Israeli activists stage vigil to release the Tamimi women

16-year-old Ahed, her 20-year-old cousin Nur, and her mother, Nariman, have been in prison for nearly a week. Activists in Tel Aviv say the vigil is meant to remind the Israeli public of the reality of the occupation. Activists from the Coalition of Women for Peace staged a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Defense on Sunday evening to protest the detention of Ahed, Nariman, and Nur Tamimi, of Nabi Saleh. Some of the demonstrators kneeled, their eyes blindfolded, while others held signs reading, “It’s not the slap, it’s the occupation,” and called for the three Palestinian women to be…

Source: Israeli activists stage vigil to release the Tamimi women

An Israeli anti-nuclear activist won the Nobel, and no one is talking about it

Sharon Dolev won the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month for her work on nuclear disarmament. Despite the media blackout in Israel, and the reluctance to even touch the subject, she remains steadfast in her belief that a regional nuclear pact is on its way. 

By Yael Marom

Israeli nuclear disarmament activist Sharon Dolev speaking at the United Nations. (Clare Conboy)

Israeli nuclear disarmament activist Sharon Dolev speaking at the United Nations. (Clare Conboy)

The Israeli media all but ignored the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, which took place in Oslo in early Decebmer. This was especially strange considering the fact that one of the recipients is an Israeli, and the newspapers here never miss an opportunity to gush whenever a Jewish person wins the award. The silence may be a result of the fact that one of winners, Sharon Dolev, was part of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won the Nobel for efforts in highlighting the dangers of nuclear weapons as well as working on a treaty to ban them.

I spoke to Dolev, the Israeli prize winner who established the The Israeli Disarmament movement, and one of the bravest and most determined activists I know, who for years have worked alongside a small group of other dedicated activists on an issue that Israel prefers to remain silent on (since this interview was published, three more Israeli media outlets reached out to Dolev for interviews).


Let’s talk about the media blackout. When it was announced that the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons had won the prize, the media did not mention the Israeli Disarmament movement, even though a Jewish Israeli was among the prize winners. How is this possible?

“Let’s take a step back to before the announcement. If I were speaking in the United Nations about human rights violations in the occupied territories, I would have been on the front page of the newspapers, and all the ministers would be attacking me. But here I am, speaking to the UN General Assembly about the Israeli nuclear program and the ways to disarm it, and no one is criticizing me — no one is calling me a traitor for daring to speak about the issue. The ambiguousness works in all directions. It has always been about ignoring us.”

Why does this happen?

“Self-censorship. The fear of speaking about something they do not understand. Perhaps some feel that this is one step too far. That it is undeserving. But at a certain point, and perhaps winning the prize will help, we will need to come to grips with the fact that something is happening here — that this is a win for civil society.

“But it is legal to speak in Israel about its nuclear program. Our nuclear program threatens us on a daily basis because we do not oversee it, neither its facilities nor the program itself. It is a threat because other countries view it as a nuclear threat. We are living in a false sense of security. That is why every time we choose not to talk about it, we are committing a crime. The discourse in the rest of the world is far different. I invite organizations and activists to speak with us. At least know what is happening. And if this prize gives me access or a possibility to speak to civil society organizations in Israel — then it was worth it.”


What happened during the ceremony? The global nuclear powers responded in an unusual manner, and Israel was the only country to send an ambassadorial representative to the ceremony. It was a strange situation.

“The ceremony itself was very touching. I could not travel to Oslo, but I watched the broadcast. There were three main speeches, all delivered by women: one by a representative of the Nobel Committee, another by Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of the international campaign, and a third by Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima survivor who was 13 years old when the bomb fell, and now dedicates her life to telling her story and struggling against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

“Even the host of the ceremony mentioned the fact that Israel sent an ambassadorial representative. The other nuclear powers sent lower-ranking representatives as a statement. It is funny because Israel’s biggest fear is that its program will be mentioned as a special case, and at the ceremony it found itself alone. I assume this happened by mistake. Israel’s policy of deliberate ambiguity creates a situation in which these things are simply not spoken about. Somebody must have forgotten to tell the ambassador not to show up. I was happy he was there, and hope that he was listening closely.

Executive Director of International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Beatrice Fihn (right) and nuclear disarmament activist Setsuko Thurlow receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 2017. (Jo Straube/ICAN)

Executive Director of International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Beatrice Fihn (right) and nuclear disarmament activist Setsuko Thurlow receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 2017. (Jo Straube/ICAN)

“The nuclear powers are acting as expected. It’s nice of them to have replaced the rhetoric of “this weapon will protect us” with talk of protecting the weapon from humans, at least those who want to disarm. Yet they refuse to take part in any dialogue or process, and one of the reasons is that they do not have good answers to the current campaign.

“It’s not just a matter of fearing nuclear weapons, although we certainly should fear them. ‘We are one tiny tantrum away from nuclear war,’ as Beatrice Fihn put it in her speech. A study published back in 2008 showed that even a ‘limited’ or ‘small’ nuclear — one nuclear submarine — would be enough to create world hunger or a nuclear winter.

What was the prize for? What does the new treaty say?

“The new treaty is meant to complete the work of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In fact, when they signed the treaty in 1967, the signatories became obligated to disarm. This caused other countries to avoid becoming part of the cycle of nuclear armament. This has yet to take place. No one is talking about it, and no one knows when it will happen. The new treaty forbids the development, holding, transfer, or hoarding of nuclear weapons — all according to international humanitarian law. So far 122 countries have endorsed it.

“The prize was awarded to our campaign, in which over 400 civil society organizations from over 100 countries — including peace, human rights, and environmental groups — successfully came together to set a goal and reach it. At first the goal was to cause the countries to talk about the issue. After that the goal was to hold negotiations and pass the treaty. We can no longer be called naive. We are making nuclear weapon illegal. This does not mean we have won. It means the victory is on the way.”

What is it like to be a woman and do this work, especially in the Middle East and in such a militaristic Israeli culture?

“I am taking part in various meetings with various people. It takes time until my position is even considered a legit one to talk about. This is both because I am a woman and because I am talking about the impossible. My biggest frustration is organizing panels that I myself would boycott because there is no representation for women. This frustration always exists. When will I stop being a woman and start being someone who talks about nuclear weapons?”

What does the movement do in Israel? What’s next after the Nobel win?

“In Israel we are trying to reach as many people as possible. People need to know, and after they know, they can decide what to do. They need to know how many nuclear weapons there are in the world. They need to know the dangers. They need to know what it means to be a nuclear-armed country. And they need to know what each and every one of us can do. Our role is to continue passing on information. This is urgent for two reasons. The first is that, today, we are closer to a nuclear war than we have been in the past 40 years. The second reason is economic. In the past two years, the U.S. and Britain have each approved spending $200 million to update their nuclear arsenals. These are weapons they cannot use.

“Furthermore, the Israeli Disarmament movement decided to create a path for the country to safely join the international conversation about nuclear disarmament, which it reportedly has. We authored a regional treaty for a nuclear-free Middle East, which will soon undergo rounds of negotiations that will include academics and diplomats from across the region, including a few Israelis.

“The impetus for the treaty is two-fold. On the one hand, we understand that a nuclear-armed country will not join the conversation on disarmament if it does not have a safe environment to do so. For instance, India will not disarm if Pakistan and China do not also disarm. It is clear that Israel needs a regional solution — and there is a way to do it. Official Israel claims that it wants one. The Arab League says the same. And everyone argues that it is impossible. The treaty tries to provide a solution. Additionally, it tries to show that those same countries that claim it is impossible are not interested in a solution. The only thing lacking is good will.

“Israel is not the only country that does not want a solution. It is very easy for Arab countries to constantly claim that Israel is the one that does not ant progress, even as they do not allow Israel to do so by demanding impossible preconditions, while rejecting Israeli conditions. The treaty shows how it is possible to establish a regional body with an oversight system that can exist between countries that do not speak to one another, and how this could benefit the world.

“We will establish a nuclear free zone will in the Middle East, I’m telling you. I do not know how long it will take, but it will happen.”

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.

Rebel groups reject talks on Syrian conflict hosted by Russia


Rebels refuse to head to Sochi conference, claiming that Moscow has not contributed ‘one step’ to ease the suffering of Syrian civilians

Syrian rebel groups on Monday rejected Russia’s planned Sochi conference on Syria, saying Moscow was seeking to bypass a United Nations-based Geneva peace process and blaming Russia for committing war crimes in the country.

In a statement by around 40 rebel groups who include some of the military factions who participated in earlier rounds of Geneva peace talks, they said Moscow had not put pressure on the Syrian government to reach a political settlement.

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Trump as Balfour

Trump as Balfour

Trump as Balfour

Al-Junaidi arrested (Photo: Wisam Hashlamoun,)

In Hebron on December 7, over 20 Israeli soldiers arrested 14-year-old Fawzi Al-Junaidi, blindfolded him and marched him off to detention. The image of the arrest, the violence of it, startled many people. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan mentioned the arrest and said sharply: “Israel is a terrorist state. We will not abandon Jerusalem to the mercy of a child-murder state.”

Erdogan was referring to the renewed controversy over Jerusalem. On December 6, President Donald Trump declared that the United States would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. To move the embassy suggests that Israel’s capital is no longer to be Tel Aviv but Jerusalem. This action is against long-standing international policy, which sees Jerusalem as an “international city”—one that would be governed by various parties to protect the city’s special status as home to major religious sites of Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Trump’s statement on Jerusalem rattled Palestine, where the people have long worried about the seizure of East Jerusalem, which the United Nations deems to be part of Occupied Palestinian Territory, and the rest of the old city. Protests broke out in the West Bank, in Jerusalem and in the Gaza Strip. These were largely non-violent, a mirror of the frustration of the Palestinian people with the collapse of their national liberation project.

Dangerous escalation

On December 8, which was a Friday and therefore a day of prayer for Muslims, Israeli forces gathered in a show of force near the Al Aqsa mosque, revered by Muslims as the third holiest site in Islam. Prayers went on as usual in the mosque, although the tension on the streets was palpable. It provoked protests from Palestinians in the city, who marched in small groups chanting: “Jerusalem is ours, Jerusalem is our capital.”

Israeli forces descended upon the demonstrations with ferocity. Israeli troops on horseback galloped down Salah Eddin Street in the old city, scaring passers-by. The soldiers smashed up shops and arrested men, women and children. The Red Crescent said that about 800 Palestinians had been injured and a handful, mostly in Gaza, had been killed. Israeli forces used a combination of rubber bullets and live fire in the West Bank and Jerusalem and air strikes against Gaza. Two days later, on December 10, an Israeli military vehicle ran over a five-year-old Palestinian girl in the city of Hebron, perhaps the tensest city in Palestine.

It was in Hebron that 14-year-old Al-Junaidi was arrested and detained. His uncle said that the boy had gone out to get medicine and food for his family. This young boy cares for his father, who had undergone surgery recently. The incident moved the uncle to say: “We are the children of Palestine. Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine in the hearts and minds of our children. They will never be able to erase it.”

Wisam Hashlamoun, a Palestinian photojournalist, took the iconic picture of Al-Junaidi. About 50 Israeli soldiers attacked a group of Palestinian youths, Hashlamoun recounts. Al-Junaidi fell to the ground, sustaining a head wound. The soldiers “pulled him to his feet and encircled him”, which is the moment Hashlamoun photographed the boy. “It definitely didn’t occur to me that this photo would become a symbol,” Hashlamoun said. “I wanted to expose Israeli violence.”

Israeli state media concentrated on a few rockets fired into Israel from Gaza and the stabbing of an Israeli security guard at the entrance of Jerusalem’s bus station. These acts of violence were taken to justify the massive use of force by the Israelis against Palestinians—spurred on by Trump’s inflammatory declaration. It is inevitable that Palestinians will respond to the Israeli violence, which comes on top of the occupation that has lasted over 50 years. Little wonder that some Palestinians chanted: “We don’t need empty words. We need stones and Kalashnikovs.”

Many world leaders—from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani—have called Trump’s statement a “dangerous escalation”. It will only create far more violence.

No wonder, too, that many world leaders—from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani—have called Trump’s statement a “dangerous escalation”. It will only create far more violence. The European Union and the U.N. have roundly condemned Trump’s statement.

Jerusalem as emblem

In 1947, the U.N. passed Resolution 181 which placed Jerusalem under the administration of the U.N. It was to be a city governed by a “special international regime”. The countries of the world recognised Jerusalem as a special place, precious to the major Abrahamic religions and located in the midst of tensions between the new state of Israel, exiled and occupied Palestinians and the neighbouring Arab states.

Over the years, the U.N. Security Council has voted seven times to condemn the Israeli 1980 Basic Jerusalem Law, which claims the city as the “eternal and indivisible” capital of Israel. The first of these resolutions, 478 in 1980, was passed unanimously, with an abstention from the U.S. But even former (and late) U.S. Secretary of State Edmund Muskie suggested that Jerusalem was a unique city. “We must share a common vision of that ancient city’s future—an undivided Jerusalem, with free access to the holy places for peoples of all faiths.” At the same time, the U.S. held that it had the right to have its embassy in Jerusalem. Any instruction from the U.N. to move its embassy, Muskie said in 1980, would not be binding.

The tone in the Security Council in 1980 was strongly against an Israeli annexation of Jerusalem. Pakistan’s then Ambassador to the U.N., Naiz A. Naik, said that as international pressure mounted against Israel, it had “revived with increased vigour the obsessive Zionist scheme to Judaise the Holy City of Jerusalem by destroying its historical personality and turning it into ‘the eternal capital of Israel’”. Israel’s then Ambassador to the U.N., Yehuda Zvi Blum, responded that Jerusalem had been the capital of Israel from its origin and that Israel would not honour any U.N. approach to the city. “Israel will not allow Jerusalem to become another Berlin,” Blum said, “with all that implies not only for the welfare of its citizens but also for international peace and security.”

Israel, with U.S. backing, ignored the U.N. It would, over the course of these past 50 years, gradually annex pieces of Jerusalem and weaken the Palestinian hold on the city. Land grabs in East Jerusalem came alongside the encroachment of Jewish settlers into and the expansion of the Jewish quarter in the old city. The attrition of Palestinian space in the city included the operation to destroy the Mamilla Cemetery, a site of immense importance for Palestinian history (“Grave Silence”, Frontline, February 21, 2014).

‘No, Mr Trump’

A week after Trump’s declaration, Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former head of Saudi intelligence and former Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., wrote a stinging open letter to him. “No, Mr Trump,” he wrote, “Jerusalem is not Israel’s capital.” His letter is a rebuke to Trump. “If you want to rectify your misbegotten and cavalier act,” he wrote, “you can issue a statement recognising the Palestinian state and its capital in East Jerusalem. Otherwise, forget whatever sweet words you blandish at us. Native inhabitants of what is called America have coined the phrase, ‘White man speaks with forked tongue’. We have known that phrase since 1917.” That this comes from the heart of the Saudi establishment says a great deal about the tensions in the region. Many suggest that Saudi Arabia is preparing a public diplomatic opening to Israel, although Trump’s action might have ended that possibility.

From Beirut, Lebanon, Syed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbollah, called Trump’s statement the Second Balfour Declaration. The first Balfour Declaration was made by the then imperial power, Britain. It promised to seize Palestinian land and give it to European Jewish settlers; this would be an antidote to European anti-Semitism. Trump’s declaration, by the current imperial power, gives Israelis carte blanche to seize more Palestinian land. In both cases, Nasrallah said, no one spoke to the Palestinians. It is for this reason that Nasrallah called for an intifada—an uprising, the Third Intifada.

Trump’s inflammatory decision came just before he signed an extension that allowed the U.S. embassy to remain in Tel Aviv. The U.S. embassy will not move to Jerusalem for at least six months, when Trump will again have to revisit the twice-annual ritual in the U.S. for the President to sign this extension. It is unlikely that the U.S. will actually move its embassy.

This seems more dangerous theatre than anything else. It is another of Trump’s mischievous political acts; he pleases his base, including conservative Christian evangelicals, and he creates news.

Meanwhile, in Palestine, children like Al-Junaidi suffer. It has been their lot for decades.

Vijay Prashad

The post Trump as Balfour appeared first on LA Progressive.

Nine Rows of Ribbons!

Military Grade Inflation

Military Grade Inflation

He may need a bigger chest for all those ribbons

General Robert Neller, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, is in the news since he told Marines to get ready for a big fight.  This doesn’t really alarm me.  A military exists to be ready to fight, and the Marines place a premium on combat readiness.  No — what bothers me is the nine rows of ribbons General Neller is sporting on his uniform.

He may need a bigger chest for all those ribbons

And compared to the other services (Army, Navy, and Air Force), the Marines are usually the most reluctant to hand out ribbons freely.

Our military is suffering from rampant grade inflation. We are giving ourselves far too many trophies. When even the Marines fall prey to ribbon and medal proliferation, it’s not a good sign for future combat effectiveness.

I wrote about this back in 2007: why medals and metrics in the U.S. military mislead. A big offender back then was General David Petraeus, whose uniform was festooned with ribbons and badges of all kinds, most of them of the “been there” rather than “done that” variety.

When I was a lieutenant in the Air Force, circa 1987, I took part in a random survey in which I was asked, “What one change would you make to military practices,” or some such question. My answer was to get rid of all the “everyman” ribbons, the meaningless awards and medals that made a sergeant’s or captain’s uniform in 1987 look like that of General George Patton’s in 1945.

You can see how much my recommendation made a great impact on today’s military!

Seriously, though, our military is suffering from rampant grade inflation. We are giving ourselves far too many trophies. When even the Marines fall prey to ribbon and medal proliferation, it’s not a good sign for future combat effectiveness.

Military uniforms should not look like overdecorated Christmas trees.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!

WJ Astore
Bracing Views

The post Nine Rows of Ribbons! appeared first on LA Progressive.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny barred from running for president


Alexei Navalny calls for boycott of next year’s vote after election commission’s decision

Russian election officials on Monday formally barred Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny from running for president, prompting calls from him for a boycott of next year’s vote.

The central election commission decided unanimously that the anti-corruption crusader is not eligible to run.

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Emmanuel #Christmas #story

penned in moon dust

There are people everywhere in this little village of Bethlehem. It was light when we began our journey. My little ones are cold, but they have to wait in line like the rest of us. “There will be a crust of bread soon,” I whisper.  I rock back and forth on my feet to keep warm. My shawl is wrapped around my daughter’s shoulders.  The memory of the day’s sun is my only warmth. “Move along” a soldier on horseback almost knocks over my little boy. My husband silently pulls his namesake close. I know he wants to curse the Romans but even a scowl of discontent will lock him in prison.  A murmur courses through the crowd, ” It is said Messiah will come.” “Maybe this year,” an old priest says in hushed tones. God knows we are destitute and Rome is  an unbearable manacle around our wrists. “Please…

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