THIS BLOG HAD MORE VISITORS IN 2012 THAN THE COUNTRY OF LIECHTENSTEIN

HAPPY 2013

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 1,100,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 20 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.

MENTAL ILLNESS, ONE OF MANY CAUSES OF ISLAMOPHOBIA

Bennett editorial cartoon
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From The New York Times; Ms. Menendez’s years of inner and outer turmoil culminated in the deadly assault on an unsuspecting man who was waiting for a train on Thursday. Beyond stirring fear among riders on crowded platforms across the city, the attack also raised new questions about the safeguards in a patchwork private and public mental health system that is supposed to allow mentally ill people to live as freely as possible in the community while protecting them and the public.
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“How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?”
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The following from Mondoweiss deals with the latest incident …
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After Islamophobic hate crime in New York City, mayor wants public to ‘keep death in perspective’

by Annie Robbins and Alex Kane
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Sen
The Passport photo of 46-year-old Sunando Sen, pushed to his death because a woman thought he was Muslim (Photo: Christie M. Farriella for New York Daily News)
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A horrific crime if we’ve ever seen one–and a reminder that Islamophobia affects many communities outside Muslim ones.

From the AP:

A woman who told police she shoved a man to his death off a subway platform into the path of a train because she hates Muslims and thought he was one was charged Saturday with murder as a hate crime, prosecutors said.

…..

“I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up,” Menendez told police, according to the district attorney’s office.

……

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday urged residents to keep Sen’s death in perspective as he touted new historic lows in the city’s annual homicide and shooting totals.

“It’s a very tragic case, but what we want to focus on today is the overall safety in New York,” Bloomberg told reporters following a police academy graduation.

What kind of perspective is Bloomberg referencing? If someone said “I shoved a Jew in front of a train because I hate Jews,” would Bloomberg be touting drops in the city’s annual homicide and shooting totals? Quite an insensitive comment, at the very least.

After this news broke, Twitter was aflutter with people pointing to Pamela Geller as one culprit pushing anti-Muslim sentiment in the city. Geller’s organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, recently put up a new crop of ads that features the World Trade Center burning with a Qu’ran verse printed to the right of the towers. 

Geller’s role in promoting anti-Muslim sentiment of the sort that leads to Islamophobic hate crimes should not be in dispute. But what should also be highlighted is how New York City’s own police force has promoted anti-Muslim bigotry time and time again, from surveillance of Muslims that places the whole community under suspicion to training officers with an Islamophobic flick. 

Friend of Mondoweiss Lizzy Ratner made this point in her excellent piece on Geller in The Nation:

Though Geller and her crew are fringe elements, they are not random or spontaneous, idiopathic lesions on the healthier whole. They are, quite sadly, part of this country, outcroppings of something big and ugly that has been seeping and creeping through the body politic for years. In the decade since September 11, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry has become an entrenched feature of our political and social landscape. It lurks in the hidden corners of everyday life—in classrooms and offices and housing complexes—as well as in the ugly scenes that occasionally explode into public consciousness. In the special registration of Middle Eastern men after 9/11. In the vicious campaign against Debbie Almontaser, the American Muslim school teacher who tried to open the Arabic-language Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA) and was tarred as an extremist. In the attack on the Park51 Islamic center, more commonly (if less accurately) known as the Ground Zero mosque. In the New York Police Department’s selective surveillance of Muslim communities. And that’s just New York City. All of these instances should have called on our horror and outrage, and in all too many of them, society hasn’t lived up.

This crime appears to be the latest manifestation of New York City’s Islamophobia. This time, it cost a life.

BY OMISSION, THE NEW YORK TIMES WIPES ISRAEL’S CRIMINAL RECORD CLEAN

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Truth, Lies, and Omissions
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According to The New York Times, there is no siege of Gaza, no occupation of the West Bank, and never was there a  Nakba (the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine). Three recent articles erase these key Israeli crimes from the historical record.
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How The New York Times erases Israel’s crimes

Robert Ross* 
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The New York Times keeps the American public in the dark about the true nature of Israel’s occupation.

(Nedal Eshtayah / APA images)

According to The New York Times, there is no siege of Gaza, no occupation of the West Bank, and never was there a Nakba (the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine). Three recent articles erase these key Israeli crimes from the historical record.

In a 13 December 2012 article entitled “Hamas Gains Allure in Gaza, but Money is a Problem,” Steven Erlanger explores the reasons for Gaza’s increasingly debilitating poverty. Never once in this 1,300-word piece does Erlanger even mention the Israeli siege on Gaza or the 2008 and 2012 Israeli bombardments as factors (much less the principal causes).

Instead, Erlanger goes through a long list of regional developments (the weakening of the Assad regime in Syria, sanctions on Iran) and, most emphatically, decisions by Hamas(new taxes and fees), which have supposedly left Palestinians in Gaza not only increasingly impoverished but also more resentful than ever of Hamas. “Gazans recognize that there is more order here,” Erlanger explains, “more construction and less garbage. But many resent the economic burden of financing Hamas and, implicitly, its military.”

No siege

So to the extent that the most recent Israeli onslaught is considered at all, it is Hamas’rockets, once again, that are blamed for Gaza’s misfortune. As if to prove his point, a 43-year-old butcher says to Erlanger, “things have steadily declined in Gaza.” Another Gaza resident adds, “it is a life of depression and deprivation.”

Erlanger does include the word “siege” in his analysis, but only amidst a quoted laundry list of problems Palestinians in Gaza now endure: “poverty, mismanagement, siege,unemployment, little freedom of movement,” Mkhaimar Abusada is quoted as saying.

And the siege, among these other conditions, is implicitly attributed not to Israel, but to Hamas: “If it can’t deal with these same issues,” Abusada concludes, “Hamas will find itself in the same position as it was before the war.” While Abusada, a political scientist at Al-Azhar University, certainly knows the origins of these conditions, Erlanger’s placement of his quotation makes it seem that even Abusada blames the siege on Hamas.

Either way, Erlanger does not provide any sense of how totalizing and devastating a ground, air and naval blockade (much less the two recent military assaults) of the densely populated territory actually is. An uninformed reader could easily conclude that the siege is something for which Hamas is responsible, not an imperially-imposed form of collective punishment foisted upon Palestinians by Israel, and not something that is directly responsible for Gaza’s poverty and “little freedom of movement.”

Thus, according to The New York Times, Hamas is responsible for Gaza’s problems; Israel has nothing to do with it.

No Nakba

Times article about Palestinian refugees in Syria published three days after Erlanger’s Gaza story obscures the reason that Palestinians are refugees in the first place (“A Syrian airstrike kills Palestinian refugees and costs Assad support,” 16 December 2012).

With just eight words, the Times absolves Israel of any responsibility for the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to make way for a Jewish state.

Reporting on the Syrian regime’s recent attack on Yarmouk camp in Damascus, home to thousands of Palestinian refugees, the Times explains that the Palestinians there were “refugees from conflict with Israel and their descendants.” The Nakba, the original sin ofZionism and the State of Israel, is thus smeared into obscurity. It is transformed into something it is not, changed from the wholesale removal of one group of people by another to a conflict between two presumably equal sides, from which a bunch of Palestinians evidently fled.

The newspaper of record does not, of course, go on to explain that while UN Resolution 194 specifically grants the Palestinians in Syria (as well as those in Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere) the right to return to their homes in what is now Israel, the Israeli government has always — and, at times, violently — denied this right.

No occupation

An article published the following day, on the so-called E1 land east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank, fails to mention that this land and the broader territory of which it is part, is considered by international law to be a Palestinian territory currently under Israeli occupation (Steven Erlanger, “West Bank land, empty but full of meaning,” 17 December).

Reporting on Israel’s recent declaration to build settlements on E1, Erlanger reproduces the oldest Zionist myth in the book: that this is an “empty” land, over which now the “two sides” are struggling: “E1 [is] a largely empty patch of the West Bank,” Erlanger writes. And the “fight” over E1 “speaks to the seemingly insurmountable differences, hostility, and distrust between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Erlanger informs us.

Thus, the occupied Palestinian West Bank, with all its illegal Israeli settlements, Jewish-only roads, Israeli checkpoints, Israeli military incursions and Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes, is reduced to a territory to which two different groups are laying equally legitimate claim. The closest Erlanger gets to even hinting at the occupation is where he writes toward the end of the article that E1 is “largely state land.”

But this, like the unidentified and unexplained “siege” in Gaza, is far too vague for an uninformed reader to understand which “state” controls this land, under which conditions, and against whose rights, livelihood and sovereignty.

So there you have it: no siege, no Nakba, and no occupation. Such reporting is, at best, delusional. At worst, it is intentionally misleading. In any case, The New York Times serves Israel’s interests by keeping the American public in the dark about the true nature of Israel’s occupation.

It is easy to understand why so many Americans find the situation so apparently confusing when the people who report on it are themselves confused about the very basic historical, geographic and political realities.

*Robert Ross is an Assistant Professor of Global Cultural Studies at Point Park University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His research and teaching focus upon the political-economic geographies of Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and the United States. He is also a member of the Pittsburgh Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Israel-Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Written FOR

AN ANNIVERSARY WE WILL NEVER FORGET

As is the custom, memorial candles were lit this week for those slaughtered by Israel in Operation Cast Lead four years ago. An anniversary of mourning, not of joy.
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NEVER TO FORGET
NEVER TO FORGIVE
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4 Years Since Operation Cast Lead

Four years ago today, on 27th December 2008, Israeli Forces launched a large-scale offensive against the Gaza Strip, codenamed Operation Cast Lead. This 23-day long offensive was the most violent offensive since the beginning of Israeli occupation in 1967.

 

1167 Palestinian civilians, the so-called “protected persons” of International Humanitarian Law, were killed during this offensive, including 318 children and 111 women. Moreover, 5,300 Palestinians were wounded, of whom 1,600 were children. In addition, 2,114 houses (2,864 housing units) in the Gaza Strip were completely destroyed while 3,242 houses (5,014 housing units) were rendered uninhabitable, making approximately 50,000 Palestinians homeless. Public and private infrastructure throughout the Gaza Strip was systematically targeted and destroyed.Numerous investigations and reports by national and international human rights organizations provided compelling evidence indicating the widespread and systematic violation of international law

 

Four years later the Gaza Strip remains subject to an illegal closure regime, making reconstruction and rehabilitation virtually impossible. The Gaza Strip has been stuck in a time warp, and its civilian population subject to collective punishment.

 

As confirmed by national and international human rights organizations and the UN Committee of Independent Experts established by the Human Rights Council, it is unambiguously clear that all parties have failed to conduct domestic investigations that are prompt, effective, independent, and in conformity with international law. Furthermore, all parties have failed to prosecute suspected perpetrators of crimes under international law. According to the UN Committee of Independent Experts’ report published on 18th March 2011, all parties’ investigations into alleged war crimes have comprehensively failed to meet the requirements of international standards.The Committee found that Israel failed to investigate high-level officials and cover all allegations. It is noted the only concrete result of these procedures have been a 7 month sentence for the theft of a credit card, a 45 day sentence in relation to the killing of two women carrying white flags, and two 3 month suspended sentences for the use of a Palestinian child as a human shield. 

 

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) submitted 1,046 civil complaints(or “damage applications”) to the Compensation Officer in the Israeli Ministry of Defense ,and approximately 490 criminal complaints (on behalf of 1,046 affected individuals) requesting the opening of an investigation to the Israeli Military Prosecution. However, to date, only a handful of responses denoting the opening of an investigation, or simply acknowledging receipt of the complaint, have been received; media sources have reported that other complaints filed by PCHR have been closed, but this has not been officially communicated.

 

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) affirms that all victims’ legitimate right to an effective remedy must be respected. For too long, the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory has been characterised by systematic violations of international law, and pervasive impunity for these crimes. The result has been an escalating cycle of violence, and it is the civilian populations who have been forced to pay the horrific price.All efforts must be undertaken to ensure justice for all victims.

 

It is essential that the rule of law be restored, and that all suspected violations of international law be investigated, and those responsible held to account.

 

PCHR:

 

1.     Calls upon the State of Palestine to immediately sign and ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and to lodge a declaration with the Court’s Registrar under Article 11 (2) and 12 (3) of the Statute, accepting the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court from the date of entry into force of the Statute, 1 July 2002.

2.     Following the accession of Palestine to the Rome Statute, recommends that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court should initiate an investigation propriomotuin to alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity which are committed in Palestine in violation of the Statute, and request an authorization of the Pre-Trial Chamber to proceed with an investigation, pursuant to article 15 of the Statute.

3.     Calls upon the international community to support the efforts of the Palestinian people to seek justice for the violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law through use of the principle of universal jurisdiction.

 

 

Prepared BY

FBI CRACKDOWN ON OCCUPY MOVEMENT

“FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) … reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat … The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.”
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How the FBI Coordinated the Crackdown on Occupy

By Naomi Wolf

 

 

New documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent

t was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves -was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document - reproduced here in an easily searchable format - shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.

The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations’ knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).

As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, put it, the documents show that from the start, the FBI – though it acknowledges Occupy movement as being, in fact, a peaceful organization – nonetheless designated OWS repeatedly as a “terrorist threat”:

“FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) … reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat … The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.”

Verheyden-Hilliard points out the close partnering of banks, the New York Stock Exchange and at least one local Federal Reserve with the FBI and DHS, and calls it “police-statism”:

“This production [of documents], which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement … These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”

The documents show stunning range: in Denver, Colorado, that branch of the FBI and a “Bank Fraud Working Group” met in November 2011 – during the Occupy protests – to surveil the group. The Federal Reserve of Richmond, Virginia had its own private security surveilling Occupy Tampa and Tampa Veterans for Peace and passing privately-collected information on activists back to the Richmond FBI, which, in turn, categorized OWS activities under its “domestic terrorism” unit. The Anchorage, Alaska “terrorism task force” was watching Occupy Anchorage. The Jackson, Michigan “joint terrorism task force” was issuing a “counterterrorism preparedness alert” about the ill-organized grandmas and college sophomores in Occupy there. Also in Jackson, Michigan, the FBI and the “Bank Security Group” – multiple private banks – met to discuss the reaction to “National Bad Bank Sit-in Day” (the response was violent, as you may recall). The Virginia FBI sent that state’s Occupy members’ details to the Virginia terrorism fusion center. The Memphis FBI tracked OWS under its “joint terrorism task force” aegis, too. And so on, for over 100 pages.

Jason Leopold, at Truthout.org, who has sought similar documents for more than a year, reported that the FBI falsely asserted in response to his own FOIA requests that no documents related to its infiltration of Occupy Wall Street existed at all. But the release may be strategic: if you are an Occupy activist and see how your information is being sent to terrorism task forces and fusion centers, not to mention the “longterm plans” of some redacted group to shoot you, this document is quite the deterrent.

There is a new twist: the merger of the private sector, DHS and the FBI means that any of us can become WikiLeaks, a point that Julian Assange was trying to make in explaining the argument behind his recent book. The fusion of the tracking of money and the suppression of dissent means that a huge area of vulnerability in civil society – people’s income streams and financial records – is now firmly in the hands of the banks, which are, in turn, now in the business of tracking your dissent.

Remember that only 10% of the money donated to WikiLeaks can be processed – because of financial sector and DHS-sponsored targeting of PayPal data. With this merger, that crushing of one’s personal or business financial freedom can happen to any of us. How messy, criminalizing and prosecuting dissent. How simple, by contrast, just to label an entity a “terrorist organization” and choke off, disrupt or indict its sources of financing.

Why the huge push for counterterrorism “fusion centers”, the DHS militarizing of police departments, and so on? It was never really about “the terrorists”. It was not even about civil unrest. It was always about this moment, when vast crimes might be uncovered by citizens – it was always, that is to say, meant to be about you.

 

Source

 

NEW CAREER SUGGESTED FOR AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN // ISRAELI SONG AND DANCE MAN

Moving-animated-picture-of-dancing-fools
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It looks like the Israeli E R C (Extreme Right Camp) is about to lose one of its leading players if Liberman’s conviction holds up in court. But, it also looks like there is a new career for the Foreign Minister,  as a song and dance man … a career that is suggested by Hanin Zoabi’s Party, Balad. As a sidenote, the Israeli Supreme court today ruled that Hanin Zoabi be allowed to run in the upcoming election.
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E R C’s official rag, Arutz 7, is a bit irked by Balad’s election video which deals with Israel’s National Anthem, Hatikva. Since it officially became the anthem, Hatikva has been a thorn in the sides of all non Jewish residents in Israel as can be seen by its words …
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Hatikva text in Hebrew:
עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ,
הַתִּקְוָה בַּת שְׁנוֹת אַלְפַּיִם,
לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ,
אֶרֶץ צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם.
כֹּל עוֹד בַּלֵּבָב פְּנִימָה
נֶפֶשׁ יְהוּדִי הוֹמִיָּה,
וּלְפַאֲתֵי מִזְרָח, קָדִימָה,
עַיִן לְצִיּוֹן צוֹפִיָּה,

Transliteration of Hatikva text:

Kol od balevav penimah,
Nefesh yehudi homiyah,
Ulefa-atei mizrach, kadimah,
Ayin letziyon tsofiyah.
Od lo avdah tikvateinu
Hatikva bat shnot alpayim,
Lihyot am chofshi be-artzeinu,
Eretz tzion, virushalayim.

Translation of the Hatikva:

As long as in the heart within,
The Jewish soul yearns,
And toward the eastern edges, onward,
An eye gazes toward Zion.
Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope that is two-thousand years old,
To be a free nation in our land,
The Land of Zion, Jerusalem.
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… Words that definitely do not represent the interests of Palestinians living here. For years it has been proposed that the words be changed to represent all of the citizens in Israel.
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The following was published on Arutz 7 dealing with the video in question…
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In Zoabi Video, Lieberman Sings in Arabic

The Balad party’s election video features a Middle Eastern version of Hatikva.
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The Arab Balad party’s election video is an animated clip showing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and several nationalist MKs singing Hatikva in to a Middle Eastern tune.
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In the clip, Lieberman explains that he was the one who proposed a law requiring citizens to pledge allegiance to the state of Israel in order to be eligible for an ID card. He then announces that he has now become convinced that the tune of Hatikva – Israel’s national anthem – should be changed so that Arabs feel comfortable singing it as well.

The well-executed clip follows, with MKs Aryeh Eldad, Danny Danon, Ofir Akunis and Michael Ben-Ari “singing” accompanying Lieberman singing Hatikva.

It ends with a narrator asking: “Did you laugh? But the situation is not funny. Who can prevent these laws? Vote Balad.”

Some Arabs have complained that they cannot identify with the anthem, which appeals to the “Jewish heart” and “an eye watching Zion,” as well as “the 2,000-year-old hope, to be a free nation in our country – the Land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

Balad’s founder, Azmi Bishara, escaped Israel after a Shin Bet investigation found that he had assisted Hizbullah in selecting targets to bomb during the Second Lebanon War. Current Balad MK Hanin Zoabi has been disqualified from running for the 19th Knesset, but the High Court may overturn the disqualification.

AN URGENT LETTER FROM PALESTINE

Do not let settlers expel us from our home in Sheikh Jarrah
Ayoub Shamasneh

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ethnic cleansing
A banner is displayed at the entrance of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in March, 2009.
(Photo: Anne Paq/
Activestills)
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To whom it may concern,

My name is Ayoub Shamasneh and I live in Um Haroun, Sheikh Jarrah. My wife and I are living here with our son, Mohammed, his wife Amaal, and their six children ranging from the ages of 11 to 22 years old. We have lived in this house since 1964, it is where we built our family and raised our children. In 2009, after decades of living in our home, the Israeli General Custodian’s Office informed us that our rental’s agreement will not be renewed. They have now sued us in order to take ownership of the property via individuals whom they claim are the descendants of the original Jewish owners pre-1948. Our case has been reviewed by an Israeli court in two separate hearings and judges have refused to accept evidence we have submitted to show proof of our residence in our home since 1964. Therefore, they are claiming that we are not eligible for protected tenant status. Consequently we have been ordered to evacuate the property by 2pm on December 31st, 2012. As far as we know, the property will be handed over to a right wing settler organization that has previously taken over properties in the neighbourhood.

Now more than ever we are aware of the double standard of the Israeli law that does not lend Palestinian refugees or their children a claim to property they owned before 1948, yet allows children of Jewish Israelis to sue and evict Palestinian families from homes they have lived in for decades. As a result of this discriminatory double standard of the Israeli law we are about to lose our home and be thrown out onto the street.

Forced eviction from our home will not only be a human tragedy but also a political maneuver which aims to strengthen and expedite the settlement project in East Jerusalem, specifically in Sheikh Jarrah. Israeli Jewish settlement takeover in Sheikh Jarrah serves to interrupt the presence of a continuous and connected Palestinian community in East Jerusalem. Numerous families have already lost their homes and 30 more are living, day-to-day, under the eminent threat of eviction. Our case will set yet another precedent that will play directly into the hands of the settlement project and will be another nail in the coffin of a viable East Jerusalem.

We are turning to you, as writers, activists, public figures, artists and concerned citizens of the world, to do all that you can to call on the Israeli government to instruct the General Custodian not to evict our family from our home and thereby facilitate the agenda of extremist settlers who are destroying all chances for a peaceful and just future in Jerusalem.

Sincerely,

Ayoub Shamasneh

 

From

LATUFF RESPONDS TO HIS LATEST HONOUR

 For ‘winning’ the #3 position  … Carlos responds the best way he can, with a cartoon …
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latuff-listed-as-the-3rd-most-antisemitic-by-simon-wiesenthal-center
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We all celebrate with Carlos for bringing us all honour

LATUFF DOES IT AGAIN!

Simon Wiesenthal Center report December 2012
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For the second time in as many weeks. Carlos Latuff has brought us much pride to be associated with him.
At the beginning of the week he was cited by the ADL and now The Simon Wiesenthal Center lists him as Number 3 of Top Ten Anti-Semitic/Anti Israel Slurs for 2012.
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If the zionists hate him so much WE GOTTA LOVE HIM!
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Here’s their listing
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Kudos to Carlos! Keep these honours coming!!
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FACEBOOK UNFRIENDING TRUTH ACTIVISTS

 unfriend
FaceBook has literally launched a cyberwar against Truth Activists. They are obviously succumbing to zionist pressure to do this as most of those ‘unfriended’ are friends of Palestine.
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I just received the following from Michael Rivero of What Really Happened;
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Social Fixer is telling me I am no longer FB friends with the following people:You are no longer friends with:
Michael F Rivero 11 min ago (account inactive)
Anthony J Hilder 11 min ago (account inactive)
William Lewis 11 min ago (account inactive)
Richard Gage 11 min ago (account inactive)
William Rodriguez 11 min ago (account inactive)
Infowar Artist 11 min ago (account inactive)
Weare Change 11 min ago (account inactive)
Wacboston At Twitterr 11 min ago (account inactive)
Michael Murphy Tmp 11 min ago (account inactive)
Robert M Bowman 11 min ago (account inactive)
Peter Dale Scott 11 min ago (account inactive)
Jason Infowars 11 min ago (account inactive)
Mike Skuthan 11 min ago (account inactive)
Packy Savvenas 11 min ago (account inactive)

Some of these people, like Rivero, Gage, Bowman, Peter Dale Scott, William Rodriguez are prominent 9/11 truthers and bloggers.

Click HERE to see the comments.
My name is not on the list as I am not on FaceBook. I have given my reasons for this many times…
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Our message will continue to ring out for Peace and Justice VERY LOUDLY!
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As I said when banned from Blogger and Kos; “They can ban us, but they cannot silence us!”
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Kudos to Rivero and his site for doing this daily … He is an inspiration to all of us!

ISRAELI ‘DEMOCRACY’ HAS ITS DAY IN COURT

 zoabi
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Last week, the Central Elections Committee voted to ban Zoabi from the upcoming elections. Nineteen committee members voted in favor of disqualifying Zoabi, nine opposed and one member abstained.
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Prior to the hearing Zoabi said, “I expect the court to overturn the decision. I did not break any law, there is no basis for disqualification. The court should try racists instead. To disqualify me would be to disqualify all Arab citizens.”
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Riot breaks out after Zoabi hearing

Right-wing, Arab activists clash in Supreme Court after judges discuss Arab MK’s disqualification from elections. Zoabi: I broke no law

The Supreme Court on Thursday discussed an appeal of the disqualification of Arab Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi (Balad). A panel of nine justices presided over by Supreme Court President Asher Grunish discussed the motion.

Soon after the hearing ended a violent riot broke out outside the court room. Right-wing activists including MK Michael Ben Ari shouted “Go to Syria” at Arab activists and tried to approach Zoabi. The Arabs in response accused the right-wingers of being racists. Security guards tried to restore order.


MKs Zoabi and Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka were quickly ushered into one of the court rooms.

Prior to the hearing Zoabi said, “I expect the court to overturn the decision. I did not break any law, there is no basis for disqualification. The court should try racists instead. To disqualify me would be to disqualify all Arab citizens.”

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מהומה בבית המשפט (צילום: גיל יוחנן )

Hanin Zoabi in court (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

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Last week, the Central Elections Committee voted to ban Zoabi from the upcoming elections. Nineteen committee members voted in favor of disqualifying Zoabi, nine opposed and one member abstained.
A representative of the Central Elections Committee defended the decision stressing that there had been due process and discounted Zoabi’s claim of discrimination. “The committee makes its decisions based on evidence,” she said.

“MK Zoabi was never convicted of any charge, was never indicted, and never uttered a racist word,” Zoabi’s attorney’s claimed.

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ח"כ זועבי וח"כ זחאלקה בדיון (צילום: גיל יוחנן)

‘I have been subjected to demonization’ (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

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They pointed to the fact that Zoabi, out of all Knesset candidates, was the only MK to be disqualified “based on 4-5 quotes most of which are untrue and inaccurate and all of which are irrelevant.”

In a deposition filed with the court, Zoabi said that her disqualification “is another step in the process of demonization I have been subjected to since my participation in the flotilla.

“All of the claims regarding the flotilla are false, there had been no complaint made against be by the soldiers who took part in the Marmara raid.”

Source

IDF CRACKING DOWN ON BLOGGERS ‘WHO TALK TOO MUCH’

The facts that the blogger was twice summoned for questioning, that law enforcement authorities took such drastic steps to locate him, and that threats were made against him, are worrisome. Even if the actions of the military and civilian police in this affair stemmed from genuine security concerns, it nonetheless appears that some figure of authority lost perspective and took steps that damaged democratic values of free speech, and freedom of the press.
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Israel’s most sought-after anonymous blogger has won his battle with the IDF

Eishton was put under investigation over his bid to gather data on the rate of suicides in the Israel Defense Forces; three weeks later, he has emerged the victor.

By Barak Ravid
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The military cemetery at Mount Herzl. Photo by Archive: Tess Scheflan / Jini

Almost three weeks after the anonymous blogger “Eishton” was summoned for questioning by the police and military police, it appears that the episode is drawing to a close. As should have been clear from the start, Eishton is not a crime suspect. No indictment is expected against him, nor is there likely to be an indictment submitted against anyone connected to the blog’s report on suicides in the Israel Defense Forces.

The facts that the blogger was twice summoned for questioning, that law enforcement authorities took such drastic steps to locate him, and that threats were made against him, are worrisome. Even if the actions of the military and civilian police in this affair stemmed from genuine security concerns, it nonetheless appears that some figure of authority lost perspective and took steps that damaged democratic values of free speech, and freedom of the press.

That said, some bright spots can be gleaned in the affair. First, suicides in the IDF are once again a topic of public discourse. That the blogger was summoned for interrogation actually gave credence to allegations leveled in his report. In this respect, Eishton is the victor, and deserves credit. One can dispute his claims and findings, but the fact that the established media became engaged with the blog, even belatedly, forced authorities to respond.

That the IDF decided Wednesday to take advantage of a briefing given by its chief medical officer to reporters and provide data about the scope of suicides was no accident. The IDF claims that the number of suicides has decreased, from an annual average of 29 between 2002 and 2006, to an annual average of 22 between 2007 and 2011.

That trend is to be welcomed, but the number remains high. In addition, the precise number of soldiers who committed suicide remains unclear, since in some cases deaths may not be classified as such due to pressures exerted by family relations. Demonstrating sensitivity toward bereaved families is a laudable goal, but the need for transparency is no less worthy a consideration.

Incidentally, in the middle of the last decade, when the IDF started to deal much more seriously with this issue, its mobilization came as a response to newspaper reports written by Maariv’s Amir Rapaport, and my colleague Amos Harel in Haaretz. At the time, the IDF changed its procedures, and prohibited soldiers from taking rifles home with them on weekend furloughs.

The second bright spot is that the affair ultimately is likely to contribute to freedom of the press, and to strengthen the status of bloggers. The affair made clear that in Israel in 2012, a journalist is not solely someone who has a license issued by the government press office.

The defense establishment has yet to digest the changes which have occurred in the media world. It has yet to assimilate the fact that bodies such as WikiLeaks and Anonymous, alongside independent bloggers, are players which rank with the traditional media, and are sometimes even more important than it.

The affair showed that the security system’s monopoly on information is dwindling. Most of the information utilized by Eishton was accessible on the internet. On the other hand, the affair illustrated that Israel’s power structure does not fully heed democratic values such as transparency and public disclosure. The defense ministry continues, for instance, to withhold disclosure of the list of 126 fatalities in 2012.

The Eishton blogger also has to draw conclusions. Possibly, had he not made public copies of original documents that reached him, he would not have become embroiled with authorities. Even though the investigation against him was unjust, more prudent conduct on his part could have brought the affair to a close on its first day. In addition, it can be hoped that Eishton will forgo his cloak of anonymity. Should he do so, the credibility of his investigations will only be enhanced.

 

 

Written FOR

AN ISLAMOPHOBIC CHRISTMAS GREETING FROM ISRAEL

Christmas is officially here, so is Islamophobia!
See and hear for yourselves in his own words…
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Today, Christian communities throughout the Middle East are shrinking, and many of them are endangered. This is, of course, not true in Israel. Here there is a strong and growing Christian community that participates fully in the life of our country. Israel is proud of its record of religious tolerance and pluralism, and Israel will continue to protect freedom of religion for all. And we will continue to safeguard places of Christian worship throughout our country. We will not tolerate any acts of violence or discrimination against any place of worship. This is not our way, and this is something we cannot accept.

So as you celebrate Christmas and your holy holidays, we hope that you will recall the places where Judaism and Christianity emerged, and then come see our ancient land with your own eyes: visit Nazareth and Bethlehem, wade into the Jordan River, stand on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
And next year, come visit our eternal capital, Jerusalem.

Happy holidays to all of you. May you all be blessed with a year of security, prosperity and peace.

ISRAEL DECLARES WAR ON CHRISTMAS

 Here’s the latest ‘exhibit’ in Israel’s ‘Museum of Tolerance’
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Forbidden to celebrate: Israel’s war on Christmas continues despite Netanyahu’s claim of tolerance

Submitted by Ali Abunimah 

Palestinian children play outside Deir Latin church in Gaza City on Christmas Eve 2012.

 (Ezz Al-Zanoon /APA images)

In his Christmas greeting video, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted of Israel’s supposed religious tolerance.

“Today Christian communities around the Middle East are shrinking and in danger. This is of course not true in Israel. Here there’s a strong, growing Christian community that participates fully in the life of our country,” Netanyahu said.

Vowing to “continue to protect freedom of religion and thought,” Netanyahu also promised “to safeguard Christian places of worship throughout our country” and not to “tolerate any acts of violence or discrimination against any place of worship.”

Making a pitch for Christian Zionist tourism he urged listeners to “Come see our ancient land with your own eyes. Visit Nazareth and Bethlehem, wade in the Jordan River, stand on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and next year come visit our eternal capital, Jerusalem.”

His inclusion of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, as well as the banks of the Jordan River, can be taken as another affirmation that Israel, despite its rhetoric, has no interest in a “two-state solution” and intends to absorb all of historic Palestine as an exclusively “Jewish state.”

Disappearing Christmas trees

Netanyahu’s professions of tolerance would have come as news to Palestinian Christian students at Safad Academic College in the Galilee. There, students who could not get home for the holidays bought a Christmas tree and set it up outside their dorm.

But in the evening when they got back from class, they found the tree was gone, Israel’sWalla! News reported.

“This is the saddest Christmas,” said Gabriel Mansour, 24, a third-year political science student, identified by Walla! as a representative of Arab students. “All we wanted to do was provide some good cheer for all the students who remained alone in the dorms, and who were unable to go home to their families.”

When Mansour investigated, he was told by college officials that the tree had been hidden lest it spark riots among the Jewish students.

“I was angry to hear this,” said Mansour of the claim that the tree might spark riots among Jewish students and residents of Safad. “Unfortunately they don’t respect our holidays. We fully respect all Israeli holidays. Why can no one respect our traditions? Why can’t we put up a Christmas tree?”

“I do not think Christmas should be marked with such ostentation,” Walla! quoted an unnamed Jewish student saying. “The college has a distinctly Jewish character. It’s not healthy for anyone to be able to do whatever he wants.”

And there was a mini-scandal when the girlfriend of Yair Netanyahu, the son of the Israeli prime minister, posted a photo of the youth wearing a Santa hat and posing next to a Christmas tree, on Facebook. Under the photo was the caption “My Christian boy.”

The prime minister’s office was forced to issue a statement that the image was a joke and that Yair had been attending a party hosted by “Christian Zionists who love Israel, and whose children served in the IDF,” Israel’s Channel 2 reported. Nevertheless the photo was removed from Facebook.

State rabbis order bans on Christmas

The ban on Christmas at Safad college is no isolated incident. For several years, Shimon Gapso, the notoriously racist mayor of the Israeli settlement of “Upper Nazareth” in the Galilee, has banned Christmas trees, calling them a provocation. “Nazareth Illit [Upper Nazareth] is a Jewish city and it will not happen – not this year and not next year, so long as I am a mayor,” Gapso said.

According to journalist Jonathan Cook in Nazareth, such bans continue and are widespread this year with Israel’s state-financed rabbis warning hotels and restaurants that they will lose their kosher certifications if they put up trees or other Christmas decorations or hold Christmas events.

“In other words,” Cook says, “the rabbinate has been quietly terrorising Israeli hotel owners into ignoring Christmas by threatening to use its powers to put them out of business. Denying a hotel its kashrut (kosher) certificate would lose it most of its Israeli and foreign Jewish clientele.”

Publicly visible Christmas tree could “injure the souls of Jews”

When the Israeli occupation municipality in Jerusalem this year put up a small Christmas tree near the Jaffa Gate, there were strong protests from rabbis. Occupation municipality city council member Rabbi Shmuel Yitzhaki told settler news website Arutz 7 that the display was a “desecration” and a “grave offense against the Jewish people” and that it was “inconceivable” that a Christmas tree should be allowed in a “public place” where it might be seen by Jews on their way to pray at the Western Wall in eastern occupied Jerusalem.

Mina Fenton, a former city council member, said, “There’s a Christian Quarter. They can put it [the tree] up there,” where it couldn’t “injure the souls of Jews.”

Christmas trees as propaganda for ethnic cleansing group JNF

While Israel’s official rabbis, colleges and municipalities discourage or ban displays of Christmas trees, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the racist state-backed agency actively engaged in ethnically cleansing Palestinians and stealing their land for exclusive use by Jews, has found a way to use Christmas trees to paint a false image of itself as a promoter of multicultural harmony.

The JNF, which misrepresents itself as an environmental charity, now gives away some trees and felled branches particularly to foreign embassies, for use as Christmas trees in private homes, and markets the initiative as outreach to maintain “good relations between religions.” Against the background of the JNF’s true activities, such cynical propaganda should convince no one. But it might be useful in raising donations from Christian Zionists.

Discrimination against Christianity inherent in Israel’s “Law of Return”

The efforts by Netanyahu and the JNF to present Israel as tolerant and friendly to Christians are important to maintain external, especially Christian Zionist support, and to hide a much uglier reality.

Israel claims to be a “Jewish state.” Its blatantly discriminatory “Law of Return” grants the automatic right to those it recognizes as Jews from anywhere in the world to emigrate and receive citizenship even if they have no connection to the country. At the same time, Israel prevents indigenous Palestinian refugees, including those born there, from returning home just because they are not Jews.

But according to the US State Department in its 2011 report on religious freedom around the world, Israel specifically applies a blatantly anti-Christian test in applying this bigoted law:

The question of whether one believes Jesus is the Jewish Messiah has been used to determine whether a Jew was qualified to immigrate. The [Israeli] Supreme Court repeatedly has upheld the right, however, of Israeli Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah to retain their citizenship. The immigration exclusion was routinely applied only against Messianic Jews, whereas Jews who were atheists were accepted, and Jews who chose to believe in other religions, including Hindus and Buddhists, were not screened out.

In other words a “Jew” can be an atheist, Hindu, or Buddhist – anything at all – and be granted citizenship by Israeli authorities. It is only a belief in Jesus that disqualifies them.

Attacks on Christian holy sites

As for Netanyahu’s promise that Christian holy sites would be protected, he failed to mention that in recent months, Israeli settlers, acting with the collusion of Israeli authorities, have stepped up so-called “price tag” attacks on Christian holy sites.

Meanwhile, Christmas celebrations proceeded this year in Gaza and in Iran, where municipal authorities in Tehran have in recent years put up banners celebrating the birth of Jesus on many main streets. Both Iran and Gaza re Muslim-majority places that Israeli propaganda loves to paint as particularly intolerant of religious minorities.

Few countries live up to their own claims about religious freedom and tolerance and many must do better. But selling Israel in particular, whose whole raison d’être is to privilege Jews qua Jews over the indigenous Palestinian population of any religion, as a paragon of tolerance and pluralism is patently absurd.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

Written FOR

CHRISTMAS CHEER FROM PALESTINE, BIRTHPLACE OF JESUS

BethlehemPeace
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Bethlehem (Aramaic for House of Laham, the Canaanitic God of Sustenance) area is decked in colors and the best and most beautiful lights are the smiles on the faces of our children.  On Saturday evening, we attended a Christian service that was a joint service with the National Cathedral in Washington DC. The Palestinian children bell choir was uplifting.   Children led the lighting of the candles at churches, the singing, and the choirs and they outnumbered adults in most activities.  We were blessed by visited homes of poor children of different faiths. On Monday 3500 members of marching bands/scouts (most youth under 18) led parades near the apartheid wall separating Jerusalem from Bethlehem towards the Nativity square. Some of the marching youth were Muslims.  The marching band from Gaza (Christian and Muslim) was not allowed to participate by the Israeli occupation authorities.  Earlier in the day, children in the square formed a large peace symbol and the words “LOVE ALL” with their bodies in front of the massive Christmas tree in the square.  The United Nations Work and Relief Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) had banners asking people to remember the suffering children in Gaza and Syria. 
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Above text written by Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

PRINCE OF PEACE OR DRONE WARRIOR?

THREE IMAGES AND A VIDEO THAT SPEAK VOLUMES ….
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WISHING YOU AND YOURS A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS

Can you see what’s wrong with this image?
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The three Wise Men from the East saw a star and followed it.  Instead of a guiding star, today’s skies in the East (from Gaza to Afghanistan and Pakistan) are crowded with a constellation of drones, the modern day aerial assault rifles that rain hell-fires to incinerate innocent civilians and children. Do you suppose that the holiday shoppers in America and the Western world have ever thought of the slaughter of innocents (with American made weapons) in Gaza, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan? Yes, today’s skies in the aforementioned light up with effervescent phosphorous bombs..
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This is what the first Christmas would look like if it took place today …
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Refugees in Their Own Land
by RAOUF J. HALABY*

In Early November a colleague requested that I compose a few thoughts for our church’s Advent 2012 booklet. I selected the Luke 2: 1-7 text for reasons personal, professional, and textual. What follows (with additional poignant comments) was printed for the December 20, 2012, Advent reading.

My family resided in a West Jerusalem suburb (just off the centuries-old Jerusalem-  Bethlehem Road) and some 11 miles from the historic city of Bethlehem, the place natal of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. This road is believed to be the path that Joseph and Mary negotiated on their way to Bethlehem.  And, of all the Bible nativity narratives, Luke’s narrative is my favorite. This was the same road on which I traversed, on foot, to attend school, church, visit friends, and go to the YMCA, an internationally renowned West Jerusalem landmark.

Born in Antakia (Antioch), not too far from Aleppo (Halab, the city from where my ancestors migrated in the 15th century and a city decimated by civil war), Lukas, whose Anglicized name is Luke, is believed to have been of Greek origin.  Imbued with the Hellenistic spirit, he was a well-travelled and erudite man. While he was sometimes referred to as a physician, scholars have observed that, because of his ability to write in a lucid and informative manner, he was a historian who proclaimed the Good News in an objective, straight forward, and intellectual manner.  Some scholars have even declared him a historian in the manner of the Thucydides.

In late December of 1957 a group of American pilgrims/tourists with broadcasting connections visited Jerusalem to transmit to the United States a live Christmas radio program from Jerusalem. When they heard that a few Christian Palestinian families resided in West Jerusalem (yes, prior to their being ethnically cleansed by the Israelis in 1948, tens of thousands of Palestinian Christians lived in Jerusalem and Palestine), they decided to interview a Palestinian family so as to give the program a measure of National Geographic local flavor. My twin brother and I were selected to read Bible passages, and to this day I remember that textual materials from Chapters 1 & 2 of the Gospel of Lukas were selected; today’s advent passage is that same passage that I read   55 years ago this December.  And it is the same passage that my paternal grandmother (the daughter of Greek immigrants to Palestine) read to her grandchildren from her Greek Bible.

As an Art Historian, I have become very fond of Luke because he inspired Byzantine, Eastern and Russian Orthodox, Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque artists both stylistically and thematically.  Since the fourth century artists have depicted Luke not only as one of the four evangelists whose canonical gospels are foundational textual materials for the New Testament,  but also as an artist positioned in front of  and in the act of painting Mary and the infant Jesus. This portrait within a portrait of Mary became an iconic theme in Eastern and Western Europe, including the Near East.  Some scholars have opined that the depiction of Mary as Theotokos (God Bearer) was a theme first articulated by Luke.  I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to view such portraits at St. Katherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai, several churches in occupied Jerusalem, The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and St. Marco in Venice, Italy.  Dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries, this depiction of Mary became the prototype for a large body of mosaics and paintings culminating in the Russian Vladmir Virgin icon.  Replicas of this portrait grace churches across Asia Minor and the Near East and are displayed in homes. Christian Taxi drivers in the Arab World, Greece and Eastern Europe have been known to hang an icon of this art work from their rear view mirrors. And in 1982 Lebanese Phalange Christian forces glued similar images on the butts of the machine guns they used to murder defenseless Palestinians, including scores of innocent children.

While the Eastern Rites made Mary and Jesus the focal point of their paintings, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch artists included Luke as an active participant in their depictions of Mary and Jesus.   Guercino, El Greco, Vasari, and Bouts, to name but a few of the Western European artists, portrayed Luke in the act of painting Mary and using a variety of mediums, including encaustic (wax and pigments), egg tempera, silverpoint,  and oil compositions either on wood panels or canvases.  Because of its iconic symbolism and visually powerful associations, the artists’ guilds designated Luke as their patron saint.

After reading the Gospel of Luke, one is struck by Luke’s lucid prose and by his ability to utilize historical events in a most skillful narrative style,  and it becomes obvious that he loved the poor, that he was very inclusive and strongly believed that the Kingdom of God was for everyone, regardless  of creed, class, or background, that he respected women, that he saw hope in God’s Mercy, and that he preached forgiveness  — themes that should resonate even to this day in what I fear to be a world  plagued with wars, violence, corporate greed, corrupt politicians, and a lack of respect for and stewardship of the environment. Cha- Ching, Cha-Ching  clamors the NRA and its dealers throughout this nation, and please don’t mess with my 2ndAmendment. And, since that infamous Friday, December 14, 2012 massacre of the innocents, the sale of assault rifles has never been any better.  Cha- Ching goes the arms industry; Cha Ching  go the politicians who sell the weapons to dictators and thugs around the world.

The three Wise Men from the East saw a star and followed it.  Instead of a guiding star, today’s skies in the East (from Gaza to Afghanistan and Pakistan) are crowded with a constellation of drones, the modern day aerial assault rifles that rain hell-fires to incinerate innocent civilians and children. Do you suppose that the holiday shoppers in America and the Western world have ever thought of the slaughter of innocents (with American made weapons) in Gaza, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan? Yes, today’s skies in the aforementioned light up with effervescent phosphorous bombs.

Refugees in their own land with no accommodations and about to have a child, Joseph and Mary are not unlike the poor, down and out disenfranchised people in our own midst, including the refugees of Palestine, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria.  In verse 7 Luke sums it up thusly:  “She brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”  While the Prince of Peace encountered a NO VACANCY sign at the moment of his birth, his life, ministry, and his message of Peace on Earth is a much needed clarion in our own times, whether at home or around the world. Are there any leaders willing to step up? Or, are they too busy peddling and gift wrapping tanks, guided missiles, jet fighters, and drones as Cha-Ching gifts from a country that clamors American exceptionalism yet does not practice it?

*Raouf J. Halaby is a Professor of English and Art at a private Liberal Arts university in Arkansas. 

 

Written FOR

THE ARAB-JEWISH SPRING IS HERE!

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DWP seeks peace based on an end to the Occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with the 1967 lines as its border. The Oslo Accords, in our view, created an unhealthy situation. The Palestinian Authority (PA) arose as a subcontractor of Israeli occupation, while Israel’s governments continued to build settlements. Given the political, economic and social situation that today prevails in the Occupied Territories, the PA has lost credibility in the eyes of its people. DWP believes that a “Palestinian Spring” is in the offing. It will overthrow the PA and face Israel with two choices. One alternative is direct occupation (i.e., de facto annexation of the Territories) with all that this entails: perpetuation of apartheid, one people deprived of its rights by another; surrender of all pretence of Israeli democracy; ever sharper confrontation with a world that has lost its patience; and finally, war. The other alternative is complete withdrawal from the Territories and dismantlement of the settlements. Until now no Israeli government has been willing to choose the second of these. Nothing less than social and political revolution can put an end to the Occupation.
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WHAT ‘CHRISTIAN’ DOLLARS ARE DOING TO BETHLEHEM

 Over recent decades Christians have left Bethlehem in their thousands, and now are a minority in a city they once dominated. In 2008 Christians accounted for 28% of Bethlehem city’s population of about 25,000. The daily grind of living under occupation, with few opportunities, little hope and the violence of the Palestinian uprising 10 years ago are cited as the chief reasons for departure. But in the past few years the flood of emigrants has slowed. “We are here, and we will remain here, to help our new state become a reality,” says Nora Carmi of Kairos.
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Bethlehem Christians feel the squeeze as Israeli settlements spread

Near a biblical landscape of donkeys and olive trees, homes are being built and Palestinian Christians fear for their future
Harriet Sherwood
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A woman lights a candle at the Church of the Nativity, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem as preparations for Christmas celebrations get underway. Photograph: Musa Al Shaer/AFP/Getty Images

Amid plastic bags snagged on gorse bushes, rusting hulks of cars in a breakers yard and a few shabby trailers, traces of a biblical landscape are still to be found on a hillside between the ancient cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. A couple of donkeys are tethered to a gnarled olive tree; nearby, sheep and goats bleat as they huddle against the chill December air.

But this terrain will soon be covered in concrete after the authorisation last week of the construction of more than 2,600 homes in Givat Hamatos, the first new Israeli settlement to be built since 1997.

It lies between two existing settlements: Gilo, home to 40,000 people, sits atop one hill; to its east, on another hill, stands Har Homa, whose population is around 20,000, with further expansion in the pipeline. Both are largely built on Bethlehem land.

Givat Hamatos will form a strategic link between these twin towns, further impeding access between Bethlehem and the intended capital of Palestine, East Jerusalem, just six miles away.

Israel considers these and other settlements across the Green Line to be legitimate suburbs of Jerusalem, which it claims as the unified, indivisible capital of the Jewish state. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and official bodies have announced a spate of expansion plans in recent weeks.

In the birthplace of Jesus, the impact of Israeli settlements and their growth has been devastating. In a Christmas message, the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Bethlehem was enduring a “choking reality”.

He added: “For the first time in 2,000 years of Christianity in our homeland, the Holy Cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem have been completely separated by Israeli settlements, racist walls and checkpoints.”

Bethlehem is now surrounded by 22 settlements, including Nokdim, where the hardline former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman lives, and Neve Daniel, home to public diplomacy minister Yuli Edelstein.

The city is further hemmed in by the vast concrete and steel separation barrier, bypasses connecting settlements with Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and Israeli military zones. With little room to expand, it is now more densely populated than Gaza, according to one Palestinian official.

In Beit Sahour – the site on the eastern edge of Bethlehem where, according to Christian tradition, angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds in a field – William Sahouri is feeling the squeeze. Ten years ago, he moved into a housing project designated for young Christian families, which overlooks fields and hills where sheep once grazed.

Now most of that land is on the other side of the separation barrier, inaccessible to Palestinians. Har Homa – which, like all settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, is illegal under international law – is rapidly spreading down the hill. Cranes are at work on new apartment blocks; bulldozers are flattening land for new roads and buildings.

In contrast, Sahouri’s home, along with others in the neighbourhood, is under an Israeli demolition order. It was issued in 2002 soon after the apartments were built without a permit, which is almost impossible to get in areas of the West Bank under full Israeli military control. After protests, the order was frozen but not lifted.

“It’s like sitting on a bomb,” says Sahouri, who estimates his family’s presence in the area stretches back more than 300 years. “We don’t know when it will be blown. At any moment they could come with bulldozers and heavy machinery and everything will be gone.”

But, he adds, gesturing across to Har Homa, “the Israelis can build 1,000 homes in three months. In 10 years, they build a city, while we have to build stone by stone.”

Residents of Beit Sahour – whose 15,000 population is 80% Christian – say settlers have targeted another nearby spot. A former Israeli military base at Ush Ghurab is visited almost weekly by hardliners from settlements deep in the West Bank, who have repainted the abandoned buildings, planted trees and raised Israeli flags. The site is now known as Shdema to the settlers, who hold regular meetings and activities on the hilltop.

Local Palestinians fear that the visitors will begin to sleep at the former base, then expand the site with additional caravans, followed by the provision of services – electricity, water, roads – and eventually permanent homes. This is a familiar pattern of how radical settlements, unauthorised by the Israeli state, take shape.

“This area is being highly targeted,” says local Palestinian activist George Rishmawi. “Experience tells us this is how settlements start – with the actions of fanatics.”

On the other side of Bethlehem, another mainly Christian community is also facing a battle, this one against the planned route of the separation barrier. Under present proposals it will cut off 58 families, plus a monastery and convent, from their land. The monks and nuns of Cremisan have joined forces with residents to fight a legal battle over the route, which will be decided in the Israeli courts early next year.

“The wall will confiscate nearly all our land,” says Samira Qaisieh, whose house on the edge of Beit Jala was built by her husband’s family almost a century ago. Its vine-covered terrace looks across the valley to Gilo, the Israeli settlement, built on land she says was owned by her grandfather. “Israel says it is doing all this in the name of security. But really they just want a land without [Palestinian] people.”

Qaisieh is thinking of leaving unless the barrier is re-routed. “There is no work here. If we lose our land, what is there to stay for? What is the future for my children?”

About two-thirds of the 400-mile West Bank barrier is complete; 85% of its route runs inside the West Bank, swallowing almost 8.5% of Palestinian land. In 2004, theInternational Court of Justice ruled it was illegal and that construction must stop.

The wall already snakes around most of Bethlehem, its 8m-high concrete slabs casting a deep shadow, both literally and metaphorically. At the Christmas Tree restaurant, where there are almost no takers for the “Quick Lunches” on offer, business has slowed to a standstill since the wall blocked what was once the main Jerusalem-Bethlehem road. Scores of shops along the closed-off artery have shut down altogether.

A few hundred metres along from the empty restaurant, a long steel-caged corridor leading through multiple turnstiles to a checkpoint is the main exit from the city for Palestinians wishing to go to Jerusalem. The Israel Defence Forces issues thousands of extra permits to Christian Palestinians to allow them to visit holy sites in Jerusalem over Christmas, but the lack of routine access has had a dire impact on businesses and employment rates.

Bethlehem has one of the highest rates of unemployment of all West Bank cities, at 18%, says Vera Baboun, who was elected as its first female mayor in October. “We are a strangulated city, with no room for expansion due to the settlements and the wall.”

In a booklet to mark Christmas 2012, Kairos Palestine, a Christian alliance, says: “Land confiscation, as well as the influx of Israeli settlers, suggest that there will be no future for Palestinians (Christian or Muslim) in [this] area. In this sense, the prospect of a clear ‘solution’ grows darker every day.”

Over recent decades Christians have left Bethlehem in their thousands, and now are a minority in a city they once dominated. In 2008 Christians accounted for 28% of Bethlehem city’s population of about 25,000. The daily grind of living under occupation, with few opportunities, little hope and the violence of the Palestinian uprising 10 years ago are cited as the chief reasons for departure. But in the past few years the flood of emigrants has slowed. “We are here, and we will remain here, to help our new state become a reality,” says Nora Carmi of Kairos.

In Beit Jala, parish priest Father Ibrahim Shomali, who leads open-air prayers under olive trees at sunset every Friday to protest at the planned route of the barrier around the Cremisan monastery, fears its construction could lead to a fresh wave of Christian departures. “People are leaving,” he says wearily. “But some of us will stay, to pray and resist.”

Written FOR

“IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO” > THE THINGS THAT YOU’RE LIABLE TO READ IN THE BIBLE

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Despite that, zionists still try to justify the unjustifiable ….
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Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria claim too often and too loudly that their rights are grounded on scriptures. This argument, legitimate as it may be to a religious Zionist or Evangelical public, is a losing argument when addressed to everyone else: It is a losing argument when presented to Muslims who can quote Islamic jurisprudence to corroborate their claims over the whole of Eretz Yisrael. It is a losing argument with secular Jews and Christians, who believe that the interpretation of international law should not be conditioned by the Bible. It is even a losing argument among those ultra-orthodox Jews who believe that the Talmud disavows contemporary Jewish claims in the Holy Land.
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Settlers and human rights

 West Bank Jews claim too often and too loudly that their rights are grounded on scriptures

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The case for Jews to reside in Judea and Samaria is solid. It is regrettable the world has yet to realize this. The blame must not be laid on global anti-Semitism or ignorance about the roots of the Israeli-Arab conflict, but mainly on the way Jewish rights have been justified to date.

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Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria claim too often and too loudly that their rights are grounded on scriptures. This argument, legitimate as it may be to a religious Zionist or Evangelical public, is a losing argument when addressed to everyone else: It is a losing argument when presented to Muslims who can quote Islamic jurisprudence to corroborate their claims over the whole of Eretz Yisrael. It is a losing argument with secular Jews and Christians, who believe that the interpretation of international law should not be conditioned by the Bible. It is even a losing argument among those ultra-orthodox Jews who believe that the Talmud disavows contemporary Jewish claims in the Holy Land.

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Given these precedents, is it really surprising that the White House, the European Union and the United Nations refuse to acknowledge the rights of Jews to reside in the West Bank? Couching the case for Jews to reside in Judea and Samaria in religious language has done incalculable damage to a cause which is primarily one of historical and human rights.

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We will not dwell on Jewish historical rights over Judea and Samaria. These have been elucidated elsewhere and are well-known to most readers. It is high-time to discuss the rights of Jews to reside in the West Bank in terms of human rights. Is this a joke? To those who conflate human rights with the goals of the Palestinian liberation movement, probably. But let us take these peace activists to task: If Jews were once again denied the right to reside in England or Spain these pacifists would be appalled. At the same time these pacifists deny analogous rights to Jews who have for decades resided peacefully in West Bank towns like Efrat and Ariel.

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Let us believe that they genuinely support Jews’ right to live in peace and security in the West. Yet by denying similar rights to Jews in the Middle East these pacifists implicitly deny universal human rights standards. Misguided cultural relativism pushes them to hold the West – and Israel – accountable to a sterling standard while excusing members of non-Western cultures for such immoral acts as bombing civilians, preaching violence in the name of God and planning the mass expulsion of religious minorities.

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Israel should perhaps forgive Western pacifists for their naïveté. But can it condone the hypocrisy of the Arab leadership? If Abbas and the Palestinian Authority genuinely desired peace and reconciliation between Jews and Arabs, they would invite the Jewish residents of the West Bank to apply for citizenship in a future Palestinian state. To accept Jewish neighbors on their soil would be the best way to prove that a future Palestinian state would be a tolerant multi-religious and multiethnic society. It would also be the best way to reassure Israelis that a Palestinian state would be a peaceful neighbor. Nevertheless, Palestinian leaders openly vaunt their determination to cleanse all Jews from the West Bank.

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The irony cannot be missed that Abbas, for all his lofty rhetoric about democracy and human rights, strives to establish an ethnically pure Arab state in the West Bank and Gaza.

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The court of world history will praise Nelson Mandela for reassuring whites that a post-apartheid South Africa would not curtail their civil and property rights. There is no reason for the international community not to demand the same assurances from the Palestinian leadership with regards to Jews. These assurances would demonstrate that Palestinians genuinely respect the rights of minorities and that they are ready to avoid the mistakes of independence movements elsewhere in the Arab world.

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As long as the Palestinian leadership does not give Jews assurances analogous to those given by Nelson Mandela, there is every reason to believe that the profligate use of the word “peace” by Abbas is a mantra devoid of all substance and honesty. Under these circumstances a Palestinian state should not be established.

It is the right and the duty of Israel’s government to justify its reticence towards the establishment of a Palestinian state on human rights grounds. It is respect for universal principles of human rights – not the sacrifice of human beings to placate Islamism and Arab nationalism – that will bring genuine peace to the Middle East. Israel should remind the world about this truth.

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Op Ed in Ynet

 

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