23 February 2009

Israeli Military Shoot Unarmed Deaf Gaza Farmer

Dirty Tricks: Israeli Soldiers Shoot Deaf Palestinian Farmer, 4th Farmer Shot in 3 weeks

17 February

What caused the Israeli soldiers to shoot a deaf farmer today? Was he threatening? Was it because the group of farm labourers had successfully worked quickly to harvest their day’s wages? Was the sight of retreating, unarmed, clearly non-threatening civilians too tempting to resist?

Whatever the motivation, the result is another casualty of Israeli soldiers’ malevolence: a 20 year old deaf farmer, Mohammad al-Buraim, working the land to support his family of 16, may not walk easily again. The bullet which targeted his ankle penetrated straight through and landed in the tire of the truck he’d been pushing.

Abu Alaa, owner of the land and Mohammed’s uncle, said: “When they first shot, we knew it wasn’t ‘warning’ shots. We started to run away. They shot again.”

Another farm labourer from Khan Younis, Yasser Rizek Samoud (20), was next to Mohammed when the Israeli soldiers’ shooting broke out.

“We had stopped our work and were ready to leave. The truck wasn’t starting. We were pushing the pickup truck. The Israeli soldiers started shooting at us from the border area. Mohammed was hit in the leg. I carried him about 2 metres before they started shooting again. We were able to get him to a truck on the road, which took him towards the town. An ambulance picked him up from the truck and took him to Nasser hospital in Khan Younis.”

Samoud attests there was quiet before the Israeli soldiers shot al-Buraim. “There weren’t any (Palestinian) fighters, there was nothing happening except for us farming. We work because we need to. We get 20 shekels a day, it isn’t a lot, but it’s the only work we can get.”

It was 17 February approximately 10:15 am and farmers were leaving the land they’d harvested, roughly 500 m from the Green Line. The lightly-dressed, unarmed farmers were clearly visible to and seen by the several Israeli army jeeps and the Hummer which had patrolled the border fence, stopping for long intervals to watch the farmers work, then moving on.

The farmers’ proximity to the border fence was more than off-set by the very visible nature of their work and of all present, including the 5 international human rights workers wearing bright vests and using a megaphone. The farmers’ tools are a kitchen knife slightly sharper than one used for eating, binding cord, and donkey carts or pickup trucks to haul away the harvest.

Before the shooting occurred, the Hummer sat directly across from the working farmers for over 30 minutes, observing. There was no threat from the farmers who glanced worriedly at the vehicle from time to time but otherwise kept swiftly working. Israeli soldiers inside the vehicle would have had no problem seeing the actions of the farmers cutting and binding spinach and parsley, and loading it into the back of a small pickup truck.

The farmers finished for the morning, packed the truck, and attempted to leave. Still unarmed.

The Israeli soldiers shot at the sides and backs of unarmed farmers pushing their pickup truck which had stalled. Even after al-Buraim had been hit, the shooting continued although the snipers would have been able to see that someone had been shot.

The firing continued as the farmers, surrounded by international human rights observers, walked away from the field and took shelter behind a nearby house, reaching it at around 10:30 am. Israeli soldiers continued to shoot at the farmers and internationals taking cover, for a period increasing their shots to every 5 seconds, with that unmistakably close “pftzzzz” of the bullets whizzing past.

After time, internationals evacuated farmers in 2 groups, again surrounding them as we walked, wary of the sniper’s abilities.

Given that the soldiers were shooting at the backs of retreating, unarmed, farmers and internationals, the pretext of ‘defending the border’ or Israeli soldiers’ having felt ‘threatened’ becomes blindingly transparent.

There was no shooting from the Palestinian side, no threat, no reason to shoot, other than malevolence. The farmers were clearly involved in the task of working the land, and the internationals accompanying them were visibly and audibly recognizable.

U.K. citizen Jenny Linnel also present during the shooting said: “The farmers were in the process of leaving when the IOF shot. And the IOF continued to shoot as the farmers tried to leave, continued to shoot, sniper-style, as the farmers cowered for cover. It was aggression for the sake of aggression.”

The life of a farmer is never easy, and is all the more difficult for farmers in the “buffer zone,” the band of land which has been imposed and extended arbitrarily to 1 km from the Green Line (on the Gaza side, not the Israeli side) by the occupying force which insists it has ‘withdrawn from Gaza’ [yet somehow controls borders, imports and exports, and the entry of humanitarian aid (entry denied), and which can impose no-go zones in a land not its own, for its ‘safety' (as with the separation wall cutting deeply into the west bank and carving the occupied land into smaller, militarily-controlled, chunks, the imposition of a "buffer zone" on Palestinian land in Gaza begs the question: if Israel is erecting the Wall and imposing no-go zones out of safety concerns, why not do so on Israeli land?)].

Were farming merely made difficult due to the ban of seeds and fertilizers into Gaza, as well as the ban on machinery replacement parts (extended to hospital equipment replacement parts, and replacement parts for basically anything that breaks down in Gaza), people could perhaps get on with it. But with Israeli soldiers’ near-daily shooting on Palestinians living on, working on, their land in an arbitrarily confiscated zone, then farming becomes seriously problematic.

Ironically, as we near-daily accompany farmers in these troubled ‘buffer zone’ regions, vigilantly keeping watch of the many jeeps scurrying to and fro and taking long pauses parked directly across from wherever we are farming, we see unhindered farming activity on the Israeli side: crop-dusters circle in wide arcs, tending the plots below with chemicals and planes unavailable to Gaza; tractors plow the land…in broad daylight! At a leisurely, unworried pace!

Back in the Gaza prison, farmers struggle with broken trucks, hand-harvesting, and an obstacle course of bullets.

Israeli soldiers have made a regular practice of targeting civilians, including farmers, in the arbitrarily-imposed “buffer zone,” a practice that continued throughout and despite the June 19 ceasefire.

And while the demeanor of the farmers makes it evident that they are accustomed to being shot at, they are nonetheless clearly afraid. Until this close call, their need to work the land had overridden fear for their lives. A sort of resigned determination seemed to guide them, along with the adage, “hek iddinya,”(”This is our life”), explaining in words and gestures that they have little option but to continue working the land, for the produce itself or for a mere 20 shekels a day.

Yet, Abu Alaa says they will not go back to the fields any time soon. “How can we go back? Its too much now, too dangerous. We will wait until it feels calmer.”

From his hospital bed, charismatic and likeable Mohammed al-Buraim, assures that he’ll be okay, even after the assault. But no way will he go near the field. “You think I’m crazy?!” he signs.

The shot was so near. It could have taken his life. Just a few feet up…just a slightly slower, slightly faster reaction… it was close. They were close to again killing an impoverished farm-worker.

On 27 January, in the same area, IOF soldiers killed 27 year old Anwar Zayed al-Buraim, shooting him in the neck while he picked vegetables on land approximately 600 metres from the Green Line. Anwar was Mohammed’s cousin.

These fertile rural eastern border areas of the Gaza Strip are emptying, because farmers, many of whom have farmed here for generations, are now too frightened to live and work on their own land. The confines of the Gaza Strip, which is just forty kilometers long and ten kilometers wide, are being shrunk even further by relentless Israeli invasions, by the imposition of an arbitrary and expanding “buffer zone” and by the targeting of civilians and farmers trying to live on and earn a living from their land.

Mohammed al-Buraim marks the fourth shooting of Palestinians in the ‘buffer zone’ in the last few weeks. The three shootings prior to Mohammed’s were: on 18 January, Maher Abu-Rajileh (24), from Huza’ah village, east of Khan Younis, was killed by IOF soldiers while working on his land 400m from the Green Line; on 20 January, at 1 pm, Israeli soldiers shot Waleed al-Astal (42) of Al Qarara, near Khan Younis, in his right foot; and on 27 January, Anwar al-Buraim was shot in the neck and killed.

While attacks on farmers in other border communities, especially those on the Israeli side, would not go unnoticed, somehow the international community remains silent about these deaths, injuries, and breaches of international law.

Just as the international community has stooped silently complicit to the siege on Gaza which has denied Palestinians of every conceivable means of existence and livelihood, so too are international leaders silent to the oppression of the farmers and fishermen, the poorest and the bravest, facing Israeli fire and ending up like Mohammed, Anwar, or 23 year old Rafiq who was targeted 2 miles off Gaza’s coast while in a small fishing boat. Israeli soldiers sprayed the boat with bullets, the ‘dum-dum- exploding bullets hitting Rafiq in the back and exploding into numerous tiny shrapnel pieces which pierced his lungs and remain dangerously close to his spine, impossible to remove.

These are not isolated and random instances. They are part of the policy of cutting off any means of self-sufficiency the Palestinians try to engage in, and of continuing in the efforts to break Palestinians’ will, efforts which have included a years-long, brutal siege, a 23 day bloody war killing over 1370 Palestinians, and the ongoing targeting of civilians throughout the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Military Shoot Gaza Farmer - 18th February 2009

Israeli forces shot a twenty year-old Palestinian farmer as he worked his land in the village of Al-Faraheen, east of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip.

International Human Rights Activists were accompanying the group of farmers at the time as they worked approximately 500m from the Green Line.

Mohammad al - Breem, 20, was shot in the right leg as the farmers, together with the international Human Rights Activists, attempted to leave the area having worked on their land for 2 hours in full view of the Israeli forces situated along the Green Line.

As the farmers were loading up the parsley and spinach from the agricultural lands shots were fired from Israeli forces on the border. Mohammad was shot in the right leg and evacuated, while still under fire, to hospital.

International Human Rights Activists have repeatedly witnessed Palestinian farmers being shot at by Israeli forces as they attempt to work on agricultural land situated within 700m of the Green Line.

On Tuesday 27th January 2009, in Al Faraheen, Israeli forces shot at several farmers, killing a 27 year old farmer.

19 February 2009

More Israeli Chutzpah

We have now reached the realm of the surreal with the Orwellian Israeli Minister of 'Justice' claiming "we risked troops' lives to protect Palestinians". This 'Justice' Minister is the same that is preparing the defence for the top Israeli war criminals so no surprise there, this is just part of that defence, but these shameless gangsters are showing that their chutzpah knows no limits.

He's also currently involved in trying to defang the Israeli courts so his gangster masters new laws cannot be overturned by the same courts.

It seems that the vast majority of the Israeli army - sorry citizens (well they're the same) - actually recognise that gangsters have taken over their state: "90% say Israel tainted with corruption"


On another topic, we find that members of an Israeli spy ring in the Lebanon, recently uncovered by Hezbollah, are "related to 9/11 hiacker". Very strange coincidence considering this man has been spying fo Israel for over 20 years: "One of Mr. Jarrah’s cousins, Ziad al-Jarrah, was among the 19 hijackers who carried out the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001"

15 February 2009

IDF probe: Cannot defend destruction of Gaza homes

The gangster state's enforcers - the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) - have apparently seen that it is impossible to defend the indefensible. No, not the brutal murder and genocide of hundreds of women and children:

"IDF probe: Cannot defend destruction of Gaza homes"
"Israel Defense Forces investigations into last month's offensive in the Gaza Strip indicate the army could face significant difficulties justifying the scale of destruction of civilian homes during the fighting. A military source involved in the investigation told Haaretz, "It's clear to us that in a small portion of the combat sectors immeasurable damage was caused, and that is very difficult to justify from a legal perspective, particularly if such justifications are called for in legal proceedings with international organizations."

Interesting though how they feel they will get into trouble for demolishing houses but not for murder...

"according to estimates produced by the security establishment, about one-third of those killed during the fighting were "uninvolved civilians," a figure which Palestinian sources put much higher.
The IDF believes this is a reasonable figure given the scope of combat, and that is roughly in line with casualty figures resulting from U.S. operations in Iraq and those of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
In most of the legal proceedings surrounding civilian casualties, the army intends to argue they represent "collateral damage," namely unavoidable consequences of an enemy hiding among civilian populations, or of mistakes in directing fire, such as in the well-publicized strike that claimed several members of the Abu al-Aish family in the Jabalya refugee camp.
Still, the massive destruction of houses is harder to justify in legal terms.

On another note, Benny Ziffer at Haaretz has an interesting explanation of why there is no "real difference between a journalist and a politician":

"Both operate under the delusion that they have an impact on reality, and both live in fear of the moment that they cease working and immediately fall into a deep hole, and their names are forgotten

A good example of the lunacy in the Zionist entity is this story of a man who believes he is the "savior (Goel in Hebrew) of the universe and is attributed godly and supernatural abilities"...

"Goel Ratzon, a man in his late fifties, lives with his numerous spouses, who have tattooed his name and portrait on their bodies...The women are subject to strict discipline. They are not allowed to communicate with men, be in physical contact with their biological family, eat meat, smoke, drink alcohol or dress immodestly...The names of every single of Ratzon's 89 children include his first name, for instance his son Avinu Ha-Goel (our father the savior) and his daughter Tehilat Ha-Goel (glory of the savior)....some of the women said they would commit mass suicide if anyone tried to harm their leader. They are all registered as single mothers, and live in separate quarters. Whenever Ratzon comes to visit, the children are required to kiss his shoes, and worship the tattoo of his portrait on their mother's arm. "

And just to remind us of the nature of the Zionist state, read this story of how Israeli soldiers "raped and killed Bedouin girl in the Negev."

"In August 1949, an army unit stationed at Nirim in the Negev shot an Arab man and captured a Bedouin girl with him. Her name and age remain unknown, but she was probably in her mid-teens.

In the following hours she was taken from the hut and forced to shower naked in full view of the soldiers. Three of the men then raped her.

After the Sabbath meal the platoon commander, identified by Ha'aretz as a man called Moshe who had served in the British army during the second world war, proposed a vote on what should be done with her.

One option was to put her to work in the outpost's kitchen.

Most of the 20 or so soldiers present voted for the alternative by chanting: "We want to fuck". The commander organised a rota for groups of his men to gang rape the girl over the next three days. Moshe and one of his sergeants went first, leaving the girl unconscious. Next morning, she complicated matters by protesting about her treatment. Moshe told one of his sergeants to kill her.

She was forced into a patrol vehicle with several soldiers, two carrying shovels, and they drove off into the dunes. When the girl realised what was about to happen she tried to run, but only made it a few paces before she was shot by a Sergeant Michael.

Her body was buried in a grave less than a foot deep."

12 February 2009

Bryan Hemmings - The Myth Peddlars

There are no easy solutions to the world economic crisis. So the current mantra goes. Maybe, but there is one that could ease it dramatically. The main problem is, most world leaders are far too timid to consider it.

Not only will it fire up the world economy; it will fill government coffers with massive revenues from previously untapped sources. It will help tackle terrorism, and stop much of the illegal trafficking in weapons, women and children. It will reduce petty crime dramatically, create new businesses and increase employment. Unlike most present solutions, it doesn't come from waving the magic wand of colossal - and far from guaranteed - financial bail-outs.

As things stand the main beneficiaries of the drug laws are highly dangerous criminals. The global trade in illegal drugs is estimated to generate a hefty $400 billion of untaxed income annually. Though, if the black hole of toxic investments is anything to go by, I imagine that figure to be on the extremely conservative side.

A large proportion of the income is used to finance other forms of crime including, prostitution, money-laundering, corruption, pornography, and paedophilia. Drug barons raise private armies, buy ships, planes, and even submarines to help ply their trade.

But they have a problem. They have staggering amounts of cash left they hardly know what to do with. There are only so many houses, private jets, luxury yachts and Rolex watches a man can use. Slamming suitcases of used notes onto bank counters is no longer viable, as large cash deposits are reported to the authorities, so they invest in the global economy by the back door.

Money laundering creates more crime. Dirty money is 'cleaned' by unorthodox property deals involving corruption, shady investments in art and antiques, and slipping fat brown envelopes under tables. It is used to start up hotels, restaurants, clubs, and pizza chains. Service industries and other business handling large amounts of cash on a daily basis are particularly attractive. But injecting huge amounts of untraceable paper money into labyrinthine business deals distorts the real economy. Often those businesses couldn't exist without what amounts to hidden subsidies. They operate in direct competition with businesses that have no such advantage. Bona fide businesses have to pay bills and staff out of what goes through the till, not what comes out of a mattress. Bad enough in normal times, in the midst of a financial crisis such clandestine deals can prove a deathblow to otherwise healthy enterprises.

Drug dealers aren't primarily interested in profiting from their investments immediately; they can wait. Their main purpose is to disguise the primary source of their tainted income. A climate facilitating violent criminals to make such investments is madness itself. They have the greatest vested interest in drug laws remaining as they are. They don't obey the law; they're drug barons. The only way to stop them is economically, to smash the supply lines by creating a regulated market.

The global war against drugs has been long and costly. So far, all the successes have been on the other side. If it is to be judged on results, it has been as miserable a failure as the global war on terrorism. Like terrorism, the drug menace is spreading throughout the world at an alarming rate and is a direct result of the draconian measures taken to stop it. Ignoring the scale of the defeat has left Mexico on the verge of being officially designated a failed state. The violence is spilling across the border into the US. Some US Government agencies are calling it the biggest threat to democracy the country faces.

Drug wars are claiming far more victims than drugs themselves. Last year over five thousand Mexicans lost their lives in what can only be described as warlords battling for turf. Torture, decapitation and murder are commonplace.

But Mexico isn't the only country where unsustainable numbers of police officers, judges, and government officials at local and national level are now in the pay of drug lords. Nigeria, Afghanistan, Colombia, and Pakistan all have regions where governments have lost control. In effect, these regions have become mini narco-states. The numbers are growing. Without all the fuss and bother of elections, drug dealers have taken over. Last year, things got bad enough in one large European metropolis for the army to be called out onto the streets. Naples is probably the worse, rather than an isolated, example of what lies in store for the rest of us.

On a local level, burglaries, assaults, street robberies, shoplifting, prostitution and protection rackets, are largely conducted by those controlling the drug trade, or drug addicts looking for cash to fuel their habits. They keep the fences of stolen goods in business. Gang warfare and most gun crime in the UK has a drug background.

In public, and in private, many police chiefs admit the war against drugs is unwinnable. The drug laws are unenforceable. Police time is being wasted and courts are being swamped unnecessarily. Valuable resources being wasted in tackling so-called 'global terrorism' while drug barons strut the boulevards of Marbella and Miami unmolested. Millions of pounds and countless man-hours are being squandered gathering intelligence on petty drug dealers instead of being invested in supervising distribution, along with rehabilitation schemes where required.

Drug users are no longer on the fringes of society; they form part of its very fabric. A drug user is just as likely to be a teacher, stockbroker or MP, as a homeless squatter living on social security. A sizeable proportion of the population, particularly the young, is being criminalised and alienated by the present lack of joined-up thinking. Essentially honest citizens are being saddled with unjustifiable criminal records and serving prison sentences. Not only does this damage their opportunities later in life; it can lead them into pursuing lives of crime for lack of other options.

Governments' fears and predictions of what might occur to society, were drugs legalised, are unfounded, and amount to pathological paranoia. Yet they bear an uncanny and ironic resemblance to what is actually happening while drugs remain illegal. Eradication of drugs having failed so dismally, it is time to look at alternatives.

We must stop treating drugs and their clients as the problem, and turn our attention to the organised criminal activity that is a direct result of the proscription of them. There are ways of solving problems other than all-out war.

Like any commodity that has a market, drugs should be regarded as an economic issue, not a moral one. The current arguments against drugs cannot be based on the unsustainable premise that all are bad for you while one drug is sold freely in supermarkets, corner shops and restaurants. The idea that alcohol is somehow better than other drugs is blatantly hypocritical and doesn't stand up. Where's the proof? Different drugs pose different risks and dangers, but those risks and dangers aren't necessarily greater than those of alcohol.

If we compare the social damage caused by drugs to the social damage caused by alcohol, from a disinterested perspective, a different picture emerges. To assess the problem properly we need to take away the hysterics and look at the pros and cons as we do with other sectors of the economy. The wider potential gains to society have to be weighed properly against the potential harm drugs cause.

Of course there are adverse effects to taking drugs, as there are with alcohol. There are adverse effects to driving. The numbers of deaths directly caused by the ingestion of drugs pales into insignificance against the numbers of deaths on the roads. Not only that, whereas death on the roads involves a high percentage of people who aren't driving, nearly all drug-related deaths occur at the hands of the person knowingly taking those drugs. Those that aren't, fit into the category of murder, or unlawful killing, the same way as driving a car at someone with the deliberate intent of causing death does. Most drivers don't set out to cause injury or death; neither do most drug users.

The reason we accept the death rate caused by traffic is because society considers the benefits of driving outweigh the risks. Many of those benefits are economic. They come in the form of tax revenues, manufacturing, distribution and service jobs. Others include the ability to commute freely and recreational activities. But few governments bother to put the immense cost of global warming into the equation, nor the strain on emergency services, the energy crisis, pollution and the negative effects on health. If we apply the same criteria to cars as we apply to drugs ie: the threats they pose to the health and security of the nation, cars would be banned tomorrow.

As far as violence against the person is concerned, alcohol presents a far greater danger to society than cannabis. Incidents of violence, crime, preventable physical and mental diseases, and days lost at work are increased dramatically through misuse of alcohol.

Excessive drinking over long periods of time has led to domestic violence, child abuse and the break-up of families. By ignoring the social and economic benefits of drug deregulation while tolerating the problems caused by alcohol, not only are our politicians effectively putting drug policy in the hands of the drug barons, but they are also putting the health, safety and lives of citizens at risk. Present legislation gives the impression drinking alcohol is safer than taking drugs. When all factors are taken into consideration that isn't a clear-cut case.

Recent reports have suggested - to the relief of many reformed hippies of the 1960's and 70's, and probably compiled by them - today's varieties of cannabis are far stronger than in the days of flower power. Well, whisky's a lot stronger than beer, so sensible drinkers don't drink it by the pint.

Without regulation and proper control, consumers are often unaware of the strength of the drugs they consume, which accounts for a large proportion of deaths from overdose of heroin. The same applies to ecstasy; yet, despite press hysteria, recorded deaths attributed to overdosing on ecstasy are nowhere near deaths attributed to alcohol. Legislation would ensure that the products were not only free from dangerous additives, but that the strength was indicated in the same way as alcohol. Like tobacco, health warnings would be prominently displayed.

In such reports a lot of emphasis has been placed on the fact that cannabis use can trigger schizophrenia and cause psychotic behaviour. But schizophrenia can be triggered by a variety of drugs - including prescribed drugs - and other conditions, such as stress. The answer is for schizophrenics to be advised of the dangers. The notion most schizophrenics can never make rational choices is as patronising as it is false. It presupposes all alcoholics are making a rational choice in drinking too much. Alcohol is well-known for producing psychotic behaviour when drunk irresponsibly, yet nobody suggests alcoholics should not be given that choice, or is seeking to ban it for that reason. If it's a question of the worst evil, then the worst evil is prohibition.

Prohibition laws against the production and vending of alcohol were introduced to the US in 1919. They were revoked in 1933, four years after the Wall Street Crash of 1929. They didn't prevent drinking, but they did make it easy for the Mafia to become the most powerful criminal organisation the world had ever seen. When prohibition ended, the Mafia didn't disband, they moved into the lucrative drugs, extortion, and protection rackets. Other international criminal organisations such as the Chinese Triads, the Russian Mafiya, the Yardies, the Comorra, the Medellin and Cali Cartels have taken up the baton. As things stand, some of them pose a serious threat to democracy.

Drug consumption is rising and will rise even further as the financial crisis really bites. People drink more and take more drugs in times of stress. As people feel the pinch more will turn to drug dealing as a means of income. It's not a theory, it's happened and it's happening.

The high moral ground assumed by a majority of governments is akin to having a Temperance Society formulate drink laws. In leaving the distribution of drugs in the hands of drug barons we have turned the running of the asylum over to the inmates. The term 'controlled substances' is risible. They are completely out of real control and that is the problem.

It is impossible to conduct a rational debate on the morals of consuming drugs in a situation created by the legislation against them. The only relevant argument in the present climate has to begin with the advantages and harms of drugs remaining criminalised against the advantages and harms of decriminalisation. At the moment all benefits appear to be in favour of the billionaire global traffickers. Even users suffer by the trade being in their hands. They are often cheated, robbed, and on occasion, poisoned or murdered by dealers.

Critics against legalisation point the finger at Holland to show it hasn't worked. Little wonder, one country in Europe surrounded by other countries with populations seeking to get high without the threat of arrest, attracts drug tourism. If Germany, Belgium, Britain and France had legalised spliff, at the same time, there wouldn't have been a problem. It's not the Dutch; it's the rest of us. Inevitably along with drug tourists came drug criminals to prey on a centralised market. Nevertheless, loosening up legislation hasn't resulted in lawless bands controlling large areas of Holland.

A fresh look at the way we deal with the drug problem is imperative. There are no panaceas; legislation to decriminalise and control more addictive drugs such as heroin and cocaine will be difficult, but not impossible.

Change requires international co-operation at government level. It screams for imagination, and courageous statesmen. The governments of producer nations should be consulted and asked to draw up plans to oversee farming and guarantee quality control. Growers, manufacturers and retailers must be vetted and be able to show they have never been involved in the illicit supply of drugs. Duties and taxes must be set at a price that doesn't encourage users to overuse, but neither must it be so expensive as to stimulate a black market. It's up to trade partnerships, such as the EU, to begin serious debate. The first to take up the challenge will have an advantage in a global market.

It's all very nice for governments to 'protect' drug users from themselves, but what about protecting non-users from the much greater threat illicit drug dealing creates in their neighbourhoods? The issue is no longer how bad drugs are for users but how bad does the situation have to get before the health and security of non-users is taken into consideration.

If we really want a society without excessive alcohol or drug consumption it must come through choice and not imposition. A society that feels the need for too much alcohol, illegal - or even legally prescribed - drugs, is by definition a sick society. We are administering temporary cures to ourselves on an increasingly regular basis. The real cure is to look at the way we lead our lives and the satisfaction we obtain from them. With or without it, for better or worse, drugs and alcohol - legal or illegal - will always play a part in our lives to a greater or lesser extent. The biggest danger comes from peddling the myth, not the drugs.

© 2009 Bryan Hemming
Reprinted with permission from author

11 February 2009

The Listening Post - Gaza and the media - 6 Feb 09

On The Listening Post this week, the BBC's decision not to air a Gaza appeal and the role the media should play in times of man-made disasters. We also look at the takeover of the London Evening Standard by the Russian billionaire and former KGB agent, Alexander Lebedev.

E-mail to Reuters


RE: FACTBOX: Five facts on Israel's Avigdor Lieberman
Sun Feb 8, 2009 8:55am EST

It is highly instructive that your factbox is limited to 5 facts. Why were only 5 facts chosen and those 5 facts in particular?

Considering this is an election why did you leave out the most pertinent facts?

One of those is that Mr. Lieberman is the subject of an investigation being carried out by the Israeli National Unit for Fraud Investigation. He is suspected of money laundering, fraud and breach of trust. The authorities have already detained seven people for questioning as part of the investigation, including his daughter Michal and his attorney Yoav Meni.

Haaretz stated: "Sources in the national fraud squad said Sunday that the evidence gathered against Lieberman in recent months was far more serious and substantial than anything that has been previously published...international nature, encompassing countries from Cyprus to Ukraine".

Interesting that Reuters does not think this an important fact to be revealed.

But that's not all. You state in your factbox. "While a student in Jerusalem, he began his career as an activist in the right-wing Likud party of then Prime Minister Menachem Begin."

Yet we found out a few days ago in the Israeli press that he in fact "began his career as an activist" with the Kach movement of dead terrorist Kahane: "he handed out the movement's publications among its small student group at the Hebrew University."

Handing out a movement's publications at University is normally called activism, which means that as a student Lieberman was also an activist for a terrorist organisation, yet again you do not feel this worth mentioning.

Reuters is beginning to appear to the reader as a highly biased and untrustworthy source. I would appreciate receiving your comments on this.

05 February 2009

Listening Post - Manipulating the media - 30 Jan 09

In the aftermath of the Gaza conflict, Al Jazeera's The Listening Post asks whether the media were manipulated and speaks to Avital Leibovich, a prominent Israeli spokesperson during the latest attacks.

04 February 2009

The Magnes Zionist: The Author of the the IDF’s Code of Ethics “Doesn’t Know” If It is Observed

The Magnes Zionist: The Author of the the IDF’s Code of Ethics “Doesn’t Know” If It is Observed

Religious groups are ‘penetrating’ Israeli army

As I pointed out yesterday in my post "Israeli war criminal flees London", "We now know that the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) have been infiltrated by the radical fundamentalists in the settler movement. And they have infiltrated with the full connivance of the Israeli state."

Jonathan Cook has a similar view in his article in the National: "Religious groups are ‘penetrating’ Israeli army".

In it Cook states "Extremist rabbis and their followers, bent on waging holy war against the Palestinians, are taking over the Israeli army by stealth, according to critics. In a process one military historian has termed the rapid “theologisation” of the Israeli army, there are now entire units of religious combat soldiers, many of them based in West Bank settlements. They answer to hardline rabbis who call for the establishment of a Greater Israel that includes the occupied Palestinian territories. Their influence in shaping the army’s goals and methods is starting to be felt, said observers, as more and more graduates from officer courses are also drawn from Israel’s religious extremist population."

Cook also cites Dr. Yigal Levy as saying "We have reached the point where a critical mass of religious soldiers is trying to negotiate with the army about how and for what purpose military force is employed on the battlefield."

Cook again: "The new atmosphere was evident in the “excessive force” used in the recent Gaza operation, Dr Levy said. More than 1,300 Palestinians were killed, a majority of them civilians, and thousands were injured as whole neighbourhoods of Gaza were levelled. “When soldiers, including secular ones, are imbued with theological ideas, it makes them less sensitive to human rights or the suffering of the other side.”"

I have to point out here though that Dr. Levy is also on record as saying that the "increased sensitivity to casualties gave priority to the use of lethal weapons that do not involve any risk to the troops...The fear of incurring casualties and the consequent curtailing of the army operation ahead of optimal timing led to massive barrages of fire whenever there was a fear of suspected Hamas fighters. This policy increased the extent of civilian casualties," so although the religious element is certainly the most important aspect, we also have the element of cowardice. They want to fight a war with little or no harm to themselves, and its not important how many civilians they massacre.

Back to Cook: "The greater role of extremist religious groups in the army came to light last week when it emerged that the army rabbinate had handed out a booklet to soldiers preparing for the recent 22-day Gaza offensive."

In fact, this came to light before then as this Jerusalem Post article shows: "IDF Rabbinate uses scriptures to boost soldiers' morale", and it wasn't just booklets:

"In what some called the theologizing of warfare and others called a boost to Jewish battle morale, 10,000 MP3s with recorded sermons of encouragement by the chief rabbis of Israel were prepared this week for distribution to combat soldiers - religious and secular, Jewish and gentile - presently serving in Gaza...

The recording of the rabbis and plans for the distribution of the MP3 were organized by the IDF's Jewish Consciousness Field (JCF) [Tchum Toda'ah Yehudit], a division of the IDF's Rabbinate.

An anonymous donor or group of donors provided the IDF with the MP3s free of charge.

In addition to the MP3s, the JCF also distributed to IDF rabbis in the field in Gaza a pamphlet entitled "Jewish Consciousness Emphases for Cast Lead."

In the pamphlet, the IDF rabbis are addressed as "Anointed Priests of War."

Back to Cook again: "Breaking the Silence, a project run by soldiers seeking to expose the army’s behaviour against Palestinians, said the booklet handed out to troops in Gaza had originated among Hebron’s settlers.

“The document has been around since at least 2003,” said Mikhael Manekin, 29, one of the group’s directors and himself religiously observant. “But what is new is that the army has been effectively subcontracted to promote the views of the extremist settlers to its soldiers.”

The power of the religious right in the army reflected wider social trends inside Israel, Dr Levy said. He pointed out that the rural cooperatives known as kibbutzim that were once home to Israel’s secular middle classes and produced the bulk of its officer corps had been on the wane since the early 1980s.

“The vacuum left by their gradual retreat from the army was filled by religious youngsters and by the children of the settlements. They now dominate in many branches of the army.”

According to figures cited in the Israeli media, more than one-third of all Israel’s combat soldiers are religious, as are more than 40 per cent of those graduating from officer courses.

The army has encouraged this trend by creating some two dozen hesder yeshivas, seminaries in which youths can combine Biblical studies with army service in separate religious units. Many of the yeshivas are based in the West Bank, where students are educated by the settlements’ extremist rabbis.

Ehud Barak, the defence minister, has rapidly expanded the programme, approving four yeshivas, three based in settlements, last summer. Another 10 are reportedly awaiting his approval.

Mr Manekin, however, warned against blaming the violence inflicted on Gaza’s civilians solely on the influence of religious extremists.

“The army is still run by the secular elites in Israel and they have always been reckless with regard to the safety of civilians when they wage war. Jewish nationalism that justifies Palestinian deaths is just as dangerous as religious extremism.

Yes, I agree. But the real danger comes when the two are combined as we have seen in Gaza!


Other items of interest today include the outing of Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman as a Kahane supporter: "Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman was once a member of the outlawed far-right party Kach, the movement's former secretary general revealed on Tuesday. ..The revelation came one day after Israel's most recognizable television anchor, Haim Yavin, branded Lieberman as "Kahane's successor," a reference to the murdered extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane, who headed Kach movement. "

Just to remind readers that Kach "is a hard-line Israeli militant group that advocates for the expulsion of Arabs from the biblical lands of Israel. The U.S. State Department listed it as a terrorist organization in 1994. Kach, as well as the splinter group Kahane Chai, condones violence as a viable method for establishing a religiously homogenous state."

We see that the continuing war crimes accusations have rattled Israel. Good.The gangster state needs a good lesson.

03 February 2009

Israeli war criminal flees London

Religious extremist settler and war criminal Col. (res.) Geva Rapp has fled the UK with his tail between his legs like the true 'hero' he is. The Jerusalem Post: "An Israeli colonel involved in Operation Cast Lead returned to Israel in haste on Friday, fearing arrest on charges of war crimes during a visit to the UK. "

This is the man who lead a part of the child-killing Israeli reserve rabble in the recent massacres in Gaza or as Haaretz described it "
the mass killing of innocent people".

He came to London as part of the Israeli government's propaganda offensive throughtout the whole world, to speak to
the Jewish London Student Centre, almost certainly to prime them for their 'hasbara' duties, "to explain Israel's position and refute media representations of the hostilities".

Thanks to the actions of about 100 people from the Stop The War Coalition, his talk was called off. (Note by the way the misleading Standard description of him as 'retired' - he's actually in the reserve. Also note the description by Gen. Yigael Yadin, a former chief of staff of the Israel Occupation Forces (IOF): "The civilian is a soldier on 11 months' annual leave.")

We now know that the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) have been infiltrated by the radical fundamentalists in the settler movement. And they have infiltrated with the full connivance of the Israeli state. The problem is these settlers are a law unto themselves.

Dr. Yagil Levy, a political sociologist at the Open University in Israel, says that about 15% of the soldiers in fighting units are national-religious, as are 50% of the low- and middle-ranking officers in some regiments. He explains that after the Lebanon war, the liberal, upper-middle-class Ashkenazi young, who used to form the majority of soldiers in the fighting units, lost interest in the army and therefore enlisted in far lower numbers. The national-religious young took their place. He says that the army command has found them to be the most loyal and reliable soldiers, especially in assignments in occupied territories.

He explains:

"Relations between the army, the settlers and the Palestinians, as they are reflected in the events of recent months, clearly illustrate...the disintegration of the army when it comes to its control over forces".

He continues.

"The bias of the army is naturally in favor of the settlers, over the Palestinians. This bias was strengthened by the deployment of the military force in three circles. The first circle is regional defense, reserve units, made up of settlers, that participate in the settlements' daily defense. In this context, the army entrusted the settlers with weapons as reserve soldiers, and the result was the growth of armed militias in the territories. These settlers constitute a human shield against the majority Arab population, a service they were to provide in exchange for generous subsidies from the state, channeled to the settlements and to their armed residents. The army has limited control over the activity of these militias, under whose aegis settlers harm Palestinians, seize control of land, and the like.

The second circle is composed of the six policing battalions that regularly serve in the territories and are united in the framework of the Kfir Brigade. The regular deployment of a military force within a civilian community that it is supposed to protect, blurs the boundaries between the settlers and the soldiers. The blurring is physical, since many settlers serve in these units as well, some of the units are deployed in the settlements themselves, settlements have been built on army bases, etc. But it is also cultural, insofar as the commanders try to maintain proper relations with the settlers.

In addition, a significant percentage of the soldiers in the policing battalions are graduates of yeshivas whose ideological bias is clear, and who are subject to external rabbinical influence, while half the battalion commanders of the Kfir Brigade are Orthodox.

The third circle is that of other units, reservists and regular army, who reinforce the activity in the territories. About half of the graduates of the officers training school Bahad 1 are religious; the graduates of the Orthodox mekhinot (pre-army programs combining study and military preparation) and the hesder yeshivas (combining study and military service) constitute over 10 percent of the army's combat force; the settlers constitute about 5 percent of combat soldiers (some overlapping the previous statistic), 1.3 times their proportion of the general population. A large percentage of these groups man the infantry brigades, which occasionally carry out activity in the territories. This percentage has grown as the "motivation crisis" among the established secular population has increased. What motivates the young religious men to enlist is not the need to protect the Palestinian olive pickers, or the desire to evacuate the Federman farm, but the desire to "protect our home.

The 2005 report prepared by Talia Sasson about the illegal outposts presented a picture of dual networks - a formal and an informal one - when it comes to the political-military control of the settlement project. Commenting on the fact that the army refrains from enforcing the law, the report said: "'The spirit of the commander ... means that IDF soldiers must not examine the deeds of the settlers through the eyes of the law, since the settlers are carrying out a Zionist act in building the outposts, although it is illegal."

The unavoidable conclusion is that the military command is losing control over its forces in the West Bank. Whether the army and the politicians responsible for it admit it or not, a central consideration in refraining from evacuating illegal settlements is the simple understanding that the army lacks any real ability to carry out the evacuation without encountering massive refusal on the part of recruits, on whom, according to the army, it is dependent for manning its high-quality manpower reserves in a future war.

Let Col. Rapp be under no illusions. He is a war criminal and if he sets foot in Europe he will be arrested.

01 February 2009

Gaza - What the Israelis didn't want us to see. Jon Sistiaga

This is a programme that was shown last night on Spanish TV station Cuatro. Its a report by Jon Sistiaga, one of the best war reporters on Spanish TV. He was in the Hotel Palestine when it was shelled by the Americans - indeed the shell killed his cameraman José Couso.

This is his report on Gaza. WARNING. There are scenes that can seriously break your heart. The small girls pain having their burns dressings changed is heartwrenching.

It is in Spanish but the images do not need translation. We see the Gaza shrimp fishermen shelled for straying out a few yards to fish. We see 12 year-old Zinab who in ten hours went from a child to an adult - both her parents were killed, and we see the poor little burnt girls screaming their heads off with pain. We also see the smug war criminals in their offices pontificating and doing Goebbals proud, and the child-killers before their attack helicopters trying to convince themselves they're really heroes.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five