was seized, dozens of Palestinians filed compensation claims with the Jordanian government that concluded that 78% of the expropriated land was privately owned.

Israel illegally designated the Ma'ale Adummim area arid, abandoned, and uncultivated even though it earlier was declared a closed military zone, off-limits to cultivation, and the Ministry of Construction and Housing said it's:

"in the Mediterranean flora area (where) the wadis (valleys) are being cultivated....East of this area, on land that can still be cultivated in rainy years, cultivation is done in accord with the Masha (collective) ownership method....The more arid land is used for communal grazing...."

"Ma'ale Adummim was (thus) built in complete disregard" of international and local law. The initially ordered 3,500 hectares were increased to 4,800 to connect the area to Jerusalem's municipal borders. It's now the largest land area settlement.

Then in March 2009, a Change of Borders Commission recommended a further 1,150 hectare increase by integrating the Qedar settlement, all state lands lying between it and Ma'ale Adummim, and additional lands within the enlarged city limits. The Commission ignored objections and the fact that there's no justification or need for further expansion except to seize more Palestinian land, sever the southern and northern West Bank sections, and exacerbate the forced separation between East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank toward eventually making the entire city Jewish.

In 2005, a new master plan was prepared that doesn't comply with Jordanian planning law, applicable to the West Bank. Statutory documents are binding and open to the public to object. However, master plans are unpublished and unavailable for public viewing.

"....they define, in a general-outline manner, the zoning of the area to which they apply and dictate its development. (In addition), the public cannot object to them, so that the burden of hearing public objections and considering them is avoided. Hence, master plans often serve as a means to bypass the legal requirement (to) prevent any involvement of the public - Palestinians in particular...."

After a Civil Administration's Higher Planning Council (HPC) hearing, its minutes showed plan's main objective is to facilitate substantial population growth up to 103,000 residents. To accommodate it, a new road system will be built connected to Israel's national network. Also, an airstrip, rail line, exhibition center and garbage facility besides everything in earlier plans.

Ignored completely is Palestinian-owned land, enclaves not part of Ma'ale Adummim's statutory outline plans, although they're surrounded on all sides by the settlement's jurisdiction area. The idea is to include them incrementally while continuing a policy of home demolitions and forced expulsions.

The Separation Wall is another issue. In April 2006, the government amended its route 14 km east of the Green Line and 11 km from Jerusalem's post-1967 border. It leaves most of Ma'ale Adummim's jurisdiction area on the Israeli side, except for some desert lands east and south.

The route will create a 6,400 hectare enclave which, besides the settlements, includes the Palestinian a-Za'ayem village of 3,500 residents and 3,000 al-Ka'abaneh, a-Sawahrah and Jahalin tribe Bedouins. The result will trap thousands of Palestinians in the "seam zone" between the Wall and Green Line, making their lives a bureaucratic nightmare requiring permits to live in their own homes and villages besides free movement restrictions.

The communities of al-Eizariyah, Abu Dis, 'Anata, and as-Sawahrah ash-Sharqiya are also trapped between the "Jerusalem envelope" western barrier and the eastern one in Ma'ale Adummim that impede their development west or east. In addition, disrupting the existing road system will hinder access to Ramallah in the north and Bethlehem in the south. After the forced separation from Jerusalem, they're the only cities able to supply vital services, including healthcare and administration.

Harm to Palestinians

Ma'ale Adummim's establishment and expansion violates Palestinian rights three ways:

-- individual Palestinians whose lands were seized and then forcibly expelled from their residences;

-- entire Palestinian communities unable to develop; and

-- "infringement of the collective right of the Palestinian people to a viable state, with reasonable territorial contiguity."

Even under the Civil Administration's narrow law interpretation that only land cultivated for an extended time, past and present, is private property, much of what was expropriated for Ma'ale Adummim is Palestinian owned, especially where residential neighborhoods were built.

Throughout the West Bank, settlement establishment and expansions have meant land seizures and Palestinian expulsions. The result has forced them into smaller more isolated areas, unable to expand for future needs.

Because of its location and expansion plans, Ma'ale Adummim impedes the Palestinians' right to self-determination "within the framework of a viable state that enjoys reasonable territory contiguity."

Its location lies at the West Bank's narrowest area, covering about one-half of its total width. In addition, the surrounding topography is hilly, especially in the north and south valleys. Thus, Ma'ale Adummim creates a "physical and functional partition" between the West Bank's northern and southern sections, splitting it into two cantons.

Further development will exacerbate the problem by severing East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. Jewish neighborhoods will surround the city on all sides, an ongoing process further affected by the Separation Wall's construction.

Summary and Conclusions

Israel contends that Ma'ale Adummim's purpose is to serve Jerusalem even though the area has been illegally occupied since 1967, and international law prohibits an occupying power from exploiting the territory for itself.

After the 1967 war, the government considered annexing the Ma'ale Adummim area entirely, but feared a harsh international reaction. As a result, it's done it incrementally by expanding Jerusalem's municipal's boundaries well beyond their limits.

"In recent years, Israeli governments have taken a number of measures to ensure that Ma'ale Adummim will be, for all practical purposes, a functional and spatial part of Jerusalem" to seize as much West Bank territory as possible, deny it to Palestinians, and prevent their having a viable sovereign state. More than other settlements, Ma'ale Adummim's development is key to this strategic purpose that includes seizing all of East Jerusalem for exclusive Jewish use.

In late December, that's precisely what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had in mind by announcing another 700 apartment expansion in three East Jerusalem's settlements - Pisgat Zeev, Neve Ya'akov and Har Homa.

More Palestinian land will be seized. Homes will be demolished, their residents uprooted and displaced for the new project. Others will follow as part of a process that won't stop until all East Jerusalem is Jewish with Palestinians entirely excluded, including from the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, Islam's third holiest site. According to Israel's US ambassador, Michael Oren, Obama will exert no pressure to stop it or on new settlement development to come.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to the Lendman News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Link to archived Radio Shows

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Arresting Peaceful Protesters in Occupied Palestine

Arresting Peaceful Protesters in Occupied Palestine - by Stephen Lendman

For decades, Israel has met peaceful Palestinian protesters disruptively with violence, arrests and at times unprovoked killings. It's no surprise that targeting them and their leaders is now common practice in cities and villages like Jayyous and Bil'in.

On August 3, 200 Israeli soldiers raided five Bel'in homes at 3AM arresting eight Palestinians, including Mohammad Khatib, a leader of the Bel'in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. It's part of Israel's repressive routine - late night arrests and imprisonment without charges for indefinite periods. Khatib faces trial, but was released on August 17 on condition he report to a police station with a monitor each Friday until 5PM for its duration. He told supporters:

"The Israeli authorities are worried that the model of popular nonviolent resistance is spreading. They are targeting the popular committees to try to crush (them) but they cannot destroy the spirit of the demonstrations in Bil'in with the arrests of individuals. The whole village is part of the nonviolent resistance and the military would have to arrest (everyone) to stop us from protesting against the Occupation and the theft of our land. Even then, when we all come out of jail, we would continue our struggle."

On September 22, Jayyous resident Mohammad Othman was arrested because of his "Stop the Wall Campaign" activism and efforts on behalf of dispossessed farmers. He's now administratively detained without charge after a military court rejected the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association's appeal on his behalf, citing "secret evidence" that he's a "security threat in the area."

On December 10, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, coordinator of Bil'in's Popular Committee Against the Wall, was arrested after nine military vehicles surrounded his home, broke down his door at 2AM, then blindfolded and seized him from bed in the presence of his wife and children as part of the effort to break the spirit of Bil'in's residents and their popular struggle against the Wall. Since June, Abu Rahmah is the thirty-first Bil'in activist arrested.

On December 22, an Ofer Prison Military Court indicted him on "incitement, stone-throwing, and possession of arms," pertaining to tear gas canisters fired at demonstrators that he collected to display in his home.

His lawyer, Gaby Lasky said:

"The army shoots at unarmed demonstrators, and when they try to show the world the violence used against them by collecting (and) presenting the remnants, they are persecuted and prosecuted. What's next? Charging protesters money for the bullets shot at them?"

On December 24, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for his unconditional release, saying he met with him and Mohammad Khatib in August in Bil'in.

"We were impressed by their commitment to peaceful political action, and their success in challenging the wall that unjustly separates the people of Bel'in from their land and the olive trees. I call on Israeli officials to release Abu Rahmah immediately and unconditionally."

He's been a member of Bel'in's Popular Committee since its 2004 inception, and after Wall construction began there in March 2005, participated in organizing regular actions and demonstrations to stop it. He also represented Bel'in around the world, and in June 2009 was in Montreal for its precedent-setting legal case against two Canadian companies illegally building settlements on its land.

In addition, he participated in a speaking tour, including in Germany to accept the Carl Von Ossietzky Medal for outstanding service toward the realization of human rights, awarded by the International League for Human Rights.

On December 16, Jamal Juma' was arrested with no explanation. He was denied contact with a lawyer or his family, and is now imprisoned for his activism against the Wall and settlements. He's a founding member of several Palestinian NGOs and civil society networks, and has been the coordinator for the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign since 2002. He's also the highest profile arrest of leadership figures like himself. So far, he's uncharged, yet may be held indefinitely along with hundreds of others.

According to B'Tselem, administrative detention is "without charge or trial, authorized by administrative order rather than by judicial decree." Under international law, it's legal only under rigid conditions, given how grievously it can harm due process and the way Israel uses it.

It's purpose is to "prevent the danger posed to state security by a particular individual." Yet Israel never defined it and blatantly abuses the process. At any time, hundreds of Palestinians are held in prolonged detention without charges or trial based on secret evidence unavailable to themselves or their counsel.

"Israel has therefore made a charade out of the entire system of procedural safeguards in both domestic and international law regarding the right to liberty and due process."

On December 23, a Palestinian Centre for Human Rights press release condemned the above arrests and others like them. According to military order 1591, each one can last up to six months, then be indefinitely extended, often resulting in years imprisonment without charges or trial - a gross violation of fundamental international law.

"By detaining human rights activists for their nonviolent work in legal organizations, Israel is illegally widening the definition of state security in order to fit its motives, while infringing on fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression, which are protected under international law."

Despite thirty-one arrests, Bil'in protests continue, and according to some it's the Soweto, Derry, and Chiapas of Palestinian resistance, a model now spreading throughout the West Bank. On December 11, dozens withstood a hail of tear gas canisters to pull down a yellow gate regularly used by the IDF to harass and intimidate.

The web site bilin-village.org explains their struggle.

"Bil'in is a Palestinian village that is....fighting to safeguard its land, its olive trees, its resources....its liberty (and existence). By annexing close to 60% of (its) land for Israeli settlements and the (Separation Wall, Israel) is strangling the village. Every day it destroys a bit more, creating an open air prison for (its) inhabitants," who refuse to stand by and let it happen.

Every Friday, along with Israeli and international activists, they demonstrate peacefully in front of the "work-site of shame," despite IDF physical and psychological harassment, intimidation, violence, and arrests. Bil'in symbolizes Palestinian popular resistance against occupation, repression, harassment, mass arrests, imprisonment, torture, targeted killings, land seizures, and more.

It's located several kilometers northeast of Ramallah. In 2004, its population numbered 1,800 on four square km of land, mostly suitable for agriculture, especially olive tree cultivation, but for how long its residents ask.

Bil'in and Saffa are boxed in on the west by eight Israeli settlements, comprising the Modi'in Illit block in the Ramallah Governship, occupying 10.6 square km that are expanding and seizing village lands. The Separation Wall takes more - about half of Bil'in's four square km for two km of Wall with more planned for a new settlement, expansion of existing ones, and virtual imprisonment of Bil'in and Saffa residents by the Wall's route when it's completed. Thus, residents continue weekly protests to save their land, village, and futures.

Since 2006, they've also done grassroots organizing and held annual conferences on popular resistance for villagers, activists and academics to discuss effective tactics. In addition, legal actions were taken beginning in the winter of 2004. Three years later, the Israeli High Court ruled part of Modi'in illit's construction illegal. It affected unfinished housing that couldn't be completed until the Wall's route was moved several hundred meters west. It meant returning 25% of Bel'in's land to the village that never happened because the ruling wasn't implemented, building continues, and so does do protests against it.

On Christmas day, villagers attempted to march to their stolen land dressed as Santa Claus carrying a Christmas tree decorated with tear gas canisters and percussion grenades regularly used against them. Assaulted by Israeli soldiers, they again suffered tear gas attacks, but planned further actions, including one held on December 29 supporting Abu Rahmad near Ofer Prison where he's held.

On December 28, Stop the Wall "held its first West Bank-wide youth conference this month," the result of two years of planning and organizing. Despite the above arrests and continued Israeli repression, two days of "fruitful discussions (were held) on grassroots resistance, boycott and the role of the youth in the national struggle" that won't end until it succeeds."

Commentaries in the Israeli Press

On December 23, Haaretz writer Amira Hass headlined, "Danger: Popular Struggle" saying Israel "found the true enemy who refused to whither away: The popular struggle against the occupation."

As a result, in recent months, efforts to suppress it have increased against:

"Palestinians and Jewish Israelis unwilling to give up their right to resist....demographic separation and Jewish supremacy." In turn, demonstrators have faced "live ammunition, late-night army raids and mass arrests," mostly in Bil'in and Na'alin whose lands have been systematically stolen and their residents abused.

Yet resistance continues. Palestinians learned from past mistakes, including armed struggle, and are using more effective tactics to their advantage. As a result, Shin Bet and Military Intelligence are concerned. At a recent cabinet briefing, their leaders, Yuval Diskin (Shin Bet) and Amost Yadlin (Military Intelligence) said:

"The Palestinians want to continue and build a state from the bottom up....and force an agreement on Israel from above....The quiet security (situation) in the West Bank and the fact that the (Palestinian Authority) is acting against terror in an efficient manner has caused the international community to turn to Israel and demand progress."

Its leaders also fear editorials like Haaretz's December 25 one headlined, "War on Protest," saying IDF tactics against protesters damage "Israel's image as a free and democratic country, one that accords equal and tolerant treatment to all its citizens and residents."

The commentary cites:

-- "violent and disproportionate police" actions;

-- IDF "insufferable harshness" in Bel'in and Na'alin;

-- soldiers "firing live rounds at unarmed protesters who do not endanger the soldiers' lives, in violation of the military advocate general's orders;"

-- "major arrest sweeps" targeting peaceful protesters; and

-- "all this is happening at a time when the same law enforcement agencies are showing much more leniency and consideration to right-wingers protesting against the construction freeze in the settlements. There, no massive arrests have been made, and there has been less police violence."

Haaretz called targeting Palestinian protesters reminiscent of "the darkest regimes.....(so much so that it) should disturb every Israeli, whether right-wing or left-wing - because this is about the very nature of the regime of the country in which we live."

The paper stopped just short of calling Israel a nation where only Jews have rights. Yet Israeli Arabs have none, and Occupied Palestinians have been ruthlessly oppressed for decades. Yet when they resist, they're called terrorists, charged with crimes they didn't commit, or arrested and held administratively for months or even years under horrific conditions, including:

-- solitary confinement in tiny windowless cells or in tents in extreme desert heat that becomes freezing cold in winter;

-- no access to family members, proper food, or needed medical treatment, including for injuries, chronic illnesses, and essential life-saving cancer and other surgeries; nor are family or Red Cross medications allowed;

-- torture and abuse against 85% of them according to B'Tselem;

-- since 1967, over 700,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned, mostly men, amounting to about 40% of the male population, according to the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; and

-- hundreds of children (some as young as 12) and dozens of women as well, including in at least one secret interrogation facility; during the period September 2000 - August 2008, an estimated 6,700 children were incarcerated (and treated the same as adults), according to the Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs; since 1967, over 10,000 women were imprisoned; pregnant ones are forced to give birth in their cells and have their babies incarcerated with them for up to years.

Most Palestinians are political prisoners charged with offenses under Israeli military orders. About 1,500 of them govern the West Bank, 1,400 are for Gaza, and all broadly define "security" to include almost anything such as political expression. For example:

-- under Military Order 101, it's "forbidden to conduct a protest or march or meeting (involving 10 or more participants for political reasons) without permission of the Military Commander;"

-- the same order prohibits the distribution of political articles, pictures, or other materials;

-- under Military Order 938, "supporting a hostile organization (meaning any Israel so designates) by holding a flag or listening to a nationalist song (is considered) a hostile action;" and

-- like America, Israel enacted a new "unlawful combatant" status that legalizes Arab detentions even without cause to hold them.

As a result, anyone may be arrested any time, anywhere, for any reason, without cause, and held indefinitely for years with no charges or trial. Although Israel is a signatory to the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions and numerous other international laws and covenants, it systematically breaches its responsibility and was found to have violated nearly every article covering the arrest, treatment, detention process, and even locations where detainees are held.

International humanitarian rights laws are clear and unequivocal. For Israeli officials, however, they apply to others, not themselves, so for decades Palestinians have been viciously oppressed, yet continue their heroic struggle against a rogue state run by savages, not responsible human beings.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to the Lendman News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Link to archived Radio Shows

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gaza One Year Later

Gaza One Year Later - by Stephen Lendman

A December 2009 report prepared by Oxfam International, Amnesty International UK, United Civilians for Peace, Christian Aid, and a dozen other international NGOs (called NGOs below) titled, "Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses" is hard-hitting and to the point.

It says a year after Operation Cast Lead, extensive damage hasn't been repaired and thousands "are being prevented from rebuilding their shattered society." It's not from a lack of commitment or enough resources with over $4 billion in pledged aid. It's because Israel blocks goods and equipment from entering Gaza. The world community and Arab world do nothing to stop them, so much of the Strip still lies in ruins.

Following Hamas' January 2006 electoral victory, all outside aid was cut off. Sanctions and an economic embargo were imposed, and the democratically elected government was falsely designated a terrorist organization and isolated. Stepped up repression followed as well as regular IFD attacks, killings, targeted assassinations, property destruction, and more. Gazans have been imprisoned ever since.

Since June 2007, the Strip has been under siege, described in an August 2009 OCHA report ("Locked In: The Humanitarian Impact of Two Years of Blockade on the Gaza Strip") as a:

"protracted human dignity crisis with negative humanitarian consequences." At its heart is the "degradation (of) living conditions," the erosion of livelihoods, the lack of vital services in the areas of health, water, sanitation and education, and the collapse of essential infrastructure in the wake of Operation Cast Lead.

Gazans can't leave, export anything, or live freely on their own land. In addition, Israel lets in restricted amounts of essential goods, far too inadequate to relieve the grave humanitarian crisis by design to essentially starve its residents into submission, or perhaps eliminate as many of them as possible by slow motion genocide.

In addition, all materials needed to rebuild are prohibited, including cement, glass, wood, gravel, steel bars, spare parts, and more. In May, the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce reported unemployment reached 65%, poverty 80%, and the longer the siege continues, the higher these figures go. Further, 96% of Gaza's industrial capacity was destroyed and closed, and well over 80% of the population is aid-dependent. Yet most get below minimal amounts of virtually everything.

International Responsibility

Expressing alarm and frustration, the NGOs say:

"Israel has the primary responsibility to end the blockage." So does the world community to stop the illegal collective punishment of 1.5 million people. "The people of Gaza have been betrayed (by powerful nations) which can and must do far more to end the illegal and inhumane blockade:" an unconscionable grievous crime against humanity.

The NGOs' report focuses on what the international community can do, especially the EU as "a major funder of humanitarian and development programmes in (Occupied Palestine) and Israel's largest export market."

Thus far, its nations have abstained, as have others able to help. In a March 2008 report, many of the NGOs warned that the siege caused the most deplorable conditions in Gaza since the 1967 war and occupation. Then in September, they examined the Quartet's record (the US, Russia, EU and UN), warning that:

"if the cessation of violence ends, the consequences for civilians - both in terms of violent attacks against civilians and the humanitarian situation - will be dire. To this end, all Quartet members should demonstrate robust, public support for the cessation of violence and take further steps to deepen it."

The two and a half year siege, compounded by Operation Cast Lead's mass killings and devastation "left a legacy of destruction and loss. It is time to allow the people of Gaza to begin to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives and rebuild, by ending the blockade that prevents them. There must be no more excuses."

Israel's Agenda: Siege and Blocked Rebuilding

Before the blockade, on average 70 daily Gazan truckloads were exported and 583 let in with essential and other goods. During the siege's first two years, about one-fifth of previous amounts got in while nearly all exports were prohibited.

Currently, Israel lets in only about 35 categories of items compared to 4,000 pre-siege. Yet no published list exists, so there's no consistency on what is or is not allowed as well as amounts. For example, fruits entering one day are prohibited on another as luxuries, and the same qualification applies to virtually everything as pure harassment and collective punishment.

Also, needless delays are imposed. For shelter kits, on average 85 days; health and pediatric kits, 68; and household items like bedding and kitchen utensils, 39.

Construction Materials

Banning them prevents essential rebuilding of houses and other structures. As a result, thousands of homes, factories, businesses, schools, hospitals, mosques, and other structures, totally or partly destroyed, are affected. So are razed agricultural lands, destroyed farms, fields, crops, olive trees, and irrigation systems depriving farmers of their livelihoods and Gazans essential food in amounts to sustain health.

Pre-siege, construction materials comprised over half of Gaza's imports, around 7,400 truckloads monthly. After June 2007, it dropped to an average 31, and in the past year, it's a bare four loads a month trickle. Case-by-case exceptions are made but in small amounts, then cancelled merely to harass. For example, a promised cement shipment to rebuild Gaza's flour mill was denied for no apparent reason, and most entering is smuggled through Gaza's tunnels into Egypt. But it's too little and at inflated prices so unaffordable for most people.

Exceptions permitted "demonstrate how possible it is to allow (in everything needed. Gazans) desperately need (a) systematic, large-scale reconstruction operations - and (a) change of policy that would allow this. Piecemeal and patchwork initiatives simply make no impact on the scale of the destruction which people in Gaza are living with a year on" from the war.

The Cost: No Reconstruction, No Recovery

International assessments of Gaza's destruction range from $659 - $892 million. Others estimate $1 billion or more because so much of the Strip was affected, including homes, agriculture, government and private structures, and vast amounts of infrastructure. The war's toll left an estimated 600,000 tons of rubble, most still in place, and clearing it entails 200,000 or more person-days to complete.

Homes

The UN estimated around 53,000 homes sustained minor damage, but over 15,000 were destroyed or heavily damaged, displacing 100,000 residents forced to live with relatives, in tents, or if lucky in habitable rented apartments. Many are still there.

Industry and Jobs

Hundreds of private factories and businesses were destroyed or severely damaged, amounting to millions in losses not recovered. Gaza got a double blow. "Not only is cement largely denied by the blockade, but according to the UN, 19 of Gaza's 27 ready mix concrete plants were also either badly damaged or destroyed....including (its) only cement packaging and storage plant."

Agriculture

Pre-siege, it was substantial, producing up to 400,000 tons annually. A third included tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, flowers and fruit, much of it in greenhouses. Farms supplied a portion of Gaza's food needs and employed over 40,000 people or 13% of its workforce. The war took its toll destroying an estimated 17% of tillable land, including open fields, olive, date, and other fruit orchards. In addition, bombing and bulldozing demolished greenhouses, livestock shelters, irrigation channels, wells and pumps "on a huge scale."

Then in May, Israel declared a 300-meter "buffer zone" no-go area around Gaza's perimeter (in some places extending up to two km) affecting up to one-third of the Strip's agricultural land and putting half or more of it all out of production.

Power

The war caused extensive long-term damage on top of earlier attacks putting it on the verge of collapse. During the conflict, Gaza's main power station closed for 10 days for lack industrial diesel from Israel. In addition, most power lines supplying electricity from Israel and Egypt were destroyed, causing a 75% or greater shortfall.

During the offensive, one million Gazans had no power, and a half million no running water. In addition, sewage couldn't be treated so it was dumped into the Mediterranean polluting beaches or ran in streets causing a severe health problem.

Bombing destroyed transformers, pylons, cabling, and the main stores and vehicles of the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO). While key power lines are restored, 90% of residents endure power cuts of four - eight hours daily. Affected are homes and all other facilities, including hospitals forced to rely on back-up generators, themselves vulnerable for lack of spare parts.

Industrial fuel is also restricted causing the power plant to switch on and off when it's designed to stay running. As a result, it's wearing out and may end up beyond repair.

Water and Sanitation

Its infrastructure is badly damaged enough to need millions for restoration. Over 30 water network km were damaged or destroyed. Most are partly repaired, but nothing in Gaza functions properly given shortages of everything, including spare parts.

The conflict also destroyed or damaged 6,000 rooftop water tanks, 840 household connections, and key storage tanks throughout the Strip. A lack of cement prevents rebuilding. Generator imports also are prohibited, essential to supply water during power outages that increase in winter. Besides water stoppages, lost pipe pressure pollutes groundwater sent through them to households compounding the ongoing health crisis.

Health

The WHO estimated that the war destroyed or damaged half of Gaza's 122 health facilities, including 15 hospitals, 41 primary care centers, and 29 ambulances. Most now function but far short of optimally given the siege's constraints. There's a chronic shortage of everything, including specialized medical personnel to deal with severe war injuries requiring extensive or complicated surgeries as well as the proper equipment to perform them.

Education

Besides the siege's affects, war destruction greatly exacerbated a bad situation, unrelieved by an inability to rebuild. As a result, in the past year, 82% of government schools and 88% of UNRWA ones operated on double shifts to accommodate Gaza's children.

During the war, 18 schools were destroyed, and at least another 280 damaged, affecting thousands of students. "To date, almost nothing has been rebuilt or repaired as a result of the" construction materials ban also affecting textbooks and other educational supplies. New schools are needed and damaged ones repaired to begin to restore Gazan education to normality.

Israel's Siege

Isolating Gaza isn't new. Since 2000, it's been subject to closures, but near totally since mid-2007 in defiance of international law. By enforcing Gaza's blockade, "Israel is violating the absolute prohibition on collective punishment in international humanitarian law...."

Responsibility of the International Community, Especially the EU

As the occupying power, Israel is obligated under international law to assure the safety and well-being of civilians - "protected persons" as defined by Fourth Geneva's Article 4.

At the March 2009 donor's conference, over $4 billion in reconstruction aid was pledged, of which $1 billion came from EU countries. "The EU and the rest of the international community have again taken responsibility for repairing damage cause by (Israel), but failed" to see it's delivered.

For their part, EU nations haven't sought compensation for damage to their funded projects, estimated at tens of millions in 2000.

Fourth Geneva obligates third parties to conform to international law in all respects. So far, effective action is absent despite the May 2008 Quartet's call for a "new approach" on Gaza. None followed nor from the Security Council's January 8 Resolution 1860 (adopted 14 in favor with Washington abstaining) calling for an "Immediate, Durable, Fully Respected Ceasefire in Gaza Leading to Full Withdrawal of Israeli Forces (followed by) Unimpeded Humanitarian Assistance" and reopening of Gaza's crossings.

So far, the Security Council has done nothing to implement its order, only binding on Israel if enforced. Yet, the EU expressed clear opposition to the siege, most recently at a December Foreign Affairs Council session saying:

"the continued policy of closure is unacceptable and politically counterproductive. It has devastated the private sector economy and damaged the natural environment, notably water and other natural resources."

It also called for "an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza," but keeps abstaining from backing its words with action. It also hasn't recognized the siege as "collective punishment" under international law, leaving its statements toothless, disingenuous, and contemptible.

So while its members extend new economic and trade privileges to Israel (after freezing their upgrading during the war), it denies Gazans the basics of life and contemptuously sells Israel weapons to batter them again. Also, few of its officials visited Gaza to view the devastation and assess its affects first.

In fact, the Quartet contributed to Gaza's isolation by not recognizing Hamas, the Occupied Territory's elected government, not Fatah under Mahmoud Abbas and the appointed prime minister, Salam Fayyad, who usurped it in the West Bank illegitimately.

Diplomatic Initiatives and Plans

"The international community appears to have accepted the blockade, seeking little more than small concessions." Yet in May 2009, the UN formulated a specific plan to deliver construction materials for a number of stalled health, housing, and education projects. It guaranteed Israel's security in return for letting it proceed. Then negotiations got diverted to a few pilot projects, not the full package, so:

"almost nothing has been allowed into Gaza under this plan....The international community's failure to do enough (perhaps nothing beyond rhetoric) to halt the blockade is a sign of the wider failure to hold all parties to account for violations of international humanitarian law."

In June 2009, Jimmy Carter, like others with similar comments, said:

"Tragically, the international community largely ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are treated more like animals than human beings....Never before in history has a large community been savaged by bombs and missiles and then deprived of the means to repair itself. The responsibility for this terrible human rights crime lies in Jerusalem (under Netanyahu), Cairo (under Mubarak), and Washington (under Obama who treats Palestinians as contemptuously as George Bush and the worst Republican extremists)."

Call to Action

Stopping this outrage demands action, what the NGOs urgently call for, saying "no more excuses." They want the Quartet, EU, and international community to commit to ending the siege, pressure Israel to assure it, have its government compensate Gazans for their losses, and hold guilty parties accountable under international law. Otherwise, they'll be "no rebuilding, no recovery," and no measures to prevent further attacks or to end decades of illegal occupation.

Israel's Counteroffensive

Israel, of course, responded, like it always does when cornered with no credible defense, so it attacks critics like respected human rights groups, accusing them of organizing a campaign of false allegations, misinformation, and malicious personal attacks.

It also uses Zionist front groups like the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor to disseminate propaganda, debase the legitimate human rights community, and promote a pro-Israeli agenda defending the indefensible.

It countered with its own report titled, "Trojan Horse: The Impact of European Government Funding for Israeli NGOs," with its president, Gerald Steinberg saying:

"These (international NGOS) continue to exploit moral, legal and humanitarian principles in order to promote political warfare against Israel. Many of the claims in (their) report are not supported by credible evidence, and reflect double standards. Through this systematic bias regarding Israel, these NGOs have lost respectability, and the European governments that fund such attacks share responsibility for this abuse."

Never mind the array of respected human rights organizations, jurists, and activists universally condemning Israel's war crimes, documenting them extensively in detailed reports, and calling for accountability.

Never mind Israeli officials fearing arrest in European cities, advised to contact the Judge Advocate General's office prior to traveling, and a UK arrest warrant issued for former foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, for war crimes under the universal jurisdiction principle, by which nations may prosecute alleged criminals for offenses committed outside their borders.

According to Richard Goldstone, former South African Constitutional Court justice and head of the UN Human Rights Council's Goldstone Commission, its precedent was Israel's Adolph Eichman seizure, trial, conviction on 15 charges (including crimes against humanity and the Jewish people), death sentence, and June 1, 1962 hanging.

Despite Israel's denial, coverup, and protestations, plus help from what James Petras calls the "Zionist Power Configuration (ZPT)" and supportive front groups like NGO Monitor, the evidence is clear, extensive, and conclusive. Israeli officials committed decades of the most grievous crimes of war and against humanity against defenseless Palestinian civilians, Operation Cast Lead one of the worst, but many others also particularly horrendous that still continue near daily.

Those responsible must be held accountable under the law, the same as Adolph Eichman and convicted Nazis at Nuremberg. Globally, people of conscience, including many thousands of Jews, demand and deserve no less.

A Final Comment

On December 27, B'Tselem launched a "public campaign" to lift the Gaza siege, saying:

"This is necessary to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip from the destruction wrought by the hostilities....The siege has led to economic collapse, isolating one and a half million Gazans....and reduc(ed) most of them to poverty and a life of unemployment, extremism and hopelessness."

Most of them need outside aid. Many thousands are still homeless, and can't rebuild because materials can't enter. "Not only is the siege unlawful and immoral, it is also utter folly." Hamas is more popular than ever. Global outrage keeps building for resolution and an end to the occupation. Yet one year after Operation Cast Lead, there's been no accountability for Israel's lawlessness nor justice for a beleaguered, oppressed people. No longer can this outrage be tolerated nor should it.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to the Lendman News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Link to archived Radio Shows

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Occupied West Bank Latroun Villages

The Occupied West Bank Latroun Villages - by Stephen Lendman

On June 6, 1967, when Israeli forces invaded Gaza and the West Bank, on the second day of the so-called Six-Day War (June 5 - 10, 1967), they entered three Palestinian villages in the Latroun salient - Imwas, Yalo and Beit Nouba, forcibly expelling the residents, numbering over 10,000 at the time. By the next day, most were gone while Israel began razing village lands and erasing their memory in an area well-known for its water resources and fertility, located northwest of Jerusalem along the Green Line. One soldier at the time explained that they:

"were told to take up positions around the approaches to the villages in order to prevent those villagers - who had heard the Israeli assurances over the radio that they could return to their homes in peace - from returning to their homes. The order was - shoot over their heads and tell them there is no access to the village," even though Fourth Geneva's Article 49 states:

"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive." Doing so is a "grave breach," and those responsible are criminally liable.

Forty-two years later, their former homes gone and land expropriated, the survivors remain displaced, unable to return in violation of international law and Article 11 of UN Resolution 194:

"Resolv(ing) that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible."

Israel never complied even though its admission to the UN was conditional on accepting this and other relevant UN resolutions.

Established in 1979, Al-Haq is a Ramallah, West Bank-based independent Palestinian human rights NGO dedicated to protecting and promoting these rights and the rule of law in Occupied Palestine. In December 2007, it published a report still relevant titled, "Where Villages Stood: Israel's Continuing Violations of International Law in Occupied Latroun, 1967 - 2007," and dedicated it "To the people of Imwas, Yalo and Beit Nouba, and to all Palestinians who remain displaced from their homes, their villages, their land."

Focusing on the Latroun villages, it highlights the plight of all Palestinians - denied their rights by forced displacements, prevented from returning, and in the Occupied Territories still living under an oppressive 42-year military occupation. Al Haq's purpose was to document an international crime, disclose the policy behind it, provide victims the evidence they need to seek justice, and the world community ample reason to demand it. After 42 repressive years, Israel's occupation "has acquired some of the (worst) characteristics of colonialism and apartheid" with no redress in sight to end it.

Following the Six-Day War, Israel expropriated 400 square km from displaced persons and refugees, and threatened Palestinians along the Green Line with more, especially in the three Latroun villages, targeted for annexation prior to the occupation by establishing irreversible "facts on the ground" when completed.

Al-Haq's study uncovered official Israeli political and military documents and compiled firsthand accounts from interviews with former soldiers who participated in the operation and were willing to discuss it freely. Thankfully so because their truths must be told.

The Story of the Latroun Villages: Their Destruction and Displacement

In Israel's 1948 "War of Independence," the Old City of Jerusalem (in East Jerusalem) and Latroun salient were key targets fought hard for, lost, and thereafter "engrained in the collective psyche of the Israeli military." As a result, Latroun remained a West Bank enclave along the Green Line, separated from Israel by a "No Man's Land" buffer zone.

The Six-Day War achieved the earlier loss, erased a "bitter memory" according to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, and provided an opportunity for more land and its valuable resources by expelling Palestinian residents and denying their right to return.

From the start, no resistance was met because the Jordanian military withdrew the night before, knowing it would be outnumbered so prioritized its defense of Jerusalem. As a result, Palestinian residents began fleeing as soon as Israeli tanks approached, and those remaining were forcibly expelled, in many cases with no time to take essentials, including food and water for a 20 km walk to Ramallah (in intense heat), their only way to get there not knowing their fate, yet believing at the time they'd be allowed to return.

Unknown to them then:

-- expulsion meant permanent displacement;

-- Latroun was to be part of Israel and all traces of their former land destroyed, except in their collective memories;

-- village destruction was a punitive land grab accomplished by bulldozing and blasting with explosives, not the result of war; reportedly, some residents who remained were buried under their homes, a willful act of murder;

-- destruction was complete, including homes, schools, mosques, archaeological landmarks, a medical clinic, wells, an agricultural association, and a police station - everything leveled to Judaize it.

One participating soldier said it was "the blackest hour of my life. Things were done here which should not have been done, and I participated in an action that I shouldn't have been part of." Others felt the same way as they witnessed innocent civilians, including the sick and elderly, persecuted and displaced. Those too frail to leave were buried alive, an act too horrifying for some to bear.

Dr. Moussa Abu Ghosh remembered his cousin, Hasan Shukri, buried beneath his home:

He "was nineteen, an invalid, paralyzed from polio. They found his wheelchair outside and found his body underneath the house." Others recalled similar incidents, but how many is unknown, perhaps dozens of civilians willfully murdered, guilty of being Arabs on land Israel wanted and took.

After the war, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol told Israeli ministers:

"For the first time since the establishment of the state, the security threat to Israel from the West Bank has been removed, and here I am reminded particularly of Latroun, which for us was a worry, as (in 1948) the territory in that area cost us much blood even though in the end it remained on the other side."

No security threat existed, but Israel got its revenge and the territory it sought. The major Western media was silent, much like today, so most people accept the mythology of a beleaguered Israel surrounded by hostile Arabs, acting heroically in self-defense.

Israel's Use of the Latroun Land

After the Six-Day War, Israeli Defence Forces and Defence Ministry Archive (IDFA) Military Organising Orders, June 1967 IDFA 901/2/281, section 4 stipulated that the GOC Central Command would be in charge of the area west of the Green Line, including Latroun, to secure it permanently for Israel. Judaizing followed in violation of international law, amounting to what former UN Special Human Rights Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine, John Dugard, called:

a "form of colonialism of the kind declared to be a denial of fundamental human rights and contrary to the Charter of the United Nations as recalled in the General Assembly's Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples."

It "solemnly proclaims the necessity of bringing to a speedy and unconditional end (of) colonialism in all its forms and manifestations" because it's fundamentally contrary to international law and the very notion of human rights.

Not for Israel, however, acting outside the law thereafter to colonize the Territories (focusing on the West Bank) and incorporate them into greater Israel, with borders yet to be determined because land seizures keep expanding them for new settlements and enlarging established ones.

In 1970, Mevo Horon was built on Beit Nouba land, initially for ideologically religious settlers in prefabricated buildings, now greatly expanded in more permanent form. "The settlement contains a Jewish religious school and it exploits the surrounding land, to which Palestinian access is banned, for agricultural purposes." The entire settlement, of course, is built on Palestinian land, stolen to provide new homes for Jews.

Canada Park

In 1973, Bernard Bloomfield, president of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) of Canada, led a campaign to raise $15 million for a recreational park for Israelis. His vision was realized where Imwas and Yalo once stood:

"a proud tribute to Canada," in his words, "and to the Canadian Jewish community whose vision and foresight helped transform a barren stretch of land into a major national recreational area for the people of Israel."

Unmentioned was that it was on stolen, occupied land, the village names now erased, forgotten, and forbidden to be mentioned until the JNF and Civil Administration agreed under pressure, in March 2006, to erect two signs acknowledging its former existence. It was short-lived, however, as within weeks the signs were vandalized, uprooted and stolen to preserve the new name - Ayalon Park or Ayalon/Canada Park under the administration of the Canada JNF.

It's a recreational area solely for Jews on former Palestinian land, where its former owners can't enter. Canada's JNF calls it "Israel's Central Park." Knowing their history, Palestinians are justifiably outraged.

The Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Railway

Israel Railways Ltd. is the independent state-owned company running the nation's rail network, and since March 2003 began building a high-speed line connecting Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, via Modi'in. By early 2008, trains were to be operating between Tel Aviv and Modi'in Central Station, but the entire line to Jerusalem won't be in service until 2016, according to current estimates.

The final portion from Modi'in to Jerusalem will go through Latroun between Canada Park, Mevo Horon, and Beit Sourik. As a result in May 2006, the Civil Administration issued military orders to seize Palestinian land, the way the Separation Wall is expropriating about 12% of the West Bank. The rail line is taking more.

Denying Latroun Residents Their Right to Return

Before the Six-Day War, Israel planned to expel Latroun residents and prevent their return, although at the time there was debate on how and whether to do it. On June 25, 1967, disagreement arose between the military and government ministers over whether destruction and displacement was justified and about how to deal with refugees post-conflict, mainly from Qalqiliya and Latroun. At issue was Israel's image, a matter of less concern to the military that wanted full control over a strategic area, the position that finally prevailed.

In the end, a compromise let Qalqiliya residents return but not Latroun ones on the premise that showing some concern would be diplomatically beneficial. Former Imwas, Yalo and Beit Nouba residents in Jordan were forced to stay while a grossly inadequate resettlement proposal was offered others in the West Bank, one they never accepted.

Thereafter on October 23, 1967, Military Order No. 146 barred them from returning and declared Latroun a "closed area," effectively confiscating their land and declaring that "persons using the road will not delay their travel nor will they leave the road" in order to prevent their return to Latroun. The order is still in force.

Nonetheless, village residents kept petitioning for their rights, each time without response, most recently in November 2007, but as time passes, the more embedded facts on the ground become.

Legal Analysis

Fourth Geneva Convention's relevance affected Article 35 of Israel's Military Proclamation No. 3 stating that its military courts "must apply (its) provisions....In case of conflict between this Order and the said Convention, the Convention shall prevail." So why hasn't it?

Because the ruling was subsequently reversed despite the international community's firmness that it applies universally and Israel has no right to disregard it. In its 2004 ruling on the Separation Wall, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) affirmed this interpretation, and so did the 1907 Hague Regulations.

In addition, international humanitarian and human rights laws apply, according to the UN General Assembly, ICRC, and independent judicial bodies. "Israel's claim that customary and conventional human rights laws do not apply to the OPT as the Palestinian population is not within its sovereign territory has been almost universally refuted."

Forcible Transfer

Under Fourth Geneva's Article 4, Latroun villagers were protected persons prohibited from being forcibly displaced, yet they were and prevented from returning.

This principle goes back to the 1863 Lieber Code that says "private citizens are no longer (to be) carried off to distant parts," and the Hague Regulations state that "the practice of deporting persons was regarded at the beginning of (the 20th) century as having fallen into abeyance," stopping just short of prohibition but inferring that interning or expelling civilians falls below minimal civilized standards and are hence unacceptable and effectively illegal.

Israel is bound under international law but disregards it nonetheless. Yet two weeks after the Six-Day War ended, serious cabinet debate considered compliance because keeping legitimate residents displaced served no military or security purpose. Nonetheless, Latroun ones lost everything, so for them the consequences were grim. Families were separated and unprotected, and accounts reported road side deaths from exhaustion and exposure.

The ICRC's Appeals Chamber (ICTY) emphasized the link between prohibiting deportation, forced transfer, and residents' right to their property stating:

The "protection interests underlying the prohibition against deportation include the right of the victim to stay in his or her home and community and the right not to be deprived of his or her property by being forcibly displaced to another location." Latroun villagers lost everything. For some, including their lives.

Property Destruction and Appropriation

Article 23(g) of the 1907 Hague Regulations affirms a well-established international law principle that it's "especially forbidden (to) destroy or seize the enemy's property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war." This applies to property owned privately, publicly, and by institutions related to religions, charities, education, and the arts and science.

According to Article 6(b) of the Nuremberg Charter:

War crimes include "violations of the laws or customs of war (including) plunder of private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity."

Under Fourth Geneva's Article 53:

"Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations."

These provisions apply to occupied territory, and thus relate to Israel's wanton looting and destruction of Imwas, Yalo and Beit Nouba. No military necessity warranted it. After fighting ended and Israeli forces occupied the area, it was done solely to displace the residents and seize their land for Jews only use.

"That the villages were destroyed in the context of occupying forces exercising effective control over the area as opposed to in the course of battle between two armies is significant in rendering Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention applicable to all property destroyed in Latroun."

Military Necessity

The 1868 Petersburg Declaration first recognized the principle, stating that:

"the only legitimate object which States should endeavour to accomplish during war is to weaken the military forces of the enemy."

Thereafter, the concept was interpreted to mean acts of war must be warranted by "absolute military necessity." An authoritative ICRC study also prohibits property destruction "unless required by imperative military necessity."

The post-WWII Hostages Trial of Wilhelm List and Others (United States Military Tribunal, Nuremberg) established that the:

"destruction of property to be lawful must be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war.... Destruction as an end in itself is a violation of international law. There must be some reasonable connection between the destruction of property and the overcoming of the enemy forces."

This was "patently not the case in Imwas, Yalo or Beit Nouba." The IDF brazenly violated established international law. Fighting had ceased. There was no resistance. Those displaced were non-combatants, and the property destroyed served no military objective.

Collective Punishment

According to IDF chief of staff, Uzi Narkiss (1925 - 1997), destroying the Latroun villages was done for "revenge" after failure to capture the area in 1948. For Defense Minister Moshe Dayan (1915 - 1981), it was done "not as a result of battle, but of punitive action." It led Israeli writer Amos Kenan (1927 - 2009) to question "this idiotic approach (of) collective punishment," forbidden under Fourth Geneva's Article 33 stating:

"No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited."

Destroying Latroun continued what began during Israel's War of Independence that expelled about 800,000 Palestinians, slaughtered many others, and destroyed 531 villages, crops and agricultural land, and 11 urban neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and elsewhere.

After expelling 650 Palestinians on June 11, 1967, Israeli forces destroyed the entire Mughrabi Quarter of East Jerusalem's Old City, and thereafter continued a state policy of displacement and demolition:

-- for punitive reasons;

-- to build and expand settlements;

-- establish military zones; and to

-- create public areas solely for Jews and tourism.

According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, an estimated 24,145 homes have been demolished in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza from 1967 - July 2009 - 4,247, according to the UN, during Operation Cast Lead alone.

Settlement Construction

All Israeli settlements are illegal under Article 49(6) unequivocally stating:

"The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."

However, according to Israeli authorities, this provision only prohibits "forcible" transferring of the occupying power's population from its territory unrelated to "voluntary or induced migration." Not so, however, as is clear and unequivocal. Again, Fourth Geneva's Article 49 states:

"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."

In addition, the International Criminal Court (ICJ) affirmed that Article 49:

"prohibits not only deportations or forced transfers of population....but also any measures taken by an occupying Power in order to organize or encourage transfers of parts of its own population into the occupied territory." As a result, "the Israeli settlements in the OPT (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law."

They represent a calculated scheme to displace Palestinians and expropriate as much of their land as possible. From 1967 - 2007, Israel established 121 settlements, 106 outposts, and a dozen (de facto settlement) neighborhoods, now home to about 500,000 Jews. As of summer 2009, construction continues. No settlement freeze exists, and official state policy is to keep expanding them, seize all of East Jerusalem, and all valued West Bank land, expelling Palestinians in the process.

Grave Breaches and Individual Criminal Responsibility

The Nuremberg Tribunal established the principle of individual responsibility for committing international crimes directly or by "order(ing), solicit(ing) or induc(ing) the commission of such a crime (as well as) aid(ing), abet(ting) or otherwise assist(ing) in its commission."

These are "grave breaches" under Fourth Geneva's Article 147 and are considered among the most serious war crimes requiring "effective penal sanctions" against persons committing them or ordering them to be committed. As such, all High Contracting Parties are obligated to seek justice by arresting and bringing those responsible before a domestic or foreign court. In other words, for crimes this heinous and others as severe, the well-established universal jurisdiction principle applies.

For Imwas, Yalo and Beit Nouba, at issue are protected persons and property rights under Fourth Geneva and other long-standing international law provisions. As explained above, they're unambiguous so parties in violation must be fully held accountable.

However, in prosecuting war crimes, it's often challenging to establish a clear link between senior commanders and civilian authorities on the one hand and acts committed by their subordinates. Yet the highest authorities can be held responsible if they knew, should have known, and/or failed to take all necessary measures to assure no laws of war were broken.

"In the case of the Latroun villages, evidence of the direct responsibility and complicity of figures (at) the (highest levels of the) political and military leadership presents itself," including the prime minister, members of his cabinet, IDF chief of staff, and his top commanders. They ordered and agreed to actions on the ground by a 10 - 3 cabinet vote.

In addition, "the forcible expulsion and continuing displacement of the Latroun residents was not a once-off occurrence, never to be repeated elsewhere in the OPT." The policy continues unabated and is ongoing through home demolitions, land seizures, settlement expansions, daily harassment, house searches, arrests, killings, torture, cutting off water and power, restricting free movement, curtailing economic activity, denying farmers access to their land, and more in grave violation of international law.

The Right of Return

Besides being established under numerous UN Resolutions, including UN Resolution 194, Fourth Geneva's Article 49 requires that persons forcibly displaced "shall be transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area in question have ceased."

In addition, Principle 28 of the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement says it's the:

"primary duty and responsibility (of combatants and/or occupiers) to establish conditions, as well as provide the means, which allow internally displaced persons to return voluntarily, in safety and with dignity, to their homes or places of habitual residence."

Latroun villagers "hold an inalienable right to return to the OPT under instruments of international human right law....This right is held not only by those who fled to Jordan in 1967, but also their descendants, once they have maintained genuine links with the territory of origin." In addition, those unable to return or whose homes have been destroyed, are legally entitled to compensation for their loss and suffering.

Corporate Responsibility

Businesses benefit prominently from the spoils of war and occupation, yet their responsibility has "yet to be clearly defined or regulated by international law." However, "precedents....have arisen....primarily in the context of reparations for victims of human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law."

The Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor's finding is pertinent to Latroun and other occupied territories. It held that:

"Indonesian business companies, including State Owned Enterprises, and other international and multinational corporations and businesses (that) benefited from the occupation" must contribute to reparations to compensate East Timorese occupation victims.

According to the ICRC, international humanitarian law obligates states, soldiers, other armed groups, and corporations, whose activities were involved in a war or military occupation. In other words, war profiteering has a price, but who'll enforce payment.

Conclusion

After 42 years of military occupation, Israeli policy remains defined by its:

-- lawlessness and belligerency;

-- ruthless incivility and suppression of human and civil rights;

-- "voracious desire" (for) permanent control over as much of the West Bank as possible, including East Jerusalem,"

-- refusal to seek an equitable durable peace; and

-- determination to fragment the population into powerless, servile, isolated cantons under an oppressive Kafkaesque "matrix of control."

No easy solutions exist. None are proposed, nor will there be any from the top down. With their growing grassroots support, it's for committed Palestinians to achieve their long-denied equity, justice and self-determination. That's how change always comes.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Lendman News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Link to archived Radio Shows
 

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Lendman News Hour Guests for December 28 - January 1

The Lendman News Hour Guests for December 28 - January 1

John Kozy, Michael Hudson and Jack Rasmus are the featured guests on The Lendman News Hour

Dates:

Monday, December 28 - John Kozy

Tuesday, December 29 - Michael Hudson

Wednesday, December 30 - Jack Rasmus

Thursday, December 31 - Monday's program repeated

Friday, January 1 - Tuesday's program repeated

Time: 10AM US Central time

John Kozy is a retired philosophy and logic professor, now blogging on social, political, and economic issues. He taught for 20 years and was a writer for another 20. His articles can be found at www.jkozy.com and www.johnkozy.mindsay.com.

Discussion will focus on his latest writing and overall view of the nation under Obama heading into the new year.

Michael Hudson has had a long, varied and distinguished career as a Wall Street insider, leading economist, expert on financial history, and Research Professor at the University of Missouri. He's also an author, consultant, head of a Harvard-based economic and financial history group, and president of the Institute for the Study of Long Term Economic Trends (INSLET).

Hudson's important book, "Super Imperialism" was updated in 2003, and is extremely relevant given today's economic situation.

Discussion will focus on Hudson's economic views heading into 2010.

Jack Rasmus is a Professor of Political Economy at St. Mary's College and Santa Clara University, CA. He's also a freelance journalist, frequent speaker, a playwright and author of books, including his newest to be released early in 2010 titled, "Epic Recession and Financial Crisis: Prelude to Global Depression?

Rasmus is just out with his 2010 economic forecast. Discussion will focus on it.

Link to archived Radio Shows

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The "Omaha Two:" Victimized by COINTELPRO Injustice

The "Omaha Two:" Victimized by COINTELPRO Injustice - by Stephen Lendman

After a two week April 1971 trial and four days of deliberation, an 11 white/one black member jury convicted Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) and Edward Poindexter for the bombing murder of police officer Larry Minard on August 17, 1970. Both men denied involvement, and ever since consistently maintained their innocence, insisting they were framed. Supporters agree, including Amnesty International that declared them political prisoners, and no wonder.

They were Omaha chapter National Committee to Combat Fascism (NCCF) leaders, an off-shoot of the Black Panther Party, targeted (as later revealed) by secret FBI/police Domino task force/COINTELPRO tactics, following J. Edgar Hoover's orders to infiltrate, disrupt, sabotage, and destroy their activism for ethnic justice, racial emancipation, and real economic, social, and political equality across gender and color lines.

COINTELPRO is the acronym for the FBI's secretive/mostly illegal counterintelligence program to neutralize political dissidents, including communists; anti-war, human and civil rights activists; the American Indian Movement; and Black Panther Party among others.

In their book "Agents of Repression," Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall wrote:

"the term came to signify the whole context of clandestine (typically illegal) political repression activities (including) a massive surveillance (program via) wiretaps, surreptitious entries and burglaries, electronic devices, live 'tails' and....bogus mail" to induce paranoia and "foster 'splits' within or between organizations."

Other tactics included:

-- "black propaganda" through leaflets or other publications "designed to discredit organizations and foster internal tensions;"

-- "disinformation or 'gray propaganda' " for the same purpose;

-- "bad-jacketing" to "creat(e) suspicion - through the spread of rumors, manufacture of evidence, etc. - that bona fide organizational members, (usually leaders were) FBI/police informants," to turn some against others violently;

-- "assassinations (of) selected political leaders," including Fred Hampton and Mark Clark on December 4, 1969 by Chicago police while they slept; and

-- "harassment arrests (on bogus) charges."

Individuals and organizations were targeted for their activism, not crimes that were blamed on innocent victims like the "Omaha Two."

In November 1968, a J. Edgar Hoover memorandum ordered his agents "to exploit all avenues of creating....dissension within the ranks of the BPP (using) imaginative hard-hitting counterintelligence measures aimed at crippling the BPP." From 1968 - 1971, they were vicious, including against Mondo we Langa and Edward Poindexter, targeted by the Bureau to be neutralized.

Months before they were arrested, FBI agents and Omaha police harassed them with tactics like frequent traffic stops, verbal abuse, and more. We Langa was called before a grand jury, and the Greater Omaha Community Action Agency fired him. Poindexter was victimized by bogus newspaper letters and an anonymous phone campaign. For the two men, it was just the beginning of a long nightmare, ongoing after 40 years.

Background on the "Omaha Two"

We Langa joined the BPP in 1969, then later the NCCF. He wrote for the local underground paper, Buffalo Chip, and in prison created art, wrote plays, short stories, articles, and five poetry books. He also contributed poems and stories to literary journals and magazines, including The Black Scholar, ARGO, Black American Literary Forum, Pacifica Review, Black Books Bulletin, and many others.

He's one of several co-authors of "The Race: Matters Concerning Pan Afrikan History, Culture, and Genocide" published in 1992, and a contributor to Nebraska Voices, commissioned by the Nebraska Humanities Council in commemoration of the sesquicentennial of Nebraska's statehood.

Like Poindexter, he's been incarcerated for nearly 40 years, during which time he's been non-violent and mentored young inmates as a model prisoner. Yet he's bogusly called a "cop killer," repeatedly (with Poindexter) denied parole, and in June 1968, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled them ineligible unless the Board of Pardons commutes their sentences - unlikely as it's composed of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state who haven't commuted a first-degree murder conviction in two decades, and overruled numerous Nebraska Parole Board's post-1993 unanimous decisions to commute their sentences to time served.

Edward Poindexter is a Vietnam veteran, a graduate of Metro State University, St. Paul, MN with a straight A average, and earned an MA from Goddard Graduate Program in Montpelier, VT. He was imprisoned in Minnesota to separate him from we Langa.

He's held leadership positions in the Art Club, Jaycees as president, and Harambee African Cultural Organization. He also:

-- received the Insight Program's Antoniak Award for outstanding achievement;

-- created the musical drama, Shakedown Blues;

-- published two Youth Survival Guides booklets for troubled youths;

-- recorded Jammer from the Slammer promoting constructive problem-solving and self-motivation;

-- participated in Minnesota's Turn Off the Violence Campaign;

-- was involved in the Juvenile Detention Bed Hotline Information Message Program producing works to support non-violence;

-- teaches and is currently writing a workbook for a Minnesota Correctional System class on building self-esteem;

-- teaches a health class including AIDS education;

-- is involved in teaching other classes on the history of intolerance in America, the civil rights movement, black history, and music;

-- developed a program for prisoners to encourage attitudinal and behavioral changes for men who batter women;

-- produced motivational tapes; and

-- proposed an audio recording studio, currently operating.

He's also been a model prisoner, yet he's denied parole.

Background on the Case

At trial, jurors were told that, using dynamite, blasting caps, and a battery, Poindexter made a suitcase bomb in we Langa's kitchen. A week later, he allegedly instructed 15-year old Duane Peak to put it in a vacant house, call the police, and say a woman was dragged into it screaming. Peak was charged with the crime, confessed, and claimed we Langa and Poindexter put him up to it, but changed his story numerous times, only once incriminated the "Omaha Two," was sentenced as a juvenile, and served about five years.

Initially, he didn't implicate them. In fact, he was in custody three days before mentioning their names, clearly under pressure, threats, and believed beatings in return for leniency.

The defense never heard his taped 911 call. It wasn't introduced at trial, and the original tape was destroyed. Years later, a copy surfaced with an accompanying FBI memo suggesting it was withheld because the voice wasn't Peak's, so perhaps authorities were shielding whoever made it, someone complicit in the crime to incriminate we Langa and Poindexter.

A week after the bombing, police targeted the black community, conducted warrantless searches, arrested NCCF members, had no evidence to hold them, so invented it by apparently planting dynamite, other explosives, blasting caps, and weapons in we Langa's basement, then discovered them when he was in Kansas City for a speech, prepared a shoddy report, gave perjured trial testimony contradicting it, yet got the two men convicted for a crime they didn't commit.

Years later, one juror admitted believing they were innocent because only circumstantial evidence was introduced, and Duane Peak's testimony wasn't credible. Another juror said the only black one thought they were innocent, yet relented after the others agreed to no death penalty.

Judicial Hypocrisy

The entire process was controversial and tainted, including circumstantial evidence that never should have been allowed pertaining to the defendants' political beliefs, ones held by millions in the country, then and now.

In addition, their fingerprints weren't on the alleged dynamite, skin tests performed to detect traces were negative, and according to former Omaha police officer, Marvin McClarty, an improper search procedure found it. Then shortly after the mens' conviction, we Langa's house mysteriously burned down, eliminating any chance for a post hoc accuracy check of police testimony.

In addition, in 1974, a federal court ruled the search illegal, cited inconsistencies in a police lieutenant's testimony authorizing it, admitted the dynamite might have been planted, and ordered a new trial, upheld by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1975.

However, in 1976, the Supreme Court applied a post hoc jurisdictional technicality to deny it by ruling that when states provide full and fair Fourth Amendment litigation opportunities (a dubious conclusion in this case), the Constitution warrants no habeas relief. Later rulings blocked the appellate process, and the statutory time limit for filing in Nebraska courts expired while the men awaited the federal outcome.

A major obstacle is that the Court of Appeals won't address whether the men were fairly tried, whether tainted evidence was introduced, whether key witnesses committed perjury, only if under legal system standards the process was fair, true or not.

Most important, the likelihood that political targets can get due process and judicial fairness is nil when authorities want to convict and have complicit judges allowing it. The courts today are corrupted with them, hanging ones of the worst kind, so what chance have two black men under a system structured against them and always has been.

On June 19, 2009, the Nebraska Supreme Court showed it by denying Poindexter a new trial despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence as well as we Langa's - with added closing statement emphasis saying:

"We affirm the judgment of the district court denying Poindexter's motion for postconviction relief," meaning that to be Black in America grants you none.

In the 1980s, Nebraska Chief Supreme Court Justice Norman Krivosha commissioned a study of the state's judicial fairness that concluded it was equitable with one exception - race. People of color were more likely to be arrested, indicted, convicted, and given longer sentences than whites, including the death penalty for capital offenses. It's no surprise that Nebraska's 3% black population comprises over 40% of its inmates, and the same disparity holds nationally.

Blacks make up around 12.4% of the population, but almost half of those incarcerated. Around 50% of them are for non-violent offenses, and about half of those are drug related. In 2000, Human Rights Watch reported that in one-third of the states, 75% of all drug related offenders were black. In Illinois, it was 89%. Shockingly, with less than 5% of the world's population, America has almost one-fouth of its prisoners, by far the largest total at around 2.4 million, growing at about 1,000 per week, mostly affecting blacks and hispanics.

It's no wonder that we Langa and Poindexter couldn't reopen their case despite later FBI documents (released in 1978) showing police and the Bureau collaborated to suppress exculpatory evidence to convict two innocent men. Jack Swanson, the chief detective in charge of the investigation, told the BBC why:

"I think we did the right thing at the time because the Black Panther Party....completely disappeared from Omaha after we got the two main players." In other words, neutralize the leadership and the organization dies.

Yet former Nebraska Governor Frank Morrison (1961 - 1967, who with Thomas Kenney represented Poindexter as a public defender) believed the men:

-- "were convicted for their rhetoric, not for any crime they committed....The only thing these fellas did was try to combat all the racial discrimination of the time the wrong way....They weren't convicted of murder."

It was for their activism and prominence to stifle dissent, keep them imprisoned to assure it, and continue a long tradition of defiling due process and judicial fairness for people of color, the poor, and disadvantaged in a democracy for the privileged alone, as virulent under Obama as earlier.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to the Lendman News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Link to archived Radio Shows

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Obama Year One: Betrayal and Failure (Part II)

Obama Year One: Betrayal and Failure (Part II) - by Stephen Lendman

Part II concludes an account of Obama's betrayal, not promised change.

Obamacare Plans to Ration Healthcare and Enrich Big Providers

After House passage in November, the Senate is now about to pass a stealth scheme to ration care and enrich insurers, the drug cartel, and large hospital chains, the way Washington always works.

It plans market-based solutions, featuring cost-containing measures, mostly affecting working Americans, the poor, elderly, and chronically ill to make a dysfunctional system worse, under the guise of reform, the most dangerous and deceptive word in the language to take cover from when announced.

Besides enriching providers, Obamacare will force millions to pay more, get less, with millions still uninsured and left out. Employers will be able to opt out of providing coverage, but since insurance for most will be mandated, those without it will have to buy it or face hundreds of dollars in penalties, whether or not they can afford it. Even with a public option, looking less likely, insurers will get to skim off the cream, charge what they wish, profit handsomely at low risk, and leave Washington stuck with ones industry doesn't want. For providers, it's a win-win under any version being considered.

Most disturbing are planned Medicare cuts, around $400 - $570 billion, depending on which numbers are most accurate, and these are for starters, a foot in the door if enacted, toward the long-term aim ending Medicare, then Medicaid and Social Security because, at $106 trillion in unfunded liabilities, budget constraints can't sustain them.

The Congressional Budget Office's June 2009 "Long-Term Budget Outlook" suggests a nation in decline, eventual hyperinflation, possible bankruptcy because of a greater national debt than during the Great Depression and near-surpassing WW II. The administration's solution - end entitlements over 100 million Americans rely on, but it still may be too little, too late given an overstretched budget, a weakening dollar, and foreign investors looking for safer returns on their capital, so are less willing to fund Washington's excesses.

In Obama's America, the least advantaged will carry the load, not privileged elites, but don't expect congressional opposition to stop him or news reports to explain it.

Obama's Permanent War Agenda

As president, he heads an imperial enterprise presided over by a war cabinet engaged in lawless militarism, aggressive wars, the permanent occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the planned conquest of Eurasia, and world dominance overall, with a defense budget exceeding the rest of the world combined at a time America has no enemies.

Yet, as a candidate, he opposed imperial militarism, promised limited escalation only, and pledged to remove all combat troops from Iraq by August 31, 2010. Then on February 27, he said:

"As a candidate for president, I made clear my support for a timeline of 16 months to carry out this drawdown, while pledging to consult closely with our military commanders upon taking office to ensure that we preserve the gains we've made and protect our troops. Those consultations are now complete, and I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months. Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end."

Not so fast according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates who told reporters that up to 50,000 will remain, and Obama himself then suggested year end 2011 and maybe later - as always, depending on conditions on the ground to provide an out for the real agenda, permanent occupation with a reduced force if possible.

He also promised two more brigades maximum for Afghanistan, or 10,000 troops. Instead, he ordered 17,000 sent initially, then after his December 1 announcement, the number reached five-fold his original pledge, likely heading higher in the new year as political promises are made to be broken.

Besides the Afghan escalation, he's also destabilizing Pakistan to balkanize both countries, weakening them to control the Caspian Sea's oil and gas riches and their energy routes to secured ports for export. The strategy includes encircling Russia, China, and Iran, obstructing their solidarity and cohesion, defusing a feared geopolitical alliance, toppling the Iranian government, perhaps attacking its nuclear sites, eliminating Israel's main regional rival, and securing unchallenged Eurasian dominance over this resource rich part of the world that includes China, Russia, the Middle East, and Indian subcontinent.

Like his predecessor, Obama also plans more - unchallengeable global control, the strategy first revealed in the 1998 US Space Command document, Vision for 2020. Later released in 2000 as DOD Joint Vision 2020, it called for "full spectrum dominance" over all land, surface and sub-surface sea, air, space, electromagnetic spectrum and information systems with enough overwhelming power to wage and win global wars against any adversary, including preemptively with nuclear weapons.

With other means as well, including propaganda, compromised NGOs, Color Revolutions for regime change, expanding NATO eastward, and various other ways for unchallengeable control - including over resource rich parts of Africa like Nigeria, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, and Somalia on its strategic Horn adjacent to the Red Sea, Suez Canal, and vital commercial waterways. War rages there with America backing Transitional Federal Government (TFG)/African Union forces to keep the Islamist resistance from regaining power - the same forces under which Somalia had its only stability in the last two decades or more.

Closer to home, the June 28 Honduran coup deposing democratically elected Manuel Zelaya was a coordinated State Department - Pentagon project working closely with Honduran commanders and top opposition political figures to establish a de facto dictatorship. The staged November 29 presidential election was meant for closure with a new president/oligarch taking over on January 27 as Zelaya can't succeed himself.

According to Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) Director Larry Birns, the episode represents Obama's "First Latin American Waterloo" as Washington's "solution" remains a "profound problem for much of the rest of the hemisphere, as well as for long-term ties with such major regional actors as Brazil, Argentina, and the Venezuelan-led ALBA nations." They won't recognize an illegitimately elected leader, so for now, call it stalemate with round two to come, involving a determined popular resistance against fascist coup plotters they want removed and out of power.

Obama's overall Latin American policy is just as troubling. It allocated half a billion dollars in military and related aid to Mexico's right-wing Calderon regime and to militarize the nation's border. Plan Colombia supplies more, billions for new weapons and technology on the pretext of fighting drugs trafficking and protecting regional security. Not so. It's about lawless imperialism and raw power, not drugs or other subterfuge.

During his late June White House visit, Colombian president Alvaro Uribe gave the Pentagon access to seven new military bases, plus nine others currently stationing US forces supplemented by the April 2008 Fourth Fleet reactivation after a 60 year hiatus.

Meant to militarize the continent and intimidate Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and other center-left governments, the move sparked outrage and concern with Hugo Chavez saying:

"They are surrounding Venezuela (and regional nations) with military bases (and may) soon start sending thousands of North American soldiers to Colombia. (They're) contract soldiers who are nothing more than paramilitary mercenaries and assassins. Airplanes, radar, sophisticated weapons, bombs - and, of course, they say it's to fight drug trafficking."

Given past coup attempts against Chavez and the June Honduran one, perhaps also to topple leaders not firmly in Washington's camp to give America regional dominance, not diplomatically but with raw power under a rogue leader like the others.

Travesty in Oslo - Peace Prize to a War Criminal

In choosing Obama, the Nobel Committee's October 9 announcement followed its long, ignoble tradition by anointing another war criminal, a man heading an imperial war machine, disdainful of peace, and currently escalating America's global dominance agenda, potentially threatening planetary survival.

Yet, the corporate media defended the award and practically gushed over Obama's acceptance speech. On December 10, New York Times writer Jeff Zeleny highlighted his claim that "some wars (are) necessary and just....in the fight against oppression."

The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson said "President Obama accepted the Nobel for peacemaking
by delivering an eloquent, often grim treatise on the nature and necessity of warfare (and) drew a clear distinction between the world as we would like it to be and the world as it is."

Unsurprising, the Nation magazine concurred on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" with editor Katrina vanden Heuvel (a notorious Obama and Democrat party flack masquerading as a progressive) praising the speech's "humility and grace."

According to the magazine's political writer, John Nichols:

"The president's frankness about the controversies and concerns regarding the award of a Peace Prize to a man who just last week ordered 30,000 US new troops into the Afghanistan quagmire, and the humility he displayed....offered a glimpse of Obama at his best. As such, the speech was important and, dare we say, hopeful."

For what, more war?

In Oslo, Obama's message was clear - expect permanent wars in the wake of his Afghan escalation, widening it to Pakistan, threatening Iran, destabilizing Eurasia, militarizing South America, claiming "all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace," then saying warriors should be honored "not as makers of war, but as wagers of peace."

"War is peace," Orwell's message and why the award legitimizes wars and the leaders who wage them.

Torture as Official US Policy Under Obama

Given a year of betrayal and failure, continuing the Bush torture policy is unsurprising despite Obama's January 22 Executive Order (EO) directing the CIA to shut its secret prisons network and close Guantanamo "as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order." That was then. This is now with a new president as lawless and ruthless as George Bush, and in some respects much worse.

Guantanamo is still open. "Black site" torture-prisons remain active globally, and the practice continues virulently as official US policy, despite international and US laws prohibiting it at all times, under all conditions with no allowed exceptions.

The Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 bans:

-- "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

-- carrying out sentences or executions "without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples;" and

-- caring for the wounded and sick, including by an impartial body like the ICRC "offer(ing) its services to the Parties to the conflict."

At least two US laws are also explicit - the 1996 War Crimes Act and 1994 Torture Statute. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Explanatory Memorandum calls torture a crime against humanity - a "particularly odious (offense and) a serious attack on human dignity," (the result of) government policy (or) condoned by a government or a de facto authority." For decades and under Obama, America is a serial abuser in defiance of the law and civilized human behavior.

Gutting Constitutional Cruel and Unusual Punishments Prohibition and Due Process Protection

The Fifth Amendment says no person shall "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." The Fourteenth Amendment holds government subservient to the law and guarantees due process respect for everyone's legal right to judicial fairness on matters relating to life, liberty, or property. The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishments.

No longer after the Supreme Court in mid-December, at the behest of the Obama administration, upheld a lower court decision declaring torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention and directing future courts, by presidential order, to treat "suspected enemy combatant(s)" as non-persons with no rights or judicial standing.

Henceforth, torture-extracted confessions will be admissible in civil or military commission trials, despite earlier High Courts ruling them unconstitutional. In Brown v. Mississippi (February 1936), the Court ruled that:

"The rack and torture chamber may not be substituted for the witness stand" in citing Fisher v. State (November 1926) stating:

"Coercing the supposed state's criminals into confessions and using such confessions so coerced from them against them in trials has been the curse of all countries. It was the chief iniquity, the crowing infamy of the Star Chamber (the notorious 15th - 17th century English court), and the Inquisition, and other similar institutions. The Constitution recognized the evils that lay behind these practices and prohibited them in this country....wherever the court is clearly satisfied that such violations exist, it will refuse to sanction such violation and will apply the corrective."

The Constitution also affirms judicial fairness for everyone under the law. No longer after the High Court acquiesced to Obama's request to deny it to administration-declared non-persons.

Obama's War on Labor

On March 30, Obama told Detroit's auto giants: "We cannot....must not (and) will not let (this) industry vanish," then laid down a clear marker that labor, not business, must take the pain through:

-- fewer jobs;

-- less pay;

-- reduced benefits, including lost pensions and free retiree healthcare; and

-- gutted work rules, including health and safety on-the-job protections, on top of everything sacrificed in 2007 negotiations when the UAW leadership sold out to management, then muscled the rank and file to go along.

The fate of the nation's auto workers is spreading nationally as low-pay/few or no benefits jobs replace once solid manufacturing ones, increasingly offshored to low-wage countries leaving fewer opportunities for skilled workers at home.

For decades, America's organized labor has been in decline, especially since the 1980s, but the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) offers hope. After failing in the 108th, 109th, and 110th Congresses, March 2009 House and Senate bills aim to restore worker rights at a time they're seriously eroded, given that 90% of employers oppose unions with government on their side. If pressured to offer more, nearly half threaten to close plants and other work sites. Many coerce, threaten and/or bribe workers to be union-free, and around 30% illegally fire pro-union employees and get away with it.

EFCA offers hope by creating a level playing field. If enacted, it will enforce fair collective bargaining and let workers freely decide, by majority vote, whether or not to form a union, without fear of employer retribution. It's the first pro-labor bill since the 1935 Wagner Act let workers bargain on equal terms with management, and a reversal of decades of lost rights.

Thus far, House and Senate bills are stalled in committees, and despite earlier administration support, getting the required 60 Senate votes won't come without as much Obama pressure as he's applying on healthcare. His silence shows non-support and the likelihood that EFCA is dead in 2009, perhaps in the 111th Congress, and the 112th one to follow.

Targeting Public Education for Destruction - Reinventing No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

Enacted in January 2002, NCLB claimed it would close the achievement gap between inner city and rural schools and more affluent ones by setting high reading and math standards, then testing to assure they're achieved. However, the law's real aim is to commodify education, end government's responsibility for it, and make it another business profit center, thereby depriving millions of the nation's youths (mostly disadvantaged ones) of the education they deserve.

Reauthorizing NCLB stalled in Congress for good reason. It's long on testing, school choice, and market-based reforms, but short on real achievement. It's built around rote learning, standardized test, requiring teachers to teach to the test, assessing results by Average Yearly Progress (AYP) scores, and punishing failure by firing teachers and principals, closing schools, and transforming them from public to charter or for-profit ones.

Obama plans to invent a failed policy, rename it, claim NCLB's shortcomings are fixed, and have his education secretary, Arne Duncan, do for the nation what he did to Chicago as CEO of the city's public schools - deny their students real education as repeated underperformance results showed, and no wonder. During his tenure and continuing today, privatization schemes continue, inner city schools are being closed, remaining ones are neglected and decrepit, classroom sizes are increasing, and children, as a result, are sacrificed on the alter of marketplace triumphalism.

Obama-ed promises more of the same:

-- favoring charter or for-profit schools over public ones;

-- running them by marketplace rules;

-- requiring state laws conform to federal ones, in violation of the 10th Amendment mandating "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, or to the people;" education isn't mentioned in the Constitution;

-- linking teacher pay to student performance as determined by standardized tests that measure rote memory, not real learning;

-- putting Washington bureaucrats in charge of undermining states, local school boards, and the right of parents to decide what's best for their children;

-- requiring federal mandates be followed to qualify for funding;

-- creating a two-tiered, class and income-based system favoring affluent school districts over inner-city ones; and

-- effectively destroying public education in Obama's America.

Promoting Dangerous Vaccines for a Non-Existent Threat

For months, Obama officials and the complicit media hyped a fake Swine Flu threat. Then on June 11, the WHO declared its highest Level 6 influenza pandemic alert followed by its Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, warning that H1N1 is "unstoppable" while admitting that most cases are mild, no different than seasonal flu, and many people recover unaided.

Many experts, including the world's foremost authority, Dr. Viera Scheibner, in her writings and on The Lendman News Hour, warn that all vaccines are ineffective, dangerous, and often cause the illnesses they're designed to prevent, and no wonder. Their harmful toxins include mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde, phenoxyethanol (antifreeze), and squalene adjuvants known to weaken the human immune system, making it vulnerable to serious auto-immune diseases like paralysis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, ALS, severe allergies, arthritis, encephalitis, and many others.

Disturbing evidence suggests that Swine Flu vaccines were bioengineered, are extremely dangerous, potentially lethal, and must be avoided. So why did Obama declare a public health emergency in October, and why are his officials stoking fear to encourage, then perhaps mandate, that everyone take them - ones rushed to market without safety testing that are already causing troublesome problems and reported deaths.

It's no coincidence that a declared emergency coincides with an economic crisis causing millions to lose jobs, homes, savings, and better futures. Or that drug giants see a profit bonanza from the global vaccination campaign. Perhaps a diabolical depopulation scheme also, based on the flawed assumption that global economic sustainability depends on reducing world numbers drastically because available resources are inadequate for 6.8 billion people (by US Census Bureau estimates), and they're taking up space anyway so get rid of them, including millions of Americans. Obama may be heading a global cabal to do it.

Denying Budget-Strapped States Financial Help

At a time 48 of the 50 states have growing budget shortfalls, and a new Pew Center on the States (PCS) report shows 10 in fiscal peril, the Obama administration is denying needed aid, forcing them to freeze hiring, cut jobs, lower wages, and impose austerity by gutting welfare programs, education, health care for the poor, and other vital services at a time they're most needed. Ahead expect extended hard times that will impact the disadvantaged most while official Washington steps up imperial madness and more handouts to the rich.

Growing Poverty, Hunger, Homelessness, and Numbers of Uninsured

Under Obama, like his predecessor, America helps the rich at the expense of all others, especially the least advantaged. The data are alarming and growing worse:

-- state budget deficits are in free fall due to the worst decline in tax receipts in decades, and conditions in 2010 and 2011 may get worse;

-- revised 2008 US census data show 47.4 million Americans (one in six) below the poverty line - a conservative estimate compared to others placing it much higher based on a more accurate definition of poverty;

-- USDA data show food stamp use at record highs at a time 49 million Americans (again one in six) experience hunger, including 17 million children;

-- up to three million experience homelessness, including many low-wage earners and others at risk in case of an unexpected financial burden like a missed paycheck or health emergency;

-- a 2008 OECD report on inequality and poverty ranked America highest among its 30 members, only ahead of Mexico and Turkey;

-- a 2008 Working Poor Families Project study shows these households keep getting poorer as the wealth disparity between rich and all others widens;

-- other reports show disturbing evidence of economic duress affecting growing millions of Americans while officials and media reports hail recession's end and credit Obama for achieving it - at a time the true picture is dire for a growing majority;

-- at least 50 million are uninsured; thousands more join them weekly; and

-- unemployment tops 20% with all excluded categories included.

Overall, it's America's dark side that politicians and media pundits suppress at a time Wall Street is having a party, courtesy of bailout billions, licensed fraud, manipulated markets, and Washington turning a blind eye while millions struggle to get by and many more can't.

Legislation to License Pollution, Fraud, and Unbridled Speculation

Introduced in May, HR 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACESA) lets corporate polluters reap huge windfall profits by charging consumers more for energy and fuel, yet does nothing to address environmental issues. On June 26, the House narrowly passed it, then sent it to the Senate where it remains stalled.

Ahead of the House vote, Obama lied in hailing the "historic proportions (of this) legislation that will open the door to a new, clean energy economy." Polluters love it and with good reason. So does Wall Street lobbying hard for passage.

If enacted, it will increase speculation through a new carbon trading derivatives bonanza with a potential market value of up to $10 trillion annually according to some estimates - so watch out for the mother of all bubbles Wall Street is lobbying hard to get passed.

It's a scam that, according to Catherine Austin Fitts, will "make the housing and derivatives bubbles look like target practice" as well as license pollution and fraud. More evidence of official corruption under a crime boss president, who promised UN Climate Change Conference (COP 15 Copenhagen) participants that America plans substantial greenhouse gas cuts over the next decade while concealing his real commitment and that of the conference.

Purportedly for a draft treaty replacing Kyoto's expiration in 2012, it's a power grab, according to some, including former Margaret Thatcher advisor, Lord Christopher Monckton. He warns of an unprecedented transnational government scheme under an unnamed, unelected UN body, empowered to intervene in the financial, economic, tax, and environmental affairs of all signatories and thus violate their sovereignty. He warned Americans that "unless you stop it, your president will sign your freedom, your democracy and your prosperity away forever."

It will also further a global carbon trading derivatives scheme huge enough to "make the housing and derivatives bubbles look like target practice," and be another betrayal by a president promising change.

On December 7, AP reported that:

"The Environmental Protection Agency took a major step (today) toward regulating greenhouse gases, concluding that climate changing pollution threatens the public health and the environment," and that carbon dioxide should be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

According to some, this ruling may let Obama bypass Congress, and effectively pass the cap and trade bill without the consent of the Senate. According to others, however, doing so would be a lawless impeachable act. At issue is whether he'll risk it.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement's (ACTA) Assault on Net Neutrality, Consumer Privacy, and Civil Liberties

Launched in October 2007, secret negotiations continue for a new intellectual property enforcement treaty that if adopted will subvert Net Neutrality, privacy, and personal freedom, and pressure all nations to comply under universally binding top-down rules overriding national sovereignty.

What's been leaked so far includes:

-- a proposed top-down enforcement regime requiring ISPs to disclose customer information;

-- mandating ISPs cooperate with right holders to remove infringing content;

-- new anti-camcording rules; and

-- network-level filtering to enforce a three-strikes-and-you're-out rule against consumers found three times to have infringed copyrighted content; the penalty - Internet connection termination.

These provisions way exceed current treaty obligations by imposing binding copyright demands requiring that:

-- ISPs police copyrighted material and deter unauthorized storage and transmission of alleged infringed content;

-- ISPs terminate Internet access of alleged repeat offenders or be liable;

-- alleged infringed material be removed;

-- digital rights management (DRM) rules be enforced relating to systems that identify, track, authorize, and restrict access to digital media - purportedly to protect and enforce copyrights, patents, trademarks, and other intellectual property forms; and

-- global Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) rules be imposed relating to intellectual property that will effectively censor online content, subvert free expression, invade privacy, deny due process, and undermine innovation.

If ACTA is adopted, consumer Internet communications and content will be monitored, threatening privacy, civil liberties, and a free and open Internet.

Empowering Agribusiness Under the Guise of Enhancing Food Safety

In July, the House passed the 2009 Food Safety Enhancement Act (FSEA) and referred it to the Senate, where the 2009 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is being considered. It's been passed out of committee for debate by the full body, perhaps before year end or sometime in January.

If enacted, it will empower agribusiness and adversely impact small farmers and food producers. While omitting effective food safety reforms, both House and Senate versions impose costly, burdensome regulations that will put many small growers and producers out of business for greater industry consolidation.

Included will be new standards based only on a "reason to believe" food may be adulterated, misbranded or otherwise in violation of the new law. In other words, suspicion alone, without proof, will prohibit food sales or recalls as well as force area quarantines if ordered, not applicable to food giants because their officials staff the FDA, the enforcing body they control. In addition, imprisonment and/or heavy fines may be imposed for failing to register a facility, misbranding, not conducting a hazard analysis, or failing to fill out the required paperwork - all of which greatly burdens small operators without staff enough to comply.

For effective food safety, measures should target agribusiness and imports, not the nation's safe local food system. Obama's plan does the opposite.

Obama Endorses Preventive Detention

On May 21, Obama addressed national security and civil liberties issues, including the Guantanamo detainees, military commissions, and torture. Saying his "single most important responsibility as president is to keep the American people safe," he claimed Al Qaeda "is actively planning to attack us again (and) this threat will be with us for a long time...." He then announced the following:

-- prohibiting "enhanced interrogation techniques" that continue unchanged to the present;

-- closing Guantanamo that's still open with no progress on his "order;"

-- trying "detainees who violate the laws of war (by) military commissions" that assure no possibility of due process or judicial fairness; and

-- including detainees ordered released, prevention detention of those at Guantanamo "who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people," without seeking statutory power to institutionalize it.

These men, about four or five dozen, will be held without charges or trials indefinitely on the dubious post-9/11 power authorizing the president to use force against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

No civilized state does this, uses military commissions in lieu of civil courts, practices torture, then uses evidence from it to convict.

Following Obama's speech, Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) said:

"The president wrapped himself in the Constitution and then proceeded to violate it by announcing he would send people before irredeemably flawed military commissions and seek to create a preventive detention scheme that only serves to move Guantanamo to a new location and give it a new name." Or perhaps keep it operating as now appears likely.

CCR's Guantanamo project Managing Attorney, Shayana Kadidal added:

"Preventive detention goes against every principle our nation was founded on. We have courts and laws in place that we respect and rely on because we have been a nation of laws for hundreds of years; we should not simply discard them when they are inconvenient.
The new president is looking a lot like the old one." The nation looks increasingly despotic, no different from history's worst under a rogue leader waging global imperial wars and destroying at home civil liberties.

Obama's Discrimination Against Haitian Immigrants

It's a familiar story for the hemisphere's poorest, least wanted, and most abused people at home and in America. Currently, about 35,000 undocumented Haitians reside in US cities, the result of deplorable conditions at home, including deep poverty and a repressive UN paramilitary Blue Helmet occupation after the Bush administration's 2004 coup d'etat against Jean-Bertrand Aristide, democratically elected and now deposed into forced exile.

For months, they've sought but not received Temporary Protected Status (TPS) after the Bush administration denied it, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials ordered forced deportations to the worst of conditions at home.

Immigration lawyer and long-time TPS advocate, Steve Forester, represents them in South Florida for the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. After months into the new Obama administration, he expressed surprise and anger that:

"we have not yet gotten a response to our request to at least give people the dignity of the right to work while the administration continues, month after month, to review the propriety of granting TPS, which to us and every objective observer is a no-brainer, based on the four hurricanes and storms that hit Haiti in a one-month period a year ago," and devastation from them remains.

After Congress established TPS in 1990, Washington granted 260,000 Salvadorans, 82,000 Hondurans, and 5,000 Nicaraguans protection, then extended it as deadlines expired. It grants temporary immigration status to undocumented residents unable to return home due to armed conflict, environmental disasters, or other "extraordinary temporary conditions." Nationals from numerous other nations got it, but not Haitians, most in need, least helped, and thus far scorned by America's first black president, no different than the rest.

S. 1261: Pass ID Act

Introduced in the Senate in June, now in committee awaiting debate by the full body, it's a measure to revive the enacted Real ID Act of 2005 that if enforced would mandate every US citizen and legal resident have a national identity card that in most cases will be a driver's license. It requires it to contain personal information to open a bank account, board an airplane, be able to vote, or conduct virtually any other essential business.

If embedded, as some fear, with an RFID chip, universal monitoring will be possible of everyone, everywhere at all times, a ghoulish nightmare civil libertarians stress must be avoided as well as mandating national ID cards. So do many states.

Many derailed it, some with statutes prohibiting its implementation, others from a resolution denouncing it. Now it's revived in Senate committee awaiting a full debate in 2010 under an administration seeking new police state powers beyond the many he inherited.

Obama Opposes Whisleblowers and Journalists Who Protect Their Anonymity

In February, the 2009 Free Flow of Information Act was introduced in the House and Senate. In March, the lower body overwhelmingly passed it, and it's now in Senate committee awaiting floor debate for a measure "to maintain the free flow of information to the public...."

Yet Obama worked to weaken it in opposition to strong congressional support. The House measure lets judges weigh the public's right to know against national security considerations in cases where prosecutors judicially challenge reporters to reveal their sources. Obama wants them revealed whenever the White House says national security issues are at stake and got its way in a late October compromise.

Not yet passed in the Senate, spokesman Ben LaBolt said the president expects to sign the measure in weakened form that excludes cases of leaked classified information or if the administration claims sources must be revealed to prevent or mitigate terrorism or any acts harmful to national security that can include almost anything with no substantiating corroboration.

Other Anti-Democratic Measures

Providing continuity, not progressive change, Obama also:

-- continues extraordinary renditions to hellhole prisons and torture as official US policy;

-- opposes detainee habeas lawsuits in them;

-- won't prosecute Bush administration high-level officials involved in torturing and killing detainees;

-- withholds evidence proving their culpability;

-- invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent lawsuits by victims of rendition, torture, abuse, and by those opposing warrantless wiretapping; and

-- governs with lawless police state authority as extreme, and in some cases, worse than George Bush.

Final Comments

After less than one year in office, Obama:

-- presides over a bogus democracy under a homeland police state apparatus;

-- embraces militarism, imperial wars, and lawlessness like his predecessor;

-- erodes human rights, civil liberties, and constitutional freedoms;

-- keeps looting the federal Treasury for Wall Street;

-- plans new global monetary measures to control the world's money;

-- targets whistleblowers, dissenters, Muslims, Latino immigrants, environmental and animal rights activists, and lawyers who defend them too vigorously;

-- illegally spies on Americans as aggressively as George Bush;

-- destroyed decades of hard won labor rights;

-- wants public education privatized as another business profit center to destroy a 375 year tradition;

-- disdains the public interest in times of growing economic duress;

-- wants everyone inoculated with dangerous, toxic vaccines for a non-existent health threat;

-- backs so-called reform that will ration care and enrich insurers, the drug cartel, and large hospital chains;

-- wants legislation passed to let corporate polluters reap huge windfall profits by raising energy costs and create a speculative bonanza with a new carbon trading derivatives scheme;

-- other legislation to empower agribusiness; and

-- a mandated national ID card for all citizens and legal residents to be able to monitor them everywhere at all times.

Obama wants to do George Bush one better by continuing the worst of his policies, enact more of his own, and destroy the middle class to turn America into Guatamala with ruling elites governing a nation of serfs. Well on his way, he's got three more years to succeed unless mass public outrage stops him.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to the Lendman News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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