Friday, July 31, 2009

Israel's Discriminatory Land Policies

Israel's Discriminatory Land Policies - by Stephen Lendman

Israel's late 1947 -1948 "War of Independence" took six months to create a new Jewish state, excluding Arabs to the greatest extent possible. To accomplish it, widespread war crimes and atrocities were committed as about 800,000 people were brutally uprooted, ethnically cleansed, or murdered in cold blood. In addition, 531 villages and 11 urban neighborhoods in Tel-Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem and other cities were destroyed and erased except in the collective memories of their inhabitants and descendants who'll always consider them their rightful homes.

Shortly after, laws were passed to legitimize the seizure and exclusive Jewish use of Palestinian land. The June 1948 Abandoned Areas Ordinance referred to "any area or place conquered by or surrendered to armed forces or deserted by all or part of its inhabitants." It gave the Israeli government exclusive jurisdiction rights, including "expropriation and confiscation (authority over) movable and immovable property, within any abandoned area." It meant displaced Palestinians were prohibited from returning and claiming their property that by law was no longer theirs.

The September 1948 Area of Jurisdiction and Powers Ordinance stated that "Any law applying to the whole of the State of Israel" applies as well "to the whole of the area including....any part of Palestine which the Minister of Defence has defined by proclamation as being held by the Defence Army of Israel." It meant that Palestinians lost all rights and were subject to whatever laws Israel enacted.

In March 1950, the Absentees' Property Law (ABL) defined an absentee as:

"a person who, at any time during the period between (November 29, 1947) and (May 19, 1948) has ceased to exist (and no longer) was a legal owner of any property situated in the area of Israel...."

The ABL transfered property owner rights to a Custodian of Absentee Property. It made him liable to the real owner for the value, but prohibited the return of his land. Israeli law stole it to have Palestinians remaining in Israel relocated and declared "Absentees," no longer rightful owners of their property.

In July 1950, The Development Authority (Transfer of Property) Law was a legal ploy to shield Israel from being accused of having confiscated abandoned Palestinian land and whatever was on it.

The Development Authority (DA) was established as an independent body to buy, sell, lease, exchange, repair, build, develop and/or cultivate seized property. Henceforth, only transactions between Jews or a Jewish entity were allowed. It was understood that "under no circumstances should the (expelled) Arabs return to Israel."

In July 1960, Israel Lands Administration Law established an "Israel Lands Administration. (ILA)" At the same time, Israel's Basic Law affirmed that "ownership of Israel Lands, being the lands in Israel of the State, the Development Authority or the Keren Kayemet Le-Israel (KKL - Jewish National Fund, JNF), shall not be transferred either by sale or in any other manner." Lands were defined to mean "land, houses, buildings and any thing permanently fixed to land."

On its web site, the ILA states that it controls 93% of Israeli land as "public domain; that is, either property of the state, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) or the Development Authority (DA)." The ILA "is the government agency responsible for managing this land which comprises 4,820,500 acres (19,508,000 dunams). 'Ownership' of real estate usually means leasing rights from the ILA for 49 or 98 years."

ILA's legal framework stems from "four cornerstones:"

-- the 1960 Basic Law: Israel Lands;

-- the 1960 Lands Law;

-- the 1960 Israel Land Administration; and

-- the 1960 "Covenant between the State of Israel and the World Zionist Organization (Jewish National Fund)."

The Israel Land Council (ILC) determines ILA policy. The Council chairman is the "Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Industry, Trade, Labor and Communications."

The ILC is comprised of 22 members, 12 from government ministries and 10 representing the JNF.

ILA functions include:

-- assuring that national land use conforms with Israeli laws;

-- protecting and supervising state lands;

-- making them available for public use;

-- planning, developing and managing state land reserves;

-- initiating planning and development, including relocating existing occupants, meaning removing Palestinians to make way for Jews;

-- regulating and managing registration of state lands;

-- authorizing contracts and agreements with other parties; and

-- providing services to the general public.

ILA policy objectives include:

-- designating land areas for public and state requirements;

-- assuring the availability of land reserves for future needs;

-- preserving agricultural lands;

-- administering land use in accordance with the law; and

-- safeguarding state lands.

Overall, Israeli laws and ILA policy prohibit Arabs from buying, leasing or using land exclusively reserved for Jews. On May 21, 1997, Israel's largest circulation newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, quoted Yassar Arafat saying: "Israel has always confiscated land from Arabs and dispossessed them of the property. The land always goes from Arabs to the Jews," and he added that Palestinians who sell their land to Jews are traitors.

The Jewish National Fund (JNF)

In 1901, the Fifth Zionist Congress established it to "purchase, take on lease or in exchange, or otherwise acquire any lands, forests, rights of possession and other rights....for the purpose of settling Jews on (Palestinian) lands." About 80% of the land was confiscated, not bought, from its rightful owners - expelled Palestinians in Israel's "War of Independence."

JNF calls itself "Caretakers of the land of Israel for over a century (and) a global environmental leader by planting 240 million trees, building over 200 reservoirs and dams, developing over 250,000 acres of land, creating more than 1000 parks, providing infrastructure for over 1000 communities, (and) bringing life to the Negev Desert" exclusively for Jews on stolen Palestinian lands.

JNF develops land. It doesn't sell it, but it can lease it to Jews or any Jewish-controlled company, organization or entity. It holds these lands on behalf of "the Jewish People in perpetuity." In addition, its Himnuta subsidiary is charged with "redeeming" West Bank Palestinian land. A 1961 agreement between the State and JNF arranged for the ILA to manage 93% of Israeli land for Jews alone.

In 1973, former Israeli scholar, critic, and lifelong human rights activist, Israel Shahak (1933 - 2001), wrote a paper titled, "What is the Meaning of the Jewish State" in which he said:

"The real situation in Israel is really very simple: Israel is not an 'Israeli' state, or a state of its citizens but it is a 'Jewish state.' " With regard to land, "More than 90% of the inhabited areas of the State of Israel are under the rule of the Jewish National Fund regulations, under which non-Jews cannot rent or buy a house or flat, open a business, in short cannot live. This land is called in Hebrew 'the land' saved. The land which belongs to non-Jews is called unsaved not national (meaning Jewish) and by buying or confiscating it from a non-Jew by a Jew, the land is supposed to be 'saved.' "

It's only the beginning. Numerous privileges are afforded Jews alone that include:

-- not only the right to the land but to a mortgage or loan to finance it;

-- on confiscated West Bank land, "Jewish inhabitants enter into prepared houses, with water and electricity;" unconnected Arab villages are forbidden to use either; and

-- "A building project for the newly-married applies only for the Jewish newly-married and so forth; to be a Jew in a Jewish state is to be both a privileged being, and to be able to receive a lot of 'easy' money a non-Jew can not ever get."

Adalah's Challenge

As the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Adalah petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court on October 13, 2004 "Challenging the Prohibition on Arab Citizens of Israel from Living on Jewish National Fund Land." It demanded an end to this discriminatory policy and cited other civil rights petitions for the same purpose.

On August 15, 2004 in a letter to Adalah, the ILA acknowledged that "JNF land tenders are only open to Jews." It said it supports the policy and "is bound to respect the objective of the JNF as detailed in the Covenant signed by the State of Israel and the JNF."

JNF's written response said it "is not the trustee of the general public in Israel. Its loyalty is given to the Jewish people in the Diaspora and in the state of Israel....The JNF, as the owner of the JNF land, does not have a duty to practice equality towards all citizens of the state."

In a July 29, 2007 press release, Adalah referred to "a (July 18, 2007) racist bill entitled the 'Jewish National Fund Law (JNFL)' " stipulating that JNF land is to be solely for Jews. It added a new provision to the 1960 ILA Law called "Management of the Jewish National Fund's Lands" saying:

"Despite whatever is stated in any law, leasing of Jewish National Fund's lands for the purpose of the settlement of Jews on these lands will not be seen as improper discrimination." Further, "For the purpose of every law, the association documents of the Jewish National Fund will be interpreted according to the judgment of the Jewish National Fund's founders and from a nationalist-Zionist standpoint."

The JNFL was introduced in the Knesset and passed its preliminary reading. In September 2007, Israel's Supreme Court held a hearing on Adalah's 2004 petition and approved a JNF and Attorney General proposal to delay further deliberation for three months. It stipulated that, during the interim period, Arabs could bid for JNF-controlled lands but that JNF would be compensated for Arab purchases by transferring other state lands to it.

Adalah's General Director Attorney Hassan Jabareen and Attorney Suhad Bishara rejected the proposal because it left Israel's discriminatory policy intact. In other words, newly seized land would replace Arab purchases, leaving them no better off than before. Adalah argued for ending Israel's discriminatory policy, not tinkering with it around the edges and accomplishing nothing.

So far, it hasn't happened. In addition, current law empowers the ILA further to restrict and prohibit Palestinian land development by:

-- putting large Arab areas under its control through the creation of regional councils;

-- enforcing rigid zoning restrictions for residential, agricultural, and industrial use; forbidding unlicensed construction, banning it on agricultural land, and stipulating where Jews and Arabs can live;

-- denying Palestinian areas room to expand while affording Jewish ones great latitude;

-- transferring public land adjacent to Arab communities to the JNF and mandating its use for Jews only;

-- declaring national priority town areas off-limits to Arabs;

-- delaying, restricting and prohibiting local development in Arab communities;

-- denying Palestinians representation on national planning committees; and

-- using forced evictions and home demolitions to make more areas available for Jews.

The Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) and Ittijah (the Union of Arab NGOs) Position Regarding ILA Proposed Reform

HRA and Ittijah say the proposal "violates international law and universal values." Prior to 1948, Jews controlled 6% of historic Palestine. It's now 93% - an "unparalleled (situation) anywhere else in the world (under which) the State of Israel enjoys absolute control of the most significant resource...." Occupied Palestinians and millions of displaced refugees have suffered grievously. So have Israeli Arabs from discriminatory land distribution policies.

Until the mid-1990s, the ILA allocated land for just two Arab Nazareth and Umal-Fahm housing projects alone. Its approach emphasizes land redemption, meaning seizing it from its owners and transferring it to Jews.

The proposed law "attempts to remove the foundation for current and future claims to return to the homeland and to secure the land rights of Palestinian refugees, as well as (250,000) internal refugees (Israeli Arabs)." If passed, this law "effectively removes the future possibility of reaching a just solution to the" Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After 61 years, equitable land ownership resolution has yet to be achieved nor has Israel complied with international law. It prohibits the transfer of refugee land or other property and assets to the state or third parties.

Yet, the ILA does it anyway, and under the proposed law, urban land ownership will be transferred in a way that will disconnect the state "from the further residual ownership held in accordance with the contracts up to this point." This process will entail "the complete and final negation of the rights of ownership of the Palestinian refugees to these properties" so that they'll never be able to claim them again.

Fourth Geneva's Article 147 specifically prohibits this by stating:

"Grave breaches to which (the) preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the present Convention:....taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly."

Various other international laws acknowledge the obligation of occupying powers to restore properties to their rightful owners and that failure to do so constitutes a serious lawless breach. HRA and Ittijah want expropriated property returned and internal refugees allowed back to their communities and land. A repressive Israel and dismissive world community stand in their way.

B'Tselem Calls Israeli Settlement Expansion "Un-natural Growth"

B'Tselem is the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. On July 7, it reported that Israel uses "natural growth" as fig leaf cover for its continued settlement expansion project. Internally last year, the population growth rate was 1.6%. It was 5.6% in West Bank settlements. Further, since Israel accepted the Road Map's mandated freeze provision, its settler population expanded 37% in six years - from 211,400 to over 289,600, besides over 190,000 more in Arab East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu claims barring "natural growth" will tear apart families. Unmentioned is the continued theft of Palestinians lands, a grave violation of international law. Yet, Israel argues that, by law, it can't reverse issued tenders after properties have been bought and construction begins. However, two 1992 High Court of Justice rulings disagreed. They held that the government could legally halt construction even after begun and that any losses incurred could be addressed in civil court. "The Israeli government has all the legal and administrative tools necessary to halt construction in the settlements." Further, international laws are binding to signatories, and no state can legislate around them.

Israel does it anyway and plans continued settlement expansions on expropriated Palestinian lands. Interior Minister Eli Yishai threatened to use every resource possible to the maximum. The Ofra settlement is indicative. At least 58% of it was built on privately owned Palestinian land, now lost to make way for Jews. The same pattern holds throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinians are being removed to accommodate an expanding Jewish population on all land that Israel values, and under Netanyahu's "natural growth" policy, it may accelerate faster than ever.

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

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

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=14542

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 2008 Annual Report

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) 2008 Annual Report - by Stephen Lendman

Established in 1995, PCHR functions independently in Gaza and enjoys "Consultative Status" with the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It's also an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists-Geneva, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) in Paris, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network in Copenhagen, the Arab Organization for Human Rights in Cairo, and the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) in Stockholm.

Palestinian lawyers and human rights activists established it to:

-- "protect human rights and promote the rule of law;"

-- create, develop and promote a democratic culture in Palestinian society; and

-- work for Palestinian self-determination and independence "in accordance with international law and UN resolutions."

PCHR is an "independent legal body dedicated to the protection of human rights, the promotion of the rule of law, and the upholding of democratic principles in the Occupied Territories." It issues documents, fact sheets, and reports like its latest 2008 Annual Report - divided in two parts.

Part One assesses the overall human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinians Territories (OPT) throughout 2008. Because they affect regional peace overall, this article focuses solely on Israeli crimes, not those committed by Palestinian elements in Gaza and the West Bank that pale by comparison. Part Two covers PCHR's local and international efforts over the same period.

Israeli Violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law - Excessive Use of Force, Killings, and Other Violations of the Right to Life

Throughout 2008, the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) repeatedly violated international law with regard to excessive force, willful killings, wanton destruction, and other right to life abuses against Palestinian civilians.

During the first five days of Operation Cast Lead alone, dozens of air strikes killed 411 Palestinians and wounded 996 others, many seriously. "Contrary to Israeli claims, the majority of victims were unarmed civilians," including 13 women and 38 children.

Over the entire 22-day period, the IOF killed 1417 Palestinians, including 1181 non-combatants. Of these, 926 were unarmed civilians (including 313 children and 116 women) and 255 police officers, 240 on the first day, including dozens in formation and vulnerable at their graduation ceremony. The number of wounded totaled 4336, the great majority being civilian men, women, and children.

Throughout 2008, the IOF committed willful killings and right to life violations, especially in the first six months. Numerous air strikes and incursions targeted civilians in Gaza. Extra-judicial assassinations also against persons accused of involvement in "hostilities against Israel," including anyone acting legitimately in self-defense as international law allows. From January through June, the IOF killed 409 Palestinians, including 225 civilians, 58 of whom were children and 16 women. Another 741 Palestinians were wounded.

On June 19, a six-month Tahdey'a (lull) was declared on the following terms:

-- Israel would stop attacking Palestinians, including shelling and extra-judicial assassinations; also, Gaza's border crossings would be gradually reopened to allow free movement in and out of people and goods; and

-- Palestinians would cease resistance attacks.

They complied but Israel reneged. The IOF greatly reduced its attacks but kept Gaza under siege. By October, Israeli incursions and targeted killings increased. Palestinians responded modestly in self-defense. By late December, Operation Cast Lead was launched, a clear case of premeditated, unprovoked aggression in violation of international law.

Throughout 2008 in the West Bank, repeated incursions and targeted executions continued, including during the Tahdey'a, mostly by IOF undercover units. In total, 42 Palestinian civilians, including 9 children, were killed.

PCHR 2008 tallies show 868 Palestinians died at the hands of the IOF and Israeli settlers - in Gaza and the West Bank combined. Another 2260 Palestinians were wounded. From the beginning of the September 2000 Intifada through 2008, Israel killed 5287 Palestinians, mostly civilian men, women and children. In addition, over the same period, "tens of thousands of Palestinians" were wounded, hundreds sustaining permanent disabilities.

According to eye-witness accounts, the IOF used excessive and disproportionate force against Palestinian civilians, a practice ongoing for over six decades through bombings, shellings, targeted killings, incursions, and attacks by Israeli settlers. In the first five days of Operation Cast Lead (and continuing for another 17 in 2009), Israel used massive air, ground, and sea power against a defenseless civilian population trapped inside Gaza under siege.

On the day after the Operation ended, attacks continued daily. One instance among many involved the IOF bombing of a five-story Gaza building near the Palestinian Governmental Complex in the densely populated Tal al-Hawa neighborhood - completely destroying it. Flying debris and shrapnel killed a woman on her way to a wedding and injured 46 others, including 19 children and three women. A large number of other houses and vehicles in the area were damaged.

Below are a few examples of 2008 attacks:

-- on February 5, a surface-to-surface missile targeting the Palestinian riot control police workplace in 'Abassan village, east of Khan Yunis, killed seven police officers and injured another; and

-- on February 7, 23, and March 1, the IOF killed eight members of one family, wounded another eight, and killed and wounded seven others.

Repeated attacks throughout the year were similar, mostly against civilian men, women and children.

Incursions into Palestinian Communities

Continuing its decades-long practice, Israel repeatedly conducted incursions into the OPT in 2008. In Gaza, they were particularly intensive from January through June, killing nearly 200 Palestinians before Operation Cast Lead began in December. Israel's pretext - to arrest wanted Palestinians and destroy home-made rocket launching sites and weapons. These are grievous war crimes for which Israel must be held responsible.

Significant examples:

From February 29 - March 2, the IOF conducted Operation Warm Winter, a wide scale offensive in Jabalya and surrounding areas using "their full-fledged arsenal and....excessive force without any consideration" for civilian Palestinian lives. Air strikes preceded a ground invasion. As a result, dozens of non-combatant lives were lost or wounded, including women and children. Also, ambulances and medical crews were attacked, and many houses and large areas of agricultural land destroyed - wantonly and maliciously.

The total death toll was 69, including 21 children and two women. Another 175 were wounded, including 44 children and six women.

On January 2, the IOF attacked the al-Shojaeya neighborhood in Gaza City. Clashes followed killing six Palestinian resistance fighters and wounding a seventh.

On January 3, the IOF killed seven Palestinians in al-Zanna and al-Qarara east of Khan Yunis, including a woman, her two sons, her daughter, and her nephew.

On January 15, the IOF killed 17 Palestinians and wounded another 30 during an incursion into the al-Shojaeya and al-Zaytoun neighborhoods in Gaza City.

In the West Bank on January 3, the IOF conducted a three day operation in Nablus and neighboring refugee camps, wounding 38 Palestinians and arresting 31 others. Indiscriminate firing occurred against "anything that moved," including medical crews, ambulances, and hospitals.

Repeated other incursions were made against numerous towns, villages and neighborhoods. Deaths and injuries resulted, including to innocent bystanders too close to the action, many of them women and children.

Extra-Judicial Assassinations

In 2008, the IOF committed them by bombing civilian establishments, houses and cars in Gaza and with West Bank undercover units. Israel's High Court and top government officials approved the practice in violation of international law.

Throughout the year, PCHR documented 53 assassinations, including 44 targeted persons - 31 in Gaza and 13 in the West Bank. In addition, dozens of civilians were wounded. From September 2000 through 2008, the IOF extra-judicially executed 743 Palestinians, including 513 targeted and 230 bystanders.

One example illustrates many. On March 12, four Palestinians in a car in the center of Bethlehem were intercepted by members of an IOF undercover unit. They opened fire at close range killing the four instantly and continued firing indiscriminately to secure their withdrawal.

In other cases, Israeli aircraft fire missiles at homes, vehicles, or other targets where wanted individuals are believed to be located. Often, innocent bystanders, including women and children, are killed or wounded and property destroyed.

Killing Palestinian Children

In 2008, the IOF killed 108 children, 99 in Gaza and nine in the West Bank. From September 2000 through 2008, the total was 919 children or nearly one-fourth of Palestinian deaths. The IOF has a history of willfully killing children and women - easy pickings for intrepid Israeli soldiers and airmen.

One instance is typical. On April 16, an Israeli aircraft fired two missiles at a number of Palestinian civilians gathered near al-Ihsan Mosque, about 300 meters away from where IOF troops were deployed. Nine deaths resulted, including six children, and 12 others were wounded.

Attacking Medical Crews

The IOF repeatedly attacks clearly marked ambulances and medical workers, grievously in violation of international law. PCHR documented three killings in 2008 and 27 since September 2000. Numerous others were wounded, some seriously - while they were carrying out their humanitarian mission to help the injured and dying.

Attacking Journalists

They're willfully targeted to prevent coverage of human rights violations, including killings, denial of access to certain areas, entry into Israel or territory under its control, detention, confiscation and destruction of property, beatings, harassment, and intimidation. An October 2008 Reporters without Borders report placed Israel among "countries that extensively violate press freedoms, especially in areas beyond its borders."

In 2008, one journalist was killed and another 28 wounded. Since September 2000, the toll was nine deaths and at least 170 injured.

Closure and Prevention of Free Movement

Throughout 2008, the West Bank remained militarily occupied and Gaza continued under a medieval siege with access to vital food, medicines, fuels, electricity, and other essentials denied beyond woefully spotty and limited amounts. The result has been a humanitarian disaster with no signs of abating well into the new year. Besides the effects of Operation Cast Lead, the toll includes:

-- 80% of Gazans impoverished;

-- unemployment exceeding 55%;

-- movement in or out of the Territory denied even for emergency humanitarian needs;

-- permission denied to travel, work or study abroad;

-- Palestinians trapped on the Egyptian side of the Rafah International Crossing Point (into Gaza) refused reentry or restricted by long delays under severe humanitarian conditions;

-- intolerable shortages of everything; too little food to sustain nutrition; inadequate medicines and equipment for health and life; and fuel and power restrictions for heat, electricity, vehicles, hospitals, and workplaces;

-- severe movement restrictions in the West Bank by imposing hundreds of checkpoints, barriers, the Separation Wall built on stolen Palestinian land, and hundreds of kilometers of for-Jews only roads; overall, about one-third of the West Bank, including Occupied East Jerusalem, is inaccessible to Palestinians without IOF-issued permits that are extremely hard to get; the result is increasingly isolated Palestinian communities, cut off from each other, including farmers from their land; the sick from access to care; and everyone from family, friends, and a normal life people in the West take for granted;

-- the West Bank and Jerusalem totally cut off from Gaza;

-- Gazans denied essential industrial, agricultural, construction, transportation, fuel and power, and basic raw material needs; and

-- overall, the collective punishment of the civilian population causing "a chronic deterioration in all aspects of....life" that's decimating the lives of 1.5 million Gazans trapped in the world's largest open-air prison and being slowly suffocated.

Throughout 2008 and earlier, Gazan cities, villages, and refugee camps were paralyzed under a state of siege that continues unabated. Living conditions deteriorated steadily. UNRWA was forced to curtail its humanitarian and food distribution programs for days. Around 15 drinking water wells stopped, causing water shortages for more than 100,000 people. Another 125 water reservoirs were also affected. Transportation as well with 85% halted for lack of fuel. Wastewater treatment plants were forced to dump their untreated water in the sea. Additional environmental contamination occurred. Flour mills shut down. Warehouses ran out of flour and wheat. Most production stopped, and Gaza's economy collapsed.

Gaza's border crossings have been closed for over two years under Israel's collective punishment policy. The humanitarian effect is disastrous - against a civilian population oppressed for being Palestinians and for having elected the wrong government.

Throughout the year, hundreds of Gazans were denied access to Israeli and West Bank hospitals, including in Jerusalem. Nor to Arab ones in Egypt or elsewhere. As a result, 29 died and 50 since the tightened siege began in June 2007, including 17 women and 10 children.

International humanitarian law prohibits collective punishment, including closure. Artcle 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention "relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War" states:

"No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited."

Article 12(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that "everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence."

For over 60 years, Israel repeatedly, systematically, and willfully flouted international laws and norms with impunity. The result has been incalculable numbers of human deaths, suffering, and destruction to many tens of thousands of innocent Arab people who when they resist in self-defense are called "terrorists."

Arrests, Torture and Other Forms of Cruel and Inhuman Treatment

At year end 2008, from 9000 - 12,000 or more Palestinians were in Israeli detention facilities (mostly inside Israel), including at least 248 children and 69 women - in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention that obligates an occupier to intern arrested persons inside the territory in question and only for just cause.

Israel continues to arrest anyone thought to represent a threat, including political leaders and ordinary civilian men, women and children. At year end 2008, at least 40 elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) were imprisoned, mostly from Hamas' Change and Reform parliamentary bloc. Included are Dr. 'Aziz al-Dweik, PLC Speaker, and Dr. Mahmoud al-Ramahi, PLC Secretary. Many were tried and unjustly sentenced to months or years in prison for belonging to the wrong political party.

Torture and Ill-Treatment

International laws leave no ambiguity on torture. It's prohibited at all times, under all circumstances, against anyone for any reason, with no allowed exceptions ever. Article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention (on the Treatment of Prisoners of War) states:

Prisoners "must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited...."

Third Geneva's Article 17 states:

"No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war" for any reasons whatsoever.

Fourth Geneva's Article 27 states:

Protected persons under occupation "shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of (physical and mental) violence or threats thereof...."

Fourth Geneva's Articles 31 and 32 prohibit torture and other "measures of brutality...."

All four Geneva Conventions have a Common Article Three requiring all non-combatants to be treated humanely at all times.

Even Section 277 of Israel's 1977 Penal Law prohibits torture by providing criminal sanctions against its use. Its language is very similar to the UN Convention against Torture that bans force, violence, or threats against anyone for purposes of extracting a confession or to obtain information relating to an offense.

Nonetheless, torture and degrading treatment are official Israeli policy, freely practiced against most Palestinian detainees. PCHR cited numerous ways:

-- violent beatings and insults in detention and during interrogations;

-- blindfolding and hitting detainees, especially in the face and abdomen;

-- strangling to cause extreme breathing difficulties;

-- humiliations and insults;

-- forcibly removing hair and beards;

-- hanging detainees by their feet, then beating them on sensitive body parts such as the genital area;

-- bridging under which three interrogators carry a detainee using chains, with his or her face down;

-- sexually abusing detainees - in some cases raping them with iron bars;

-- Shabeh - the practice of tying prisoners so they can't sit, stand, or kneel, or tied to a chair with their arms pulled back for hours or days at a time; the pain and pressure on joints becomes excruciating;

-- handcuffing or other shackling tight enough to restrict circulation and inflict pain; also tying hands and legs with plastic chains to cause pain;

-- employing various stress positions, including:

(1) the forced "banana" one involving bending the back in a painful arch while the body is extended horizontally to the floor on a backless chair with arms and feet bound beneath it;

(2) forced "frog" crouching on tiptoes with cuffed hands behind the back accompanied by shoving or beating until detainees lose balance and fall forward or backward; and

(3) detainees made to stand on tiptoes for prolonged periods.

-- sleep deprivation for long hours; and

-- other abusive practices, clearly prohibited under international law and that no civilized society should practice, let alone routinely against most detainees - up to 80% or more by some estimates.

The Public Committee against Torture in Israel says that detainees are first examined by a doctor who certifies they're healthy enough to withstand harsh interrogation methods amounting to torture. The Israeli judiciary sanctions it, including the High Court and top government officials.

Abusive ill-treatment continues throughout detention during which necessary medical care is denied, access to legal counsel obstructed and limited, and family visitations severely restricted or not allowed.

Administrative Detention

Hundreds of innocent Palestinians are arrested and held without charge or trial in administrative detention - for up to 36 months, then indefinitely renewed. At year end 2008, it affected at least 900 Palestinians by IOF issued orders.

This practice violates Article 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that states:

"If the Occupying Power considers it necessary, for imperative reasons of security, to take safety measures concerning protected persons, it may, at the most, subject them to assigned residence or to internment (that) include(s) the right of appeal (to) be decided with the least possible delay."

Detention According to the "Illegitimate Combatants Law"

Following the IOF's summer 2005 Gaza redeployment, Israel enacted an "Illegitimate Combatant" law applying to protected Palestinian civilian prisoners to justify detaining them. It lets the IOF Chief of Staff issue an arrest warrant against anyone so designated.

It's the same idea as America's 2006 Military Commissions Act definition of an "unlawful enemy combatant," applied to anyone the president claims is "engaged in hostilities against the United States who is not a lawful enemy combatant." Neither the Israeli or US position has any legitimacy in international law.

Palestinian Detainee Deaths in Israeli Jails

In 2008, at least two occurred, likely from abuse and medical negligence. Detained Palestinians with chronic illnesses, like diabetes or heart conditions, deteriorate badly during prolonged incarcerations, especially when subjected to torture and other abusive treatment. The situation may be life threatening if proper medical care is denied or inadequate.

Settlement Activities and Attacks by Settlers against Palestinian Civilians and Property

Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. Expanding them compounds the problem. They continue nonetheless, and during 2008, the IOF and civil authorities, such as the Municipality of Jerusalem, Ministry of Housing, Ministry of Interior, and Higher Council of Organization, took bids for constructing 2400 West Bank housing units. Approval was also given for 6570 units in East Jerusalem and suburbs. In all, 8970 new units were approved and/or started in 2008, mostly in East Jerusalem on seized Palestinian land.

Confiscation of Palestinian Civilian Property

This longstanding practice continued throughout 2008 - for settlement expansions in violation of international law. Israel's High Court supports the practice, and in "PCHR's view....has turned (it) into a tool to legalize illegal Israeli measures and settlement activities in the OPT."

Judiazation of East Jerusalem

The practice remains ongoing - to replace an Arab population with a Jewish one. The Israeli government cut off the city from its Palestinian extension in the West Bank, expanded settlements inside and around the city, and used the Separation Wall to seize more land.

Throughout 2008, the Municipality of Jerusalem continued to demolish Palestinian homes under false claims of unlicensed construction - by people on their own land to make way for Jewish expansion.

Judaizing Arab East Jerusalem began by annexing it to Israel, confiscating Palestinian property, establishing Jewish settlements, building the Separation Wall, preventing new Palestinian home construction, and demolishing existing ones. The idea is to transform all of Jerusalem into a Jewish city with at most a small, marginalized and segregated Arab population denied all rights afforded Jews in hopes they'll leave voluntarily and make Israel's job easier.

Attacks by Israel Settlers against Palestinian Civilians and Property

Israeli settlers do it with near-impunity, including by shootings, running down civilians with vehicles, and destroying or damaging Palestinian property. In 2008, settlers killed five Palestinian civilians. Since September 2000, the total was 45.

"Attacks by Israeli settlers often take place before the eyes of IOF, which even protect them." Palestinian complaints get short shrift enough to encourage settlers to keep doing it, knowing they can get away with murder. In 2008, PCHR documented 170 settler attacks in the West Bank cities of Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah, Qalqilya, Jerusalem, Salfit, Bethlehem, and Jenin:

-- 48 harassments;

-- 36 against houses;

-- 34 against farmers and shepherds and their property;

-- 13 shootings;

-- seven against religious sites;

-- five involved vehicles running down Palestinians; and

-- 27 others involved road closings, stone-throwing, and other abuses.

Israeli settlers openly carry (and use) automatic weapons like people in the West use cell phones.

Destruction of Houses and Other Civilian Property

For decades and throughout 2008, the IOF continued destroying Palestinian houses and property, especially in East Jerusalem. This constitutes a grave breach of Fourth Geneva's Article 53 that states:

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

In addition, Article 147 prohibits the "extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly."

Such attacks constitute illegal collective punishment as defined under Fourth Geneva's Article 33 that states: "No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed."

Nonetheless throughout 2008 and earlier, Israel wantonly and maliciously attacked civilian property, including homes, schools, industrial and commercial facilities, public buildings, and farmland using illegal pretexts as justification.

Last year, PCHR documented 216 houses destroyed prior to Operation Cast Lead - 107 in the West Bank and 109 in Gaza. Also, 680 houses were badly damaged and 3424 donums of agricultural land razed. Numerous other structures were also destroyed to make way for Jewish ones or in retaliation for claimed provocative Palestinian acts, either exaggerated or false.

The West Bank's Separation Wall

In June 2002, the Sharon government began constructing it as another form of land theft, harassment, and policy of containing Palestinians in isolated cantons under the false claim of security.

In the past seven years, construction proceeded inside the West Bank, rather than along the Green Line separating the Territory from Israel. On July 9, 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled the construction violated international law. It ordered it halted, existing sections demolished, and for Palestinians to be compensated for harm done them. Israel ignored the ruling and continues new construction on annexed Palestinian land.

The Wall around Jerusalem

Construction in 2008 focused mainly around Jerusalem, according to Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem plans - building it along the city's municipal border. Work in the south, north, and east is part of a settlement project called the "Jerusalem envelope," running about 50 kilometers. In late December, prime minister Olmert ordered this portion completed by 2009 because it's "necessary for Israel's security." When finished, it will be 164.5 kilometers long, two-thirds of which was completed by year end. When completed, the entire Wall will exceed 700 kilometers.

Free Movement Restrictions Imposed on Palestinian Farmers

The IOF imposed severe restrictions on both sides of the Separation Wall, including limited gate opening hours that restrict farmers from free access to their land. They must also obtain permits to reach it on the other side of the barrier, and to get them, must be a registered owner - nearly impossible for many as most farmland is registered to deceased people, and their heirs don't all live in the West Bank or near the land in question.

As a result, thousands of Palestinians can't easily work their fields or market their crops when harvested. Farming is a major source of income in Palestinian communities along the Wall's route. Harming it has had an enormous detrimental affect to already beleaguered Palestinians, driving many more of them into poverty.

The Absence of Justice in Israeli Courts and Efforts to Prosecute Israeli War Criminals in International Ones

Justice for Palestinians in Israeli courts, especially military ones, is nearly impossible because of laws protecting Jews alone. "Through its long experience, PCHR has concluded that the Israeli judiciary is used to provide legal cover for the IOF to commit war crimes against Palestinian civilians, and that it is a means used to avoid resorting to the international justice directly under the pretext of the existence of a just Israeli national judiciary."

As a result, PCHR and other international legal and human rights organizations resort to "international legal means to prosecute Israeli war criminals." On June 24, 2008, PCHR filed a lawsuit at the National Court of Spain, the country's highest judicial council, against seven former senior Israeli military officials, all accused of committing war crimes in Gaza in July 2002. The Spanish Court accepted the case as a first step toward launching a formal prosecution.

In May 2008, PCHR worked with Dutch law firm Bohler Franken Koppe Wijngaarden (BFKW) to submit a complaint to the prosecutor's office asking that Ami Ayalon (currently Minister without Portfolio in Israel) be arrested and prosecuted in the Netherlands regarding the torture of Khaled al-Sharmi in 1999 - 2000 when he was Shin Bet Director, the Israeli General Security Service.

In October, PCHR petitioned the Court of Appeal in the Hague for an Order requiring the Prosecutor to start a criminal investigation and issue an extradition order or international arrest warrant. Getting any nation to challenge Israel is daunting at best. In all previous cases when arrest warrants were issued, executive bodies were so hesitant that no follow-through occurred in time, allowing suspects to flee to safe havens. PCHR and other committed groups continue pursuing justice anyway. It's just a matter of time before they and others succeed.

On June 30, 2009, a PCHR press release explained that the "the Spanish Appeals Court voted 14 - 4 in favor of closing the (National Court's) investigation into the" July 2002 attack. The resolution was voted on but not issued. It marks a "major setback in the pursuit of international justice and victims' rights....To date, neither the State of Israel nor individuals accused of committing war crimes have been brought" to justice. PCHR will appeal to the Spanish Supreme Court.

PCHR's Commitment to Human Rights and Social Justice

Throughout 2008 and currently, PCHR focused on the following issues:

-- stepped-up efforts to bring Israeli war criminals to justice before an international tribunal; as explained above, on June 24, 2008, PCHR filed a lawsuit at the National Court of Spain against seven senior Israeli military officials; also, an arrest application was submitted to Dutch authorities for Israel's former Shin Bet director;

-- cooperative efforts with civil society organizations over the deteriorating human rights situation in Occupied Palestine; in November, PCHR and other organizations co-hosted a human rights conference in Cairo - focused on extra-judicial assassinations and prosecuting Israeli war criminals; other efforts aim to restore Palestinian unity against a common adversary, getting political prisoners released, lifting Gaza's siege, ending the death penalty, and working for peace and Palestinian self-determination;

-- overall coordination and cooperation with other human rights organizations to make their combined efforts more effective;

-- overall cooperation with international civil society organizations; and

-- promoting activities related to gender issues that often get far too little attention.

PCHR also provides legal aid for Palestinian prisoners in spite of the enormous obstacles in doing it effectively given that Israel affords Palestinians no chance for justice. Still, PCHR represents them in court, visits them as able, submits complaints and appeals, and tries to stop torture and ensure medical aid and better detention conditions are provided. PCHR also seeks compensation for victims of injustice and represents them on numerous other issues such as denying them free movement, including for vital medical care.

Overall, PCHR and similar human rights organizations address the "essential (unresolved) elements of the Palestinian issue - the right to self-determination, the right to an independent Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the right to remove illegal Israeli settlements from the Occupied Territories."

International laws affirm these rights, but for Palestinians they're unfulfilled. Peace, justice, and democratic freedom as well. As a result, PCHR and others keep working "to protect (and restore) Palestinian human rights from ongoing violations by the Israeli government and courts," and to demand that an uncaring world community address these issues.

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

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

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=14542

Monday, July 27, 2009

Reviewing F. William Engdahl's "Full Spectrum Dominance:" Part II

Reviewing F. William Engdahl's "Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order:" Part II - by Stephen Lendman

For over 30 years, F. William Engdahl has been a leading researcher, economist, and analyst of the New World Order with extensive writing to his credit on energy, politics, and economics. His newest book is titled "Full Strectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order."

Part I was reviewed earlier. Part II continues the story of America's quest for global dominance and why its own internal rot may defeat it.

The Significance of Darfur in Sudan

In a word - oil in the form of huge potential reserves with Chinese companies involved in discovering them. Washington's genocide claim is a hoax. Yet it's trumpeted by the media and foolhardy celebrities used as props for the charade. By 2007, China was getting up to 30% of its oil from Africa prompting its "extraordinary series of diplomatic initiatives that left Washington furious" and determined to respond.

Beijing offers African countries "no-strings-attached dollar credits" compared to exploitive IMF and World Bank terms. It paid off with important oil deals with Nigeria, South Africa, and Sudan's Darfur region. China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) is now Sudan's largest foreign investor, around $15 billion in the past decade, and it co-owns a refinery near Khartoum. It also built an oil pipeline from southern Sudan to Port Sudan on the Red Sea from where tankers ship it to China.

With its need for oil growing at around 30% a year, China must have all the secure sources it can arrange, so what Africa can supply is crucial. Hence the Darfur confrontation, fake genocide charges, and Washington pressuring the government to sever its ties with China, something Khartoum won't countenance.

For years as well, America used proxy Chad, Eritrea, and other forces, poured arms into Southeastern Sudan and Darfur, and trained the Sudan People's Liberation Army's (SPLA) John Garang at the School of the Americas for his role as a Pentagon's stooge. His campaign in the country's south, and that of others in Darfur, killed tens of thousands and left several million displaced. At stake is vital energy and other resources from Sudan and elsewhere, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, long reeling from Washington-initiated aggression using proxy forces for the dirty work.

For one, Chad's thuggish "President for life" Idriss Deby's elite troops, trained and armed by the Pentagon, for attacks in Darfur and to aid rebel forces against the Khartoum government in Southwestern Sudan. A US/World Bank-financed pipeline also extends from Chad to the Cameroon coast as "part of a far grander scheme to control the oil riches of Central Africa from Sudan to the Gulf of Guinea" - an area with reserves potentially on a par with the Persian Gulf making it a great enough prize to go all out for.

Enter China with "buckets of aid money" offered Chad the result of Deby wanting a greater share of the revenues, creating his own oil company, SHT, and threatening to expel Chevron for not paying its required taxes. Things got resolved, "but the winds of change were blowing" with China taking advantage, something "not greeted well in Washington."

"Chad and Darfur (are) part of a significant Chinese effort to secure oil at the source(s), all across Africa," a matter Washington's Africa policy is addressing with AFRICOM and various military bases on the continent plus others planned. Washington wants global control of oil. Because of its growing needs, China represents a challenge everywhere but especially in Africa and Latin America. The result - "an undeclared, but very real, New Cold War (is on) over oil."

Tibet is another battleground with unrest unleashed ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The operation dates from when George Bush met the Dalai Lama publicly in Washington for the first time, signaled his backing for Tibetan independence, and awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal. It clearly angered China that considers Tibet part of its territory.

China also worried that Washington targeted Tibet with a Crimson Revolution much like earlier ones in Georgia, Ukraine and elsewhere while at the same time embarrassing Beijing ahead of its Olympics - intended to display its prosperity to a world television audience round the clock from August 8 - 24. The stakes on both sides are huge and remain so going forward.

The Dalai Lama plays a pivotal role, but not what most people think. Although promoted in the West as spiritual and concerned for human rights and justice, as far back as the 1930s he "traveled in rather extreme conservative political circles," including with extremist Nazis when he was a boy.

Later in 1999, he joined with Margaret Thatcher and GHW Bush in demanding the British government release Augusto Pinochet, under house arrest in London, and not extradite him to Spain for prosecution. Also, US government documents dating from 1959 revealed that he was was financed and backed by "various US and Western intelligence services and their gaggle of NGOs." He continues to serve them today and got a White House meeting and Congressional Gold Medal for his efforts.

In 1959, the CIA helped him flee Tibet to Dharamsala, India where he's lived for the past 50 years, surfacing where Washington sends him for whatever purpose is intended. He's also gotten millions of NED dollars to engage in disruptive activities benefitting the West against designated adversaries.

"The most prominent pro-Dalai Lama Tibet independence organization in the destabilization attempt of 2008 was the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), founded in Washington in 1988." Its board of directors includes former US State Department officials revealing Washington's clear involvement. For the past 15 years, NED provided funding for its usual type mischief. Other anti-Beijing organizations are also active, including the US-based Students for a Free Tibet (SFT), founded in 1994 as a US Tibet Committee project, financed by NED for "made-in-the-USA" subversion.

Tibet is also important as one of the world's most valued water sources and for its "treasure of minerals....oil (and) some of the world's largest uranium and borax deposits, one half of the world's lithium, the largest copper deposits in Asia, enormous iron deposits, and over 80,000 gold mines." Also its forests contain China's largest timber reserve, and its "treasure basin" border with Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has 57 types of mineral reserves, including oil, natural gas, coal, crude salt, potassium, magnesium, lead, zinc and gold worth an estimated $1.8 trillion. Truly a "treasure" worth contesting for and the reason for America's interest. Human rights and promoting democracy are subterfuge, the same as everywhere America has a strategic interest, usually focused on resources.

Destabilizing Tibet "was part of a shift of great significance....at a time when the US economy and the US dollar....were in the worst crisis since the 1930s....By the end of 2008 (America looked) more and more like the British Empire of the late 1930s - a global imperium in terminal decline" yet determined to impose its will on an increasingly reluctant world wanting better alternatives than they're getting. Quashing it requires "full spectrum dominance," something the Pentagon clearly understands. So do nations like China, Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and others on every continent.

Global Bases As the Basis of Empire

NATO currently includes 28 member states, including 10 former Soviet Republics and Warsaw Pact countries. Prospective new candidates include Georgia, Ukraine, Croatia, Albania and Macedonia and potentially others later to more tightly encircle Russia. At the same time, the Middle East and part of Eurasia have been increasingly militarized with a network of US bases from Qatar to Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond - a clear breach of GHW Bush's promise to Mikhail Gorbachev that paved the way for unifying Germany in 1990 and dissolving the Soviet Union.

The Pentagon has hundreds of bases globally, 1000 or more by some estimates, including secret and shared ones for greater control - at a time when no nation threatens America yet trillions of dollars are spent anyway and over time may bankrupt the nation.

Many of them were built in the last 10 years starting with Camp Bondsteel in occupied Kosovo. Numerous others followed in Hungary, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Macedonia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and new ones planned for Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean - to be closer to potential targets like Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Cuba.

In recent years, it's become clear that America seeks more than the strategic control of resources. It wants global dominance, without challenge, by political, economic and military means. In other words, "full spectrum dominance" to become master of the universe.

Along with encroachment, encirclement and control, another agenda is in play - over a dozen built or planned Afghanistan bases to defend the country's opium fields and the lucrative billions they provide. Much like Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle in the 1960s and 1970s, they supply CIA with significant drug revenues, then laundered through front company banks abroad and at home to finance covert and intelligence activities along with the agency's generous black budget.

Pentagon planners regard Afghanistan as strategically crucial - to project military power against Russia, China, Iran, and other oil-rich Middle East States. It's also for a proposed oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Indian Ocean and close to Kyrgyzstan where another US base is planned at Bishkek's international airport. In all, 13 new US bases will cross Eurasia, including three in Pakistani cities. Most, perhaps all, are permanent, especially in occupied Iraq and Afghanistan.

America in Terminal Decline?

Like ancient Rome, Ottoman Turkey, Britain, Austria-Hungary, and dozens of other previous empires, America increasingly shows signs of "terminal decline as Bush and Cheney launched their bold military policies to extend its imperial life, or as George HW Bush (called it), the New World Order." Friendly persuasion no longer works. Raw military power is the strategy, "a de facto admission of the failure of the American Century" and a sign of its terminal decline.

At the end of the Cold War, a "leaner and meaner" nuclear force" was deployed with little fanfare, including (post-2004) Conplan 8022 (for contingency plan) putting nuclear bombers on Ready Alert status from global locations - to conduct "Global Strikes" anywhere with devastating force, nuclear or conventional. In addition, NATO "would be subject to US desires and adventures" - a very disquieting situation for potential targets and planet earth if nuclear weapons are used.

The Curious History of "Star Wars"

As mentioned above, Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (dubbed "Star Wars") on March 23, 1983 even though the whole idea is fantasy as independent experts then and now assert. MIT's Theodore Postal for one, a leading authority on ballistic missile defenses. He flatly states:

"the National Missile Defense System has no credible scientific chance of working (and) is a serious abuse of our security system."

Nonetheless, the program was launched, and according to a former economic studies head of the Soviet Union's Institute of World and Economy & International Relations (IMECO), it forced his country to spend so much that it contributed greatly to the Warsaw Pact's collapse and Germany's 1990 reunification.

NASA and Military Secrecy

In 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Act created NASA's Space Program in response to the Soviet's successful October 1957 Sputnik 1 launching. The Space Race was on to see which side could trump the other but not without inevitable problems.

A major one happened on January 28, 1986 when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in flight killing all on board. Official causes cited faulty O-rings to hide the truth. Contrary to NASA being "devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of mankind," it's really to control space, weaponize it, launch first-strikes against adversaries like Russia, and achieve "full spectrum dominance."

In December 2000, prior to Donald Rumsfeld becoming Defense Secretary, the Pentagon's newly released Strategy Report for Europe and NATO included a Theater Missile Defense section in clear violation of the ABM Treaty. Russia and China expressed "grave concern," and with good reason. They're the main targets and they know it.

"Missile defense" is for offense, but not against "rogue states" or "terrorists." It's for nuclear supremacy ("unilateral assured destruction") and "full spectrum dominance." It's also to intimidate rivals like Russia and China, and potentially unleash a first-strike attack with catastrophic consequences if it happens.

Iran threatens no other nation, and so far as known, its commercial nuclear program complies with NPT unlike notorious nuclear outlaw states - Israel, India and Pakistan. Nonetheless, Tehran may also be targeted for its huge oil and natural gas reserves and to remove Israel's main regional rival. But that's a sideshow. "Full spectrum dominance" depends on eliminating any challenge from Russia mainly, a nuclear superpower, then China, a less formidable nuclear threat but growing economic rival.

Washington's Nuclear Obsession

Russia knows that "missile defense" is for offense and nuclear supremacy to enforce America's will on the world without challenge. After September 11, 2001, the Bush administration renounced its treaty obligations, like ABM, then pursued "explicitly banned weapons....with hardly a peep of protest from Congress" or most other nations.

Studies like the 1995-96 Air Force 2025 elaborately detailed "hundreds of technologically advanced, super-sophisticated space-based weapons systems intended to provide the United States with global combat support capabilities in space (to let America) remain the dominant air and space force in the future...."

One example is a laser cannon to:

"successfully attack ground or airborne targets by melting or cracking cockpit canopies, burning through control cables, exploding fuel tanks, melting or burning sensor assemblies and antenna arrays, exploding or melting munitions pods, destroying ground communications and power grids, and melting or burning a large variety of strategic targets (of every imaginable kind) - all in a fraction of a second."

During the Cold War, Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) restrained both sides. However, with space-based capabilities, America could think the unthinkable - the insane idea that nuclear war harms only the target, not the US or rest of the world. That's "really and truly mad."

Secretly under development since the 1970s, Nuclear Missile Defense (NMD) includes:

-- radar installations to detect enemy missile launches and track them; and

-- ground-based interceptor missiles to destroy them in flight before they reach US air space.

The Bush administration planned interceptor sites in California, Alaska, and Poland. Installing "infrastructure in East Europe was far and away the most reckless enterprise of a cabal that had already demonstrated its bent for dangerous and foolish brinkmanship." With missile "defenses" within minutes of Russian targets, Moscow wouldn't know if they were nuclear armed or not, but the possibility puts the world "on a hair-trigger to possible nuclear war, by design or miscalculation," and thus the greatest ever threat to possible Armageddon if leaders on either side react wrongly.

Yet that's precisely the path still on with Obama pursuing the same recklessness as George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld - "full spectrum dominance, the New World Order, and the elimination of Russia, once and for all, as a potential rival for power." China potentially as well. Installing NMD is one part of the grand scheme. Launching offensive nuclear missiles another, and today the chance it may happen is greater than ever, despite the sheer madness of doing it.

Yet NMD is "coupled with the Top Secret order by the Secretary of Defense....to implement Conplan 8022, 'which provides the President a prompt, global strike capability.' (It means Washington) decided to make nuclear war an 'option' " - an absolutely insane strategy.

Dr. Strangelove Lives!

The 1964 Stanley Kubrick film portrayed a nuclear Doomsday Machine with the subtitle: "How to stop worrying and love the bomb." It ended with "an accidental, inadvertent, pre-emptive US nuclear attack on the Soviet Union," today more possible than ever, something the film only portrayed as black comedy.

Conplan 8022 is offensive and preemptive on "the mere perception of an imminent threat, and carried out by Presidential order," with no Congressional authorization, internal debate, or consultation with allies. Today, the world risks Armageddon based solely on perception, US intentions, and whether the president of the United States pulls the nuclear trigger.

The Permanent War State Lobby

Post-WW II, US dominance "depended on two main pillars:"

-- maintaining the dollar as the world's reserve currency, with oil and other hard commodities dollar denominated; and

-- unchallengeable US military power.

The American Security Council

Founded in 1956, the Washington-based American Security Council (ASC) is "One of the least-known and most influential organizations to formulate policy initiatives for (the) military-industrial complex....(It's) played a prominent role in almost every important foreign policy or national security program since World War II." According to its web site, its "inner circle" included some "of the most influential names in the American establishment of the day."

Figures like Time magazine's founder Henry Luce and his wife Clare Boothe Luce, closely tied to CIA chief Allen Dulles who considered Henry one of his key media assets. Noteworthy others as well - a who's who, including Walt Disney, Averell Harriman, Senator Thomas Dodd (Chris Dodd's father), Senator Henry (Scoop) Jackson, General Douglas MacArthur, House Speaker Sam Rayburn, Nelson Rockefeller, Eugene Rostow, Senator John Tower, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, and "some of the most aggressive military organizations in the United States."

Throughout the Cold War, "the ASC was at the heart of propaganda and lobbying initiatives which supported the military-industrial complex and the establishment of America's permanent Security State and war economy."

After the Soviet Union's dissolution, a New Military-Industrial Complex emerged, according to writers Ian Mount, David Freedman, and Matthew Maier in the March 2003 issue of Business2.0. It embraced "the latest generation of high-tech weaponry (and) the military's new doctrine of faster, lighter, smarter warfare - combat in which cutting-edge technology becomes US troops' deadliest weapon."

The Pentagon calls it a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) or a blueprint for "full spectrum dominance." Its proponents include "some of the most powerful people ever (in) Washington, including Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney," out of office but still influential.

The Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA)

Afghanistan and Iraq are examples of "alternative methods to secure the American Century well into the future." So is the notion of first-strike with enough force to prevent any significant retaliation. The Pentagon's notion of "counterforce" means the ability to destroy an adversary's nuclear missiles pre-launch with Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), then "cleaning up" the few still remaining to precude retaliation.

The idea isn't new and first surfaced in the 1970s under Nixon, Kissinger, and other prominent military-industrial complex figures. In a word, it's that "nuclear war is not only 'thinkable,' it was do-able" to secure US Nuclear Primacy.

In January 1974, in the midst of the Watergate crisis, Nixon signed National Security Decision Memorandum 242 (NSDM-242) titled "Policy for Planning for Employment of Nuclear Weapons....for Deterrence." It stated that:

"The United States will rely primarily on US and allied conventional forces to deter conventional aggression by both nuclear and non-nuclear powers. Nevertheless, this does not preclude US use of nuclear weapons in response to conventional aggression." It also said "The fundamental mission of US nuclear forces is to deter nuclear war (and) attacks - conventional and nuclear" and implied that first-strike would be used to do it as part of new nuclear war options. "The USA was going for it all."

Defense Secretary James Schlesinger directed the development of new technologies to achieve it, including:

-- miniaturization of nuclear warheads enough for one missile nose cone to carry up to 17; and

-- atomic physics and computerized navigational device advances to improve accuracy to within 50 feet of a target.

These breakthroughs gave America a first ever strategic edge - the ability to destroy hardened silos, submarines and aircraft. Even so, the "essential element to make the entire program workable and operational remained (elusive): a Ballistic Missile Defense (BDM) system to take out any (surviving) Soviet missiles" that could be launched in retaliation.

So in 1973, RAND think-tank specialist Dr. Andrew W. Marshall became Director of the Office of Net Assessment, US Defense Department, and created what was called the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). He described it as:

"a major change in the nature of warfare brought about by the innovative application of new technologies which, combined with dramatic changes in military doctrine and operational and organizational concepts, fundamentally alters the character and conduct of military operations."

Marshall became known as "Yoda," referring to the Star Wars film character Grand Master of the Jedi Order. At age 86, he's still active because of his expertise, skills, and value. His job is "to assess regional and global military balances and to determine long-term trends and threats."

Developing first-strike systems continued after Richard Nixon, including Jimmy Carter's Presidential Directives PD 18 - 59 calling for:

-- developing Anti-Satellite weapons (ASAT) to destroy Soviet early warning systems;

-- Pershing II missiles to decapitate the Soviet leadership; and

-- a Counterforce Nuclear First Strike to destroy almost all Soviet nuclear weapons.

During his tenure, Carter "authorized the greatest commitment to war-fighting of any President in history." Nonetheless, an effective anti-missile defense remains "the missing link to a First Strike capability." The Cold War ended in 1990. America's quest for a First Strike advantage still continues. It's considered the "grand prize for global domination through Nuclear Primacy."

That along with a new way of waging wars: "by spy satellites and long-range missiles, by computer viruses that would disable the enemies' offensive and defensive systems, and by a 'layered' defense system that would make the US impenetrable."

The political climate and neoliberal heyday under Bill Clinton held new military technological advances at bay. That changed under George Bush, even before 9/11, with Andrew Marshall still around and active at an advanced age. His proteges include a rogues gallery of hawks, including Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Dick Cheney who with others comprised the hard core defense and intelligence team, neocons in the Bush administration.

"As a group, Andrew Marshall's proteges formed the most powerful military lobby in the US policy establishment in the first years of the 21st century. They advocated radical force transformation, deployment of anti-missile defense, unilateral pre-emptive aggression, and militarization of space in order to use the US military to achieve for the United States and its closest allies, total domination of the planet (and) outer space. It was perhaps the most dangerous group of ideologues in United States history," and their influence remains.

Marshall advocates weaponizing new technologies and testing them in real conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama's security appointments reflect the same ideas and goals so expect continuation of Bush policies ahead. He favored preemptive aggressive wars. So does Obama as evidenced by his stepped up offensive in Afghanistan and Pakistan, permanent occupation of Iraq, challenging Russia with offensive missiles, and encirclement with new military bases.

Challenging the Official 9/11 Scenario

Skeptics abound and with good reason. The idea that 19 Arab terrorists "could commandeer, with only primitive boxcutters, four sophisticated Boeing commercial jets and redirect three of them, successfully, as apparently poorly-trained amateurs in air maneuvers which seasoned pilots claimed were near impossible" seemed utterly preposterous.

Eckehardt Werthebach, former German domestic intelligence service president said:

"the deathly precision and the magnitude of planning behind the attacks would have needed years of planning (and would require the) fixed frame (of a state intelligence organization unavailable to a) loose group" of terrorists. Werthebach's conclusion: the attacks were "state organized actions."

Andreas von Bulow, a former German Parliamentary Commission member in charge of three branches of German secret service, believes the Israeli Mossad and CIA were responsible for the attacks using corrupt "guns for hire" to pull it off. The lack of an open and serious investigation was incomprehensible in their view and proof of an official cover-up. Other experts agree. The 9/11 story is preposterous on its face - concocted to hide the truth.

Just as Franklin Roosevelt used Japan's Pearl Harbor attack (known well in advance to be coming) to launch The American Century, the neocons around George Bush used 9/11 for the Global War on Terror, attacking Afghanistan and Iraq, and waging permanent war on the world ever since with defense appropriations topping a trillion dollars annually in spite of America having no enemies.

In a bid for "full spectrum dominance" to extend many years into the future, "It was to be an increasingly desperate bid to prop up a crumbling empire, that like ancient Rome, the Ottoman Empire, Czarist Russia, the British Empire," and all others in history, "had already rotted far too deeply from within." The price of imperial arrogance yields bitter fruit. America is no exception. It's not a question of if it will fall, just when and with what fallout.

Full Spectrum Dominance or Fully Mad

Under George Bush, "defense" spending "exploded beyond all precedent" and annually way exceeds $1 trillion dollars now with all categories included. The official Pentagon budget alone more than doubled from $333 billion in FY 2001 to $711 billion for FY 2009, and Obama's proposed FY 2010 budget is the highest ever requested. Today, America accounts for around half of all global military spending - at a time it has no enemies but seeks global dominance through wars, intimidation or other means.

Supporting a "Mafia state" in Kosovo is one example. When Kosovars declared their independence in early 2008, Washington extended recognition despite objections from several EU countries and the fact "Kosovo independence and its recognition openly violated UN resolutions for Kosovo, making a farce of the UN, as well as violating international law."

Equally troublesome is Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, a known criminal whom Interpol and German BND intelligence connect to organized crime, including drugs trafficking, extortion, and prostitution. No matter, as Washington, NATO, and the EU embrace a man they can control, and for America it secured a strategic foothold in Southeast Europe - "a major step in consolidating NATO's control of Eurasia...." Moscow objected vehemently as it compromises its own security.

Georgia's August 2008 South Ossetia invasion did as well, another provocation very troublesome to the Kremlin, and with good reason. Like most others, it was made-in-the-USA and Moscow knew it, especially after uncovering incriminating evidence besides what was already known about Washington and Israel's involvement.

After Russia easily defeated the Georgian army, its spy satellite spotted a convoy with Georgian special troops en route to Poti, the port city under Russian occupation. It was captured along with its weapons and "a large trove of top-secret NATO documents concerning their hightly secret satellite technology." It was analyzed, used to capture large stocks of US military equipment stored in Georgia, and humiliate Washington and Israel at the same time.

It was also learned that captured Pentagon electronic equipment was manufactured in the Ukraine (a non-NATO state) under US license, yet "NATO-compatible sensitive military equipment" was being made there sub rosa. The discovery for Russia "totally compromised both the American and Israeli intelligence networks set up in Georgia (to spy) on Iran, Russia and Turkey."

Later it was learned that Ukraine president Viktor Yushchenko was involved in illegal Georgian arms sales, fraudulently under-reported their value to his own tax authorities, and engaged in extensive embezzlement exceeding $1 billion for himself and associates.

Yet along with Georgia, Washington supports Ukraine's admission to NATO for greater chokehold control over Russia. Gangster dictatorships in both countries make them all the more attractive to America's strategic aim for global dominance.

AFRICOM, China and Resource Wars

China's rapid growth requires increasing amounts of all types of resources, especially oil, natural gas and all others for its industries plus enough food to feed its huge and growing population. Getting them puts it in competition with America that wants global control of them all.

For its part, geologists believe Africa holds the world's largest mineral riches. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for one, an immense country the size of Western Europe with its Kivu region bordering Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi in the East being one of the most mineral-rich regions in the world, which is why so much conflict vies to control it.

Overall, Congo has over half the world's cobalt, one-third of its diamonds, and three-fourths of its vital columbite-tantalite or "coltan," essential for computer chips, circuit boards, mobile phones, laptops, and other electronic devices. Having the right leadership in the country and its neighbors is thus crucial, and when any outlive their usefulness they're removed, by assassination or other means.

"The common thread linking Kivu with Darfur" and other vital regions of the continent is that America wants control of their resources to be able to deny them to China and other non-strategic partners. For its part, Beijing needs a reliable present and future supply and has taken effective non-military means to secure them.

The toll on Congolese has been horrific, the result of Washington-engineered conflict to split the country and control its eastern riches. According to the International Rescue Committee, over 5.4 million civilians have been killed in ongoing fighting since 1996, without a word of outcry from the Western media compared to fraudulent genocide claims in Darfur.

Also unreported was that Congo's president, Joseph Kabila, was negotiating a $9 billion trade agreement with China - his "irreversible choice" as preferred trading partner to the displeasure of Washington. Shortly afterwards, eastern fighting broke out with regional US stooges attacking the DRC - Rwanda's president Paul Kagame (trained at Fort Leavenworth, KS) and Laurent Nkunda (another Fort Leavenworth product), his ally and henchman with all signs pointing to a US role sure to intensify with the establishment of AFRICOM.

America's two key Eastern Africa military partners, Rwanda and Uganda, are used freely against Eastern Congo to counter China's influence in the region. "The balkanization of Congo appeared to be a major objective behind the organized chaos (and mass slaughter) in the Great Lakes region."

Throughout the continent, the Pentagon under George Bush signed base agreements with numerous countries, including Botswana, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia - besides many others in Iraq and other Middle Eastern oil-rich states.

China is the target - seen as a threat to Washington's control of the continent's riches. Its rapid industrialization requires growing amounts of "every mineral commodity imaginable...." AFRICOM was established to secure them for America and deny them to Beijing by blocking its economic presence in the region.

Obama supports it, and it's why he retained Robert Gates as Defense Secretary. He's said publicly that he backs offensive missiles in Poland and connected radar in the Czech Republic - both targeting Russia, not Iran, the official claim. In addition, Marine General James Jones, a former NATO commander, was appointed National Security Advisor and played a central role in establishing AFRICOM. After retiring, he served on the boards of Boeing and Chevron Oil and is closely connected to the military-industrial-oil complex as well as neocons in the Bush administration. Obama also appointed Admiral Dennis Blair, a former Pacific Fleet commander and China specialist, as Director of National Intelligence - the top intelligence job.

Afghanistan as "The Main Geopolitical Prize"

Straightaway in his new administration, Obama ordered an additional 17,500 more troops to the country, potentially more to follow, and just recently appointed a new commander, General Stanley McChrystal, described earlier as a hired gun with a reputation for brutishness and indifference to slaughtering civilians.

America's interest in Afghanistan has nothing to do with bin Laden (likely dead since December 2001), Al Qaeda, or the Taliban. It's all about "geopolitics and the geopolitical encirclement of both China and Russia" with Eurasia the grandest of grand prizes. To do it after the 2001 invasion, America built at least 19 military bases in Central East Asia and Middle Asia, including 14 in Afghanistan - for regional control and "air and space surveillance systems to monitor air traffic throughout all of Eurasia, from China to Russia."

America's obsession with militarism includes the homeland with an array of post-9/11 police state laws destroying constitutional checks and balances and Bill of Rights protections. Illegal spying on Americans is now widespread and commonplace, and the Pentagon, for starters, ordered 20,000 combat troops deployed inside the country by 2011. In addition, the Bush administration funded FEMA with hundreds of millions of dollars to retrofit former military bases and construct other facilities as detention camps.

Currently, over 800 are in every state, ready if ordered, with enough capacity for many tens of thousands of internees. They're not ordinary in any sense. They're concentration camps for dissidents or others targeted by order of the president or others he directs. In addition, National Guard forces will be employed, and local police have been militarized to work cooperatively with the Pentagon to achieve police state enforcement on the pretext of "respond(ing) to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe."

It's why this writer calls the country Police State America, and unless addressed will get more hardline until fast disappearing civil liberties no longer exist and the nation is isn't safe or fit to live in. That's where we're heading without a hint from Big Media.

Equally alarming is an Obama administration proposal calling for a National Civilian Security Force that will be "at least as powerful and well-funded as the US military."
Early in the new administration, it's clear that continuity, not change, is planned with "full spectrum dominance" the goal, globally, including hardline in America. What's unclear is "the extent to which the most devastating economic crisis since the Great Depression would affect the ability of Washington policymakers to project that power."

Going forward, today's choices "could spell the end of the American Century from the rot of its own internal policy since the Vietnam War." The nation's militarism threatens its own survival "as a functioning democracy" and the planet.

In his writings, Chalmers Johnson explains that America is plagued by the same dynamic that doomed past empires unwilling to change - "isolation, overstretch, the uniting of local and global forces opposed to imperialism, and in the end bankruptcy" along with authoritarian rule and loss of personal freedom. Nixon's chief economic advisor, Herb Stein, explained it saying: "Things that can't go on forever, won't."

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

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

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=14334

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Breaking the Silence:" Testimonies of Israeli Soldiers

"Breaking the Silence:" Testimonies of Israeli Soldiers - by Stephen Lendman

"Breaking the Silence is an organization of veteran Israeli soldiers that collects anonymous testimonies of soldiers who served in the Occupied Territories during the Second Intifada." They recount experiences that deeply affected them, including abusing Palestinians, looting, destroying property, and other practices "excused as military necessities, or explained as extreme and unique cases."

They believe otherwise in describing "the depth of corruption which is spreading in the Israeli military" to which Israeli society and most Western observers turn a blind eye. "Breaking the Silence" was established to force an uncomfortable reality into the open to "demand accountability regarding Israel's military actions in the Occupied Territories perpetrated by us in our name."

Its new booklet features 54 damning testimonies from 30 Israeli soldiers on their experiences in Operation Cast Lead. They recount what official media and government sources suppressed with comments like:

"You feel like an infantile little kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants, burning them."

Another referred to "not much said about the issue of innocent civilians." Anyone and anything were fair game, and laws of war went out the window.

They explained wanton destruction, crops uprooted, human slaughter, women and children killed in cold blood, illegal weapons used, free-fire orders to shoot to kill anywhere at anything that moved, and using civilians as human shields.

Israeli commanders refuted their accounts as groundless, but B'Tselem reported that the military "refused to open serious, impartial investigations," even when provided with detailed information, including victims' names, exact dates, and precise locations of incidents.

On its own, B'Tselem collected testimonies from Gaza residents in which 70 Palestinian civilians were killed, over half of them children. Israeli military sources were unresponsive, except to acknowledge receipt of some information, nothing more or that a serious investigation would be conducted. It never was.

Anonymous Testimonies to Protect Soldiers from Recriminations - First From Earlier Operations

A Nachal unit first sergeant recounted Israeli tanks entering a West Bank village and crushing a car beneath the treads. "Yes, I saw it from the APC we were in. I peeped out. Suddenly we heard a car being crushed....I can't understand why a tank should run over a car when the road's open." It wasn't an isolated incident. It happens often, wanton destruction for its own sake.

He also said that "When we got back from that operation, we had loot so to speak. There were IDs confiscated, uniforms, Kalachnikovs. For army intelligence."

A Nachal elite unit first sergeant said missions were explicitly intended to harass people. Homes were entered, arrests made. "At various points while closing in on a house there are varying open-fire instructions. When the whole house is surrounded, crews placed all around it, the guy who runs out of the house is considered an 'escaper' and must be stopped. If he exits running in a suspect manner (he) must be shot (and) kill(ed). Shot to be stopped: in other words, shoot to kill."

When entering villages, armed Palestinian policemen "at certain points in time....were considered enemy troops (so) we had to shoot to kill if we saw any." Orders were to shoot when in doubt. In describing the atmosphere and command orders, they were "Kill, kill, kill, kill. We want to see bodies."

He explained his anti-terrorism training saying: "Terrorist in sight, that's what it's called, when you run into them. It's some sort of code. It used to be 'hostages.' So you reach the terrorist, you confirm the kill. You don't confirm the kill, you confirm the guy has been 'neutralized,' no chance of his getting back to you because he's been shot in the head. That's confirming he's neutralized."

A 401 Armor unit staff sergeant described the freedom he had to fire a lot - "automatic fire, directed at the whole city, at houses and at doors, was something that everybody did, not just me. I do not know why I did it. I (had) a gun. I did not think. In the army I never thought. I did what I was told to do. And besides, everybody did it. That was the custom - officers and such, everybody knew."

A Battalion 55 Artillery corp first sergeant said when his unit "return(ed) from operations we would throw stun and smoke grenades into the bakeries that opened between 4:00 and 5:00 am because people in the village threw stones....Once I fired over 1500 rounds from a machine gun at the houses in the city." Nobody cared, it was just at Palestinians.

An Armoured Corps first sergeant recounted earlier Gaza and West Bank operations for the "main purpose (of) either demolish(ing) terrorists' houses or places where they manufacture mortars, and other such stuff, or...You would come in and ruin everything you see." At times, "open-fire orders (were to kill) every person you see on the street....kill him....shoot to kill. Don't mind whether he has or has no gun on him."

Operation Cast Lead Testimonies

One soldier said:

"....In training you learn that white phosphorus is not used, and you're taught that it's not humane. You watch films and see what it does to people who are hit, and you say, 'There, we're doing it too.' That's not what I expected to see. Until that moment I had thought that I belonged to the most humane army in the world."

Other testimonies describe white phosphorous used in densely populated neighborhoods, wanton killing and destruction "unrelated to any direct threat to Israeli forces, and permissive rules of engagement that led to the killing of innocents."

More comments reflected the "moral deterioration" of the army and Israeli society, even affecting the rabbinate that blessed mass slaughter and destruction prior to engagements.

Soldier testimonies bear witness to disturbing Israeli values "on a systemic level." Operation Cast Lead's rein of terror was "a direct result of IDF policy, and especially (its) rules of engagement (that sanction) shoot (first) and (don't) ask questions."

Breaking the Silence participants offered their testimonies as "an urgent call to Israeli society and its leaders to sober up and investigate anew the results of our actions....(a disturbing) slide together down the moral slippery slope" that affects them and all Jews globally.

Testimony 1 - Human Shield

People are called "Johnnie. They're Palestinian civilians" in Gaza neighborhoods. In checking out houses, "we send the neighbor in, the 'Johnnie,' and if there are armed men inside, we (use) 'pressure cooker' procedures....to get them out alive....to catch the armed men." When necessary, combat helicopters are called in to fire anti-tank missiles at civilian homes. Then send a "Johnnie" in to check for dead and wounded.

In one home, two were dead and another alive, so supersized Caterpillar D-9 bulldozers start "demolishing the house over him until the neighbor went in" and got him out.

Human shields were also used to check for booby-traps and perform other services. "Sometimes the force would enter while placing rifle barrels on a civilian's shoulder, advancing into the house and using him as a human shield. Commanders said these were the instructions and we had to do it."

Testimony 2 - House Demolitions

Residential buildings at strategic points were taken over by force. Neighborhoods were described with "lots of destroyed houses....ruins....more and more ruins, and even the houses still standing, most of them kept getting shelled...." Other houses were blasted....blown "up in the air" with explosives.

"Operational necessity" sometimes meant a whole neighborhood was destroyed so as "not to jeopardize Israeli soldiers (and with) the day after" in mind, meaning to disrupt Gaza life to the maximum and leave it that way after forces pulled out.

Testimony 3 - Rules of Engagement

Descriptions included "enter(ing) a yard and out of sheer fear the family was waiting in an exposed spot - a father, grandfather, young mother and babies. As we were coming in, the commander was firing a volley, and mistakenly killed an innocent. We got to the house....he goes in with live fire....the family was hiding from the bombings....he happened to kill an elderly guy....it really seems insane....if I look at it from the (other) side, there are people who deserve to go to jail."

Testimony 4 - Rules of Engagement & Home Occupation

Tactics taught are "dry" and "wet" entries. In Gaza, there was "no such thing as a dry entry. All entries were wet," meaning free-firing with missiles, tank shells, machine guns, grenades, everything. On the ground, wet entry orders were to "shoot as we enter a (house or) room (so) no one there could fire at us."

Testimony 5 - Atmosphere

What "bothered me? Many things....all that destruction. All that fire at innocents. This shock of realizing with whom I'm in this together....the hatred, and the joy of killing....I killed a terrorist....blew his head off....There's nothing to hold you back." They're just Arabs.

Testimony 6 - Bombardment

The new 120mm Mortar was used in Gaza with "95 - 100%" accuracy. When it hits, it scatters shrapnel all around. It was used against neighborhoods. Innocents were hit, and "our artillery fire there was insane...."

"Most of the time firing was for softening resistance I think....We simply received orders. If we hit terrorists, then I guess that was the purpose."

Testimony 7 - Rules of Engagement

The commander stressed using "fire power" from the air and on the ground. "You see something and you're not quite sure? You shoot....Fire power was insane. We went in and the booms were just mad. The minute we got to our starting line, we simply began to fire at suspect places....a house, a window....In urban warfare, anyone is your enemy. No innocents." Houses were taken over with soldiers positioned inside "according to plan."

Testimony 8 - Rules of Engagement & Use of White Phosphorous

Some of the younger soldiers "think it's cool to wield such power with no one wanting to rein them in. They (were given) permission to open fire" even at most people who "definitely (are) not terrorists." Free fire used all weapons against "everything (including) houses," whether or not they looked suspect. "I know (that some) crews....even fired white phosphorous. Our battalion mortars (and tanks) were also using phosphorous."

Sometimes an order was given: "Permitted, phosphorous in the air." At times, it was used "because it's fun. Cool. I don't understand what it's used for."

Testimony 9 - Rules of Engagement & House Demolitions

"From the onset....the brigade commander and other officers made it very clear to us that any movement must entail gunfire" with or without being shot at. Alerts were given about a suicide bomber or sniper in the area, but "none of (these) materialized as far as our company was concerned."

"Houses were demolished everywhere." They were fired at "with tremendous power. We didn't see a single house that remained intact....The entire infrastructure, tracks, fields, roads (were) in total ruin." D-9 bulldozers demolished everything "in our designated area. It looked awful, like in those World War II films where nothing remained. A totally destroyed city."

Testimony 10 - Briefings

Formal briefings covered "going off to war (and in war) no consideration of civilians was to be taken. Shoot anyone you see....this pretty much disgusted me. There was a clear feeling, and this was repeated whenever others spoke to us, that no humanitarian consideration played any role in the army at present."

Language used in one briefing was something like: "Don't let morality become an issue. That will come up later. Leave the nightmares and horrors that will come up for later, now just shoot."

Testimony 11 - Use of White Phosphorous & Rules of Engagement

"We walked (with another battalion) and saw all the white phosphorous bombs....we saw glazing on the sand (resulting) from white phosphorous (use), and it was upsetting." Houses were targeted and many around them were destroyed with people inside them.

Testimony 12 - Rules of Engagement

Moving into an area, orders were to "hold the junction, control it." Vehicle movement wasn't allowed and those advancing were fired on. Whole areas were abandoned. In entering houses, strict procedure is followed, including "setting red lines. It means that whoever crosses this line is shot, no questions asked." Orders always were shoot to kill, including women and children.

Testimonies 13 and 14 - Rules of Engagement

Houses were entered with gunfire and taken over. Some civilians were killed. Anyone out at night was called a terrorist even if it was clear he had no weapons.

Testimonies 15 and 16 - Rabbinate Unit

Promoting "Jewish Awareness," rabbis talked with soldiers and gave out materials, the Book of Psalms and some brochures. War got a religious tone against "four enemies:" Hamas, Iran, the Palestinian Authority even though it doesn't control Gaza, and Arab citizens of Israel. Rabbinate briefings said "they (all) undermine us."

Also that Israel was fighting a "war of choice, (a) holy war (with) differing rules." The message "aimed at inspiring the men with courage, cruelty, aggressiveness (and feeling) no pity, God protects you, everything you do is sanctified....Palestinians are the enemy....everyone."

Soldiers were told to be "crusaders," to have a "proper fighting spirit," and show no mercy. Distributed pamphlets said: "Palestinians are like the Philistines of old, newcomers who do not belong in the land, aliens planted on our soil which should clearly return to us."

One man introduced as Rabbi Chen presented his talk in points, also covered in pamphlets. First was "the sanctity of the People of Israel. He put it this way: he said while going in there, we should know there is no accounting for sins in this case." In other words, "whatever we do is fine."

Another point referred to the "sons of light" waging war against the "sons of darkness" to turn the IDF into a messianic force in a battle of good versus evil.

Testimony 17 - House Demolitions & Rules of Engagement

"Pressure cooker" tactics were used. D-9 bulldozers "worked nonstop to raze orchards and take down houses suspected of containing tunnels" or stopping sniper fire. "The feeling is it's all sand dunes, all the streets were destroyed and there were shell pits from the bombings before the ground offensive." After a week, "our officer decided he'd hold a grenade-launching practice....So we went into a house next door, took an inner room, and each person came along and threw a grenade inside. The house was totally devastated."

Testimony 18 - Briefings & Rules of Engagement

Before the operation began, the battalion commander "said we were going to exercise insane fire power with artillery and air force....There were no clear red lines. In urban areas it's very much at the commanders' own discretion....we were told to enter every house (using) live fire....a grenade or two, shooting, and only then we enter."

Testimony 19 - Bombardment

It was designed "to gain control of the area....The whole cover thing starts, massive fire, auxiliary fire, and then my company goes it....In the first phase, we open fire in every zone." Every house in a designated area is entered....At the end of the day the platoons are set up in the houses. Each house becomes a small army outpost with positions...." Then other houses are occupied and searched. Families inside were assembled in one room, then told to leave and walk into the city. In some houses, the men were gathered together and shackled.

Testimony 20 - Rules of Engagement

"Our objective was to split the Gaza Strip, fragment it," take total control.

Testimony 21 - Briefings & Rules of Engagement

The commander said don't "feel bad about destruction because it is all done for the safety of our own soldiers." If someone is suspect, "we should not give him the benefit of the doubt. Eventually this could be an enemy, even if it's some old woman approaching the house. It could be an old woman carrying an explosive charge."
We had constant reports about suspect women or pairs, stuff like that, but never ran into any.

"There are two phases: there's the primary phase of taking objectives....whatever is suspect is targeted for fire." Youngsters in the ranks "are out for action and most of them have pretty racist views....some of them say (they) don't want wars, but what can (they) do, this is how things are and we'll never have peace with the Arabs." Those with more moderate views are in the minority. For most soldiers, "there are two possibilities: either you're terribly scared or terribly gung-ho. Better gung-ho than frightened, for this way you can do a better job of it."

Testimony 22 - Bombardment

One home "was known as a Hamas activist's house. This automatically gets acted upon...the house was bombed while these guys were inside. A woman came out, holding a child, and escaped southward." Reports were that people inside were unarmed. "But that's not the point. The point is that four men standing outside the house conferring look suspect."

Testimony 23 - Rules of Engagement & Home Searches

"In routine work there are outposts, windows, observation posts and stairs....you go out, take the house, spend (enough time) inside, then go back to the same house or to another one....You're also told to wreck floor tiles to check for tunnels. Television sets, closets (everything). Many explosive charges were found, they also blew up, no one was hurt."

Before going in you shoot....we didn't really need to shoot after the tank had wrecked the house....Physically the houses were ruined." In some, drawings were made on walls, even with lipstick, and "the closets were all trashed. It sounded retarded....you go into a house and turn it all inside out."

Testimony 24 - Briefings & House Demolitions

Initial briefings by commanders never mentioned "the lives of civilians (or) showing consideration to civilians." Here it wasn't mentioned. "Just the brutality, go in there brutally....In case of any doubt, take down houses. You don't need confirmation for anything...."

D-9 operators "cannot show consideration. If he's ordered to demolish a house, he" does it...."houses and agricultural areas as well, orchards and hothouses." At the end of the operation, the commander said "We demolished 900 houses....a really huge number. We demolished a lot."

Testimony 25 - Briefings & Rules of Engagement

"The battalion commander said there would be lots and lots of terrorists and we should really watch out but don't worry, everyone will have taken plenty of people down (because) insane fire power (gives us an) advantage over them."

Testimony 26 - Briefings & Rules of Engagement

Before going in, "the battalion commander....defined the operation goals: 2000 dead terrorists, not just stopping the missiles launched at (Israeli) communities around the Gaza Strip. He claimed this would bring Hamas down to its knees....No one said 'kill innocents.' " But orders were for the army to kill everyone thought to be suspect.

"The issue of civilians became irrelevant as soon as you'd enter combat - the rules change. You shoot. It's war. In war no questions are asked."

Testimony 27 - House Demolitions

Suspect houses were targeted with white phosphorous shells "to serve as an igniter, simply make it all go up in flames," and in the process destroy weapons and tunnels.

Testimony 28 - Rules of Engagement

Neighborhoods were cleaned out, areas "where infantry had not yet entered." After going in, "terrorists" were identified and killed. "We kept working with snipers, infantry 'straw widows,' where they identify targets for you and you fire shells....You shoot even if (targets not) identified."

Testimony 29 - House Demolitions & Bombardment

In controlled areas, orders were "to raze as much as possible....Such razing is a euphemism for intentional, systematic destruction, enabling total visibility....so no one could hide anything from us" and operational objectives could be accomplished - destroying suspected booby-trapped houses and tunnels. Also leaving behind minimal infrastructure after the operation was concluded.

The destruction in Gaza "was on a totally different scale (than anything) I had previously known....the ground was....constantly shaking. I mean, there were blasts all the time. Explosions were heard all day long, the night was filled with flashes, an intensity we had never experienced before. Several D-9 bulldozers were operating around the clock, constantly busy....What is a suspect spot? It means you decided it was suspect and could take out all your rage at it."

Testimony 30 - House Demolitions & Bombardment

Most "mosques were demolished. (Our) brigade commander (said) we should not hesitate to target mosques. Nothing is immune, nothing and no area. He explicitly mentioned mosques....If you see sand bags, you shoot without the shadow of a doubt....You run into a curve in the road and know there's an angle from which you cannot monitor a certain area, first you shoot, see if anything happens, then you proceed....If you don't know what's in a building, you fire at it. Such were the general instructions...."

Testimony 31 - Rules of Engagement

"We weren't told outright to shoot anything we saw moving but that was the implication. I asked, 'What if I see a girl outside?' She has no business being outside. 'So what do I do?' Check if she's armed - then shoot her." For anyone engaged at short range, it's "understood from (our) briefing that it's better to shoot first and ask questions later."

Testimony 32 - Briefings

"There was less talk of values, more of professionalism, not a moral issue." The atmosphere placed little value on Palestinian lives. Jewish ones were another matter.

Testimony 33 - Rules of Engagement

"We fired rounds at houses in front of us (in) which we didn't see movement....But these were houses that we identified as looking out over us. We fired into windows, before the ceasefire....everyone started shooting. I heard this happened in other areas as well."

Testimony 34 - Rules of Engagement

Even though Israeli forces faced no resistance on entering Gaza, orders were that everyone is suspect. "There is no such thing as suspect arrest procedure. If I detect a (possible threatening) suspect - I shoot (to kill)."

Commander briefings stressed "aggressive action," protecting soldier lives, and having no regard for civilians. They're all suspects.

Testimony 35 - Vandalism

Soldiers "took out notebooks and text books and ripped them. One guy smashed cupboards for kicks, out of boredom....The deputy company commander's staff wrote 'Death to Arabs' on their walls." Lip service only was paid to looting. Don't ask, don't tell was how it was.

Testimony 36 - Rabbinate Unit

They gave pep talks and handed out booklets about "the importance of serving the People of Israel who have been persecuted all these years and (are) now back in (their) homeland and need to fight for it." The usual hot button issues were mentioned - the Holocaust, defending God, and the rights of Israeli Jews. Arab ones don't matter.

Testimony 37 - House Demolitions & Vandalism

Houses were entered with live gunfire, grenades, and other destructive force. Extensive damage was done. Soldiers inside did much more. They had no regard for "even the simplest most basic sanitary stuff like going to the toilet, basic hygiene. I mean you could see they had defecated anywhere and left the stuff lying around." No one cared.

Testimony 38 - Rules of Engagement & House Demolitions

"The amount of destruction was incredible....Not one stone left standing over another. You see plenty of fields, hothouses, orchards, everything devastated. Totally ruined. It's terrible. It's surreal....in my own company there were plenty of people who fired just for the hell of it, at houses, water tanks. They love targeting water tanks." D-9 operators also...."love to demolish, and when the commander sends them off, 'Go take down that house,' they're happy."

Testimony 39 - Vandalism

Doors inside houses were blasted open. Contents were smashed, television and computer screens. Things of value were looted. "The guys would simply break stuff. Some were out to destroy and trash the whole time. They drew a disgusting drawing on the wall. They threw out sofas. They took down (pictures) just to shatter (them)." They did what they wanted. Who'd stop them? The assumption was "everyone is a terrorist (so) it's legitimate to do just anything we please."

Testimony 40 - Bombardment

Targeted houses were bombed, destroying others nearby. Indiscriminate bombing was commonplace.

Testimony 41 - Bombardment

Helicopters and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) were directed against suspect houses. "I'm not certain what is considered suspect and what proper rules of engagement are. We responded to anything that seemed suspect to us." In one area, all houses were fired on. "There was massive fire."

Testimony 42 - Home Demolitions & Use of White Phosphorous

Shells were fired at a house suspected of being booby-trapped. "Then some order arrived to ignite it. The way to do that was to actually fire phosphorous shells from above. (It) ignites the whole house."

Testimony 43 - Rules of Engagement

"One guy said he just couldn't finish this operation without killing someone. So he killed someone...." It was war.

Testimony 44 - Vandalism

Houses were cleared with live fire and people inside taken away. There was no control. Soldiers did what they wanted. At times, they "went crazy." They did "unnecessary damage to property, smashing stuff, looting. Commanders didn't care.

Testimony 45 - House Demolitions & Vandalism

More demolitions. Another neighborhood ruined. "Some of the houses had been demolished because they sheltered armed combatants, other(s) suspected of having tunnels underneath, yet others blocked our line of vision....they were taken down, whole orchards were razed."

Testimony 46 - Vandalism

"In primary searches for weapons, we go in and then suddenly a guy opens a cupboard, sees china and begins to throw it all on the floor (to) show it to the Arabs." Stuff was thrown out windows and walls written on also.

Testimony 47 - House Demolitions

"It was amazing." So many were destroyed that "At first you go in and see lots of houses. A week later, after the razing, you see the horizon further away, almost to the sea. They simply took down all the houses around so the terrorists would have nowhere else to hide." All around you see rubble.

Testimony 48 - Briefings

Briefing stressed "going in there and getting things back in order," that, of course, meant terrorizing Gazans into submission. "An army that does these things, that takes apart houses because there was sporadic shooting nearby, is an unprofessional army."

Testimony 49 - Bombardment

Soldiers were forbidden to go up on rooftops because helicopters, planes, and UAVs fired on persons detected there. "Whoever climbed to the roof was doomed."

Testimony 50 - Rules of Engagement

All Palestinians were suspects, so even ones waving white flags were shot. "The soldiers were made to understand that their lives (mattered), and that there was no way (they'd risk being killed) for the sake of leaving civilians the benefit of the doubt. We were allowed to fire in order to spare our lives." Orders were to shoot at everyone, "even an old woman - take them down."

Testimony 51 - Human Shields

Some soldiers were worried about moral issues like using people as human shields. "Personally I'm unhappy about it....I certainly don't intend to serve in the Occupied Territories any longer....I'm not feeling good....having been there and taken part in (operations making him) very uneasy....You always have another option."

Testimony 52 - House Demolitions

"....most of the destruction that went on....was not necessary....the battalion commander said that as far as we were concerned this was war."

Testimony 53 - Rules of Engagement

...."at a certain time soldiers (use) a machine gun, rifle and grenade launcher (to) take a house....and target it for a blast of deterrent fire. The idea is to sow confusion, keep shifting the direction of warfare."

Testimony 54 - Atmosphere

"Going in, the atmosphere was 'gung-ho' and the whole country was behind us. While inside, all of that disappeared....Listen, coming out of there I did not feel any heroic elation or sacrifice, just that it was sickening and unglamorous and boring and stupid. People suffered....human beings become nothing....It is impossible to conceive of such an extent of suffering as that which we inflicted on Gaza....that is what I take with me in particular, how people can be indifferent to suffering or see it as trivial."

Final Comments

Defense minister Ehud Barak claims Israel has "the most moral army in the world." The above testimonies say otherwise. They show:

-- deep moral degradation;

-- insensitivity to human lives and suffering;

-- clear evidence of indiscriminate slaughter and destruction for its own sake;

-- civilians targeted like combatants;

-- women and children treated no differently than men;

-- the elderly, the very young, it didn't matter;

-- being Palestinian makes them terrorists;

-- rules of engagement were "shoot first and ask questions later" if at all.

For over six decades, Israel defiled international law by committing the most egregious crimes of war and against humanity against Palestinian civilians and neighboring Arab states. The world community hardly blinks.

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

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

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