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Spying on the media and the US Congress: The AP seizures

…and the frightening web they’ve uncovered

What We Know is Bad; What’s Behind It is Worse!

by Alfredo Lopez, Global Research News

“Paranoia,” said Woody Allen, “is knowing all the facts.” By that measure, we’re becoming more and more “paranoid” every day.

This week, we learned that the Obama Justice Department seized two months of records [1] of at least 20 phone lines used by Associated Press reporters. These include phone lines in the AP’s New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn offices as well as the main AP number in the House of Representatives press gallery, the private phones and cell phones belonging to AP reporters and a fax line in one AP office.

The government effected this massive seizure “sometime this year” according to a letter from the Justice Department to AP’s chief counsel this past Friday (May 10).

The letter cites relevant “permission” clauses in its “investigative guidelines” and makes clear that it considers the action legal and necessary.

In many ways, this is the most blatant act of media information seizure in memory. It affects over 100 AP journalists and the countless people those journalists communicated with by phone during those two months. It violates accepted constitutional guarantees, the concept of freedom of the press and the privacy rights of literally thousands of people. Predictably and justifiably, press, politicians and activists have expressed outrage.

But as outrageous as the admitted facts are, the story’s larger implications are even more disturbing. It’s bad enough that the Obama Administration has grossly violated fundamental constitutional rights, acknowledged the violation and defended their legality. Even worse is that likelihood that the intrusion will probably be ruled legal, that it has been ongoing against other targets for some time and that this is only the tip of the intelligence-abuse iceberg.

The facts are still tumbling out daily but here’s what we know. While the Justice Department’s letter of notice to AP didn’t provide the reason for the seizure, the date of the seizure or the dates of the data seized, the timing hints strongly that this is tied to a major investigation of “whistle-blowing”. Last year, the AP used unnamed sources in a story about a Central Intelligence Agency effort to disrupt a Yemen-based terrorist plot to bomb an airliner. The AP, at the government’s request, held that story for several days but published it on May 7, 2012 after it was confident the plot had been foiled. Because the AP’s story ran a day before Federal officials were scheduled to announce their “victory”, it’s logical to assume Associated Press honchos knew the government would be unhappy.

So they were probably not surprised that, led by the U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, federal investigators spent a year aggressively searching for the people who leaked the information. That’s vintage Obama. With six government “whistle-blowers” in jail or being prosecuted, federal law-enforcers have prosecuted twice as many whistle-blowers [2] as all previous Administrations combined over the course of two and a quarter centuries. But until now, the media-savvy Obama people have been careful to restrain their pursuit of the corporate press, limiting confrontations to an occasional request or demand for one source revelation.

That’s why these revelations are so shocking to media professionals and advocates. As AP’s CEO Gary Pruitt told Attorney General Eric Holder in his letter of complaint this week [3], “These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-months period, provide a road map to AP’s news gathering operations and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”

There, in a nutshell, is the problem. For the corporate media, there is still such a concept as “no conceivable right to know”. Up to now, part of Obama’s information policy has been that mainstream media qualifies for First Amendment protection but “alternative” journalists and the news organizations they work for, as well as bloggers, activists, writers and others who work independently of major news organizations and who use the Internet as the free vehicle of communications it was invented to be have absolutely no protections. Since 2009, this government is known to have taken action against Internet activists and truth-tellers: seizing servers, email records and virtually all forms of on-line communications and then prosecuting people in over a dozen cases based on some of those seizures. There’s been very little action taken against the corporate press, which for its part has largely ignored or blacked out any reporting on the government attacks on its smaller media competitors.

This “favored status” commercial media has enjoyed has now been trashed. The “protected press” is as exposed as the rest of us. In answering Pruit’s letter, the Justice Department said as much. “We must notify the media organization in advance unless doing so would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation,” U.S. Attorney’s Machen spokesman William Miller explained, in a remark that went way beyond the traditional exemption for protecting lives. He added, “…we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the public interest in the free flow of information and the public interest in the fair and effective administration of our criminal laws.”

In fact, there was no urgency involved in the government’s assault on AP’s news operation — the incident in question was over — and seizure of this kind of information has traditionally been allowed only if a court-ordered subpeona is issued, after the targeted media parties have had a chance to challenge the government intrusion in court. The courts, after all, constitute one of the protections of privacy and free speech we citizens have. Under our Constitution, the courts, not the government, are supposed to decide what is “the right balance,” as Miller put it.

Most of us lost those protections with the Patriot Act and the Justice Department’s updated guidelines [4] which allow the government to engage in secret seizure if its investigators believe there is a real “security threat”. In fact, it is only required to announce that seizure when “it is determined that such notification will no longer pose a clear and substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.” In other words, they can seize anything without a subpeona if they think they should seize it without a subpeona.

That I have learned personally and this is either a disclaimer or a claim to authenticity. Last year, the FBI snatched a server co-located at May First/People Link (my organization) from its location. We believe they were investigating some nut using anonymous servers (servers that don’t maintain records of who used them) to mail threatening emails to students at the University of Pittsburgh. We co-locate one such server for our colleagues at Rise-Up [5].

The AP case applies the suspension of our rights to the “established” media, finalizing a remarkably swift collapse of balance of power protections by removing the courts from the equation.

It’s a moment described in the famous Civil Rights Movement saying, quoted by Angela Davis: “If they come for me in the morning, they’ll come for you at night.” After years of chipping away (largely without protest or even acknowledgement from the mainstream corporate media), at the rights of what the Administration considers the most dangerous and uncontrollable information source — the Internet and the activists and independent journalists who thrive on it like Wikileaks or Mayfirst, the web hosting service I helped found — they’ve now knocked on the door of the mainstream media.

To get a feeling for how dangerous this is, all one must do is trace how these investigations unfold and visualize the investigative web that is developing.

First, they get the phone records. In this case, the phone companies apparently just gave it to them. Protestations that these include “only” phone numbers called and nothing else collapse upon careful examination. Seized cell phone records (and their logs of emails, websites visited and texts sent) are now in the Justice Department’s hands along with all the numbers called by over 100 reporters on 20 phone lines. Starting with the phone numbers called, investigators can then go to commercial email providers (like Google’s Gmail) and seek records of everyone who the reporters contacted. After all, they can now search the providers’ databases against the acquired names and phone numbers!

Email on AP’s servers wasn’t seized — that could never be done “secretly”. But some AP reporters probably use their non-company email as well and investigators can go after that. Internet providers are under enormous pressure to give up those records and many, like Google, will do so voluntarily upon official government request. They’ve already done it for the Chinese government to help it go after its critics.

So anybody who gets a phone call from one of the seized lines during this period can now be investigated more aggressively without subpeonas using the powers of investigation the government already has and information it has already gathered in secret from reporters who had promised them anonymity.

Where is the limit? Without a court hearing, there is none. If an AP reporter called your phone or emailed you from a targeted cell phone, the government now knows it and your phone number (and possibly email address) is now part of the investigation. That gathered information now includes your name, address, phone number, calls you received and calls you made. If they got to the email, all of that is theirs. No matter what those phone calls or email messages from your cell phone are about, they are a part of a government investigation into a major security leak.

Once you’re in the mix, the government can then declare you an investigation “target” and legally seize and read all your email and seize all the email of anybody your wrote. All of this activity is legally covered and, based on past government practice, can be done without informing you.

What’s more there are now indications that the government isn’t stopping there. According to the Washington Post, you don’t even need to be part of an investigation.

“Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications,” the Post reported [6] in its extraordinary series on government intelligence. “The NSA sorts a fraction of those into 70 separate databases.”

The Guardian’s Glen Greenwald argues that such numbers are only possible if the government is recording [7] every phone call, text and email being transmitted in this country. Several FBI whistle-blowers and former agents, he points out, have attested to that scope of activity.

To say you will be part of a prosecution or that the investigation would reach such lengths may, at this point, border on paranoia. But not long ago most of us would have considered paranoid the idea that such collection of data is even taking place. “Mass surveillance is the hallmark of a tyrannical political culture,” Greenwald wrote. To deny the danger in all this is to trust that the government won’t abuse this power or consider your completely legal activities to be dangerous.

Does the Obama Administration deserve that trust? Its stated position is that the government can collect and use any information of this type if there is a security reason to do so. The issue is what is a “security reason” and, since courts have been effectively removed from the process, that definition is completely in the hands of the Justice Department, Homeland Security, the FBI and the National Security Agency. If one of those agencies says you have no right to privacy, you don’t.

There are many people in this country working in opposition to the government. Many of them oppose policies and challenge laws. Many of them have relationships with similar activists in other countries and take up issues that affect those other countries. Should we really feel comfortable giving some government functionary the power to decide if our activities are “dangerous” or “pose a threat”? This is an Administration that has criminally charged Internet activists for violating terms of service agreements, smeared the reputations of countless legitimate activists in all kinds of movements and kept scores of people in Guantamo’s prison for years without charges, in most cases knowing and even conceding that they are innocent of any. Does that track record offer any assurance that they will be judicious and restrained with your information?

Should we trust them with the powers they have amassed? Clearly not, because, given the facts we already know, mistrust isn’t paranoia; it’s knowing the facts.

Links:

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/14/us/phone-records-of-journalists-of-the-associated-press-seized-by-us.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
[2] http://www.salon.com/2012/02/09/obamas_unprecedented_war_on_whistleblowers/
[3] http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2013/05/Letter-to-Eric-Holder_reporter-call-records.pdf
[4] http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/05/doj-got-reporter-phone-records/
[5] https://riseup.net/
[6] http://projects.washingtonpost.com/top-secret-america/articles/a-hidden-world-growing-beyond-control/print/
[7] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/04/telephone-calls-recorded-fbi-boston

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The young will never forget, and will one day return

Beit Jibrin (photo courtesy of Merna Alazzeh)

by Merna Alazzeh, The Electronic Intifada

“The old will die and the young will forget” — this was the prediction of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion. Sixty-three years later, I still wonder what made him think so. Would the Jewish masses — or indeed any of the other millions of people who suffered the Holocaust — ever forget?

As far as I know, having lived in al-Azzeh refugee camp for most of my life, there has always been much space even in the narrow alleys of the camp for the collective memory of Israeli massacres, systematic displacement and ethnic cleansing. These images are imprinted in the minds of Palestinian refugees both young and old.

I never forget that in the spring of 2003 my grandmother and I “went back” to our destroyed village, Beit Jibrin. We managed to get there despite the checkpoints and the high level of Israeli security; it wasn’t easy even though the actual distance that separates my refugee camp from the village is less that an hour’s drive.

Mine is the smallest West Bank camp, covering only 0.02 square kilometres. The camp’s original residents came from Beit Jibrin, on the western hills of Hebron.

I’d been to Beit Jibrin a few times before but never with my grandmother. I walked behind her climbing up a hill in the village. She seemed much stronger and able to walk faster than I remembered. She knew where exactly we were going, as if she was there yesterday.

We sat under a fig tree, and my grandmother smiled and remembered when she used to play with her friends, decades ago. She said, “It’s the same tree, a little bit different now; it’s been more than fifty years after all. Nonetheless, it is the same tree.”

My head was saturated with thoughts; she must have whispered some of her childhood secrets to the old tree. She didn’t say much but the sadness in her eyes said it all. We smiled and stayed seated, listening to birds singing and breathing in as much of the village’s fresh air as possible as if we had never drawn breath before. This is, after all, the village I have been raised to understand is mine.

Her memories dated back to 1948. She was nearly ten years old. Despite her young age, she remembered. She remembered her school, the lovely summer evenings she spent with her family in the village. She remembered the harvest time and traveling to Haifa and Yaffa (Jaffa) with her dad to sell their produce.

She also remembered the nights when the peaceful village was first attacked. “We never saw a fighter jet before,” she said. Maybe they had, I thought, but I’m sure it wasn’t the same sight as the one that was now spreading death and fear into people’s hearts in 1948. This was the same year that witnessed the expulsion of approximately 750,000 of the native Palestinian population from their homes and villages. So far, to this day, they have never been able to return.

Sixty-three years since, and despite the numerous United Nations resolutions and world condemnations, Israel’s impunity still prevails. No justice has been achieved as Palestinian refugees are yet to see the implementation of UN Resolution 242 that clearly affirms “a just settlement of the refugee problem” as well as Resolution 194, which states that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.”

As much as these resolutions have been alive in my grandmother’s memory, they are also imprinted in refugees’ consciousness, whether they are acquainted with international law or not. Every Palestinian refugee resolutely believes in the right to live in the town or village from where they originate, and indeed from which they and their families have been uprooted by force.

My grandmother passed away last year in March in the refugee camp. However, her dream of returning to Beit Jibrin is still alive and I deeply believe that she is in a place where borders do not exist. Her soul is finally free of the shackles of ethnic division, and she is able to hover over Palestine and our beloved village — our home — Beit Jibrin. She might be whispering secrets to the fig and olive trees there right now. Her dreams of return are still alive.

I will never forget her nor will I forget her passion when talking about the village. I will always make sure I pass her dreams and aspirations to the coming generations. This, I believe, is a promise that each refugee has made consciously or unconsciously until the return and the full realization of our rights.

We will never forget my village and all the ethnically-cleansed Palestinian villages, as the memory remains in the heart and soul of all Palestinians. For us, the old may well die, but the young will never forget.

Merna Alazzeh is a Palestinian human rights activist, community and international development professional living in London. Alazzeh has obtained a masters degree in human rights from the London School of Economics.

Interview: Undercover Israeli soldiers arrest West Bank demonstrators

The Electronic Intifada

Approximately 250 persons were injured today at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and East Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank. Israeli forces opened fire on approximately 600 marchers demanding the right of return of Palestinian refugees on the date that Palestinians mark the Nakba or “catastrophe” — the forced dispossession of their homeland in 1947-48 with the establishment of the State of Israel.

Palestinian medical crews reported that of the 250 who were treated for injuries and tear gas inhalation, “40 had been marked as seriously injured from bullet wounds,” Ma’an News Agency reported (“Clashes at Qalandiya see 40 seriously injured,” 15 May 2011).

“A report from the Palestinian Red Crescent said two were hit with live rounds, 15 were injured by rubber-coated bullets, and 120 suffered tear-gas inhalation,” Ma’an added.

The Electronic Intifada spoke with Jon Elmer (www.jonelmer.ca), a Canadian independent journalist based in Bethlehem who documented protests in the occupied West Bank today.

The Electronic Intifada: Describe where you were today. Set the scene.

Jon Elmer: Things got going at about 11:00am, with a couple of marches that left from different places. There was a [Palestinian] government-sanctioned march that left from Arafat’s tomb to al-Manara square [in Ramallah] … it was a brief demonstration.

The march that happened at Qalandiya began a little bit earlier. People had marched towards the checkpoint, where protests usually take place. The Israeli soldiers were on the other side of the wall — they had come inside to confront the demonstrations. And that set off to what amounted to about six or seven hours of back and forth street fighting between stone-throwing teenagers and Israeli security forces who fired mostly tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. Palestinians set up makeshift defenses within the refugee camp itself and on the border of the camp.

It was hard to say how many people were in the street. It wasn’t a massive demonstration but it definitely had staying power. People were in the streets all day and demonstrations took place in a number of different spots throughout the West Bank.

EI: How would you describe the mood of the people on the streets, and the mood of the soldiers?

JE: With such an overwhelming power dynamic with massive amounts of weaponry, it’s always interesting to watch how the Israeli army operates. The soldiers move in packs, they’re constantly wide-eyed and seem to have their hands full despite the fact that they have the strength of an army behind them, whereas the [Palestinian] teenagers who are just out in the streets with their neighbors and friends and comrades are willing to stay out in the streets for seven hours, challenging that army at every step.

If people are determined not to leave, and the army is inside their community, and that’s the way that it carries out all day, the soldiers are left with very few options besides escalating the violence to try to quell the demonstrations.

We saw that late in the afternoon — the undercover units broke out of the demonstration where they had been hiding in disguise, acting as Palestinian demonstrators. They pulled out their handguns and made a series of arrests while the army backed them up by moving forward and basically trying to put an end to the demonstration. While they arrested people, the protesters began the demonstration again within moments once people re-emerged from the alleyways.

There is so much concern within the Israeli army about what they’re going to do and how they are going to quell demonstrations. If there were, let’s say, thirty demonstrations [across the West Bank], that is a worst-case scenario for the Israeli army. The army reported that there was more than ten today.

EI: What about the mood in Bethlehem, where you are based, and elsewhere around the West Bank on Nakba day?

JE: The demonstrations have been moving from community to community over the last four or five days. Bethlehem had a demonstration a few days ago.

It’s important to understand that while there are exciting political formations developing and re-emerging at this moment, there is a significant malaise that has dominated Palestinian political culture over the last few years, particularly with the aggressive crackdown on the second intifada, which really devastated the core elements of life here in the West Bank and in the Gaza strip as well.

[Israel] attacked people’s livelihoods and their ability to carry on the most basic necessities of life … So there is a period right now of regeneration which is natural after significant national trauma. And the Fatah-Hamas voided election, and the internal fighting, left Palestinians with not too many favorable options.

EI: Given that this is the 63rd anniversary of the Nakba, what are the conversations that are happening in the West Bank right now? What are people saying about the significance of this date in the context of the expansion of both Israel apartheid policies and Palestinian resistance?

JE: [The Nakba is] an important part of the national narrative, arguably the most important part of the national narrative. At the same time, day to day life in the West Bank tends to be dominated by the more direct concerns of the settlements and the checkpoints and the lack of ability to move and the lack of independence and the lack of decent-paying jobs. Basic life necessities are most in focus at the moment.

Although we read in The New York Times about these “success stories” about Ramallah and the transformation of the Palestinian economy in the West Bank over the last five years, the development aid has benefited really only a narrow sector of the population.

In general, people are still dealing with the same elementary needs of citizenship, identification cards, the ability to travel to one now-ghetto to the next. It keeps people focused on the here and now, and the long string of political let-downs and failures of the international community to affect a just resolution to the conflict keeps people modest about envisioning future successes. But the refugee issue is alive; it affects every Palestinian family.

EI: You’ve been documenting various upheavals and protests and demonstrations over the last decade in Palestine. What was most emblematic of what you witnessed today?

JE: I think what happened in south Lebanon was a very significant moment. The descriptions of people going back to their villages and hiking over those mountains today — both young children who have it ingrained in their psyches and the elderly who have never given up — today marching on the border is something that was a great moment. And it was something we can point to as something emblematic.

Although it ended in typically tragic circumstances, that type of spirit and continuity and steadfastness is what is the most threatening to Israel. People never forget, and people will never leave again. These sort of national narratives are crucial to understanding the Palestinian political situation.

“Israel” passes law denying prisoners lawyer visits for one year after arrest

NAZARETH, (PIC)– Israel’s legislative commission approved Monday a new draft law that would deny Palestinian prisoners the right to lawyer visits for one year upon arrest in an attempt to tighten restrictions on those prisoners.

The amended law will afford power to Israeli courts to ban Palestinian prisoners from visits by their legal representatives for an entire year, while the present law allows this type of ban for three weeks only.

Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich brought a list of arguments to convince the Knesset’s legislative committee to favor the law before it was approved. The draft has taken effect from the time it was passed.

More than 6,700 Palestinians are currently jailed by Israel, some of them serving more than a quarter century without break.

Gaza’s ministry of prisoner affairs condemned the law as a “racist decision without any legal justification.”

The ministry’s spokesman Riyadh Al Ashqar expressed his concerns that the move would allow for a rise in prisoner abuse, saying lawyers would not be able to detect and thus report signs of abuse on prisoners after one year of detention.

Lawyers would also find difficulty in investigating and building a strong case for defendants and identifying the charges placed against them with such a long interval at hand. That would in turn grant time to intelligence to add charges to confessions.

Killing Sovereignty: How Washington Murdered Privacy at Home and Abroad

{How is my leading?} by Naser Al Jafa'ri

By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS, source

In the Swiss newspaper Zeit-Fragen, Professor Dr. Eberhard Hamer from Germany asks, “How Sovereign is Europe?”

He examines the issue and concludes that Europe has little, if any, sovereignty.

Professor Hamer writes that the sovereign rights of Europeans as citizens of nation states were dissolved with the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty on Dec. 1, 2009. The rights of the people have been conveyed to a political commissariat in Brussels. The French, Germans, Belgians, Spanish, British, Irish, Italians, Greeks, and so forth, now have “European citizenship whatever this may be.”

The result of aggregating nations is to reduce the political participation of people. The authority of parliaments and local councils has been impaired. Power is now concentrated in new hierarchical structures within the European Union. European citizenship means indirect and weak participation by people. Self-rule has given way to authoritarian rule from top to bottom.

Professor Hamer then examines the EU commissariat and concludes that it, too, lacks sovereignty, having submitted to the will of the United States. The problem is not only that Europeans are waging an unconstitutional war ordered by the U.S. in a region of the world where Europe has no interests. Europe’s puppet state existence goes far beyond its mercenary service to the American Empire.

The EU has given in to Washington’s demand for “free access to the banking data of the central financial service provider, Swift, in Europe. All financial flows in Europe (and between Europe and the rest of the world) will now be monitored by the CIA and other American and Israeli intelligence services.” The monitoring will include transfers within Germany, for example, and within individual cities. “The data, even data of completely innocent citizens, have to be stored for five years, of course, at the expense of the banks and their customers.”

How sovereign is the EU when it is unable to protect the financial privacy of its citizens from foreign governments?

For some time Zeit-Fragen has been reporting Washington’s pressure on the Swiss government to violate Swiss statutory law in order to comply with American demands to monitor financial flows within Switzerland and between Switzerland the world. Writers show their astonishment at the total contempt Washington has for the sovereignty of other countries and the privacy rights of their citizens.

We Americans should not be surprised. Not withstanding statutory laws, our privacy rights are long gone. In the U.S. privacy has become a cruel and expensive joke. It means that parents cannot find out about the college grades of a son or daughter without the permission of the son or daughter. It means that credit card companies, banks and other financial institutions are required to waste money sending a steady stream of “privacy notices” to customers about the use of the customer’s information. It means an American cannot get information about his account with a credit card company, telephone, cable, and Internet provider, bank, utility company or make any alteration in his account without providing a stranger with his Social Security number or other private information over and beyond one’s name, address, and account number. This routine is a joke when the government has access to everything. It is part of our Orwellian world that privacy is protected by the requirement to give strangers private information over the telephone.

The American sheeple quietly accepted the complete destruction of their right to privacy. Encouraged by success in smiting the American people, Washington has now destroyed the privacy of Europeans.

Indeed, the “freedom and democracy” government spies on the entire world and sends drones into foreign countries to murder people disapproved by Washington.

Washington denounces other governments for human rights violations while itself violating human rights every day.

Washington puts foreign leaders on trial for war crimes, while committing war crimes every day.

What happens when the dollar goes and Washington no longer has the money to bribe compliance with its demands? When that day arrives, freedom will reemerge.

Palestine: What it’s all about (Never Before Campaign)-video

Village sues Canada companies cashing in on occupation

by Deborah Guterman, The Electronic Intifada, 11 June 2009

The small Palestinian village of Bilin will face-off this month against two Canadian corporations accused of aiding and abetting the colonization of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Bilin has charged Green Park International and Green Mount International with illegally constructing residential buildings and other settlement infrastructure on village territory, and marketing such structures to the civilian population of the State of Israel. The condominiums in question are located in a settlement neighborhood known as Matityahu East.

Still in its preliminary phase, the lawsuit sheds light on the shady pairing of corporate interest with Israeli expansionist ambition. Representing the village of Bilin, the Bilin Village Council headed by Ahmed Issa Abdallah Yassin seeks to hold the companies accountable for violations of international law.

The lawsuit, filed by Canadian attorney Mark Arnold in 2008, accuses Israel of “severing” village land from Palestinian control, and transferring territorial control to Israeli planning councils. The rights to develop the territory were then sold to the Green Park companies.

Arnold is optimistic. “Certainly the Canadian law and the Quebec law appears to be on the side of Bilin, and against the side of the defendants,” he said.

The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 prohibits an occupying power from relocating part of its civilian population to the territory it has occupied. A violation of this principle is deemed a crime of war under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Insofar as Green Park International and Green Mount International constructed the buildings meant to house Israelis within the occupied West Bank, the corporations are considered complicit in the commission of this war crime.

According to Emily Schaeffer, an Israeli attorney representing the Village of Bilin, both the articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute have been incorporated into Canadian federal law under the Canadian Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Statute.

“The Canadian statute specifically makes aiding and abetting a country in committing those crimes a crime,” she said. “This is the essential article that ties the [actions of] corporations to government responsibilities.”

A court of last resort

The Bilin case is one of a growing number of civil and criminal motions filed abroad that attempt to hold Israel and its corporate agents responsible for breaches of international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

However, according to Schaeffer, this increased tendency reveals the failure of the Israeli court system to protect Palestinian rights.

“The truth is that Israel is not willing to implement all of international humanitarian law and the laws on occupation on the occupied [Palestinian] territories,” she said. “We’ve made some headway, we haven’t gone far enough, and that’s why we’re in Canada.”

The question of the legality of the settlements has been brought to the Israeli high court on multiple occasions. However, the courts have repeatedly refused to rule on this issue. Instead, the courts deem this concern political in nature and thus outside the jurisdiction of the justice system.

Green Park International and Green Mount International have motioned to dismiss the suit. They claim that Canada is not the appropriate forum in which to try the case. Instead, the defendants contend that the suit should be heard in Israel as it is the country where the activity in question has taken place.

“Our opponents want us to go to Israel,” said Arnold. “We say — and the Israeli courts have said — that issues of this type are not justiciable [in Israel]. In other words, no justice can be given by the Israeli courts on these types of issues. The Israeli courts see them as being politically-based as opposed to legal issues.”

The Canadian scene

In the run-up to the preliminary hearings, Mohammed Khatib of the Bilin Popular Committee Against the Wall, and Schaeffer will tour 11 Canadian cities. The speaking tour is part of a civil society campaign to mobilize support for the embattled village. A spokesperson for the Coalition for the Bilin Tour, who wishes to remain anonymous, emphasized the need to hold corporations accountable for affronts to human rights.

“As members of the community, it is our duty to curb the power of large multinational corporations. We need to tell them, ‘There are limits to your quest to seek profits,'” she said in French.

Schaeffer highlighted the importance for concerned individuals to show solidarity with Bilin.

Speaking of the highly controversial nature of the lawsuit in question, she said, “The judge in this case needs to feel that it’s okay to rule in favor of the village — that there’s not going to be a major backlash. And that judge also needs to feel supported in making a decision that might very well influence Canadian foreign policy with Israel.

“I think the role of civil society is to say, we’re with you on this, we want this to happen.”

Bilin is seeking a permanent injunction against the Canadian corporations. In addition, if successful, the Green Park companies will be ordered to destroy the buildings they have already constructed and pay two million dollars each in punitive damages to the village.

However, it is doubtful that such orders will ever be implemented by Israeli authorities. In order for the ruling to be enforced, the defendants will have to petition the Israeli high court to accept the Canadian decision.

Bilin is located four kilometers east of the green line (the 1949 armistice line that marks the boundary between Israel and the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967) and is adjacent to Modiin Illit, a large settlement bloc that sits on territory confiscated from Bilin and the neighboring Palestinian villages of Nilin, Kharbata, Deir Qadis and Saffa. Since 2005, the residents of this agricultural community have been leading a nonviolent struggle against the construction of Israel’s wall in the West Bank on village land.

Ostensibly built to protect the existing residents of the settlement bloc, the route of the wall was drawn to incorporate the future construction of Matityahu East located just east of Modiin Illit. The wall appropriates an additional 450 acres, which accounts for 60 percent of Bilin’s land.

In 2007, the Israeli high court deemed the route of the wall in Bilin illegal, and ordered the Israeli military to move it closer to the edge of the settlement boundary.

To date, the military has yet to implement the high court’s decision.

Deborah Guterman is a member of Young Jews for Social Justice, a collective of Montreal Jews who take action on racism, injustice in the Middle East and inequality in their communities.

Right to return through resistance

by Umayah Jiha-Al Rayah newspaper-Qatar

by Umayah Jiha-Al Rayah newspaper-Qatar

Evidence hurts “Israel” land grabbing dreams

Well not that would stop the Israelis from doing it anyway because they have a hisotry of land theft but it shows they are liars. About the Turks’ position, better late than never I guess hope they take more actions in favor of the Palestinians.

Press TV

A document recently uncovered from Ottoman archives in Ankara dispels Israeli misconceptions on the ownership of East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

If an Israeli court rules based on a document provided by Turkey, a 30-year-old dispute over the ownership of around 30 buildings in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood will end and Palestinian families threatened with eviction will be able to save their homes, Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported on Thursday.

Attorneys representing the Palestinians said they were granted access to the archives following the recent strains in Israel-Turkey relations.

“Until half a year ago the Turks didn’t want to spoil their relations with Israel and were unhelpful. They would put us off with all kinds of excuses. Today their attitude has changed. We felt this change especially after the Gaza operation. Now senior Turkish officials are helping us,” said attorney Hatam Abu Ahmed.

In January, lawyer Salah Abu Hussein traveled to Turkey and with the help of local officials found a document proving that the Jews demanding the eviction of the Palestinians were not the rightful owners of the area.

The present Palestinian residents had previously lived in West al-Quds (Jerusalem) until they were forced to go to Sheikh Jarrah as refugees.

In the 1970s, the Sephardic Leadership in al-Quds (Jerusalem) claimed they had purchased the land before the Palestinians were transferred and produced Turkish documents to substantiate their claims.

The courts eventually recognized the Sephardic Leadership’s ownership but granted the Palestinians protected tenants’ status.

However, the Sephardic Leadership and a group of settlers who moved into the nearby compound have been demanding the Palestinians’ eviction, claiming they have violated their rental terms.

Over the years, several Palestinian families were evicted and other families moved into their houses. The last eviction took place in November 2008 when the al-Kurd family became subject to a land grab and moved into a protest tent near their sealed house. Shortly afterward, the father — Mohamed al-Kurd — died of an illness.

Throughout the years, the Palestinians claimed that the ownership documents presented by the Zionists were forged, but due to Turkey’s reluctance to cooperate, they could not prove their ownership and the courts rejected their suits.

Now the attorneys say the Ottoman document proves that the Sephardic Leadership had never even purchased the compound and had only rented it. Another Ottoman document confirms that the document presented by the Jewish party is not authentic.

“There is no trace of the Jewish document in the archive,” said Abu Hussein.

The attorneys on Wednesday asked the court to withhold eviction procedures against two Palestinian families on the basis of the Turkish document.

“Now it will be possible to issue ownership deeds. The Turks are very well organized and helpful,” Abu Ahmed commented.

Abbas has no right to ask Hamas to recognize “Israel”

By Khalid Amayreh in Occupied Palestine

The de facto chairman of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Mahmoud Abbas is once again asking Hamas to recognize Israel as a precondition for the formation of a prospective national unity government.

In a speech in Ramallah on Saturday, 28 February, Abbas said any Palestinian unity government ” will have to be committed to our values and respect agreements previously signed by the Palestinian Authority.”

Abbas didn’t explicitly say that Hamas would have to recognize Israel. However, this is exactly what every Palestinian listening to his speech understood from his statements.

Well, it is really sad and lamentable that the Palestinian political discourse has stooped to this level of national apostasy.

Palestinian leaders from time immemorial never stopped urging our masses to resist Zionist aggression and never give up the dream of earning our freedom from the cruel hands of Zionism.

Hence, the fact that a late comer shamelessly urges his own people to recognize the legitimacy of their oppressors and dispossessors, who have just incinerated hundreds of children in Gaza using White Phosphorus bombs, is more than demeaning and injurious to our collective national spirit.

First of all, Abbas should realize, in case he doesn’t, that recognizing Israel would mean a full-embrace of the Zionist narrative, a blaspheme by any other name.

It would mean a recognition, or at least an acknowledgement, that Israel had the right to wrest Palestine from its rightful owners by way of employing murder, terror and ethnic cleansing. It would mean that all the massacres and atrocities Israel perpetrated were legitimate.

In other words, Abbas is effectively demanding that Hamas and other Palestinians morph themselves into full-fledged Zionists.

But Israel seeks more than just a mere recognition of its “right to exist.” The nefarious entity insists that all Palestinians (and all Arabs) recognize her as a Jewish state.

In real terms, this would imply that the sizeable Palestinian community in Israel, whose existence in their ancestral land, had preceded the advent of modern Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe by numerous centuries, will have to be expelled, partially or wholly, at some point in the future?

So, one might really wonder if the PA leader is asking Hamas to recognize Israel’s “right” to expel more than 1.5 million Palestinians on the ground that Israel is a “Jewish state” and that non-Jews have only a transient right to live within the state?

Indeed, one would be stating the obvious by arguing that neither Abbas, nor Fatah, nor Hamas, not even the 23 Arab kings and presidents-for-life, have the right to speak on behalf of these admirable Palestinians who clang to their homes despite all the harassment and institutionalized persecution meted out to them by successive Zionist governments.

Apart from Zionist criminality, there are a thousand other reasons why no dignified Palestinian should ever contemplate recognizing Israel.

The PLO, which everyone is trying to rehabilitate these days, lost its chastity when it was duped into recognizing Israel through the scandalous Oslo Agreement. And instead of receiving a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, as the famous mantra goes, in exchange for that unethical recognition, it got more Jewish-only colonies, narrower horizons for the Palestinian masses and a Nazi-like gigantic wall that effectively transformed Palestinian towns and villages into open-air prisons.

So, I want to ask Mr. Abbas and his cohorts. Did Israel recognize a viable and sovereign Palestinian state in exchange for that stupid PLO recognition?

I am asking this question because even the stupidest and most demented Palestinian wouldn’t have given Israel a free recognition?

Furthermore, I want to ask you Mr. President, which Israel do you want Hamas to recognize? Is it Israel according to the partition plan? Is it Israel according to the 1949 armistice agreement? Is it Israel according to the pre-1967 borders? Is it Israel with East Jerusalem? Is it Israel with the Golan Heights? Is it Israel with Shaba Province? Or is it Greater Israel which according to some rabbinic authorities includes Jordan (Eastern Yeretz Yisrael!!), Syria, Lebanon, as well as large parts of Egypt, Iraq and northern Saudi Arabia?

I am posing these questions because until today, Israel has no fixed borders. Didn’t you hear the gurus of Zionism claim during the recent blitzkrieg in Gaza that Israel had the right to prevent any international ship to access the blockaded and thoroughly starved coastal territory?

More to the point, could you tell me Mr. President why a Palestinian government of national unity would have to recognize Israel when the Israeli government refuses to recognize Palestine?

Aren’t you aware that the government which the notorious pathological liar, Benyamin Netanyahu, is trying to form will include manifestly fascist parties such as Habayt ha’yahudi (the Jewish Home), Ichud Leumi (National Union) Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is our Home) and Shas? Even Netanyahu himself doesn’t believe in a Palestinian state as evident from his vacuous charade about effecting economic prosperity in the West Bank.

You are supposed to be an expert on Zionism and sufficiently familiar with the Nazi-like ideologies espoused by these racist parties.

So, why haven’t you insisted on parity and reciprocity with Israel by demanding that the PA wouldn’t negotiate with any Israeli government that doesn’t recognize a truly sovereign and territorially contiguous Palestinian state on at least 100% of the occupied territories?

I really can’t understand why the Palestinians have to give up all their “bargaining cards” when Israel continues to kill any realistic prospects for the creation of a Palestinian entity that is worthy of the name?

Mr. President, one doesn’t have to be especially smart to tell Hillary Clinton and other western emissaries that they have no right to demand that Hamas recognize Israel and abandon armed struggle as long as the Israeli government includes fascist political parties that not only deny our right to freedom and self-determination but also go as far as demanding our enslavement, banishment and even physical extermination.

You may examine their declared and undeclared platforms and see for yourself the evilness of their designs against our people.

Yes, one doesn’t have to have a specially high IQ to utter these most logical words and put up a brave and dignified stance on behalf of our people. But one does have to be courageous, a character that the present PA leadership obviously doesn’t possess.

Finally, we all know that there is not the slightest chance in hell that Hamas will recognize a Zionist Israel, mainly for religious and moral reasons. A Hamas that recognizes a Zionist Israel simply loses its raison d’etre.

Source