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UN Raporteur Accuses Israel of “Ethnic Cleansing” March 24, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Genocide, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Richard Falk

“The realities on the ground are worsening from the point of view of both international law and from the point of view of the Palestinian people,” Richard Falk, an 82-year-old American who is an emeritus law professor at Princeton University, told reporters.

Richard Falk, United Nations rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories accused Israel last week of “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians. Speaking at a press conference, he said that Israeli policies bore “unacceptable characteristics of colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.”

“Every increment of enlarging the settlements or every incident of house demolition is a way of worsening the situation confronting the Palestinian people and reducing what prospects they might have as the outcome of supposed peace negotiations,” he added. Falk is an American who is Jewish, is an international law expert and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University in the US.

According to Falk, more than 11,000 Palestinians had lost their right to live in Jerusalem since 1966 due to Israel imposing residence laws favoring Jews. At the same time, the Israeli government was revoking Palestinian residence permits. “The 11,000 is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said, “because many more are faced with possible challenges to their residence rights.”

Falk’s comments lend support to similar statements done in the past regarding Israeli actions towards the Palestinians. In 2006, Ilan Pappé, an Israeli historian and social activist who is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, wrote a book called “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.

In that book, Pappé states that the 1948 Palestinian exodus was a planned cleansing of Palestine that was carried out by the Zionist movement leaders, mainly David Ben-Gurion and his associates. The process was carried out through the systematic expulsion of Arabs from about 500 villages, complemented by terrorist attacks executed mainly by members of the Irgun and the Haganah troops acting against the civilian population.

Pappé based his assumptions on the Plan Dalet and on village files as a proof of the planned expulsions. Although the purpose of the plan has been amply debated, it seems that the plan was a set of guidelines whose purpose was to take control of the territory of the Jewish state and to defend its borders and its people, including the Jewish population outside its borders as a precaution against an expected invasion by Arab armies.

Predictably, the book caused an uproar. Benny Morris, an Israeli professor of History in the Middle East Studies department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, wrote, “At best, Ilan Pappé must be one of the world’s sloppiest historians: at worst, one of the most dishonest. In truth, he probably merits a place somewhere between the two.”

Morris himself stated, however, “In retrospect, it is clear that what occurred in 1948 in Palestine was a variety of ethnic cleansing of Arab areas by Jews. It is impossible to say how many of the 700,000 or so Palestinians who became refugees in 1948 were physically expelled, as distinct from simply fleeing a combat zone.”

Not everybody was equally critical of Pappé, though. Stephen Howe, professor of the history of colonialism at Bristol University, said that Pappé’s book was an often compelling mixture of historical argument and politico-moral tract. According to Howe, although Pappé’s book might not be the last word on the events of 1948, it still is “a major intervention in an argument that will, and must, continue.”

And it does continue. In November 2013, more than 50 public figures in Britain wrote a letter opposing an Israeli plan to forcibly remove up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their historic desert land –an act that critics considered ethnic cleansing. The eviction and destruction of approximately 35 villages in the Negev desert, claims the letter, “will mean the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes and land, and systematic discrimination and separation.”

Writing in Save Canada Post in 2010, Suzanne Weiss, a Holocaust survivor stated, “I am a survivor of the Jewish Holocaust, the Nazis’ mass murder of Europe’s Jews. The tragic experience of my family and community under Hitler makes me alert to the suffering of other peoples denied their human rights today — including the Palestinians. True, Hitler’s Holocaust was unique. The Palestinians are victims of ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Hitler started with that, but went on to extermination. In my family’s city in Poland, Piotrkow, 99 per cent of the Jews perished. Yet for me, the Israeli government’s actions toward the Palestinians awaken horrific memories of my family’s experiences under Hitlerism: the inhuman walls, the checkpoints, the daily humiliations, killings, diseases, the systematic deprivation. There’s no escaping the fact that Israel has occupied the entire country of Palestine, and taken most of the land, while the Palestinians have been expelled, walled off, and deprived of human rights and human dignity.”

Richard Falk will address the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, March 24.

Was Yasser Arafat Assassinated? July 5, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Published on Thursday, July 5, 2012 by Common Dreams

 

For at least two years before Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, Uri Avnery, a leading Israeli peace activist, had been warning of the possibility that the Palestinian leader could be assassinated and on the negative effect this would have on the peace process. Now, an investigation carried out by Al Jazeera reveals that Arafat’s final personal belongings had abnormal levels of polonium, a rare, highly radioactive element, and that this was probably the cause of his death.Former PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

“While I am writing this, Yasser Arafat is still alive,” Avnery wrote in 2002 for the Media Monitors Network. “But his life is hanging on a thread. When we visited him in his bombed out Mukata’a compound in Ramallah, I warned him that Sharon is determined to kill him… Now Sharon believes that he can achieve his aim. He needs only Bush’s approval. Not necessarily a formal confirmation. A subtle hint will suffice. Half a word. A wink.” Future findings and events have potentially proved him correct.

In 2006, Uri Dan, who had been Sharon’s longtime confidant, published a book in France entitled “Ariel Sharon: An Intimate Portrait.” The book accuses the former Prime Minister of Israel of assassinating Palestinian Authority (PA) President Yasser Arafat by poisoning him. According to Uri Dan, Sharon got President George W. Bush’s approval to proceed with his assassination plan in 2004. At the time, Sharon told President Bush that he was no longer committed to “not” liquidating the Palestinian leader.

Writing for Global Research in 2007, Stephen Lendman, a recipient of a 2008 Project Censored Award from the University of California at Sonoma, stated that Dr. Ashraf Al Kurdi, Arafat’s personal physician for 25 years, believed that Arafat had been poisoned. When Dr. Al Kurdi saw Arafat before he was taken to Paris, where he died on November 11, 2004, he saw a man who had los half of his body weight, had red patches on his face and a metallic yellow color all over his body.

Arafat’s French doctors were unusually evasive about the cause(s) of his death. They described a very serious disorder called “Disseminated intravascular coagulation,” (DIC) a pathological activation of the blood clotting mechanism that happens in response to a variety of diseases. It leads to the formation of small clots inside the blood vessels in the body, resulting in the disruption of normal blood flow to critical organs such as the kidneys.

DIC can occur in an acute way or chronically as a result of multiple organ failure leading to death. There are no effective treatment options. An interpretation of its acronym “death is coming” probably refers to this circumstance and to the high mortality associated with this condition. Arafat’s French doctors refused to acknowledge the underlying cause of Arafat’s death. Dr. Francois Bochud, director of the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Swizerland, where the analysis of Arafat’s clothes took place confirmed that unexplained, high amounts of polonium-210 had been found in his belongings.

Arafat has not been the only political figure apparently killed by radioactive polonium. The most notorious victim was Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian spy who later became a dissident and who died in London of a lingering illness. An inquiry conducted by British intelligence later proved that he had been poisoned with polonium slipped into his tea.

There are so few recorded cases similar to these, however, that there is still no consensus about the typical symptoms. However, both Litvinenko and Arafat suffered from severe diarrhea, weight loss and vomiting in the days and weeks previous to their deaths. An American study conducted in 1991 found that the poison probably acts by activating the “vomiting center” in the brainstem.

Uri Avnery’s writing in 2002 was premonitory. “The murder of Arafat is the murder of all chances for peace. That is a crime against the Israeli people. It will condemn us to making war for decades, perhaps for generations to come, perhaps forever. The moral, social and economic decline that we are experiencing now everywhere in Israel will drag Israel down to new depths and to the emigration of many.” So far, events have proven him right.

Keeping “Secrets and Lies” on Argentina’s Past May 24, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Human Rights, Latin America.
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Published on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

For a relatively slight margin, the US Congress rejected an amendment by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D) to declassify files on Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship. The refusal to declassify files on Argentina is likely to have momentous consequences on the fate of hundreds of babies stolen or “disappeared” during those years. Many of those babies were born in clandestine torture centers, while others were adopted or given in adoption by the same members of the military or police personnel responsible for their parents’ disappearance.

It is not altogether clear whose interests are sought to be protected, but one can hardly imagine that national security, or the work of US spies fighting Al Qaeda, as suggested by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R), may be put in jeopardy by keeping these files in secret. It is not even clear whether President Cristina Kirchner’s administration is interested in having these files in the open. However, if an official request from the Argentine government were submitted, the U.S. government would be hard pressed, as a matter of international comity, not to reveal at least a redacted text of those files.

Aside from governmental interests and politicians’ desires to keep secrets, what is at stake are human lives, victims, and the administration of justice. In 1999, during the Clinton administration, Rep. Hinchey presented a similar amendment for declassifying documents related to General Augusto Pinochet’s administration.  Declassification resulted in the publication of 24,000 documents that proved to be crucial in the prosecution of crimes committed during the Chilean dictatorship.  It provided clear evidence of Pinochet’s connections to the 1976 assassination, in Washington, D.C., of Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier, along with his secretary Ronni Karpen Moffitt. Also disclosed was Pinochet secret police’s plans to assassinate former Chilean president Patricio Aylwin, the presidential candidate of the coalition that ultimately defeated General Pinochet in 1988.

In December of 2009,  President  Obama signed an executive order entitled “Classified National Security Information”, stating:  “I expect that the order will produce measurable progress towards greater openness and transparency in the Government’s classification and declassification programs while protecting the Government’s legitimate interests, and I will closely monitor the results.” Failure to disclose information on Argentina’s brutal reign of terror cannot be in the interest of the U.S. Government and, to the extent that it may in the interest of some members of the Argentine Government, it is unlikely that those interests may qualify as “legitimate”.

Both the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo and the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo have been searching for decades for their disappeared children and grandchildren. This decision by the U.S. Congress only adds to their difficulties in finding their loved ones. As Representative Hinchey stated, “The United States can play a vital role in lifting the veil of secrecy that has shrouded the terrible human rights abuses of the despotic military regime that ruled Argentina.”  It is about time.

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César Chelala

César Chelala, MD, PhD, is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award. He is also the foreign correspondent for Middle East Times International (Australia).

Alejandro Garro

Alejandro M. Garro teaches Comparative Law at Columbia Law School and sits at advisory board of Human Rights Watch/Americas, the Center for Justice and International Law, and the Due Process of Law Foundation.

Torture Is Not a New US Foreign Policy Tool May 22, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Latin America, Torture, Uruguay.
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by Cesar Chelala

“We are going to smash your hands to pulp like the Chileans did to Victor Jara.” Those were the words of the torturers in a Uruguayan prison spoken to my friend Miguel Angel Estrella, a pianist from Argentina. They were referring to the fate of the imprisoned Chilean singer and guitarist Victor Jara, whose hands were destroyed so that he would never play the guitar again. Jara, a fervent opponent of the Pinochet regime, was brutally tortured and later machine-gunned to death after the coup that brought Pinochet to power in 1973.

Estrella was being held in Uruguay’s Libertad prison, accused of being a guerrilla from Argentina fighting the Argentine military regime. Unable to prove the charges against him, and given the unprecedented international pressure, the Uruguayan government released him in 1978, having kidnapped him at the end of 1977.

Estrella was luckier than most of those imprisoned by the South American military. Although tortured and held for a long time in isolation, Estrella eventually recovered, leads a brilliant career as a musician, and is now Argentina’s Ambassador to UNESCO.

One of those training the Uruguayan torturers was an American operative, Daniel (Dan) Mitrione, who was later captured and killed by Uruguayan guerrillas. According to A.J. Langguth, a former New York Times bureau chief in Saigon, Mitrione was among the US advisers who taught torture to the Brazilian police.

Mitrione’s method for the application of torture was carefully orchestrated. Langguth reports that the method was described in detail in a book by Manuel Hevia Cosculluela, a Cuban double agent who worked for the C.I.A., “Passport 11333, Eight Years with the C.I.A.”

This is Mitrione’s voice: “When you receive a subject, the first thing to do is to determine his physical state, his degree of resistance, through a medical examination. A premature death means a failure by the technician. Another important thing to know is exactly how far you can go given the political situation and the personality of the prisoner. It is very important to know beforehand whether we have the luxury of letting the subject die….Before all else, you must be efficient. You must cause only the damage that is strictly necessary, not a bit more. We must control our tempers in any case. You have to act with the efficiency and cleanliness of a surgeon and with the perfection of an artist…”

In Uruguay, Mitrione was the head of the Office of Public Safety, a U.S. government agency established in 1957 by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower to train foreign police forces. At Mitrione’s funeral, Ron Ziegler, the Nixon administration’s spokesman, stated that Mitrione’s “devoted service to the cause of peaceful progress in an orderly world will remain as an example for free men everywhere.” Thanks to former Senator James Abourezk’s efforts, the policy advisory program was abolished in 1974.

Mitrione’s case was far from unique. Through the School of the Americas, thousands of military and police officers from Latin America were trained in repressive methods, including torture.

On November 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests, a co-worker and her teenage daughter were massacred in El Salvador. I knew one of those killed, Ignacio Martin-Baró, vice-rector of the Central American University. He was the closest I have ever been to a saint. A U.S. Congressional Task Force concluded that those responsible for their deaths were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

Human beings make culture. And we also make torture, that bastard child of culture. It is up to us to change this situation. When running for president Barak Obama stated, referring to the Iraq war. “It is not enough to get out of Iraq; we have to get out of the mindset that led us into Iraq.” A similar assertion could be made about torture. It is not enough to say that torture will not be practiced any longer by the U.S. We need to get out of the mindset that made torture possible in the first place.

 

Cesar Chelala, a writer on human rights issues, is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award for an article on human rights.

Iraqi Children Bear the Costs of War March 5, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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by César Chelala

The great number of Iraqi children affected with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is one of the saddest, and least known, legacies of the Iraq war. That a new clinic for their treatment opened last August in Baghdad is the first of its kind says a lot about how this problem is being addressed. Until now, hundreds of children suffering from PTSD have been treated by Dr. Haider Maliki at the Central Pediatric Teaching Hospital in Baghdad. Hundreds of thousands remain untreated.

Dr. Maliki, who is the only child psychiatrist in the entire country working at a government hospital, hasn’t even been trained as a child psychiatrist and only took up the position when he saw the tremendous needs for that kind of professional in the country. It is well known that children are particularly vulnerable to stress, violence, and displacement.

Hardly a week still passes by in Iraq without renewed signs of violence that leave both children and adults with permanent mental scars. Dr. Haithi Al Sady, Dean of the Psychological Research Center at Baghdad University has been studying the effects of PTSD in Iraqi children. According to him, 28 percent of Iraqi children suffer some degree of PTSD, and their numbers are steadily rising. It is easy to see children’s psychological status being affected by daily explosions, killings, abductions, threatening noises and turmoil in Iraq’s main cities.

PTSD in children can affect their brain and lead to long term effects that will alter their development. Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine found that children with PTSD were likely to experience a decrease in the size of the brain area known as hippocampus, which is a brain structure important in memory processing and emotion.

Stress sustained over a long period of time is likely to cause more serious effects. More than half a million Iraqi children had been traumatized by conflict, according to a 2003 UNICEF report.

UNICEF states that almost two million children have been displaced from their homes since the last war began. “Iraqi children, already casualties of a quarter of a century of conflict and deprivation, are being caught up in a rapidly worsening humanitarian tragedy, “according to that organization. “Iraqi children are paying far too high a price,” stated Roger Wright, UNICEF’s Special Representative for Iraq in December of 2007.

Information collected by UNICEF from different sources support his assertion. By the end of 2007, approximately 75,000 children had resorted to living in camps or temporary shelters. Many of the 220,000 displaced children of primary school age had their education interrupted. This is in addition to the estimated 760,000 children already out of primary school in 2006. Hundreds of children held in prison -some as young as nine-years-old- are kept in overcrowded cells and are frequent targets of sexual abuse by prison guards, according to information from current and former child prisoners.

Both the United States and Great Britain are recognized as Iraq’s occupying powers, and as such are bound by the Hague and Geneva Conventions that demand that they be responsible not only for maintaining order, but also for responding to the medical needs of the population. Children’s mental health is among the most urgent of those needs.

What is now needed is to increase funding to UNICEF and other organization working with children and vulnerable groups in Iraq. New clinics addressing the mental health needs of children should be created. In addition, U.S., British, and other European professionals with experience in working in conflict situations and with PTSD-affected children can give valuable assistance. A generation of Iraqi children has already paid too high a price for this sinister war.

 César Chelala, MD, PhD, is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award. He is also the foreign correspondent for Middle East Times International (Australia).

Jewish Voices of Dissent on Gaza January 25, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/01/24-9

by César Chelala, January 24, 2009

As the dust is settling on the barren Gazan landscape, it is appropriate to listen to the voices of Jewish intellectuals who have forcefully spoken against the Israeli government actions in Gaza. Their opinion helps bring a much needed perspective on the situation.

Uri Avnery, one of the most outspoken leaders in the Israeli human rights community, a former Israeli soldier and member of the Knesset writes, “In this war, as in any modern war, propaganda plays a major role. The disparity between the forces, between the Israeli army – with its airplanes, gunships, drones, warships, artillery and tanks – and the few thousand lightly-armed Hamas fighters, is one to a thousand, perhaps one to a million. In the political arena the gap between them is even wider. But in the propaganda war, the gap is almost infinite.”

“Almost all the Western media initially repeated the official Israeli propaganda line. They almost entirely ignored the Palestinian side of the story, not to mention the daily demonstrations of the Israeli peace camp. The rationale of the Israeli government (“The state must defend its citizens against the Qassam rockets”) has been accepted as the whole truth. The view from the other side, that the Qassams are retaliation for the siege that starves the 1.5 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, was not mentioned at all.”

The Qassam rockets fired at Israeli towns were the excuse for the more than 1,400 people, many of them civilians, killed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), and for the thousands of maimed.

In a speech in the House of Commons on Jan. 15 MP Gerald Kaufman said, “My parents came to Britain as refugees from Poland. Most of their families were subsequently murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home in Staszow. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed.”

“My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The current Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt among gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for the murder of Palestinians. The implication is that Jewish lives are precious, but the lives of Palestinians don’t count.”

The IDF claim that maximum care had been taken to minimize civilians lost of lives. Sara Roy, a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, wrote recently in the Christian Science Monitor, “One Palestinian friend asked me, ‘Why did Israel attack when the children were leaving school and the women were in the markets’?”

“And what will happen to Jews as a people whether we live in Israel or not? Why have we been unable to accept the fundamental humanity of Palestinians and include them within our moral boundaries? Rather, we reject any human connection with the people we are oppressing. Ultimately, our goal is to tribalize pain, narrowing the scope of human suffering to ourselves alone.”

With the cease-fire now in effect, it is fair to ask what has been the result of this tragic war. Has it made Israel safer, has it destroyed Hamas, has it eliminated the threat of Hamas firing Qassam rockets into Israeli towns and cities? Has it made the population of Gaza more moderate? Let’s listen to Gideon Levy.

Writing in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz Levy states: “On the morrow of the return of the last Israeli soldier from Gaza, we can determine with certainty that they had all gone out there in vain. This war has ended in utter failure for Israel…. We have gained nothing in this war save hundreds of graves, some of them very small, thousands of maimed people, much destruction and the besmirching of Israel’s image…. The conclusion is that Israel is a violent and dangerous country, devoid of all restraints and blatantly ignoring the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, while not giving a hoot to international law.”

Or, as Sara Roy also states, “Israel’s victories are pyrrhic and reveal the limits of Israeli power and our own limitations as a people: our inability to live a life without barriers. Are these the boundaries of our rebirth after the Holocaust? As Jews in a post-Holocaust world empowered by a Jewish state, how do we as people emerge from atrocity and abjection, empowered but also humane? How do we move beyond fear to envision something different, even if uncertain? The answers will determine who we are and what, in the end, we become.”

 César Chelala, MD, PhD, is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award. He is also the foreign correspondent for Middle East Times International (Australia).

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