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الجمعة، 28 يونيو، 2013

The house encircled by the Wall

The house encircled by the Wall

by Haim Schwarczenberg and Noa Shaindlinger

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June 23, 2013

"No one is coming this way, not even the alternative tours groups," explained Claire wistfully and sighed, as she unlocked the door to her gift shop.
I first met Claire Anastas in 2010, when I was taken to see Israel’s separation wall in Bethlehem. A Bethlehem native, Claire’s extended family made their livelihood catering to tourists, mainly Christians, visiting local venerated sights, from the Nativity Church to Rachel’s tomb. Her street-level store offers a myriad of souvenirs and handmade crafts of interest to tourists, including artifacts skillfully created by impoverished communities in need, which in turn benefit from their sales. The top floors are shared by Claire, her mother, husband and children in one apartment and her brother-in-law and his family in another. The rest of the building is used as a guesthouse, where Claire offers her guests home-made organic meals and comfort.
Claire’s family business though fell victim to Israel’s decision to enclose the West Bank by a network of walls and fences, ostensibly for 'security reasons.’ However, countless undocumented Palestinian labourers, sneaking daily into Israel in search of casual work (as the recent Israeli documentary film 'White Night’ demonstrates) are the ultimate proof that the construction of the wall was politically motivated and serves as a means for further land grab. The imposing wall, complete with numerous surveillance cameras, is located not even five meters from the store front, encircling the building on three sides, leaving only a narrow asphalt road which makes it difficult to access by car, let alone by tour buses. I took this photograph back in 2011, during my third visit. I was appalled by Claire's plight and the callousness of Israeli decision makers, their casual redesigning of space utterly destroying people’s lives.
I decided to pay her another visit today to see how she is doing and show solidarity. It was gut-wrenching to see her shop locked in the middle of the day so well into the tourist season. When word got to her, probably through the children playing outside in the claustrophobic front path, there are visitors, she hurried down to greet us and open her shop.
I asked her how she was doing, but I already noted the anguish on her face. In her eloquent and friendly manner, Claire shared some of her woes with us. Her guesthouse is empty these days, even though she should be booked for the summer. Visitors at the shop are few and far in between. Her desperation has become so great she is offering overseas shipping of merchandise sold at the store.
An item on a shelf caught my eye. It was a wooden-carved nativity scene, but with a removable replica of the wall. The artifact managed to capture the multi-layered ironies of life under occupation in the shadow of the separation wall yet still offered a glimmer of hope for a better future. The real-life wall, adorned with artistic graffiti as well as blowups of photos documenting its construction, disrupts Claire’s everyday life in every possible way imaginable.
"They installed a camera overlooking straight into our bathroom," she told us. The Israeli military, which maintains a heavy presence in the immediate vicinity of the house, follows her closely. When Bob Simon’s piece on her life in the shadow of the wall aired on CBS’ 60 Minutes [Christians in the Holy Land], she was called for an interrogation, since the story, viewed by approximately 70 million households in the US, apparently embarrassed the State of Israel. When she installed a basketball hoop on the wall for her children, she was likewise interrogated. The hoop was still there today.
"You are my hope," Claire concluded before we departed. "People like you who come and support us. I believe peace will finally come through your activism." Claire’s house is located on Hebron road, Bethlehem. Please visit the store and guesthouse, or shop online http://www.anastas-bethlehem.com/


This story, written in collaboration with Noa Shaindlinger, and photograph first appeared on Haim Schwarczenberg's facebook page


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The Palestinians' last option: A struggle for equal rights

The Palestinians' last option: A struggle for equal rights

Ghada Karmi

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June 23, 2013

Palestinians must shed the illusion of the current peace process and at least push for equitable rights.
Once upon a time, Palestine was the Arab world's unifying cause. Justice for the Palestinians was considered a basic pre-requisite for regional stability and peace, and it was an idea that had global resonance. Today, the picture is different and the Palestinian cause has been falling off the political agenda ever since the onset of the Arab Spring, the Syrian conflict, and Israel's success in placing Iran's nuclear programme at the centre stage.
This month, a study by the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies confirms this slide. A survey of over 20,000 respondents in 14 Arab countries revealed a widespread engagement, not with Palestine, but with the Arab revolutions and their future, with Syria and the need for democratic systems of government. Only a third cited Israel as the greatest regional threat, about the same percentage as Iran amongst those living in Iraq and the Gulf.
This change comes on top of a gradual loss of Palestinian unity due to the fragmentation of Palestinian society into those under occupation, divided between the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, those in Israel, those in refugee camps and the rest in exile. The result has been increasingly to replace the national cause with local causes. For example, in November 2012 and again last week demonstrations against economic hardship erupted in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority has a $4.2 billion debt and a World Bank report in March found an economic slowdown, with low exports and long term unemployment; Gaza is isolated and besieged and survives largely on a tunnel smuggling economy. In such circumstances it is hardly surprising that people's top priority should be how to feed their families, and Palestinian communities elsewhere will have likewise developed their own local priorities.
 Al-Nakba, episode 1
Palestinians will need to act urgently if their cause is not to be finally buried. The fact that the West is still engaged in trying to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a cause for optimism. It does not signify a revival of the Palestine cause's centrality, but a push for an end to the conflict on terms most favourable to Israel. The US and Europe, with the recent addition of China, have been urging a renewal of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has visited the region half a dozen times in this endeavour, and has pledged $4 billion in aid to encourage the PA. In April, an Arab delegation was in Washington to present a revised Arab Peace Plan which offered Israel a land swap with the Palestinians, hoping to draw it into peace talks. More recently Sweden, with the same aim, decided to punish the Palestinians for failing to negotiate with Israel by possibly reducing their aid by 200 million kronor ($30 million).
What these parties are pushing for is the two-state solution which has dominated the political discourse for decades and has never, even partially, been realised. Nevertheless, the international consensus still holds that this solution is the only way forward. Yet a glance at the map will show that no such solution is possible.
Currently, the West Bank and East Jerusalem house some 500,000 Jewish settlers living in more than 130 settlements dispersed throughout these areas. In Jerusalem, many settler groups have infiltrated the Old City and the Arab neighbourhoods still left unoccupied by Israel. Another thousand settler homes are planned for June. Gaza, an essential part of any future Palestinian state, is besieged and cut off from the West Bank, and is governed by a Hamas government split off from the Fatah-dominated PA in the West Bank and likely to remain so.
Two-state solution unlikely
Since the reality on the ground precludes a two-state solution as envisaged in the Arab peace plan - a Palestinian state on the 1967 territories with East Jerusalem as its capital - what is the basis for the continued push towards this solution? It can only be that a variation that suits Israel better is the real plan. This would allow for Israel to keep Area C, 62 percentof the West Bank, as repeatedly advocated by Israel's trade minister, Naftalie Bennett, leaving a Palestinian "state" of West Bank enclaves separated by Israeli-held territory, to which Gaza might possibly be connected.
Since these West Bank enclaves could not be viable on their own, their economic and social ties and their access to the outside world would be with Jordan. Gaza's extension would be towards Egypt, as Israel has always wanted, and Jerusalem would remain under Israel's total control. Many reports have quoted such ideas, vigorously repudiated by Jordan and Egypt. But one must assume that the US is pushing for a way to appease Israel and yet offer the Palestinians something, hoping thereby to wrap up the Palestine issue for good. No other land permutation is possible if Israeli settlements remain and no pressure is applied to make Israel remove them.
The fear many Palestinian have is that their leadership, currently unelected and unrepresentative, and they suspect only wishes to stay in power whatever the cost to the national cause, might agree to a version of such a plan whatever their patriotic utterances. In such circumstances, Palestinians must realise that time is not on their side and doing nothing in the face of these plots is not an option for them. The present situation could not be better for Israel and its allies: a docile Palestinian leadership which creates an illusion of equivalence between occupier and occupied, relieving Israel of its legal responsibilities as an occupying power; an endless peace process that gives cover for Israel's colonisation; international inaction; and a fragmented Palestinian people unable to resist. They are the big losers in this arrangement, and they must be the ones to bring it down. What should they do?
An apartheid state
Israel/Palestine is today one state. But it is an apartheid state which discriminates against non-Jews in favour of Jews. The Palestinian task now is to fight against this apartheid and mount a struggle, not for an impossible Palestinian state, but for equal rights under Israeli rule. They would need to dismantle the Palestinian Authority, which is now a liability that only camouflages the true situation, and then confront Israel, their actual ruler, directly. As stateless people under military occupation, they must demand equal civil and political rights with Israeli citizens, and apply for Israeli citizenship if necessary. That puts the onus on Israel to respond: either to ignore the five million Palestinians it rules, or vacate their land, or grant them equal rights.
Israel will reject all of these, but whatever it does will be against its own interests. And Palestinians at one stroke will have broken up Israel's hegemonic hold on the political discourse and changed the rules of the lethal game being played against them.
This strategy will not be popular amongst Palestinians, nor will they want to become second-class Israeli citizens. But are their lives now under occupation any better? And is there another option given the present conditions? I would argue that by adopting this plan, they will lose nothing but their illusions, and at this serious juncture in Palestinian history, it may be the only way to avert the annihilation of their cause. It will be a hard road, but the one chance to build a democratic state that replaces apartheid Israel and eventually enables the refugees to return to their ancestral homeland.
Dr Ghada Karmi is the author of  Married to Another Man: Israel's Dilemma in Palestine.   

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Report: Man who executed Saddam Hussein killed in Iraq

Report: Man who executed Saddam Hussein killed in Iraq

Al Arabiya

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The masked man standing on the left side of the former Iraqi President, slipping the noose around his neck, has been killed, according to Baath Party. (Al Arabiya)

June 23, 2013
One of the executioners involved in the hanging of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been killed, the outlawed Baath Party said in a statement on Friday.

While not providing a date for when the executioner was killed, the statement identified him as Mohammed Nassif al-Maliki, who allegedly appeared in the video of Saddam’s execution.

The statement said Maliki was the masked man standing on the left side of the former Iraqi strongman and slipping the noose around his neck.

In the report, posted on the party’s official website, a "well-informed" source was cited as saying that "party members killed Mohammed Nassif al-Maliki, near Yusufiyah city (about 25 km southwest of, Baghdad)."

Iraqi officials have not commented on the reports of Maliki’s death.

The site mentioned that before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Maliki used to sell vegetables in the country’s Karbala province.
After Saddam’s execution, he joined Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s bodyguards and was granted the rank of captain after leading the former Iraqi president to the gallows, the report stated.

Earlier this year, Iraq's cabinet unveiled sweeping reforms to a law barring members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party from public life as part of moves to placate angry rallies by the country’s Sunni Arab minority.


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الخميس، 27 يونيو، 2013

Lebanese army seals parliament after protests, Syria-linked tension

Lebanese army seals parliament after protests, Syria-linked tension

Protesters stage a sit-in demonstration against the postponement of June's parliamentary election until next year, near the parliament building in Beirut, June 21, 2013. REUTERS-Sharif Karim
BEIRUT | Fri Jun 21, 2013 4:54pm EDT
(Reuters) - The Lebanese army sealed off Beirut's parliamentary district with razor wire and threatened stern action against violence on Friday after a night of unrest stoked by the war in Syria and political paralysis at home.
Around 100 protesters, angered by the postponement of June's parliamentary election until next year, scuffled with police on Thursday night near parliament. Twenty camped out overnight outside the ring of barbed wire, vowing to maintain the protest.
As the largely peaceful demonstration unfolded in central Beirut, protesters blocked roads with burning tires elsewhere in the capital and in Bekaa Valley towns in eastern Lebanon.
Demonstrators said they were acting in solidarity with residents of the Sunni Muslim Bekaa town of Arsal, which they say has been cut off by security forces investigating the shooting of four Shi'ite Muslim men on Sunday.
Sectarian violence has intensified across Lebanon and particularly in the Bekaa region because of the conflict raging across the border in Syria, where Lebanon's Shi'ite militia Hezbollah and Lebanese Sunni gunmen have joined opposing sides of the 27-month-old civil war.
Rockets from suspected Syrian rebel positions have hit Shi'ite towns in Lebanon since Hezbollah intervened decisively to recapture the Syrian border town of Qusair for President Bashar al-Assad's forces earlier this month.
The army also discovered a rocket launcher in an area east of Beirut on Friday. The rocket was still in place, and apparently had not gone off due to a technical fault, a security source said.
The fighting in Syria has already driven half a million Syrian refugees into Lebanon and worsened a political stalemate which forced the election delay and held up efforts to form a new government. Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a Sunni leader, warned this week of the potential for "state collapse".
President Michel Suleiman has appealed to Hezbollah to bring its fighters home from Syria, saying that further entanglement there by the Iranian-backed movement will fuel instability in Lebanon, still scarred by its own 1975-1990 civil war.
ARMY WILL CONFRONT "OUTLAWS"
The army said several military posts and patrols were targeted on Thursday night by protesters, some of them armed, and four soldiers were wounded in exchanges of gunfire.
Security sources said at least two demonstrators were hurt in a protest near the main border crossing with Syria at Masnaa.
"The army leadership again urges citizens to be calm and not to follow rumors and sectarian emotions," the military said in a statement. "It will not be lenient in confronting with force any outlaws or those who harm the armed forces."
The statement said gunmen fired on army posts in three towns close to the Masnaa border crossing early on Friday. The army returned fire and arrested 22 suspects in raids following the incidents.
Travelers trying to reach Lebanon from Syria on Friday morning said the frontier was closed for several hours due to the skirmishes, but reopened later in the day.
Army commander General Jean Kahwaji was quoted by the local As-Safir newspaper as saying the military would not tolerate any threats to Lebanon's security during what he described as "very critical and very difficult" times.
In central Beirut, activists said they would keep up their protest against the 17-month extension of parliament, agreed by politicians after they failed to break a deadlock over planned changes to the electoral law.
"We called for a protest yesterday against the extension and against the violation on Lebanon's democracy," protester Marwan Maalouf said. "This is a new coup against the republic.
"Security forces used force against the protesters so we decided to set up tents here in a peaceful way to protest the extension. There is a year and a half, we won't let them rest."
(Editing by Alistair Lyon)

Business as usual

Business as usual 
A civil society protester tries to remove barbed wire while wearing a Turkish flag during a demonstration protesting the extension of parliament’s mandate, near Parliament in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, June 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
A civil society protester tries to remove barbed wire while wearing a Turkish flag during a demonstration protesting the extension of parliament’s mandate, near Parliament in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, June 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
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The extension of Parliament is a fait accompli, but instead of meeting those on the streets with resistance, the passion of the protesters must be harnessed to ensure these next 17 months actually achieve something for the country, through democratic measures.
It is unnecessary to dwell on Parliament’s failures over the last four years: sadly the evidence is there for everyone to see, whether in the security situation across the country, the lack of tourists on the streets and the hotels and restaurants forced to close.
But what’s done is done and the only way to salvage an already dire situation is if the members of Parliament now work together, and prioritize the interests of the country as a whole over their own or those of their parties or sects.
All the dirty rhetoric and politicking of the last few months – the bickering and squabbling which has, at times, turned Parliament into a playground – must now be forgotten. And if the admirable members of Parliament genuinely are unable to defuse tension in the country, the very least they can do is refrain from contributing to it, and fueling the fire.
The first task must be the creation of a new electoral law, and then steps taken to prepare for elections, and presidential elections. Too often in this country’s past important posts have been left vacant, but at this juncture in time, Lebanon can no longer afford this luxury.
The absence of a fully functioning Cabinet and the flaky parliamentary situation are each affecting each other and impacting on each other. Without one issue being addressed, the other will fester, so the creation of a new government must happen soon too.
In the second half of this last parliamentary term the security crisis in the country has continued to escalate. If the country continues at the rate of the last two years, with new, and increasingly violent incidents every day, Lebanon will fall too far to save.
If there is not a serious effort, an honest effort, by Parliament to address the security situation in the country, and put Lebanese interests above all others, then who knows where Lebanon is headed.
The last decades have shown that Lebanon’s democratic system often fails. While outside actors and governments have often contributed to this, they frequently also help stabilize the situation. With so much of the region currently wrapped up in its own concerns, or those of its neighbors, Lebanon must now work for itself.
This turn of events should not be lamented, but rather it should be seen as a positive opportunity for the country to do its own bidding, to work for its own aims and no one else’s. Members of Parliament, representing their citizens, must now work together to achieve this. The task is not an easy one, but it is the only option.


Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Editorial/2013/Jun-22/221209-business-as-usual.ashx#ixzz2XRDFaOwA
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb) 

The spirit of protest in Brazil and Turkey has now swept into Bulgaria

The spirit of protest in Brazil and Turkey has now swept into Bulgaria

Tens of thousands of Bulgarians are voicing their anger over political corruption, abuse of power and economic hardship





Bulgaria protest
Demonstrators carry a Bulgarian flag during a protest in Sofia in May 2013. Photograph: Valentina Petrova/AP
In recent weeks the world has been transfixed by protests in Turkey andBrazil. Fewer media outlets have reported on the anti-government protests in Bulgaria, now well into their second week. But make no mistake about it: Bulgaria is undergoing a profound crisis of representation.
Every night for more than a week up to 10,000 people have taken to the streets of Sofia, initially protesting against the appointment on 14 June of the media oligarch Delyan Peevski as Bulgaria's "security tsar", the head of the State Agency for National Security (Dans), the Bulgarian CIA.
Peevski, who is 32, comes from a well-connected family that owns Bulgaria's largest newspaper and television group (it controls 80% of print media in the country) and has no experience in the security sector. In 2007 he was sacked from his post as deputy minister and investigated for attempted blackmail. He is an MP for the ethnic Turkish party, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), which supports the prime minister Plamen Oresharski's governing coalition, led by the Bulgarian Socialist party (BSP). His appointment took place without a debate in the National Assembly.
Dans is the agency responsible both for Bulgaria's internal and external security. Its role was elevated significantly in the wake of the terrorist attack on Burgas airport in July 2012 (attributed to Hezbollah) which killed five Israeli tourists and their Bulgarian bus driver. This executive role has been strengthened even further recently after controversial amendments in the Dans legislation were signed giving the organisation responsibility for dealing with organised crime.
Bulgarians are protesting against far-reaching and systematic corruption and the "capture" of the state by rent-seeking oligarchic networks. Oresharski was appointed by the BSP to head a so-called "expert" government, after a general election in April produced a tight outcome. The technocratic government came about because the leading figures within the two largest political parties, the BSP and the centre-right Gerb (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) were widely discredited. And although the prime minister has now withdrawn the appointment of Peevski, for protesters the episode suggested that even respected figures like Oresharski are incapable of shaking off the shadowy world of oligarchic power in Bulgaria.
In Bulgaria it is often impossible to know where organised crime ends and legitimate business begins. The nexus between the two is characterised by complex bureaucratic structures, opaque corporate accounting and a maze of offshore accounts. In Varna, Bulgaria's third largest city, the protests have taken direct aim at TIM, a business conglomerate allied to Gerb and long the real power in the region. Some estimates suggest that it controls up to 70% of Varna's economy, including most of the tourist infrastructure. When protesters in Varna yell "M-A-F-I-A" they are automatically collapsing business into politics and implicating local municipal officials as the agents of this powerful oligarchic network.
Varna perfectly illustrates why the current protests are largely non-party-policitical and anti-politics in tone: the definitive division in today's Bulgaria is no longer between right and left, but between the citizens and the mafia. This is a world where the guilty don't just go unpunished; they ascend to the highest citadels of power.
Although corruption and the abuse of power are the central themes of this protest, economic hardship also plays a role. New data from the EU demonstrates that Bulgarians have the lowest standard of living in the European Union, at around 50% of the EU average. Even Croatia, which will accede to the EU on 1 July, is significantly more prosperous than Bulgaria.
The irony here is not lost on Bulgarians. At the onset of the EU financial crisis in 2008, Bulgaria had one of the lowest levels of public debt in Europe at 15% of GDP. Its budget deficit was below 3%. And yet the government of Boyko Borissov embarked on a foolish programme of austerity measures, the logic of which was almost entirely predicated on demonstrating to Brussels what a good pupil Bulgaria now was. Reductions in public spending coupled with large increases in the price of electricity and other utilities brought people out on to the streets in February. But, like Turkey, what began as a protest against a specific appointment has quickly mutated into a general opposition to the government.
Oresharski also has to grapple with increasing ethnic tensions in the country. Many Bulgarians resent the influence of the junior coalition party, the MRF which represents mainly the Turkish minority (about 10% of the population). The far-right party Ataka, which won 23 seats and 7.3% of the vote in the recent parliamentary election, has sought to exploit this sentiment at every opportunity. Its leader, Volen Siderov, continues to stoke the flames of hatred against both the ethnic Turks and the Roma population.
A further destabilising element is the continued feuding between the leaders of Bulgaria's largest political parties. Last week, Borissov vowed to initiate a libel lawsuit against Sergei Stanishev, leader of the BSP and president of the Party of European Socialists, over claims by the latter that Borissov had a criminal record. The timing of all these developments could not be worse for Bulgaria as it comes under more and more scrutiny in the run-up to the June European council summit meeting.
The protesters, meanwhile, cherish the attenion. They want to re-enforce their message to Bulgaria's politicians: an end to vertiginous and voracious oligarchical power and the normalisation of Bulgarian politics


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الأربعاء، 26 يونيو، 2013

Apartheid roads on the rise in Jerusalem

Apartheid roads on the rise in Jerusalem

By George Mandarin

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June 18, 2013
Israel’s Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee has approved the construction of the Hazeitim interchange, a road way that connects the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc directly to Jerusalem and allows for further settlement construction in the controversial E-1 area. 
 
The newly planned interchange will facilitate unobstructed access to Jerusalem for Israeli settlers in the West Bank, allowing them to bypass prevalent morning traffic jams at Israel’s Hizme checkpoint. 
 
Planners of the Hazeitim interchange avow that Palestinians will be allowed to use the same road, albeit in different lanes separated by a high wall. 
 
The approval of the Hazeitim (Hebrew for olive) interchange will allow for the connection between the Eastern Ring Road—a north to south traffic artery connecting the settlements of Almon and Geva Binyamin—with Route 1, the main road connecting Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. The Hazeitim interchange, in connection with the aforementioned Eastern Ring Road, will form a crucial section of Israel’s 'separation’ wall, asserts Nir Hasson, of the Israeli daily Haaretz, in an article on June 6th
 
"This is the only highway in the West Bank that will have a separation wall running right down the middle," states Hasson. "For that reason, the plan’s opponents are already dubbing it [an] 'Apartheid Road.’" 
 
The interchange’s planners emphasize that it offers Palestinian drivers a faster route between the northern West Bank to the south, and, cynically enough, will afford Palestinian travelers the opportunity to "bypass Jerusalem altogether." 
 
Hasson argues that the Hazeitim interchange is just part of a larger system or roadways Israel is creating around Jerusalem that are intended to allow for traffic-free travel between Jerusalem the surrounding Israeli settlements. Others go further, arguing that such a step will inevitably lead towards annexation. 
 
The roadway, if built, will be constructed in the contentious E-1 area of East Jerusalem. The area, which lies between Jerusalem and Israel’s third largest settlement bloc, Ma’ale Adumim, remains the last bit of land allowing Palestinians the north-south contiguity in the West Bank and a connection to the designated capital hailed essential to any acceptable and practical Palestinian state. 
 
Israel has so far been prevented from building within the E-1 area due to international pressure, as doing so would most likely ruin any chance of a Two-State Solution. 
 
Roadways as a means of annexation
 
Residents in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa are already facing a similar situation. .
 
Construction on Israel’s Road 4, plans for which were originally drawn up some 23 years ago but delayed due to protests by local Palestinian residents, began in December 2012. 
 
The 6-lane highway, which intends to pass directly through the center of the village, is designed to facilitate travel between Israel’s Gush Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem and the city of Jerusalem. 
 
"They are trying to do an annexation of these settlements," Ziad Al-Hammouri, head of the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights, said in aFebruary 2012 interview Al-Monitor’s Jillian Kestler-D’Amours
 
"The target [is] to have minimum Palestinians in East Jerusalem, maximum settlers. [Israel is] talking about having in the near future more than 300,000 new settlers on east Jerusalem lands. They are trying [with Road 4] to connect all these settlements together to have a circle around Jerusalem," Al-Hammouri explained in the same interview.
 
Although, when it was originally planned back in the 1990s, the road was allegedly arranged along the outskirts of Beit Safafa, due to expansion over the past two decades, it now goes directly through the village’s center, effectively splitting the community in half. 
 
"There’ll be a separation wall like in the West Bank, in the middle of Beit Safafa," resident Ala Salaman told Nir Hasson in an interview last December
 
There are currently more than 520,000 Israeli settlers living in the 121 government-sanctioned outposts and over 100 settlement "outposts" in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to the Israeli information center for Human Rights in the occupied territories, B’Tselem


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‘Our sister Lynne Stewart is dying’

‘Our sister Lynne Stewart is dying’

by Philip Weiss

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June 21, 2013
On Wednesday night at Cooper Union in New York, hundreds gathered to honor former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden's courageous acts, and emcee Debra Sweet brought up the situation of Lynne Stewart, the radical human rights lawyer now serving a ten-year sentence in Texas on charges that she aided terrorists.
Lynne Stewart is dying. Our sister Lynne Stewart is dying. You all know who she is. Her husband is in front of the White House-- Ralph Poynter, carrying out a protest.
Stewart, 73, is suffering from advanced cancer; and the prison she is in cannot treat her appropriately. The warden has reportedly authorized her release nearly two months ago, but federal higher-ups are not acting on the recommendation.
Many have appealed for her compassionate release, including Dick Gregory and others outside the Bureau of Prisons three days ago, and the Lawyers Rights Watch of Canada, which writes:
The Warden’s recommendation of 26 April 2013 and documentation have been fully vetted by the Federal Bureau of Prison. Urgently needed medical treatment arranged at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York will begin immediately on Ms Stewart’s release.
Inexcusable delays, denials and inappropriate delivery of medical treatment while in prison have worsening Ms Stewart’s health to the point where further delay may result in death
Friends have undertaken another protest at the White House beginning Monday. From their flyer
Lynne Stewart's health is in rapid decline. We must take collective action creating a highly public presence in Washington, D.C.
A Compassionate Release was recommended months ago by Warden Jody R. Upton, under whose watch Lynne has been incarcerated at Carswell Federal Prison. Compassionate Release papers remain sitting on the desk of Director, Charles E. Samuels, Jr. of the Federal Bureau of Prisons waiting to be signed.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons is under the political leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama.
Lynne's life hangs in the balance.
What will we do?
On Monday, June 24, 2013 at the White House, we will gather to continue "a long vigil for a long struggle" calling for Lynne Stewart's release. It is urgent that we stand along side Ralph Poynter, Lynne Stewart's husband, demanding that Lynne Stewart be granted Compassionate Release before it is too late. Reclaim Solidarity... Imagine Justice.
THE RIGHT TO RETURN HOME: RELEASE LYNNE STEWART
Gathering Daily from June 24, 2013 Onward 9:00 am The White House Washington, D.C. Travel assistance is available. Please RSVP and spread the word on Facebook.
For more information write to: info@wewillnotbesilent.net
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Military police must decide: Is the IDF a gang or an army?

Military police must decide: Is the IDF a gang or an army?

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

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Two Palestinian boys age 14 and 15 hold a poster with their own photos on it with Arabic writing that reads: "We are the army. Be careful, we will arrest you if we see you, or come to your home." (Photo by: Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org)

Youth from the village of Qaddum were shocked to find themselves featured on a threatening IDF poster. Will the army severely punish those responsible?

June 21, 2013

About two weeks ago, several youth from the village of Qaddum were shocked to discover their photos and names appear on a placard posted near the mosque, which presented the following threat: "We are the army, dir balaq,we’ll catch you should we see you, or we’ll come to your house." The affair was exposed in the +972. The placard was written in bad Arabic. "Dir Balaq" is roughly translated as "be careful."
According to the testimonies of Qaddum’s residents, three IDF jeeps stopped next to the mosque in the late morning of Friday, May 31. Ten soldiers or more disembarked, and began posting the placards. A, a 16-year-old high school student, told a Yesh Din investigator that "I was shocked by seeing my picture and the threat against me. I panicked and now I am always afraid the army will capture me. My brothers are also scared and my mom cries. I can’t sleep. I haven’t returned to school since it happened and I’ve missed a final exam."
A’s father, M., told Yesh Din, "I was shocked and stressed… I was fearful for the child and was afraid of his reactions. This is a worrying story. I saw my child shivering in fear. He entered a hard and restless state, and finds it hard to fall asleep. He also hasn’t gone to school since." M. angrily added that "this is an act of terrorism, not the act of an organized army. This is the work of gangs, not of a democratic country. What do you mean, you turn a 15-and-a-half-year-old child into a wanted man?"
D., another of the minors mentioned in our brave lads’ placard, told Yesh Din, "I began shivering in fear and feared they would come right away to take me. The next day, I didn’t return to school even though there was a final exam. I hope the school will show consideration. I live in fear they will come and take me."
The two minors asserted that they do not participate in demonstrations. A. said he had no idea how the soldiers found his photo, adding they often drive around the village, taking pictures. D. suggested they may have lifted his photo from a request for a magnetic ID card he submitted.
The threats made by the soldiers are perfectly credible. The IDF has developed a habit of raiding houses during the night in order to arrest minors for negligible offenses. Anyone suspected of throwing stones gets the treatment normally reserved for particularly dangerous criminals: an assault by heavily armed masked men on his house at night. B’Tselem published a report some two years ago detailing the routine of child detention: Violence during interrogation, avoidance of the legal duty to have an adult known to the child present during the interrogation, remand until the end of proceedings, a legal system that transcribes statements in a language unknown to the interrogated minor.
Furthermore, these actions are not coincidental: they are a part of a long and calculated campaign by the IDF intended to break popular resistance. The IDF makes it clear to the villages opposing the occupation that they will pay a price, not during the demonstrations themselves – where the media and international activists are present – but at night when they are alone, without the protection of the "IDF’s Kryptonite," cameras. For two years now, Qaddum has held demonstrations every Friday in protest of the closure of the road leading from the village to Road 60. The IDF responds to the demonstration with its customary violence: CS gas grenades, stun grenades, spraying the demonstrators with putrid fluids ("Skunk") and assaults against demonstrators with dogs have also been also documented. In days when there are no demonstrations, the army enters the villages from time to time in order to shoot in the air, throw stun and gas grenades, take people out of their homes at night and generally show the population who’s top dog.
Given all that, one has to agree with M.: such behavior as that which took place at the beginning of June in Qaddum is reserved for gangs or terror organizations. True, the anarchists demonstrating in the West Bank have long chanted "Ain’t nothing you can do/the IDF is a terror organization," but one would have expected the IDF soldiers to refrain from proving them right.
The IDF quickly claimed that a group of soldiers acting on their own initiative produced the pamphlets. Maybe. The testimonies speak of more than 10 soldiers and three vehicles. This is a bit large for an independent action by a few angry soldiers. Was their company commander aware of their initiative? If he wasn’t, how can an officer keep his post when he failed to notice his soldiers involve the army in a comparison to gangs and terror organizations? If he did know, and turned a blind eye – and I insist on believing, until proof emerges, that this couldn’t have been authorized – shouldn’t he be put on trial, to be dishonorably discharged (after a suitable period in prison), if proven guilty?
As for the soldiers themselves – what does the IDF intend to do with soldiers who disobeyed their orders to the point that they caused the people they rule to identify them as a terror organization? Does it intend to allow them to keep their positions, in a region where they might come into contact with the children they threatened? Does the IDF have the foggiest notion of the firestorm it will unleash, if one of those children will be harmed by its forces?
When the IDF wants to, it can find the guilty parties rather quickly. When a few women soldiers uploaded some pictures of themselves scantily clad, pictures which still cast the army at a better light than the goonish threats in Qaddum, the IDF responded speedily and effectively. If the Military Police’s Criminal Investigative Division (MPCID) still remembers how to investigate, we expect the soldiers responsible will be quickly found and brought to justice.
The details are known: the village of Qaddum, near the mosque, late morning, May 31st. If the IDF can’t find out which of its men were there, and on whose authority, maybe it should drop the F from its name and replace it with an M, for "militia."
The MPCID has the ball. If the IDF does indeed see such wild and partisan actions as gravely as it claims, we will soon hear that MPCID arrested suspects and that it has prepared indictments. If we don’t, we’ll realize precisely how much the IDF cares about the disintegration of what’s left of its discipline. Anyone who still cares about the remains of the IDF’s good name will not allow MPCID to shirk its duty.
Advocate Emily Schaeffer, who represents Yesh Din in this case, added, "whether the pictures and writings were the work of lone, rogue soldiers, or done with the backing of their commanders, the suspicions point to a perverted and criminal abuse of authority and access to information, which is particularly disturbing when directed toward children. If this behavior is not eradicated from the IDF immediately, the ramifications will be devastating both legally and morally."

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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Australia Post Issues Israeli Propaganda Stamps

Australia Post Issues Israeli Propaganda Stamps

Middle East Reality Check

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June 19, 2013

Just the other day I needed a postage stamp. I duly handed over my 60 cents at an Australia Post outlet and received far more than I bargained for - nothing less, would you believe, than a dollop of Israeli propaganda.

There on the stamp was the sepia-toned image of a statue of an Australian Light Horseman leaping the Turkish trenches ringing the town of Beersheba in southern Palestine in 1917. In the bottom left hand corner were the words 'Beersheba/ AUSTRALIA/ Joint Issue with Israel/ Australian Light Horse'. In the bottom right corner, in blue, were the same words in Hebrew.

For $3.60 you can buy a laminated, folded card bearing the same image beneath a scroll containing the words 'JOINT ISSUE WITH ISRAEL/ THE BATTLE OF BEERSHEBA'. Below the scroll, the same words appear in Hebrew.

Inside, the scroll reappears with the same words superimposed on an antique map of Beersheba and its environs. Again, the same Hebrew words figure prominently. Two stamps - the second, a $2.60 international issue with a different design - are enclosed in a protective plastic sheath.

On the back the following text appears. (The highlightings are mine):

"The Battle of Beersheba, which took place on 31 October 1917, was part of a wider British offensive known as the third Battle of Gaza during World War I. The final phase of this day-long battle was the famous mounted charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade, widely considered to be the last great mounted charge in military history. Although heavily outnumbered, the 4th Light Horse Brigade of the Australian Imperial Force seized the strategic town of Beersheba from the Turks. 31 Australian light horsemen were killed in the charge and 36 were wounded, while the Turkish defenders suffered many casualties and between 700 and 1,000 troops were captured. The capture of Beersheba allowed British Empire forces to break the Ottoman line near Gaza and then advance into Palestine, a chain of events which eventually culminated in the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

"The 60c stamp features a statue of an Australian Light Horseman in the Park of the Australian Soldier at Beersheba (Be'er Sheva), Israel. The statue is the work of Australian sculptor Peter Corlett and was erected with the support of the Pratt Foundation in 2008. The park features a landscaped recreation park with an innovative playground catering for the needs of children with disabilities."

I've covered the story of the shameless Zionist appropriation of this particular slice of Palestinian/Australian history - where the AIF are falsely portrayed as actors in the grand Zionist narrative of the Jewish 'return' to Eretz Israel - in several posts. For the details, simply click on the AIF label below, scroll down to Anzac Day Special: The Diggers Who Died for Israel (25/4/08), and read the lot in chronological order.

Perhaps the next time you buy stamps from Istralia Post, you could decline these two.

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The Agony and the Irony of Guantanamo’s Mass Hunger Strike

The Agony and the Irony of Guantanamo’s Mass Hunger Strike

by Lisa Hajjar

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Force feeding restraint chair. Image by Jason Leopold

June 20, 2013

The executive order pledging to close Guantلnamo within a year, signed by freshly inaugurated President Barack Obama on his second day in office, is a dead letter. Over the past two months, however, the president has recommitted to his 2009 pledge, including appointing a special envoy to head the effort to break through the stalemate that is largely the product of domestic politics. Clearly, one trigger for this renewed attention to Guantلnamo is the mass hunger strike among prisoners that started in February.
The Guantلnamo prisoner population currently stands at 166. Eighty-six have been cleared for release. Almost four dozen others have been designated for indefinite detention because the government claims they are too dangerous to release but cannot be tried for lack of court-worthy evidence. The identities of these indefinite detainees was a closely guarded secret until 17 June 2013, when the list was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by The Miami Herald with the assistance of Yale Law School students. Of the forty-eight names on that list, which was prepared by a multi-agency task force in January 2010, two have since died.
On the same day the Herald’s request was granted, The New York Times’ FOIA request for information about the designation of all Guantلnamo prisoners was also granted. According to this list, thirty-four prisoners are named as candidates for prosecution, including six whose cases are now in the pre-trial motions phase. This number is almost certain to decline on account of a 2012federal court ruling that "providing material support for terrorism" and "conspiracy" are not a war crimes and thus cannot be pursued in a military commission. Those charges could be pursued in a federal court but for the fact that Congress passed legislation barring the transfer and prosecution of Guantلnamo detainees in the US. The likely alternative is that the number of prisoners designated for indefinite detention will grow.
Getting Out Alive or Dead
More than two-thirds of the prisoners at Guantلnamo—104 reportedly—are hunger striking, and forty-four are being force fed. Four have been hospitalized for causes relating to their force feeding or hunger striking. The current mass hunger strike bears many resemblances and shares some common causes to the mass strike in 2006. Some prisoners have been on hunger strike for years.
Hunger striking is a classic method used by prisoners to protest the conditions of their detention. In Formations of Violence, Allen Feldman’s study of Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners in British custody, he explains the politics of deliberate self-starvation: "It is not only a matter of what history does to the body but what subjects do with what history has done to the body." The choice to exercise the limited power that protesting prisoners have—the power to refuse to eat—is, in Feldman’s words, a form of "counter-instrumentation" of their own bodies.
As one Yemeni hunger-striking prisoner wrote in a note released by his lawyer David Remes:
A human being should defend himself, but if he were to become totally unable to do so, he should take the difficult and simple decision because he has no other options. Doing so, he achieves victory over injustice and humiliation and feels his dignity as a human being. 
Over a dozen of Remes’ eighteen clients are hunger striking, and four are being force fed. He provided the following narrative of the events that led to the mass strike:
When President Obama took office in 2009, he sent Admiral Patrick M. Walsh to GTMO [Guantلnamo] to determine whether the prison met the standards of Common Article 3 [of the Geneva Conventions]. Predictably, Walsh reported that, yes, the camp complied with Common Article 3, but they could do even better! Thereafter, conditions in the camps markedly improved, the only creditable aspect of President Obama’s GTMO policy. The Joint Detention Group (JDG), a component of the Joint Task Force–Guantanamo (JTF), ruled with a light touch and maintained the peace—an Era of Good Feelings—until the summer of 2012.
In June 2012, JDG command passed to Colonel John V. Bogdan, one-time commander of an MP [military police] brigade that operated in East Bagdad. Unlike his Obama-era predecessors, Bogdan brought a tough-guy approach to detention operations and he has ruled the camps with an iron fist. ​Marked by displays of power for power’s sake, his approach has led to mayhem in the camps.​
In September, Bogdan, without provocation, had his men storm Camp 6 [where "compliant" detainees lived communally]. ​During the fall, conditions in the camps deteriorated: for example, temperatures in the cells were lowered to 62 [degrees Fahrenheit]. In January [2013], a tower guard in the recreation area fired into a group of detainees, wounding one,[i] and in early February, the mass hunger strike broke out. 
Bogdan ​​lit the fuse when he ​or one of his Officers in Charge (OIC) had the guards conduct​ ​a ​sweeping search of the men’s cells in Camp 6, where about 130 of the 166 detainees were held. Guards arbitrarily confiscated personal items including family letters and photographs, legal papers, and extra blankets. ​(Civilians confiscated the papers.) Bogdan or his OICs also attempted to search the men’s Qurans, using interpreters to do the dirty work.[ii]
That fateful decision ignited the hunger strike. ​What upset the men was not how the Qurans were to be searched but the fact that they were to be searched at all. JDG had stopped searching Qurans in 2006. According to our clients, JDG has admitted that it had no concrete​ reason to reinstitute Quran searches. Bogdan, however, decided to revert to the rules of 2006, which provided for Quran searches, a most provocative display of power​.
The men have offered to surrender their Qurans to the military permanently​ to avoid searches. Surrendering Qurans was a common solution to threatened searches in the Bush administration days, when men feared their Qurans would be searched when they met with their lawyers. (Putting the men to that choice was one of the clever disincentives for such meetings.) Bogdan, however, will not agree to stop searches or take the Qurans. 
Bogdan won’t even discuss the men’s grievances​ ​until they​ end their hunger strike. He’ll be damned if he blinks first. Meanwhile, he is using brutal tactics to break the strike. Many men now view the strike as a means of protesting the very fact that they continue to be held. These men, including many of my clients, say they ​are determined to ​leave Guantلnamo one way or the other—alive or in a box. 
Of the 130 detainees who were held in communal conditions in Camp 6, more than 100 were moved into solitary cells during a pre-dawn raid on 13 April. According to a newly-revised Standard Operating Procedure manual obtained from the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and published by Al Jazeera, "in the event of a mass hunger strike, isolating hunger striking patients from each other is vital to prevent them from achieving solidarity." But, according to Remes who spoke by telephone to one of his clients on 14 June, "the hunger strike is still going strong."
Force Feeding
The number of prisoners being force-fed is rising as the strike endures. TheAmerican Medical Association, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have protested the practice of force feeding at Guantلnamo as illegal and unethical.
Force feeding is a blatant contravention of the will of prisoners who have chosen to refuse food. When administered by doctors, the practice violatesthe World Medical Association’s (WMA) 1975 Tokyo Declaration and 1991 Malta Declaration. Luke Mitchell, formerly an editor at Harper’s Magazine who has written extensively about issues related to force feeding, provided the following account: 
The British did not force [IRA prisoner] Bobby Sands to eat and so he died a martyr, which is one reason the US is so eager to force feed prisoners today. I interviewed William Winkenwerder at some length about this in 2006 [during the previous mass hunger strike at GTMO], when he was the top doctor at the Pentagon. Winkenwerder, citing the WMA 1991 declaration, suggested that force-feeding was okay—it was just up to individual doctors whether or not they wanted to participate. But that was backwards. In fact, the WMA had declared that in a case where a doctor "cannot accept the patient’s decision to refuse such aid"—that is, force feeding—"the patient would then be entitled to be attended by another physician." In other words, all conscious patients have an absolute right to refuse "aid" when that aid is in the form of force-feeding. I read that passage to Winkenwerder, and he said "that's new to me."

What does all of this have to do with Sands? I asked Winkenwerder about Sands, and he said he hadn't "studied" that case. But just a few weeks later, an unnamed Pentagon official told the Toronto Star that death by starvation was unacceptable. "The worst case would be to have someone go from zero to hero," he said. "We don’t want a Bobby Sands."

Why was Winkenwerder being so disingenuous? The legality of force-feeding [under US law] is vague. Federal Bureau of Prison guidelines allow it, but some specific cases forbid it.[iii] Judges can go either way. Considerable evidence suggests that it is being used as a form of torture, though. Torture is illegal, of course, and so the Pentagon has an important stake in convincing the public (and the courts) that force-feeding is an ethical medical procedure. But that requires considerable rhetorical dexterity, because the WMA is absolutely unambiguous: force-feeding is unethical.
The rhetorical dexterity includes euphemization; the practice of force feeding is officially termed "enteral feeding" or "tube feeding." Prisoners who absolutely refuse to be fed may be strapped to "restraint chairs" which were imported to the facility during the 2006 strike and in design resemble electric chairs. Some who wish to strike but are faced with the prospect of violent cell extraction and the chair "consent" to having the tube inserted into their noses and the Ensure pumped into their stomachs. According to spokesperson Durand, "Passing out constitutes consent to a tube feeding." 
Apparently, President Obama did not get the memo on the official preference for euphemism. On 23 May he delivered a major national security speech (the second in his entire term in office) in which he spoke about the hunger strike at Guantلnamo as a crisis and a policy failure: "Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are? Is that something that our Founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children?" 
At a press conference on 4 June, Marine General John F. Kelly, the commander of SOUTHCOM, took issue with the president’s statement. "We don’t force-feed right now at Gitmo." Rather, troops "enterally feed" hunger strikers. White House National Security spokesperson Caitlin Hayden was asked whether Obama would retract his remarks about forced feedings. "The President’s comments stand."
Journalists Are the Eyes of the World
In March, one month into the strike, The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenbergreported on a tour of Camp 6 during which she and other journalists witnessed prisoners refusing food. A Guantلnamo spokesperson, Navy Captain Robert Durand, responded to media queries by stating that the hunger strike is "specifically designed" by the prisoners to "attract media attention."
Rosenberg reported on the array of answers provided to journalists about why the prison military and medical staff would not permit prisoners to refuse to eat:
  • It’s not humane. The motto of the 1,700-strong detention center staff…is "Safe, Humane, Legal, Transparent." And the answer from an Army captain named John, the officer in charge of Guantلnamo’s communal Camp 6, was that the military couldn’t let detainees starve themselves to death because "that would be inhumane. They can choose not to eat but we’re not going to let them starve."
  • "First, do no harm" is the creed of medical professionals, and to let a captive starve is at odds with US military medicine. A Navy lieutenant commander wearing a nameplate with the moniker Leonato put it this way: "We’re obligated to protect life. I signed on as a nurse not to carry a rifle but to keep people alive, render medical care. I’m here to deliver therapeutic care as a mental health professional."
  •  It’s un-American. "Allowing a detainee to harm himself is not only counter to our responsibilities under the laws of war, but is anathema to our values as Americans," says Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, the Pentagon spokesman responsible for detention and legal issues. "Allowing a peacefully protesting detainee to harm himself by choosing to sit by while he starves himself to the point of endangering his life is not only a violation of the very code followed by civilized peoples everywhere, but it is the worst kind of victor’s justice: repugnant and wholly unacceptable."
  •  It looks bad. "It’s our job to take care of them, to feed them and take care of their needs," says Zak, the Arab-American cultural advisor to the admiral in charge of the detention center, who like nearly everybody who works there grants interviews on condition that his full name not be published. "Otherwise they will say we killed them, [or] let them die."
  • It’s policy. That’s [the answer provided by spokesperson] Durand...
Journalists currently reporting from Guantلnamo are not taken on prison tours, except the abandoned Camp X-ray. According to Truthout’s Adam Hudson, the explanation offered by the JTF spokesperson is that the military commissions and the prison are separate issues, and journalists are there to report on the former. Rolling Stone’s John Knefel reports that journalists who want to tour the prison must schedule a separate expedition to the island and, according to a Pentagon spokesperson, "We're booked up until mid-fall and possibly beyond."
The Math and Chemistry of Strike Breaking 
The Standard Operating Procedure manual, which went into effect on 5 March, details the "general algorithm" for assessing hunger strikers. Al Jazeera’s Jason Leopold writes: 
Prisoners are designated as hunger strikers, according to the guidelines, if they communicate, "either directly or indirectly (i.e.: repeated meal refusals) his intent to undergo a hunger strike or fast as a form of protest or demand attention," or if they miss nine consecutive meals and their body weight falls below 85 percent of either previous or ideal weight—usually calculated using the median BMI [body mass index] for a prisoner's height.
The manual also describes the "chair restraint system clinical protocol" for personnel who administer the force feeding. The medical personnel, who serve under Guantلnamo Commander John Smith, have no professional autonomy according to the manual.
A prisoner selected for force feeding undergoes the following procedures: First, he is offered one last chance to eat voluntarily before being put in the restraint chair. If he does not consent to eat, the "medical provider signs [the] medical restraint order." Then a guard shackles the prisoner and places a mask over his mouth to prevent spitting and biting. A feeding tube is inserted through his nose. Medics use a stethoscope and a test dose of water to check that the tube has descended all the way to his stomach. When the tube has been secured with tape, "the enteral nutrition and water that has been ordered is started, and flow rate is adjusted according to detainee's condition and tolerance." The feeding can be completed in twenty to thirty minutes but might take up to two hours. After the "nutrient infusion" is completed, he is placed in a "dry cell" and observed for up to sixty minutes for any "indications of vomiting or attempts to induce vomiting." If he vomits, he can be put through the whole process again. 
If this coercive hunger management process were not appalling enough,another revelation contained in the manual is the authorization of a controversial drug to "enhance digestion" that may cause serious and permanent neurological disorders. Al Jazeera’s Leopold reports:
Metoclopramide, commonly known by its brand name Reglan, is supposed to speed up the digestive process and remove the urge to vomit during force feeding. However, medical studies into the drug have determined that Reglan also is linked to a high rate of tardive dyskinesia (TD), a potentially irreversible and disfiguring disorder characterized by involuntary movements of the face, tongue, or extremities.
The studies prompted the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] in February 2009 to slap Reglan with a black box label—the agency's strongest warning—to inform patients about the dangers associated with chronic use of the drug. According to the FDA's own medication guide, additional side effects include depression, thoughts about depression and, in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts and suicide.
The lack of consent in force feeding as well as the involuntary administration of Reglan and other drugs is medical malpractice. That some of the drugs prisoners are forced to ingest or are given unaware have potentially harmful side effects borders on human experimentation, especially given the stern FDA warnings.
On 30 May, fourteen prisoners wrote an open letter to the Guantلnamo medical staff protesting their treatment and requesting access to independent doctors. "Dear doctor," they wrote:
You may be able to keep me alive for a long time in a permanently debilitated state. But with so many of us on hunger strike, you are attempting a treatment experiment on an unprecedented scale…Whether you remain in the military or return to civilian practice, you will have to live with what you have done and not done here at Guantلnamo for the rest of your life. 
The prisoners’ letter was endorsed in an open letter to President Obama from dozens of doctors and other health professionals. They urged that independent professionals be granted full access to hunger striking prisoners and their medical records.
Beyond the Walls 
In any context, there are certain commonalities in the willful decision of prisoners to go on hunger strike to protest some aspect(s) of their detention. They have chosen, whether individually or en masse, to use the one resource they have—their bodies—to wage their struggle. That choice, that power, that agency to starve contradicts and confronts the power of their custodians. 
However, context matters—and differs—greatly in how the striking prisoners connect or appeal to constituencies beyond the prison walls. For example, IRA prisoners were already constituted as part of a collective political force with a shared history when they were imprisoned by the British. They regarded their cause to liberate and reunify Ireland as just, themselves as soldiers, and the method of armed struggle as justified. Their politics and activities were treated as crimes rather than war by the British. IRA prisoners’ core grievance was the refusal of their custodians to treat them as prisoners of war. 
The hunger strike of 1981 in which Sands and nine other IRA prisoners starved themselves to death was the culmination of years of strikes. First was the "blanket strike" in which they refused to wear the prison uniforms of common criminals and opted instead to go naked or wear blankets. Then was the "dirty strike" in which they protested violence and abuse meted upon them by guards during "slop outs." They responded by refusing to leave their cells to shower and smeared their walls with excrement and, in the case of female prisoners, menstrual blood.
Striking IRA prisoners were connected to the constituency of Northern Irish nationalists as well as sympathizers beyond the shores of Ireland. Their sacrifices and suffering had galvanizing effects on those constituencies and were seen as one dimension of a larger common cause.  
Prisoners at Guantلnamo share almost none of these aspects. They come from many countries, although all are Muslims. What they share with each other is not a common cause but rather a common experience of protracted detention without trial, and harshly abusive and degrading treatment. They are imprisoned not in their own homeland but on a faraway and inaccessible island. They are cut off from their families, and many of their home governments are indifferent or worse to their treatment. The only allies they can actually access are their attorneys, who are hamstrung by gag orders and overweening security measures. One has only to read the first-person accounts collected inThe Guantanamo Lawyers, edited by Jonathan Hafetz and Mark P. Denbeaux, to appreciate how fragile and fraught lawyer-client relations at that prison can be. 
There is no "natural" or national constituency politically predisposed to care about the well-being of Guantلnamo prisoners, unless one counts human rights lawyers and activists and some progressive journalists as a constituency. Under these circumstances, there is a particular kind of political challenge to draw attention to the sacrifice of a mass hunger strike and the agonies caused by custodians bent on breaking it. Doctors’ organizations have stepped up, especially in response to force feeding.
For the hunger strike to make meaning beyond the prison walls in ways that would benefit the striking prisoners and address their grievances, what is needed is a constituency that sees the politics of Guantلnamo and the fate of its prisoners as their cause. Such a constituency with the political muscle and determination to bring pressure to bear on those responsible for the situation at Guantلnamo has yet to emerge. The hunger strike provides new urgency to the cause of closing the prison. This is summed up perfectly in the title of one US-based activist organization: "The World Can’t Wait!"



[i] Carol Rosenberg elaborates on the shooting incident: "The irony is the facility was built with remote-controlled gates to alleviate guards from escorting captives to the recreation yard. Less contact caused less friction, was the explanation. So each side could keep to itself. But then a detainee scaled a fence to get the attention of a guard in a tower, and a guard pointed his rifle at him. The captive climbed down immediately, but other captives saw the guard with the rifle and hurled rocks at him. A ricocheting rubber pellet struck a Taliban elder in the throat, according to both military and attorney accounts, but he was not hurt enough to merit hospitalization."
[ii] This refers to a 2006 Standard Operating Procedure rule that bars uniformed members of the military from touching Qurans. All Quran touching is supposed to be done by civilian linguists who accompany soldiers on searches. 
[iii]  On 19 June 2013, Senator Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in which she elaborates on how the force-feeding procedures at Guantلnamo do not resemble or comply with Federal Bureau of Prisons guidelines.


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