Saturday, 24 October 2009

Uzbek terror and the UK/USA

Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray: CIA used Uzbek torture to create false intelligence; support for Uzbek regime continues

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Britain must vote to accept Goldstone report

The United Nations Human Rights Council, meeting in Geneva, is about to report on the Goldstone report into Israel's assault on the people of Gaza in December 2008 and 2009.

The report, written by someone who could not remotely be described as biased towards the Palestinians, found devastating evidence of Israeli war crimes during the bombardment and land incursion.

The British government initially indicated that it would vote to accept the report, which would then be forwarded to the UN Security Council.

It now seems it is about to renege on that pledge and vote to block it.

Respect MP George Galloway says:
If Britain casts its vote against the truth it will be a staggering indictment of this government. Everyone who responded in shock and horror to the bombardment of Gaza should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office now to demand that the British representative to the UN stands by the original decision.

"Burying this report will only create deeper bitterness in the Middle East and further sully our country's reputation. It will, more importantly, send a signal to the hawks in Israel that they can kill and maim Palestinians with impunity.

"Gordon Brown and David Milliband have a chance to avoid that. They should be held to account if they refuse to take it."
Please email the foreign secretary:


Visit George's official website

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Israel's nuclear weapons and Iran's right to a deterrent

Intelligence experts Ray McGovern and Greg Thielmann respond to a question from the floor on the significance of Israel's nuclear weapons arsenal in the discussion of Iran. McGovern notes that "an unpardonable mistake in US politics is to mention the Israeli arsenal as a motivation for Iran." Adding that, "by acknowledging the Israeli nukes, one realizes that Iran is surrounded on all sides by nuclear powers. Russia to the North, Pakistan to the East, Israel to the West, and US ships in the Persian Gulf to the South.

Thielmann cautions US figures on the danger of ignoring the fact that, "between Iran and Israel, only one of these two states is currently under existential threat, and that is Iran."


Ray McGovern is a retired CIA officer. McGovern was employed under seven US presidents for over 27 years, presenting the morning intelligence briefings at the White House under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. McGovern was born and raised in the Bronx, graduated summa cum laude from Fordham University, received an M.A. in Russian Studies from Fordham, a certificate in Theological Studies from Georgetown University, and graduated from Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program.

Greg Thielmann is a Senior Fellow at the Arms Control Association, located in Washington, DC. Thielmann came to fame in 2003 when he quit his position as director of the Strategic, Proliferation and Military Affairs Office at the State Department's Intelligence Bureau, citing the manufacturing of intelligence concerning the Iraqi government's weapons program. He openly criticized the false information that was then used to gain support for launching the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. This brought an end to a 25-year career in the US foreign service officer.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Israel mulls banning Islamic Movement

Leader accused of inciting “holy war”

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

The Israeli government announced yesterday [7 October] it would consider banning Israel’s Islamic Movement at the next cabinet meeting, in a significant escalation of tensions that have fuelled a fortnight of bloody clashes in Jerusalem over access to the Haram al-Sharif compound of mosques.

The move followed the arrest of the movement’s leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, on Tuesday [6 October] on suspicion of incitement and sedition. Police accused Sheikh Salah of calling for a “religious war” in recent statements in which he warned that Israel was seeking a takeover of the Haram, which includes the al-Aqsa mosque.

Sheikh Salah was released a few hours later on condition that he stay away from Jerusalem for 30 days. The decision was widely interpreted as a move to damp down a possible backlash from Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens, many of whom regard the sheikh as a spiritual leader. Police were deployed in large numbers throughout Jerusalem yesterday.

An Islamic Movement spokesman, Zadi Nujeidat, told the Haaretz newspaper: “We will continue our activities and call for a continued presence in and around the mosque. We are used to arrests.”

The move against the Islamic Movement follows a series of pronouncements from Sheikh Salah, echoing statements from Palestinian officials in the occupied territories, that have infuriated the Israeli government.

This week he called on Muslims who could reach the compound – access to which has been heavily restricted by the Israeli police – to “shield the [al-Aqsa] mosque with their bodies”. Sheikh Salah himself has been barred by the courts from entering the Haram compound for several months.

At his annual “Al-Aqsa is in danger” rally in his hometown of Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel last week, he warned tens of thousands of supporters that Israel was trying to prise away control of the compound from the Islamic religious authorities. He added that, should Israel force a choice between martyrdom and renouncing al-Aqsa, “we will clearly choose to be martyrs”.

Like many other Palestinian leaders, Sheikh Salah fears that, as well as “Judaising” East Jerusalem, Israel is engineering a takeover of the Haram – known to Jews as the Temple Mount because the remains of the destroyed first and second Jewish temples are believed to lie under the mosques.

He has raised repeated concerns that Israel is secretly digging under the mosques, as it did before opening the Western Wall tunnels in 1996. Then, clashes led to the deaths of 75 Palestinians and 15 Israeli soldiers.

A delegation of Palestinian leaders from inside Israel who visited the compound yesterday warned that there was strong evidence of such excavations.

In an interview with Haaretz on Monday, Sheikh Salah also warned against “infiltration of extremist Jewish elements” into the compound – a reference to Messianic cults that want the mosques destroyed so a third temple can be built.

Muslim leaders throughout the region have expressed growing concern that the Israeli police are secretly escorting such groups into the compound following a decision by Israel in 2003 to allow non-Muslims to visit the Haram without oversight from the Islamic authorities.

Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, meanwhile, are unable to reach Jerusalem, and Israel has increasingly limited access to the mosques for Palestinians with Israeli IDs.

During clashes at the compound on Sunday, the Islamic Movement’s deputy, Kamal Khatib, and the Palestinian Authority’s minister in charge of Jerusalem, Hatem Abdel Khader, were arrested. Both were released on bail and banned from Jerusalem for 15 days.

Calls from Israeli officials for Sheikh Salah’s arrest and restrictions on the Islamic Movement have been growing all week.

The deputy prime minister, Silvan Shalom, of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, told Israel Radio on Tuesday: “Sheikh Raed Salah should be behind bars.”

The cabinet meeting on Sunday will discuss a law to ban the Islamic Movement being drafted by the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party of Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister. The bill is expected to be presented to ministers a week later.

The interior minister, Eli Yishai, of the Shas party, announced on Tuesday he would withdraw funding for imams who “incited” against Israel and was investigating whether he could fire them.

The Islamic Movement has rapidly grown in popularity by focusing on charitable and welfare work and has won control of several councils since the 1980s.

Despite eschewing terrorism, the movement is regarded with great suspicion by Israeli officials, who have shut down its charities and newspaper on several occasions. Sheikh Salah and four other leaders of the Islamic Movement were arrested in 2003 accused of supporting terrorism but released two years later in a plea bargain that significantly reduced the charges.

It is unclear how Israel would ban the Islamic Movement.

Analysts say the government could use the 1945 emergency regulations from British rule but the move would be unlikely to withstand judicial scrutiny. Traditionally, the security establishment has argued that it is better not to push the Islamic Movement underground.

The US state department was reported this week to have expressed concern to Israel that it and the Palestinian Authority not “inflame tensions” over the Haram al Sharif.


Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi. The version on this blog is published by permission of Jonathan Cook.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Tensions mount again at al-Aqsa: a third intifada?

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

Tension over control of the Haram al-Sharif compound of mosques in Jerusalem’s Old City has reached a pitch unseen since clashes at the site sparked the second intifada nine years ago.

Ten days of intermittently bloody clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in Jerusalem culminated yesterday in warnings by Palestinian officials that Israel was “sparking a fire” in the city. Israel’s Jerusalem Post newspaper similarly wondered whether a third intifada was imminent.

Israel, meanwhile, deployed 20,000 police to safeguard the annual Jerusalem march, which was reported to have attracted a crowd of 70,000 passing through sensitive Palestinian neighbourhoods close to the Old City.

The ostensible cause of friction is Israel’s religious holidays that have brought Jewish worshippers to the Western Wall, located next to the Haram al-Sharif and traditionally considered the holiest site in Judaism. The wall is the only remnant of the Jewish temple destroyed by Herod in AD70.

At a deeper level for Palestinians, however, the ease with which Jews can access sites in and around Jerusalem, while the city is off-limits to the vast majority of Palestinians, highlights the extent to which Palestinian control over Jerusalem and its holy places has been eroded by four decades of occupation.

That point was reinforced on Sunday [4 October] when the gates to the mosque compound were shut by Israeli police, who cited safety concerns for 30,000 Jews praying at the Western Wall for Succot.

Jerusalem’s police chief, Aharon Franco, also incensed Palestinians on Monday by castigating them for being “ungrateful” after Israel had allowed them to pray at Al-Aqsa during Ramadan.

In fact, only a small proportion of Palestinians can reach the mosque. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza cannot get past Israel’s separation wall, and the 1.5 million Palestinians in Israel and Jerusalem are finding it harder to pray there. This week police have been allowing only women and Palestinian men with Israeli identification cards showing they are aged at least 50 to enter.

Both the Palestinian Authority and Jordan issued statements this week warning that Jewish groups, including extremists who want to blow up the mosques, should be prevented from entering the Haram.

It was in this context that the leader of the Islamic Movement inside Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, called on Israel’s Palestinian citizens to “shield the [Al-Aqsa] mosque with their bodies”.

Concerned that most Palestnians can no longer access the mosques, Salah has taken it on himself to campaign against Israeli moves under the banner “Al-Aqsa is in danger”, urging Israel’s Palestinian minority to protect the mosques by increasing their visits and ensuring a strong Islamic presence at the site.

In a further provocation by Israel yesterday, Salah was arrested on suspicion of incitement and sedition. A judge released him a few hours later but only on condition that he stay away from Jerusalem.

Palestinian concerns about Israeli intentions towards the Haram are not without foundation. Israel’s religious and secular leaders have been staking an ever-stronger claim to sovereignty over the compound since the occupation began, despite an original agreement to leave control with Islamic authorities.

On the ground that has been reflected in Israel’s efforts to reshape the geography of the city.

It began with the hasty razing of a Muslim neighbourhood next to the Western Wall that was home to 1,000 Palestinians. In place of the homes a huge prayer plaza was created.

Next a ring of Jewish settlements were built separating East Jerusalem from the West Bank, and more recently Jewish extremists have been taking over Palestinian neighbourhoods just outside the Old City, such as Sheikh Jarrah, Ras al-Amud and Silwan.

With official backing, Jewish settlers have also been confiscating and buying Palestinian homes in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, including next to the mosques, to establish armed encampments.

They have also been assisted by Israeli archeologists in digging extensively under the quarter. Tensions over the excavations escalated dramatically in 1996 when Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister then as now, approved the opening of the Western Wall tunnels under the mosques. In the ensuing violence, at least 70 Palestinians were killed.

In addition, Israeli officials and rabbis have been redefining the significance in Jewish religious thought of the compound, or Temple Mount as it is known to Jews.

The rabbinical consensus since the Middle Ages has been that Jews are forbidden from entering the compound for fear of desecrating the site of the temple’s inner sanctum, whose location is unknown. Instead religious Jews are supposed to venerate the site but not to visit it or seek to possess it in any way.

That view has been shifting since a wave of religious nationalism was unleashed by the seemingly miraculous nature of Israel’s victory in the Six-Day war. As the Israeli army captured the Old City in 1967, for example, its chief rabbi, Shlomo Goren, rushed to the Haram to read from the Bible and blow a ram’s horn, as the ancient temple priests had once done.

At the Camp David talks with the Palestinians in 2000, Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister at the time, demanded – against all Jewish teachings – that the whole compound be declared the “Holy of Holies”, a status reserved for the temple’s inner sanctum. His adviser Moshe Amirav said Barak had used this precondition to “blow up” the negotiations.

The Camp David failure led to an explosion of violence at the Haram al-Sharif a few months later that triggered the second intifada.

Islamic sovereignty was challenged again in 2003 when Israeli police unilaterally decided to open the compound to non-Muslims. In practice, this has given messianic cults, who want the mosques destroyed to make way for a third temple, access under police protection.

It was precisely rumours that Jewish extremists had entered the compound on the eve of Judaism’s holiest day, Yom Kippur, that provided the spark for the latest round of clashes.

It is reported that a growing number of settler rabbis want the injunction against Jews praying at the compound lifted, adding to Palestinian fears that Israeli officials, rabbis, settlers and fundamentalists are conspiring to engineer a final takeover of the Haram al-Sharif.


Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi. The version on this blog is published by permission of Jonathan Cook.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Palestinians call on Abbas clique to search their conscience over Goldstone decision

Enough is enough?

From Mazin Qumsiyeh, Human Rights Newsletter

It is hard to describe our emotions in the past three days in Palestine since we heard of the Palestinian "leadership" withdrawal of the discussions at the UN Human Rights Council about the Goldstone report.

Can those who made the decision look straight in the eyes of the families of the 400 children butchered in Gaza and tell them that this was politically necessary because Hillary Clinton asked them to do it (the same administration that failed to even get the rapist to have a short pause in his rape!)? Maybe just one family (see picture below)? And will the rest of us (and yes each of us is responsible) be able to look into these same eyes and tell them we were satisfied with expressing sympathy and uttering words?

Who decreed that popular civil action cannot be directed at those who harm the cause and happen to also be Palestinian? Will our shame, anger and revulsion be NOW moved to civil action? Will we really have a democratic civil society or one ruled by a clique of elites? Will decent people in Fatah stand-up to correct this trend? Will we say enough is enough and this was the straw that broke the camel's back?...

See Palestinians drop endorsement of Goldstone report on Gaza war
Justice Delayed is Justice Denied: Decision of Palestinian Leadership and International Pressure an Insult to the Victims
Adalah * Addameer * Aldameer * Al Haq * Al Mezan * Badil * Civic Coalition for Jerusalem * DCI-Palestine * ENSAN Centre * Independent Commission for Human Rights * Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre * Palestinian Centre for Human Rights * Ramallah Centre for Human Rights Studies * Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling *

As human rights organizations we strongly condemn the Palestinian leaderships’ decision to defer the proposal endorsing all the recommendations of the Fact Finding Mission, and the pressure exerted by certain members of the international community. Such pressure is in conflict with states’ international obligations, and is an insult to the Palestinian people.
Below is an urgent statement by the The Palestinian NGOs Network (PNGO)
PNGO condemns PA request of delaying endorsement of Goldstone recommendations

PNGO expresses its bewilderment and strongly condemns the Palestinian Authority’s withdrawal of its draft resolution supporting the recommendations contained in the Goldstone Report, resulting in a deferral of a vote to endorse the report in the Human Rights Council to March 2010. The report suggests that war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity were committed by the Israeli military during its 23-day offensive in Gaza from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009.

PNGO considers that this move by the Palestinian Authority (PA) is an insult to the victims of Operation Cast Lead, and actively facilitates the ongoing impunity of suspected Israeli war criminals; while the siege on Gaza enters its 28th month, Israeli military attacks on the Palestinian population are ongoing and settlement expansion in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, continues unabated. PNGO is shocked at the suggestion by the PA that accountability for the victims in Gaza could adversely affect the peace process.

PNGO asks Palestinian political parties to immediately adopt a clear position about the PA decision and to request from the PA a public explanation. This decision has triggered embarrassment and disappointment among Palestinians and activists in the international community, who have made efforts to bring perpetrators of war crimes in Gaza to justice. The Palestinian Authority has wasted an important opportunity towards ensuring accountability of the State of Israel for their war crimes and human rights violations.

In the words of Justice Goldstone at the presentation of his report at the HRC on 29 September: "This is the time for action. The lack of accountability for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity has reached a crisis point; the ongoing lack of justice is undermining any hope for a successful peace process and reinforcing an environment that fosters violence."

The Palestinian NGOs Network(PNGO) 

Tel: +972-2-2975320/1

Fax: +972-2-2950704